April 10 2008

variation of gun-totin chaplain cover
Great newspaper article of the book, Gun Totin Chaplain and interview with author.

Order Gun-Totin' Chaplain
Kelly Thomas

When I was draft eligible, meaning 18-26, contending with the draft was simply a way of life. You couldn't do anything unless you figured it out. And, "draft dodging" could be a part of it. Most anyone who had the means and was smart could escape the draft: (at least for awhile) with school deferment, marriage and children, and naturally the classification of 4F which was a physical impairment. The stories of how guys got 4F status are legion.

It is hard to know how serious most of us took those who dodged the draft. In many ways, at the time, it was "more power to them". From a philosophical standpoint, forty years past Vietnam, we saw our duty and did it, at least it's what we tell our grandkids.
A US soldier patrols a street in Adwaniyah, just south of Baghdad, last month. US General David Petraeus, commander of the US-led coalition forces in Iraq, is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week about progress in Iraq, when he is expected to call for a pause in this year's planned withdrawal of 16,000 troops.
(AFP/Ali Yussef) (AFP/Ali Yussef)
A new term has arrived on the scene; WAR DODGERS. What this means is soldiers who for whatever reason have come to believe the war in Iraq is not worth it. Or as one put it, when he was halfway into his second deployment, "This is what my buddies are dying for?" No way, he deserts.

During Vietnam, Canada and Sweden were havens for draft dodgers and deserters. I had a little personal experience with Sweden.

When I was in Europe during the early seventies, I was in missile battalion and one of our officers was this fine, young West Point graduate. He had "orders" for Vietnam and since I was just back, wanted to talk about how I saw Vietnam and what was going on over there. We had a great talk.

He asks probing questions and I tried to answer honestly, not supporting all we were doing but discussing the various party line at the time which I believed. We had a moral obligation to keep the North from taking over the South, had to stop communism, the domino theory. (at that time I didn't know enough or had not read enough to know about the corruptness of the South Vietnamese government or Ho's determination to unite the country which was little related to communism and had to do mostly about nationalism. I only got this years later).

The young Lieutenant stood up. Saluted, did an about face and promptly drove his MGB to Sweden where he asked for political asylum. From then on, it became a joke, "Unless you want a guy to desert, don't send him to see the Chaplain."

Something is vastly wrong when you have the equivalent of an entire Division of soldiers deserting--since the war began, over 20,000. This may mean from being gone for 31 days which the military categorizes as desertion or forever. This is awful. This is an example of how everything about this war has been mismanaged.

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