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War objectors hold political sway

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, November 10, 2005

The draft, lack of popularity of the Iraq war and football were all topics of discussions at the Center for Social Concerns Wednesday where Michael McConnell, a member of the American Friends Service Committee, spoke.

The lecture, titled “War and Conscience,” dealt with the legal status of Conscientious Objection (CO), as well as the political influence it can have.

McConnell cited the lack of popularity of the Iraq war, as well as recent polls indicating that a majority of U.S. citizens do not think President George W. Bush is honest or doing a good job, as reasons why a draft is unlikely to occur right now.

“I don’t think there’s a political will or space to declare a draft right now, but draft boards are being organized around the country just in case … The mechanisms would be in place very quickly,” McConnell said.

McConnell did note, however, opinions could change very quickly, and a draft could be instated popularly. He recommended that even if a person doesn’t consider himself to be a CO in the present moment, he should at least document that he was thinking about it.

If a draft were to be instated, a person could go to a local draft board to make their case of being a CO, and McConnell said that documentation would certainly help a case, although it would provide no guarantee.

Some forms of documentation that McConnell gave as examples were a journal, becoming involved as a peace activist and having a pastor or professor writing about your thoughts on war.

McConnell also said that some people write “conscientious objector” across their registration card for Selective Service, since the form leaves no means for declaring CO status. The government, however, does not recognize this form of protest and still registers the person for Selective Service.

The second part of the discussion and lecture was about the political influence a CO can and should have.

McConnell cited the principle that government rules by consent of those it governs.

“Somehow, we as the people of the U.S. have given consent to this war [in Iraq] … One way we can end this war is to withdraw our consent.”

McConnell believes that if more people are exposed to the human face of war, they will change their opinion. He said that while CNN was showing the statue of Saddam Hussein being torn down, its counterpart, CNN Europe, was showing the statue in a split screen with civilian victims in Iraq.

Concern was also displayed for the effect that war had on the victims of Katrina. In Louisiana, 3,000 National Guardsmen were overseas, along with two thirds of their equipment.