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Draft Registration, Draft Resistance, the Military Draft, and the Medical Draft

resources on military conscription and "Selective Service" in the USA
from the National Resistance Committee

  1. "I don't want to be drafted. What should I do?"
  2. "Will there be a draft of health care workers?"
  3. "Why do some people resist the draft?"
  4. Background on the status of the military draft in the USA
  5. Leaflets about draft registration, draft resistance, the military draft, and the medical draft
  6. Other links and resources about draft registration, draft resistance, the military draft, and the medical draft
  7. About the National Resistance Committee (1980-1991)

"I don't want to be drafted. What should I do?"

  1. If you haven't registered for the draft, don't.

  2. Don't panic. The government can't prosecute you unless they can prove that you knew you were supposed to register, which requires them to get you to sign for a certified letter, or to send FBI agents to personally notify you and give you a chance to register. Make them work: Don't register unless the FBI finds you and tells you that you have to.

  3. Don't give the government evidence against yourself. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you." Don't sign for any letters from the government, and don't talk to the FBI. Tell your parents, family, and friends to do the same.

  4. If you have to register, give the address at which an induction notice will be least likely to reach you. Don't tell the Selective Service System if you move. Don't give the Postal Service a forwarding address to pass on to the Selective Service System (and other junk mailers).

  5. Ignore any letters about the draft from the Selective Service System, Department of Defense, or Department of Justice that you don't have to sign for. They may sound scary, but unless you have to sign for them, they are junk mail.

  6. Don't sign for any letters from the Selective Service System, the Department of Defense, or the Department of Justice. You are not required to accept or sign for their letters, and you don't have to give the mail carrier a reason why you refuse a letter.

  7. Tell your parents or anyone else who lives at the address you gave when you registered not to sign for any letters for you from the Selective Service System, the Department of Defense, or the Department of Justice. Tell them not to talk to any Feds who come looking for you or asking questions about you. They are not required to say anything to the Feds, or answer any questions. Anything they say can, and will, be used against them as well as against you.

  8. Don't report for induction. As with registration, they can't prosecute you unless they can prove that you got an induction order, which they can't do unless you sign for a certified letter, or unless they send the FBI to serve you with an order in person. Make them work: Don't report unless the FBI finds you and tells you that you have to.

  9. Organize and speak out against the draft. Let people know that you don't want to go.

  10. Know that you are not alone. Most people don't want to register for the draft, don't want to fight, and don't want to kill or be killed. Millions of people have violated the draft registration laws.

Why do some people resist the draft?

We support all those who resist the draft, draft registration, "Selective Service", the "Health Care Personnel Delivery System" (medical draft), or compulsory national service. We support you in your acts of resistance, regardless of your motives.

Your reasons may vary. One recent public nonregistrant has created a Web site and blog about why he didn't register and why he is suing the Selective Service System. But as we said, your reasons may vary.

Since we are often asked, "Why do you resist?", or "Why do you resist draft registration, when there is no draft?", here are some of our reasons, and the events and thinking behind them:

In recent years, there have been periodic calls for a return to military conscription in the U.S.A. Some have advocated a draft, explicitly or implicitly, as part of various compulsory "national service" schemes. Others have argued that a draft would be more fair than the "poverty draft" relied on by recruiters for the present "volunteer" military, or that more people would oppose war if they feared that they or their family members might be drafted.

President Obama has called for "national service", and some of his aides and advisors have previously spoken of "mandatory" or "universal" service. These amount to the same thing, of course: No such scheme could or would be "universal" unless it was compulsory, with penalties for non-participation. Compelled or coerced labor is conscription, not voluntary service, regardless of the purpose for which people are conscripted or the work they are forced to do. Work for the military is "service" neither to our interests nor to those of humanity. We urge President Obama to make clear that his call for public and community service is a call for genuine volunteerism (not the "volunteerism" of the current economically-coerced "volunteer" military) and to dissociate his voluntary service proposals from any form of legal or financial coercion or linkage with military enlistment or military training.

Representative Rangel, the sponsor of the most recent proposal for military conscription to be voted on (and voted down) by Congress, has said that "I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft." But, like a substantial majority of the American people, we support neither the present war(s) nor the draft. A draft would be "needed" for the same reason that military recruiters are having difficulty meeting their quotas: because a war is so unpopular that the people are unwilling to fight it, even when lured by bribes (enlistment bonuses), lies, and recruiter fraud. Rather than find ways to force the unwilling to fight unpopular wars, we should find ways to end or withdraw from those wars.

That bills to reinstate a military draft continue to be introduced regularly in Congress, even if they have received little overt support in recent years, shows the importance of continued resistance to draft registration, and continued readiness -- by young people, health care workers, and all pacifists and other peace activists, particularly those who believe in the power of the people as exercised through nonviolent direct action -- to resist any attempt to reinstate a draft.

We share Rep. Rangel's concern for the racist targetting of poor people and people of color -- those with the fewest other options -- by military recruiters. It is a dramatic sign of social failure that, for many people, joining the armed forces seems like the only path to financial security, personal growth, empowerment, and a sense of self-worth and belonging to a community. But we urge Rep. Rangel, President Obama, and others concerned with these problems, to focus their attention on investigation and oversight of recruiting practices, and on creating alternatives to the military and to militarism (such as non-military vocational, violence reduction, and conflict resolution training, with financing that doesn't leave participants saddled with debt), rather than on trying to enlarge the pool of those subject to the abuses of the military.

Rep. Rangel, and others, also have suggested that a threat to conscript the children of members of Congress and other older people of wealth and power would induce them to take action to stop the war(s), out of fear for their children's lives. As pacifists, we reject this argument completely: It is tantamount to arguing that we should use the children of the rich as human shields against war, or that we should kidnap the children of people in power, hold them hostage, and ransom them for peace. And it would impose on potential draftees the burden of their elders' errors in making war -- which is unfair, ageist, and speaks directly to the ageism (of a draft enacted by all ages, but which imposes obligations exclusively on the young) that is one of the reasons that a draft of young people is wrong in the first place. The same goes for the argument that a draft would mobilize people to speak out against war(s). Yes, many people -- both those subject to the draft and others such as their families and loved ones -- would oppose any attempt to reinstate a draft. But it would make no sense for us to support a draft now, in order to encourage others to oppose it later. Rather, we encourage all those who oppose the draft to speak out, and to express their opposition to the draft in their actions, now, as early in the conscription process as possible.

In response to Rep. Rangel's presvious similar proposals, then House Speaker Pelosi and other Congressional leaders, including both Democrats and Republicans, have claimed that there is no chance that they will enact a draft. But they have continued to authorize, fund, and maintain draft registration, the Selective Service System, and contingency planning for both a general draft and activation of the Health Care Personnel Delivery System. We urge Congressional leaders, if they are sincere, to suit their actions to their words. In particular, we continue to call on Speaker Pelosi to sponsor and bring to a floor vote in the House, as soon as possible, legislation (1) to repeal the Military Selective Service Act and Presidential authority to order draft registration, (2) to abolish the Selective Service System, and (3) to defund and forbid contingency planning by the military or any other Federal agency for any form of draft.

Times have changed. These are not the 1960's, and this is not the Vietnam War. (This is not a Web site about the war in Vietnam, or about the resistance to it, but I can't help mentioning David Harris' brilliant book, "Our War: What We Did In Vietnam and What It Did to Us", and the documentary film currently in production about that earlier resistance, The Boys Who Said No.) Today's young people have grown up with the legacy of Watergate, in an era in which it is taken for granted that the government must justify to the people its demands on their lives.

When draft registration was reinstated for young men in 1980, following a five-year hiatus, President Obama was in one of the first cohorts required to register. President Obama says he registered, but the response by his peers was dramatically different than the response to the previous Vietnam-era draft and registration system had been. Opposition was immediate. Less than a month after President Carter proposed to resume draft registration, the Princeton university newspaper, whose editorial board was chaired by current Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, endorsed an "anti-registration, anti-draft, anti-war" rally in these terms:

[M]yopic and over-sensitive "national pride" precludes the thoughtful search for alternatives to an unnecessary draft registration. At today’s noon rally ... Princeton students can demonstrate that they view [draft] registration as a dangerous and unacceptable method of settling our current problems.

Some have argued that registration can be separated from the possibility of draft and of war.... We do not believe this is so. The threat of a military force is implicit in draft registration.

At stake is not simply the adoption of Carter's proposal -- although it is, in itself, something we deeply oppose. After all, the rally is not just for the 19- and 20-year-olds recently pinpointed for registration. We should also demonstrate against the proposal because it is a manifestation of a growing militarism in which politically motivated bravado plays too large a part.

We urge all students to attend the anti-registration rally ... today. By showing concern, we can impress upon our leaders our opposition to their unreasonable, militarist policies.

More than a million potential draftees born in 1960 and 1961 opted out by boycotting the initial mass registration periods. The rate of compliance with draft registration declined after that, even when the government mounted well-publicized show trials of a few of the "most vocal" registration resisters, who it was able to single out and convict on the basis of their public statements (and after personally serving them with notice of another "final" chance to register without penalty).

Nonregistrants came to learn that only those who spoke out would be, or could be, prosecuted, and that the government was powerless to round up the millions of people who were violating the law. Mass nonviolent direct action provided, and continues to provide, safety in numbers for draft registration resisters.

Throughout more than a quarter of a century since then, resistance to draft registration has been sustained -- almost entirely by spontaneous individual action, and in the absence of any ongoing draft resistance organizing or propaganda -- at levels far exceeding the resistance to the draft at the peak of the American Wars in Vietnam and Indochina.

Unable to get young people to register voluntarily, the Selective Service System has tried to shift to a system of "passive" registration. At the urging of lobbyists for the Selective Service System, some states require young men to agree to be registered with the Selective Service System if they want obtain a state's license. Most of those who register in other states do so in order to qualify for student loans, government jobs, or job training, or in order to protect their immigration status and eligibility for U.S. citizenship. (All male U.S. residents are required to register for the draft, including non- citizens).

The shift from predominantly grant-based funding for higher education and vocational training in the 1960's and 1970's to predominantly loan-based funding in the 1980's and after roughly coincided with the reinstatement of draft registration, with which it has since been linked. It has served to channel loan recipients into needing higher-paying jobs to pay off their debts, and to make it more difficult for them to choose unpaid or underpaid public service work. This is a major reason why, despite the continued interest of young people in activism, it is harder for them to choose lower-income careers today than it was for those in the 1960's who typically graduated from college with minimal, if any, debt. In today's circumstances, few people who want to further their education feel they have much choice about whether to register for the draft (although they do have a choice, and we urge them to exercise that choice), and their registration is no indication of their willingness to be drafted. Many more people would resist if they were drafted than are willing to risk negative consequences (including forgoing Federal student loans) for resistance at the time of registration.

Almost no one complies with the legal requirement to notify the Selective Service System of address changes until a man reaches age 26. We presume that, like almost all his peers, President Obama himself violated this law, although he may have done so unknowingly, couldn't have been prosecuted without proof of knowledge of the law, and could no longer be prosecuted or penalized, even if he now admitted knowingly breaking the law, since the statute of limitations for either nonregistration or failure to report address changes expires on one's 31st birthday.

Most registrants have effectively "unregistered" by moving without telling the Selective Service System where they have gone, and most induction notices would end up in the dead letter office. That will make it even harder for the government to try to crack down on those who haven't registered, or who refuse to report for induction, since the government must prove to a jury that anyone accused of a draft law violation actually got a notice of what they were supposed to do (register, report address changes, or report for induction).

Today, draft registration resistance, and the inevitable intensified resistance to any renewed draft, are not mere "protest". They have proven to be an effective nonviolent tactic of direct action that has rendered draft registration unenforceable and would prevent any draft from being effective or enforceable.

The question is not whether Congress, the Pentagon, or the President "want" a draft, or believe it is "necessary" as a last resort. The question is whether a draft is possible or enforceable, and the clear answer provided by the history of more than 30 years of continuing massive noncompliance with Selective Service registration is, "No". A draft is simply not possible. It will be resisted, and it will be unenforceable.

The power to make that decision on whether there will be a draft rests with the people, not the Congress. This is a statement of fact, supported by history, not a threat: Young people won't go, and the government can't make them. We urge Congress, the Pentagon, and the President to recognize the impossibility of a draft, and to curtail their war plans accordingly. The draft is not an "option" for the US government, even as a last resort.

We congratulate those who have been subject to draft registration for their steadfast, spontaneous, courageous, and continuing defiance of the government's unsuccessful campaigns of lies, empty threats, show trials, and intimidation to try to scare them into compliance.

We urge health care workers, and others with special skills in particular demand by the military, to take encouragement from the successful resistance to reinstatement of a general draft, and to educate themselves and their communities, organize, speak out publicly, and prepare to resist any activation of the Health Care Personnel Delivery System or any other form of special skills draft. As with a general draft, there is safety, solidarity, and effectiveness in numbers, openness, and organization. Polls suggest that many health care workers would actively avoid being drafted, whether through legal or illegal means. We welcome and encourage that inclination towards resistance, which we believe would make a medical or special skills draft as unenforceable as a general draft.

We urge potential soldiers to reject both the carrot and the stick of military recruiting and conscription, and to refuse to be enlisted or to be inducted into any branch of the military or to work for the military as mercenaries or contractors.

Whether or not they have registered, we promise them our support and solidarity in their continued and enhanced resistance to any move to authorize or activate a draft or extend draft registration to additional categories of people -- whether that resistance takes the form of refusing to register, refusing to notify the Selective Service System of address changes, refusing to report for induction, refusing to be inducted, refusing to report for military duty, desertion, mutiny, refusing orders within the military, fraternization with the "enemy", or seeking sanctuary or asylum in other countries from participation in the military, participation in crimes against humanity, and participation in crimes against the laws of war.

[A somewhat shorter alternate version of this statement was adopted in June 2009 as the official position of the War Resisters League.]

Background on the status of the military draft in the USA

There's been a lot of talk about the draft lately, but most of the recent reports have been written by people unfamiliar with the history of the draft, draft registration, and draft resistance during the 30+ years since the end of the Vietnam-era draft in the USA. This Web site will give you some of the facts that the Selective Service System won't tell you, that most reporters don't realize, and that most politicians don't want to acknowledge.

Draft registration in the USA was reinstated under President Carter in 1980, supposedly as part of the preparations for intervention by the USA in Afghanistan on the side of the Islamic fundamentalist warlords and mujahideen who were then fighting against the Soviet Union. The USA put me in prison for refusing to agree to fight on the side of the people who would later become the Taliban and Al Qaeda! It's no wonder that people of my generation have no faith in the ability of the government of the USA to decide for us in which wars, or on which (if any) side, we should fight.

I was one of only 20 people prosecuted for draft resistance in the USA in the more than 35 years since the end of the Vietnam War draft and more than 30 years since the reinstatement of draft registration in 1980. Most of us were convicted, solely on the basis of our public statements -- nonregistrants who kept quiet faced almost no real risk of prosecution, even then. I spent about 6 months in a Federal prison camp in 1983-1984.

(I was prosecuted by Robert Mueller, then a junior Assistant U.S. Attorney and now the Director of the FBI. My case was his first high-profile trial, and my head was a major stepping stone in his political career. While in prison, I was denounced as a yuppie in the pages of the New York Times by Rep. Gerald Solomon (sponsor of the laws denying Federal student aid, which I had never received anyway, to nonregistrants), for having taken the risk of speaking out about my resistance to the draft. Feel free to contact me directly if you want to talk to me about my choices and experiences, or the history of those prosecutions of draft resistance organizers.)

The brief wave of show trials of nonregistrants in 1982-1987 was explicitly intended to silence those like me whom the government considered the "most vocal" nonregistrants. Prosecutions served only to publicize and encourage the resistance (more than a million men defied or ignored the initial two start-up mass registration weeks for those born in 1960 and 1961), and any thought of further prosecutions was quickly abandoned. But since then, the resistance has been almost completely spontaneous. As a grassroots movement of individual direct action, without leaders or organizations, it has also been almost entirely invisible. As a result, most recent reporting on the prospect of a draft has overlooked the significance of the ongoing resistance.

Since 1980, noncompliance with Selective Service registration and address update requirements has been sustained continuously at rates many times higher than the resistance at the peak of the Vietnam war or any earlier war or draft in the USA. Mass direct action (noncompliance with registration) has prevented, and continues to prevent, reinstatement of the draft, and has rendered registration completely unenforceable.

Most of those worried about their vulnerability to a draft are young men, and their friends and loved ones. But health care workers -- men and women of all ages -- are at much more imminent risk of a draft. According to one military doctor, writing in a 2004 medical journal article explaining Selective Service plans: "A physician draft is the most likely conscription into the military in the near future." Also in 2004, a Selective Service spokesperson said, "Talking to the manpower folks at the Department of Defense and others, what came up was that ... they thought that if we have any kind of a draft, it will probably be a special skills draft."

So the more immediate issue is not how soon the military might run short of cannon fodder, but how soon they might run short of doctors, nurses, and 57 other occupational categories of health care workers. The Selective Service plans for a Health Care Workers Personnel Delivery System (HCPDS) are quite different than those for a general draft, and could be implemented much more quickly than a general draft: health care workers would be drafted from professional licensing lists, eliminating the step of registration with Selective Service, and would be presumed already to be qualified. (Selective Service says that the HCPDS would, "Require minimal training for HCPDS draftees, because they are already skilled personnel.)

Most of the debate about the draft in recent years has been based on the assumption that whether there will be a draft will be up to Congress. But no matter what Congress or the Pentagon wants, a draft is possible only if would-be draftees are willing to comply voluntarily, or if the government has the power to enforce the draft. The clear evidence of the response to would-be draftees to registration over the last quarter century is that a draft would prompt such massive resistance that it could not be implemented without a police state, and maybe not even then.

The numbers of people who don't register at all have been holding steady. According to their official annual reports, the Selective Service System referred 162,000 names of suspected nonregistrants to the Department of Justice (DoJ) in 2004, and 158,000 names in 2007 (the most recent year for which figures have been reported). None of these nonregistrants were investigated or prosecuted by the DoJ.

In October 2004, the House of Representatives voted down a bill introduced by Rep. Rangel to immediately reinstate the draft. He reintroduced the same bill in 2007, although that time it didn't make it to a vote in the House. But just because Congress isn't voting for a general draft -- yet -- doesn't mean that both Republicans and Democrats won't vote for it (or at least for a special-purpose draft of health care workers) if and when their war policies lead them to a situation where they can't figure out any other way to get enough soldiers with specific skills. Tellingly, neither Republican nor Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (whose constituency in San Francisco has since 1991 declared itself a "sanctuary" for war resisters and forbidden local officials for cooperating in the enforcement of federal laws against war resistance), have yet tried to combine the vote against reinstatement of the draft the draft with any move to abolish the Selective Service System -- which is what they would do if they really were ruling out any future draft. Bill have been introduced repeatedly in Congress to repeal the Military Selective Service Act, w, including H.R. 424 in 2007. But no action has been taken to hold hearings on any of these bills or bring them to the floor., debate it in committee, or bring it to a floor vote.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama avoided taking any public position on Selective Service and the draft, or on how the national "service" he advocated could be "universal" without being compulsory. The day after his election, Obama's "" Web site announced an agenda explicitly including compulsory national service for all high school and college students. That language was modified slightly a few days later, but Obama's first appointment, staff director Rahm Emanuel, has explicitly advocated mandatory Israeli-style universal (i.e. compulsory) national service including what he calls "basic training" for all young people in the USA. [More from my blog on Obama, McCain, and draft registration ("Selective Service").]

Although "Plan A" for Congress, the Pentagon, and probably the President is the poverty draft, "Plan B" for all of them remains conscription. For example, Rep. John Murtha, chair of the Subcommittee on Defense of the House Committee on Appropriations, said in late 2008 that "I voted against the all-volunteer army because I didn't think we could sustain a deployment in wartime without a draft.... We'll never be able to fight a conventional war where you have two fronts without a draft. You can't do it.... In a wartime, everybody ought to serve."

It's unclear how long they'll be able to rely on "volunteers". Enlistments and re-enlistments are falling short of the military's goals. Morale in the military is down. More and more soldiers are failing to report for active duty when called up, deserting, going AWOL, or requesting reassignment or discharge as conscientious objectors. "Stop-loss" measures to extend soldiers' terms are increasingly unpopular, and undercut recruiting. It's one thing to sign up for the National Guard or the reserves as a "weekend soldier", and something very different to sign up for 2 years in combat.

Only outsourcing and privatizing war-making to mercenaries and contractors (partly by using private "guards" and "security contractors" in combat roles, and partly by outsourcing non-combat support work to civilians, freeing a higher percentage of soldiers for combat) has enabled the military to continue the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this long, on this scale, without a draft.

There are many good reasons to resist the draft. Countering military recruiting, supporting and encouraging resistance within the military, opposing the hiring of mercenaries and the outsourcing of war-making to private contractors, and draft resistance can all be part of a nonviolent people power strategy to stop war by depriving the military of warriors.

Selective Service claims that compliance with draft registration exceeds 90 percent, but they count as "in compliance" every registration they receive, no matter how many years late and no matter whether they have current address information to draft the registrant. The majority of those subject to draft registration register late, often years after their prime draft eligibility, and almost none of them notify Selective Service when they move. The important measure of current compliance is, "For what percentage of would-be draftees in the prime ages does Selective Service have a current valid address, such that they could deliver an induction notice reliably?" Although Selective Service deliberately avoids researching this question, the likely figure is less than 50% -- far too low for a draft to be politically saleable, or enforceable.

There has been no independent audit of compliance with draft registration since those by the General Accounting Office (GAO) in 1982. The most recent GAO report on Selective Service was in 2012, but it didn't attempt to investigate or verify compliance with registration. The GAO did, however, reiterate the belief of Selective Service System officials that at least 90% "complinace with registration is required for "fairness and equity" of a draft, but that registrations were received for only 69% of 18-year old men. In its last previous report on Selective service registration in 1996, the GAO had reported somewhat hgigher "compliance", but had noted the concern of the Selective Service System that compliance would be lower in time of war or national crisis. According to the GAO, "SSS officials stated that unless the mass registration program can achieve high levels of compliance (at least 90 percent of the targeted population), the fairness and equity of the ensuing draft could be called into question."

The most recent Selective Service "test exercises" have been for activation of the Health Care Personnel Delivery System, not for a draft based on the current registrations of young men. But when the SSS has conducted "tests" of its ability to carry out a general draft, it has assumed that all the test induction notices that weren't returned by the Post Office were successfully delivered to the potential draftees. That's absurd: in many cases, mail is still delivered to an old address even if the addressee has moved. That's especially true if other people with the same last name still live there, as is likely to be the case for many young people who registered at their parents' address, but who have since moved out.

The real question thus is not, "Will Congress enact a draft?", but, "Will would-be draftees submit to a draft?" The clear evidence is that they will not. As was the case during the first USA-Iraq war in 1989-1990, we still won't go. Draft resisters are often accused of being unrealistic, but those who believe that they have the power to impose a draft are deluding themselves and refusing to face the facts.

Selective Service assumes that all registrants are willing to report whenever and wherever they are called up, to fight and kill whomever they are told to kill. In reality, many registrants will resist if drafted. Others registered in the hope or expectation that they will qualify as conscientious objectors.

Many people registered only out of fear, and will report only if compelled to do so -- which will prove as impossible as compelling young men to register has proved. Others were registered involuntarily and essentially "passively", under state laws (passed in response to lobbying by Selective Service) that require draft-age applicants for state driver's licenses to consent to having their drivers-license information used to register them with the SSS. (Califonia is the largest state without such a state law, although proposals for such a Califonia law have been made repeatedly.) These people's registration status indicates nothing about their willingness to be drafted or the likelihood that they would resist a draft.

Still others have registered in order to qualify for Federal student loans, job training, government jobs, and other programs. In January 2009, a Federal District Court found that the so-called Solomon Amendment making draft registration a condition for Federal employment is an unconstitutional "bill of attainder" as applied to men 26 years or older, who are too old to be allowed to register. However, the District Court in an unusual step, reconsidered and reversed its decision in March 2010. That reversal was upheld by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in 2011, and by the Supreme Court in 2012, with the Obama Administration steadfastly defending this provision of the Solomon Amendment. The District Court's reversal, and the decisions upholding it on appeal, were on purely procedurally grounds, leaving the Constutionality of the law untested.

But whatever the courts decide about the Solomon Amendments for student aid and other programs, people who register solely in order to be able to afford to go to college, or to get or keep a job, can't be presumed to be willing to be drafted.

The ultimate decision on whether there will be a draft will be made by those who subject to an attempted draft, as they chose whether to comply. Should there be an attempt to reinstate the draft, I hope you find this information helpful in making those choices.

Leaflets about draft registration, draft resistance, and the military draft (updated 2006):

The titles of the leaflets link to the HTML versions for reading on the Web. The links following each title are to alternate versions in PDF format (for printing as two-sided, three-fold leaflets) and in Wordperfect document format for you to be able to modify for your own use, such as to add contact information for a local organization.

Other links and resources about the draft, draft registration, and draft resistance:

  1. Draft registration and the possibility of a general draft
  2. Financial aid for nonregistrants
  3. The medical draft ("Health Care Personnel Delivery System")
  4. Resistance within the military and by veterans and military families
  5. USA war resisters in Canada and other countries
  6. Resistance to military recruiting
  7. Outsourcing and privatizing war to mercenaries and contractors
  8. Other draft resistance and anti-draft organizations, Web sites, and events
  9. Draft resistance history since 1980
  10. Statistics on draft registration, resistance, compliance, and enforcement since 1980
  11. U.S. Supreme Court decisions on draft registration since 1980
  12. Other pending lawsuits related to draft registration
  13. Proposed state and Federal legislation related to draft registration
  1. Draft registration and the possibility of a general draft

  2. Financial aid for nonregistrants

  3. The medical draft ("Health Care Personnel Delivery System")

  4. Resistance within the military and by veterans and military families

  5. USA war resisters in Canada and other countries

  6. Resistance to military recruiting

  7. Outsourcing and privatizing war to mercenaries and contractors

  8. Other draft resistance and anti-draft organizations, Web sites, and events

  9. Draft resistance history since 1980

  10. Statistics on draft registration, resistance, compliance, and enforcement since 1980

  11. U.S. Supreme Court decisions on draft registration since 1980

  12. Other pending lawsuits related to draft registration

  13. Proposed state and Federal legislation related to draft registration

About the National Resistance Committee

The National Resistance Committee (NRC) was formed in 1980 to oppose registration and the draft, and disbanded following the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

The stated goals of the National Resistance Committee were:

The National Resistance Committee was open to all draft resisters: pacifist and non-pacifist, religious and secular, ideological and individualistic, internationalist and isolationist, young and old, women and men, queer and straight and questioning (and, like me, confused), public and closeted, anarchist, communist, libertarian, patriotic, pagan, feminist, and of course many who didn't identify with any "ism". As a group potentially regarded by the government as a criminal conspiracy, the NRC had no formal structure or officers; its activities were carried out by local and national working collectives and individual activists. We were funded almost exclusively by small individual contributions, many of them anonymous and many of them from the same people who were doing the work.

Like other draft resistance groups, the NRC used as its symbols the rainbow of diversity and the Greek letter "omega" (as at the top of this page), which has been used since the 1960's as the symbol of the resistance to the draft. The omega is the symbol (in physics and electronics) of the unit of resistance, the "ohm", and also symbolizes the Buddhist chant for peace, "om".

From 1980 to 1987, the NRC published 25 issues of a newspaper, Resistance News, providing an open forum for all draft resisters. (Contact me if you are interested in obtaining one of the remaining sets of printed copies.) According to a statement published in each issue:

Gandhi's term for nonviolence was Satyagraha, which he defined as "truth force." The National Resistance Committee has no dogma, Gandhian or otherwise. But we agree with Gandhi that belief in nonviolence implies belief in the power of truth, and in the ability of people to discern it for themselves. Resistance News is devoted to the search for truth. We can only conduct that search, and permit others to do otherwise, if we print the most divergent opinions and encourage open discussion of controversy. Our editorial policy is to print what you write, edited only for length and only with your permission. If we can't afford to publish all your contributions (we couldn't this time [and we never could], we'll save them for the next issue. You are the resistance, and the news of the resistance is the news of your lives. Write to us about it.

Such a policy may seem commonplace today, when the Internet makes it possible and affordable to disseminate huge amounts of information, without the need for as much selectivity. But at the time, it was a radical position. We were using the Internet and other computer networks even in the early 1980's, but the Internet wasn't yet a medium of mass communication. Getting out the word required costly printing and mailing, and relatively few people were willing to pay, often out of their own pockets, to print and distribute the opinions of those they disagreed with, not just their own opinions.

There were, and are, many other organizations involved in draft resistance as well as other activities, organizations for draft resisters from specific religious or political groups, organizations working against the draft through means other than resistance, organizations supporting conscientious objectors within the draft and military system, draft and military counselors and organizations, and local draft resistance organizations.

But from 1980 through 1991, the National Resistance Committee was the only national organization in the USA dedicated exclusively to resisting draft registration and open to all draft resisters. As of 2005, it remains the only such organization to have existed in the USA since the last involuntary inductions into the military in the USA in 1973.

After the U.S. military was driven out of Vietnam in 1975, the antiwar movement -- including many forms of resistance -- forced an end to the draft. When draft registration was reinstated in 1980, massive resistance and the failure of the government's attempts at intimidation through show trials of registration resistance organizers (including myself and other participants in the National Resistance Committee, which was itself investigated and considered for possible prosecution as a criminal conspiracy) forced the government to abandon enforcement of the draft registration law, and no one has been prosecuted for draft or registration resistance since 1987. So we know that draft resistance has the power to stop the draft. But are we prepared to resist the next attempt to bring back the draft?

To every war, and to every draft, there has been, is, and will be resistance. Each generation has its own reasons to resist, and finds and forms its own organizations. I'm sure that new grassroots draft resistance groups and networks are already forming, even if I and other older draft resisters haven't yet heard about them.

I was involved with the NRC throughout its life, and moved to San Francisco in 1985 to take over as one of the editors of Resistance News when Fred Moore (whose historical significance I've written about in a separate article in Peacework magazine) left on one of his extended peace walks.

As the custodian of many of the archives (some of which are included in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection) of the NRC and Resistance News, as well as many of the archives of earlier draft resistance organizations that were passed on to us in the NRC, I'm trying to make some of these materials available, in updated form, to those who might not otherwise get this information and these points of view, and to new generations of draft resisters. These leaflets and other materials reflect the work and contributions of many people. Many members of the NRC's core collectives are still in touch with each other. If you are interested in making use of other draft resistance writings or graphics from our archives, or talking with people who were active in the draft resistance movement in the 1980's, please get in touch.

Please use, modify, and distribute these materials freely and widely, or use them to create your own, with your own ideas. I especially encourage draft and registration counselors to make material advocating draft resistance, like these leaflets, available to those they counsel, to explain the reasons people like us have chosen to resist registration and the draft, and why they might want to do so too. If you don't feel comfortable advocating draft resistance -- either because you don't want to take that legal risk, or because you don't feel it appropriate to encourage other people to take a risk you haven't taken yourself -- you can point people to this and other draft resistance advocacy.

This Web site is hosted in Canada, not in the USA. In Canada, the privacy of information concerning visitors to this Web site is protected by Canadian laws including the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Reproduction or distribution of this literature in the USA might be considered by some people, such as the Selective Service System and the Department of (in)Justice, to be illegal. On the other hand, both the draft itself, and the laws against advocating draft resistance or conspiring to resist the draft might be considered to be unconstitutional. And prosecutions for draft resistance advocacy or conspiracy have, historically been even rarer (none at all since the Vietnam War) and less successful than prosecutions for nonregistration. But past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

It's your life. Make your own decisions. If you'd like to talk to someone who has made some of the same choices -- in a different era, and in different circumstances, of course -- feel free to get in touch with me. I'm always available to talk to individuals or groups, and to do my best to put you in touch with others who can do likewise, about the draft, draft registration, draft resistance, and the choices I've made. I chose to resist, and while I've made many mistakes along the way, I have no regrets about that choice to resist registration and the draft, to refuse to register, to encourage others to do likewise, and to join together with others to carry on our resistance.


Edward Hasbrouck
1130 Treat Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94110

[This page and more, including printable versions of leaflets in PDF format, are at and This Web site is published by Edward Hasbrouck, individually and not on behalf of any organization including any of the organizations linked to. I have drawn on contributions over many years by many other people, and I do not claim copyright in this Web site, but I take full personal responsibility for it.]

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