Call for Reviving the Military Draft Finds Little Support

By Jeff McKay | July 7, 2008 | 8:31pm EDT

( - Buoyed by his party's successes in the midterm election, New York Democrat Rep. Charles Rangel has renewed his earlier call for reinstating the military draft - but as with earlier attempts, his latest proposal was quickly shot down.

Both House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader-elect Steny Hoyer told reporters that a resolution on the subject is not planned for when the new, Democrat-led Congress convenes in January.

Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich), who is set to take the leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also opposes reinstatement of the draft.

When Rangel first introduced his draft resolution in 2003, Democrats were the minority in Congress and his call was harshly rebuked. The House of Representatives voted down the measure 402-2, despite the fact memories of 9/11 were still relatively fresh.

Rangel is now repeating his call at a time when his party is preparing to lead the House, and when he is soon to become head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel's plan would include both men and women, aged 18-42. (In 2003, he proposed a draft for ages 18-26.)

He said in a weekend television show that if his fellow lawmakers knew their own children would be sent to fight, they might not have voted to invade Iraq.

Rangel, a veteran of the Korean War, says he believes U.S. military right now is spread too thin to handle other potential problems.

"If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft. I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft," said Rangel.

Top Democrats aren't alone in opposing the draft. Leading Republicans, including President Bush, are also on record as opposing the idea.

Residents in the New York area traveling through the Penn Station transportation hub Monday resoundingly criticized Rangel's plan.

"I am against this unjust war and against war of any kind," said Tariq Assaf of Manhattan. "I do not believe we need to have a draft."

"Now you know why I don't trust Republicans. [If the draft was reinstated], I would pack up my family and move to Canada," said Sandra Rosenberg of Bergen County, New Jersey. When told it was actually a Democrat who was pushing the proposal, she said, "I may start voting Republican. But if it passes, I will still move my family to Canada."

"The idea is absolutely horrible," said Bonnie Brenner, the mother of two from Manalapan, New Jersey. "I think there are enough people who volunteer for military service. Why should kids who want to go to college or into other careers be forced to serve if they don't want that?"

In an interactive poll by the Long Island-based newspaper, Newsday, three out of every four respondents were against a military draft.

New York-area radio has been abuzz with the topic.

On a late night WKXW-FM program, the majority of callers were against reinstating the draft, although a few who identified themselves as members of the military or veterans said they would not be against the idea.

"What Charlie Rangel is doing here is trying to get a headline," said the show's host, "Tommy G."

"There's no way the new Democratic leadership will stand by him. It's political suicide. A draft resolution has a zero chance of passing unless there was a full-scale invasion of the United States," he said.

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