Rangel speaks -- about the draft
Y'all know how I like to go after Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.). He's made it so easy with all his ethics problems. Not once have I heard from him about any of the stinging blog posts I've written. But when I positively mentioned his annual introduction of legislation to reinstate the draft, the embattled dean of the New York congressional delegation felt compelled to write in. The piece was about an important yet overlooked speech Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered at Duke University on Sept. 29 about the gap between those who serve and the nation they protect.
"[F]or most Americans the wars remain an abstraction. A distant and unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally," Gates said. "Even after 9/11, in the absence of a draft, for a growing number of Americans, service in the military, no matter how laudable, has become something for other people to do." And Rangel concurs in the letter to the editor he emailed to us.
Jonathan Capehart's report on Defense Secretary Robert Gates's speech at Duke University was a useful reminder of the "abstraction" that war has become to most Americans.
I still believe, as I did in 2003 when I first proposed reinstating the military draft, that decision-makers in the U.S. Congress, and elsewhere, would never have supported an invasion of Iraq at all if their own children had been subject to service in the invading force.
Today's warriors, increasingly, are the young men and women from economically depressed small towns and inner cities who are vigorously recruited with generous enlistment bonuses and education benefits. Subjected to multiple deployments, many return home with invisible wounds of PTSD and brain injuries. Many self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. Others succumb to suicide. After separation, they are unemployed at twice the national rate.
I agree with the Secretary that a return to ROTC at elite colleges won't help much to level the playing field of service. No one should expect college students to reverse the moral failure of the country to ask all of its citizens to share the burden of warfare.
As long as political leaders are unwilling to place their own family members in harm's way, then no one else will.
CHARLES B. RANGEL
Member of Congress
As I wrote earlier this week, a return to the draft will never happen. But Rangel's tradition of raising the issue is a useful reminder for everyone that the cost of our freedom is borne by a relative few.
| October 11, 2010; 11:08 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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