Sensing A Draft: Is Conscription in the Wind? | General News & Politics | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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According to written statements issued by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary, Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, and an original cosponsor of The Rangel-Conyers Bill, the "military draft bill" was offered "so that we could institute a system whereby all segments of the population share the burden and sacrifice of war." However, he adds, "Secretary Rumsfeld shot our idea down, allegedly because of his concern that in the past, draftees were 'sucked into the intake, trained for a period of months, and then went out, adding no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services over any sustained period of time.'"

The bill states that the education deferment would be in effect up to age 20 or until high school graduation-whichever comes first. College students would only be able to defer induction until the end of their current semester. Exemptions would be granted only for "extreme hardship" and disability. COs, defined and directed by the Military Selective Service Act who could substantiate their claims would "participate in military service that does not include any combatant training component."

At present, all American males are required to register with the Selective Service within six months of their 18th birthday. There is no such requirement for young women. Both genders may volunteer to enlist before age 18 through the "delayed enlistment" program, which postpones reporting for training for up to 12 months following a recruit's 18th birthday. The Rangel-Conyers Bill calls for both young men and young women to register immediately upon reaching age 18, and give the president authority to establish the number to be drafted, and the selection method. Anyone not selected for (or exempted from) military service would perform national service for at least two years in a civilian capacity, including working in conservation, health care, education, and child care or geriatrics.

If the Rangels-Conyers Bill became law, the US would become the 51st nation with compulsory military service. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, compulsory service currently in 50 countries ranges from six months to three years for men aged as 16 to 54, with deferments or exemptions for education, marriage, and parenthood. Six countries-Chile, Israel, Paraguay, Somalia, Angola, and Libya-draft women. Aside from Israel, these countries draft women only in times of international emergency, for shorter periods than men, in non-combatant positions, or only if they have special qualifications.

Rangel remains the chief proponent of the draft. A twice-decorated, African-American veteran of the Korean War who was educated on the GI Bill, he is the top Democrat on the House's Ways and Means Committee. Rangel is serving his 17th term representing New York's 15th Congressional district, which includes portions of Harlem, the Bronx, Inwood, Washington Heights, and the Upper East and West Sides. His constituency is predominated by lower-socio-economic groups-46 percent Hispanic and 37 percent African American. Although Rangel voted against giving the President the authority to invade Iraq, he told Congress he was introducing HR 163 out of a concern that the US military mirrors America's working class and minorities. Without a universal draft, he claims, this burden weighs disproportionately on the shoulders of the poor, the disadvantaged, and minorities.

"We shouldn't have to legislate a draft," Rangel told the National Press Club (NPC) on April 15. "It should be the moral thing to say that if putting people in harm's way is a part of our national policy to safeguard our national security, then only a small section of those from low-income groups-they're not the only ones that should have to make the sacrifice."

Rangel claims his bill is concerned with instilling national pride as well as ensuring that all the nation's races and socioeconomic groups share the burden of war. "I would hope that people understand that my support of a draft doesn't mean that I want to disrupt the lives of our young people," he told the NPC. "With the over 30 million youngsters that would be eligible-men and women between 18 and 26-only one million of them could possibly be selected for the military. But how proud all of them should be during a time of national emergency that they would be able to serve our great country-in our seaports, our airports, and our schools and hospitals-and able to say for two years that they've served this country."

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