MAP Member Opinion "Peace"  

This Time, Leave the Children Behind
by Phil Steger, Executive Director, Friends for a Non-Violent World

(sent 1-4-2002)

Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel of New York has announced that he will introduce legislation to re-activate universal military service under the Selective Service Act ("Rangel calls for mandatory military service", CNN, 12/30/02). He also has authored a piece that appeared in the New York Times (12/31/02). It's an odd move for someone who has criticized the Bush Administration and fellow members of Congress of being too quick to go to war on Iraq, and who voted against the October resolution ceding Congress' war-making powers to the President. His reasoning: let moms and dads who are hesitantly for, or quietly against, the war know that it could be their son or daughter who will be sent to kill or die in a conflict where the case for national security is weak (to say the least),and the dutiful march toward war will turn into a frantic backpedaling from war's destructive brink. He may be right. It's a bold, if desperate, gambit.

The problem is that there's no reason for the hawks to dive after this quarry. Military recruiters have exceeded their enlistment goals for the past two years, and Congress has just passed a bill that will leave no child unrecruited.

The "No Child Left Behind Act"that was passed in 2002 carries a provision deep within its 670 pages that requires all public secondary schools to give military recruiters not only access to their facilities, but contact information for every student. If schools refuse, then their federal funding will be forfeited!

While students retain their right to withhold their records individually, some school officials are turning over student directories to recruiters without telling anyone. Other schools, more respectful of their students' rights, have begun to inform students of their right to withhold their records. Yet, those students who miss this information, or who do not recognize the value of their right to privacy, or who are too distracted (as high school students often are) to make a formal request that their rights be respected, will be vulnerable to immediate and aggressive, personal recruitment through mailings, phone calls, and personal visits. Military recruiters have made it clear that they can hardly wait to avail themselves of these new opportunities and to inundate high school students with relentless recruitment. A Nov/ Dec 2002 Mother Jones article quotes Major Johannes Paraan, head of US Army recruiting for Vermont and northeastern New York, as saying, "The only thing that will get us to stop contacting the family is if they call their congressman. Or maybe if the kid died, we'll take them off our list." So, why would hawks dive after the draft, which will frighten middle- and upper class moms and dads, when squadrons of army recruiters have unlimited access to the nations' poorest high school students? Military recruiters are not dumb enough to waste the time and energy to go after swifter, better-armed prey. Suburban kids with college prospects are going to be safe. It's the poor, the immigrant, and the kid of color with no interest in or chance of attending college who will be promised upward mobility: the chance to fly airplanes, competitive computer and technical skills, money for collegein exchange for their lives and obedience. It’s the kids who have little to lose (except their lives) who will be targeted. And, who will protect them? The Congressional representatives who passed this insidious legislation? The media, who have so far failed to report it and its implications? The more callous attitudes are likely to be: these kids are a burden, anyway, good for nothing. Let them have the chance to serve their country, instead of being a drain on it.

But neither this Act, nor the war it’s so obviously in place to facilitate, are about serving the country.

Make no mistake: The Leave No Child Behind Act is designed to facilitate the recruitment ofcannon fodder for a war on Iraq that, given the spuriousness of the BushAdministration's case for self-defense, the vast majority of Americans would not want themselves, or their children to fight. Instead, so goes the reasoning, we will leave it to poor kids with no other prospects than the "patriotic" but empty promises of military recruiters to fight this useless, immoral war.

Rangel's bill of universal military service, if he in fact brings it forward, is an attempt to force Americans at home and in Congress to face head-on the heavy toll that war will take on the U.S. economy and U.S. youth. This reckoningwith the true nature of warfare,its cold, merciless slaughter of the young, regardless of wealth or class,would then help Americans to see through the "inevitability" of war with Iraq, and demand the use all available peaceful means by which to disarm Saddam and secure Iraqi human rights. Given the underhanded success of the Leave No Child Unrecruited Act, Rangel's effort, though noble, is likely to be unsuccessful, and we cannot depend on it.

If we have any decency or sense of fair-play, we will not let this back-door Act, and the new soldiers that it will create, enable America to ignore the inevitable impact that a war will have on the American youth who will fight in it. We must right now publicly demand that the President and Congress repeal this Act, or at the very least, those aspects hidden in the Act that deal with recruiting. We Americans must do it now. And, with all due to respect to Cong. Rangel,we must do it ourselves.

In the meantime, you teachers and principals out there, our country often relies on you more than is right, given the responsibilities you already bear. The government found a way to force you to turn over your students’ records to recruiters, upon the threat of pulling your funding. For the sake of those students, counsel them to hold fast to their right to privacy and peace. For now, the Constitution still protects them.

Surely this is one instance when it's best to leave the children behind.

THE NEW YORK TIMES December 31, 2002
Bring Back the Draft


WASHINGTON, D.C. President Bush and his administration have declared a war against terrorism that may soon involve sending thousands of American troops into combat in Iraq. I voted against the Congressional resolution giving the president authority to carry out this war an engagement that would dwarf our military efforts to find Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. But as a combat veteran of the Korean conflict, I believe that if we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice. Throughout much of our history, Americans have been asked to shoulder the burden of war equally. That's why I will ask Congress next week to consider and support legislation I will introduce to resume the military draft. Carrying out the administration's policy toward Iraq will require long-term sacrifices by the American people, particularly those who have sons and daughters in the military. Yet the Congress that voted overwhelmingly to allow the use of force in Iraq includes only one member who has a child in the enlisted ranks of the military just a few more have children who are officers. I believe that if those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve and to be placed in harm's way there would be more caution and a greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq. A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war. Service in our nation's armed forces is no longer a common experience. A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military, while the most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent. We need to return to the tradition of the citizen soldier with alternative national service required for those who cannot serve because of physical limitations or reasons of conscience. There is no doubt that going to war against Iraq will severely strain military resources already burdened by a growing number of obligations. There are daunting challenges facing the 1.4 million men and women in active military service and those in our National Guard and Reserve. The Pentagon has said that up to 250,000 troops may be mobilized for the invasion of Iraq. An additional 265,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve, roughly as many as were called up during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, may also be activated. Already, we have long-term troop commitments in Europe and the Pacific, with an estimated 116,000 troops in Europe, 90,000 in the Pacific (nearly 40,000 in Japan and 38,000 in Korea) and additional troop commitments to operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere. There are also military trainers in countries across the world, including the Philippines, Colombia and Yemen. We can expect the evolving global war on terrorism to drain our military resources even more, stretching them to the limit. The administration has yet to address the question of whether our military is of sufficient strength and size to meet present and future commitments. Those who would lead us into war have the obligation to support an all-out mobilization of Americans for the war effort, including mandatory national service that asks something of us all. Charles B. Rangel, a Democrat, is a representative from New York.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

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