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Rangel promotes plan to reinstitute draft

Says Bush and some lawmakers too eager to go to war

Rangel: 'Let all of America say we're sharing  the sacrifice.'
Rangel: 'Let all of America say we're sharing the sacrifice.'

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the prospect of war in Iraq growing more likely, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-New York, Monday promoted legislation he introduced this month to reinstate the military draft.

The decorated Korean War veteran said he introduced the bill "in hopes that those people who make the decisions to go to war, to attack Iraq, would be better influenced against it if they had kids that would be placed in harm's way, or if they felt closer to the shared sacrifice that we oftentimes talk about."

People "from the lower economic levels of our society" should not be the only ones placed in harm's way, he said.

Rangel has accused President Bush and some fellow lawmakers of being too eager to go to war.

He also criticized Bush's proposed tax cuts.

"We're paying for this war by enlarging the deficit, cutting back on health care, cutting back on education, jeopardizing the Social Security trust fund, jeopardizing Medicare and actually giving a tax break to the wealthy," he told reporters.

Rangel said he hoped his initiative would spur his colleagues in Congress to "take a good look at this war before we get involved in it. If we do get involved, at the end of the day, let all of America say we're sharing the sacrifice."

Senate sponsor Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-South Carolina, said the bill could make the country's leaders less bellicose. "One way to avoid a lot more wars is to institute the draft," the World War II veteran said. "You'll find this country will sober up, and its leadership, too."

He also expressed dismay at the proposed tax cuts. "It's dividends for the tax cuts," he said. "This government is way off base right now."

Rangel introduced the bill to reinstate the military draft earlier this month.

Minorities in the military

According to his office, minorities comprise more than 30 percent of the nation's military.

Under his bill, the draft would apply to men and women ages 18 to 26; exemptions would be granted to allow people to graduate from high school, but college students would have to serve.

Conscientious objectors and anyone who didn't qualify for military service because of impairments would be required to perform community service.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters this month he sees no need for a draft. He said the military is managing to attract enough skilled recruits without one.

"We're not going to re-implement a draft. There is no need for it at all," Rumsfeld said. "The disadvantages of using compulsion to bring into the armed forces the men and women needed are notable."

The nation had a draft between 1948 and 1973. It became controversial during the Vietnam conflict, 1964-1975, an undeclared, unpopular war.

To avoid serving, many young men fled to Canada and elsewhere, and violent protests were common. The all-volunteer military replaced the draft.

Since 1980, the Selective Service has required men 18 to 26 to register to give the government a pool it could draw from in case troops were needed in an emergency.

Last fall, the Selective Service said 14.1 million men were eligible for a draft.


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