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Peace Fellowship offers forum on the draft; military spokesman deny draft is needed
Tulsa World (OK) – September 26, 2004
Author/Byline: JASON COLLINGTON World Scene Writer
Edition: Final Home
Section: FamilyPage: D4
Young people who want to be recognized as a conscientious objectors by the government need to start in middle school.
That’s the belief of two speakers featured in the Tulsa Peace Fellowship’s latest public forum.
Titled “Youth, Militarism and the Draft,” the forum Thursday hopes to focus on the issues young people should consider while the war in Iraq continues, said the Rev. Valerie Mapstone Ackerman, an organizer with the local peace organization.
One of those issues is the draft — something anti-war groups constantly warn about and military officials repeatedly say isn’t going to happen.
“The draft is coming,” said James M. Branum, one of the speakers at the forum and a 28-year-old leader of the Oklahoma Committee for Conscientious Objectors. “If they are making people stay beyond (the term of) their orders, calling up people who don’t go to drill anymore, and the war has no end in sight, the government will have no choice but to start up the draft.”
Rex Friend, the other speaker and a longtime counselor to conscientious objectors serving in the military, agrees.
But local recruiters from the Army, Navy and Marines say the draft isn’t needed. They don’t have any problems finding enough people willing to enlist.
“We’ve met our recruiting goals for the past 102 months,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Tanner, who recruits in Tulsa. “Legislators keep bringing it up whenever they see kids on the street. But we don’t have a need for the draft.”
For the past three years, the Army has met local recruiting goals, said John Soos, chief of advertising and public affairs for the Army recruiting areas that include Oklahoma. Nationally, it’s been true for the past five years, he said.
If a draft were imposed, young people need to start as early as sixth and seventh grade to pass as conscientious objectors when they reach 18, Branum said. That includes writing letters to the editors of newspapers, registering with churches connected to peace groups that keep registries and demonstrating at peace rallies.
“Anything you can do to show that your views existed long before any threat of a draft,” he said.
Branum is a Mennonite who usually is the person at an anti-war demonstration with the sign that says, “Who would Jesus bomb?”
He didn’t always feel that way.
Branum said he used to support war and the death penalty, but his attitudes changed when he studied the gospels.
He also doesn’t believe in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
“It (the Pledge) stands for freedom, but it also stands for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the genocide of American Indians and the killing of innocent citizens in Iraq,” he said. “It stands for acting in ways I don’t think really make a lot of sense.”
Friend, a pacificist, said his 15-year-old daughter started early making her anti-war beliefs known. She was arrested at 12 while at a rally opposing the death penalty.
Friend was arrested during the protests at the proposed construction site for the Black Fox nuclear plant near Inola more than 20 years ago.
“My hope is to inform students about what their choices are when it comes to the military,” he said, “and that includes for those who are minorities and poor who see the military as the place where they can make the most money.”
Through the No Child Left Behind Act, schools must share student contact information with the military. Friend will share how parents can have the schools withhold that information.
Ackerman said the peace group did not try to add someone in the military on the panel for the forum.
“We’re advocating for peace and offering people our side — not both sides,” she said.
What: “Youth, Militarism and the Draft”
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: Aaronson Auditorium at the Central Library, Fourth Street and Denver Avenue
Jason Collington 581-8464