Wednesday, April 09, 2008


When I was draft eligible, meaning 18-26, contending with the draft was simply a way of life. You couldn't do anything unless you figured it out. And, "draft dodging" could be a part of it. Most anybody who had the means and was smart could escape the draft: (at least for awhile) school deferment, married with children and naturally the classification of 4F which was a physical thing. And, the stories of how guys got 4F status are legion. It is hard to know how serious most of us took those who dodged the draft. In many ways, at the time, it was more power to them. From a philosophical standpoint, 40 years past Vietnam: we saw our duty and did it--at least it's what we tell our grand kids.

A new term has arrived on the scene; WAR DODGERS. What this means is soldiers who for whatever reason have come to believe the war in Iraq is not worth it. Or as one put it, when he was halfway into his second deployment, "This is what my buddies are dying for." Noway, he deserts. During Vietnam, Canada and Sweden were havens for draft dodgers and deserters. I had a little personal experience with Sweden.

When I was in Europe during the early seventies, I was in missile battalion and one of our officers was this fine, young West Point graduate. He had "orders" for Vietnam and since I was just back, wanted to talk about how I saw Vietnam and what was going on over there. We had a great talk. He asks probing questions and I tried to answer honestly, not supporting all we were doing but discussing the various party line at the time which I believed. We had a moral obligation to keep the North from taking over the South, had to stop communism, the domino theory. (at that time I didn't know enough or had not read enough to know about the corruptness of the South Vietnamese government or Hoi's determination to unite the country which was little related to communism and had to do mostly about nationalism. I only got this years later). The young Lieutenant stood up. Saluted, did an about face and promptly drove his MGB to Sweden where he asked for political asylum. From then on, it became a joke, "unless you want a guy to desert, don't send him to see the Chaplain."

Something is vastly wrong when you have the equivalent of an entire Division of soldiers deserting--since the war began, over 20,000. This may mean from being gone for 31 days which the military categorizes as desertion or forever. This is awful. And, another example of how everything about this war has been mismanaged.

No comments: