Larry Bassett's Reviews > About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War

About Face by Buff Whitman-Bradley
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's review
Aug 31, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: war, social-action
Read from January 23 to 24, 2012 — I own a copy

It is very hard to go up against the U.S. Government. That should be no surprise to anyone. I once made that stand and it took courage and determination and lots of support from other people. More on that in a bit. Courage to Resist is the story of 25 soldiers who found the courage to say "no" to the most powerful military in the world.

Now, try to imagine someone in the military deciding to go against his training to speak out against what he is being ordered to do. I say “he” because, no matter how much we hear about women in the military, it is still very predominantly men. “Currently, women … make up about 14 percent of the Active Army.” (Source: )

The male draft ended in 1973. “A total of 1,857,304 men were drafted between August 1964 and February 1973, drawing from the pool of men born on or before 1955.” (Source: ) When I faced the draft when I turned 18 in 1964, I was first 2-S (Deferment for college student under age 24) and then 3-A (Dependency deferment) because I was married and had a child.

For a brief time between those two deferments, I was 1-A and subject to the draft lottery. I received my 3-A deferment when my son was born in July 1966. During the several months I was 1-A I thought a lot about what I would do if I were drafted. Could I actually serve in the military and potentially kill another human being? I didn’t think so but this was not necessarily a thinking decision.

I gave serious consideration to fleeing to Canada, the choice many young men made during the war in Vietnam. My life would have been radically altered if I had pursed that option. I was nineteen at the time and my pacifist and anti-war beliefs were still in formation. At that time conscientious objector status was only being granted to those with religious opposition to all wars. I would not have qualified since I was not a member of one of the historic peace churches. I never gave any consideration to enlisting and am not certain what I would have done if drafted. That time was my most significant fork in the road in my life to this very day. And I was just a kid.

Although I did not have to battle the military draft system in 1964-66, I did find myself sued by the Federal Government in 1985 (U.S.A. v. Bassett, Civil Action No. CV-84-4998) for refusing to cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service in collecting federal income taxes that I had refused to pay as a conscientious military tax objector. I found myself conscientiously unable to voluntarily pay these taxes because such a large percent of them would be used to finance militarism and nuclear weapons. After a year of sometimes harrowing and sometimes elating events, I avoided jail for contempt of court and won the case. My time to stand up and be counted had come twenty years after my confrontation with the draft.

In About Face you will read about men and women who volunteered for the military but who changed their minds when they understood what they were being ordered to do. I can both identify with those men and realize I have no way of knowing just how they feel as they experience the full force of the U.S. military where the goal is to train men to be able to kill other men. Many of the examples in the book dealt with soldiers who attempted to obtain conscientious objector status to be released from the military or who went AWOL to Canada.

The stories of over 25 soldiers (including four women) and their struggles with separating from the military are told in their own words. Quite a few were seventeen years old when they signed up and one was a graduate of the air force military academy in Colorado. The confusion and angst comes through loud and clear in most of the stories that are told in their own words transcribed from telephone interviews with Courage to Resist volunteers or staff. The stories are both moving and chilling as you realize that many of the soldiers are just kids. Just confused kids, many coming from complicated and even distressing home lives.

Courage to Resist: Military Resisters Turn Against War, published at the end of 2011, is about as up to date as you will find in print about the struggle of soldiers who find they cannot go or return to Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in war. But this is a constantly evolving arena with the ongoing story of whistle blower Bradley Manning and others who have found the courage like Daniel Ellsberg to speak truth to the most massive military power in the world.

I give Courage to Resist five stars and encourage you to read it. The book is available at the web site . This is the first time in a while I have read a book in less than 24 hours.
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Reading Progress

01/23/2012 page 10
4.0% "Well, the core issue is always education. You can't have successful activism without a public that understands what you are doing. That's the tactical lesson that activists have to internalize and grasp."

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Bennet (new) - added it

Bennet Great review, Larry. I've added this to my to do list.

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