Debra J. Saunders
1/20/2003 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Leaders of the Left have stooped to hiding behind the poor in order to win the war of words over war with Iraq.
Consider the legislation to reinstitute the draft, with no exemptions for college or graduate school, introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
Rangel wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his bill "is really meant to show my opposition to a unilateral pre-emptive attack against Iraq by the United States."
Actually, if the United States does attack Iraq, it won't be unilateral -- not with Great Britain, Kuwait and Qatar joining the war effort. And it wouldn't be pre-emptive -- as any U.S. incursion would be the result of Iraq's decision to flout a U.N. peace pact that it signed after attacking another country. But I digress.
Rangel is proposing a draft, which the military strongly opposes, in order to demonstrate that war with Iraq would be less popular if America's affluent had to sacrifice their own sons.
Rangel knows the measure will never pass. He doesn't want it to, I'm sure. His goal is to suggest that if Washington refuses to spread the sacrifice of military service universally, then there should be no support of this war.
No matter that a draft hurt the military. Or that Pentagon brass have no desire to risk their lives, or those of their troops, fighting with reluctant recruits.
Rangel just wants to make a point -- that minorities will pay more than whites if there's a war in Iraq.
But that's not true.
"Minorities make up 35 percent of the military, and blacks 20 percent, well above their proportion of the general population," Rangel wrote. The Pentagon released the number on minorities in the volunteer army on Jan. 13; 21 percent of the enlisted force is black (and blacks comprise 15 percent of infantry, armored and artillery units), while 12 percent of the U.S. population is black.
In the Gulf War, however, minorities didn't suffer more casualties than whites. African Americans accounted for 23 percent of troops sent, and 17 percent of the deaths, The Washington Times reported; Hispanics represented 4 percent of Gulf War troops and 4 percent of deaths, while whites made up 71 percent of Gulf War troops, and 76 percent of Gulf War deaths.
As KGO news anchor and Vietnam veteran Pete Wilson noted, the myth that minorities will suffer disproportionate casualties is "one of those things that people have come to believe that isn't backed up by the facts." Since Vietnam, Wilson adds, whites have been over-represented in combat service.
And yet on Monday, Oakland teachers union leader Sheila Quintana told me that one reason for the Oakland teach-in on war in Iraq was to educate "future draftees of a potential war."
But there is no draft, I said.
"Some are saying, there is no draft, do I have to go?" Quintana responded.
If they think they have to serve in a volunteer army, it must be because they're being misled, and it's not by the U.S. military.
Of course, the Democrats weren't pushing for a draft when the issue was whether to send U.S. "peace keepers" to Kosovo and Bosnia. When there was no national interest to fight for, there was no hand-wringing about disproportionate minority representation.
Indeed, when critics questioned whether it was right to risk the blood of American troops serving as the world's police abroad, Bosnia hawks were the first to note that these volunteers knew what they were getting into when they enlisted.