Congressman Rangel Reintroduces Bill To Reinstate Military Draft
WASHINGTON - Congressman Charles Rangel on Thursday introduced H.R. 5741, a bill that would reinstate a compulsory military draft, or alternative national service, during times of war, for men and women, aged 18 to 42, who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States.
"What troubles me most about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the total indifference to the suffering and loss of life among our brave young soldiers on the battlefield," Congressman Rangel said. "The reason is that so few families have a stake in the war which is being fought by other people's children.
"The test for Congress, particularly for those members who support the war, is to require all who enjoy the benefits of our democracy to contribute to the defense of the country. All of America's children should share the risk of being placed in harm's way.
"In other words, if you support the war, you should support a compulsory military draft," Congressman Rangel said.
The bill, which the Congressman first introduced in 2003 as the nation prepared for the invasion of Iraq, and offered again in 2004, 2006, and 2007, provides for:
• A national service obligation--either military or civilian--for every citizen and permanent resident, male and female, of the U.S., aged 18 to 42.
• Persons may inducted to perform military service only if a declaration of war is in effect, or if the President declares a national emergency necessitating the induction of persons to perform military service and immediately informs Congress of the reasons for the declaration.
• Defines "national service" as either military or civilian service as defined by the President that promotes national or homeland security.
• Give the President the authority to establish the numbers of persons to be selected for military service and the means of selection.
• Requires those not selected for military service to perform their national service obligation in a civilian capacity for a period of two years.
• Directs the President to prescribe the regulations necessary to carry out the act.
• Deferments for education are only permitted through completion of high school, to a maximum age of 20.
• Deferments may be made for physical or mental disability, or under claims of conscientious objector.
BRINGING THE TROOPS HOME
Rangel said that he was not challenging President Obama's handling of the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, conflicts with few options that the President had inherited from the previous Administration.
"I support the President's intentions to withdraw our troops, but I'd like to see it happen sooner. In my view, no additional tax dollars should be appropriated for any reason except to bring home our brave and exhausted young men and women. The loss of 5,500 lives and 38,000 wounded is enough."
A combined total of 160,000 Americans are currently deployed. More than 2 million men and women have served in the two conflicts, nearly half of them for more than one tour of duty. And because of a shortage of manpower, some of them have been deployed as many as six times.
"The 3.3 million military households, representing only one percent of American families, have become a virtual military class who are unfairly carrying the burden of war," Congressman Rangel said. "If there were a draft, there would be no shortage of troops to fill the ranks without repeatedly deploying the same exhausted troops over and over."
So far, the numbers of casualties may not be as high, or as shocking, as those suffered in previous wars. But the physical and mental damage to individual soldiers is not only heartbreaking but is taking place at rates never before seen in modern warfare.
The reason is that advances in medical technology have allowed more wounded soldiers to survive the loss of limbs, and serious head and brain injuries. "The result is a practical epidemic of cases of post traumatic stress disorder, suicides, and family disruptions," Congressman Rangel said.
Again in this war, troops recruited from large urban centers with high unemployment and from economically depressed small towns, are carrying the heaviest burden of service. Enlistment bonuses are as high as $40,000. Incentives for reenlistment range from $1,000 for the lowest-skilled privates to $27,000 for staff sergeants with special skills. Combined with the economic recession these incentives have produced record-breaking recruiting results this year.
"The question of whether we need a universal compulsory military draft will be important as long as this country is placing thousands of its young men and women in harm's way," Congressman Rangel said.
"We make decisions about war without worry over who fights them. Those who do the fighting have no choice; when the flag goes up, they salute and follow orders," Congressman Rangel said.
For more information on Congressman Rangel's position on the war and what he is doing in Washington and in the District, please visit his web site at http://www.rangel.house.gov.