Since 2003, Congressman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., has been
trying to reinstate the draft.
During the 2008 presidential campaign Senator John McCain
referred to the draft during a television interview that gave the impression
that he considered the draft a minor campaign issue. His comments came while
remarking that he would pursue Osama bin Laden to �the gates of hell.�
QUESTIONER: If we don�t reenact the draft, I don�t think
we�ll have anyone to chase Bin Laden to the gates of hell.
MCCAIN: Ma�am, let me say that I don�t disagree with
anything you said. (Think Progress, August 20, 2008).
McCain, ever the warmonger, also stated during the same
interview that a �100-year Iraq war,� or �World War III� would necessitate a
draft. The election results ensured that that promise would not be carried out,
if indeed it ever was a possibility that McCain seriously considered. In the
event of a global world war there would be no mechanism remaining to draft
anyone since few would be left alive.
Congressman Rangel first proposed legislation for the draft
in January 2003, before the invasion of Iraq. Since then more than 4,200 American
troops have been killed and 16,000 wounded. (The death toll now exceeds 4,600,
with over 600 killed in Afghanistan.)
In reintroducing the bill in 2006, Rangel said, �Despite
dramatic increases in military bonuses, the Army failed to meet its recruiting
goal last year by 6,000 recruits. In the face of that failure, last month the
Army announced that it was doubling enlistment bonuses to $40,000 for Special
Forces. Enlistment bonuses for reservists were also doubled to $20,000 from
$10,000. Reenlistment bonuses for specialized active duty soldiers were also
increased drastically, going from $60,000 to $90,000.
�The Pentagon�s own researchers have reported that the
military is broken and there�s no plan to fix it,� Congressman Rangel said. �It�s
not unusual for active-duty and reserve units to see two and three deployments.
Troops are spending about a third of the time on deployment, instead of a fifth
of the time, as preferred, to adequately rest, train and rebuild units.
�Our military is more like a mercenary force than a citizen
militia. It is dominated by men and women who need an economic leg-up. Bonuses
of up to $40,000 and a promise of college tuition look very good to someone
from an economically depressed urban or rural community. But, as events unfold
in Iran, Syria and North Korea and become even more dangerous, at what point
will the risks outweigh the attraction of money--even to the hungriest
�I don�t expect my bill to pass; my purpose in introducing
this legislation is for it to serve as a constant reminder that we have lost
2,200 of the best, brightest and bravest Americans, have had thousands more
maimed, and countless Iraqi citizens killed.� (News Release, Congressman
Charles Rangel, February 14, 2006).
Since Congressman Rangel�s observations about a draft,
educational bonuses and other benefits to members of the military have
increased. However, medical care provided to wounded servicemen and women and
veterans has come under intense scrutiny.
The last time that a military draft was considered was
during the presidency of Jimmy Carter in the midst of the Iran hostage crisis
that lasted 444 days from 1979 to 1981. I was a draft counselor during that
period, with a counseling clinic set up at the Catholic Center at the University
of Rhode Island. The most I could do in that setting was counsel men about the
specifics of conscientious objector status if a draft should ever become a
reality. A draft never materialized from that crisis, leaving the draft, which
ended in 1973 during the Vietnam War, as the last draft that the military and
federal government will in all likelihood ever consider. The draft of the
Vietnam Era was fatally flawed with abundant deferments, and finally ended as
the war wound down and the last recruits were called up by way of a lottery
system that was instituted by the Nixon administration in the face of the draft
and the war�s exponentially growing unpopularity.
The economic depression that has been visited upon the U.S.
by the greed that infects Wall Street and the banking industry, together with
the lack of any meaningful manufacturing base, has created a situation for the
military that ensures a steady stream of recruits in a de facto economic draft.
Following years of decreasing numbers of recruits due to the
unpopularity and savagery of the Iraq war, and the image of some soldiers as
torturers, the military has once again seen a moderate surge in the numbers of
those willing to risk their lives for imperial wars in the face of dwindling
employment opportunities. Gone is the issue of �moral waivers,� a mechanism to
allow the military to accept recruits who have committed crimes, both minor and
serious, for the recruitment of men and women into the military. The education
level of new recruits has remained extremely low.
While there are many forces that govern why people do or do
not join the military, there are a few issues that overshadow all the rest. First,
unless there is a tradition of military service in a family, few will
voluntarily take up that mantle. The tradition of service in the military can
come from any of the social classes that make up U.S culture, which often
includes service after attending one of the military academies. Second, as
above noted, an economic draft has always existed during eras when service in
the military was voluntary and during periods when there was a draft. Even an
economic draft, however, has its limits, as young people become savvy fairly
quickly when they realize they could be used as instruments of torture during a
war, for cannon fodder in unwinnable military campaigns, or caught in a
The major force, however, that governs why the military will
never be an egalitarian institution, at least in terms of social class, is the
fact that the middle class will never see the military as a place where
economic and personal goals can be pursued, except in those cases where
officers come out of military academies. That mindset is especially prevalent
on contemporary college campuses where education has largely become a means
toward the relentless pursuit of consumer goods. Few in the military have
Mercedes, Cadillac Escalades, BMWs, or the latest in computer and other
communication gadgetry dangled before their eyes unless under the guise of
maneuvering real drones over some distant battlefield from a remote and safe
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001 there was an
increase in the number of those who sought out military service as an
expression of patriotism. That tendency was soon overshadowed by the reality of
multiple tours of duty forced upon those who had signed up freely. The horrors
of both Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib added to a sense of disenchantment for
many others. Recruitment of African-Americans, traditionally a source of
recruits, has substantially dried up. Television commercials intended to target
working-class families, recently so prevalent, may not ever have to air again
with an economic depression facing working-class youth. However, even a recruit
from the most out-of-the-way rural outpost in the U.S. now knows instinctively
what the Geneva Conventions mean, even if those rules of war are not known by
heart by those chosen to fight wars.
Doubling the force in Afghanistan, where a quagmire may very
well ensue, will be achieved through the economic draft, but most members of
the middle class will never knowingly place themselves in harm�s way for ideals
imposed upon them by those attempting to make a financial killing out of the
enterprise of war or to extend U.S. hegemony!
Howard Lisnoff teaches writing and is a
freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.