Congressman Charles Rangel announced earlier this month that he willpush to renew the military draft. Rangel argues, forcefully, that thedraft will spread the burden of war more equitably and force politicalleaders to think twice about starting wars. "There's no question in mymind that this president and this administration would never haveinvaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented tothe Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and theadministration thought that their kids from their communities would beplaced in harm's way."
The 18-term Representative, and incoming Chair of the powerful Ways andMeans Committee has already introduced a bill. Lawrence O'Donnell overat the Huffington Post has a strong piece supporting Rangel's move. Let hisbill come to a vote, O'Donnell insists. House Majority Leader NancyPelosi "should let the House debate the draft. Let the Republicans givespeeches listing all the good reasons why we should have a volunteerArmy. But let's hear Rangel's speech about how the burden of war is notfairly shared in this country. Let's get America thinking about exactlywho is being left in the line of fire in the war Americans have turnedagainst and know we can't win. Let's get America thinking about JohnKerry's line about Vietnam--who is going to be the last soldier to diefor a mistake? A real debate on the draft will do that. Don't worry, thebill has no chance of passing."
It all makes a lot of sense. But if you want to read a powerful counterto O'Donnell's take, check out Nation columnist Katha Pollitt'slucid column, "Do You Feel aDraft" from June 7, 2004.) " For many," Pollitt writes, "the draftsummons up ideals of valor, adulthood, public service andself-sacrifice--SHARED self-sacrifice. Those are all good things, butthe draft is still a bad idea."
Pollitt goes on to ask, "Given our ever more stratified and atomizedsociety, why expect the draft to be equal or fair?" And she deflates theargument that the draft will produce opposition to war.
It's Pollitt's larger point that progressive supporters of the draftshould think hard about. "Supporters of the draft are using it topromote indirectly politics we should champion openly and up front. It'sterrible that working class teenagers join the Army to get college fundsor job training or work--what kind of nation is this where Jessica Lynchhad to invade Iraq in order to fulfill her modest dream of becoming anelementary school teacher and Shoshanna Johnson has to be a cook on thebattlefield to qualify for a culinary job back home?"
We need to fight, at home, for a a society that is more just andfair--and not rely on the draft to level our obscenely unequal playingfield. (One place to start: fight for a real GI Bill--which made for amore equal America--not a renewal of the draft.)