War Congressman spurs debate with draft legislation

By Gus Bode

Legislation proposed to Congress to enact a military draft considered anti-war message

U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., proposed legislation Jan. 7 to reinstate the draft in the event of a future war with Iraq or other nations. According to his website, his proposal is actually an anti-war statement.

Rangel, who voted against giving President George Bush the power to invade Iraq, suggests a draft would effectively slow what he calls “America’s rush to war” by bringing a personal involvement to all citizens. According to Rangel, a disproportionate number of poor and minority groups comprise the enlisted force, shouldering the burden of war imposed by the country’s rich and fortunate. He argues that today’s lawmakers are out of touch with the American public, noting that only one of the members of Congress in favor of a war with Iraq has an enlisted child.


He also warns that the armed forces may be “stretched to the limit,” if called upon to fight wars on multiple fronts, citing the fact that today’s military is smaller and more streamlined than it was 10 years ago. He cited the fact that nearly 265,000 National Guard and Reserve troops were called to serve in the Gulf War, a figure that may be even larger in the event of a future war in Iraq.

Some local anti-war activists, such as Father Joseph Brown, director of Black American Studies, agree with Rangel’s philosophy.

“Anybody who can call that to our attention is doing us a great service,” Brown said.

Brown, who spoke at a teach-in on Jan. 16, believes a war in Iraq will bring economic hardship on American families and small businesses, while the country’s rich will remain stable for a longer period of time. He said he considers this to be of particular importance, given Bush’s assertion that the War on Terrorism will be fought over many years’ time.

“Some responsible, prophetic voices in government and society need to say ‘Excuse me, those who manage this war are at the least risk,'” Brown said.

Brown’s great nephew, an active-duty soldier, was deployed to the gulf region last week.

In a random phone survey, Mike Hagen, a senior in cinema and photography, said that both war and the draft are wrong, and suggested drawing upon the existing troop assets stationed throughout the world.


“There are plenty of military people sitting around not doing anything,” Hagen said.

Hagen’s opinion is not uncommon. Dan Duffy, a sophomore in radiology, also disagrees with the concept of a draft.

“They got rid of it for a reason,” Duffy said.

While these students don’t agree with a military draft in the event of a war in Iraq, Hugh Muldoon, director of the Interfaith Center and organizer of the recent protest trip to Washington, D.C., welcomes discussion of the draft and its ramifications. He considers the talk of a draft to be a healthy and thought-provoking discussion for a sometimes-preoccupied young generation.

“Who’s making the decisions to send you over there? That is the point that Rangel is making – it’s the white guys up there who are millionaires,” Muldoon said.

While Muldoon encourages discussion of Rangel’s proposal, he does not believe a draft would considerably lessen the chance of war.

“A lot of times these decisions on drafts and deferments were based on cronyism and influence and so forth. I don’t see any reason that would be different now,” Muldoon said, referring to the Vietnam-era draft.

“I do not think the burden of the draft would be shared equitably the whole way across the social, economic and ethnic classes.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has stated repeatedly in press conferences that there is “virtually no chance” of a draft, and added his opinion that drafted Vietnam vets added “no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services.”

Under current guidelines, a military draft would affect males aged 18 to 25. A draft would be enacted when the volunteer military can no longer supply enough troops to a military action. Congress and the president then pass legislation to enact a draft, and a lottery ensues, starting with 20-year-old males. The Selective Service is required to deliver the first draftees within 193 days of enactment.

While a draft calls to service all males aged 18 to 25, Rangel’s talk of a draft calls upon all Americans to ponder their role in war.