Archive for the ‘NOAH RICHLER’ Tag



Mr. Richler,

I am ashamed our government has sent these brave resisters back. What a difference the spineless Harper from Trudeau who stood up to American arrogance, making sure resisters could find a home in Canada.

The sentiment and direction of your article are fine, but there are factual errors and important points to be added.

First, the Vietnam era draft was not fair: the lottery was only put in later in the war after a great deal of bad public feeling. Do you not recall, for example, the line in the powerful Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “I’m not a Senator’s son”?

The local draft boards, appointed political entities, had absolute control over whether someone’s drafting was exempted (as a Senator’s son) or indeed expedited (as a punishment used for certain classes of individuals).

If you were expedited, you could take it to the Supreme Court, so long as you had a few years and a million dollars to do it. Eventually, someone did, and the practice was ruled out, but only after most of the war.

Even under the lottery, privilege counted. A rich guy like Al Gore went and did journalism at headquarters. Do you think they would have sent him to the dark parts of the jungle? A rich guy like John Kerry went, gung-ho for a war reputation, but only for a quick dash of four months on a boat, months spent shooting peasants in the fields from a safe distance and collecting a row of medals as political bona fides.

Another important exemption for the rich and influential – under the pre-lottery draft or after – was the National Guard. Joining the National Guard exempted you from the draft, and your chances of seeing combat in the Guard were close to zero.

The trouble was, you could not possibly get in. I remember trying, and I remember a friend trying. It was impossible.

But a guy like George Bush got right in. Then he didn’t even bother to fulfill his obligation there, being a poor attendee to required meetings and eventually going AWOL. The records for his disappearing – he moved from one state to another and never reported in again – have conveniently disappeared. Money and influence count.

Still another method for the privileged to avoid service was university attendance. Many went to graduate school, often in bird subject like theology, and so long as you were a full time student, you were exempted. A whole generation of prominent Republicans, gung-ho on war, followed this practice. They are called chicken hawks in the U.S.

Poor kids, of course, did not in most cases have the opportunity to go to university for 6 or 7 years. This method also protected the so-called “legacy students” at places like Harvard or Yale: these are mediocrities of well-off families (like Bush) who could never have attended on merit, but who are not only admitted but given an automatic pass in hopes of a big endowment contribution from a grateful family. A disgusting practice indeed, even today, but a fact.

No matter what the system, something on the order of a quarter of the grunts in Vietnam were black, blacks at the time only constituting somewhere between 10 and 12% of general population.

Today, under the volunteer system, America bribes the poor with very substantial promises of education assistance, making college or university possible for those who would otherwise find it difficult. The net effect remains an overwhelming preponderance of poor kids lured in, then trapped in an ugly colonial war like Iraq.