Conscientious Objection Alert
by Sam Diener, Educators for Social Responsibility, 17 October 2002
Hello Susan and Leah,
I want to thank you for putting together the conscientious objection alert for moveon.org. Coincidentally, I just sent a donation through you just today -- before this alert was forwarded to me by one of your subscribers.
As a public draft registration resister, a long-term member of the War Resisters League National Committee, a former staff person at the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, and a current counselor on the GI Rights Hotline, I congratulate you for drawing attention to this very important issue.
I want to correct a minor inaccuracy I noticed (although I know you got the information from what is, usually, a reliable source), and then raise some wider issues.
Your alert says that those born, "after Jan. 1, 1963" are required to register under current Selective Service Law. Actually, those born on or after January 1st, 1960 are required to register. In practice, this is a distinction almost without a difference since all those born between 1960 and 1963 could no longer register if they did not do so, because they are beyond the age 26 time limit. However, it could matter for men born between those years who did not register or refused to register, as they are still denied Federal student loans, Federal job training, and most Federal jobs.
I wish your alert had mentioned that the Selective Service System continues to try to convince state legislatures to add additional penalties to draft non-registrants [http://www.comdsd.org/alerts_archive.htm#defeat7-02], as the struggles to stop the increase in state penalties are on-going and directly impact young people deciding whether to register or not now. And it would have been great if you would have mentioned the Fund for Education and Training, [http://www.nisbco.org/FEAT.htm], because people wishing to help aid non-registrants can contribute to this fund to help provide student loans to those deprived of them by the government's coercive response to their conscience.
At the international level, the alert did not mention The Right to Refuse to Kill Project, the only list-serve and web-site that I know of which sends alerts to people world-wide on how to send letters of support for conscientious objectors world-wide. This project operates out of the War Resisters International office in London at [http://www.wri-irg.org/en/].
A larger issue I want to raise with you is the cursory treatment of military conscientious objectors. They are currently the only ones in the United States who can currently apply for C.O. status, and so any alert focusing on these issues, I believe, should really focus on their needs, as well as the concerns of those facing a potential future draft. Unfortunately, from my point of view, this alert only tangentially mentioned their needs. When it did so, the website it referred folks to a web-site which contains outdated addresses and phone numbers for the nodes of the GI Rights Hotline, which can be reached directly through www.girights.org. I personally am currently working with four conscientious objector applicants or potential applicants, and each of their stories is poignant, powerful, and inspiring.
Perhaps you could put out a future alert regarding the violations of the rights of members of the military, starting with the poverty draft which amounts to economic conscription in this country, continuing through widespread military recruiting fraud (see the countering military recruitment sections at www.objector.org, (among others) which I'm glad you did provide a link to in a different context), and then into the military itself where brutality, discrimination, harassment, rape, battering, racism, sexism, homophobia, and general abuse of military personnel are still so ubiquitous as to constitute standard operating procedure. As a result of these abuses, the GI Rights Hotline (800 394 9544) continues to expand exponentially, receiving 15,000 calls on the hotline last year. Bringing attention to these neglected issues would be gratefully appreciated.