Rangel previously introduced HR 163 to call attention to the racial inequality in the current makeup of the military. The bill was defeated, with even Rangel voting against it.
If it is true that Rangel plans to reintroduce the draft bill, he is making a mistake that will harm opponents to the occupation in the event that Bush does call for a draft. Our opposition to the draft must be based on principle, and if we are to oppose the draft later we cannot be the ones to first call for it. Rangel is making a huge political error. His actions make it easier for the draft to be advanced, and harder to be opposed. This is not the right way for Rangel to make his point.
Back to the news:
Here is a quote from People Against the Draft: "Rangel continues to argue that conscription would force privileged Americans to share the burden of military service now disproportionately carried by the poor and minorities. He also asserts that future wars would be made less likely by reintroduction of the draft."
Part of the problem we face in defining and using the draft issue to advance our cause is that we're uncertain over what the principled position on the draft is. Noam Chomsky and Charles Rangel have raised the complexity of draft opposition in their own ways. Chomsky by repeating his opposition to an "all-voluntary" army on the grounds that a citizen's army will better reflect the will of the people over the will of the few. Rangel brings up the injustice of a "volunteer" army made up more Americans of color and more working class citizens than it would under a fair draft. Both Chomsky and Rangel's concerns point to the fact that the US military is a mercenary force. As such, it poses more of a risk to republican government than would a drafted-military, since the soldiers in the current force are economically dependent on following orders. Soldiers who face poverty if ousted from the army are hard pressed to stand against army command.
The issue of the draft is complicated by the conflicting values of liberty - freedom from killing and getting killed for the state, of equality within society, and of preserving republican government and democracy. The issue is further complicated by the fact of the fundamental right of moral refusal in war, regardless if that right is recognized by the state or by society at large. The political question of whether or not the state ought to compel its citizens to engage in warfare is different than the philosophical question of each person's right to act morally. Often opposition to participation in warfare is conflated with opposition to the draft. But one can, in principle, be a pacifist who opposes all warfare but who does not (at least actively) oppose the draft. Moral refusal of participation in war is separate from the question of how best to manage society's defense through a military - either mercenary or citizen's.
These principles and philosophical issues are the backdrop to the center stage of reality - of the less nuanced, more real and less hypothetical occupation of Iraq. The United States currently occupies Iraq. The United States invaded Iraq, in violation of US and international law. Over 100,000 Iraqis have died as a result of this invasion and occupation. The occupation is immoral, and is a crime against the peace. Those opposed to the war on moral grounds agree that the war must end. (We also agree that the while the war must end, the United States is now responsible for protecting the sovereignty of the Iraqi people, and is responsible for providing all aid and assistance required for restoring the domestic tranquility of Iraq.) We are enraged by the complicity of the American majority in this war, by the right-wing propaganda campaign to advance the war, and by the deaths and suffering caused at the hands of the American military.
The reality of war makes today the wrong time for advancing the draft, regardless of any merits that the draft may have during peacetime. A draft established before war is the draft that provides the kind of citizen army that may challenge the advancement of war. But a draft established during war only provides fodder for the war effort.
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