come down from the ceiling
The United States has used forced conscription as a means of supplementing our volunteer military for as long as we have had a United States Armed Forces. Before WWI, however, it was possible to find a replacement and pay them to serve for you. In fact, JP Morgan hired a replacement to fight in the Civil War, and his replacement was promptly killed. Today, it is illegal to pay someone to serve for you, but that does not mean it is impossible to get out of serving. This guide is here to help you navigate the confusing system that we have in place known as the Selective Service, to help clarify the many rumors surrounding a potential draft, and most importantly, if you should choose, to help you avoid serving in the military.
The draft is an ever-evolving legal process that is constantly being reviewed by Congress and is primarily managed by a federal agency: The Selective Service. Most people don’t realize this, but from 1940 until 1973, there was a draft in place every year except 1948. In fact, over 15 million people have been drafted to serve in US wars since 1917. In 1973, the draft was suspended and the Selective Service stopped registering individuals until 1980, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the military felt a need to prepare for an emergency.
The draft is legal because our constitution gives the Federal Government the power to raise an army. The federal agency responsible for administering the draft was created and is governed by the Military Selective Service Act (50 U.S.C. App. 451 et seq.). This act determines everything from who can be drafted to how the local draft boards should be organized. It is frequently amended and the latest version of the act was made into law July 9th, 2003.
The Selective Service is the federal agency responsible for registering all males, age 18 to 26. They are also responsible for training members of the local draft boards, recruiting volunteers, and should the need arise, organizing and executing a national draft. The Selective Service is a relatively small federal agency that operates primarily with volunteers who comprise the local draft boards.
Since 1980, the Selective Service has been extremely effective in registering young men in their system. Over ninety percent of qualified Oregon males are registered with the Selective Service. They accomplish this feat by requiring registration for all federal jobs and federal job training programs, to receive federal financial aid, to obtain citizenship and in many states (but not in Oregon), to apply for a driver’s license.
All males between the ages of 18 and 26 must register, unless you are in a mental institution or incarcerated, in which case you must register as soon as you are released. Females are not required to register, and if they do not plan on becoming a US citizen in their lifetime, aliens do not have to register. If you are older than 26 and have not registered, it is too late and you can’t do anything about it, you’re screwed.
Registering is probably a good idea, because if you do not register, besides all the above doors that will be closed on you, you can also be fined up to $250,000 and put in prison for up to five years. Most people don’t even think twice about registering because we haven’t had a draft since 1973. However, as more and more rumors spread about a potential draft, registering with the Selective Service starts to sound a little sketchy. I’m here to let you know that there are better ways to avoid military service should we have a draft, and that registering is a good way to ensure you will be able to pay for college and get a good job working for the man when you graduate.
First off, we need to clear something up: are we really going to have a draft? And the only response I can give is maybe. Just because both presidential candidates and the Secretary of Defense have been very firm in their opposition to a draft does not mean that we won’t have one. In fact it doesn’t matter much at all what they say, what it comes down to is whether or not we back ourselves into a corner in Iraq, and more importantly, if our national security is threatened by not having a draft. Currently, the US Armed Forces has 135,000 troops in Iraq, 20,000 in Afghanistan, roughly 100,000 in Asia, and more than 100,000 in Europe. It helps to see that our forces are actually quite spread out over the globe. Our leaders tell us that there is no possibility of a draft, but keep in mind that currently eight members of the US Marine Corp are appealing their case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Stop-Loss policy currently in place is unconstitutional. Members of the armed forces are required to remain in active duty if their unit is deployed in a combat zone, regardless of whether or not their individual terms of service are over. The military claims this is to ensure continuity and to prevent disruption of the group (apparently a major problem in Vietnam) when members of a unit have grown accustomed to working together and have learned how to navigate in dangerous and difficult enemy terrain. The opposition claims that the Stop-Loss policy is a way for the military to boost its numbers when volunteer recruitment is at an all-time low.
There are also other methods the military is employing to keep its numbers up as potential soldiers are deterred by the high likelihood of being deployed into combat. Everybody wants to sign up for free college, and of course nobody wants to sign up to die. As a result, the military is turning to what some call a “back-door draft” where once obscure clauses in military contracts are being used to call retired military personnel back into the service. Bottom line, the military would not be using these methods and risking the tarnished reputation and faltering enlistments that they are unless they really needed more soldiers.
The military’s need for more soldiers is not enough to institute a draft. The House of Representatives recently failed to pass a bill, H.R. 163 (402-2) that would have required all male US citizens to serve in the armed forces for two years, similar to the system now in place in Israel. Considering that both the President and Congress must approve a draft, it is unlikely that a mere shortage of troops under current conditions would ever be enough to reinstate the draft. It would take a major escalation of the conflict in Iraq, or worse, some huge threat to national security that effectively brought the war home, like, say, another attack on the scale of 9/11, for Congress to ever consider re-instating the draft. Were that the case, should the security of the United States be threatened, it would be highly likely that not only would a draft be re-instated, but that a majority of the US would support the President in his decision. If you don’t believe me, just look at our willingness to sacrifice our civil rights in the name of homeland security after 9/11.
Assuming that worse comes to worse and we can no longer satisfy the ranks of our military by hauling high school students out of the ghettos and promising them free college if they “volunteer”, and assuming that a large part of our country that actually votes decides a draft is necessary to protect us, here is what you should prepare for:
Congress will pass legislation re-instating the draft, and the President will sign the legislation into law. The Selective Service will roll out two barrels (they keep them in storage just in case) that contain, in one barrel, the dates of everyday of the year, and in the other barrel, the numbers 1 through 366. One number will be drawn from each barrel and paired up until all the numbers are gone. In that way, every birth date will be assigned a priority. Beginning with the birth dates assigned 1st priority, all people born on that day will be drafted until the number of soldiers needed is filled. They begin with 20-year-olds, and work there way up to 26-year-olds, and then they go back and do 19 and 18-year-olds if they need to. So if you are age 20 or 21 and your birthday is given priority anywhere under 150, you will probably be drafted.
Once draft notices have been mailed, anyone who is drafted must report to the Military Entrance Processing Station, where they will determine if you are physically, mentally and morally fit to serve. Based on their findings, you may file an appeal within 10 days. If you choose to file an appeal, you will be invited to appear before the local draft board as soon as they can hear your case. They will then decide if you are required to serve in the military or if you are eligible for an exemption, postponement or a deferment. If you have already served in the Armed Forces and your term of service is up, or if you have dual citizenship, you are exempt. If you are a college student, you may obtain a postponement, which means you don’t have to enlist until the end of the current semester or term, or if you are in your last year of school, until the end of the academic year. You can also obtain a postponement due to unnecessary hardship, but that is extremely difficult to get, and it can’t just be that you would lose your job (the military pays you, after all), it has to be something like you are a single father trying to support two kids and your sick grandpa needs you as his only caretaker. Ministers of a religion are exempt from service as well.
A deferment is given to students in ministry training, for hardships (much like an exemption, but in this case for an ongoing hardship that service in the military would impose), or most importantly, for conscientious objectors. You cannot obtain a deferment if you are a homosexual. That is a rumor that is not true. The military has no grounds to grant deferments based on sexual orientation, despite their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
You may be wondering at this point whether women will be required to serve in the next draft. The answer is no. Were the answer to be yes, you would see the Selective Service aggressively campaigning to register every female in this country between the ages of 18 and 26. As it stands, women are permitted in the military, but the Supreme Court ruled in Rostker v. Goldberg, 1981, that drafting only men does not violate the due process clause. Their decision was based on the differences established by the military between men and women when it comes to combat positions. It is, however, likely that were there to be another draft, the Supreme Court would hear another case concerning this. However, I think our society is still predominantly of the mind that men do the fighting and sending women into battle is wrong. Obviously we still have a long way to come towards gender equality, and I don’t imagine this will be the first area where we see reform.
Now, if you’re a male, your number comes up, you’re not a minister, student of ministry, a veteran, a single father with two kids etc., your best bet for getting out of military service is to figure out if you are a conscientious objector. Ultimately, the decision is up to the local draft board that hears your appeal (and should they decide against you, you have the opportunity to appeal to the regional and national draft authorities). If you file an appeal and claim C.O. status, you will be asked to present your case before the local draft board. It is your responsibility then to provide a moral argument, supported with witnesses and evidence, that you either cannot kill someone, or that you cannot participate in any form of organized violence. If the board determines that you are unfit for a combat position (called 1-a-o status), that means that you are morally unfit for military service and training that requires the use of arms and you will still be enlisted. You will be required to go through basic training, but will not be forced to use a gun in training, and upon completion, you will be given a non-combative position in the military. However, should you successfully prove that you are a conscientious objector opposed to all types of organized violence (called 1-o status), you will be given a military deferment and required to serve two years in the service of the nation. That can be a teaching position, working with the very young or very old, working in a shelter, or pretty much any other type of social work. Once you have completed two years of civilian service, you can never be drafted into the military.
The easiest way to earn a C.O. deferment is through your religion and your parent’s religion. Followers of Anabaptist religions (Quakers being the most common) are given deferments. If your parents are Quakers, Hutterites, Mennonites or Amish, you will have no problem obtaining 1-o status. If you come from a different religious background that is inherently pacifist, you will be required to prove that, but once you do, you will also have no problem getting a deferment. You can’t just go into the draft board and tell them you are religious either, you have to prove it by providing letters from clergy, or better yet, getting your minister to come in to the hearing to testify. As you can imagine, if you make up a religion or join a church the day you are drafted, you will have a hard time proving that one, your religion is pacifist, and two, that you are actually religious. Most major religions are not granted deferments because they are not inherently pacifist.
If you do not come from a religious background and you are not actively religious, you will have a much harder time convincing the board that you are a pacifist. It can, however, be done.
To do this, you must take a moral stance as an individual, targeted directly at the organized use of violence. You do not need a religion to back you up here, you just need to be good at arguing your case, and most importantly, you need to have a history of that belief. You can’t just spend your time between being drafted and your appeal hearing coming up with a solid argument, you have to show evidence that you have felt that way for a significant portion of your life. Perhaps the most important thing here is that you not only oppose the current war, but that you oppose all wars. You can’t argue that you are a pacifist because you think that Bush lied to us and we are fighting this war for oil. On the other hand, you don’t need to be able to argue that you are against all violence. The draft board does not expect you to say you wouldn’t use violence to prevent someone from raping you, or even from hurting you for that matter, you just need to prove that you are against any organized use of violence. When thinking about your moral stance, you should probably choose a certain philosophical perspective to come at it with. Historically, there have been pacifist movements based on political ideals, or the belief that war is not a viable political solution and only leads to more killing, and there have been pacifist movements based on prophetic notions, or the belief that war is inherently inhuman and as an individual, you have a moral responsibility to not participate (in fact many people who subscribe to prophetic pacifism would tell you that you have a moral obligation to oppose war). Regardless of which method you choose to pursue, you must be able to support it with evidence. This can be letters from your high school history teacher, your soccer coach, your youth group leader, your parents (although the draft board will probably be wary ofbias), papers you have written for school, war protests you or the FBI can document your participation in, or social organizations you have volunteered for; bring in anything you can think of to prove you have a history of thinking that way. In all likelihood (and I say this based on what I have been told by members of our local draft board), if you can show a strong commitment to pacifism in your everyday life, they would rather not have you in the military; you’d be more trouble than it’s worth.
So, after all that, if you have come to the conclusion that you are not a conscientious objector, that instead you’re mostly just upset by the current regime and our war against terror, you still have some options. First and foremost, let me stress that you should file an appeal anyways; the local draft board is made up of everyday citizens who work professional careers and volunteer to serve on the draft board. Most of them are fine attending the once-a-year training and feel like the board is not that big of a commitment. However, should we experience a draft, it is likely that of the roughly 35,000 males age 18 to 26 living in Lane county, at least a thousand would be drafted. If only half of those drafted filed for an appeal, the appeals board would be required to hear five hundred appeals, with each one taking as little as an hour and as much as three hours. That means that if they met every night for a year, for three hours a night after they get off work, go home and grab a bite to eat, then head down to the draft board, they might be able to get all the appeals done in a year. File an appeal.
If you file an appeal and are drafted anyways, you have the option of refusing to go. In that case, a warrant will be issued for your arrest and you will be held in violation of federal law with a punishment of as much as seven years in prison. There is no statute of limitations on this either, so if you choose to flee the country or go into hiding, you will be hiding for the rest of your life or will never be able to return to the US. Vietnam era draft-dodgers were granted immunity recently, and pardoned of their crimes. The statute of limitations did not expire; they were lucky that it was politically popular to forgive them. If American politics continues down its current path, it is unlikely that it will be politically popular to forgive any more draft-dodgers.
If you feel it is unpatriotic to oppose a draft, that if our country calls us to arms it is our obligation as free citizens to go, you are wrong. It is unpatriotic to go without questioning your government’s motives and the legitimacy of war, and it is unpatriotic to fight in a war if you are truly a pacifist, because in a government of, by and for the people, there is nothing more patriotic than doing exactly what you think is right. So should the draft be re-instated, and should the majority of our country decide that is right and necessary to our security and freedom, remember that it is not your duty to die for them, and if you don’t believe you should kill someone for freedom or democracy, then no matter what, don’t.
here it is