- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) — A Vietnam War veterans' group is taking exception to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's comments this week on the possibility of a new draft.

"Secretary Rumsfeld said troops from Vietnam War conscription 'added no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services … '" Bobby Muller, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation said in a statement issued Friday. "As Vietnam veterans who served with conscripted soldiers, we find Secretary Rumsfeld's egregious slur a grave insult to the memory, sacrifice and valor of those who lost their lives, and, further, dismissive of the hundreds and thousands of lives, both in the U.S. and in Vietnam, who were devastatingly shattered by the Vietnam War."

Rumsfeld, while commenting on a bill introduced to initiate the draft, said it was unnecessary.

"We're not going to re-implement a draft," he said Tuesday. "There is no need for it at all."

He spoke of the fact that many of those who were drafted were trained, served for a short time and then left the service.

Rumsfeld first referred to the many exemptions issued to certain men in the draft and then said, "what was left was 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, because the churning that took place, it took enormous amount of effort in terms of training, and then they were gone."

Critics said Rumsfeld's comments were unconscionable.

"To me if you look at the whole quote it's even worse," said John Terzano, vice president of the Vietnam Veteran of American Foundation, which shared a Nobel Prize in 1997 for its work helping landmine victims. "He's sitting there saying draftees add no value to the military and that's unconscionable … Draftees stayed in as long they needed to be in the service — they stayed in.

"How can he sit there and say they added no value to the army?"

He said Rumsfeld should have been "a little bit more careful with his wording and not be so glib."

An official at the organization said the base concern was the "cavalierness of the way (Rumsfeld) said it."

Rumsfeld declared unequivocally Tuesday there would be no resumption of the draft as he and his military leaders all believe a volunteer force was more efficient and effective.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a Korean War veteran and a strong critic of going to war with Iraq, introduced a bill to initiate a draft because he believes the burden of military service is borne disproportionately by minorities. Rangel also believes if there were a universal draft, Congress and the public would have less of an appetite for war as it would mean endangering their own children's lives.

Minorities compose more than a third of the military, though they make up only about one-quarter of the American populace.

"I don't find that a compelling argument to spend all the money you would spend in churning people through and all the disadvantages that would accrue to bringing people into the service who didn't want to serve in the service," Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

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