PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – Vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) promised a West Virginia mother on Wednesday that if the Democratic ticket is elected in November the military draft would not be revived.
During a question-and-answer session, the mother of a 23-year-old who recently graduated from West Virginia University asked Edwards whether the draft would be reinstated.
"There will be no draft when John Kerry is president," Edwards said, a statement that drew a standing ovation.
The current force is all-volunteer, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (search) has said he opposes reinstating the draft. But the Pentagon has taken several steps that have drawn criticism.
In June, the Pentagon recalled to active duty 5,674 members of the Individual Ready Reserve, soldiers who have served specified tours of duty but have years remaining in their enlistment contracts.
Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, has complained about the extent of the Bush administration's use of Reserves and National Guardsmen and a device called "stop loss," which prevents soldiers from leaving when typical obligations end. "They have effectively used a stop-loss policy as a backdoor draft," Kerry said.
During the session with Edwards, a woman whose son is serving in Iraq asked why the vehicles in his convoys are not armored. She said one vehicle was attacked last week and three soldiers were killed.
"We will never send American men and women into battle without first having a plan to win the peace and without the training and the equipment they need, including armored vehicles and including body armor," Edwards said. "We have one candidate for president who has fought in a war. The truth of the matter is John Kerry (search) takes this very, very personally."
Bill Ambrose, a land surveyor from Volcano, told Edwards, "I don't know why we can't hammer George Bush. The concern is we are not supporting the troops. I think that's a separate issue. We all support the troops. This administration has made the most monumental foreign policy mistakes since Vietnam."
Edwards said that when he and Kerry say they support and admire U.S. troops serving in Iraq, "it's not just words, it's what we really believe."
"Iraq is a mess. It is a mess because of George Bush and Dick Cheney. It's that simple," Edwards said. "The facts are overwhelming. This president's father did the work, the hard work, of bringing others with us before the Gulf War."
Edwards said the Gulf War cost American taxpayers $5 billion.
"This president did not do that. The result is over $200 billion and counting" and a thousand American deaths, Edwards said.