What Volunteer Army?

In "Time for apologies," The Capital Gang's Mark Shields shines a light on yet another Bush deception: that our soldiers are serving voluntarily.
President George W. Bush boasts of the nation's all-volunteer armed forces: "We have seen the great advantages of a military in which all serve by their own decision."

The truth is that as of last month, no fewer than 44,500 American soldiers who had fulfilled their contractual obligations, completed their enlistments and made plans to return to civilian life or retirement were frozen -- by an arbitrary "stop-loss" order -- on active duty.

A survey by the military's Mental Health Advisory Team found the suicide rate among GI's stationed in Iraq to be 35 percent higher than among Army troops wordwide.

We do not have an all-volunteer service today. The reality is that we now have a limited military draft. But the only Americans who are subjected to the current "draft" are those who have already demonstrated their patriotism by volunteering to serve in the military and have then served honorably.

There is a class difference, too, in proudly classless America. All the sacrifice of this war is being borne by the minority of our population who overwhelmingly do not go onto college. While nearly 50 percent of the U.S. adult population has some college, barely six percent of our military recruits have any college.

One of the "advantages" of the all-volunteer military the president chooses not to mention is that under the draft, which was in effect until 1973, fewer than 10 percent of the draftees failed to complete their obligation.

In the vaunted all-volunteer military, more than one out of three of today's soldiers fails to complete his initial enlistment. Among white male recruits, the failure to complete their enlistment rate is 35 percent, and among white female recruits, it is 55 percent.
Rep. Charles Rangel proposed a mandatory draft back in December 2002, himself having served honorably during the Korean War.
"When you talk about a war, you're talking about ground troops, you're talking about enlisted people, and they don't come from the kids and members of Congress."

"I think, if we went home and found out that there were families concerned about their kids going off to war, there would be more cautiousness and a more willingness to work with the international community than to say, 'Our way or the highway.' "
Not many Democrats, let alone liberals, supported Rangel then, and neither did many Republicans, for that matter. Rangel's proposal was dismissed outright, but his intentions were just, namely to encourage the Bush hawks to exercise some military restraint, and to draw attention to the inherent inequity in the volunteer army they would send so callously into harm's way.

Historically both Democrats and Republicans have shown themselves willing to use US military force as a foreign policy instrument, but at least Democrats have usually been willing to voluntarily serve themselves. This difference was clearly illustrated during the 2000 Presidential Election -- while Gore had served in Vietnam, Bush avoided combat with a stint in the Texas Air National Guard. Now the Democrats have the ideal candidate in John Kerry, who served honorably in Vietnam and protested that war when he came home with his Purple Hearts and Silver Star.

To date, 3,022 US servicemen and women have been injured, and 677 have been killed in Bush's Dirty War for Oil; 538 since he dressed up as a pilot and strutted on the USS Lincoln, declaring "Mission Accomplished."

Wouldn't we rather have a President who knows what it means to serve voluntarily, rather than a coward who likes to dress up as a soldier and volunteer other people's children to die?