For Release: January 24, 2002
Contact: David Almasi at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]
A proposal by Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) to reinstate a military draft is under fire from African-American conservatives affiliated with the Project 21 leadership network. Project 21 members call the Rangel proposal a blatant political maneuver meant to inject a divisive racial aspect into the debate over using military force to remove Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"Ironic as it may sound, bringing back the draft would be a good sign for those who seek to destroy us because it would be a sign of strategic weakness," said Project 21 member Captain A.A. Warthen, an active-duty U.S. Marine. "The Rangel proposal ignores the obvious social attitudes that have taken place over the past 25 years with regard to public service. The young men and women serving today are the best-educated and trained generation of warriors this nation has ever produced. We are more than ready to meet the challenges that lay ahead in the defense of this nation."
Rangel's proposal would require all men and women between the ages of 18 and 26 to perform military service. Those who do not qualify for the military would perform community service. Rangel's statement that he seeks a "more equitable representation of people making sacrifices" indicates the plan is inspired by racial politics rather than strategic need.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says of the draft, "There is no need for it at all."
Department of Defense figures dispute the claim by Rangel plan supporters that minorities would suffer a disproportionate number of frontline casualties in an Iraqi conflict. While 20 percent of soldiers are African-American, only 10.6 percent of the Army's combat infantry is black. Black personnel also are underrepresented as pilots and in high-risk commando units.
Military sociologist Charles Moskos told USA Today: "If anybody should be complaining about battlefield deaths, it is poor, rural whites." As for the class disparity, Hoover Institution research fellow Stanley Kurtz points out that liberal opposition to JROTC and ROTC presence in high schools and colleges since the Vietnam era has led to fewer college graduates considering the military as a career option.
A 1997 survey of 76,000 servicemen found that minority soldiers had an overwhelmingly positive view of race relations in the military. Over one-third believed conditions in the military were better than in the civilian world. Good race relations are an important factor in ensuring troops' combat readiness.
Project 21 member Kevin Martin, a U.S.
Navy veteran, added: "Congressman Rangel has sunk to a new
low in trying to say that a draft is the only way to bring equality
to the military. Study after study has shown that whatever information
he has is as faulty as his argument."
Project 21 has been a leading voice in the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact Chris Burger or David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's web site at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.