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To Wrangle With Charlie Rangel

I awoke yesterday with the intention of verbally blasting U.S. Rep. Charles Bernard Rangel (D.-N.Y.) all over the map for his recent remarks concerning conscription. Rangel is no wallflower, having sat in the House for 35 years, and lashing out during that long tenure at virtually any level-headed policy and almost every individual regardless of rank, party or color.

What awakened my ire now is Rangel’s new effort to sponsor legislation to reinstate the military draft. Frankly, I am dismayed by such an effort and find any such attempt to be asinine at best. Fortunately for the nation, I am not alone. An overwhelming majority of the members of the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle think Charlie Rangel’s proposal is humorous at best, self-serving at worst, and fortunately, with no chance of ever reaching the floor of either legislative body.

I was prepared to say that Charlie Rangel had a lot of gall to try and mess with the military because he himself had never served in it. Wrong! Fortunately, I looked up his record before committing such a faux pas. The man is, after all, a military veteran of the Korean War and a holder of both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service in that conflict.

He is also a very loyal American, as his recent comments concerning the rudeness of Venezuelan strong-man Hugo Chavez confirm. Earlier this fall, Chavez came into this country to speak at the United Nations and other forums in New York as a guest of our State Department and proceeded to lash out at George W. Bush, implying that our President was the devil himself and that his “stink” still emanated from the U.N. podium where he had spoken before Chavez.

Chavez’s rhetoric continued in the same nasty vein in his speeches in Harlem, which encompasses Charlie Rangel’s district. Rangel could have simply agreed with Chavez, especially since Rangel is no admirer of President Bush, but he did not. He showed the class of a true American patriot when he soundly criticized Chavez, saying:

“I want President Chavez to please understand that even though many people in the United States are critical of our president that we resent the fact that he would come to the United States and criticize President Bush…you don’t come into my country, you don’t come into my congressional district and you don’t condemn my president.”

Amen to that and thank you, Charlie, for showing your patriotism and your class.

Sadly, however, that is the end of the love fest with you as your latest position on the military draft is where we must part company.

Upon turning 18 years old, all Americans would have to register for a new military draft, if Rangel, the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has his way. His reasoning for such legislation is that he sees it as a method to deter administrations from launching new wars.

“There is 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 Congress, if we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” Rangel said.

On the face of it, that statement makes little, if any sense. First of all, at least nine members of Congress have children who are now on active duty in the military. For instance, House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter’s (R.-Calif.) son has served in Iraq.

Second, members of the all-volunteer U.S. military force come from across the nation, from every congressional district, without regard for race, politics or religion.

Rangel attempts to say that it is high time that “kids from Yale and Harvard,” from the so-called “privileged class” should have to serve just like anyone else. Well, I guess you didn’t really read the statistics, Charlie, because the facts are that today’s military is very intelligent. Most have attended at least some college and many have graduated from not only undergraduate status including the Ivy League campuses, but from top graduate schools as well. You might want to mention that to Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) as well. Incidentally, my late father started his military career after graduating Harvard as a private in the U.S. Army.

Third, by all accounts, the military is not in need of new conscripts. There are plenty of volunteers who genuinely want to serve their country and want the opportunities that a military career has to offer.

The real problem with demanding a military draft is that it is terribly unfair to those who are currently serving in our armed forces of their own free will. Do you think that a person who has voluntarily put their life on the line wants to end up fighting next to someone who has been forced to join? Rangel doesn’t want to think about that, because all he is really interested in is getting some publicity about the supposed inequities between rich people and the poor. In Harlem, no doubt that sells. However, the fact is that we are all in this world together and until there is real and everlasting peace, we all face the same uncertainties, the same fears, the same emotions of joy and grief no matter how much or how little in material possessions we have.

Charlie Rangel hit an all time high in respect from me for his statements concerning Hugo Chavez, and, as usual and most unfortunately, the press did not give that much coverage at all. Now however he has chosen to grab the limelight on an issue which all Americans should immediately see as a sham. Leave the military alone, Mr. Congressman. You served it well in Korea. Let those who want to serve do the fighting today.

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Written By

Mr. Weinberger is the son of the late U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. A 1968 graduate of Harvard College, Weinberger is a writer and lecturer on world events. A former television writer, producer and director for NBC affiliate KRON-TV in San Francisco, he served in both California Gov. and President Ronald Reagan's administrations. He now resides in Maine.

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