According to Rangel, 46 percent of current enlistments come from rural areas, towns and counties that have less than 20,000 people in population, while 26 percent of those being killed in action are either African Americans or Hispanics. He told the NPC the Iraq War is claiming the lives of disenfranchised Americans who enlist simply to improve their economic status and gain a college education.
Statistics seem to bear out Rangel's claims. According to Stars and Stripes, the Pentagon-funded newspaper for US servicepersons, 20 percent of the 1.4 million active-duty members of today's military are African Americans, though African Americans only account for 13 percent of the US population. African Americans hold 36 percent of all supportive and administrative jobs in the military, and comprise 27 percent of medical and dental personnel. The New York Times reported that while three out of five soldiers are white, black women now outnumber white women in the Army and the military is predominantly comprised of working class, non-college educated people. Generally absent from the military are college graduates, the offspring of the well-to-do, and residents of the Northeast.
Like Rangel, other Congressmen who support The Rangel-Conyers Bill also opposed the Iraq invasion. Cosponsor Pete Stark (D-CA) told Congress the day after the draft bills were introduced, "I ardently oppose war with Iraq. Yet, war is on the horizon. The President is intent on invading Iraq whatever the cost. Thanks to the President's brand of hotheaded bully diplomacy, war with North Korea may also be imminent. The only real question that remains is whether or not Americans are ready and willing to bear the cost?"
World War I draft dodgers under guard in Chicago's Grant Park, 1917.
A MILITARY FAMILY SPEAKS OUT
Third Infantry Division Army specialist Ivan Medina of Middletown served 11 months in Kuwait and Iraq in the Army, and agrees that the military is predominantly made up of economically disadvantaged people. "College money" and "the pretty picture painted by the recruiters-that I would never see the frontlines" convinced him, along with his late twin brother Irving and their sister, to sign up. Medina returned home last January after being granted the "surviving son or brother provision" when his brother Irving was killed in Iraq. Since then, he and his father, Jorge, have publicly protested the US presence in Iraq. The Medinas refuse to allow Ivan's sister, who is currently serving in the Reserve, to go to Iraq if her unit is mobilized.
Medina claims that, like him, many of the enlisted have lost faith in President Bush for "telling lies." Nonetheless, he does not regret having enlisted-he simply wants the war burden shared by all. "In the military there are a lot of people who can't afford college, who are trying to get out of the ghettos, who are trying to make a better life for themselves. My feeling is, send President Bush's daughters, all of those congressmen's and senators' family members first, and then come and tell me that we're reinstating the draft for everybody else."
In late September 2003 draft rumors began circulating when a Selective Service advertisement asking for volunteers to fill positions on approximately 2,000 local and appeal community draft boards "if a military draft becomes necessary" appeared on the Department of Defense Web site DefendAmerica.mil. In November, following media attention, the ad was withdrawn. Also, in a November 3, 2003 Salon.com article, community draft board members said that during training sessions that summer they had unexpectedly been asked for recommendations to fill the nation's estimated 16 percent of empty draft board seats. Draft board members are uncompensated volunteers who must be recommended by the state's governor to be appointed by the Selective Service.
Some policy changes made in response to the events of September 11 have been interpreted to indicate a draft reinstatement. Through an amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, for instance, it has become easier for military recruiters to find eligible young people. The amendment makes it illegal for schools to refuse to pass students' vital information-names, grades, addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, and birthdates, all of which are routinely entered into computer databases and school directories-to military recruiters upon request. Failure to furnish the information means loss of federal funding. However, parents (and students aged 18 and over) can "opt out" of allowing schools to pass on information by filling out a form. (For more information, see "Policy Guidance-Access to High School Students and Information on Students by Military Recruiters" at www.ed.gov.)