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Dems want draft { January 7 2003 }

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Some Democrats Urge Broad U.S. Military Draft

Tuesday, January 7, 2003; 6:57 PM

By Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two leading House of Representatives Democrats called on Tuesday for bringing back the military draft, saying political leaders would be more wary of sending troops to Iraq if their children were going to help do the fighting.

The Bush administration quickly dismissed the idea as unnecessary and unwise, and it was expected to gain little traction in the Republican-led Congress.

Reps. Charles Rangel of New York and John Conyers of Michigan, both Korean War veterans, said the nation must debate whether it should continue with a fighting force comprised disproportionately of people from low-income families and minorities.

Their bill would require military or national service for men and women, ages 18 to 26, without exemptions for college or graduate studies.

"I believe that if those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve -- and to be placed in harm's way -- there would be more caution and greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq," Rangel said at a news conference.

"It has unfortunately become the duty of someone else's child to go to war and die as the privileged evade the tragic consequences of war," Conyers said in a statement.

The draft was in place from 1948 to 1973 when the United States converted to an all-volunteer army. But almost all men living in the United States -- including most male noncitizens -- are required to register with the Selective Service on reaching age 18, and federal benefits, including financial aid for college studies, are contingent on registration.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the administration had no plan to resume the draft, saying, "There is no need for it at all," and that it would prompt an inefficient "churning" of personnel who were trained and then left the military.


Rangel, top Ways and Means Committee Democrat, and Conyers, top Judiciary Committee Democrat, both oppose Bush's plans for a possible attack on Iraq if it does not meet U.N. requirements to disarm.

Rangel, who was general counsel to the National Advisory Commission on Selective Service during the administration of President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, said he would call for bringing back a draft even if he supported Bush on Iraq.

The bill would give the president authority to set the number of people required for military service and would require those not selected for the military to serve at least two years in a civilian post. Military service would be selected by lottery, he said.

The lawmakers said they had picked up several Democratic co-sponsors.

In their regular press briefing, Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, said the current volunteer force was working well.

Rumsfeld said that under the draft people were "sucked into the intake, trained for a period of months, and then went out, adding no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services over any sustained period of time."

Myers called the volunteer force "extremely well-trained and well-led troops. Any comparisons between today's force and the Vietnam force would be dramatic. There is no comparison."

Rep. John McHugh, a New York Republican who chairs the Armed Services military personnel subcommittee, said he did not see "a lot of enthusiasm or support" for the bill, "either within the civilian community or perhaps most importantly, from the senior military leadership."

2003 Reuters

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