Wednesday, January 31, 2007


[For those too young to remember, the chorus of Phil Och’s Draft Dodger Rag (written during the Vietnam war) lists some of the excuses used to avoid getting drafted.]

My fairly new dentist, a very nice man in his early eighties, was telling me recently about his experience in World War II, into which he was drafted upon graduating from high school.

As in most such stories there was a lot of movement from place to place, all in the Pacific theater for Dr Wong. Because he tested high, he was assigned to medical corps and not front-line grunt infantry.

He said that a couple times he was close to some action but that he never had to—

and then he only gestured, lifting his arms into a rifle-shooting position, then shook his head sadly.

He never mentioned the possibility of being shot AT. Rather, he was very grateful that he never had to do any shooting himself.

This supports my contrarian view that the biggest burden of soldierhood isn’t the risk of being brutalized (killed or dismembered) in war, but rather the risk of becoming a brutalizer oneself.

Killing another human being, even in a situation of absolute necessity (if there is such a thing), must be a mind-bending experience. But killing other humans unjustly has to be a lot worse.

Thousands of American men who were drafted and obeyed orders and went to Vietnam, are living among us now with the knowledge (or worse, the suspicion) that they killed people unjustly—that they participated in a huge Crime Against Humanity.

I’m not talking about legal or even moral guilt, rather about the affect it must have on sleep and dreams, and neural function, and daily muscular tension, for the rest of a person’s life.

The evil of the draft is that it makes such participation mandatory. And it places this huge moral burden on youngsters whose brains, science tells us, aren’t even fully developed.

The way to get people to join the military is to fight only just, morally defensible, necessary wars. Then, incentives must reflect the true value of the soldiers’ efforts.

A draft is necessary only if you plan to fight unjust wars and treat your soldiers like shit, Mr Rangel.

There were 18 year old boys sent to prison and gang raped, Mr Rangel, for refusing to be drafted to fight in Vietnam. Now, you want to do the same thing in the context of Iraq?

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