Agate Passage Friends Meeting

Bainbridge Island & Kitsap County

THE NEW CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS

As more and more people are questioning US policies on war, in Iraq and elsewhere, the subject of Conscientious Objection (CO) is very relevant. Many soldiers currently serving in the military have requested CO status as they question the morality of our military policy.  Other soldiers have questioned the legality and efficacy of our government’s foreign policy for they are in a prime position to do so. Those of us outside the military who care about this issue can act now to protect the consciences of the current and future military recruits. If a military draft were reinstated, replacing our all volunteer system, it many young people would be required to make extremely difficult choices.

During World War II certain ‘peace churches’ such as Quakers, Mennonites, and Seventh day Adventists worked diligently to establish an alternative to state sponsored violence. The CO classification later expanded to include people from any religion as well as people with non-religious ethical and historical reasons for objecting to war. During the Vietnam era, thousands of young people gained CO status and served the country in many different non-profits, educational institutions and social services. The choice to become a CO was a strong and pro-active stand young people chose to affect positive change in a troubled world. Unfortunately with today’s volunteer military, objectors must go to military prison for taking such a stand or, if given CO status, perform menial labor.

The US army officer Lt. Ehren Watada, along with several other US soldiers, has taken a courageous stand not to return to Iraq although he would fight elsewhere. This position is very similar to the Israeli army ‘refusnik’ stand against fighting within Palestinian ‘occupied territory’. Some of these Israeli soldiers call themselves Conscientious Objectors. On behalf of current soldiers such as Lt. Watada, we must put pressure on our congressional representatives to begin to use the official classification of CO as a definition for both the pure pacifists of our history while including the Selective Objectors of today who choose when and where they will fight. If we sanction and encourage all those who take a stand against violence, we will have begun to build a peaceful service corps for local, federal and foreign service.

With a growing number of young people feeling called to take a new form of conscientious stand against US aggression, US citizens must lead the way as the, courts, government and especially the military learn to view Conscientious Objectors differently. The new Conscientious Objectors do not fit the current state sanctioned definition of CO but still choose to view certain actions as morally unacceptable and others as acceptable.

Today, if we redefined CO to also include selective refusers and those who choose prison over aiding violence, the total number of COs would soar. Imagine if instead of clogging prisons, they flooded the non-profit alternative services of education, science, healthcare and agriculture with a new more idealistic generation of young people.  Pacifists would feel empowered as they begin to support any person who takes any stand against violence. In this modern era standing up against violence means supporting the many service-oriented proactive young people who want to be part of the solution to problems that ail society. If we believe it is not the governments, but individuals’ prerogative to choose the most accurate classifications to describe themselves, then we must also believe that the CO classification has become more than a reaction to violence but a positive move to build a better world.

Agate Passage Friends Meeting- Judy Brown - clerk; Craig Jacobrown - contact