Tom Weiner

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[Cross-posted from New Books in American Studies] In 1969, the United States created and implemented a new method of drafting young men for military service–the “draft lottery.” The old system, whereby local draft boards selected those to enter service, was corrupt and unfair. The new system, whereby men would be chosen at random, would be incorruptible and fair. Or at least so it was thought.

As Tom Weiner points out in his remarkable book Called to Serve: Stories of Men and Women Confronted by the Vietnam War Draft (Levellers Press, 2011), “the lottery” was also corrupt and unfair. The wealthy, white, and educated often had access to numerous kinds of “outs”: deferments for things like college-going, doctors who would support claims of disability, and resources to leave the country or mount successful claims of conscientious objection. The poor, non-white, and uneducated usually had none of these things, so when their numbers came up (literally), they went.

In this book Tom interviews all those affected by “the lottery”: those who served in the military, those who went abroad to avoid service, those who stayed but refused to serve, those who beat the draft, those who obtained CO status, and those (women) who supported and counseled men in all these groups. Their stories are fascinating, moving, and relevant today as we fight a new “longest war.” Listen in.

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