Although a Google News search brings up exactly one article (from the Lithuanian newspaper Baltische Rundschau) the left internet and blogs are rapidly soaking up the news that Rep Charles Rangel (D-NY) has introduced- again- a Bill that would re-establish compulsory military service for all U.S. citizen’s aged 18-25.  Action on the Bill isn’t expected for some time, as Rangel himself has said that first and foremost the new Obama Administration should be given time to address the economic “crisis”.  There is a divide, however, over whether or not Rangel’s Bill is meant as a serious proposal or merely a provocation of the pro-war right.  Rangel himself seems to make clear that his intention is to draw attention to the social and economic injustices which surround the young men and women who do join the military and then get shipped off to fight wars designed and instigated by the political elite, who’s own families are insulated from the prospect of dying on the battle field.

But eyebrows are starting to raise within the context of Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who’s 2006 book The Plan calls for “compulsory service” for all American’s aged 18-25.  From an interview in 2006 with NY Daily News reporter Ben Smith:

SMITH: I meant to ask you about the universal service piece of the plan.  Can you tell me about it?  Like, how is this going to work?  Are people going to live in barracks?

EMANUEL:  Universal civil defense training… somewhere between the ages of 18 to 25, you will do three months of training.  You can do it in your (inaudible).  Some point in college you can do just that. There can be nothing wrong with all Americans having a joint similar experience of civil …what we call civil defense training or civil service… some sense of service to country in preparation, which will give people a sense of what it means to be an American.  We propose three months.  At the end of the day (if) someone says it should be four more,  I’m not going to sit here and hold it up. 

SMITH: I mean it’s a lot more than the U.S. government asks of anybody right now.

EMANUEL: Guess what? We have a lot more challenges, so we are going to need a lot to do it.

SMITH: I mean I don’t mean to get hung up on the aesthetics of it, but like uniforms… is it like Europe… people go absent

EMANUEL: If you’re worried about going to have to do 50 jumping jacks, the answer is “yes.”

SMITH: Are you kinda shifting the “country-esque” Army bases in the Summers?  I mean… I wonder how it’s going work.  This is people’s experiences.  It’s so abstract.  Do you go nine to five in some course in a Red Cross building?

EMANUEL:  The whole idea there is it will be worked on you can do it through your State-National guard could be the vehicle for that.  The goal here wasn’t to sit here and work on piece of legislation for ya’ and all that, but that’s one venue of doing it.

 SMITH: I’m a little hung up on the Barracks.

EMANUEL: Is there a reason?  Do you want to talk about it?  Do you have Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage on this? Are you worried about this in some capacity?

SMITH: No, I’m just… just curious

EMANUEL: Rather than figure out if you take a train ride or a barrack, think of it this way: it will be a common experience, and you’ll be prepared. God forbid there’s a chemical hit, there’s another terrorist act, or a natural disaster (which are coming more frequent), there will be a body of citizens who are ready and capable and trained.  That’s all you have to think about.  We’re all here for you, ok? It’s a circle of love.

Um, OK.  Sounds good there Emanuel.  We don’t have to even think about it- it’s a “circle of love”- you’re all here for me.  Sign me up.

Although the military itself has long held the stance that compulsory service is not desirable (look at the Vietnam War- unwilling soldiers make for near mutiny, which they are not particularly in favor of) this whole “civil defense training” angle is a bit troubling; “we have a lot more challenges” right now is his logic, and so we are going to need to “do a lot more”.  How hopeful, what change… how entirely different than the Bush approach.  Which brings me back to a concept I threw out here a while ago: Obamofascism.  

I’ve gotta say, like everyone else Obama’s election and watching his historic inauguration certainly gave me a bit of excitement.  But all’s not quite so perfect in my head.  Put straight-forward, there’s something about his throngs of crowds and soaring popularity that is just troubling to me.  Hitler was also hugely popular, as was George Bush himself for a time (and just like in my original post on Obamofascism, I don’t mean at all to suggest that I think Obama’s politic, agenda, or anything else will mimic that of Hitler, I’m just trying to illustrate my point that huge popularity and rabid enthusiasm for a politician is not without precedent and does not necessarily follow for those who are actually good).  Of course, it remains to be seen just exactly to what extent people are really willing to follow Obama, but I’m not so sure I’m really interested in actually finding out.  His acceptance speech, and many of his speeches (especially post-election) have had a lot to say about the need for us all to sacrifice, to give of ourselves for a greater cause: perhaps all true in and of itself, but a bit cynical of him nonetheless if the elite’s of capitalism destroy the economy and then demand that we all tighten our belts and get to doing some hard work.  We’ve been doing the hard work, they’ve been playing and living fat off of us- and now we need to sacrifice?

Which ties in to a cultural myth that is being thrown around quite a bit these days, as well as the reality that myth stands on.  True, the New Deal was incredibly instrumental in picking this country up out of the throngs of the Great Depression.  Civil service was called for and enacted and did some towards wrestling us from an historic low.  But in the end, it was the war-time economy of WWII that brought economic prosperity and political might back to the United States.  A new call to “civil service” by the State (Obama) might do something for our economy, but I don’t think he’s all that ignorant about the facts.  Obama’s continuous calls for a ramped-up effort in Afghanistan and the simmering situation with Pakistan could make for some extremely scary times ahead.  What better way to set the stage for military success than to have the entirety of the 18-year-old population at home to take care of the work of the National Guard? 

The kool-aid, my friends, is spiked.  And like the brown acid of Woodstock, it’ll send you on a bad trip.

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