In yesterday’s Washington Post, Rep. Charles Rangel from New York claimed the best way to make sure we don’t head into another private war-of-revenge like Iraq is to re-institute a draft for mandatory military service via the Selective Service System.

Bush bodies

Here is Rangel’s rationale:

“There’s no question in my mind that this president and
this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the
flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a
draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their
kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” Rangel
In 2003, he proposed a measure covering people age 18 to 26.

This year,
he offered a plan to mandate military service for men and women between
age 18 and 42; it went nowhere in the Republican-led Congress….
The military drafted conscripts during the Civil War, both world wars
and between 1948 and 1973. An agency independent of the Defense
Department, the Selective Service System trains, keeps an updated
registry of men age 18-25 _ now about 16 million _ from which to supply
untrained draftees that would supplement the professional all-volunteer
armed forces.

Reinstating conscription would be an excellent way to even out the
burden, responsibility and need for national service.
Requiring the wealthy and the powerful to serve next to the poor and
the disenfranchised would not only bring our country together, it would
force us to look at each other on a deeper level of survival and to
reconsider the merits of cultural blending.
Nothing equalizes a stratified society greater than shared blood shed
on the battlefield.


  1. fred!
    I agree! It’s so funny how the Chickenhawk Republicans — and that’s precisely what they all are: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice — pound the drum for war while those who know better because they bled on the battlefield: Kerrey, Kerry, Murtha, Inouye, Webb, Cleland, Rangel, call for caution and compassion.
    How Rove and his cohorts were able to paint those great people as unpatriotic and “cut and run” supporters was truly amazing and disappointing that the voices of experience and reason were drowned out by the love of blood.
    Joni Mitchell said it best in the Fiddle and the Drum.

  2. Dylan said it good too. “There selling postcards at the hanging.” Since politics is already so much like “fake” professional wrestling why not give them far out names and settle it in the ring. The “Bowlegged Macho Chicken strutting fighter” vs. the “Great decapitating Bear.” etc.

  3. Right, fred, love it!
    John Fogerty also said it well in “Fortunate Son”

    Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
    ooh, they’re red, white and blue.
    And when the band plays “Hail To The Chief”,
    oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,
    It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
    I ain’t no senator’s son,
    It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
    I ain’t no fortunate one, no,
    Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
    Lord, don’t they help themselves? oh.
    But when the taxman come to the door,
    Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale, yes,
    Yeh, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
    ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
    And when you ask them, how much should we give,
    oh, they only answer, more, more, more, yoh,
    (Chorus Twice)

  4. Well done, Dave! The protest song needs to make a comeback. We have had “Ohio” and “Woodstock” to show us the way and yet we have a bloody Iraq war and few musical voices to bring us the light of day.
    Why is that do you think?
    Is Hip-Hop only about money and women and bling?
    I’m working on a Neil Young piece right now…
    Are the ’60’s radicals out of the mainstream music field now and are irrelevant?
    P!nk’s “Dear Mr. President” protest song is the closest a modern-day version we have though it falls short of an anthem like “Fortunate Son” or “War!”

  5. No draft at present.
    Some of the *titled* serve in the military (Prince William and Prince Harry are currently serving )- the rich and the powerful avoid like the plague.

  6. Dave —
    The Dixie Chicks are a bit different, aren’t they? They criticized Bush and the war and their “fans” in the South tried to reject them with ostracism. I support that economic and societal ostracism. Let the market decide the value of ideas.
    What I found strange, though, was the Dixie Chicks response in song: They attacked their fans and not Bush. They weren’t going to “take it anymore” — which I felt meant they were no longer going to be shouted down for their political views. They allowed their fans to change and challenge their plan of attack and that hurt their argument against the war in the end.
    P!nk’s song was the song the Dixie Chicks should’ve performed! That song blasts right at the center of Bush’s hypocrisy.
    As for P!ink’s performance — yes, I think the kids know the lyrics — that’s one of the pluses of doing a ballad over a rocking anthem: The Words Matter.
    If you watch the P!ink video linked in my article you will see the kids in the audience singing along with her. That’s real power. There’s change and fury going on in that room and I love it!
    Kids have always rebelled against controlling power. The problem is that power used to be government based and now it is more solitary-parent based. That results in a big difference in the results of a successful protest.

  7. It is tradition – a very longstanding one. Most of the royals at least do token service. Prince Andrew served in the Faulklands as a helicopter pilot. There is currently much debate about the two young princes (one of them the future King) about active service in Afghanistan.
    A lot of our nobility – COunts, Dukes, Earls were rewarded with their titles as a result of supporting the monarch of the time in battle.
    A good friend of mine who is an Earl can trace his title back to the battle of Agincourt. His anscenstors were rewarded with house, lands and title for being on the winning side.
    Some regiments are inextricably linked with nobility (landed gentry) – thier sons fed through Sandhurst Officer training and then into the regiment of their family.

  8. Yes women are now allowed to serve in front line combat – we lost our first woman soldier on active duty in Iraq last week – officer in the intelligence corps.

  9. They fought for ages for the right.
    From what I understand they make excellent fighter pilots and submariners – well those are the groups you hear most about in the press.

  10. Nicola,
    Were any arguments made by the military that women in combat — on the ground and in the trenches — were somehow bad for morale in that if a woman in unit were hit, all the men would go to her to help her up instead of shooting their guns or they would be so affected by seeing the female figure in paid that they would not be able to fight themselves?

  11. There were several arguments – there was the morale argument – there was the “we don’t want women serving on submarines with our husbands” argument, there was the “you can’t put men and women on submarines in the same quarters and sharing toilets” argument, there was the “front line is no place for women ” argument and the “physical capabilities” argument.
    Wiki has a page outlining what women in the forces can do in what country :-

  12. Thanks, Nicola!
    I know most of the arguments used against women here — I guess I hoped the UK had a little different stance. Thanks for the link! I found this interesting:

    Although women are recruited to serve in the military in most countries, only a few countries permit women to fill active combat roles. Countries that allow this include Germany, Canada, Denmark and Norway. Only Canada has fully integrated women into the infantry, and currently has only six women in that role.

    Love those Canadians!

  13. David,
    Her music resonates, and recycles. Please check out my website and the gallery in the upper left corner. It features photographs from her recent gallery opening called, “green flag song”, a cathartic release of her artistic feelings relating to this war and the current political state of our country.

  14. I can see the draft coming back into favor.
    I don’t know how many “rich and powerful” kids would end up in harm’s way, because I’m sure they’d figure out ways to “be in the rear with the gear” or would go to their parents’ brand spanking new second homes in Canada.
    I doubt — unless the child volunteered — that the son of a member of Congress would be assigned to the infantry or other high risk job category.
    But, I could see people being in favor of the draft as a way to get people back to work who haven’t been able to find work in the urban core. There’s something to be said about the discipline and skills training that could be provided by some sort of national service.
    Maybe national service with a job training component would be popular because it would give people skills that could be applied after their term of service ended.
    If the draft was set up right, it might be a way for people to break out of poverty. Sometimes getting away from a neighborhood and seeing that there are opportunities for the future is enough to change someone’s life.
    My dad joined the Army in 1966 after college — it was better to join than to be drafted — and received his MBA while on active duty. It was also the start of a 40-year career with the military as a soldier and later as a civilian.
    People who objected to fighting could serve their country for a couple of years — maybe doing rebuilding work in the urban core.
    There are already plans to have a job training program for youth in my area to train them for construction work.

    On Thursday, Gov. Mitch Daniels will come to Northwest Indiana to announce just who will be charged with the task of running 16-week, pre-apprenticeship programs for prospective black and Hispanic workers under the program.
    Already, eagerness to be trained for these high-paying careers has struck Gary and the rest of Northwest Indiana.
    “I get daily phone calls,” said state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary. “The interest level is high.”
    But state officials still want to make sure that black and Hispanic candidates get the message: You can train for a career in highway construction, even if you are a high-school dropout.

    It’s interesting to note in Chicago that Patrick Daley, son of Mayor Daley, enlisted in the military after graduating with a MBA degree.

    “He didn’t want to make a big deal out of it,” said Kelo. “He didn’t want any special treatment, and he didn’t want any special coverage.”
    Patrick Daley declined all interview requests Tuesday. He spoke only to Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed.
    Typically, people with Daley’s background sign up for officer’s training school rather than enlist. But he told Sneed he might make the Army his career, so “it’s better to start out at the bottom.”
    “That’s my son, Patrick,” the mayor said. “He made that decision. He wants to start where he believes is important.”

    Source: CBS2Chicago.

  15. H Ruffin!
    Welcome to Urban Semiotic and thank you for giving us the pointer to your site and the excellent update on Joni Mitchell! It is so wonderful to see her still fighting the right fight.

  16. Chris!
    Thanks for the excellent analysis!
    I agree that wealthy and powerful children would never face the front in any sort of war. Money is made to grease palms and move mountains.
    Isn’t the current all-volunteer military mainly made up of poor minorities from the urban core?
    I do like the idea of a military made to rebuild the nation — and that might be a good way to blend wealth and poverty — so some of the single-mindedness of national pride and purpose could return to our shores.

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