Military draft registration with Edward Hasbrouck

March 5, 2019

Special guest Edward Hasbrouck responds to the recent ruling that found mandatory men-only draft registration unconstitutional and explains what next.

Webpages mentioned in this meetup:


James Branum: Welcome everyone tonight who’s tuned in for tonight’s webcast from the Objector Church. My name is Jame Branum and I’m one of the ministers of the Objector Church, I’m based out of Oklahoma city. And tonight I’ll be sharing … We may by the way have a special guest joining us tonight. We may, may not, maybe delay for a future week.

But if we do, that will be an exciting development. But otherwise, you’re stuck with me. In our weekly webcast, we seek to do three things. We seek to bring about a little bit of information, empowering information that helps to do good in the world.

We also talk about information that is actionable information that we can, I’m sorry, I got those twisted around. Inspiration is giving us the energy, the drive, the love that we need to keep moving forward in their lives. Information is that actionable information that we can use in our lives, either individually or collectively to make things better.

And finally, a bit of interaction. Tonight our conversation is going to be about something really critically important. And that is discussing the issue of the draft. What’s also sometimes known as military conscription. I mean truthfully, that’s going to be mostly information part. The inspiration will be, we have a little ritual at the beginning, and finally along the way, we want to have a widely varying conversation.

Anyway, when we get started, we’ll do a little bit of the ritual, and what I do for the ritual each week, and we’re religious, humanist community. Meaning that we don’t really identify as a community with a particular tradition. Some of us do belong to traditions, specific traditions. Some of us don’t. Some of our members are atheists and agnostics.

But our point of unity is our collectively from the power of humanity to change things. And we look to those issues that religious people do. Issues of identity, meaning value, ethics. That’s why we are religious humanists. But a lot of us still yearn even if we may not always identify with all of the aspects of the symbols and rituals of our previous traditions or those we still carry with us.

A lot of us still yearn for some sense of ritual. That’s why we do this candle lighting ceremony. And tonight, I’m doing something slightly different than previous weeks. Tonight we’ll just be lighting the candles, taking a moment to take some deep breaths as we go through this process. And when envisioning these candles, what they represent tonight is the idea of the past, of everything that has brought us to this point, the idea the present, which is our moment when we can do something to change what’s to come for the future.

And so we’ll light these candles, take a moment to reflect and be in this moment, then we’ll move into our conversations. So as you light this first candle representing the past, we think about those things that have gone before, the good things, the bad things, everything along the way.

We light the candle for the present, for this moment and thinking about our intentions to make our lives better, to make the world better. And finally, the candle for the future. To represent the hope that we have that maybe our effort to do something. And that always people have looked for help in the midst of darkness and that nothing is really, completely dark so long as someone is hoping a little bit.

Anyway, those, the candles we’ve lit for our ritual tonight. So now I want to move into our conversation. We do have someone that may join us later on. We’ve had some problem mostly on my end, on communications with that, yes. So we may or may not have him tonight. Hoping we do, we’ll see.

But if he does join us … Actually, I’m getting a message here, I think he’s joining us. Okay, we have very exciting news, our guest will be joining us tonight, hopefully in just a moment. So I’m going to wait a second for him. In the meantime though, I wanted to say that if anyone is watching on Facebook, we do welcome your comments along the way.

We’re periodically looking at Facebook live as the webcast is going on. If you have comments and questions, please post them. And by the way, Serena, she knows like, yes, who our special guest is for tonight, his name is Ed Hasbrouck. He’s a long time draft activist, he’s also someone who’s yearned, paid the price for resisting the draft.

And so looking forward to having him on to talk about some of these issues. But to talk just for a moment about his history as well. So let me go back over to Zoom though, see if Ed is over here yet. Okay, Ed, can you hear me?

Edward Hasbrouck:Yes, I can. Can you hear me?

James Branum: Okay, fantastic. I can hear you now. Fantastic, well, it’s such an honor to have you on tonight when [Jephard 00:05:13] mentioned you for this, I was really excited. Anyway, I just want to thank you so much for being here this evening. And I know, some of our guests know who you are, some of you don’t.

I thought we might start by just for a moment of talking a little bit about your history on this issue for a few minutes, and then if you’d like, about to have a conversation about what do our viewers need to know about where draft law is currently and where it’s moving. Because there’s some pretty challenging developments.

Ed maybe get us started. Could you share a little bit about who you are and what has brought you to this area of work?

Edward Hasbrouck: Thank you for having me in. Hopefully we’ll have some time to take questions, if there are questions, because I think, some of the news that has come out in the last week been really badly misreported. Even by some of the journalists who ought to know better. And in fairly mainstream media and other places even more distorted interpretation.

I got involved with the issue of the draft back in 1980 when I was in the … There had been a, as you may know, and some of us, and these older ones may know, there had been a hiatus where they actually ended draft registration for five years. From 1975 to 1980 after the Vietnam war.

We really thought that the draft was dead. So like the service system was in deep standby, they weren’t actually doing anything. But in 1980 I was in the first group of people who was required to register when they started up the system of selective service registration, which continues today.

James Branum: How old were you then?

Edward Hasbrouck: I was 20 years old. Now it’s you have to register as you turn 18. But when they started the system up after this five year gap, they tried to jumpstart it by registering people up to 18, 19 and 20 year olds they had mass registration weeks for everybody born in 1960 was supposed to go down during the post office during one particular week.

Which ended up nearly being a godsend to draft counseling organizations which were able to post people at the post offices. There were a lot of demonstrations, it was very highly visible. And it served to call attention to the degree of support that people who didn’t want to be drafted had.

So it really backfired in many ways for the government. I was one of those who spoke out and organized, said that I wasn’t going to register and organized others to do likewise. And to make somewhat a long story short, although we can come back to this more if people are interested and I know, we had a podcast about this a while back. It’s still up on Courage to Resist.

The government, faced with much more widespread resistance than it had anticipated. During those first mass weeks there were four million people that were supposed to register and a million didn’t. Which really was beyond the scale of any level of resistance that we had seen in the past. Or that even those of us who were activists and organizers had hoped for.

So faced with that situation, the government ultimately decided, they didn’t really have anything else they could do except to try to go after some of the organizers. And their theory was that if they went after the most vocal non-registrants, that would have the most intimidating effect.

It didn’t, again, it backfired for the government. I was one of 20 people who they picked out as the people they thought were in the most visible activist organizers. I was prosecuted actually by Robert Mueller, the infamous one.

James Branum: Really?

Edward Hasbrouck: It was his first high profile case, and the first case that got his political ambitions noticed. That’s a real story. And he was a junior assistant US attorney in Boston. He was a marine combat veteran. Actually, there is a little contrast between … He has a lot in common in the background with John Kerry. They both were ivy league college graduates who volunteered for Vietnam. Went in, Mueller was a colonel in the marines, in combat in Vietnam. Whereas John Kerry came back and joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and became an activist against the war.

Mueller was the kind of person who could go through that and come back from a war still believing in the legitimacy of the Vietnam war, still believing in the legitimacy of the draft that it sent the men who had fought and died under his command. And he was really eager to go after draft resisters in 1980 when he had the chance.

Anyway, there was a handful of activists who were prosecuted but what it served to do was to call attention to the fact was that only those who had spoken out like me, could be prosecuted. They had to use our own public statements in order to be able to convict us. And registration went downhill from there.

We’ve had a situation for the last 35 years where the Department of Justice abandoned prosecuting non-registrants in 1988 as a failure. Even though Selective Service wanted them to carry on and go after more people. And I said, this is a waste of time, it’s not going to work.

They’d abandoned the enforcement, but the law has remained on the books and there are a wide range of other sort of administrative collateral consequences and sanctions. The one that’s probably most obvious is ineligibility for federal student aid and federal jobs. The one that’s actually the most severe penalty is that if you lived in the US, even as an undocumented immigrant during the years when you were supposed to register from ages 18 to 26, and you later seek naturalization, that’s not a citizen, you’re ineligible, that’s a big black.

There still are these other side panels. Nobody has been prosecuted criminally. That’s kind of where I come along and I was involved throughout the 1980s with the Draft Resistance Movement which was active then. Since then, it’s been, if people don’t want to register, they don’t register. They may face some financial consequences or again for immigrants, some immigration consequences.

But there hasn’t really been an organized movement for many years against the draft. May begin to change now with recent developments.

James Branum I think that brings us to some of the recent developments. And I wanted to share with you just a little bit so you do know a little bit about our community. This is a group that we have … Our foundation is religious humanist perspective that’s focused on peace. We have a lot of people who join us, join our webcast who are parents, we have some young adults, people from a variety of different traditions but are asking questions, and I’ll share one more practical example, I had a conversation recently with a mother whose son was turning 18 and she was a first generation immigrant, her son is a US citizen. But she was very confused, she thought she had to enlist her son at 18 which was terrifying to me. And I explained to her, no, that’s not the case. Let’s have a longer conversation.

And so anyway, I just wanted to share with you that we have folks who are coming at this from a variety of perspectives. But I think for a lot of members, the public, what they’re hearing is confusing because they thought one, the drafters, kind of out there and just never going to happen. But secondly, these latest changes are threatening to a lot of people.

I wonder if you could maybe share where things are at and where they’re going and what should people do with this information.

Edward Hasbrouck: In terms of what last said, the draft remains a real possibility. The reason that people are required to register is not signing up for the government’s birthday club. The only use for this database, is a database that would be used in the event of a draft. And you know, the military says we don’t really want a draft, and that’s probably true. It’s not plan A, that’s the active duty forces. It’s not plan B, that’s the reserves, it’s not plan C, that’s the national guard, it’s not even plan D, is probably using allies and proxy war, maybe plan E is using civilian contractors, mercenaries.

But somewhere down around plan F, “F” for fallback, is the draft that is still in the military toolkit, something that they still feel like is their ultimate recourse. If they need more cannon fodder, and if the war becomes unpopular, they can always turn to the draft. They’re reluctant to do it but they still believe that there’s this bottomless reserve force at the end of the day.

They have not begun to constrain their military policy on the basis of thinking, we only have so many soldiers to play with. It is both a real threat and something that influences military policy. There’s an assumption that people who are opposed to the draft are trying to just get ourselves out of the war.

Look, if I just wanted to get out of the war, I would’ve kept my mouth shut and would never have gone to prison. The reason that we have been active in opposing this, the goal … it is not enough that we’ve stopped enforcement of draft registration, the goal is to reign in military adventurism, obviously, preventing it rather.

That said, where do things stand now? We’ve been in this kind of stalemate where draft registration was an abject failure ,but there was no face saving way for the government to repeal the registration requirement without admitting failure. And the government doesn’t do well in admitting failure in war or politics or anything else. Much less admitting that the power to wage war is actually directly constrained by people’s willingness to wage war.

That’s a profound statement.

James Branum: Absolutely.

Edward Hasbrouck: It’s not one congress wants to make. We’ve been in this situation of stalemate, but meanwhile, there’s some other changes. Back in 1980, when Jimmy Carter proposed a draft registration to congress, he actually proposed a system that would have included both women and men. And congress said no, and I went to the supreme court, and the supreme court in a challenge to registering men, and the supreme court at that time said well, since they only want men for combat, there’s a rational relationship between registering only men for the draft and only wanting men to be drafted for combat.

So it’s related to a military purpose, and as far as that military purpose will defer to the military. Now, three years ago, four years ago, a policy change was made to open all military occupational specialties to women. Including combat assignments without regard for gender. Assuming that people are otherwise qualified.

And immediately became a foregone conclusion that that rationale of the 1981 supreme court decision, no longer held up. Because the facts were no longer the same. There no longer is a military policy that we only want men for combat. And so there’s no longer any rational relationship to registering only men.

Immediately obvious at that point that it was only a matter of time before the courts were going to find that the current registration system is unconstitutional. And that’s what happened last week.

A federal district court in Houston acting on a lawsuit that actually been pending for a number of years, bounced around. But the court issued a declaratory judgment that the current draft registration system is unconstitutional.

Now, it’s been widely misreported as saying that women have to register for the draft, it’s not. The courts can’t create new crimes and say, all of a sudden it’s a crime for women not to register. All they could do is look at the current law which says men have to register and say that’s unconstitutional. And that’s what they did. So it has no direct effect on women, and there’s no way that any court could order that women register.

It wouldn’t be a registration requirement unless in order to try to salvage registration and resurrect it basically after this ruling that’s unconstitutional. Congress passes a new law applying to women.

For now, this is a tremendous victory. But a partial victory. If unless congress does something, the initial ruling was only was a called a declaratory judgment, so I think was intended to give congress a chance to sort this out in an orderly way.

But if congress doesn’t do anything, the courts are going to move forward and they’re going to enjoin selective service from continuing to register people and draft registration is dead, hooray. But all of those collateral consequences remain in place.

So people who didn’t register, will for the rest of their lives, still be ineligible for these various government programs. It’s a mess and it’s not just federal programs, but the dozens of states that have enacted their own laws, placing restrictions on people who haven’t registered for the draft. And those will continue in place if the court ruling does nothing about that. And we have a real mess-

James Branum: One of the challenges I was mentioning, and I know you’re aware of this, I want to mention for our viewers in Oklahoma, we have quite a few in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one many states that’s pretty zealous in capturing a selective service registration without the applicant even knowing it. I’ve learned this, but for instance you could apply for a driver’s license, no one reads the fine print, a very few do.

If you ready the fine print it says, “If you’re not already registered, we will register you.” When you apply for any college in Oklahoma there’s a similar line. And they word it in such a way that unless you object, and refuse to get the license or go to school, you’re going to be registered by us.

And so I think that’s a fundamental change and frankly, I think such a change from the dynamic of what Ed faced back in the day where there were truly was a voluntary, you must fill out a form. Today, so many people who do not want to fill out the form, decline to fill out the form, will still have a form filled out for them.

Edward Hasbrouck: That is true, it’s important to realize and getting those state laws has been a long term lobbying projects state by state by selective service and a very high priority. Once the department of justice say, “We’re not going to prosecute anybody,” this became one of the highest priorities so the sector service system was getting these state laws.

It’s important to realize that that’s not everywhere, there’s some really major exceptions. The obvious and biggest one is that in California, where there are state constitutional restrictions on the use of driver’s license data and a very strong state constitutional privacy protection. It probably couldn’t be done through state law and in any case the state legislature has repeatedly declined to enact such laws.

The biggest state in the union, where I live, California, there’s still no linkage. So you can get a driver’s license without being registered for the draft. And that’s true in a number of other states Massachusetts where I happen to be at the moment visiting family is in that list too.

It’s not everywhere, but you’re right. And the Selective Service even has said, most of the people who are registered probably don’t even realize that they’re registered. There’s other requirements on top of that that there’s even less awareness of which I think affect whether draft registration even could be used. Not that I want it to be.

People are supposed to tell the Selective Services System from every time they move. Until they reach age 26. Nobody knows this is true and nobody does it. I encourage you, go out in the street and ask people, any of our listeners, raise your hand if you ever reported a change of address to the Selective Service System.

James Branum: Ed, I’ll have to mention, I am one of the few who dared, partially because I’m a big nerd. But secondly, about the time is I was in my mid 20s, I was moving in more of a conscience objector direction after a long time of being a very rabid warmonger. I switched my views pretty dramatically.

And so I had read, someone gave the idea of taking your change of address form and the big spot that says, “Do not write here,” you write in there in tiny letters, “I am a conscience objector. Yaddy, yaddy yada.” And so I photocopied it, kept it in my file, and mailed it off.

But I suspect those maybe the only change of address forms that Selective Service gets. Or people doing things.

Edward Hasbrouck: That could well be, the hasn’t been an audit since just a few years after the registration selective system started. But even within a couple of years, when JAO audited the database, they found 20 to 40% of the addresses were already out of date and now it’s likely that they actually tried to use that database.

Given on that, the majority of the induction letters were either wind up in a dead letter office or they’d go to people’s parents and people’s parents in many cases would tear them up rather than tell their son they’re supposed to be drafted.

And sure tearing up the induction notice is a crime on the part of the parents, but many parents would quite willingly take that risk to protect their sons against being drafted.

James Branum: Absolutely. And I wonder though, as a practical necessity and it may not be legal under current law for them to do this. But I’ve wondered, the Selective Service keeps a list of the people, completely inaccurate addresses and completely inaccurate contact information. Would the government simply cross match those with commercially available databases?

To me I even wonder why do you need the registration itself. Surely through commercial databases they can have everyone snatched up that way.

Edward Hasbrouck: The reasons that the military gives for continuing to support selective service registration. And we know, moving ahead a little bit, one of the things that is going on … to back up a little bit. Once it became clear that the current system was going to be found unconstitutional, there was a choice. Either we’ve got to end draft registration. Either we sit back and do nothing and the courts will end draft registration. Or we end it in some orderly way through legislation, to repeal it, and maybe repeal some of these other collateral consequences. Or we try to double down on these decades of failure by expanding draft registration to include women as well as men.

Edward Hasbrouck: And back in 2016, there was an extensive confessional debate about this. Ultimately they decided to punt the issue into the next administration but what do you do when you don’t want to decide, you go appoint a committee. So they appointed a national commission on military service to study the question which has been at work for the last two years. I’m going to be testifying at hearings that they’re holding people in April in Washington DC at two days of hearings on the future of selective service. Including whether draft registration should be ended or should be extended to women.

And in the course of that study by the commission, they’ve been pretty secretive but have been filing freedom of information act requests and I’ve gotten a bunch of information. So we do have the reports made by the Selective Service and by the Pentagon.

The reason the Pentagon says it supports continuing draft registration even thought they don’t want to draft and they want to say, “While we’re getting enough volunteers, the all volunteer army is working just fine.” But the reason I say they want to registration is not so much they would actually serve a draft. As that it serves to socialize people to the idea and normalize military service, and it gives us an additional database that we can use for military recruiting purposes.

James Branum: And makes a lot of sense. And that to me, what’s notable about that is that whether they ever get around to a draft at some point, it’s still going to have instructive role in society. This registration process.

Edward Hasbrouck: I think it very much does. The idea is more of a gesture of subservience, a statement for someone like me or perhaps you. The false statement that we are willing to kill and die in any wars that we’re called up for. Since obviously the reason for draft is per se, to fight a draft that not enough people are volunteering for. You wouldn’t need the draft.

And without getting to far into the question of conscience subjection, to fit the government’s definition, you have to object to the right degree, for the right reasons, at the right time. You can’t object too early or too late, or to a greater degree or to a lesser degree, you have to object to all wars. You can’t pick and choose your wars, even though most people would say, there’s some wars I’d fight, and some wars I wouldn’t fight. Most people are pacifists.

You can’t say, I don’t want to have anything to do with the system. I think it’s a military system, well now, that’s too soon. On the other hand, if you wait, even though you can in theory be discharged as a conscience objector. People will say, well, you shouldn’t have waited until you got to the battlefield.

But the reality is everybody draws the line at different places. For some people it is, I won’t put on a uniform, some people it’s, I won’t pick up a gun. Some people it’s, I won’t shoot at humanoid target, some people is I won’t shoot at an actual human, some people it’s, I won’t shoot at children, some people it’s, I won’t commit atrocities and war crimes.

I mean, basically everybody but a sociopath draws the line somewhere. Really unless you’re a sociopath is willing to kill absolutely anybody the government might imagine. At some level, you have some level of objection and you should be questioning whether you should sign a blank check which says, “I’ll fight any war, anywhere, against anyone on any terms as ordered.” Which is what you’re doing when you sign a registration form.

James Branum: Absolutely.

Edward Hasbrouck: They government doesn’t see it in those terms. But now we face, you know, a real debate where congress can no longer put off this decision and I think we’re both going to see a recommendation from this national commission which may or may not be heeded. But the commission’s processes, a public forum where we’re getting a chance to debate this and hearing things that we haven’t heard for decades. Whether we actually should continue to have a draft registration program why we have it, what kind of wars would it be used for anyway.

And then this additional question, where a fair number of people are saying, well, if that’s what it takes in order to salvage the draft, we should expand it to women, which is wrong at many different levels for many different reasons. Most obviously because it won’t work.

We’re already in A because we already know that the level of non-compliance made it impossible to get a working system from then, why would anybody think that women are more willing to signup to fight and kill and die than men were.

There’s a particular hypocrisy on the part of the people who say that, “Well, young women are strong enough to fight and willing enough to fight and aggressive enough to fill all military roles,” but the same time manage to delude themselves into thinking that young women, the same battle ready young women are so disempowered, so weak, so submissive, that none of them will resist when they’re ordered to come down and sign up and say, “Oh, yeah, I’ll kill however you want.”

I think it highly likely that the level of resistance from young women will be even greater than it’s been-

James Branum: Absolutely.

Edward Hasbrouck: And it’s a near certainty that while people have different experiences, and every period in terms of how their families, their communities, those around them responded to draft resistance and the level of support they got. There’s always been support, but it’s varied, depending on the situation and the family and the community. I think it should go without saying that the level of family support and community support for women who refuse to fight and kill is going to be a whole lot greater than the support has been for male drafters. It’s not just going to be trying to go round up individual people, but they’re going to be women who are standing there with their friends and family around them in solidarity and they’re basically going to have to send armed raiding parties to make war on entire communities if you want to draft them.

No plan or proposal for expanding draft registration to women should be take seriously as other than na├»ve and deluded fantasy. Unless it includes a credible plan and budget. How police state you’re going to have to create, and how many dollars you’re going to have to spend to identify, investigate, prosecute and incarcerate all the women who will resist and all those who will stand with them?

James Branum: It’s completely unattainable. I have a few comments we received so far, so I’m going to ready those. One of the comments, and this is from Jeff Paterson at Courage to Resist, he says, a surprisingly big assertion, “I’m seeing as we’re starting to organize to end draft registration, once and for all years.” The draft will be great because it will make war less likely because the kids of the powerful will be at risk. And if there’s a war, more people would protest and stop it. I’ve heard this same line of conversations in progressive peace oriented thugs. And so, curious, how do you respond to that?

Edward Hasbrouck: First, I think it is an indicative and astonishingly profound unexamined ageism. Because in saying you want to influence older people’s behavior by threatening to kill their children, which is what you’re saying. “They would care are going to be drafted.” It’s not even hostage taking, you’re literally threatening to murder their children as a way to influence them. And what gives anybody the right to try to influence people by inflicting pain and suffering and death on their children?

There’s an underlying ageism to the draft in general. People will talk about a universal system. They don’t mean the universal, they mean all young people. It’s all about the attitude of older people that they think that somehow it’s okay for us to vote to send young people to do our bidding and to die on our behalf.

Where does that come from? The second … And I think that should be sufficient that people really think about what they’re arguing for. They would reject that. But in terms of that argument that “Oh, well, if there were draft, it would mobilize and antiwar movement.” Well, sure. If the police are running riot in the streets. As they are, often.

If they were shooting more white people as well as more black people, maybe more white people would be out in the streets protesting police brutality. Does that mean, we should argue, “Oh, the police should start shooting more white people or the black people they already shoot?” I mean, this is what this argument amounts too.

And I think it’s just, once you actually think about what they’re saying it’s totally speechless. Aside from that, I mean, it doesn’t really hold up. We had a draft in Vietnam and the draft did indeed, and resistance to the draft played a significant role although primarily, the Vietnamese won the war, which is why the war ended when it ended was Vietnamese won. Good for them.

But the draft played a role, it didn’t succeed in stopping the war until 10s of thousands American or millions of Vietnamese died. It’s not a particularly starling model for, “Oh, having a draft means we’re going to have a successful antiwar movement.”

James Branum: One thing is fascinating, this is sort of kind of related, sort of kind of not. I’ve been a student for a long time and a fun of the draft resistance that happened in Oklahoma during World War One. Particularly the Green Corn Rebellion. And that whole time period, one thing I have looked at beyond just those events of actual resistance to the drafts through and sometimes violent resistance even.

What we have also looked at though is the genealogy research, looked at quite a few people’s World War One draft registrations. And I don’t know if it’s probably 20 or 30, I’ve looked at of male members of my family who were alive at that time period and some related families. I have only seen one person. And those that you could check whether you were militarily eligible or whether you were claiming an exemption right away after the registration stage.

I’ve only found one out of 20 or 30 that said they were eligible. Everybody else had health issues, family hardship, you name it. And I just find this to be fascinating and this is uni- I mean, again, out of 20 or 30 I’ve looked at, I’ve found only one that said, “Yeah, I’m right, I can go.” The rest didn’t.

And so, I think sometimes the … I see as a way to, for lack of a better word to … To subvert this system, it would be great to rid of draft registration. But if we can’t get rid of it, then we as the peace community, we need to use this as an organizing tool to raise the issue of conscience certainly with the issue of the draft but also in all the other ways that our lives intersect with the military industrial system.

I feel like if we attack the system itself but if we can’t do that, then this is still a terrible opportunity but an opportunity to ask all of us questions what are we going to do extricate our self from this system.

Edward Hasbrouck: I think this is one of the ways that the draft is always been a catalyst for creating a movement. It’s been, the graft played a central role in youth movements and antiwar movements and partly because it does, it forces people to make choices who might otherwise ignore the whole thing.

But it think hardly your comments there James, it’s, we need to recognize that we’re playing a different game that we were a week ago. Draft registration is dead. There is not going to be draft registration unless congress affirmatively acts. If congress is stalemated. [crosstalk 00:36:59]. Is unconstitutional.

James Branum: You can’t … you’re right.

Edward Hasbrouck: It’s going to be appealed and it will drag out for a year or two but it’s really, I mean, the legal cases open and shut. This is not a age case legally. They can appeal and stall for a year or two. But the current law is unconstitutional. And it’s going to be voided.

What we’re left with is, unless congress actually acts to enact a new law that includes women, draft registration is dead. And I think that there’s a good chance that congress will be a stalemate. And again, that’s a good thing. I don’t want to see them require draft registration. I don’t want to see draft registration revived. The big issue though is, and why it’s still important, is all of these lingering sanctions against all the millions of people who over the last almost 40 years, have been faced with draft registration.

Many of whom have, for all the right reasons or simply out of ignorance, not comply and you’re going to face lifetime penalties unless congress does some cleanup work. My goal really is … Draft registration I mean is dead. I think that draft registration of women is not going to happen because people, I think, are going to realize when they think about it is just not workable. And would require too much of a police state and too much money and not prepared to make murderers out of that many young women.

But it think the real challenge is going to be getting congress to recognize, look, you need to clean this up. The mess that’s been left. By these 40 years of weirdness with the program that wasn’t being enforced or people are still being punished for.

James Branum: Will there be any option do you think from the litigation standpoint eventually? I’m thinking that if the … it’s a legal territory because if the draft law registration was always unconstitutional, will there be any way of voiding those previous convictions and those previous collateral actions to litigation. It would certainly be a lot easier if congress would take action. But I don’t, I could see it going either way.

Edward Hasbrouck: It could go … I think the problem is the court has not ruled that registration was never constitutional. This is a district court that couldn’t overall the supreme court.

James Branum: Yeah, you’re right. The timing.

Edward Hasbrouck: The facts had changed so people may not have registered at a time when draft registration was still constitutional. I thought we changed its status because of changes in the facts. Sometimes around 2015 or 2016. But as the facts on the ground change, not really that because of those changed facts that became unconstitutional. This is why it’s such a mess.

I’ve been talking with the National Lawyers Guild, the Military Law Task Force, people are beginning to think about some of these questions. If congress does nothing, there will be years if not decades of followup litigation, both at the federal level and with respect to the state laws with probably inconsistent results in different places, results because of either just different judges or nuisances and how these state laws are worded.

So again, unless congress does some cleanup work and maybe even state legislatures, and this is going to be challenge for people to get them to act state by state. Unless there’s some legal cleanup work, we’re going to face a mess and people who didn’t register are still going to face various barriers for a very long time.

James Branum: I have a few more questions and comments here. One comment I have, Serena in Oklahoma, she says, another dubious argument is that women will humanize the military. Make it less violent somehow. But no details are ever offered. I have another Serena also asked, and actually, I think she’s a … kind of the same questions I would have. She’s asking, why does Ed think congress won’t pass a new draft law? Do I understand him to say it’s basically because the women are included and people aren’t ready for that?

Edward Hasbrouck: Yeah, I mean. To be constitutional, a new law an amendment to the law, to try to restore its constitutionality would definitely have to include women. Whether or not politically they’re willing to do that, I think is up in there air. The unfortunate thing is that while there’s a long traditional of radical, antiwar feminism. Alice Paul who wrote the equal rights amendment was a Quaker, a pacifist, opposed to war and conscription.

But there are a lot of liberals today who rather than seeing this historic feminist argument against war and seeing war as one of the things that men do that’s wrong with. As men, there are those from the liberal position who are arguing for drafting women in the name of women’s equality. I think it’s misguided, there’s always been an argument of feminism means. It’s not for me to argue what feminism means.

But they’re really arguing really good. I think the reason it will fail is because that if we can bring into the debate, realism. I’m not trying to persuade people in congress not to want a draft. I’m trying to persuade them that like or not, draft registration of men has failed. Like or not, an attempt to register women for the draft will fail. Like it or not, an attempt to enforce draft registration against women will create a civil war.

James Branum: Okay, it sounds like to me, and this is my read of it. Is that really the issues legally and ethically not everything else. But such a legally a draft registration and the possibility of a draft in the future. Those two issues to me, some of them they kind of decoupled. It means I can certainly see from the idea that registration fuels the draft. But since congress could throw either new registration or I can see various ways that they could even put registration on ice and yet retain infrastructure to keep the draft, to be able to activate it if necessary. And again, my theory is they would just use commercial databases if they don’t want the political cost of registration.

And so, given that is, from my perspective, that means that whether there’s draft registration or not, anyone who is at risk of being drafted still needs to be prepared for various contingencies. As would be my thinking. But I’m I thinking right about that? What would your response to that be?

Edward Hasbrouck: One of the things that this national commission has been charged to explore, is whether there should be some alternative. And partly the reason for congress to appoint a committee was to try to give them political cover. If the commission comes back and recommends, because they don’t see any real choice, ending the current registration scheme, they may still recommend some other system which could as you say, be based on commercial databases, on other sources of information. Getting the databases though, that’s only getting to the first step. That gets them an address where they think somebody who might be the right age, who they might want to draft lives that they can try to send out an induction notice.

Sending out an induction notice doesn’t mean delivering a warm body into uniform if the person doesn’t voluntarily show up. Bottom line is, if people don’t willingly submit, they still have to have enough people go out and knock on doors and either dragging these people out of the bus to the induction center or drag them off to a federal prison.

And what kind of infrastructure does that require? And the more we can focus the debate on that, the more chance they’ll have to realize that, okay, just substituting commercial databases for a database that’s mostly generated from drivers licenses, doesn’t really change the fundamentals of the fact that to get back to what I said earlier, the ability of the government to wage war like or not depends on whether people are willing to fight it.

And the good news is that people today, young people today as well as old people. But people today in general are a lot more skeptical about the government than they were back even during the Vietnam war. I thing it’s the change that Vietnam brought about, it’s the change that perhaps even more than Watergate brought about.

And that’s why even by 1980, there had been a sea change in the level of resistance and why today and I think people are much less willing to say, “Okay, the government says there’s these people over there we ought to kill, okay, I guess there must be some reason we’re supposed to kill them.”

We’ve seen too many wrong headed wars. And let me just give you one colossal example of that. When Jimmy Carter proposed bringing back draft registration in 1980 and this is when I was supposed to register. The reason for registration was in order respond to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That was in case we needed to send massive numbers of American ground troops to Afghanistan to fight on which side? Wait a minute. Which side were we on?

This was when we were supporting the people who were opposing the Soviet invasion, that is to say the people who were then called the Mujahidin and who would later come to call themselves the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We went to prison for refusing to sign a piece of paper agreeing that on demand, I’d go fight on the side of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

What does that say about the government authority, even to fix the right wars to pick which side we should be fighting on. And after a long succession of fighting on the wrong side in Vietnam, fighting on the wrong side in succession of other wars, why should we be signing that over to the government? And how willing do they really think people are to have that kind of unquestioning obedience today?

James Branum: Absolutely. We’re going to mention real quick, we have two things, one is of course, if anyone has questions or comments, we have a little bit time. So please post them, I’ll check them back on the comments in just a moment. Do you want to mention though, also in response to what we were talking about tonight. We have couple of ways to the Objector Church that we are seeking to spark some action. And these are things that anybody can do.

And so, what I’d suggest if you want to do this, write down these web addresses because, actually, both of them, everything is at And on that page, there are two links I want to point folks to. The first one is our Objector registry, which is a project where we’re encouraging people, particularly anyone who could be drafted to complete our registry, provide some documentation of evidence where your beliefs were at this point in time, just in the event of a future draft.

But we also have a petition that we are calling for an end to draft registration itself. And let me see if I can find that link. I’m not seeing it but Jeff or Rena, if you could post on Facebook that would be fantastic. But anyway, I want to mention these and some practical things as far as our own personal responses to the issue of the draft and conscription.

Let me check and see if we have any more questions. Ed, are there any other things that you’d like to share that we haven’t talked about tonight?

Edward Hasbrouck: I think the main thing is for people to be aware this is happening, aware that this does not mean that women have to be drafted. It does not mean that the only way to respond to this court decision is women have to be drafted. No, nobody should be drafted and it’s important because this is going to be in congress in all likelihood within the next year or two after probably court appeals play out.

It’s important to start spreading awareness now and start pushing people in congress now that they should repeal draft registration, repeal all of these penalties for people who have not registered. Who did the right thing over the last 40 years. And particularly for feminists, for women, for young women, most of all, let them know two things. One, that drifting women is not a feminist initiative. It’s not in women’s interest, it’s not in anybody’s interest, does not reflect feminist values, war is not a good thing.

And secondly, let them know that if there’s an attempt to require women to register for the draft, or to subject them to some new kind of draft, you will resist, if you’re a young woman who is subject to that, and you will support young women who resist. If your a young man or your older.

Because again, I don’t think we’re going to persuade the Pentagon, we’re not going to persuade too many people in congress, they have their views about war. I think it’s a pragmatic question not, what do you want in your fantasy land if you had some magic wand that you could wave and throw pixie dust on people and they pick up a gun. But are you prepared as a member of congress to actually face what it will take in the face of the likely resistance to try to draft women.

James Branum: Absolutely. Well, and we often have a quite a few viewers later on in the recorded version of this. Ed, if folks have questions, where would be a good place … You want to share your website or other point of contact?

Edward Hasbrouck: I have a website with a lot of information about both the specific issue of women and the draft as well as the current draft registration program. And what people can do, that’s tat resisters with an, And it’s also a background there about all these national commission which is studying the question and the hearings coming up which are April, 24th and 25th for any of you in DC I think that will be interesting opportunity to be heard directly.

It’s not often that you have a national commission that’s literally setting up an open mic that people can walk up and tell them what they think. Just going to be going on for two days. At Gallaudet University in DC on April 24th and 25th.

The other place for information about this is I’m sure you know, is And they I know have the petition, I think on their homepage at the moment., for the information about the draft and for broader range of ideas about those resistance to the draft and resistance by those currently in the military,

James Branum: The last thing for our conversation, Ed, I want to mention that I think that … I think one of the issues I’m seeing is because it’s been off everyone’s, a lot of peoples radar things for so long. That a lot of even peace organizations, peace churches and what not, have really, they’re not giving out good advice. They don’t have good information right now.

I want to mention here in Oklahoma City, I’m hoping in the next few weeks to be putting together some kind of event where these certain communities can get together, find out how things are changing and what we should do in the meantime as far as the organizing effort and other things is happening.

For some of you in the local peace community, you can expect maybe email and calling very soon. But in the meantime, if you want to reach out to me, particularly if you’re outside of Oklahoma City, my email is And I’m certainly willing to travel with the distance to far and have a lot of folks that could speak on this topic but really it’s trying to raise the issue and much bigger way.

And again, it’s not just for the sake of the particular legal issues right now. But it’s just about hopefully broader conversations about the nature war itself. To be honest, Ed, I have few more announcements but you don’t have to stay for this. You’re welcome to but I want to thank you so much for being with us tonight. It was really an honor to speak to you. I was actually … Really meaningful to me because when I was moving away from a very pro-war, very conservative, Christian fundamentalist perspective, as I was starting to question more and more, I think one of the first websites I looked up on the issue of the draft and what not was I think one of your websites.

And this would have been way back there, late 90s, early 2000s thereabouts, but anyway, I just really, at a time it was an encouraging thing to read your story of resistance and to just get some good information of where things stand.

It’s an honor to get to meet you and hopefully we’ll have you on again as things update.

Edward Hasbrouck: Well, thank you so much and thank you for your work to call attention to this issue and to try to help people out or realizing they actually have choices to make. So thank you.

James Branum: Absolutely. Well, our last few announcements, I want to mention that for any of you who are regular attenders of our webcast, the Objector Church, we now have flashed out our membership program of what it means to be a member of the Objector Church. And we have a full membership available particularly for people in our local communities who want to have more of an inclusive kind of thing.

But our associate memberships are there for people that mostly connect to us online and the want to support what we’re doing. You can find out more about this at Look for the membership link and again, if you have questions, I would love to talk to you about it. My email is

And I’ll mention one very practical thing is, for a lot of folks, we’re envisioning this that maybe people from other traditions, religious traditions who their traditions they’ve grown up with isn’t peace oriented, but they want to show in some way where they stand, this is a chance to do that.

For people that may not be religious at all, but wanting to support and connect to what we’re doing, there’s a lot of ways to get involved. Also, I want to mention that we have a new podcast that we’re sponsoring. Serena, one of the Ministers of the Objector Church has put this together, and it comes out every other week dealing with issues of peace and social justice. Her website is at And her podcast, it is fantastic, very well done, about 30 minutes in most episodes. Giving an idea, the last when she had, and actually, I haven’t gotten to hear this one yet, so I’m excited. the new one it say, this episode packed with news reports in the field including Guantanamo, met a peace team at the Southern border, Venezuela and events from Amnesty USA, World Beyond War and Veterans for Peace.

Peace People segment features Angela Davis. So, check it out at And other than that, be sure to join us next week about the same time. We do our webcast live, Sunday nights, 7:00 PM Central Time, 5:00 PM Pacific. All our programs is of course available on our website, usually on the website, it’ll be a day or two later. Just don’t know how long it takes to edit it up and make it sound a lot better. But in the mean time, it’s already available on Facebook, you can watch it there.

And lastly, if you have comments, if you’re watching it on Facebook, post your comments there, I’ll check those periodically or shoot me an email. Thank you so much for tuning in. And again, thanks to Ed for joining us and we’ll see you soon.