| definitions | draft history | vietnam draft timeline | women | media | links

For we not only believe the myth of war and feed recklessly off of the drug but also embrace the cause. We may do it with more skepticism. We certainly expose more lies and misconceptions. But we believe. We all believe. When you stop believing you stop going to war.

(Hedges, War Is a Force p.143)


Historically, indviduals have found ways to leave the war, both legally and illegally.

Comment of Ari Flescher on Bill Maher's remarks about the Armed Forces
Ari Fleischer, press secretary for U.S. President George W. Bush from January, 2001 to July, 2003 response in a press briefing on Sept. 26, 2001 to the question: As Commander-In-Chief, what was the President's reaction to television's Bill Maher, in his announcement that members of our Armed Forces who deal with missiles are cowards, while the armed terrorists who killed 6,000 unarmed are not cowards, for which Maher was briefly moved off a Washington television station?

"I'm aware of the press reports about what he said. I have not seen the actual transcript of the show itself. But assuming the press reports are right, it's a terrible thing to say, and it unfortunate. And that's why-there was an earlier question about has the President said anything to people in his own party-they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do. This is not a time for remarks like that; there never is." (Quoted on Slate)

December 4, 2001 - Senate holds hearings on 9/11 detainees. Ashcroft testifies that those who question his policies are "aiding and abetting terrorism," and goes largely unchallenged.

May 3, 2002 - A University of Michigan poll finds that a majority of Americans, post-9/11, would give up some civil liberties in the name of greater security.

November 17, 2004 - The Department of Homeland security requires that its 180,000 employees and contractors sign a secrecy pledge, covering sensitive but unclassified information.



Formally known as military conscription, the compulsory military service which can be required of males in the United States ages 18-26. In this country, registration for possible conscription is implemented by the Selective Service System, and is obligitory as imposed by the Military Selective Service Act. In 1973 the The United States discontinued the draft and became an all volunteer military. To reinstate the draft in the future, it would take an act of Congress.

  • Selective Service - Classification
    Classification is the process of determining who is available for military service and who is deferred or exempted. Classifications are based on each individual registrant's circumstances and beliefs. A classification program would go into effect when Congress and the President decide to resume a draft.

Draft Dodgers

A draft dodger is one who attempts to avoid conscription. Also known as: draft evader, or draft resistor. Several ways of "dodging" are leaving the country, going into hiding, wrongfully claiming conscientious objector status , or open resistance. Reasons for dodging can be as high minded as objections to the particular conflict or warefare in general, and as self-serving as to avoid danger.

Conscientious Objectors

According to the Selective Service System, "a conscientious objector is one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles." To apply, the draftee must explain his beliefs before a local board, with the option of providing written documentation and personal appearances by people he knows. The statement might explain how he arrived at his beliefs and how they influence his life. To qualify, conscientious objections must NOT be politics, expediency, of self-interest.

Substitute service can be either Non-Combatant Service, with training/duties that will not include using weapons; or Alternative Service, with local employers in jobs such as conservation, caring for the very young or very old, education, and health care. "Length of service in the program will equal the amount of time a man would have served in the military, usually 24 months."


Desertion is a soldier's abandonment of duty without permission from a superior. In the United States, desertion is measured by intent not to return, intent to avoid hazardous or important responsibility, or accepting another military position without separation from the current one.

  • Don't Believe the Desertions Story (Washington Post) November 19, 2007.
    The only clear trend is the increasing willingness of both the pro-military and anti-war factions to appropriate any statistic in their effort to make their case and, in the process, divide our society.

Memorial to Deserters by Hannah Stuetz Menzel. Dedicated November 19, 2005 Ulm, Germany

"Desertion is not reprehensible, war is."
"Here lived a man who refused to shoot at his fellow men, honor to his memory!" - Kurt Tucholsky, journalist, 1925

Deserters' Memorial by Nikolaus Kernbach. Dedicated August 30, 2007.

The plaque at the foot of the memorial reads, "Dedicated to the deserters of all wars / Sculptor Nikolaus Kernbach, profile cut 1996/2001, stonemakers Treulieb Stuttgart / The Initiative for a Desserters Memorial in Stuttgart,



This political epithet describes a supporter of the war who has never personally been in a war, especially if that person actively avoided draft or other military service.

Draft History

Although the policy of conscription has been around since the American Revolution's militias, the Selective Service has only existed since 1940 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act, establishing peacetime draft. For 25 years (1948-1973) men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces. (About.com). For 5 years (1975-1980), compulsory registration was even suspended, reinstated by President Carter in response to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Vietnam Draft Timeline

1960 - Nixon runs on an end-the-draft campaign

1965 - Opposition to the war in Vietnam leads to protests against the draft. For the first time since the Civil War, there are anti-draft demonstrations, particularly on college campuses and at military centers. In its U.S. v. Seeger decision, the Supreme Court broadens the definition of conscientious objection to include religious beliefs outside the Christian, Jewish or Muslim traditions.

1966 - In response to anti-war sentiment, President Johnson appoints a special study commission to recommend changes in the Selective Service structure.

1967-70 - Thousands of young men either destroy their draft cards or leave the country to avoid the draft.

1969: A year of upheaval

United States v. O'Brien rules that a criminal prohibition of burning a draft card is not a violation of first ammendment rights to free speech.

President Nixon orders the "19-year-old draft": if a young man is not drafted at age 19, he will be exempt from future military service except in the event of war or national emergency. Deferrals are allowed for hardship cases, certain occupations, conscientious objectors, clergymen, and high school and college students. One year later Nixon will argue in favor of ending student deferments.

President Nixon orders a "random selection" lottery system for selecting men to serve in the war in Vietnam, changing the previous system of drafting according to age.

On December 1st, the first draft lottery since 1942 held in Washington DC for the following year for registrants born between January 1, 1944, and December 31, 1950. Radio, film, and live television coverage.

1970 - In U.S. v. Welsh, the Supreme Court adds sincerely held ethical and moral beliefs to the definition of allowable grounds for conscientious draft objection.

1973 - The 1967 Selective Service Act, extended through an act of Congress in 1971, expires, ending the authority to induct draft registrants.

1977 - President Carter pardons 10,000 draft evaders

1980 - President Carter reinstates the Selective Service registration requirement in the summer of 1980.


Women have never been drafted into military service in the United States. Women are not required to register by the Selective Service. In the 1980 case of Rostker v. Goldberg, the registration of women was examined by the Supreme Court.

The question of registering women was extensively considered by Congress in hearings held in response to the President's request for authorization to register women, and its decision to exempt women was not the accidental byproduct of a traditional way of thinking about women.

The case goes on to say since Congress decreed that a future draft would be precipitated by a need for combat soldiers, women who are unilaterally excluded from combat would not fill the need. Moreover, "Congress was entitled, in the exercise of its constitutional powers, to focus on the question of military need, rather than equity."


Stop-Loss (2008) 112min USA Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Decorated Iraq war hero Sgt. Brandon King makes a celebrated return to his small Texas hometown following his tour of duty. He tries to resume the life he left behind. Then, against Brandon's will, the Army orders him back to duty in Iraq, which upends his world. The conflict tests everything he believes in: the bond of family, the loyalty of friendship, the limits of love and the value of honor. (Paramount Pictures)



  • Healthy Dissent (Boston Globe) April 3, 2003.
  • Defending Civilization And The Myth of Radical Academia (ZNet) July 15, 2002.
    Bearing the melodramatic title Defending Civilization: How Our Universities are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It, the ACTA report lists exactly 115 examples of supposedly outrageous radical "responses" of the denizens of academe to 9-11 and the bombing of Afghanistan. Its authors claim to show that America's universities are dangerously out of step with basic American values and indeed the core values of Western Civilization.


Mock, Melanie Springer Writing Peace: The Unheard Voices of Great War Mennonite Objectors (Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History, no. 40). (Pandora Press U.S.) 2003.

A fever of patriotism and paranoia was sweeping across America. If you did not enthusiastically wave the flag and wholeheartedly back the government's military actions across the ocean, you were suspected of being in league with the enemy--"if you are not for us, you are against us." Your troubles were compounded if you were a member of an ethnic group whose habits, accents, and surnames were different than your "American" neighbors and, worse, were the same accents and surnames as those people with whom the nation was at war. Your young men were removed from your communities against their will and taken to military camps, where they were interned until the end of the war and beyond. They suffered mental and sometimes physical abuse at the hands of their captors, and were reviled and cursed for their religious beliefs. This sounds like the atmosphere that has existed recently in the United States and the situation that exists currently in Abu Ghraib prison and other places where Iraqi men and women are being detained, but it's not. This is the situation that existed in America in 1917 and 1918, after President Wilson declared war on Germany. One of the ethnic groups under suspicion was the pacifistic Mennonites, most of whose members shared the Germanic surnames and sometimes the Germanic accents of their countries of origin. The young men forcibly removed from their homes and communities included the sons of these Mennonite families, drafted to fight in a war that their religion and upbringing taught them was contrary to the teachings of Jesus. When they arrived at the military training camps and stated their religious objections to aiding the military machine, they were cursed, had their religion impugned, and were sometimes physically assaulted and even threatened with death if they didn't agree to assume the uniform and take up arms. (Mennonite Life)


  • Country Joe & the Fish- Feel Like I'm Fixing To Die Rag (Next Stop Vietnam) (1967) from I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die
  • Phil Ochs - Draft Dodger Rag (1965) from I Ain't Marching Anymore


  • DraftDodgers.org