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by Kirsten Anderberg
Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003 at 6:35 AM
firstname.lastname@example.org Seattle, Wa.
America is at war and I think they are going to need the Draft soon. Men who cannot buy alcohol are required by law to register for the Draft. You may have 9 days once called up for the Draft to prove you are a Conscientious Objector. Prepare your file NOW!
War, the Draft and Conscientious Objector Status
by Kirsten Anderberg Copyright 2003
America is at war, in a very colonialistic occupation, no matter what fancy words we use. It is a very unpopular war. It is not a "liberation." And we have not even begun to deal with North Korea, and the international community, that now hates and distrusts us. I saw the American news today, touting victory at the Madrid conference, over our huge donations received from other countries to help us in the rebuilding of Iraq. But the television news left out one very important part of that story. A new agency had to be formed, to be run by the World Bank and the United Nations, independent of the American occupation, since other nations do not trust Americans with their money in Iraq, and do not want to appear to be in alliance with the occupation forces. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is an agency of American decision makers that the European nations do not want their money co-mingled with. And the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) is run by occupation administrators (i.e., America) and Iraqis they choose, and was recognized by the U.N. Security Council in May 2003. The Iraqi Governing Council is a 25 member body picked by the American occupation. The U.N. International Advisory and Monitoring Board was supposed to work in tandem with the DFI, but that "has proved inadequate to assuage donors," the NYTimes said. An American "administration official" said "We had to act because the international community was stonewalling us on aid." "The donors all want a little distance from us," he said, according to the Times. The Times additionally said these administration officials said this new fund "would be the FIRST that had so many controls to keep it separate from the military forces running the country." (NYTimes, Oct. 20. 2003).
I worry that if G.W. Bush is reelected, America will be in a perpetual war on the world, and I do not believe we can do that endlessly without the Draft being reinstated. Just as Americans MUST pillage oil-rich countries to sustain their one-driver/one-car needs, they also are going to require expendable bodies, eventually, for all this warring. I am the mother of a 19 year old male. And even though there is not an active Draft right now, my son was required by federal law to register for the Selective Service System (SSS) (www.sss.gov), aka "the Draft" as soon as he hit 18. He was also required to register for the Draft to receive financial aid in college. We decided that since it is a felony crime not to register, it was easiest to register, and then research alternatives. Some resist registration, and I applaud those efforts (www.draftresistance.org). But for the rest of us, we need to know what our options are.
The biggest questions we all have are, "How does the Draft work?," and "How do you establish Conscientious Objector (CO) status?"
HOW DOES THE DRAFT WORK?
Before a draft can be enacted, Congress and the President have to authorize the draft calls. Under current laws, the draft will start with men who turn 20 years old in the year the draft was enacted. They will be placed in the famous "lottery" system. If your name is called up in the lottery, you have 10 DAYS to report to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), unless you file a claim for a deferment or exemption. Once called up for service, you file your CO claim with the military. Once your claim is filed, your induction date will be postponed while the draft board investigates the claim. If your claim is rejected, you receive a new induction date. (Seems like EVERYONE should at least use this to buy time!) The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (www.objector.org) will help you find legal aid and resources so you can get through the long appeals process. You can claim all classifications that apply to you. Currently, the exemptions from the draft are:
* a minister or divinity student
* sole surviving son of a family whose mother, father or siblings have died as a result of military action
* sole financial or other support to family members who are dependent, elderly, disabled and/or ill
* physically or mentally incapable of being in the military
* homosexual or bisexual
* a Conscientious Objector
The legal definition of "Conscientious Objector" is: "a person who objects to participation in all forms of war, and whose belief is based on a religious, moral or ethical belief system." You do not need to be "religious," or even believe in god, to qualify as a CO. You have to oppose organized killing and war, due to religious, moral or ethical conviction. Under the current legal definitions, you cannot selectively oppose certain wars, but must oppose ALL wars.
The 6 types of CO actions currently recognized are: CO's, Noncombatant CO's, Taxpayer Resistors, Selective War Objectors, Nuclear Pacifists, and Noncooperation with the Draft. Only the first two categories, CO and Noncombatant CO, are recognized by the federal laws for draft or war duty exemptions.
* CO - A CO is someone, who by reason of religious, ethical, or moral belief are "conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form." CO's will be exempt from military service but may be required to perform civilian tasks.
* Noncombatant CO - A CO who does not object to noncombatant military duties, such as medic. These CO's are trained without weapons and assigned to non-combatant duty.
* Tax Resistors - These are people who refuse to pay the military portion of their taxes due to their CO beliefs. For more information, contact the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund at 1-888-PEACETAX.
* Selective Objectors - This type of CO feels that they would fight a just war, but not an unjust war, thus their CO status varies, depending on the war's circumstances.
* Nuclear Pacifists - These are people who refuse to participate in nuclear war, or what could become a nuclear war. Some feel that any war fought today would lead to nuclear war and thus object to all war as nuclear pacifists.
* Noncooperation with the Draft - These people refuse to cooperate with the draft laws, i.e., they do not register for the draft, or they do not respond when called up, or become "draft dodgers."
HOW DO YOU ESTABLISH CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR STATUS?
STEP ONE - STATEMENT OF BELIEFS
The first step is to write "Conscientious Objector" on the bottom of the card you send in to register with the SSS. If you missed the chance for that or registered online, don't worry. There are things you can do NOW. The reason that you need to make a CO file NOW is that once a draft is enacted, you could have 9 days to get a file together on your behalf! I SAID NINE DAYS! Do it now, and the older and longer you have a file on this, the more success you will have at an exemption.
Form 22 of the current Selective Service Documentation form for CO's ask several questions that you need to think about and answer on file now. It asks you to "describe your beliefs which are the reasons for your claiming conscientious objection to combatant military training and service or to all military training and service." You want to make a statement on paper NOW that includes these concepts. Write your own statement about why you object to the war. Start by saying that you are conscientiously opposed to war, then describe what beliefs lead you to that stance. Be clear about whether you are a CO or a noncombatant CO. If you want a full exemption, be clear about why noncombatant service would violate your conscience. Although the CO and noncombatant CO status' are the only CO status' recognized currently for draft exemptions, it is worthwhile to also file your other CO status descriptions in your claim in case the other CO status' become recognized later. For instance, if you are a CO tax resistor, document it now, in case later that qualifies for draft exemption. If you are a nuclear pacifist or a selective CO, document it anyway. If you are not cooperating with the draft or registration with the SSS, record the reasons why on paper.
Form 22 also says, "Describe how and when you acquired these beliefs." Write down a list of events, people, experiences, and influences that have lead you to these beliefs. Include classes, travel, religious experiences, teachings, volunteer work, activism, anything that has helped influence you to be a CO. It is important to establish your beliefs as a higher, conventional value, since unconventional and mere political beliefs do not make the cut. An arbitrary personal belief will not stand. It has to be based on "a religious, moral or ethical belief system." Or in other words, you need to tailor your argument to fit a traditional anti-war "SYSTEM." A "system" is more than one person. A "system" is "established." Take the time to construct a solid, logical statement based on facts and traditions, rather than making an illusive free-spirit argument.
Form 22 also says, "Explain what most clearly shows that your beliefs are deeply held. You may wish to include a description of how your beliefs affect the way you live." If you do not have alot of experience to cite here as proof of your convictions, you can use your FUTURE plans to illustrate your convictions. Talk about previous classes or future career plans that relate to your CO status. Describe letters to editors, essays from school, anything that shows your commitment as a CO. Talk about how your life is lived in accordance with your CO beliefs. Use this opportunity to show your sincerity re your claims.
STEP TWO - LETTERS OF SUPPORT
Once you have composed your CO statement, explaining why you believe what you do and how it affects your ability to fight in a war, send it to people who know you, and ask them to write a letter of support. These people will read your statement and attest to the sincerity of your statement, based on their experiences with you. Especially good are letters from clergy, teachers, and professional relations. The best letters are from people who disagree with CO status, but believe your statement regarding your own beliefs. You should solicit 3-4 letters, then pick the best 2-3 and keep them on record. You may also want to compose a list of people to testify on your behalf at the draft hearing and keep that on file too.
STEP THREE - RECORDING YOUR FILES
Once you have written the statement of beliefs and gathered the letters of support and witnesses, you need to make three separate CO files. Keep the original copies of the statement and the letters of support in a file at your own home. Send copies of the letters and statement to the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (www.objector.org) so that an unrelated third party has your file. And then give a third copy of the materials to a community leader, a member of clergy, any leader who can vouch for your sincerity later.
STEP FOUR - KEEP INFORMED
The internet allows us exceptional opportunities for information sharing and updates. Join some of the email lists with action updates to stay informed. Visit the websites dedicated to this work.
* Center for Conscientious Objectors - www.objector.org
* National Council of Churches - www.ncccusa.org
* A group working to end registration and the draft - www.nisbco.org
* Unitarian Universalist Association - www.uua.org
* Interview with a Vietnam War Draft dodger, 35 yrs later -
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