TCS Daily

'Affirmative Casualties'

By Radley Balko - January 13, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - Rep. Charlie Rangel (D- NY) took his "fairness in the military" proposal a step further this week. The congressman is now calling for what he calls "affirmative casualties" in war, a move he says will "ensure that the dead and maimed statistics coming back from the battlefields of any future U.S. military engagements look more like America."

Rangel and Rep. John Conyers (D - Mich.) recently introduced legislation calling for military conscription in light of President Bush's efforts to move into Iraq. Rangel said Americans of all colors and creeds have a duty to "share the sacrifice" when it's time to go to war. "[Unfortunately,] service in our nation's armed services is no longer a common experience," he said.

Conyers agreed, adding that there's a "long-held stigma that people of color and persons from low-income backgrounds are disproportionately killed and injured while serving as ground troops on the front line."

Conyers in fact once co-sponsored a bill of conscience opposing the draft just last March, but quickly adjusted his position when Rep. Rangel framed the issue in the language of race and class.

After the two lawmakers' mandatory service legislation failed, Reps. Rangel and Conyers took a new tactic. Their new bill, entitled the "Battlefield Opportunities Act," mandates that Caucasians, Hispanic-Caucasians, African-Americans and Asian-Americans suffer mortality rates, disfigurement rates and debilitating injury rates that reflect their representation in the general population.

"We don't think that any one race or class should do all the dying," Conyers said. "This bill will ensure that we all share the sacrifices of war equally."

An amendment offered by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) goes even further. The "Meehan Soldiers of Fortune" amendment factors the income of each enlistee's parents into casualty rates as well. If the amendment passes, each major U.S. military engagement would be require an equal number of casualties from the sons and daughters of parents in each of the four federal income tax brackets.

When told that more people happen to fall into the lower tax brackets, Rep. Meehan answered, "I know. That's why it's a progressive plan."

Rep. Meehan went on to explain that if an equal number of sons and daughters died from high-income families as did from low income families, there'd be fewer heirs to inherit wealthy estates. That, combined with an aggressive estate tax, would represent "new opportunities for the poor," Mr. Meehan said.

When asked how the added casualties would be carried out, Reps. Conyers and Rangel offered a variety of suggestions. "I envision a new, highly trained special operations unit in each branch of the military called a 'diversity enforcement team.' They'd be in charge of making sure the numbers even out," Rangel said. "I don't want to get into specifics."

Conyers added, "Or, here's another possibility: if a disproportionate number of minorities die while bombing a country whose citizens are people of color, America would in turn be required to bomb a fair-skinned country - I suggest Norway - using only Caucasian forces. We'd keep doing this until we achieve true equality on the battlefield."

When asked how two men who've long opposed war - and long opposed capital punishment - could find themselves supporting extraneous wars and special units charged with killing and maiming innocent enlistees, Rangel and Conyers issued a joint statement:

"Look, we once opposed the draft, too. But sometimes a lawmaker has to weigh his principles. Sometimes, lesser principles can be sacrificed in order to work toward a greater good. In this case, the greater good - the greatest good, really - is diversity: Diversity on the battlefield, diversity in the recovery hospitals, and diversity in Arlington National Cemetery. We're ready to sacrifice our opposition to conscription - which we once likened to slavery - to state-ordered killing, and to extraneous wars, all in order to move toward the common good. And that common good is full military integration, in this life, and in the next."

The statement concluded:

"And we feel the American people are behind us."

Editor's note: For all you humorless libel lawyers out there: This is a spoof.

Radley Balko is a Tech Central Station contributor, and publishes the weblog

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