Introduction: Saying No to War, Drafted or Otherwise
One Link: All About Conscientious Objection
Conscientious Objection and the Draft
Conscientious Objection and Taxes
Conscientious Objection, the "War on Terrorism",
Conscientious Objection in the Past: Some Examples
Actions, Organizations, and Links
About the MoveOn bulletin and MoveOn.org
INTRODUCTION: SAYING NO TO WAR, DRAFTED OR
Our readers may already be wondering why we've chosen to spend a bulletin
on the topic of conscientious objection when US citizens aren't facing
It is important to remember that conscientious objection
does not only affect draftees -- it affects anyone who is considering
or is currently involved in military service. And it's more about determining
one's personal beliefs and opinions that it is about legally qualifying
as an objector.
But while we are not currently facing a draft, it is not outside of
the realm of possibility. In every war since Vietnam, the US has managed
to conduct military operations using the resources of the volunteer-based
military alone. The campaign against Iraq may buck that trend. According
to plans leaked to the New York Times, it's likely that after a war the
US will occupy Iraq and put a military government in control for five
years or more. And US military personnel remain engaged in operations
around the globe, from the Philippines to Georgia. As the armed forces
are stretched thinner, the likelihood of needing to find the personnel
to supplement them increases.
Some leaders are calling for a draft for reasons other than personnel
shortages. They believe that the change to an all-volunteer army has
contributed to a generation of young Americans with no sense of duty
or obligation to their country. A draft would supposedly correct this
problem, while also helping to increase safety and security at home.
In fact, after years without any legislation on the subject, a new bill
was introduced last year that would reinstitute the draft. It continues
to languish in the House, but the possibility remains that the bill could
be given more serious consideration if a need arises for replacement
troops -- or if the idea of making young Americans more patriotic by
enlisting them gathers more support. 18-year-old men are still required
to register (in many states, they can't receive their driver's license
unless they do so), meaning that it would take little time to begin calling
people up for a draft once Congress approved it.
A new draft remains unlikely for the moment -- but is
not nearly as far-fetched as we may wish. What does this all mean to
the person who opposes war? Ultimately, it means that it is still important
to understand what conscientious objection means, and how to legally
qualify to become one of the two federally recognized types of conscientious
objector. And it means giving some serious consideration to your own
beliefs and principles as they relate to war and peace. Although the
objection" can certainly be limited to the legal meaning of refusing
to participate in some or all military service because of religious or
moral objections to killing others, at heart conscientious objection
is simply opposition to war. Asking "am I a conscientious objector?"
means reviewing the moral, spiritual, political, and personal beliefs
that help you determine the code of conduct for your own life and balancing
a love of, or devotion to, the principles of your country versus other
principles that guide you.
This is why we believe that learning about conscientious objection is
important whether or not a new draft is instituted. Whether legally recorded
or not, the root of the matter remains the same -- determining one's
beliefs about war and peace. It is an essential part of any antiwar action.
ONE LINK: ALL ABOUT CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION
This excellent page answers important questions about why conscientious
objection is important, what it is, what types of conscientious objection
are recognized by law, what other types of conscientious objectors
there are, and what obligations a person has to fulfill as a conscientious
objector. It also includes a brief worksheet to help prepare for filling
out the appropriate legal forms (relevant only in the event of a draft,
but useful to have prepared beforehand).
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION AND THE DRAFT
This is a chronology of conscription in the United States. Currently, "the
U.S. operates under an all-volunteer armed forces policy. All male
citizens between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, however, are
required to register for the draft and are liable for training and
service until the age of thirty-five."
This is a brief page about what to do if you are facing draft registration
(all men residing in the United States who were born on or after Jan.
1, 1963 are required to register for the draft within 30 days of their
18th birthday or face a possible penalty of $250,000 or five years in
It is unlikely that a draft will be instituted during the current phase
of the war on terrorism. Still, if you have any questions about the draft,
this quick page of questions and answers provides a good introduction.
This is a valuable explanation of what kinds of beliefs can qualify
a person as a conscientious objector in the eyes of the government.
People who are drafted for military service and successfully
apply to become conscientious objectors will probably be reassigned
to alternative service for the same amount of time as they would have
served in the military. This service could include working in health
care, education, conservation, or another job which is "deemed to make a meaningful
contribution to the maintenance of the national health, safety, and interest." This
is the official fact sheet on alternative service. http://www.sss.gov/default.htm
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION AND TAXES
The Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill was introduced into the House
in 2001. It would ensure that conscientious objectors could pay taxes
to a Peace Tax Fund, and thus still pay taxes without supporting the
Rather than waiting until this or another bill is passed, some people
still refuse to pay part or all of their taxes as a form of protest and
civil disobedience. Different methods carry varying degrees of risk,
but for a person of conscience, this risk may be a reasonable alternative
to funding a war effort that is killing people.
You may also consider contributing to the War Tax Resisters Penalty
Fund, which helps pay the taxes of American conscientious objectors who
are being prosecuted for war tax resistance. This action carries much
less personal risk and still expresses a financial objection to the war
A group of Quakers in New York and Connecticut has set
up an escrow account where you can send the "military portion" of
your federal taxes as a form of civil disobedience. The funds are returned
if the IRS levies them from other assets. They are considered to be
taxes paid on time and in good faith, even if this is not recognized
by the US government.
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION, THE WAR ON TERRORISM,
Who is opposing war on Iraq? This article provides an overview of recent
polls that show how support for the war is plummeting, and also that
the core supporters of war on Iraq are rural, white, male, southern Republicans
without a college diploma.
For many of the 133 House members and 23 senators who voted against
war powers for Bush, their vote was a vote of conscience.
Would those who support war on Iraq still do so if it
meant enlisting, or a draft? Or do most of the people calling for a
war on Iraq want "war
on the cheap?" While this article sometimes reads more like a call
to enlist to protect the country than an anti-war statement, it still
offers a compelling argument that "[b]eing unwilling to offer
our flesh and blood is tantamount to confessing that overtaking Iraq
has nothing to do with democracy or freedom."
Whether or not there is a new draft, those people currently enlisted
in the military also have the option to reconsider their service and
become conscientious objectors. David Wiggins of Alternet calls on all
US soldiers to resist and refuse to attack Iraq.
In 2001, the Pentagon denied that a new draft was being
considered to help supply troops to the "war on terrorism." Senior officials
noted that no draft has been needed to help fight any war since the volunteer
system has been introduced, even the first Gulf War. However, some analysts
noted that a draft could still be more likely now than in the past, especially
as the war on terrorism increases in scope and length, since draftees
would then be needed to "fill personnel gaps."
Others have argued that a new type of draft needs to be instituted to
train people to protect America from terrorist threats at home.
"After September 11th, the only thing likely to happen is that
which was previously inconceivable. Could war in Iraq bring terrorism
back to our country? Could it lead to a regional conflagration in the
Middle East? Could it lead to another draft?" According to the
author of this article, the answer is very possibly yes to all of these
questions. In fact, on Dec. 20 of 2001, a bill was introduced to the
House which calls for the drafting of all able-bodied men between the
ages of 18 and 22 for military service.
HR 3598 The Universal Training and Service Act has been introduced but
is not currently moving through Congress. It is unlikely that it will
be passed in its current form. However, the fact that it has been introduced
leaves room for a less extreme version to possibly be passed, meaning
that the end result of the bill could still be conscription. This page
includes information on the key points of the bill and who to write in
order to oppose it. http://www.afsc.org/
Meanwhile, in April of this year, Rep. Ron Paul introduced a bill in
the House to eliminate the Selective Service System and the Selective
EXAMPLES OF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION
In Israel, a number of soldiers have refused to serve in the occupied
territories. Israel does not recognize conscientious objection and
many of the men must serve time in prison for their refusal. This is
a brief overview of the history of this group of "refuseniks."
This is another article about the Israeli refuseniks which gives a more
visceral sense of the emotional strain which prompted them to become
Alternative service has, in the past, been very dangerous.
During WW II, American COs participated in road building and reforestation
projects -- and scientific experiments that "gave COs the opportunity
to prove themselves ready to serve in dangerous situations that would
not require taking human life."
This review of the PBS movie "The Good War and Those Who Refused
to Fight It" describes the lives and roles of conscientious objectors
during the extremely popular second World War.
PBS has a lot of information online related to "The Good War and
Those Who Refused to Fight It." Perhaps the most interesting point
of the film is that conscientious objectors contributed significantly
to many aspects of life within the US both during and after the war,
including powerful social movements and the arts. Includes pictures,
a timeline, biographies and quotes related to individual conscientious
objectors, video clips, and more.
The singer/songwriter Joan Baez has long been involved in anti-war activism,
and has often refused to pay portions of her taxes as a method of conscientious
ACTIONS, ORGANIZATIONS, AND LINKS
The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors
Peace Taxpayers is a site meant to provide information, resources, support,
and actions geared towards conscientious objection through not paying
American Friends Service Committee
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