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Rangel: The Iraq war is a ‘death tax’ on the poor
By Askia Muhammad
White House Correspondent
Updated Apr 28, 2004 - 10:57:00 PM

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U.S. Marines of the Combat Service Support Unit Company 111, of the First Marines Expeditionary Force attend the April 16 memorial service for their fallen comrade, Lance Corporal Levi T. Angell, at the Marines base of Camp Fallujah, west of Baghdad. Photo: AFP
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - The war in Iraq is being paid for with a "death tax" that is levied disproportionately on the poor and the non-White, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the Ranking Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters April 15, IRS tax-filing day.

In the face of mounting casualties on the battlefield, more and more active-duty military families at home are also joining Mr. Rangel’s anti-war crusade, which declares that the burden of the Iraq war on Americans is not a "shared sacrifice."

"The real death tax is on the poor," Mr. Rangel told a National Press Club luncheon. "Now, not all people pay this tax. Certainly during time of war, this is the time in our great nation’s history when we are giving tax cuts to the richest people, rather than sharing the sacrifice. Who is not sharing the sacrifice, in terms of the death tax on the poor?" Mr. Rangel asked rhetorically.

Those who know they will never be called upon to shed their blood are the elite few, he continued. "Our president is so proud to be known as the ‘war president.’ Well, it’s not the members of Congress that support and declared the war. They’re not volunteering to make the sacrifice. It’s not members of the White House that say, ‘Bring ‘em on,’ that’s prepared to make this sacrifice.

‘Those who ultimately pay the death tax are those people who cannot find decent employment and who want to better themselves. And what a tax they pay when they find themselves in an informal draft’
—Rep. Charles Rangel

"It’s not the staff and the chief of staff and the CEOs of the great national and multinational corporations that are paying this penalty tax. Most of them find some way to avoid all taxes rather than just the death tax," he explained.

On the other hand, those who are liable for the tax for this war are from rural areas and they are Black and Latino. Of those who have been killed in action, Mr. Rangel reported, 46 percent are from towns, counties and rural areas that have less than 20 percent of the national population, and 26 percent of those killed in action are either Black or Hispanic.

Rep. Charles Rangel speaks at a recent National Press Club luncheon. Sheila Cherry, the first Black President of the Club is on his right. Photo: Askia Muhammad
"They come from communities with the highest unemployment, communities with the lowest possible wage. Are they patriots? I would think that they are, Mr. President," said Mr. Rangel, himself a decorated and wounded veteran who served in the Korean War.

"Are they volunteering to liberate Iraq? I think not. Are they seeking a better way of life, as I did in 1948, and my brother before me? You bet your life they are."

Military family members campaigning against the war attended the luncheon to voice their support for his overall leadership on this issue, and to support legislation Mr. Rangel introduced which would permit family members and the press to greet the bodies of slain military personnel when they arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

"We’ve been working with families around this country whose lives have been shattered by this war, and they’re questioning why we went into Iraq? What’s this all about? What’s the exit strategy? They’re getting angrier and angrier by the day for the sacrifices they’re being called to perform," Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange Code Pink Women for Peace, from San Francisco, told The Final Call in an interview.

Larry Syverson is the father of two boys who served in Iraq. His younger son Brandon was in Tikrit, Iraq from April 2003 through March 11, 2004. He has now returned to Fort Hood. Mr. Syverson’s older son, Bryce, 25, is a gunner in a Bradley assault vehicle with the 1st Armored Division in Iraq.

"First of all, the President is afraid to show these flag-draped coffins coming back, ‘cause he’s afraid he’s gonna lose a vote by doing that. But in his very first re-election ad, he shows a flag-draped coffin of a 9-11 victim, to gain a vote. It’s extremely hypocritical," Mr. Syverson said in an interview. "And the ones that are suffering are the 9-11 families and those military families that are not allowed to meet their loved ones. All they want to do is welcome their son or daughter home. They’re denied that one thing. We owe more respect to the soldiers and their families."

Sgt. Bryce Syverson, who has been in Iraq since May 2003, was recently notified that he’s been reassigned for 120 more days, his father complained.

That kind of arbitrary imposition of additional time to be served by military personnel amounts to an "involuntary draft," argues Rep. Rangel.

"I tell you the reason I’m so close to this is because I come from a city where African American men between the ages of 18 and 46, 51 percent of them are unemployed." There is a relationship, he said, between those who enlist and those who find themselves in harm’s way. "Those who ultimately pay that death tax are those people who cannot find decent employment and who want to better themselves. And what a tax they pay, when they find themselves in an informal draft where, on their way home, as one of the men here today said his son found out that he has to go back for three or four months. That’s an involuntary draft."

Opposition to the war is equated by the war’s proponents with undermining the morale and support at home for the troops who are in harm’s way. So, few people speak out against the war, especially family members of military personnel. Mr. Syverson is different.

"I support my sons and all the troops the best way I can, and that’s by bringing them home," he said. "My sons have, in different emails and letters, told me that they’re perfectly okay with me speaking out.

"If anybody’s worried about aiding and abetting the enemy and encouraging the guerillas, it was the President’s July speech when he egged them on by saying: ‘Bring ‘em on!’ If anybody is responsible for the worsening situation, it’s the President. Don’t put it on a father like me who stands on a street corner. I don’t think I have that much influence on the insurgents."

Ultimately, Mr. Rangel’s allies believe, Mr. Bush will be held accountable for his headlong pre-occupation with leading the country into a war with Iraq, including rebellion among military families themselves.

"I think the President is going to have to face more vociferous outcries from these families and hopefully, this pressure will build to the point where we’re going to have to put a date on an exit strategy. We’re going to have to stop plans to build permanent military bases in Iraq. And he will be called Nov. 2 to account for the war he dragged us into," Ms. Benjamin said.


 


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