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.” I worry that America will be in a perpetual war on the world, and I do not believe it 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), aka “the draft” as soon as he hit 18. He was also required to register for the draft to receive financial aid in college. He 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. But for the rest of us, we need to know what the options are.
The biggest questions are, “How does the draft work?,” and “How do you establish Conscientious Objector (CO) status to get out of military service?”
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 a “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 Conscientious Objector 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 can 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.
CO’s will be exempt from military service but may be required to perform civilian tasks. A Noncombatant CO is 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.
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! 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 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.
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 the sincerity of your claims.
STEP TWO – LETTERS OF SUPPORT Once you have composed your CO statement, 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 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 or any person who can vouch for your sincerity later.
STEP FOUR – KEEP INFORMED Check out these resources: Center for Conscientious Objectors – www.objector.org; National Council of Churches – www.ncccusa.org; www.nisbco.org; Unitarian Universalist Association – http://www.uua.org; http://www.draft resistance.org