by Ray Jones
Let us commend the peacemakers: Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors; the Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Brethren, Mennonites, Buddhists that declare a doctrine of peace; the authors, artists, musicians, educators, pacifists, protesters who endeavor to maintain peace.
According to prominent historians, the US war in Vietnam was started “for economic reasons,” (a war for profit not defense), with an “unjustified death toll of civilians.” There was no “incident” in the Gulf of Tonkin, falsely claimed by Pres. Lyndon Johnson to launch open warfare. The same can be said of the US war in Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction, falsely claimed by Pres. Bush to launch a war.
US principles, policy and law originally prohibited conscription. It has been said that the Selective Service System and all recent wars are unconstitutional, violate due process, Congressional authority to declare war and international treaties and law. Yet the Draft Act of 1917, the Military Selective Service Acts of 1948 and 1967 in Volume (title) 50 of US Code, Appendix (sections 100-continuing) require that if you were between the ages of 18-26, you had to register, fill out forms, have a hearing and be issued a classification, ranging from 1-A (available for combat), 1-A-O (conscientious objector – C.O.) through 4-D (priests, rabbis, ministers, etc.) and 4-F (not qualified).Complaints were common that Selective Service personnel withheld information, made procedural errors, or were hostile or biased in their decisions.
Many pacifists and war resisters applied for the 1-A-O and 1-O classification as “C.O.”s for sociological, moral, ethical or humanitarian reasons during the Vietnam draft, and were rejected. Many others burned their draft cards, refused to register or to step forward for induction, or fled to Canada or elsewhere. Many were imprisoned; others subjected to FBI intimidation or psychiatric misdiagnosis. There was an upsurge in domestic spying on organizations for peace, democracy, civil liberties and civil rights, and on left, labor and other groups that has never since abated.
There are estimates of 70,000 US deaths (counting suicides and other deaths of US veterans since the war) and 150,000 hospitalizations from the Vietnam War. Enormous protests took place. Public opinion turned increasingly against the war, yet it continued year after year. Some cited Title 18 USC Sections 1381, 2387 as justifying interfering with the war. There are conflicts in the law on these matters, so more UN resolutions are needed.
Proclamation 4483,91 Statutes section 1719 by President Jimmy Carter did pardon many imprisoned or exiled pacifists, conscientious objectors and war resisters, et al. But the war is still taking its toll. Reports indicate that use of toxic chemicals and contaminants in the Vietnam War continue to inflict harm on US combat veterans and their offspring, and on the Vietnamese population and territory to this day. Veterans for peace continue to visit Vietnam and work to overcome these harms.
Those who make peace are the true heroes.