New York City’s sole Republican Congressman and most hawkish supporter of the war in Iraq is trying to stymie the city’s most anti-war Democrat in his efforts to reinstitute the draft.
Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) wants the soon-to-be-Democrat-controlled Congress to bring Manhattan Rep. Charlie Rangel’s legislation to a vote — so he can vote no, of course.
“I oppose the draft,” Fossella told The Brooklyn Papers. “I don’t think we need it. I think an all-volunteer force has served this country well and will continue to serve this country.”
In taking his anti-draft stance, and sending out a press release about it, Fossella is directly challenging his more dovish colleague, who argues that children of the elite should bear the same burdens of warfare as the children of minorities and underprivileged who comprise the bulk of our troops.
“Decision-makers would never have supported the invasion [of Iraq] if more of them had family members in line for deployment,” said Rangel, who won a purple heart in the Korean War.
“How can [supporters of the war] not support the military draft when the growing burden on our uniformed troops is obvious, and the unfairness and absence of shared sacrifice in the population cannot be challenged?” asked Rangel.
The Brooklyn Papers asked Fossella — who never served in the military — if he thought there was anything inconsistent in being pro-war and anti-draft, his reply was succinct: “No.”
He refused to elaborate, but later his office did.
“To the extent that it’s relevant, the makeup of the military is mostly representative of America, based on race, income and education,” said his spokesman, Craig Donner.
“A recent study by the Heritage Foundation [a conservative think tank] found that the percentage of low-income recruits (from the poorest one-fifth of America’s ZIP codes) has been on the decline, from 18 percent in 1999 to 13.7 percent in 2005,” said Donner. “The study also found the percentage of recruits from the wealthiest ZIP codes increased marginally during that same time period.”
Rangel’s office would not comment on Fossella’s opposition to the draft legislation.
But the issue is not just one of class. It’s also one of sheer numbers.
Many experts have said the military is spread so thin, with 141,000 troops now in Iraq, that it would not be able to engage other members of the so-called “Axis of Evil” (Iran and North Korea), let alone meet ongoing challenges in the still-unwon war in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, aspiring presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has called for significantly raising the number of troops in Iraq to quell what NBC News famously now calls a civil war.
With or without Fossella’s support, Rangel’s legislation doesn’t stand much of a chance, if history is anything to go by.
As Fossella pointed out in his letter, the House voted another version of Rangel’s bill down in 2004, with a resounding tally of 402 to 2.
And incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) came out in opposition to Rangel’s legislation in November.