Bernie Sanders a Vietnam War Draft Dodger-Truth! & Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
Bernie Sanders applied for “conscientious objector” status during the Vietnam War, which helped him to dodge the draft.
Bernie Sanders applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War, but he was too old to be drafted by the time his number came up anyway.
Rumors about Bernie Sanders “dodging the draft” first surfaced in August 2015. At the time, a Vietnam War veteran named Steve Wikert asked “how can Sander be commander in chief” given his record as a conscientious objector in an editorial published in the Des Moines Register:
My question as a Vietnam veteran is: How on earth could a person claiming to be a conscientious objector become the commander in chief of the most powerful military in the world?
How could a conscientious objector decide whether to deploy troops or give orders to drop bombs in support of a crisis? How can a conscientious objector knowingly send troops where people will be injured or killed? How could he order his fellow Americans to go to war when he refused to go to war himself?
Steve Wikert’s column, and questions about Bernie Sanders’ views on war, was cast into the limelight after Sanders nearly beat Hillary Clinton in the Iowa Caucus and then handily beat her in the New Hampshire primary.
A campaign spokesperson for Bernie Sanders confirmed back in August 2015 that Sanders did in fact apply for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. Michael Briggs, a campaign spokesman, said in an email to ABC News that:
“As a college student in the 1960s he was a pacifist,” Michael Briggs, campaign spokesman added in an email. “(Sanders) isn’t now.”
The article goes on to report that Sanders voiced opposition to the Gulf War of the early 90s but voted in favor of a military response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a member of Congress. That would jive with the campaign’s claims that Sanders’ views on war and pacifism may have evolved over the years.
Bernie Sanders also discussed his anti-war activism of year’s past during a presidential debate in October 2015.
But the important question remains: Did Bernie Sanders dodge the draft in the Vietnam War?
First, it’s not clear whether the Selective Service approved Bernie Sanders’ application for conscientious objector status. The Selective Service says that applications can be granted for religious, moral or ethical beliefs, but that applications cannot be granted based on “politics, expediency or self-interest.” Even if Sanders were able to dodge the draft as a conscientious objector, he would have had to enlist in some form of “alternate service.”
Second, there’s strong evidence that Bernie Sanders wasn’t drafted because he was too old by the time his number was called. A Military Times article reported as much in March 2013:
On paper, Sanders doesn’t have a lot in common with veterans.
He never served in the military because he was too old to be drafted when his draft number came up. He protested the Vietnam War as a University of Chicago student in the 1960s and stressed his opposition to the war during his failed Senate bid in 1971.
So, it’s true that Sanders publicly opposed the Vietnam War and applied for conscientious objector status. But it’s not true that he was able to dodge the draft because of it — he was simply too old to be drafted.