The Vietnam Draft
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Viet Nam Draft
by: John D. Dennison
How the Majority of my generation felt about the Vietnam Draft including President Clinton
In response to a social studies teacher's question, I searched the Internet for Bill Clinton's ROTC letter to give her an idea how the majority of my generation felt about the Vietnam draft including the current President of the United States [Bill Clinton].
It is my opinion that Bill Clinton's actions toward the draft was not a separate case, but his actions, and those of his family and friends using influence were reflected throughout the United States by thousands of other American families. The vast majority of male students attending colleges and universities were very concerned and fearful of the draft. Most did not go to Bill Clinton's extremes.
In 1964 Bill Clinton was classified 2-S (student deferment), which protected him from the draft throughout his undergraduate years at Georgetown University. As Bill Clinton approached graduation from Georgetown in 1968 his classification was changed to 1-A (Available for the draft).
Family and friends with political influence kept Bill Clinton out of the draft after his graduation from Georgetown University. His uncle, Raymond Clinton, in 1968 personally contacted Senator Fulbright, William Armstrong (Chairman of the Hot Springs draft board) and Lt. Commander Tice Ellis, Jr. (Commanding Officer of the local Naval Reserve unit) to obtain a slot for Bill in the Naval Reserve. A slot was especially created for Bill when no existing reserve slots were open at his local reserve unit.
Bill Clinton, choosing not to follow through, failed to show up at the reserve unit for his interview and physical. Raymond Clinton later informed Lt. Com. Ellis that Bill would not be joining the reserves and that everything has been taken care of.
Robert Corrado a former member of the Hot Springs draft board in 1968 recalled the chairman of the three man draft board held back Clinton's file with the explanation that we have to give him time to go to Oxford. Corrado further stated that Armstrong complained about an aid from Senator Fulbright's office urging him and his fellow board members to give every consideration to keep Clinton out of the draft. Clinton's draft file was routinely held back from consideration by the full board for the remainder of the year.
On February 2nd, 1969 Bill Clinton, while at Oxford University, finally takes his physical for the armed services and passes. His pre-induction physical was delayed over 10 months (twice as long as anyone else in his age group and situation).
In April 1969 Clinton fails to show up for his induction to military service. Clinton claims he did not receive the notice until after the dead line date and the draft board told him to ignore this notice.
While still in Oxford, Bill Clinton begins planning his appeal for his next induction notice. The plan he comes up with is to have his notice rescinded by joining the R.O.T.C. at the University of Arkansas.
In July of 1969 Clinton returns home from Oxford after he receives a second induction notice. He is to report on July 28, 1969.
Clinton's friend and Oxford classmate, Cliff Jackson, had several friends in influential positions arranged a meeting for Bill Clinton with Col. William A. Hawkins. Hawkins was the only man in the State of Arkansas who could rescind the induction notice.
Clinton's induction notice was rescinded and was admitted into the Arkansas University R.O.T.C. program after he promised to enroll in law school at the University of Arkansas. Bill's new draft classification is 1-D (ROTC deferment)
For the remainder of the summer, Bill Clinton goes to Washington D.C. and works with the anti-war movement at the National Headquarters of the Vietnam Moratorium.
As September approached, Bill Clinton fails to enroll at the University Arkansas and returns to England around mid-September of 1969. It is quite clear that major changes in the draft would be forthcoming in the next few days or weeks. Clinton's appearance at Oxford was unexpected and he had to sleep on the floor in his friend's room.
In October and again in November 1969 Clinton organized and led anti-war demonstrations in London, England with the support of the British Peace Council, which was backed by the World Peace Council who was a front for the KGB.
October 30, 1969 Clinton was automatically reclassified to 1-A eligible for induction, after he failed to enroll at the University of Arkansas. Bill Clinton today, claims he volunteer for the draft but has no proof. Regardless, by this time a freeze was put on the draft until the lottery was established.
The Selective Service Lottery was held on December 1, 1969. Clinton's birthday draws number 311 in the first lottery. This high number guarantees Clinton will not be called up for the draft.
Two days later Clinton writes his infamous ROTC letter to Col. Holmes thanking him for saving him from the draft.
Clinton's ROTC Letter
As Entered in Congressional Record (Page: H5550) 7/30/93
Dear Col. Holmes,
I am sorry to be so long in writing. I know I promised to let you hear from me at least once a month, and from now on you will, but I have to have some time to think about this first letter. Almost daily since my return to England I have thought about writing, about what I want to and ought to say.
First, I want to thank you, not only for saving me from the draft, but for being so kind to me last summer, when I was as low as I have ever been. One thing that made the bond we struck in good faith somewhat palatable to me was my high regard for you personally. In retrospect, it seems that the admiration might not have been mutual had you known a little more about me, about my political beliefs and activities. At least you might have thought me more fit for the draft than for ROTC.
Let me try to explain. As you know, I worked in a very minor position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I did it for the experience and the salary but also for the opportunity, however small, of working every day against a war I opposed and despised with a depth of feeling I had reserved solely for racism in America before Vietnam. I did not take the matter lightly but studied it carefully, and there was a time when not many people had more information about Vietnam at hand than I did.
I have written and spoken and marched against the war. One of the national organizers of the Vietnam Moratorium is a close friend of mine. After I left Arkansas last summer, I went to Washington to work in the national headquarters of the Moratorium, then to England to organize the Americans here for demonstrations October 15 and November 16.
Interlocked with the war is the draft issue, which I did not begin to consider separately until early 1968. For a law seminar at Georgetown I wrote a paper on the legal arguments for and against allowing, within the Selective Service System, the classification of selective conscientious objection, for those opposed to participation in a particular war, not simply to "participation in war in any form."
From my work, I came to believe that the draft system itself is illegitimate. No government really rooted in limited, parliamentary democracy should have the power to make its citizens fight and kill and die in a war they may oppose, a war which even possibly may be wrong, a war, which in any case, does not involve immediately the peace and freedom of the nation. The draft was justified in World War II because the life of the people collectively was at stake.
Individuals had to fight, if the nation was to survive, for the lives of their country and their way of life. Vietnam is no such case. Nor was Korea an example where, in my opinion, certain military action was justified but the draft was not, for the reasons stated above.
Because of my opposition to the draft and the war, I am in great sympathy with those who are not willing to fight, kill, and maybe die for their country (i.e. the particular policy of a particular government) right or wrong. Two of my friends at Oxford are conscientious objectors. I wrote a letter of recommendation for one of them to his Mississippi draft board, a letter I am more proud of than anything else I wrote at Oxford last year. One of my roommates is a draft resister who is possibly under indictment and may never be able to go home again. He is one of the bravest, best men I know. His country needs men like him more than they know. That he is considered a criminal is an obscenity.
The decision not to be a resister and the related subsequent decisions were the most difficult of my life. I decided to accept the draft in spite of my beliefs for one reason only, to maintain my political viability within the system. For years I have worked to prepare myself for a political life characterized by both practical political ability and concern for rapid social progress. It is a life I still feel compelled to try to lead. I do not think our system of government is by definition corrupt, however dangerous and inadequate it has been in recent years. (The society may be corrupt, but that is not the same thing, and if that is true we are all finished anyway.)
When the draft came, despite political convictions, I was having a hard time facing the prospect of fighting a war I had been fighting against, and that is why I contacted you. ROTC was the one way in which I could possibly, but not positively, avoid both Vietnam and the resistance. Going on with my education, even coming back to England, played no part in my decision to join ROTC. I am back here, and would have been at Arkansas Law School because there is nothing else I can do. I would like to have been able to take a year out perhaps to teach in a small college or work on some community action project and in the process to decide whether to attend law school or graduate school and how to begin putting what I have learned to use.
But the particulars of my personal life are not near as important to me as the principles involved. After I signed the ROTC letter of intent I began to wonder whether the compromise I had made with myself was not more objectionable than the draft would have been, because I had no interest in the ROTC program itself and all I seem to have done was to protect myself from physical harm. Also, I had begun to think that I had deceived you, not by lies--there were none--but by failing to tell you all of the things I'm telling you now. I doubt I had the mental coherence to articulate them then.
At that time, after we had made our agreement and you had sent my 1D deferment to my draft board, the anguish and loss of my self regard and self confidence really set in. I hardly slept for weeks and kept going by eating compulsively and reading until exhaustion brought sleep. Finally, on September 12 I stayed up all night writing a letter to the chairman of my draft board, saying basically what is in the preceding paragraph, thanking him for trying to help in a case where he really couldn't, and stating that I couldn't do the ROTC after all and would he please draft me as soon as possible.
I never mailed the letter, but I did carry it with me every day until I got on the plane to return to England. I didn't mail the letter because I didn't see, in the end, how my going in the army and maybe going to Vietnam would achieve anything except a feeling that I had punished myself and gotten what I deserved. So I came back to England to try to make something of the second year of my Rhodes scholarship.
And that is where I am now, writing to you because you have been good to me and have a right to know what I think and feel. I am writing too in the hope that my telling this one story will help you understand more clearly how so many fine people have come to find themselves loving their country but loathing the military, to which you and other good men have devoted years, lifetimes and the best service you could give. To many of us, it is no longer clear what is service and what is dis-service, or if it is clear, the conclusion is likely to be illegal.
Forgive the length of this letter. There was much to say. There is still a lot to be said, but it can wait. Please say hello to Colonel Jones for me. Merry Christmas.
On December 12th, 1969 Bill Clinton travels to Norway where he meets with various peace organizations. He later travels on to Moscow on December 31, 1969 and stays for a week. One should remember that Moscow was still supplying North Vietnam with missiles that were used to shoot down American planes along with technicians and military advisors. Some of these advisors participated in the interrogation of American POW's.
Colonel Eugene Holmes a highly decorated officer of the United States Army, who survived the Bataan Death March and three and a half years of imprisonment as a POW during the Second World War, wrote the following notarized letter on September 7, 1992.
Col. Holmes Notarized Statement
As Entered in Congressional Record (Page: H5551) 7/30/93
September 7, 1992. Memorandum for Record:
Subject: Bill Clinton and the University of Arkansas ROTC Program:
There have been many unanswered questions as to the circumstances surrounding Bill Clinton's involvement with the ROTC department at the University of Arkansas. Prior to this time I have not felt the necessity for discussing the details. The reason I have not done so before is that my poor physical health (a consequence of participation in the Bataan Death March and the subsequent three and a half years interment in Japanese POW camps) has precluded me from getting into what I felt was unnecessary involvement. However, present polls show that there is the imminent danger to our country of a draft dodger becoming Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. While it is true, as Mr. Clinton has stated, that there were many others who avoided serving their country in the Vietnam war, they are not aspiring to be the President of the United States.
The tremendous implications of the possibility of his becoming Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces compels me now to comment on the facts concerning Mr. Clinton's evasion of the draft. This account would not have been imperative had Bill Clinton been completely honest with the American public concerning this matter. But as Mr. Clinton replied on a news conference this evening (September 5, 1992) after being asked another particular about his dodging the draft,
"Almost everyone concerned with these incidents are dead. I have no more comments to make".
Since I may be the only person living who can give a first hand account of what actually transpired, I am obligated by my love for my country and my sense of duty to divulge what actually happened and make it a matter of record.
Bill Clinton came to see me at my home in 1969 to discuss his desire to enroll in the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas. We engaged in an extensive, approximately two (2) hour interview. At no time during this long conversation about his desire to join the program did he inform me of his involvement, participation and actually organizing protests against the United States involvement in South East Asia. He was shrewd enough to realize that had I been aware of his activities, he would not have been accepted into the ROTC program as a potential officer in the United States Army.
The next day I began to receive phone calls regarding Bill Clinton's draft status. I was informed by the draft board that it was of interest to Senator Fullbright's office that Bill Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar, should be admitted to the ROTC program. I received several such calls. The general message conveyed by the draft board to me was that Senator Fullbright's office was putting pressure on them and that they needed my help. I then made the necessary arrangements to enroll Mr. Clinton into the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas.
I was not "saving" him from serving his country, as he erroneously thanked me for in his letter from England (dated December 3, 1969). I was making it possible for a Rhodes Scholar to serve in the military as an officer. In retrospect I see that Mr. Clinton had no intention of following through with his agreement to join the Army ROTC program at the University of Arkansas or to attend the University of Arkansas Law School. I had explained to him the necessity of enrolling at the University of Arkansas as a student in order to be eligible to take the ROTC program at the University. He never enrolled at the University of Arkansas, but instead enrolled at Yale after attending Oxford. I believe that he purposely deceived me, using the possibility of joining the ROTC as a ploy to work with the draft board to delay his induction and get a new draft classification.
The December 3rd letter written to me by Mr. Clinton, and subsequently taken from the files by Lt. Col. Clint Jones, my executive officer, was placed into the ROTC files so that a record would be available in case the applicant should again petition to enter the ROTC program. The information in that letter alone would have restricted Bill Clinton from ever qualifying to be an officer in the United States Military. Even more significant was his lack of veracity in purposefully defrauding the military by deceiving me, both in concealing his anti-military activities overseas and his counterfeit intentions for later military service. These actions cause me to question both his patriotism and his integrity. When I consider the caliber, the bravery, and the patriotism of the fine young soldiers whose deaths I have witnessed, and others whose funerals I have attended.... When I reflect on not only the willingness but eagerness that so many of them displayed in their earnest desire to defend and serve their country, it is untenable and incomprehensible to me that a man who was not merely unwilling to serve his country, but actually protested against its military, should ever be in the position of Commander-in-Chief of our armed Forces.
I write this declaration not only for the living and future generations, but for those who fought and died for our country. If space and time permitted I would include the names of the ones I knew and fought with, and along with them I would mention my brother Bob, who was killed during World War II and is buried in Cambridge, England (at the age of 23, about the age Bill Clinton was when he was over in England protesting the war). I have agonized over whether or not to submit this statement to the American people. But, I realize that even though I served my country by being in the military for over 32 years, and having gone through the ordeal of months of combat under the worst of conditions followed by years of imprisonment by the Japanese, it is not enough. I'm writing these comments to let everyone know that I love my country more than I do my own personal security and well-being. I will go to my grave loving these United States of America and the liberty for which so many men have fought and died. Because of my poor physical condition this will be my final statement. I will make no further comments to any of the media regarding this issue.
Colonel, U.S.A., Ret.
It is quite apparent to myself that Bill Clinton was a "Draft Dodger" and freely associated with known enemies of the United States.
As I have previously indicated, Bill Clinton went to the extreme and used everything available to him to avoid the draft. During those War Years, many college students used any means possible including demonstrations and the burning of their draft cards to stay out of the military. If everyone had put as much time and effort into serving their Country and doing their duty, perhaps there would have been a different outcome.
Too many people concentrated on their own personal well being as individuals, instead of working for the good of our Country
Office of the White House Press Secretary
THE WHITE HOUSE
GRANTING PARDON FOR VIOLATIONS
OF THE SELECTIVE SERVICE ACT,
AUGUST 4, 1964 TO MARCH 28, 1973
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Acting pursuant to the grant of authority in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States, I, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, do hereby grant a full, complete and unconditional pardon to: (1) all persons who may have committed any offense between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973 in violation of the Military Selective Service Act or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder; and (2) all persons heretofore convicted, irrespective of the date of conviction, of any offense committed between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973 in violation of the Military Selective Service Act, or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder, restoring to them full political, civil and other rights.
This pardon does not apply to the following who are specifically excluded therefrom:
(1) All persons convicted of or who may have committed any offense in violation of the Military Selective Service Act, or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder, involving force or violence; and
(2) All persons convicted of or who may have committed any offense in violation of the Military Selective Service Act, or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder, in connection with duties or responsibilities arising out of employment as agents, officers or employees of the Military Selective Service system.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 21st day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen
hundred and seventy-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and first.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 11967
RELATING TO VIOLATIONS OF THE SELECTIVE SERVICE ACT,
AUGUST 4, 1964 TO MARCH 28, 1973
The following actions shall be taken to facilitate Presidential Proclamation of Pardon of January 21, 1977:
1. The Attorney General shall cause to be dismissed with prejudice to the government all pending indictments for violations of the Military Selective Service Act alleged to have occurred between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973 with the exception of the following:
(a) Those cases alleging acts of force or violence deemed to be so serious by the Attorney General as to warrant continued prosecution; and
(b) Those cases alleging acts in violation of the Military Selective Service Act by agents, employees or officers of the Selective Service System arising out of such employment.
2. The Attorney General shall terminate all investigations now pending and shall not initiate further investigations alleging violations of the Military Selective Service Act between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973, with the exception of the following:
(a) Those cases involving allegations of force or violence deemed to be so serious by the Attorney General as to warrant continued investigation, or possible prosecution; and
(b) Those cases alleging acts in violation of the Military Selective Service Act by agents, employees or officers of the Selective Service System arising out of such employment.
3. Any person who is or may be precluded from reentering the United States under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(22) or under any other law, by reason of having committed or apparently committed any violation of the Military Selective Service Act shall be permitted as any other alien to reenter the United States.
The Attorney General is directed to exercise his discretion under 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(5) or other applicable law to permit the reentry of such persons under the same terms and conditions as any other alien.
This shall not include anyone who falls into the exceptions of paragraphs 1(a) and (b) and 2(a) and (b) above.
4. Any individual offered conditional clemency or granted a pardon or other clemency under Executive Order 11803 or Presidential Proclamation 4313, dated September 16, 1974, shall receive the full measure of relief afforded by this program if they are otherwise qualified under the terms of this Executive Order.
THE WHITE HOUSE,
January 21, 1977.
The Insult of Carter's Mass Pardon
Letters to the Editor
February 23, 2001
It is a pleasurable experience to watch Bill Clinton finally being judged, even by his own party, for the ethical fraudulence that has characterized his entire political career. But allowing Jimmy Carter a free pass on the issue of presidential pardons, as was done in a recent piece by his former chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, on this page, ignores both the evidence of history and the trauma that President Carter visited on this country during his earliest days in office ("The First Grifters," Feb. 20). Indeed, it could be said that the seeds of Bill Clinton's political arrogance were sown by Jimmy Carter's own hand.
While the Carter presidency may have handled cases of individual presidential pardons with great care, Mr. Carter's first official act as president was to pardon, en masse, all those who had been or could be charged with draft evasion during the Vietnam era. Motivated by the ever-present desire of American politicians to "heal the wounds" of the Vietnam War, and beyond doubt manipulated by the army of antiwar McGovernites who had seized control of the Democratic Party, Mr. Carter's gesture had the symbolic effect of elevating everyone who had opposed the Vietnam War to the level of moral purist, and by implication insulting those who often had struggled just as deeply with the moral dimensions of the war and had decided, often at great sacrifice, to honor the laws of their country and serve.
President Carter's all-embracing pardon of Americans who refused to serve in the military was without precedent. After World War II, President Truman had given full amnesty on a case-by-case basis to a limited number of draft evaders, but only after they had actually been convicted of the offense and then appealed to a review board that examined the circumstances of their cases. Following World War I, President Roosevelt had pardoned those who had been convicted of draft violations and had served out their prison terms, but did not extend even this limited pardon to those who had left the country. Much was said about President Lincoln's sweeping pardon of Confederate soldiers after the Civil War, but this gesture was made to those who had indeed served, honoring the judgments of their state governments. Lincoln made this distinction clear in his remarks when issuing the pardons, and by pointedly refusing to extend such amnesty to Confederate officials and men of property.
Nor did President Carter's abuse of power end with the pardoning of draft evaders. Some had criticized this blanket amnesty as having made class distinctions between college boys who were "enlightened" enough to oppose the draft and blue-collar boys who had gone into the military and then either seen the light regarding the war or suffered the supposed abuses of the military system. Liberal groups and antiwar politicians assailed the "inequities" of military justice and the "randomness" of its characterization of service when one left the military, despite the fact that 97% of those who served during Vietnam had been discharged under honorable circumstances. Within weeks of pardoning all the draft evaders, Mr. Carter invoked his powers as commander in chief and ordered that the "bad paper" military discharges of hundreds of thousands of deserters, malcontents and nonperformers be mandatorily upgraded, so long as they met one of six easily attained criteria.
Again President Carter had upset a delicately balanced apple cart among the Vietnam generation. By wiping the slate clean for those who had dodged the draft or created problems while in the military, he signaled to those who had served honorably during a horribly emotional period that their self-discipline, loyalty, wounds and even deaths did not matter. The Congress, and particularly the Committees on Veterans Affairs, where I then served as a House counsel, spent the next six months in emotional argument and negotiation. The House and Senate at times engaged in heated floor debates and recriminations before some measure of historical standards were mandated to accompany any veterans benefits awarded to recipients of Mr. Carter's falsely upgraded discharges.
These acts resonate when one evaluates Bill Clinton's incessantly arrogant presidency, from the endless string of conscious and serious abuses of power to the "conversion" of White House furniture and china on his way out the door. For what we are seeing are the echoes of a pervasive elitism, from people who were taught when young that the laws that applied to their countrymen did not necessarily apply to them.
As one who shares Mr. Clinton's ethnic background, and whose family was not afforded the opportunity for higher education until this generation, it is irritating beyond words to see commentators repeatedly refer to his actions as "redneck" or typical of "white trash" behavior. Rednecks might hang a velvet picture of Elvis on their living room wall, but precious few would tolerate any sort of conduct that might demean the greatness of their country, much less take part in it. Check the casualty lists in any war. See who stands tall and salutes when the flag passes by. Note who wasn't sleeping in Lincoln's bedroom when Bill Clinton occupied the White House.
Instead, Bill and Hillary's misadventures provide an echo of a different time and place, another set of values. Of bright students brought to good schools and becoming convinced, as Ben Stein wrote of his years at Yale Law School with the Clintons, "that we were supermen, floating above history and precedent, the natural rulers of the universe. . . . The law did not apply to us." Of young men who not only avoided service when 58,000 of their peers were dying, but who persuaded a softie like Jimmy Carter to say that they were right, all of them, without distinction. The law? The law was what you made it.
Americans, bred on fairness and passionate about equality, have a way of collectively summing things up as time goes by. It is accurate to say that Jimmy Carter's presidency never fully recovered from his naive but well-intentioned opening moments. And one can predict that Bill Clinton will never live down the arrogance of his final departure.
James Webb was an Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration