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Rangel's Lesson From History

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Message John Pagoda
Recently Rep Charles Rangel proposed reinstituting the draft for American men from age 18 to age 26 partly because he suspects (and with good reason) that future administrations would be less inclined to wage war based on the faulty and manipulated intelligence such as that used to invade Iraq and future Congresses would be less inclined to look the other way. The issue deserves serious discussion and debate indeed the future of our republic depends on it.

Rangel thought it hypocritical of those who support the war yet oppose the draft and therein exposed the onion in the room because as long as one can afford to do something else or can afford to go to college because of their parents economic status why should they "volunteer" to make the supreme sacrifice if they can and do reap the benefits of freedom and democracy while being protected by those who could not afford such opportunities.

Congressman Rangel's assertions are that our current "all-volunteer military" is comprised of a disproportionate number of "minorities and lower-income families". Indeed Congressman Rangel should have also mentioned today's troops are less financially well off, have less education, and have less opportunity to pursue other vocations than those who did not have to volunteer. All are viable characteristics that will withstand any statistical challenge to the demographics of today's "all-volunteer military" especially those in the 160,000 plus serving on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The mainstream media that covered Rangel's announcement dismissed it as a purely political posturing side show having neither merit nor substance since all of a sudden Congress represents the will of the people and a majority of the public is opposed to the draft. As such Congressman Rangel has no support for his draft legislation on either side of the aisle. How ironic that a majority of the people want George Bush impeached but it has become increasingly apparent that Congress represents the majority only when it politically safe or expedient to do so.

Meanwhile "the experts" interviewed on the various news networks are those who want the public to believe that people join the service because they want to and "the experts" who have done a statistical analysis of the demographics are censored by the media that never asks them to be interviewed to offer their findings because another unpleasant truth about the society in which we live might be exposed.

One can hardly ignore the implications that such a blatant inequality of opportunity or sacrifice requires one to accept the unavoidable conclusion that those less fortunate are expendable and consider the strong possibility that those who oppose the draft have no shame in doing so.

That Rangel has little political support in both parties for a proposal to institute the draft and that over 70 percent of the public opposes a draft should come as no surprise. Most Americans would rather wave a flag or display a sticker that says "support the troops" than have a family member as a "troop". That unpleasant task is for someone else who can't afford to do anything else but participate in a war that we should now know will profit a handful of corporations and if/when the troops return from "volunteering" in the death and destruction chances are they'll be ignored.

The midterm election and the subsequent resignation of Secretary Rumsfeld were distractions that over shadowed the real reason why we are in Iraq when Tony Snow said that "if the United States is defeated in Iraq, extremists would have access to the country's oil wealth and use that as a weapon against the United States, Asia, and Europe" - the cat is out of the bag, it was all about oil after all This is precisely the kind of situation which Rangel's proposal is intended to prevent.

Unfortunately that which has received very little attention was that Rangel also said that having a draft would not necessarily mean everyone called to duty would have to serve. Instead, "young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals," with a promise of educational benefits at the end of service.

If the American Republic is to survive we cannot afford to ignore Santayana's warning that "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it" because the "let someone else do it" which seems to have become the new "American way of life" in the 21st century is a strong indication that we are in a state of decline much like the Roman Empire when it let someone else do the fighting.

The history we should learn from is the history of the Roman army when military service was a civic responsibility stemming from a sense of duty and loyalty during the apex of the Roman Republic but during the decline the Roman Constitution was trampled and military service was left to the peasants and the barbarians on the frontiers. Eventually the Roman Empire fell into the abyss.

While I do not support Congressman Rangel's proposal to draft only American males between the ages of 18 and 26 I do support universal conscription based on civic responsibility at the age of 18 for "all" Americans with no deferments except for those medically determined to be too disabled to serve for a three year period of time to either serve in the military, serve in homeland security, serve in some government sponsored program to make this a better country in which to live e.g. cleaning litter from city streets, providing social and medical services to those in need, etc.

Once such service is completed higher education, health insurance, and job opportunities would be provided for based on need by a grateful nation to show their support for the troops and wars which are waged to profit a few corporations within the military-industrial-pharmaceutical industry would be a thing of the past when everyone has something to lose and everything to gain from a sense of community.

To cavalierly dismiss Rangel's concerns is to ignore that the American Constitution is being trampled, to ignore the fact that our military is disproportionably comprised of the less privileged, and to ignore the reality that the American Empire is doomed to fall into the abyss. We can continue to stay the course and avoid the issue of civic responsibility but we should not be surprised by the consequences of our actions because history has already taught us that lesson.
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