Here is the rough draft to my column Pacifist Ammo that will run soon in the Universitystar.com
Pacifist Ammo #2
By James M. Branum
(Mass Communications graduate student)
It has been a week since we woke up to the news that hijacked airliners had crashed into two of America’s signature landmarks. Despite the massive news coverage of the events, somehow it still seems like a dream, or rather a nightmare that we’ll wake up from and find is not real.
In this surrealistic but very real world, we must come to grips with the concept that the old paradigms do not work anymore. This may not be “the first war of the twenty-first century” (as Bush mistakenly said), but it is a new kind of war, unlike any ever fought before. We can not assume that Bush’s “war against terrorism” will be a sanitary high-tech battle like Desert Storm. Everything indicates that this will be a long protracted war on multiple fronts, including on American soil.
Tragically, I think the US is gearing up to fight a war that we will lose. Afghanistan (with US equipment and training) beat the Soviet Union in the 80’s in a time when the Soviet military was the world’s finest. Today, the situation is even more grim with the ready availability of chemical and biological weapons and bin-Laden’s lack of restraint in using the most horrific methods of war possible.
In light of a possible full-scale war against Afghanistan and other countries deemed to be supporting terrorism, it is time for all Americans to consider what they believe about war in preparation for a possible military draft.
Admittedly, the likelihood of a draft in the near future is slim. However, the world is changing fast and what seems impossible today may be the future. (Nine days ago, who would have thought that highjacked airplanes would be used to level the World Trade Center?)
If a draft were instituted, the Selective Service System would rapidly gear up to deliver the first inductees to the military within 193 days. Current law applies to men ages 18 through 25, but in a crisis the ages and gender of persons drafted could be changed by Congress.
If you do not believe in war, or are uncertain whether you would feel right about fighting in this war, you must act now to protect your right to not fight.
Under current law, there are two kinds of conscientious objectors recognized by Federal law, classifications 1-0 and 1-A-O.
Draft classification 1-0 are given to persons “conscientiously opposed to both types (combatant and non-combatant) of military training and service.” If you are classified as 1-0, you will be given an assignment as a civilian alternative service worker, working in conservation, caring for the very young or very old, education, or health care for a period of time that corresponds with a military service commitment. (Most likely 24 months)
To be classified 1-A-0, you must prove that you are “conscientiously opposed to training and military service requiring the use of arms.” 1-A-0’s serve in non-combatant roles in the military, but will not be assigned training or duties that include using weapons.
Under current Federal law, Selective Conscientious objectors (whose beliefs would not permit them to fight in an “unjust” war, but could fight in a “just” war) are not exempt from the draft. Federal law specifically denies objection to participation in war based on “political, sociological, or philosophical” views.
In the case of a draft, conscientious objectors will have very little time (as few as nine days) to document their CO claim after receiving their induction order. Now is the time to think through the basis of your claim before the draft begins, and to document them.
At this time, one of the best ways to document your CO views is to complete a simple three question worksheet prepared by the Center for Conscience & War (NISBCO). The questions are as follows:
1. Describe the beliefs which are the basis for your claim as conscientious objector. If appropriate, state whether those beliefs would permit you to serve in a noncombatant position in the armed forces, or pay taxes for war.
2. Describe how you acquired these beliefs.
3. Describe how your beliefs affect the way you live and the type of work you do or plan to do.
Once you’ve completed this worksheet, sign and date it. (Or better yet, have your signature notarized.) Then keep a copy for yourself, and mail a copy to the Center for Conscientious and War. (They can be contacted at www.nisbco.org.) You may also want to ask your pastor, a spiritual leader, or another person who knows of your moral/ethical beliefs to write a letter of recommendation to go with your personal statement.
Selective CO’s would be advised to document their views as well in case the law changes. However, if the draft goes into effect under the current guidelines, selective CO’s will be faced with a difficult decision; to fight in a war they don’t believe in, to refuse to fight and go to prison, or to leave the country.
Conscientious objection is a serious decision. Standing up as a CO will require courage and possibly jail time if your claim is rejected. You won’t be deemed a hero by society, or given a ticker-tape parade when the troops come marching home. However, you will be joining a long tradition of men and women who stood up for their convictions throughout history.
For more information on the draft, read “Military Draft a possibility if war escalates” in the September 18th edition of the University Star, or visit the SSS website at www.sss.gov.