By J. Zamgba Browne
Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News )
For decades, fat cats in government, particularly on the federal and state levels, have used their clout to shield their sons and other close relatives from serving in the U.S. military.
Now, a ranking member of Congress wants to put an end to the practice and have the tables turned so that the playing field is even, regardless of race, political connection or socioeconomic standing.
If our great country becomes involved in an all-out war, the sacrifice must be shared. In that regard, I am preparing a bill to authorize reinstatement of the universal draft and other forms of mandatory national service, said Rep. Charles B. Rangel.
He also said in a telephone interview that he would push for a reinstatement by introducing his bill when he returns this week to Capitol Hill after the holidays.
In a letter to his Democratic colleagues who voted against the Iraq war resolution, Rangel said he was concerned that the burden of military service was being borne disproportionately by members of disadvantaged groups.
Successful implementation of the administrations policy toward Iraq will require long-term sacrifices by the American people, particularly those with sons and daughters in the military who will be placed in harms way.
Shared sacrifice, especially in times of war, is key to preserving the nations morale. Yet it would appear that we continue to favor, with our tax cuts and other domestic initiatives, the wealthiest Americans, Rangel said.
No policy, whether on taxes, health care, Social Security or any other pressing domestic concern, can be separated from the concept of shared sacrifice without threatening the peoples belief in their leaders, he declared.
Rangel, dean of New Yorks congressional delegation and a senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he was concerned that elected officials who wage war know full well their sons wont participate.
Since President Bush has said the nation is in some kind of danger and he should be given war powers to unilaterally strike a country without going to Congress, there should be shared sacrifice since all Americans would be affected, Rangel declared.
If not, he said the presidents position should be vigorously challenged. We cannot have a full-time war in Korea, Iraq and possibly Iran, and have a part-time participation, Rangel said.
The congressman, who represents Upper Manhattan, including Harlem, said a universal mandatory draft would be an equalizer, guaranteeing sacrifice across the board.
There are officials on Capitol Hill and across the country who are clamoring for war, but they have absolutely no personal understanding of the danger of war, said the lawmaker.
Some of them even make decisions about waging war without worrying that their own children may face combat.
Just because we have a volunteer army, which is often recruited from the lower- and moderate-income segments of the nation, we should not just be so anxious to allow them to go in harms way unless America feels more confident that they are in danger, Rangel declared.
Meanwhile, the congressmans call for the reinstatement of the draft drew mixed reviews.
The Rev. Father Lawrence Lucas said he had strong reservation about Rangels proposal, because when the draft was in effect, rich people still always found ways of avoiding it.
Why do we believe they wouldnt do the same next time around? he added.
Lucas said he is vehemently opposed to the draft.
The main purpose of the draft, according to the Roman Catholic priest, is to train people to kill and be killed for White supremacy and U.S. multi-national corporations.
If Congressman Rangel could make sure that President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will lead the troops into battle, I may change my mind about the draft, Lucas said.
He added that one should be quite clear that Bushs educational program, where allegedly no student should be left behind, has already become a program to ensure that no student, particularly poor and people of color, should be left unregistered for the draft.
Dr. Marco Mason, executive of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Women Health Association, said he agrees that the attitude of folks on Capitol Hill is too cavalier when it comes to sending children to war.
Mason, like Rangel, calls for an even playing field in drafting young Americans to serve in the nations armed forces. There has always been disparity based on the disproportionate amount of youth from inner cities, especially from the community of color, who serve in the military, he added.
Radio talk-show host Bob Law said that Rangel is on target.
I think the draft is ultimately going to be used as a weapon against Black youths, and Rangel and his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus need to look for an even better antiwar initiative that can be implemented, Law said, declaring that Rangels efforts demonstrate the kind of frustration that progressive people feel in dealing with a kind of irrational Bush administration.
Assemblyman Nick Perry said he agrees that a sort of affirmative-action opportunity should be imposed when it comes to drafting Americans for the military.
Speaking on behalf of the nations immigrant community, Perry said that even though the events of Sept. 11 have had a significant bearing on the immigrant community, any war to protect Americas security and freedom would be fought by immigrants with or without the draft.
There are lots of people who complain about immigrants enjoying the benefits of this country, but no one is saying they shouldnt be drafted into the armed forces, Perry said.
There have been a lot of efforts by anti-immigrant forces or so-called conservative flag-waving groups to deny immigrants eligibility for every program or opportunity from the federal government to enhance the quality of life for themselves, Perry said.
He added that those groups that want to beat on immigrants should now be walking the halls of Congress to keep immigrants from going to battle and let it be known they would replace them.
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