I sent this Op Ed piece to several newspapers
in January 1995.
On February 4, 1985, I was sentenced to six months in Federal Prison, 30 months of probation and a 30 month suspended sentence as a result of my refusal to cooperate with registration for military service. Ten years have passed since that time. In many ways our world is now a very different place. Unfortunately, the social problems which led to my war resistance continue to plague us.
During my trial in Syracuse, I argued that not only was I justifed in refusing to register for the draft, but that in fact various international agreements, particularly the Nuremberg Accords, required me to refuse to "participate in crimes against humanity." I attempted to present the jury with evidence that the U.S. government's military efforts to overthrow the Nicaraguan government were illegal, and that I would be complicit with those crimes by registering. In the same vein I spoke about my belief that the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons were also in clear violation of international law. Unfortunately, Judge Howard Munson wouldn't allow the jury to hear much of this testimony.
My personal stand received wide-ranging support in Central New York and beyond. Demonstrations filled the plaza outside the Federal Building on each morning of the court proceedings. The courtroom overflowed with supporters each day. Nearly 2,000 people signed a "complicity statement" publically declaring their solidarity and intent to violate the same Selective Service laws. When I arrived on a cell block in the Public Safety Building jail, the evening news showed eight fellow activists being arrested as they protested the same war preparations against which I had spoken.
Since that time the Berlin Wall was dismantled, the Soviet Union collapsed, the Sandinista government of Nicaragua was defeated in elections, democratic elections placed former political prisoner Nelson Mandela in the South African Presidency and other changes too numerous to mention have occurred. Despite the fact that many of these changes were accomplished through nonviolent action, war and injustice remain the central problems confronting our nation and the world.
The Russians are slaughtering in Chechnya, war continues in Bosnia, ethnic conflicts threaten to erupt into war in many parts of the globe. Here at home our society continues to further polarize. The Republicans, who now control Congress, openly scapegoat poor people, people of color and immigrants to cover up the bankruptcy of both major political parties.
Ten years ago, there were active social movements challenging the renewed militarism and social conservatism. Today, those same groups are searching for ways to garner support and active participation. This vacuum has resulted in the disappearance of the peace dividend and Newt Gingrich's calls for a reinvigorated militarism.
Given all this can I possibly have any regrets for my resistance? Instead, I commit myself to another decade of seeking opportunities to challenge the violence and injustice around me. I cannot know whether my actions will have much affect, but I have no other choice but to seek to live a life of integrity. Unfortunately I know this may mean further imprisonment and persecution by a society based on the use of violence to maintain the privilege and material comfort of the few at the expense of the well-being of the majority.