Monday, November 20, 2006

The incoming Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means panel says he will introduce a bill to reinstitute a military draft in order to provide the U.S. with more troops, while Sen. John McCain continued his call for increase of troop levels in Iraq.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York first called for a draft in January 2003, when Democrats were the minority party in both houses of Congress. Now that his party controls Capitol Hill, he was asked yesterday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” if he was still serious about the proposal.

“You bet your life. Underscore ‘serious,’ ” he said.

“I don’t see how anyone can support the [Iraq] war and not support the draft,” said Mr. Rangel, alluding to Mr. McCain’s call for increased troop levels in Iraq and to the need to combat threats elsewhere in the world. “If we’re going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can’t do that without a draft.”

Mr. Rangel said his bill, which he will introduce again early next year, would allow Americans turning 18 to choose between several forms of national service, including airport security, or jobs in schools and hospitals.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said in his own “Face the Nation” appearance that military conscription was unnecessary.

“I think we can do this with an all-voluntary service, all-voluntary Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. And if we can’t, then we’ll look for some other option,” said Mr. Graham, who also serves as a reserve judge to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals.

Repeated polls have shown that about seven in 10 Americans oppose reinstatement of military conscription, and the Pentagon has long opposed any draft. Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress in June 2005 that “there isn’t a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back.”

Meanwhile, Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, continued to call for increased U.S. military presence in Iraq to stabilize the country and prevent what he described as a dire threat to U.S. national security.

“You’ve got to ask yourself some questions. One, are we winning? And I think the answer is no,” he said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “The other is, what are the consequences of defeat?”

“I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic. It will spread to the region. You will see Iran more emboldened,” said Mr. McCain, who last week formed an exploratory committee in advance of a likely 2008 presidential campaign. “We leave this place, chaos in the region, and they’ll follow us home. So there’s a great deal more at stake here in this conflict. In my view, a lot more.”

Mr. McCain said he based his judgment partly on the writings of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al Qaeda in Iraq leader who was killed in a U.S. air raid in June, and of Osama bin Laden.

“The consequences of failure are so severe that I will exhaust every possibility to try to fix this situation. Because it’s not the end when American troops leave. The battleground shifts, and we’ll be fighting them again,” Mr. McCain said. “You read Zarqawi, and you read bin Laden. … It’s not just Iraq that they’re interested in. It’s the region, and then us.”

But Mr. Rangel, a Korean War veteran, said he hoped his military-draft bill would discourage lawmakers from voting to authorize future military conflicts.

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

Mr. McCain, a Vietnam War veteran, also has two sons in military service. His son Jack is currently in the U.S. Naval Academy, while another son, James, enlisted in the Marine Corps this year.

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said there are insufficient troops available for Mr. McCain’s suggestion.

“As a practical matter, there are no troops to increase with,” the Maryland Democrat said during his appearance on “This Week.” “Our objective was to remove Saddam Hussein and create an environment in which a democracy could be established. That has been done.”

Mr. Hoyer added that Democrats will continue to fund the war despite their doubts.

“That’s not an option, of not supporting our troops in the field and making sure they’re as safe as we can make them,” he said.

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