In response to:
"We Won't Go" from the May 18, 1967 issue
To the Editors:
As one of 158 (?) draft-card burners, April 15, I would like to thank Paul Goodman for his sympathetic article, and, more so, for his courageous support. Readers of the New York Review should know that Paul and a number of other people too old to possess draft cards have signed a statement declaring in part, “We have conspired with you and aided and abetted you before your action, and/or we will do so after it.”
I would also like to make some corrections about what happened during the burning. First of all, the draft-card burners were protected by pacifists, veterans, and sympathetic friends who formed a circle, locked hands, and did and excellent non-violent job of protecting the burners from the ill-mannered press who left alone would have trampled everyone. Also, the Maxwell House coffee can, used to burn the cards, was contributed by the Veterans and Reservists for Peace, not the VFW. There is a difference! Although most of us have already received visits by the FBI, only the green beret, Gary Rader, has so far been charged.
I was disappointed that Goodman did not expand his remarks on the growing “We Won’t Go” movement, and that he felt it expedient to keep the names of the participants anonymous. For, as he recognizes, the strength of the draft-resistance movement lies in its openness, its willingness to state publicly and defiantly, “Hell No, We Won’t Go.” Indeed, the practice has been for these draft-resistance unions to publish a statement with names in their college newspaper. A typical one, from the University of Chicago Maroon, reads, “We the undersigned men of draft age are united in our determination to refuse military service in Vietnam, and urge others of like mind to join us.”
To date, there are more than a thousand and young men, and also some women supporters, in this movement. More than twenty draft-resistance unions exist, on such campuses as Harvard, Yale, Cornell, University of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Berkeley, Antioch, Earlham, Queens College, Swarthmore, and Princeton. Many of the unions are committed to direct action. When a member is called for a physical or for induction, others picket and leaflet the induction center and sometimes nonviolently disrupt the proceedings.
Yet, because the draft quotas are still low (there is enough cannon-fodder available for the government to avoid confrontation with draft resisters), the “We Won’t Go” movement is still largely symbolic. But it will grow as the war escalates, and there will be more draft-card burnings, more draft refusal, and more civil disobedience. (More than seventy draft refusers are in prison now). The penalties are high. For burning my draft card I face up to five years in prison. But to do nothing, or to fiddle around with petitions, peace candidates, and other legal and respectable means of dissent while Vietnam burns and we plunge insanely on to a larger war is intolerable. The most creative, the best, the most productive thing an American can do today is to resist, say NO to LBJ, over and over and over again, and the hell with the FBI.
Co-editor, WIN Magazine
New York City