L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 269, May 2, 2004
The Kaptain's Log
Exclusive to TLE
With all the talk about the reinstatement of conscription ("the draft") in the USA, I find myself thinking back to a letter which came in the mail one day long ago, in a land far, far away...
"You are hereby directed to report to Los Angeles Induction Center No. 6," the letter began. It was from the Selective Service Commission. The time was 1968. The US empire was waging war against the Vietnamese, and it needed lots of cannon fodder because the war was being lost.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, and his Harvard boy advisors like Robert McNamara, were being assured by their generals that "just twenty thousand more" conscripts would stave off defeat. The twenty thousands quickly "escalated" to a million and a half soldiers, sailors and airmen, and still the Vietnamese would not be conquered.
My generation was the one fighting the war, and we were the ones fighting against it, too. Initially, we had almost unanimously believed that the USA was in Viet Nam to "assist a democracy in defending itself from communist aggression," and we didn't think too highly of communism. As more and more of our older brothers returned (or didn't return) from Viet Nam, we sought them out to find out first hand what the war was like. This curiosity was only to be expected, under the circumstances.
The actual truths that we learnt from the first Viet Nam veterans were the shock of my lifetime. I talked with a former "Green Beret" Special Forces combat soldier who told (me and some pals) of the routine torture and murder of prisoners of war and suspected Viet Cong. My own cousin dropped mortar bombs on villages inhabited by noncombatants. More and more guys told the same ugly stories until it became clear that, as one ex-G.I. said, "We are not 'the good guys'." We young Americans knew about the systematic slaughter of innocent civilians long before one such incident, the My Lai Massacre, finally leaked out onto the six o'clock news.
I became disillusioned, to say the least. Then I became determineddetermined to refuse to take part in atrocities against civilians, and determined to work against that war and all wars of aggression.
During a public speech by Jerry Rubin (one of the famous antiwar "Yippies" and, later, a member of "The Chicago Seven"), I burned my draft card. This was an "offence" which carried the penalty of five years in a federal prison. Jerry's FBI tails refused to arrest me, however, as they had orders to stick to him like glue to the exclusion of all other "duties". Shortly thereafter, some Canadian friends encouraged me to immigrate (t)here. It was a difficult decision to leave the land of my birth and childhood, but once the decision was taken, I became thoroughly Canadian.
I have taken some wrong turns in the course of my life, but that decision is one which I have never regretted for a moment in all these 36 years, and I'm more proud of it with every passing year. Unfortunately, there seems to be another imperial war every year, too, and the toady government in Ottawa has begun to participate in their imperial masters' unending series of "humanitarian interventions". So, I have continued to do what I can to stop the insanity.
It seems to me, however, that the greatest harm that I ever did to the war machine was to deprive it of the use of my life to destroy other lives. Approximately 250 000 other (former) Americans did likewise, and our collective acts caused the US military both a massive propaganda defeat and a logistical nightmare, just when it was most vulnerable. As Buffy Ste-Marie said, "He's the universal soldier, and he really is to blame," so we had to refuse to be soldiers of aggression.
Now I have a nephew in the States who is prime cannon fodder. I have told him that there will always be a berth for him aboard the HMS Liberty, docked here on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Should the need arise, I hope that the Canadian people, especially those of us who were once Americans, will rise again to meet the challenge of aiding another generation of potential war criminals to become, instead, fighters for Peace and Liberty. For attacking other countries