Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Where's that draft coming from?

I closed my last post (see one below) as follows:

"Until then, I guess we'll just have to keep sending our otherwise unemployable high school drop outs over to the Middle East to make sure we have a steady supply of black gold."

On that subject, go over here and read this. Or, if you're one of those link-o-phobes I've heard about, then let me excerpt the money shot:

Rep. Charles Rangel introduced a bill in Congress Tuesday to reinstate the military draft, saying fighting forces should more closely reflect the economic makeup of the nation.

The New York Democrat told reporters his goal is two-fold: to jolt Americans into realizing the import of a possible unilateral strike against Iraq, which he opposes, and "to make it clear that if there were a war, there would be more equitable representation of people making sacrifices."

"I truly believe that those who make the decision and those who support the United States going into war would feel more readily the pain that's involved, the sacrifice that's involved, if they thought that the fighting force would include the affluent and those who historically have avoided this great responsibility," Rangel said.

"Those who love this country have a patriotic obligation to defend this country," Rangel said. "For those who say the poor fight better, I say give the rich a chance."

That's from January 8, 2003. Here's a link to the proposed draft legislation. Note that it says "that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes."

Interestingly, a search for the text of the bill at the Library of Congress comes up dry. I do know, however, from other things I've read, that draftees will not get to choose whether they go into the military or the civilian service; if they're able to carry a gun, they will. The parallel civilian service will only be for those unfit for the military.

The idea of a military draft is one of those things I'm divided on. Yeah, if we have to be at war, then certainly, rich kids should have to take their chances along with everyone else. Which is as good an argument as any I've seen for not being at war, especially voluntary wars of aggression undertaken for no valid reason any elected or appointed official seems to want to explain.

But, on the other hand, I will one day in the near future have three stepdaughters, all of whom would be of age to get caught up in this nonsense at some point if it were to be passed. And I absolutely do not want any of them to be faced with the necessity of either joining the U.S. military, or leaving the country, when they turn 18.

I'm not a political wonk, so I have no real clue how to go about figuring out exactly what positions various Democrats will assume in Congress in 2007. From references on Glen Greenwald's blog, though, I have learned that Rangel, who wrote and sponsored the draft bill in 2004 and 2004, will probably be the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. And one of the bill's co-sponsors, John Conyers, Jr., will most likely end up chairing the House Judicial Committee.

Do I actually think the new Democrat dominated Congress is going to re-impose a military draft -- one that, for the first time in our country's history, would conscript women as well as men? One that would allow for no deferments at all; that would require, if one is physically fit for the duty, that a draftee, no matter how privileged, would actually have to enter the military? (I don't imagine for a minute, though, that the legislation will close the Dubya loop hole whereby kids with influential parents can get into non-combat units on a preferential basis.)

It strikes me as unlikely. Democrats have kids, too, and one of the most shameful aspects of this very shameful war we find ourselves in is that very few members of Congress have kids currently fighting in Iraq, or, for that matter, serving in the military at all. (I did some quick research to try to nail this down further, but according to this 2005 article, "House and Senate information offices said they do not have a comprehensive list of members who are military parents." However, the article did indicate that there was only one member of Congress, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., who had a child serving on the front lines in Iraq. And there are apparently only about half a dozen other members of Congress who have publicly stated they have children serving in the military -- which I would take as pretty definitive proof that there aren't any others, since otherwise, you know any elected representative in the country would be bragging on their military kids 24 hours a day.)

What this means is that Congress is unlikely to reinstate a draft that will cause their own children or grandchildren to be put on the firing line; similarly, trying to word a draft in such a way that privileged kids will be able to get out of it, as with the college deferments of the Vietnam era, is something that isn't going to fly any more.

What could happen, though, is that a Dem dominated Congress may use the threat of reinstating the draft as a hole card to try and move the Administration towards disengaging from Iraq. In point of fact, though, I doubt even that will happen. I cannot imagine the idea of a military draft polling well for any party; the Dems are going to want to be very careful to conserve and, hopefully, increase their political capital going into 2008.

In all honesty, anyone with a brain knows the simple truth -- if you want to get military recruitment back up again, you need to get us out of the war. As long as kids know there's a good chance they'll actually have to go some place unpleasant and get shot at if they join up, well, they aren't going to join up, regardless of the bennies. (Which is why some military recruiters have begun telling their prospects that the war is over.)

I don't really expect to see a draft reinstated by the Democrats -- I have to think even putting it on the table would be electoral suicide. We want out of this war; we certainly don't want to see laws passed forcing our kids to go fight in it.

But... as Ilsa once told Rick, it's a crazy world out there; anything can happen.

Let's watch these guys.


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