50 Years after the Vietnam War Draft, Many Americans Would Try to Avoid Military Service
(November 27, 2019) — Fifty years ago — on December 1, 1969 — a lottery was held to begin drafting Americans into military service for The Vietnam War. This lottery marked the first time since World War II that the US drew numbers to determine who would serve in the military, and it came amid anti-war protests that showed how opposed young people were to selective service. There was no legal avenue to avoid the draft, but many young men tried to find excusable reasons.
Young men today would do the same if there were a draft, according to data from YouGov.
Three in 10 (31%) male Millennials say that they would “try to avoid being conscripted into the armed forces.” Since all males between ages 18 and 25 must enroll in the US draft, this group is the most likely to be impacted by selective service. Women and older generations were more likely to select “Not Applicable — I have good reason to believe the armed forces would not try to conscript me (e.g. because I am too old, have a disability).”
Taking into account the eligibility difference, older generations were less likely to indicate that they would try to avoid the draft: just 13 percent of male Gen Xers and 7 percent of male Baby Boomers say they would try to circumvent conscription. About one in five male Millennials (23%), male Gen Xers (18%) and male Baby Boomers (20%) say they would not try to avoid being conscripted into the armed forces. Read more online.
We Are Not Your Soldiers: Don’t Sign Up for War
The World Can’t Wait
(December 4, 2019) — On Veterans Day, Common Dreams ran the article below about our We Are Not Your Soldiers project. We are pleased that the article drew attention to our project including some leads to expanding our work digitally around the country.
Also on Veterans Day, the online edition of The New York Times ran the video and short article, see below, featuring Lyle Rubin, who is one of our We Are Not Your Soldiers presenters, and other veterans calling for an immediate end to the ongoing war on Afghanistan.
Giving to We Are Not Your Soldiers means giving a way for US military veterans to speak the truth about wars of occupation to students being recruited. It means giving students a break from the Fox Network-dominated messaging that “America” should be first, that it represents the “good guys,” and that nothing its military does can be challenged. A student wrote:
“Thank you for coming to our school. I appreciate that you shared your experience with us. It opened my eyes about the military because I didn’t know any of the stuff you shared with us. Your story made me realize how cruel the military can be. Also, you’re brave and kind-hearted for thinking about other people’s lives.”
Please help World Can’t Wait to fund 2020 plans get veterans into the schools by supplying small stipends and travel.
Helping Students Keep Their Humanity by Not Signing Up for War
We Are Not Your Soldiers brings exposure of imperial wars to a generation of youth largely unaware of the crimes being carried out throughout the world in their names.
(November 11, 2019) — On Veterans Day, 2019, for the United States, making war is less about amassing human air, land and sea forces to attack “the enemy” as it is increasingly about amassing technological superiority in which machines replace humans enabling politicians and corporate bosses to pursue their goals without the pesky problem of waves of homeward-bound body bags and caskets.
Yet, the Pentagon was confronted with the obstacle of conscience being applied to technological research in mid-2018 when Google employees protested working on Project Maven, a program that would use artificial intelligence to assist in drone killing, causing Google to drop Maven. Tech workers at Amazon and Microsoft have also protested working on technology that supports repression and killing.
While work on Maven has been picked up by another firm and Amazon and Microsoft leadership have apparently felt free to ignore the pleas of their workers these protests illustrate the increasing power of individuals to throw monkey wrenches into the gears of the war machine.
Hence, the increasing importance of the task of educating all students on the consequences of war, whether or not they plan to join the military.
This is what We Are Not Your Soldiers has been doing for 13 years by bringing veterans into classrooms. Being knowledgeable of the realities of fighting in or, by inertia, supporting the wrong side of imperialist wars can lead to people speaking and acting in opposition to them.
Veterans Dialogue With Students About US Wars
During 2018-19, all We Are Not Your Soldiers visits were in New York State, including:
- Four colleges in New York City
- Seven NYC high schools – from very traditional to very non-traditional
- A progressive NYC public middle school
- A NY State church social action program whose members are primarily immigrant youth
- 17 college classes
- 41 high school classes (including one JROTC class)
- Four middle school classes
- One church youth group
… averaging out to deep discussions with approximately 1,600-1,700 students.
A teacher from one of the schools messaged us: “Just wanted to thank you again for spending a truly engaging, thought-provoking day with us. The work you do is incredibly vital for young people like my students, all of whom were enthusiastic, moved and grateful in their responses when I asked them for their thoughts on your visit in class the next day. I’m constantly trying to raise consciousness (and consciences…), but it is often a tough uphill trek, so I’m happy to have your help in the mission. I would love to have you back next year to meet a new batch of students! In the meantime, please keep doing the work you’re doing — I know how exhausting it is but I promise you it is worth it!”
Miles Megaciph, a spoken word artist, tells the story of his time in the Marines, in Guantanamo and Okinawa, via hip-hop. Lyle Rubin, who served as a Marine lieutenant, focuses on several key incidents during his time in Afghanistan. John Burns, a former Army bomb technician, enlisted to save lives not to be turned into a robot. Will Griffin, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, was just elected to the board of About Face (formerly Iraq Veterans Against the War).
If Vietnam is being studied, Joe Urgo, an Air Force Vietnam veteran who had been a principal organizer of the Winter Soldier Investigation, speaks. Bruce Dancis, a Vietnam resister who spent 19 months in federal prison, also speaks.
The veterans share their own personal stories of how they were affected by their time in the military, bringing another vision of these wars in which so many have been sacrificed by losing their lives and/or their humanity. And, they address the effects on the peoples of the countries under attack and what has happened when social structures have been destroyed. Not many veterans can do this.
Speaking openly of such experiences is very difficult and can open raw wounds – which is why even those students with veterans in their family or close circles have not heard much of what comes out in these discussions. Many veterans confront either denial or shame in revealing information contrary to the beliefs of those who “thank them for their service,” an issue for so many dealing with post-traumatic stress.
We are very grateful to these speakers who share their lives. They struggle to do this in order to help others avoid the trauma they have suffered and to avoid the horrific violence being aimed at so many others around the world.
We Are Not Your Soldiers brings this exposure of imperial wars to a generation of youth largely unaware of the crimes being carried out throughout the world in their names. As awareness and activism grows among young people around the climate crisis, immigration, racism, gun violence and the Trump administration, we show the connections between these issues and US wars.
We emphasize students don’t have to believe us any more than they have to believe media advertising or the recruiters who approach them. They need to investigate on their own, researching conflicting claims to be able to get a true grasp on reality. Students ask questions and state their own opinions and thoughts. As a retired teacher with long-term experience in the New York City school system, I work with educators to align the presentation with their curriculum and be as relevant as possible to the needs of their students.
One student wrote: “Thank you for coming to our school. I appreciate that you shared your experience with us. It opened my eyes about the military because I didn’t know any of the stuff you shared with us. Your story made me realize how cruel the military can be. Also, you’re brave and kind-hearted for thinking about other people’s lives.”
Sometimes, we show students “Collateral Murder,” footage released by Chelsea Manning via Wikileaks of the US helicopter killing of Reuters journalists and others in Baghdad, or excerpts from “Unmanned,” a feature film about the moral quandary of a drone pilot stationed in the United States. After watching “Collateral Murder” students in a JROTC class asked, “Why did they kill children?” “Why did they talk about people in Iraq in such a messed up way?”
Morality is a key word or core idea we always introduce for students to consider throughout the presentation and discussion – knowing the difference between right and wrong and what to do when you know that something is wrong.
Coming to Your School
If you are an educator, a student or a parent, invite us to your school. If you are a parent or simply a concerned citizen, approach local principals, guidance counselors or teachers about the importance of their students hearing all sides of the story so they can make wise decisions of what to do upon graduation. We encourage you to visit our website and follow our Facebook page.
We offer the We Are Not Your Soldiers presentations free of charge. Your donations keep us going.
We are scheduling visits for our We Are Not Your Soldiers tour for the fall 2019 semester. Call us at 646-807-3259 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will arrange to be at your school no matter where you are located — we can do “distance” visits via Skype or Zoom.
World Can’t Wait, 305 W. Broadway #185, New York, NY 10013
‘Democracy Doesn’t Come in a Box’
Five American military veterans on why they see the war in Afghanistan as an unwinnable conflict.
Mark Hannah and Eric Felipe-Barkin / The New York Times
(November 11, 2019) — This Veterans Day, about 200,000 American troops are being deployed abroad. In the Video Op-Ed above, the Eurasia Group Foundation, which seeks to make public debates about United States foreign policy more inclusive, interviewed five veterans from diverse backgrounds who oppose continuing the war. These veterans, who served in Afghanistan or were part of the support apparatus for the Afghan war, say the United States should withdraw all troops from Afghanistan.
Their harrowing stories from the battlefield shed light on what they see as an unwinnable conflict in a foreign land. There is, these veterans say, no point in continuing an 18-year war whose outcome will be the same no matter how many more American troops are killed.
In February, The New York Times editorial board called for an end to the Afghan war, a marked shift from its yearslong policy of support. This summer, a Pew survey found that the majority of Americans — and the majority of veterans — think the war “has not been worth fighting.” The trend in public opinion seems increasingly clear. But American leaders remain reluctant to make major changes.
Lyle Jeremy Rubin served in the Marine Corps from 2006 to 2011. Donald White served in the Marines from 2005 to 2014 and had three tours in Afghanistan.
Arti Walker-Peddakotla served in the Army from 2000 to 2006. Danny Sjursen served in the Army from 2001 to 2019, including combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Daniel L. Davis served in the Army for 21 years, including four combat tours, and was awarded a Bronze Star for valor in the first Gulf War and another for service in Afghanistan.
Mark Hannah is a senior fellow at the Eurasia Group Foundation, where he explores the possibilities of a less militarized American foreign policy. Eric Felipe-Barkin, an independent film director and producer, is the founder and creative director of Filmerico.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.