The Real Heroes

Not only is murderer and liar Chris “American Sniper” Kyle universally lauded as a hero, not only are those who murdered Vietnamese from the air like John McCain termed heroes, and not only are American military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan counted as heroes, because of the rampant military idolatry that is so prevalent in the United States—every veteran and active-duty member of the military is considered to be a hero.

It doesn’t matter where the troops go, why they go, how long they stay, whether they should go, or what they do when they are there—the troops are all heroes.

It doesn’t matter how many widows and orphans the troops make, how many bombs they drop, how many civilians they kill, how much infrastructure they destroy, how many bullets they fire, how many missiles they launch, or how many of “the enemy” they injure, maim, or kill—the troops are all heroes. King James, His Bible,... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $14.36 Buy New $14.95 (as of 11:30 EST - Details)

It doesn’t matter how much hatred toward Americans the troops incite, how many terrorists they recruit by their actions, or how much blowback they cause—the troops are all heroes.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are those Americans who refused to be heroes—like “draft dodger” Muhammad Ali.

Ali’s recent death has brought out the true nature of many conservatives: bloodthirsty apologists for the state’s military and its wars. Now, one may not much care for Ali’s religion, his arrogance, his multiple marriages, his pride, his extramarital affairs, his demeanor, and his illegitimate children, but there is one thing about Ali that we can admire—his refusal to fight in Vietnam.

Ali became a convert to the Nation of Islam in 1964, changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. In 1966, after refusing to be inducted into the Army, he was arrested, sentenced to five years imprisonment, fined $10,000, stripped of his passport, stripped of his boxing title, and banned from boxing for three years during the prime of his career. Because he posted bond and his case was appealed, Ali avoided prison like he avoided the draft.

Said Ali:

Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.

Why should me and other so-called “Negroes” go 10,000 miles away from home, here in America, to drop bombs and bullets on other innocent brown people who’s never bothered us and I will say directly: No, I will War, Christianity, and... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $4.86 Buy New $9.95 (as of 11:05 EST - Details) not go.

I didn’t want to submit to the army and then, on the day of judgment, have God say to me, “Why did you do that?” This life is a trial, and you realize that what you do is going to be written down for Judgment Day.

My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.

In 1971, the Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction.

One of the greatest smear terms used by conservatives is “draft dodger,” as if trying to avoid being enslaved by the government and forced to kill on its behalf is a bad thing. But unlike real draft dodgers like Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, and Rush Limbaugh, Ali didn’t dodge the draft. He didn’t flee to Canada. He didn’t get a college deferment. He didn’t claim to be a homosexual. He didn’t get a phony medical deferment. He didn’t take a job in an “essential” civilian occupation.

But what if Ali, like Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney, had dodged the draft? Good for him. And good for anyone who did whatever they could to avoid killing millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians in the unjust, unnecessary, unholy, senseless, and immoral Vietnam War.

There is nothing heroic about being inducted into the Army. There is nothing heroic about answering the call when it is a bad number. There is nothing heroic about killing for the government. There is nothing heroic about War, Empire, and the M... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $16.00 Buy New $9.95 (as of 11:05 EST - Details) fighting a foreign war. There is nothing heroic about fighting an offensive war. There is nothing heroic about making widows and orphans. There is nothing heroic about participating in evil. There is nothing heroic about obeying immoral orders. There is nothing heroic about fighting for our freedoms when you’re not. There is nothing heroic about fighting “over there” when there was no chance that you would have to fight “over here.” There is nothing heroic about bombing a country back to the stone age. There is nothing heroic about making war against a people that were no threat to us. There is nothing heroic about going to a foreign country and butchering people. There is nothing heroic about shooting people from attack helicopters with machine guns. There is nothing heroic about fighting communists half way around the world. There is nothing heroic about dying for a mistake. There is nothing heroic about your name appearing on the wall. There is nothing heroic about serving in the military during the Vietnam War. There is nothing heroic about fighting an unjust, unnecessary, unholy, senseless, and immoral war. There is nothing heroic about killing anything that moves.

The real heroes are the young men who, in spite of government orders, pressure, and threats, did not do any of these things. The real heroes are the young men who refused to go to Vietnam. The real heroes are the young men who fled to Canada instead of going to Vietnam. The real heroes are the young men who spent time in jail instead of Vietnam. The real heroes are the young men who burned their draft cards. The real heroes are the young men who protested against the war. The real heroes are the young men who suffered the consequences of refusing to go to Vietnam.

Draft resisters, draft opponents, draft avoiders, and draft dodgers are the real heroes.