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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 16. September 8th 1971

War is Over — If you Want it

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War is Over

If you Want it

Yesterday, about 2,000 men were chosen to undergo compulsary military training for enlistment in the New Zealand Territorial Reserve. Since registration for the ballot is compulsary, every New Zealander may find himself in a position where he may be called upon to enforce Government military policy. We all pay taxes to implement Government policy whether we agree with it or not, but the National Military Service Act faces us with the prospect of personally prosecuting a war created by those who have taken it upon themselves to lead us. In a nation like ours, lacking in political concensus, the mere question of service to the collective is a farce; it becomes service to the elite.

National Military Service can, however, be avoided. The NMSA makes allowance for Conscientious Objection, a freedom won by courageous men who over this century have gone to gaol rather than take up arms, and embarrassed successive governments into submission. At present you can conscientiously object on several grounds. The NMSA does not stipulate grounds for acceptance by the Conscientious Objection Committee. In the past, however, it has been found that you can pass the committee hearings by pleading
1)Religious Pacifism
2)Nonreligious Pacifism
3)Political Principles. The first of these is based on a simple statement of faith in religious principles, and provided objective proof of such faith is given will probably be unquestioned by the Committee. The second of these is also generally a safe plea, though it can lead to certain logical traps if the committee try to make it difficult for you [e.g. Q. This is based on Humanitarian beliefs. What if it could be shown that humanity would be better served by a little killing? The assassination of Hitler say in the 1930's.] Nevertheless, a mere statement of faith is still the best method of winning a case.

The most difficult of pleas is political principle. To merely object to what New Zealand is fighting For begs the question of what is worth fighting for, and a statement of support for any military force will not be received very well by the committee, who are fairly prejudiced in favour of New Zealand's policy. On the other hand, a failure to give a statement of some kind of political belief begs the question of just why you will not be conscripted. Nevertheless, statements that in the past have concentrated on New Zealand's Foreign policy have been successful. Such arguments have one great advantage. The great red herring: Would you defend yourself if you were attacked — does not arise, since New Zealand's foreign policy can be factually shown to have nothing to do with self defence.

The committee will possibly attempt to find inconsistencies in your arguement. This however is merely argumentative quibbling. Two famous pacifists, Albert Einstien and Bertrand Russell turned round and gave moral support to the allies in World War II. What they did here was not to contradict themselves, but to freely choose to support a war. The point in Conscientious Objection is not to create the infallible pacifist argument but merely to run your life as you wish it, rather than as the state dictates it. If you wish to turn round later and support a war, then that is a matter for your own conscience. That it remains that way is the point of Conscientious Objection.

The freedom to object is not one that the state surrendered voluntarily. It was forced to do so by men who simply refused its dictates. Conscientious Objectors were a political embarrassement to successive governments who felt the need to give it an outlet. Even so, the freedom to object was only gained by suffering, and each expansion in its role was only won with a fight. That conscientious objection be continually used is vital if militarism in this country is going to be erased. There is no valid distinction to be drawn between the National Military Servicemen and the regular Army. Army planning takes the National Military Servicemen into account as a reserve to be called on if necessary. Brigadier W.R.K. Morrison stated quite bluntly in 1968: "While on the active list of his unit (the serviceman) is eligible for overseas service, and the government has the authority now without invoking a special act of parliment, to mobilise this force and send it overseas to honour one or other of our treaty obligations." Trainess have been told in the past:

"you had better take your training seriously — you may be going to Vietnam." Well, the Vietnam War is almost over for New Zealand. But the next time the U.S. decides to save a tiny land from the mythical red hoardes, and asks for New Zealand's support, the trainee sweltering at Waiouru may find his future considerably bleaker than it is now.

Eric Frykberg