Monday, June 6, 2016

Muhammad Ali and today's Conscientious Objectors to war

Muhammad Ali Photos
It's been good to see the tributes to Muhammad Ali this week including his stand of conscience during the 1960's, when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War.  He took a powerful and principled position as a Conscientious Objector, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court and winning.  At the time, many were critical of him for that.  Now, he is more admired than criticized for staying true to his beliefs.

The Vietnam War is not the only US war that has, especially in hindsight, proven extremely ill-advised, wasteful, costly, inhumane and very difficult to end.  And Muhammad Ali was one among many men and women who have decided they would not fight in such wars.

It's important to know that, even without a draft, there have been Conscientious Objectors to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Soldiers who enlist but later have what is termed a "crystallization of belief" that leads them to decide they can no longer participate in war for reasons of religious belief or personal conscience have the legal right to apply for Conscientious Objector status and seek a CO discharge.  I have come to know a number of veterans who sought CO status after experiencing militarism and war, and our SOY colleague, Hart, is one of them.  

If you are in the military and are having a crisis of conscience, please know that there is a remedy.  Contact the good folks at the Center on Conscience and War, who can listen and discuss options with you.   They are not part of the military.  They are knowledgeable about military regulations and law.  Calls are confidential.  1-800-379-2679.  You have the right to live true to your own beliefs, just as Muhammad Ali proved.

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