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  • Sunday, January 16, 2005


    Conscientious Objectors, Now and Then

    I distinctly remember the first time I read about conscientious objectors (CO) during WWII. I was an adult, out of college and supposed to have a basic grounding in US history but I had never heard a hint of thousands of men refusing to serve active duty during that "good war." From Infoplease comes this:
    The United States and Great Britain allowed members of recognized pacifistic religious groups to substitute for combat service: (1) noncombatant military service, (2) nonmilitary activity related to the war effort, or (3) activity considered socially valuable. Pacifists without recognized claim to exemption were liable to harsher treatment, and about 5,000 conscientious objectors were imprisoned in the United States between 1940 and 1945... In 1971 the Supreme Court refused to allow objection to a particular war, a decision affecting thousands of objectors to the Vietnam War. Some 50,000–100,000 men are estimated to have left the United States to avoid being drafted to serve in that war.
    Here are a few stories of COs from the US during the current Iraq War.

    Aidan Delgado appeared on Democracy Now! and gave this interview about things he saw at Abu Ghraib while awaiting official recognition of his CO status.

    Jeremy Hinzman also appeared on Democracy Now! and gave another interview. He particularly struck me as an honorable man. This is one exchange from this interview.

    AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the decision that you made, why you decided you did not want to go to Iraq?

    JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, I think it was -- if you are ever going to go destroy a country or wreak havoc on a country, it would need to be justified. Every justification or rationale that we have ever offered for going to Iraq has been bogus. There were no weapons of mass destruction there. There have been no links established between Saddam and international terrorists, and then the notion that we're going to bring democracy to Iraq is -- we'll see if that comes to fruition, but I don't think we'll see it, unless it's convenient to America's agenda. So anyway, I felt that we had attacked Iraq without any defensive basis, and I think it's been well established at Nuremburg that in those instances, you cannot simply just say that you're following orders, but you have a duty and obligation to disobey.

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