By Cody Lyon
No, No said incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California as she quietly but firmly shook her head at a reporter. She spoke the firm no's this past Monday, during what appeared to be a smile filled photo session that concluded a meeting between her and incoming House Majority leader Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland.
While cameras flashed and she and Hoyer small talked, the reporter asked Pelosi, point blank, if she would support a proposal by New York Democratic Representative Charles Rangel, to re-introduce a mandatory military draft in the United States.
Rangel first introduced similar legislation back in June 2003.
Although she spoke softly, the O's in Pelosi's no's were clearly enunciated.
Representative Pelosi knows that a mandatory draft in the United States would be the political equivalent of selling bacon wrapped beef filet to customers at a vegan restaurant. Polls show that less than 20 percent of the American people support a draft. And, both Pelosi and Rangel acknowledge that reinstatement of a mandatory draft is about as likely as Hillary not running for President.
Silly comparisons aside, on Monday, Pelosi was careful to pay accolades to the greater message in Rangel's draft proposal calling it a "good way to make a point."
"It's not about a draft, its about shared sacrifice in our country" Pelosi told reporters earlier that day.
By proposing a highly controversial draft, Rangel, a purple heart, bronze star veteran of the Korean war is asking tough, soul searching, fear provoking questions of the American people. Make note of Rangel's observation of the obvious in May 2005.
"In my own view, the war option would not be on the table if the people being placed in harms way were children of the White House officials, member of congress or CEO's in board rooms" said Rangel in a press release that year.
Most CEO, White House and Congressional offspring do not choose the cash bonuses and promises of free education available at the local military recruitment office.
But, that's not to say that the draft would serve as some sort of military equalizer.
The Vietnam War demonstrated that the rich, famous and well connected in America have ways of avoiding military conflict. Allegedly, our own President avoided seeing combat in Vietnam by utilizing high-end contacts that instead resulted in service with the Alabama National Guard.
If the draft were still mandatory, in particular, if it were during this war, people with power would probably find ways to avoid going.
But by going to the trouble of avoiding one's call to duty, a citizen is forced into an examination of conscience, and in America's current case, a deeper quest to understand the facts behind what your nation is fighting for.
Without a mandatory draft, the United State's collective conscience can remain somewhat comforted by the knowledge that recruits sign up by choice, and are compensated by money, the promise of a free education or the honor of serving one's country at will. The lack of the draft provides an almost uncanny convenience to not truly digest the seriousness and potential loss of what war presents on a truly personal level.
Currently, the United States, a country of 300 million, has about 2.7 million members in its all-volunteer armed forces. Mandatory military service has become a foreign concept. For most of us, this has led to at least one degree of separation from the frightening reality that military service can lead to. Truth be told, most American civilians are not that worried about getting called up and told they must serve.
Most Americans do not experience the gut wrenching pain and fear associated with a child, spouse or parent that is seeing combat. Nor do a majority of American teenagers live with the fear that they may be shipped off to fight in war. Draft cards stopped arriving in American mailboxes over 30 years ago and Americans no longer see images of them being burned in protest.
Instead, we debate the war, and its policy, from a somewhat safe place.
With uncertain talk of troop increases in Iraq, military recruiters, under great pressure from higher ups, go out, look for and find young people to fill ranks in the nation's armed forces. They offer college tuition, increased sign up bonuses and a salary along with the chance to defend one's country. Some critics of the all-volunteer force say, in harsh terms, the reality is that we are willing to pay people to die for us during war-time.
Proponents of the volunteer force point to our highly skilled and efficient forces. But, one can rest assured, that military recruiters are more common in Rangel's Harlem than Pelosi's district in San Francisco.
As families gather and celebrate our Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States, one hopes for a wealth of thanks and blessings for the men and women placed in harm's way by its leaders. But, one also gives thanks to gravely voiced Rep. Charles Rangel. This Harlem Democrat brought a covered side dish of provocation and truth, to go with the turkey being served this year at thanksgiving tables across America. One hopes that all Americans will at least give the truth a taste.