Bernie Sanders used for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam war draft, but he was as well old to it is in drafted when his number come up.

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Published15 February 2016

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In late 2015 and also early 2016, many news articles and social media short articles claimed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had “dodged the draft” during the Vietnam war era:

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LostDiva U.S. GENERALS assistance HILLARY FOR, "COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF." no "DRAFT DODGER" Bernie Sanders. Pic.twitter.com/cPe1RcVTeB

— Dr. Tom boy name (Ph.D.) (
DrTomMartinPhD) February 8, 2016

It’s true the Sanders to be a consistently vocal opponent of the Vietnam war during his university years and into his early political career, applying for “conscientious objector” condition as a student. However, the hatchet “draft dodger” has a an extremely specific meaning and connotation (that compulsory military business was evaded by illegal or unethical means, such together falsifying files or leave the country) which doesn’t use to conscientious objectors.

Memes saying the Sanders averted the draft seem to have originated from an editorial released by the Des Moines Register in respectable 2015:

I enlisted in the military while ns was tho in high school. About that time Bernie Sanders’ draft board was deciding ~ above his insurance claim that he refuse to do military service because he to be a conscientious objector. That did so to avoid having to serve his country in the Vietnam War. Soon after that turned 26, also old to be drafted, and no longer needed ways to stop the draft. Sanders was just settling down in his brand-new home in vermouth in 1970-1971 if I offered my nation as a military policeman in jeep patrols in Vietnam.

His decision come refuse to accomplish his wartime civic and also patriotic duties claiming conscientious objection follows him his whole life … My question as a Vietnam veteran is: exactly how on earth can a human being claiming to it is in a conscientious objector end up being the commander in chief of the most an effective military in the world?


In a followup column, the writer provided that Sanders handle the initial piece at size during discussion with the paper’s editorial board, mistakenly referring come his actions as “draft dodging,” and also quoting Sanders’ partial reply:

Within a lengthy explanation Sanders specifically said, “I used for conscientious objector status due to the fact that I an extremely strongly disagreed through the battle in Vietnam and I would certainly not have combated in that war.”

An ABC News article about Sanders and the draft reported that Sanders’ campaign confirmed his applications for status as a conscientious objector, noting the his anti-war view in the 1960s to be a popular matter of record:

Bernie Sanders used for conscientious objector status throughout the Vietnam War, his project confirmed to alphabet News.

“As a college student in the 1960s he was a pacifist,” Michael Briggs, project spokesman included in one email. “ isn’t now.”

Sanders’s political and anti-war activism in the 1960s and also ’70s has actually been well-documented. While at the college of Chicago, he was a member the several steady peace organizations, consisting of the student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Student peace Union … Sanders has actually rarely voted to authorize the use of pressure … after the terrorist assaults on 9/11, Sanders did poll in favor of a military an answer in Afghanistan. But Sanders said the usage of force, in his opinion, is not just permissible in solution to one attack.

“I believe that the United states should have actually the strongest armed forces in the world. We have to be working with other countries in coalition. And when people threaten the United claims or threaten our allies, or go genocide, the unified States, with various other countries, should be all set to act militarily,” the continued.

The topic of Sanders and Vietnam came up again during the 13 October 2015 democratic debate. Moderator Anderson Cooper request Sanders:

COOPER: senator Sanders, phone call an American soldier that is city hall right currently tonight in Afghanistan why you have the right to be commander-in- chief provided that you applied for conscientious objector status.

SANDERS: as soon as I was a young man — I’m not a young man today. As soon as I to be a young man, i strongly protest the war in Vietnam. Not the brave males like Jim who fought in the war, however the plan which got us involved in the war. That was my watch then … ns am no a pacifist, Anderson. I supported the battle in Afghanistan. I supported President Clinton’s effort to address ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I support air strikes in Syria and also what the president is trying to do.

Yes, I take place to think from the bottom of my heart that war need to be the last resort that us have acquired to exercise diplomacy. Yet yes, ns am all set to take this nation into battle if the is necessary.

Predictably, the bulk of reporting on Sanders’ so-called “draft dodging” was published after the councilor announced his plan to operation for president. However, one archived Army Times article detailed a detail missing from virtually all the coverage:

On paper, Sanders doesn’t have a lot of in common with veterans.

He never ever served in the military since he was also old to it is in drafted as soon as his draft number came up. He protested the Vietnam war as a college of Chicago student in the 1960s and also stressed his opposition to the war throughout his failure Senate bid in 1971.

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So when it was true that Sanders sought conscientious objector status throughout the Vietnam war draft, the cannot in any means be conflated with the specific meaning of the term “draft-dodging.” Further, Sanders was eligible for college student deferments until at least 1964, as soon as he i graduated from the University that Chicago. By the time his number come up, Sanders was too old to be drafted.