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Refuse to Register. No Registrar. Conscripcion No.

The Draft, Draft Registration, Draft Resistance, and "Selective Service"

FAQs on military conscription and compulsory national service from the National Resistance Committee and Resistance News

[The NCMNPS has recommended that draft registration be extended to young women as well as young men. See this joint statement by anti-draft organizations and this list of anti-draft organizations and actions you can take.]

"A modern-day draft, if marketed carefully and cleverly, could foster patriotism via the investment of every family in the nation. A greater involvement of the population to include National Service could reach every social demographic within the U.S." (Recommendations from the Selective Service System to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, December 2017)
  1. What's the status of the military draft and draft registration?
  2. I don't want to be drafted. What should I do?
  3. What if I'm not a U.S. citizen?
  4. Will women be drafted? Will women be required to register for the draft?
  5. What was the "National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service" (NCMNPS)?
  6. Will there be a draft of health care workers?
  7. What about compulsory "national service" (civilian or non-military)?
  8. What's the history and background to the current status of the draft and draft registration?
  9. Video of my testimony to the National Commission on Military Service:
  10. Audio and video of podcasts, webinars, etc.:
  11. Anti-draft resources:

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Mobilization Against the Draft
[Front ranks of the West Coast mobilization against draft registration on Market St. in San Francisco, 22 March 1980. Photo by Chris Booth for Resistance News.]

What's the status of the draft, draft registration, and drafting women or requiring women to register for the draft?

[1-sheet flyer: What's happening with women and Selective service registration?]

There's been a lot of talk about the draft lately, but most of the public discussion of the issue has been by people unfamiliar with the history of the draft, draft registration, and draft resistance since the end of the Vietnam-era draft in 1975. 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 admit.

Back in the 1980s, the US government put me and eight other then-young men in prison for refusing to agree to fight on the side of the people who would later become the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Now a national commission appointed by Congress and the President is has recommended that Congress should try to extend draft registration to women. But Congress has a choice: It has before it bills either to expand draft registration to women, or to end draft registration entirely.

As I told the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service when i was invited to testify at one of their hearings in April 2019, "Any proposal that includes a compulsory element is a naïve fantasy unless it includes a credible enforcement plan and budget."

Anyone who thinks they can wave their cheerleader's baton and magically make every 18-25 year old woman in the USA sign up to kill or be killed on command ignores both the lessons of the history of draft registration since 1980 and the likelihood of massive resistance by young women.

Feminists Say: Stop The Draft

Massive, spontaneous, unorganized grassroots noncompliance has rendered draft registration of men unenforceable since its resumption (after a five-year post-Vietnam hiatus) in 1980, despite a brief and unsuccessful (for the government) round of show trials in the 1980s.

Noncompliance will render any attempt to get women to register equally unenforceable. Women can (and some do) fight. But women also can (and many will) resist. There is certainly no reason to think that young women will be more willing to agree to be drafted than young men have been.

I asked the members of the National Commission, "How much are you prepared to spend, and how much of a police state are you prepared to set up, to round up the millions of current draft registration law violators or enforce a draft?" I got no answer, but Congress and the public need to demand one.

Anti-war and anti-draft activists are not alone in telling the National Commission and Congress that draft registration has failed. Even the former director of the Selective Service System who manages the start-up of the current registration system in 1980 has testified that the current registration database is "less than useless" and the Congress should end draft registration and repeal the Military Selective Service Act, rather than trying to expand it to young women as well as young men.

Proponents of draft registration need to face the facts, and recognize that, whether they like it or not, draft registration has failed. It's long past time to end draft registration entirely and abolish the Selective Service System.

Whereas, the Selective Service Act requires male U.S. citizens between 18 and 25 years to register with the U.S. government for potential military service, aids the government in its instrumentation of war; Therefore Be It Resolved that Veterans For Peace calls on the government of the United States to immediately revoke the Selective Service Act.
[Resolution approved by vote of the membership of Veterans for Peace, 2012]

We oppose both the draft and draft registration, for women or for men. We support legislation to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System; we support continued resistance to draft registration as long as it remains the law; and we support resistance to any attempt to reinstate the draft or compulsory national service.

There many reasons to oppose the draft, draft registration, and other planning and preparations for a draft such as contingency planning for the Health Care Personnel Delivery System (conscription of health care workers).

Some older people conceptualize opposition to the draft as an effort to protect young people against being drafted. But I think that this framing of the issue is rooted in unconscious ageism, and should be reversed: it is young people who, by their noncompliance with draft registration, have prevented a draft and thereby limited the U.S. government's ability to wage war and protected all of us, including older people, from even wider wars. There have been wars without a draft, but it is the perceived availability of the draft as the ultimate fallback that enables politicans and military officers to plan for endless, unlimited wars. Without a draft, war panning and warmaking is limited to wars that people can be induced to "volunteer" to fight.

The success of resistance to draft registration -- not lobbying, not protest, but noncompliance on a massive scale, spontaneous, almost entirely unorganized, and continued by cohort after cohort of young people for four decades -- has been one of the greatest (although almost entirely unrecognized) victories of nonviolent mass direct action in the Reagan years and after. But the full potential benefit of that victory by young people in protecting us all from war will not be realized until draft registration is ended, the Selective Service System and its cointingency planning for conscription is abolished, and -- most important of all -- there is public acknowledgement and recognition by politicians that a draft is not an option because it would be so widely resisted as to be unenforceable. Only then will military planning begin to be limited by the unavailability, even as a last resort, of the draft.

Don't Register!

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

  1. If you haven't registered for the draft, don't. If you haven't registered, you won't be drafted (unless there is a draft of health care workers or some other sort of "special skills" draft based on professional licenses rather than Selective Service registration).
  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. This isn't likely to happen: All enforcement of draft registration has been "suspended" by the government since 1988.
  3. If you don't want to risk being drafted, but you also don't want to risk being penalized later in life for not having registered for the draft, wait until just before your 26th birthday, and register then. (See these flowcharts of some of the decision points and options before you register, if you don't register, and after you register if you register and there is a draft.)
  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. 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 talk to the FBI. Tell your parents, family, and friends to do the same.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Organize and speak out against the draft. Let people know that you don't want to go.
  11. Support Federal legislation to end draft registration, abolish the Selective Service System, and restore eligibility for Federal student aid and other programs for men who didn't register for the draft.
  12. Send a message to your U.S. Representative and Senators asking them to enact H.R. 5492 or similar legislation to end draft registration and end contingency planning for a draft of health care workers
  13. 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.

What if I'm not a U.S. citizen?

Almost all men between ages 18 and 26 who live in the U.S., including undocumented people, are supposed to register, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. This includes non-U.S. citizens, dual citizens, and undocumented U.S. residents. The exceptions are certain non-U.S. citizens who are in the U.S. as tourists or on "nonimmigrant" visas and therefore asre not considered "residents". The most severe administrative penalties for not registering with the Selective Service System are those against men who are not U.S. citizens: If you lived in the U.S. at any time between your 18th and 26th birthdays, but you didn't register with the Selective Service System, you could be deemed ineligible for naturalization as a U.S. citizen. However, the Selective Service System says that:

  1. Men over age 31 wil not generally be deemed ineligible for naturalization (although it is possible that they could be), and
  2. Men between the ages of 26 and 31 may be given a chance to submit evidence that their failure to register was not "willful". Some men ages Some men ages 26-31 have been approved for naturalization as U.S. citizens after submitting statements with their applications for naturalization, "I did not register for the Selective Service because I was not aware of this requirement. If I had known about this requirement, I would have registered." But there is no guarantee that such a statement will be accepted as sufficient.

Selective Service death's head with mushroom cloud

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