U.S Congress may push for military draft
By Vicki Allen
WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - As the United States prepared for a possible war against Iraq, an influential senator added his voice on Monday to calls to reinstate the military draft, a step the Bush administration says is unnecessary and unwise.
South Carolina Democrat Ernest Hollings said he is sponsoring the Senate version of a bill offered in the House of Representatives by Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, who said a universal draft would bring men and women from all walks of life into the military instead of leaving it mostly to low-income people and minorities.
Rangel and Hollings held a joint news conference as weapons inspectors issued a report at the United Nations that said Baghdad had not fully complied with requirements that it disarm, a finding that the Bush administration has said could lead to war with Iraq.
Rangel opposed the congressional resolution authorizing a possible attack on Iraq. Hollings backed it. But citing tensions around the world, they said they worry that the volunteer force would not be enough to fight multiple wars.
"With prospects of continued military action in Afghanistan, a potential war in Iraq, the continued war on terrorism and growing tensions in the Korean peninsula, it becomes clear that we do not have the personnel to fight a multi-theater war," they said in a letter to colleagues.
"Our proposal ensures that all Americans answer the call of duty and that the size of our military forces meets our growing military needs," Rangel, a Korean War combat veteran, and Hollings, a World War II combat veteran, said in their letter.
Hollings said forces already are stretched too thin, as the Pentagon is extending service time of reservists to handle operations in Afghanistan and the troop buildup in the Gulf, which he said is a hardship on them and their employers.
The bill requires military or national service for men and women, ages 18 to 26, without exemptions for college or graduate studies. The president would set the number of people needed for military service, and those not selected for that would serve at least two years in a civilian post.
With the Pentagon against the plan, the bill was seen as having little chance in the Republican-led Congress. But Rangel said it raised issues that the nation should debate.
It already has caused the administration some discomfort as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week apologized to veterans for comments he made dismissing the need to bring back the draft, that was ended in 1973.
With the draft, Rumsfeld said people were "sucked into the intake, trained for a period of months, and then went out, adding no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services over any sustained period of time."
Rumsfeld said he had not intended to say that draftees added no value to the military, but that he was "commenting on the loss of that value when they left the service."