Selective Service:
September 8, 2001 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Selective Service: "Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO (conscientous objector) status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be. Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man's reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest. In general, the man's lifestyle prior to making his claim must reflect his current claims." Why is this opt-out and not opt-in? Isn't restricting it to men sexist? (I support women's right to serve in combat). Isn't the whole idea of America that you choose whether you want to fight for your country and not who ever happens to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania? You can check on your own registration here.
posted by owillis (29 comments total)
Just say No?
posted by Postroad at 3:37 PM on September 8, 2001

Um, no, it's called part of your duty as a citizen. Others did it for you, it's not that much to expect the same.
posted by hadashi at 3:43 PM on September 8, 2001

Right to serve in combat? I missed that one. Which of the amendmendments was that?
posted by NortonDC at 4:36 PM on September 8, 2001

hadashi: Actually nothing is a citizens duty, that's why we call ourselves free.

I actually got out of the army after being in for 3 years by submitting my case as a Conscientious Objector. It took nearly a year to see it all the way through, but I'd say it was worth every hassle I got. And actually the rules for currently enlisted men must be different than for the Selective Service, because any case being submitted regarding religion as a reason had to actually be based on the moral and ethical beliefs of that religion that YOU also hold, and not the religion its self. I'm not going to even bother expressing my reasons for getting out in detail, or why I joined in the first place, but it all comes down to freedom of choice. When I was finally booted from the place, my battalion commander (who despised me... he even told me that) said that I was the only person he has ever seen in his career to actually get out from my claims. It was no easy battle either. I finally had to get congress involved.

For more information you should go to, that's the site for the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, and was a great help to me when I decided I had changed my decision to kill for politics.
posted by Cracker@crackerjap at 4:38 PM on September 8, 2001

Duty. Honor. Patriotism.

If you're any self respecting, sensient citizen of this country, you would ask yourself long and hard whether reporting for duty was consistent with your personal political philosophy. If this administration got us into a war that required my number to come up, you better bet, hell no, I wouldn't go.

What viable cause, here in the Lord's year 2001, does this country think it could get itself militarily into that any citizen, even marginally reasonable, would possibly serve? Fight for what? In this day and age of bountiful information, what possible propaganda could stir the likes of those who participate in Metafilter (for instance) to take up the will to fire a rifle and report for basic training?
posted by crasspastor at 4:40 PM on September 8, 2001


If your point is "I reserve the right to not fight in a war that I truly object to" - say, if the draft had been called for Somalia - then more power to you. In fact, I reserve that right as well. It is part of the set of rights that make you free; but with rights come responsibilities.

However, this right does not automatically exempt you. You may go to prison - or worse.

Does that put me in the "hell, yeah, let's go kick some ass!" category? No, it doesn't. In fact, I tend to think the USA is a little too eager to kick some tail, something that certainly was not a goal in the founding of this country (IMHO).

My point is that every citizen of the United States has a responsibility (not a "right", as NortonDC so incorrectly put it) to defend himself and his country. Failure to live up to that duty could end up with the rest of the citizens of the US taking a dim view of you, and possibly jailing you or putting you in front of a firing squad. Make sure you are aware of that, and choose carefully. (Not that they're going to shoot you for refusing to sign on with Selective Service - except in Texas.)

However, after honest retrospective I cannot come up with a boogieman that could actually cause this to happen at this time. Neither could France and Britian in 1922.

And, I'll admit that Metafilter never fails to surprise me - just when I expect squeals of anger or politically correct "I hate the USA" crap, I get well-thought-out responses and intriguing questions. Call me happily surprised. :)
posted by hadashi at 5:11 PM on September 8, 2001

Actually nothing is a citizens duty, that's why we call ourselves free.

Wow. Really? Wow. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you're stretching the point a bit, because on the face of it, that's an incredible statement. Do you really believe that political freedom equals lack of duty? I can think of plenty of duties that I have as a citizen, including the duty to uphold the laws of the place I live, the duty to contribute meaningfully to my community, etc. I actually would love to hear about your decision, Cracker, including your religious/ethical system that simultaneously doesn't let you kill others while also maintaining that we have no duties in a 'free country.' (By the way, just so you don't miss my point, I do respect your decision to be an objector.)
posted by ChrisTN at 5:21 PM on September 8, 2001

Sure thing Chris!

I guess the word "duty" encompasses too many things to really even be an issue of argument here, so lets put that word aside.

You asked me what I believe political freedom means? Skipping around the word "duty" (if i say it enough it sounds like doodie) I do believe that freedom means I have absolutly no obligation to the country that so graciously "gives" that freedom to me. Your statements are actually quite off. The freedom to break laws is called anarchy, and lets not even START on that bag of crap, so laws arent an obligation, or a restriction on rights, laws protect rights, just like the law that states a conscientious objector doesn't have to serve, or selectivly serve, and we certainly have no obligation to contribute to our community. Follow this link to see the guidelines and questions that must be answered in order to file a CO claim. It lists:
Nature of beliefs?
What do you believe?
Why You Can't Participate in War
How and From Whom?
When and Why
When Did You Become a CO?
What Changed Your Mind?
Changed Life Style and Future Plans

I'm sure you'll understand that after a year of fighting the system until I was blue in the face, I really don't feel like repeating my 4 page essay covering these and other questions, but I'll leave you with this:

I based my argument off of the moral Philosophy of Kant &, Nietzsche, among others.. and of course my own personal beliefs.. not based on anything i've read. I think I've explained myself well enough otherwise.

This will probably be my last post in this thread
posted by Cracker@crackerjap at 5:43 PM on September 8, 2001

hadashi--I'd have mailed you if you'd deigned to put an address in your user info, but since you didn't...

Read the post, read what I wrote, read what you wrote about my post, and then please explain what I am putting incorrectly.

Here, I'll put it all together:

owillis:I support women's right to serve in combat

NortonDC:Right to serve in combat? I missed that one. Which of the amendmendments was that?

hadashi:not a "right", as NortonDC so incorrectly put it
posted by NortonDC at 5:51 PM on September 8, 2001

hadashi: the draft is a fact of U.S. law and the penalty for failing to comply with it is known. I don't see anyone arguing with that. But you seem to be claiming that it is more than just a law, that it is a responsibility: that the demands of the selective service law are reasonable.

It is no free choice when one of the options carries coercive penalties like prison. You might as well say that we have the right to murder: "this right does not automatically exempt you. You may go to prison - or worse". That's true of any prohibited action. I don't see how refusing to go to war when drafted, without jumping through the conscientious-objector hoops, is any different than any other action with criminal penalties.

So the question is this: is it appropriate to impose penalties for refusal to participate in a war?

Note also: conscientious objector status is no real solution. If your number is called, you're screwed no matter what. You may be able to get out of combat, and possibly even out of the military altogether, but you're still going to get packed off to some "alternative service" program. Better than jail, maybe, and certainly better than the army, but it makes the idea of a volunteer military quite a joke. (Note that I base this simply on what I read at the selective service web site: I don't know if this is actually how it works, but it's how they claim it works.)

What is the draft good for? This is supposed to be a democratic country, after all; if a war is so unpopular that the government can't convince people to enlist and go fight, doesn't that indicate a certain public disbelief in the war's appropriateness? And in that case, isn't the appropriate action to withdraw rather than to compel people into service?

posted by Mars Saxman at 5:53 PM on September 8, 2001

Cracker: interesting approach. Maybe we're just coming to similar points from opposite approaches (or maybe not; I've been wrong before). Where you say that "laws arent an obligation, or a restriction on rights, laws protect rights", I would say that I have an obligation as a member of my society not to kill my neighbor or steal her car. Maybe you're using "obligation" and "duty" (doodie; hee hee!) in more technical senses than I am; it's been a long time since I've read Kant.

But to say you have absolutely no obligations to the country that guarantees your freedom? Hmm. That's certainly a powerful statement, one that I couldn't make.
posted by ChrisTN at 6:28 PM on September 8, 2001

Well gee. One of the things that gets lost in many of these discussions is that some of us potential draft dodgers are not objecting to wars out of a lack of courage or patriotism, but because of a belief that the wars our country has entered in the last 35 years were a betrayal of the basic principles this country was founded on.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:31 PM on September 8, 2001

Cracker, you have a lot of duties as a citizen. For instance, if you're summoned you have a duty to serve as a juror. You also have a duty to pay taxes. (Just try stopping and see what happens to you.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:50 PM on September 8, 2001

For instance, if you're summoned you have a duty to serve as a juror. You also have a duty to pay taxes.

But isn't that radically different than killing someone for a cause you may not believe in?
posted by owillis at 7:08 PM on September 8, 2001

But isn't that radically different than killing someone for a cause you may not believe in?

False dichotomy. Jury duty can carry the same responsibility.
posted by NortonDC at 7:23 PM on September 8, 2001

Hmm, "false dichotomy' is probably incorrect.

Just "No."
posted by NortonDC at 7:24 PM on September 8, 2001

I never signed up. Didn't see the point. The government finally said to me in a letter, 'um, did you forget something...'

So I explained in my response my objection to (1) the sexist nature of selective service (2) my belief that war is mostly based on principals many times unfounded (3) it is a relic of a time when we did not have enough serviceman, and the gulf war is a perfect example of so many volunteers that this procedure is no longer necessary.

Closed by saying. "And if none of those reasons are good enough for you, be advised I am a homosexual. Thanks so much. Have a wonderful day."
posted by benjh at 7:32 PM on September 8, 2001

NortonDC: I misread your comment. It makes a lot more sense now.
posted by hadashi at 7:47 PM on September 8, 2001

Jury duty can carry the same responsibility.

But as a juror you can choose not to vote for the death penalty. In the army - you kill or be killed, or may be court martialed if you choose not to kill.

I have no doubt that at one point in America's history, the draft served a real purpose, but in the modern era it seems to be more an instrument of inequality (Vietnam) or sheer uselessness.
posted by owillis at 7:54 PM on September 8, 2001

Judges sentence, juries acquit or convict.

That time it was a false dichotomy.
posted by NortonDC at 8:03 PM on September 8, 2001

Oliver, the point I was trying to make is that we as citizens have a lot of duties. We have a duty to obey the law. We have a duty to serve on juries when summoned. We have a duty to pay taxes. We have a duty to appear in court to testify if we're given a subpoena. We have a duty to tell the truth when under oath.

Some of those duties are more onerous than others, but they are all duties. Cracker said "Actually nothing is a citizen's duty, that's why we call ourselves free." That isn't correct.

Any privilege worth having is coupled with duties. There's no such thing as absolute freedom.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:29 PM on September 8, 2001

Judges sentence, juries acquit or convict.
Yes, but if you as a juror know that the crime carries the death penalty (and if you know the prosecutor is seeking it--is this information available to jurors?), this may affect the way you vote.
posted by darukaru at 9:39 PM on September 8, 2001

That's no different than saying "a soldier doesn't have to shoot," so it's still a bogus distinction re military service.
posted by NortonDC at 10:04 PM on September 8, 2001

Um, no, it's called part of your duty as a citizen. Others did it for you, it's not that much to expect the same.

Of course, many of the people who have been drafted and did serve during wars were *not* citizens. Not being a citizen does not exempt you.

And no, before you ask, serving does not then automatically grant you citizenship .

How's that for fair?
posted by feckless at 10:34 PM on September 8, 2001

Do cops and courts and fire departments and the FDA and Interstate Highway System and the SEC and the FAA and even the military itself protect only the interests of citizens? Citizen or not, residing in the US means you benefit from the protections provided by the US. Asking for service in return does not sound out of line.

Remember the howl of injustice when California tried to sever one side of the relationship with Proposition 187? Why should severing the other side be seen as any more acceptable? (And prop 187 was limited to illegal immigrants, not legal non-citizens.)
posted by NortonDC at 10:59 PM on September 8, 2001

A juror has no right, whatever, not to vote to convict if the evidence warrants it, nor not to vote to impose the death penalty, if the aggravating circumstances of the crime qualify for the death penalty under statute.

In the voir dire, the judge will ask you, under oath and penalty of perjury, whether or not you will obey this rule that the jury does not interpose its own biases, including those against lawful punishments. If you lie, you've committed the crime of perjury, and if you proceed to vote according to your biases, you have committed the further crime of juror misconduct.

Are people often punished for this? No. Do juries often illegally "nullify" in response to their ideology, bias, or ignorance? Yes. But that doesn't change the nature of the obligation.
posted by MattD at 9:40 AM on September 9, 2001

Jury nullification is real, at least in those countries that base their legal systems on that of Olde Britannia. It happens to be a major nuisance to the Law, and so is 'discouraged'. See here. Websites devoted to the issue tend to be all misty-eyed and flagwanking about it, of course, but you Yanks are like that. :-)

As for the general thrust of the citizenship discussion, I suggest participants read the works of Robert E Heinlein, in particular "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Time Enough for Love" and David Gerrold's Chtorr series starting with "A Matter for Men" which is not sexist at all, despite its title :-).

In summary, citizens' duty is not to 'the gummint', it's to each other. The contract says we are the state. The duties of a citizen include defense of other citizens; the rights of a citizen include expectation of this defense. The decisions of a citizen are based on a balance between self-interest and the interests of his/her fellows. Those who put self-interest first are punished for it.

However, the people who live in 'Western' countries in 2001 are not really citizens any more, and as such, this social contract no longer applies. We are customers. No expectation may be demanded of us, beyond the recognition of our fellow customers' rights. Our opinions are only meaningful in the context of purchasing decisions. We do not vote on conscience or principle as these concepts have no 'added value'. Our political parties offer us competing products, tailored to our financial needs, and we choose which of these we will buy. Self-interest is the only factor in decision-making.

posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:59 PM on September 9, 2001

"Just try stopping and see what happens to you".) This is contingent on what you've earned. I've known people who have not paid taxes in 6 years, they buy guns, can do everything allowed a citizen. (the govt can jail you if they owe you- it is a law you have to file and the penalty for not(if you dont owe) is a fine. so you can not pay your taxes and enjoy liberty (you just wont have a credit rating, mortgage etc.) Ash raises a great point, yet it is contingent on criteria of modern economics which at this point is subject to change at any time. Iv'e been around the poor enough these last few years to relize that most people dont give a rats ass about political matters, so self interest is alive and that self interest will turn to action if people are so inclined too change. our city is a great example. people calling for our corrupt mayor to step-down. no one gets to the real issue of the 25 million$ debt, he padded the city payroll with his cronies and after 6 or 7 years the books cant be juggled in the $ to goods and services ratio( cant justify the bloat for the buck) noone is moving to fast to rectify, because they are part of the problem- the bloat(what, they gonna step-down for the good of the city, while families go hungry?)
posted by clavdivs at 8:18 AM on September 10, 2001

(I assume the govt can jail you if you are owed taxes back and do not file for a long period of time.weither some one has been jailed for this offense-?)---so i just add some empirical data to support the tax and deaths escape clause for inevitability and that ash if friggin right(in general) a small working model.(city politics and debt.)
posted by clavdivs at 10:24 AM on September 10, 2001

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