Cheney and co. have been worried about Rep. Charles Rangel's (D - NY) ascendancy to the chairmanship of the House Committee on Ways and Means, fearing that he will unravel the administration's tax cuts for the wealthy when he takes control in January. But taxes aren't all Rangel is focused on, as he tries to force Congress to face the toll that an all-volunteer army is having on a country entrenched in an increasingly dangerous war.
On Face the Nation this morning Rangel said that he'll introduce a bill next year that would reinstate the draft. This will be the third time Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, will introduce the prospect of a draft, though this time he will do so from a more prominent position of power, in a climate of an increasingly stretched armed forces, and in the face of, as Bush-confidante Henry Kissinger put it today, the impossibility of victory in Iraq.
Some of you may remember (though it was not well-publicized) back in January 2003, before this war even got rolling, when Rangel proposed a draft for 18-26 year olds -- the bill was defeated 402-2. This year he offered a plan to mandate military service for men and women between age 18 and 42; it also went nowhere.
Rangel has consistently argued that the all-volunteer military disproportionately puts the burden of war on minorities and lower-income families. A Korean War veteran himself Rangel received both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service. In February Rangel had this to say of the prospect of a draft:
"Every day that the military option is on the table, as declared by the President in his State of the Union address, in Iran, North Korea, and Syria, reinstatement of the military draft is an option that must also be considered, whether we like it or not. If the military is already having trouble getting the recruits they need, what can we do to fill the ranks if the war spreads from Iraq to other countries? We may have no other choice but a draft."
Rangel went on:
"I don't expect my bill to pass; my purpose in introducing this legislation is for it to serve as a constant reminder that we have lost 2,200 of the best, brightest and bravest Americans, have had thousands more maimed, and countless Iraqi citizens killed. As the President speaks of a national response involving the military option, military service should be a shared sacrifice."
It's unclear how symbolic a gesture the bill will be this time around. Senator Lindsey Graham (R - S.C.), who is also in the Air Force reserve, responded to the idea saying, "I think we can do this with an all-voluntary service, all-voluntary Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. And if we can't, then we'll look for some other option."
Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last summer that "there isn't a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back." But then again, Bush said Rummy would be with us till the end, so hey, anything's possible.