Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Charlie Rangel: Another Specious Position

Now Charlie Rangel, African-American congressman from Harlem, has announced another legislative initiative that appears to be, once again, a fraudulent political position. He claims to be ready to offer legislation reinstating the draft. His stated reason? Not, as one would suppose, to fill in depleted ranks. No, he says that the presence of hundreds of thousands of draftees would make it politically impossible for G.W.Bush to wage war on Iraq. This position gets him in the news, but it has no chance of passage. A draft is only instituted, in a free society, when manpower needs for the nation's military can not be met by a volunteer force. That is not the case today. Add to that, with women in uniform today, women would need to be a part of the draft as well. Anyone who believes that will ever happen is at least a few slices short of a loaf.

We can all be proud of our all-volunteer armed forces. They constitute the finest military force ever assembled on the face of the planet. Warfare is not video games, with all of the bells and whistles prividing the strength. Warfare is waged by highly trained and motivated men and women who are willing to risk their lives to accomplish their mission. The armed forces are not a jobs program, nor a carreer-enhancing resume item, although some may use it that way. Our armed forces are the place where some of the best and brightest of our young people go to serve their country, and it helps to produce some of the finest men and women that we have. The draft is, in peacetime, nothing more than a political football with which some of the less principled of our "leaders" play a very dangerous game. A power game played with the very lives of our young men and women.

Previously, Charlie Rangel is well known for his statement that legalizing drugs would constitute genocide against the black race. as if only blacks are subject to the ravages of drug abuse. Those who think deeply about drug prohibition either favor harm reduction, or support the huge money train that prohibition brings. Most all others who are in favor of prohibition agree with the policy because, well, drugs are bad. They have never really thought about the issue, past the point where they believe that drugs are bad, therefore they should be illegal. In fainess, there are those in the drug abuse treatment industry, and some recovering addicts as well, who believe that prohibition is a useful tool for keeping recovering addicts on the right path. But I believe that those who believe this are in the minority, and most of them would favor "harm reduction" strategies anyway (like needle exchange and reducing prison sentences to treatment protocols). Those who believe that drug addicts should serve multi-decade prison sentences are all on the side of continuing prohibition for the immense economic benefits that prohibition brings.

Of course the easy availability of drugs of abuse might increase the number of drug addicts. Then again, other methods than supporting hugely profitable criminal drug purveyors might be more effective at curtailing drug abuse. We don't know, since we have never tried any other system. And since those in positions of authority gain so much power from prohibition, they avoid even the discussion of alternatives to making drug abuse a crime. Even the counting of the votes of a harm reduction initiative has been stopped (in Washington, D.C.) by dedicated prohibitionists. Recently one of America's staunchest prohibitionists, Dan Burton (R-IN), shocked many on Capitol Hill when he came very close to calling for looking at legalizing drugs when he stated in a congressional hearing that he thought that Al Capone would have been a much less dangerous character had he been deprived of the huge income that prohibition afforded him. If even Dan Burton (on his last day as committee chairman) is starting to wonder what would happen if the profit were removed from the trafficing in drugs, you know that some sort of a change is coming. But the Charlie Rangels on the world will be against harm reduction until they are no longer in a position to profit from the sequelae of the trade, or be politically hurt by supporting an unpopular position. Charlie is a pathetic creature, really, advocating the reinstatement of the draft, because he has no other idea that will get his name and face in the news. He has even announced that he will no longer even talk about the issue of drug prohibition or harm reduction.

Don't get me wrong. I like Charlie, although I haven't seen him since he was a state assemblyman in 1969. That was just before he won nomination to Congress from a wounded Adam Clayton Powell's, Jr. Back in the 1960s, everybody liked Charlie. That was part of the method he used to get nominated by the Democrat machine to the sinecure of the 15th district in Harlem. Charlie gladhanded everyone, and was quite a personable character. I'm sure that he still is. But when a man, near the end of his career, who could not be defeated in an election unless Jesus ran against him (as long as he receives the democrat nomination) supports a pathetically specious position like this one for the reinstatement of the draft, just to get attention, it is very sad. I wouldn't hope for a courageous statement of principle from Charlie, but I do wish that he would at least keep quiet.