“If our great country becomes involved in an all-out war, the sacrifice must be shared. In that regard, I am preparing legislation to authorize reinstatement of the universal draft and other forms of mandatory national service.”
These are the words of Congressman Charles Rangel, a liberal Democrat from New York. Rangel, along with Michigan’s John Conyers and other prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are preparing legislation to bring back the military draft, which hasn’t been in effect since 1973.
Their bill has little support from either Democrats or Republicans. The history of the soldiers’ revolt and the widespread public opposition to the draft during the Vietnam War era has not been forgotten by the ruling class. Today, the large anti-war movement, combined with economic instability in the US, means a conscript army would pose major problems for the military and ruling class.
Despite the lack of support for the bill, an ongoing US military offensive, or a major drawn-out war, in which the US is forced to deploy increasing numbers of troops could place draft reinstatement on the political agenda.
Rangel argues that his bill would end the current discriminatory system where the poor and people of color disproportionately enlist in the armed forces, see combat, and die in battle. This is graphically illustrated by the fact that only one member of Congress currently has a son enlisted! Rangel’s legislation is intended to expand the blood-letting to the children of the rich.
Racist Poverty Draft
Joining the military provides access to a job, skills, and a college education that are otherwise unavailable to many poor youth of color. And recession means rising unemployment and tuition. For young people the official unemployment rate is 16.8% and rising fast; joblessness among 16 to 24-year-olds not attending school has grown by 12% since 2000. For many, the reality of life under capitalist oppression means the only options are either jail or the military.
The presence of military recruiters at schools with predominantly poor and minority students speaks volumes about how the current “volunteer army” is in reality a racist poverty draft.
Entry into the military comes with major consequences. These include suffering the physical and psychological effects of war, and then – for those who survive – being thrown into the waste bin by the government upon returning home.
Would a draft be fairer than the current system, as Rangel suggests? No. The rich and powerful would be sure to find loopholes for their children. The example of the Vietnam draft clearly shows this. Bush Jr., Tom Delay, John Ashcroft, and others all found ways out with the help of their daddies’ wallets. But thousands of poor blacks, whites, and Latinos died in the jungle. A draft would only increase the power of the state, which could be used to repress anti-war, civil rights, and socialist activists, along with anyone else the government perceives as a threat.
We do not need a draft – we need money for jobs and education, not war!
Justice #33, February 2003