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Why do we oppose the draft and draft registration ("Selective Service")?

Puppets Of War, by James Groleau
[“Puppets Of War”, James Groleau, 1984]

What’s wrong with the draft and draft registration?

The National Resistance Committee was founded in 1980 to support all those who oppose the draft and draft registration, whatever your reasons.

I have my own reasons for my resistance and for my ongoing opposition to the draft and draft registration, but I support all those who resist the draft, draft registration, “Selective Service”, the expansion of draft registration to women, the Health Care Personnel Delivery System (medical draft), or compulsory national service. I support you in your acts of resistance, regardless of your motives. I support those who openly defy draft registration and the draft, and those who quietly ignore the requirement to register with the Selective Service System and report for induction if ordered.

(See this page for a sampling of testimony, statements, editorials, op-eds, columnns and articles against the draft and draft registration from a variety of perspectives.)

Most draft-age people who visit this site already know they don’t want to be drafted, and are looking for practical information and advice about how to avoid the draft. You don’t have to agree with any of the resons discussed below to have other good and sufficient reasons, articulate or not, to oppose the draft. But since others sometimes ask, “Why do you resist?”, or “Why do you resist draft registration, when there is no draft?”, here are some of the reasons why I and some others oppose the draft, and the events and thinking behind them.

Draft resistance is today, as it has been in the past, a diverse movement and a largely spontaneous grassroots phenomenon, not an organization with an agreed-upon ideology. Not everyone who opposes the draft agrees with all of the arguments that follow, nor do they need to. There are many equally good and sufficient reasons why different people oppose the draft and resist draft registration. All of the reasons some people support a draft are also reasons for other people to resist a draft.

Some people oppose the draft primarily because of its effects on draftees, others primarily becuase of its effects on those against whom draftees would be deployed in war, others because of the effect of military training on the militarization of society in general.

Some argue that we shouldn’t care about draft registration, as long as there is no actual draft. But that misses the point, in two respects:

First, the reason that there is no draft today is that noncompliance with the registration and address reporting requirements has rendered registration unenforceable and a draft based on the current registration and address database impossible. Continued resiatnce to registration is key to continuing to prevent a draft.

Second, the perceived availability of the draft as a fallback option enables planning for larger, longer, less popular wars, without regard for popular willingness to fight them. Resistance to draft registration, and public exposure of the failure of registration (“The emperor has no clothes) is key to reining in war planning.

Militarists are telling the truth when they say that they don’t want a draft. A draft is Plan F for “fallback,” after Plan A (active-duty enlistees), Plan B (Reserves), Plan C (National Guard), Plan D (proxy warriors, a/k/a allied forces), and Plan E (mercenaries, a/k/a civilian security contractors). But it’s the availability of the draft as a fallback that allows the government to contemplate endless unpopular wars without having to consider limits of scope, duration, targeting, or the willingness of people to fight.

A draft avoids the need to sell the war to the public, persuade people to enlist, or wait for them to do so — during which time they might figure out that the “existential threat” (the Vietnamese Navy in the Tonkin Gulf, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, etc.) being used to justify a draft either doesn’t exist or isn’t what it’s been made out to be.

Without the draft as a fallback option, the government would have to recognize an entirely new set of constraints on its plans and ability to wage war.

Resisting the draft is a way for young people — on whose bodies and willingness to follow orders to kill or be killed the military depends — to take action against one of the foremost manifestations of ageism and to to exert the “people power” of direct action through nonviolent noncooperation to defend us all from the threat of war. As allies to young people in their resistance, older people can amplify the voices of young people; facilitate their efforts to organize, conscientize, and empower themselves and their peers; and assist them with all forms of material, political, and legal support.

During the U.S. war in Indochina, there was a general consensus that the anti-draft movement was, and could be interpreted and understood as part of the anti-war movement. That’s still true of the movement against draft registration that began in 1980 and continues today — but not to nearly the same degreen.

Of course many, probably most, of those who oppose the draft and draft registration do so primarily because they oppose war. Removing the draft from the policy options available to war planners, as draft resistance can do, would be a significant first step toward imposing constraints on war planning and war making.

But today there there are also many others like me whose primary motivation for opposition to draft registration and the draft is opposition to illegitimate authority, support for youth liberation, feminism, queer liberation, or other intersectional issues.

I have my own reasons for having refused to register for the draft and for believing that it’s time to end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System. The U.S. government 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. Need I say more about why I refused to register for the draft, and why I would do so again if I were ever ordered to register again for a new draft?

I oppose the draft and draft registraiton for many reaosns. I oppose the draft because it is ageist and because any system of conscription, even for non-military purposes, serves to constrain young people’s choices and channel their lives. I oppose the draft because it is authoritarian, even fascist:

A thing I was thinking about initially [when I decided not to register for the draft] was the fascism of it. Fascism is a word a lot of people don’t like. But I think it’s important to say. Draft registration is part of the fascist menace in America. It’s an effort at very severe control of people by the government. And this is something that’s true quite apart from the precise purposes that people are being controlled for. It’s dangerous and it’s anti-democratic and it’s being used as an excuse for a lot of other kinds of efforts toward greater social control. [Edward Hasbrouck, interviewed by Stardust Doherty on 13 January 1983, the day before my sentencing for refusal to register for the draft, published in Resistance News #12, March 1983.]

But your motives for resistance may be different. See here and more links at the bottom of this page for some examples of calls for resistance, statements of support for resistance, and other statements of opposition to the draft and draft registration, for women and men, from a variety of perspectives.

There is no realistic scenario in which a draft would be needed for any defensive purpose, as the public and private statements of even supporters of draft registration make clear. You don’t have to be a pacifist, a conscientious objector, or opposed to all war to oppose the draft, draft registration, and contingency planning for a draft. Most people aren’t pacifists, and most people who oppose the draft would fight in some wars or are open to the possibility that they might decide to fight, if they were given a choice.

Some draft resisters are absolute pacifists. Others are “situational” or “selective” pacifists, or believe that there are some just wars and some unjust wars. Some are motivated by religious beliefs, others by atheism. Some are anarchists, communists, socialists, feminists, environmentalists. Others ascribe to no “ism”. Some draft resisters also consider themselves “conscientious objectors”, but some don’t. (I don’t, for reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere.) Conversely, some conscientious objectors consider themselves draft resisters, but some don’t.

Some draft resisters also resist paying taxes for war (conscription of money rather than of labor), openly or quietly; some don’t. Some draft resisters vote; some don’t. (I sometimes vote, but see voting as neither a duty nor a sin.)

Military conscription under the “Selective Service System” in the U.S. would enslave some people (but not others, and generally only young people), to fight, try to kill, and perhaps be killed by other people, at the direction of the national government (“the state”, in the lingo of political theory). Some people oppose this system because we oppose slavery. Some people oppose this system because we oppose war, or because we oppose the particular wars for which a draft might be used. Some people oppose the interests and institutions they see soem or all wars as serving: structural inequity, imperialism, neocolonialism, ecological destruction, global warming. Some people oppose this system because we oppose the ways that people are or would likely be selected (on the basis of age, gender, race, ethnicity, class, education, etc.). Some people oppose this government, or this state, or all states. Some people oppose some or all of the values inculcated by military training: violence, hierarchical authority, obedience, sexism, homophobia, and heteronormative definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman.

“Whatever else it is, war is a patriarchal institution, and every war is a war against women,” according to the feminist poet Karen Lindsey of Women Opposed to Registration and the Draft (WORD), a feminist anti-draft group active in the Boston area in the early 1980s. Military training conceptualizes and legitimates war as rape writ large, teaches that both “real men” and women who want to be respected respond to conflict with violence, and denigrates nonviolence as the province of weak women and “sissies”. The warrior/savior/hero is the paragon of heteromormative male attitudes and behavior. If “The Army will make a ‘man’ out of you,” as Helen Michalowski titles her ethnography of military training, then opting out of military conscription goes hand in hand with opting out of heteronormative and patriarchal expectations of masculinity and violence. (Karen Lindsey’s speech and Helen Michalowski’s article are both included in Reweaving the Web of Life: Feminism and Nonviolence, New Society Publishers, 1982.)

War is global rape. The military complex is obsessed with conquest and domination, and counts human life cheap in its drive to humiliate entire cultures. The causes of fag-bashing and rape, chemical warfare and nuclear holocaust, are complex, and it would be reductionist to say that all such phenomena result from macho male frustration. There is nevertheless a connection between a battered queer and a napalmed “civilian”: at least part of their plight can be ascribed to the rapist mentality, manifesting itself on different levels. Machismo is simply institutionalized in the military, made into a patriotic virtue. [Kenneth Hale-Wehmann, “Conscientious Resistance”, Gay Community News, 1983]

Some people oppose the Selective Service System for all or some combination of these reasons, and/or for other reasons. (See also my article in the Winter 2020 issue of Fifth Estate magazine, Will there be a new military draft? Why should we care?, and this book chapter, Draft Resistance and the Politics of Identity and Status.)

It’s the government that bears the burden of justifying its demands on our bodies and our lives, not us who should have to explain why we question authority or ignore illegitimate orders. Times have changed. These are not the 1960’s, and this is not the Vietnam War. Today’s young people have grown up long after Watergate and the U.S. war in Indochina, in an era in which it is taken for granted that the U.S. government doesn’t nececessarily act in the best interests of its subjects, much less the interests of humanity.

Some of the violence of the state is carried out by people called “soldiers” and is called “war”. Some is carried out by people who are labeled “police” or “prison guards”, and is referred to as “policing” or “imprisonment”. For many people, although not all, opposition to war is part of the same opposition to state violence as work to abolish prisons and/or defund police.

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.

A common conception of conscientious objectors is that COs are people who object to personally participating in war. But the primary evil of the draft, as I and many others see it, is not the deprivation of draftees’ rights and often their lives, serious though that of course is. Nor is my objection primarily or exclusively to personally participating in war. In my thinking, unjust wars are just as unjust whether I am fighting them, or someone else is fighting them. Rather, what’s wrong with a draft is is the larger, longer, and less popular wars that a draft enables. By resisting the draft, I am trying to constrain the government’s ability to wage war, not trying to claim personal exemption from participation in war. In modern war we are all participants. Any limitation of combat to “combatants” has long been abandoned to targeting of civilians and the general population by the USA and most other war-fighting nations. And nuclear war, of course, puts all of our lives at risk.

It’s a common assumption, often rooted in unconscious ageism, that the reason to oppose the draft is to “protect” young people against being drafted.

But the primary victims of the draft are not draftees but the people — most of them civilians, many of them women — against whom draftees are weaponized and deployed to wage war. War, not the draft, is the real enemy, or at least the foremost enemy.

Draft resistance is a an offensive tactic of nonviolent direct action to constrain war-making. By opting out in such numbers as to render a draft unenforceable, it is young people who are protecting us older people against larger and longer wars that would require a draft that politicians and generals know — because they have the evidence of the failure of draft registration — would not be feasible.

Tens of millions of young people over the last 40 years, acting spontaneously and almost entirely without organizations, leaders, or institutional support, have maintained an ongoing check on the ability of the U.S. government to wage wars. It is young people who, not allowing their choices (“obey orders and agree to kill on command or be imprisoned”) to be defined by the government, have wielded the power of direct action to free themselves, by the scale of their continuing noncompliance, from the threat of either a draft or criminal penalties.

And by so doing, they have done all of us us, and the cause of peace, a great service. They have turned what the government intended in 1980 as a step toward war into an ongoing demonstration of popular opposition to war and of limits to the government’s power.

This is one of the greatest victories of the peace movement and of nonviolent direct action during the last 40 years. And now, with a real possibility of an end to draft registration (and the greater public recognition that would bring that the draft is not an option and that war planning has to be constrained accordingly), we are on the brink of an even greater victory that would further limit U.S. war planning.

This is not the start of a defensive nonviolent campaign, but the culmination of an offensive one, in which young people and their allies have taken the initiative away from the government. Draft registration was explicitly defined by Preisdnet Jimmy Carter in 1980 as an attempt to “send a message” about willingness to fight. We turned it around to send the opposite message: We won’t go, and you lack the power to compel us.

The task for allies of youth and against ageism is to help young people put the final nail in the coffin of the Selective Service System, to complete that victory.

We all take part in war to a greater or lesser extent, if only by paying taxes and permitting domestic society to function smoothly. A person has to choose for himself the point at which he will simply refuse to take part any longer. Reaching that point, he will be drawn into resistance…. The issue is posed in its starkest form for the boy who faces induction and, in a form that is somewhat more complex, for the boy who must decide whether to participate in a system of selective service that may pass the burden from him to others less fortunate and less privileged. It is difficult for me to see how anyone can refuse to engage himself, in some way, in the plight of these young men. The ways to do so range from legal aid and financial support, to such measures as assisting those who wish to escape the country, and finally to the steps proposed by the clergymen who recently announced that they are ready to share the fate of those who will be sent to prison…. Resistance is in part a moral responsibility, in a part a tactic to affect government policy. In particular, with respect to support for draft resistance, I feel that it is a moral responsibility that cannot be shirked.

[Noam Chomsky, On Resistance, New York Review of Books, 7 December 1967]

Some people don’t understand why anyone would resist conscription at the point of registration, rather than waiting until they were drafted. “It’s just registration, not a draft” they say. But the purpose of draft registration is to prepare the administrative infrastructure and the minds of potential soldiers for conscription and war.

In early 1980, when President Carter had just proposed to resume draft registration, the Princeton University student newspaper, whose editorial board was chaired by current Supreme Court Justice 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.

[“Rally at Noon”, Editorial, Daily Princetonian, 21 February 1980]

In recent years, some of those who have called for a return to military conscription in the U.S. have argued that more people would oppose war if they feared that they or their family members might be drafted.

Asked about this during a conversation about war with David Swanson in San Francisco on Memorial Day, 2016, Daniel Ellsberg had this to say (at 1:25:25 of full interview):

Despite the fact that the draft did account for large rallies, it also was essential to a large war. And I think that if we got the draft back, in other words if we started drafting people we’d have a much larger military, and I believe that we would — dangerous and wrongful as it is for us to be operating with special forces in many, many countries around the world — if we were operating with brigades and divisions…. then what’ll go with that is a hell of a lot more bombing than you’ve seen yet. With the American troops would come bombing of the local country on a vastly greater scale…. The fact is that the overall scale would be enormously greater. A draft, I’m afraid, would facilitate that. That’s one lesson from Vietnam.

(This is not a Web site about the U.S. war in Indochina, 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”; John Bach’s extraordinary but to date deliberately unpublished collection of letters from prison, “Prison Bits: A Collage”, submitted as his undergraduate honors thesis when he returned to college after his imprisonment, and available for reading in the special collections section of the Wesleyan University library in Middletown, CT; Richard Gould’s Refusal to Submit: Roots of the Vietnam War and a Young Man’s Draft Resistance (more than a memoir, and perhaps the best introduction for younger people unfamiliar with the historical context and the diversity of draft resistance in this period); and Mike Marqusee’s Redemption Song, a political biography of the the most famous draft resister of that (and perhaps any) time, Muhammad Ali. David Harris’ testimony to Congress, mentioned in Our War, is also worth reading, as is Tom Hayden’s testimony on the roots of resistance, reprinted in Rebellion and Repression. Noteworthy documentary films include The Boys Who Said No (2020) and The Trials of Muhammad Ali. These are only the tip of the iceberg of the literature of the Resistance. Resisters came from many backgrounds, and have contextualized their resistance within circles some of which have only small areas of intersection.)

Others have advocated a draft, explicitly or implicitly, as part of various compulsory national service schemes, or have suggested that a draft would be more fair than the “poverty draft” relied on by recruiters for the present “volunteer” military. Some politicians speak of universal service. This amounts 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 my interests, as I see them, nor to those of humanity. I urge politicians to make clear that their calls for public and community service are calls for genuine volunteerism (not the “volunteerism” of the current economically-coerced “volunteer” military) and to dissociate voluntary service proposals from any form of legal or financial coercion or linkage with military enlistment or military training.

[U.S. Probation Officer] Esther Salmon has told me that public service work must be “voluntary”, by which she means not “uncoerced” but “unpaid”. This is Newspeak: an order to do voluntary work is a contradiction in terms. My present work is unpaid, but any other work (no matter how worthwhile) would still, pay or no, be forced labor. I am no more willing to do forced labor as a probationer than as a registered conscientious objector or as a drafted soldier.

[From my letter to U.S. District Judge David S. Nelson, who had sentenced me to two year of probation for refusing to register for the draft, with the condition of probation that I perform 1,000 hours of “public service”. After Judge Nelson received this letter he resentenced me to 6 months imprisonment.]

Former U.S. Representative Charles Rangel, the sponsor of a proposal for military conscription voted down a few years ago in Congress, 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, I support neither the present U.S. war(s) nor a 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, their allies, and all 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.

I share former 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 poor people, people of color, and undocumented immigrants are also those who are least likely to have registetred for the draft, according to surveys commissioned by the Selective Service System.

I urge politicans 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.

Enforcement of the criminal penalties for not registering for the draft has been abandoned. The primary sanction for nonregistration is the denial of eligibility for Federal student loans and Federal jobs. Those who can afford highesr education without Federal financail aid, and have other job options, can afford to ignore draft registration. Since only those who have registered would be drafted, the burden of any draft based on the current registration database would fall disproportionately on those who wanted to go to college, but couldn’t afford it without Fderal aid. As a result, as I explained in my testimony to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, “If the criminal penalties for noncompliance continue to be unenforced, and the only incentives for compliance or penalties for noncompliance with draft registration or a draft or national ‘service’ remain financial, then the system will remain a de facto ‘poverty draft’.”

Former Rep. Rangel also suggested, as have others, 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. I reject this argument as ethically repugnant: 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. That’s unfair, ageist, and speaks directly to the ageism of a draft — enacted by all people of all ages (or all ages over 18), 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 to support a draft now, in order to encourage others to oppose it later. Rather, I 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.

Some people wonder why we resist registration for a draft, when “It’s only registration, not a draft.” But the only function of the Selective Service System is to plan and prepare to carry out a draft, and the only use of the the registration database would be to selct and send out induction notices to draftees.

Ads for the Selective Service System stress that registering doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be selected in the event of a draft, but the Director of the Selective Service System sees registration as a statement that you are “standing by” and ready and willing to go into the military if ordered. One of the few recommendations of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Servcie with which we agree is that registrants should be made more aware that registering means committing yourself to submit to a draft, if so ordered: “The Commission recommends that Congress … require the Selective Service System to develop and implement methods to convey to registrants the solemn obligation for military service in the event of a draft.” If you don’t want to be drafted, there is nothing to be gained by registering. The safest course of action, and the one most likely to be effective in keeping yourself out of the draft and preventing anyone foirm being drafted, is not to get entangled in the Selective Service System at all, but to resist at the first opportunity by opting out at the point of registration.

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.

Both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress 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. They support draft registraiton as a lead generator for recruiters, as a rite of obeisance to the militaryu, and as a means of tracking youth. General Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense in the Biden administration, told the Senate during his confirmation hearings that, “the Selective Service System is useful as it provides a hedge against the catastrophe we do not yet anticipate. The Selective Service System is a means to remind our youth that public service is a valued part of American citizenship. Making the data more useful to the Department through modern data mining techniques would be a way to improve the system’s effectiveness.”

Fortunately, the question is not whether Congress, the Pentagon, or the President “want” a draft, or believe it is “necessary” as a last resort. When the “subjects” will not submit or carry out orders, the desires of “leaders” become irrelevant. The question is whether a draft is possible or enforceable, and the clear answer provided by decades 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. I 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. I 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.

I 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. I welcome and encourage that inclination towards resistance, which I believe would make a medical or special skills draft as unenforceable as a general draft.

I 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.

I support all those who refuse to fight. Whether or not they have registered, I promise them my 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, refusing to put on a unifirm, refusing to pick up a gun, refusing to fire a gun, refusing to fire a gun at people, desertion, mutiny, refusing orders within the military, fraternization with those people you are told to regard as 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.

The Military Selective Service Act prohibits, inter alia, interference with the operation of the Selective Service System as well as aid or abetment of noncompliance, the thoughtcrime of “counseling” noncompliance with the conscription laws, and the twice-removed throughtcrime of conspiracy to counsel, aid, or abet draft resistance. I believe these laws to be unconsitutional on their face. Conscription — whether for military or any other purpose — violates the 13th Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The laws against conspiracy and counseling violate the 1st Amendment. Sinc eit is impossible to know what might constitute “conspiracy” or “conseling” these provisions of the law are Constitutionally deficient and void for vaguenees, both on their face and as applied..

Even were these laws Constitutional, which I do not think they are, noncompliance does not need to “interfere” with the operation of the system. Because the draft, like the income tax, relies on voluntary cooperation, withdrawal of cooperation can render it ineffective and ultimately irrelevant without the need for “interference”.

I encourage draft resistance, but I have never “counseled” anyone to resist the draft. The legal prohibition on counseling reflects a fundamentally authoritarian and, I believe, improper notion of counseling. Counseling is a process of facilitating discernment and decision-making by the counselee. Counseling someone “to do something”, rather than to assist them in making up their own mind as to what to do, is not true counseling, but persuasion or, at its worst, covert coercion.

As for aid and abetment, only those who have (or have not) been helped by my efforts can judge whether or not I have succeeded in aiding and abeting them in their resistance. I have tried to aid others in their resistance to conscription. If they feel that I have succeeded, I will take that as the highest complement I could hope for.

More about some of the reasons to resist the draft and draft registration:

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This page most recently modified 23 May 2022. This site is maintained by Edward Hasbrouck. Corrections, contributions (articles, graphics, photos, videos, links, etc.), and feedback are welcomed.