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Books on the Draft Survival Manuals

By James M. Fallows


They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.

IGNORANCE, they used to tell us, is bliss. For anyone facing up to the Selective Service System, ignorance can be death. In a nation where information is always a considerable advantage, there are few places where the uninformed are as routinely victimized as in the draft system. More than the courts, the schools, or the businesses. the draft is utterly merciless to those who don't know its ropes.

The inductee who drifts unprepared into his local board's maw is as hopelessly doomed as the cow who placidly rides the slaughterhouse conveyor belt. There are chances to escape-times when the belt slows down, opportunities for a smart cow to leap off and run away. But unless the potential carcass knows precisely how to seize his chances for freedom, he will join thousands of his fellows at the other end of the abattoir.

Because of the literally vital need for draft information, several books on the Selective Service have straggled out in the last few years. Their quality, unfortunately, has varied widely. Some, like the S1 "Draft Physical" leaflets that are now selling briskly at Cambridge newsstands, are seductive but hardly useful. Others, with more obscure titles. contain absolutely essential details. As the end of a school year brings another shipment of students to the packing plant, it may be helpful to point out some of the best current offerings.

As a basic survival manual. the Guide to the Draft by Arlo Tatum and Joseph Tuchinsky is unsurpassed. True to its title's suggestion. the book covers nearly all the pertinent areas-from the organization of local boards to the perils and advantages of emigration.

The authors. two veteran draft counselors. obviously hope their book will give draft-age readers "some control over your own destiny," But they do not let their purpose taint the quality of their research. They set out in laudably thorough fashion all the rules under which the draft registrant must play. For anyone who foresees rough relations with his draft board. the Guide's explanations of appeal procedure, classification systems. and conscientious objections can be immensely helpful.

Tatum and Tuchinsky have appended wads of useful material to their book, including lists of local draft counselors and a large collection of Selective Service documents. In all, the Guide is indispensable.

In its more specialized way. Tatum's Handbook for Conscientious Objectors is also an essential primer. As the continuing war has daily convinced more men that they cannot lend their bodies to the cause, draft boards have become increasingly irritable about claims for Conscientious Objector status-and carefully prepared claims have become imperative.

While the Handbook doesn't pretend to reveal any magical tactics for earning a CO, it does provide nuggets of practical information for the sincere objector. Its extensive citations from court decisions. its quotations on what constitutes a "religious" objection, and its sampling of hostile questions from draft board members may make the difference between a successful CO claim and an unsuccessful resister, mired in the jungle or in jail. A detailed and sometimes gruesome description of court procedure and prison life is also necessary for those who plan complete resistance.

IT IS NO secret that the quickest way out of the draft is not the ideological battle of a CO claim or the prolonged agony of appeals within the draft system. For the pragmatic registrant who merely wants Out, the Army's physical fitness standards offer the most comforting set of loopholes.

In the best tradition of American self-help, these loopholes are open mainly to those who come looking for them. As David Suttler points out time and again in IV-F , no one is so healthy that he cannot fail his draft physical. But woe to the co?? placent victim who assumes that the Army will do his work for him. Unless a draftee knows he's ?? and can prove it, the Army is not going to was?? any effort uncovering his malady.

Suttler's book, which is probably the closest thing to a how-to-escape-the-draft manual that can be legally published, does not stammer about its purpose. As Suttler says in the Introduction:

This book cannot stop the war. Its only aim is help those who dissent. [It is] designed as a practical guide for those who do not feel they should have to wear either military khaki or prison stripes. . . It is written in the hope that no potential IV-F dies fighting a war to which he is opposed.

What follows is a complete explanation of not only the flaws the Army finds worthy of rejection, but also the exact procedure that any potential, IV-F should follow to insure his safety. Suttler has done an outstanding job of depicting the grotesque world of the draft physical; the book makes delightful reading while it dispenses its advice.

From time to time. Suttler describes a shady tactic of evasion, and then ingenuously says, "However, since it is clearly illegal. . . it seems certain that no registrant would attempt it." Most of his prescriptions, however, are perfectly legal and should cause no twinges of conscience.

There is a qualm that may trouble those who successfully follow Suttler's or Tatum's advice: if the draft misses one person. it finds another to do its dirty work. The quick reply is that if you don't resist, you will be in uniform, killing and being killed; and there is no convincing evidence why that is any better than someone else doing it.

The more important reason. however, is that one man's success need not mean another's failure-if all are ready to resist. The same loophole that lets out one man can accommodate a hundred more. if all are properly informed. The problem is that such campaigns of attrition will be futile-and will lead to even greater class discrimination in the draft-as long as thousands of victims ride uninformed to the slaughter. Cambridge needs books like IV-F and the Handbook: but the Army's supply of hamburger will be cut off only when the lifesaving manuals also reach Chelsea. Roxbury, and other favorite manpower pools.

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