HomePoetryA Love Letter To All Draft Dodgers

A Love Letter To All Draft Dodgers

Listen to a reading of this article:

The New York Times is naming and shaming Ukrainian men who’ve fled the country rather than stay and kill Russians for Washington, because it was illegal for men of military age to leave, and because their countrymen are angry at them, and because it’s the New York Times.

They shamed Vova Klever, who said, “Violence is not my weapon.”

They shamed Volodymyr Danuliv, age 50, who said, “I can’t shoot Russian people.”

They shamed another Volodymyr, surname withheld, who said, “Look at me. I wear glasses. I am 46. I don’t look like a classic fighter, some Rambo who can fight Russian troops.”

And to those men I can only say, I love you.

I love you Vova Klever, outed by a trusted friend and made a pariah on Ukrainian social media. I love you Volodymyr Danuliv, who refuses to shoot Russians because you have Russians in your family. I love you other Volodymyr, surname withheld, sipping your beer in shame because you shirked your patriotic duty.

Hold your heads high, beautiful draft dodgers, for you are the real heroes of this story. I raise my glass to you tonight.

I raise my glass to all draft dodgers, who chose to run and hide rather than kill and be killed for some rich asshole’s power agendas. Who chose the condemnation and scorn of an insane society which praises mass murder and elevates sociopaths. Who chose excommunication from the death cult over bloodshed for geostrategic domination and Raytheon profit margins.

I hope you live long lives full of laughter and tears, full of love and loss, full of drunken nights that go too late and surly mornings that start too early, and all the other delicious gooey nectar that life is made of.

I hope you experience lots of beauty. I hope you make lots of beauty. I hope you read good books. I hope you dance in supermarkets. I hope you have lots of sex and I hope you find and lose religion. I hope you fall in love often and have at least one excruciating but liberating divorce.

I hope you drink deeply from the river of life, because there are many who never got to (you know that better than anyone). I hope you know fear and I hope you know fearlessness. I hope you set aside your armor so you can let someone all the way in. I hope you learn to open your chests and love with reckless abandon, and I hope you learn to cry easily as all real men do.

Here’s to you, oh Vova and Volodymyrs, who chose to bail the fuck out of there rather than pay the ultimate price in a stupid proxy war for US unipolar hegemony. Who chose to spend their lives with their eyes sparkling babies and breasts rather than dead-eyed haunted with blood and splattered Russian faces. Who chose to live for something rather than to die for nothing.

There are no war heroes. There are only war victims. Here’s to everyone, ever, who throughout the ages has chosen not to be made one. I raise my glass to your lives, and to your hidden yet radiant dignity. Please know that at least one pair of eyes sees your beauty.

Thank you for your service.

Oh yeah, and fuck The New York Times.




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Latest comments

  • This is as poignant and as piercing as anything I’ve read from Johnstone, and I do my best to read every word she writes.

    I apologize to you, dear Caitlin, for not supporting your work more often. I have prioritized my local giving because I am convinced that direct sharing, person to person, is the way to demonstrate sanity and feed hope. Yet I know, with all my heart and mind and strength I know, that your work and mine share a purpose. We are here to live and learn, and to seek a human future for every child born. For this, and for the open-handed sharing of your genius with us all, I will amend my stewardship of my extra to allow support for your work, so be it.

    When I hand a homeless guy my pledge for ongoing daily assistance, I have to explain that I’m not rich, I’m just privileged. I live very simply, and I have no debts, so that all my extra can go to making sure another has enough. From those I help, I ask a (private, inner) pledge to live simply, without debt, without buying back into the Combine that has so thoroughly violated and destroyed them already, making sure their extra is held or spent in stewardship for those who do not have enough. This means buying nothing new, no subscriptions, no media addictions, no style. Just plain living, with the body’s eyes on present suffering, but the heart’s vision filled by a human future, with all the joy and terror, laughter and tears that are our human birthright.
    When we are in middle life, raising children, our extra goes to their future, of course, mine did, too. But let them see you loving real life, loving real people, eschewing the traps of mind and heart that steal the substance of our human selves… and finding extra, somehow, to feed the hopeless hope. You and yours are greatly beloved, namaste, dear friend.

    It would be appropriate for this to be published in the NYTimes.
    It is in keeping with good coverage to publish other opinions.
    Thank you -– very well said!

    • Sorry, I put in a heart emoji and apparently the platform doesn’t accept emojis.

  • Beautifully written, dear Caitlin !
    We’re really living in a dystopian kind of reality where mountain of lies are distribuited freely and a fistful of truths are sold at very high price with the sufference and deaths of thousands of people .

  • Can’t. believe I’m the first to point out the omission–this love song should include also Russian soldiers refusing to fight

  • Deeply appreciate from the depth of my heart the best of humane choice Vova Klever and Volodymir Danuliv have made.

    And I equally appreciate and thank you Caitlin for bringing this to you readers.

  • I too am sick of, Salute the troops, war heroes, military discounts. Fuck the Mercinary paid solders.

  • Lazy ignorant people, who don’t bother to question the mainstream media narrative in any way, think Ukraine is a good freedom-loving democracy, but in fact it is the exact opposite.
    It has banned all opposition parties, locked up the main opposition leader for supposedly ‘treason’ and now put on show on Zelensky’s Twitter, it is heavily influenced by hard-right neo-Nazi extremists in government and the military. And on top of that it has been attacking, killing and persecuting the Russian-speaking people in the Donbas for the last 8 years or so. Not to mention the extreme corruption, and US interference and manipulation since the Maidan coup in 2014.
    Oh, yes, nearly forgot – the Biden family ‘investments’!
    Now this. What kind of ‘democracy’ makes it illegal to leave the country and resist the draft (apart from the US, of course)? And makes it illegal to photograph and report on any of the fighting going on?
    Ukraine is nothing like the whitewashed image the mainstream media & Western politicians would have us believe. Nothing at all – lies, pure lies. No wonder Putin calls the US the Empire of Lies.

  • I love them too! As for the NYT, I’d suggest using it as bird cage lining or for potty-training a puppy… except that it’s already full of shit.

  • Shouldn’t our sympathy be limited for Mr Klever, the man who was the patriotic bully? Limited to understanding the poor guy was a sucker who believed war was good? I expect he did his best to shame his friends and family into fighting, and then he fucked off. If you want a war—whatever the reason—you go first.
    Age and infirmity isn’t a defense—if you want to have war that badly, buy it with your own bones. Then leave it to others to decide whether you’re worth avenging. Because maybe you tried to feed the war machine with other people’s bodies.
    So, yes, I hope he lives a long, safe life. But was his guilt not earned?

  • The system works hard to engineer your consent. They don’t take it well when you withdraw it.

  • This site, and classical music…and scotch are the only things keeping me sane right now.

  • John Brumfield /April 13

    Dear Caitlin: For at least the last 150 years the New York Times has managed to be a consistent liar and propagandist in the cause of Imperialist domination, exhibiting over and over again an utter disdain for the ideals of our Declaration of Independence and the heritage of our Constitution and our struggles to maintain the humanity of our Bill of Rights, but now it has outdone itself in self abasement. It has descended beneath contempt.

  • So, what’s the party line here? Are we 1) officially supposed to be delusional enough to believe some middle aged draftees are actually going tip the balance to ejecting the Russian military from Ukraine or 2) it’s all just a feelgood blood shower to further engorge the MIC and kill a few more Russians? Which is it?

    Clearly, if you can’t get the cannon fodder to march down the chute willingly then you’re not giving them a good enough reason. They should try offering enlistees a tenth of what the CEO of Raytheon makes, along with a signing bonus of one tenth the cost of a shoulder fired missile.

  • Caitlin you are a genius…….. This is beautiful…… I luv you….. Great

  • Amen. Wonderful.
    Thank you for saying what I feel.

  • “Who chose to live for something rather than to die for nothing.“ Oh yeah.

    Killing because you’re told to just adds servility to the crime of murder.

    Historical factoid: according to the US Supreme Court, the Constitutional prohibition of “involuntary servitude” does not apply to military conscription because, though involuntary and servitude, it is not involuntary servitude.


    • Same with the UN and its restrictions on forced labour… which don’t apply to males between 18 and 45 in a list of six situational conditions that boil down to “whenever a state wants to make them forced labourers”.

  • Caitlin, thank you. This one made me cry. It is a collective weep for humanity.

    “Peace is not something you wish for; It’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.”

    ~~John Lennon

  • Thanks! This brings back good memories. I was drafted into French military service in 1976 after exhausting all the college delays I could think of, with the added bonus that I’d been living in England for a year where I intended to stay to make a living as a professional musician.

    France was not really at war at the time but it had a “peacekeeping” operation in Chad. I just couldn’t imagine shooting someone there to save my life any more than losing it to someone shooting at me. So this project of the French government seemed unreasonable. Besides I always hated taking and giving orders – I was born standing up and talking back kinda thing -, so even becoming a conscientious objector was not an option.

    I decided to play insane instead. Milos Forman had just released One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I saw it six times. I chose the app stone-faced severe autism. Satisfaction guaranteed! As soon as we started queuing to get into the barracks, a little guy told me reassuringly: “Don’t worry… It’s only a year… It will soon be over…”. I couldn’t reply without ruining my act but this empathy moved me to tears. To make a long story short, they promptly sent me to a military mental hospital to take further exams.

    There were certified lunatics there and I tried to sneak into their brains. I remember walking across the lawn once with a guy looking quite deranged and at some stage, he tripped across a big oak root. I thought “He must think “Goddamn trees… there are roots everywhere…’” So I whispered “Goddamn trees…” and he whispered back: “Roots everywhere”…

    I often had to go to the bathroom to laugh this kind of stuff off because I couldn’t afford to destroy my pathetic image by laughing in public.

    After an interview with a junior military psychiatrist whom I drove to the brink of suicide with a doomsday despair trip before he pushed back by advising me to put my faith in God, they determined I was crazy as a loon.

    On the last day, after a dozen of us got discharged for insanity in a marshal-court hearing, we got back into the truck that had brought us in and for a short while, there was no military around. The whole group burst out cheering until one of them looked at me remaining impassive because if you were caught cheating, the penalty was disciplinary battalion and that sounded like no joke at all and I didn’t know these guys… He said: “This poor sod looks like he’s a real one…” They all seemed to feel sorry for me and I felt sorry too that I wasn’t willing to take any chance by joining in their good spirits.

    It was a very interesting and heartening experience that I would recommend to anybody in that situation rather than go and kill people you’ve never even heard of.

    I never danced in supermarkets though :o)

  • Daniel,
    Should that not be American war parties? The Republicans and Democrats are completely unified in their support for any and all US wars of aggression they can lie into.

  • This is excellent. I have been searching for our pacifists and anti-war folks from the 60s and I feel as if I stand alone. I’m horrified over what is happening, but we have seen this over and over in north Africa and the Middle East, I have marked, protested, and so forth, but the only way we can stop this is to keep making the message clear, and remember being against war is supporting troops. As for Fuck the New York Times, I know what the term means, and I’d rather not give them money. It is money and power that is killing us all.

  • Notice something about the cases mentioned here? All middle-aged men. Hardly, ‘military aged’. If the zio-ukies (and the NY Slimes), are outing, pacifist ‘military-aged’ men in their late 40s, or 50s even, for not wanting to fight their Russian brothers on Tel Aviv\washingdumbs and ‘NATOs’ behalf, then victory must be just around the corner for the Ukrainian Armed farces right? If those (principled) men discussed are even a little bit representative of the larger picture, then the ‘battle’ for Ukraine is already over.

    • Um where the hell were all you people when the Ukrainian Govt passed the legislation introducing Conscription TWO years back ? Long before Russia released it’s plans for the Ukraine.
      I recall the ages were between 18- 60 years of age. Imagine that a 60 year old, never having held a rifle in their hands, all of a sudden expected to perform the duties of an aggressive soldier ??????? Sorry, having been one myself at age 18, I cannot envisage a 60 year old doing the crap that I did at 18. From where I sit, these poor suckers are simply cannon fodder and a means to reduce the planet population.

  • Beautifully said, and I completely agree. ❤️❤️❤️

  • what do they call Palestinian’s that flee or stay and fight oh and yeah Fuck You New York Times

  • Thanks, Caitlin – for your words of praise for those who do not want to kill in senseless wars promoted by the ugly New York Times and the US and the US WMD profit-takers from death.

  • Thank you for honoring the warriors of this authority. I heard a saying yesterday from a member of Veterans for Peace that goes something like this: A soldier is one who follows orders. A Warrior is one who fights from the heart. The MIC honors soldiers and shames warriors. In my heart I’ve always honored the draft dodgers, they’ve always been my heroes. Thank you for honoring them publicly.

    • A soldier is one who serves in the army for pay.

      Soldiers are mercenaries.

      Those who fight to resist extinction of their families ultimately beat those who fight for money.

      The former are willing to risk death, the latter flee, realizing money is useless to the dead.

      This is why the USA hasn’t won a war since they were beaten by the Vietnamese.

      • Conscripts are not mercenaries. They are forced labor. There is a huge difference. I supported draft dodgers during the Vietnam War and I am proud of that fact. I helped young men flee the country to refuse to become cannon fodder for the ruling class. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

        • Conscripts and mercenaries are not separate and distinct classes.

          Bill Clinton, Dan Quayle, and George W Bush all dodged the draft and all proved to be most mercenary.

        • And I am one of the people who thank you for it.

        • So would I, Carolyn, if there were still somewhere they might flee.

  • Do your patriotic duty…..kill, kill, kill, then die knowing you kept democracy safe. Far better than being shamed by the NYT.
    Just go fight, die and make more room for the rest of us.

  • Govenments are cwafty wabbits. They tank the economy, put everyone out of a job, then offer everyone a job in the military to fight their wars. Wonder how that strategy will work this time around.

    • You refer to what is called the Economic Draft.

      That’s why the US is big on austerity.

  • Thanks to Quanah Parker, the last great Comanche war chief, who was granted federal recognition of the religious ceremonies he hosted on the Oklahoma reservation and the consumption of peyote cactus (mescaline) as a sacrament, I was granted a draft deferment from the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector. Not that I am morally opposed to the taking of a human life under any circumstance; I simply reserve the right to make that decision for myself, which precludes my participation in war.

    “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing more than an act of murder.”
    – Albert Einstein

    • Ah yes but… they’re told they’re shooting at targets. It’s quite different. The target is up, then it’s down. It doesn’t have a name, a fambly, friends, feelings… Nuffin! You don’t even get a teddy bear for shooting it. Doesn’t exist… :o)

    • Yet he assisted in building the biggest WMD of his time which murdered countless millions. Bit of a hypocrit, I’d say.

      • This is not quite true. It is often a subject of controversy, so I researched it once. Einstein in fact wrote two letters to the USG, one early in the war to tell them he learnt from friends that the Germans were developing an atom bomb program, following which the USG created the Manhattan Project, and a second letter at the end of the war saying that the US should never use the bomb it had made. He never directly participated in the making of that bomb and wasn’t part of the Manhattan Project. That was Oppenheimer.

  • This tribute to deserters is beautiful. Love you and you husband for what you do. I also respect the courage with which you do it.

  • War IS atrocity.

    Draft dodgers need not listen to war mongers.

    War mongers should be ashamed and shamed.

    Let those who believe in war go personally to war.

    Or shut up.

    Get your facts right NYT.

    The covert invasion of the US NATO puppets up to the Russian border to enable a clean kill of Russians provoked the Russian defensive response.

    No one can feel comfortable with deadly weapons aimed at them.

    • The Gray Lady is a faithless whore.

      (For those not familiar with this reference, for a long time, the New York Times was commonly referred to as “The Gray Lady.)

      It is slanderous and scandalous to dignify this corrupt propagandist newspaper with the feminine gender.

  • If the war’s so important, how come it’s only men’s business? Surely if the cause is so worthwhile everyone should be taking part? The fact that they’re not even expected to immediately says it isn’t.

    • Excuse me, but there are many women in the armed forces today. Where have you been?

      • One in four gets sexually assaulted by their fellow soldiers too even before they set one foot on a battlefield according to the Pentagon. Gotta wanna go there!

      • Caitlin’s article focused on Ukraine, where men are not allowed to leave the country, while women are. There are women in Ukraine’s military, but the great majority are men.

      • Not forced by law, social convention, and threat of punishment, though. Forced participation in war and involuntary or coerced labour as soldiers is a male concern.

  • The New York Times sucks mostly.
    It is not too late for its staff and contributors to volunteer to fight in Ukraine instead of fabricating lies daily.

  • I was a Conscientious Objector (Vietnam) 50 years ago. I had to convince my draft board in Portland, Maine that I could not bear arms under any circumstances… they were WW 2 veterans in their 40’s. I was 18. I told them, “I will adhere to my belief in non-violence whether or not you accept it as legitimate”

    They agreed with my position. My family and educators had allowed me to question the propaganda of the time, so it was easy to see through it, that war-mongering requires irrational belief in the lies and a belittling of the truth… that violence is a failure to be human.

  • I grew up in the second world war time, always thinking and preparing to go to war. Joined the National Guard so I could go with friends and my high school Principle who was a Battalion Commander who had fought in WWII in Japan. I wanted to go to Korea, but was stopped as the guy who enlisted just before me was called up and then the war stopped.

    But now, I am so glad and happy I did not have to kill Koreans or go to Viet Nam, I can live knowing I have not killed anyone that didn’t need killing. Of course I can’t join the VFW and can’t wear a cap showing I was a soldier. But I can go on knowing I didn’t kill for a reason no one at that time understood.

    I am happy.

    • I joined the VFW. It wasn’t that great.

      • What . . . No dancing allowed ? lol

        • We hosted lots of weddings with lots of dancing.

  • THANK YOU!! My sentiments exactly, but you say it oh so much better…

  • well said girl, we should all turn away from the war mongering freaks who spread their filthy sociopathic scum all over the world, and yes f… the new york times and all the main stream media ,as well as the politico’s who do the 1 %’s bidding

  • Excellent message Caitlin. Thank you. Please accept this as my application for admission to your Draft Dodgers Appreciation Club.

  • IIRC, The New York Times was at least somewhat sympathetic to the American draft dodgers who fled to Canada during the Vietnam-American War. Now the newspaper is cheering on the American war party.

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