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FCN, March 27, 2006


Gov’t takes quiet steps toward special skills draft
By Askia Muhammad
White House Correspondent
Updated Mar 30, 2004 - 9:27:00 PM

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WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - There is a "cloak of secrecy" surrounding U.S. war casualties that denies those who have fallen in the war in Iraq "the recognition they deserve," according to the Congressional Black Caucus member who has argued that the military draft must be brought back as the only way of guaranteeing that the burden of fighting the war will be carried by all.

"The cloak of secrecy that currently surrounds America’s fallen heroes prevents the nation from recognizing the sacrifices made in the war," said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) March 14 at a solemn anti-war vigil organized by families of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Mr. Rangel promised to fight for a Congressional resolution he introduced, calling for access to Dover Air Force Base, where U.S. war dead first arrive back on U.S. soil, and where the media was allowed to show flag-draped coffins and military honor ceremonies up until 1991.

"We have lost more than 560 American military men and women in Iraq," Mr. Rangel continued. "Yet, even the President said in his State of the Union address, ‘I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all.’"

Mr. Rangel also introduced legislation, along with 13 co-sponsors, to re-introduce the draft "to embarrass the President," because he is against the war, and because he "thought that people would be deterred from talking about going to war if, indeed they thought that their loved ones, their family, their community would be placed in harm’s way," he told guests at New York’s famous Riverside Church on the eve of the eruption of hostilities March 9, 2003.

One year later, the government is quietly taking the first steps toward a targeted military draft of Americans with special skills in computers and foreign languages, according to a published report.

The Selective Service System has begun the process of creating the procedures and policies to conduct a targeted draft in case military officials ask Congress to authorize it and the lawmakers agree to such a request, according to the March 13 San Francisco Chronicle.

Richard Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, said that planning for a possible draft of linguists and computer experts had begun last fall after Pentagon personnel officials said the military needed more people with skills in those areas, the newspaper reported.

"Talking to the manpower folks at the Department of Defense and others, what came up was that nobody foresees a need for a large conventional draft such as we had in Vietnam," Mr. Flahavan said. "But they thought that, if we have any kind of a draft, it will probably be a special skills draft."

The agency already has in place a special system to register and draft healthcare personnel ages 20 to 44 in more than 60 specialties, if necessary in a crisis.

The issue of a renewed draft has gained attention because of concerns that U.S. military forces, as they are presently constituted, are already over-extended. Since Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. forces have fought two wars, established a major military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, and are now taking on peacekeeping duties in Haiti.

The military draft ended in 1973 as the U.S. commitment in Vietnam was reduced, ushering in the era of the all-volunteer military. Mandatory registration for the draft was suspended in 1975, but resumed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. About 13.5 million men, ages 18 to 25, are registered with the Selective Service.

Mr. Rangel’s newest measure (H. Con. Res. 384) calls for the removal of all restrictions on the public, the press and mourning military families that currently prohibit them from witnessing this country’s war dead return from overseas.

The current restriction on news coverage of the arrival of military remains was established, ostensibly to protect the privacy of families and friends of the dead, Mr. Rangel pointed out. But, in practice, family members are themselves excluded.

One mother complained to Mr. Rangel’s office that she was advised "unequivocally, that only military personnel are allowed to be present when soldiers are brought home."

"What is most reprehensible is that the military families themselves are not allowed access to the bases where the remains of their loved ones come back home," he said. "This resolution would allow the families to pay their respects without such restrictions. It would also allow the families of these fallen heroes to know the depth of the nation’s appreciation for the sacrifices they have made."


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