The Charlotte News

Saturday, March 22, 1941



Site Ed. Note: "No Draft" brings to mind the matter of draft resistance in this country during the Vietnam War, the war which caused greater, more publicized resistance to the draft than any other in our country's history--though in quieter ways, usually through purchasing substitutes or by skeedaddling, the Civil War certainly spawned much resistance, too, Mark Twain in fact being one of the best known draft resisters of that era when he left his beloved Missisippi River and Missouri and headed west to San Francisco for the purpose.

We decided therefore to revisit a highly publicized draft resistance case--perhaps the most highly publicized of draft resistance cases at the time--that of Muhammad Ali who declared conscientious objector status in 1967 based on his faith and then had his conscientious objection rejected by the Justice Department and Appeal Board, overriding a recommendation to the contrary by the local hearing officer, a retired judge who heard the evidence first-hand, following an FBI investigation required by statute, consisting of interviews with 35 individuals, which had recommended he be classified draft eligible. His subsequent refusal to step forward at induction after his conscientious objector status was denied and the resultant conviction for draft evasion caused him to be sentenced to five years in prison and to be stripped of his heavyweight title and banned from sanctioned boxing for four years; he had won the title in 1964 by a technical knockout of Sonny Liston in the seventh round and had successfully defended the title nine times subsequently, including a first round knockout of Liston in 1965, before the draft controversy erupted in 1967. Ultimately, in 1971, after four years of travails through the courts, including having his conviction affirmed in the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court in Clay, aka Ali v. U.S., 403 US 698, unanimously reversed the conviction and upheld his sincere objection to participation in any war not recognized by his religious faith.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Douglas wrote words then, quoting heavily from the Koran, which ring poignantly to hory headline stories regarding ineffable acts of terrorism of the last year, stories which in our opinion are scarcely fit for adults, even adults of seasoned sensibilities, to read. (Meanwhile, many complain not about that but rather about offensive language on television and in music and movies, language heard in every gym class from junior high school onward by anyone with ears to hear, and for time immemorial, at least for the time since junior high school gym class came into the curriculum. Shall we therefore ban gym, too?)

The question which inevitably arises from these quotations in Justice Douglas's opinion is whether they, as with any language taken from a religious scripture, are to be taken literally. Or poetically.

The O.E.D. tells us, for instance, that a second meaning of the term "behead" is: "Of things: To deprive of the top or foremost part. rare. 1579 ulke Heskins' Parl. 271 Maister Heskins beheadeth the sentence. 1796 Marshall Garden. 20 (1813) 400 Graffs of last year, cut to a few eyes, behead as at 98. Mod. Beheaded and curtailed words. 1594 Hooker Eccl. Pol. iv. xiv. 7 To repair the decays thereof by beheading superstition."

Since we cannot read Arabic, except as numerated, we cannot propose to say whether in that language there is a different word for the literal term as opposed to the metaphorical use as above in the second meaning of "behead". But regardless, words as defined literally by dictionaries may be employed by the poet, or scripturalist, in another sense than the literal, to fit contextually the spirit of the whole work in which they appear.

Thus, query whether the promise of paradise in the Koran may be only to those who understand the poetic, rather than to those who take the meaning of that which is written so damnably literally.

And such it is, of course, with all religious scripture, even that in Christendom. (We remark thusly, with emphasis, to those who would feel it perversely just, even taking the Bible as their rationale, to take the lives of physicians and nurses for performing or assisting in legal acts of abortion, when that Bible states categorically, "Thou shalt not kill". (See for further edification the note regarding Roe v. Wade, accompanying "Bit Tangled", January 29, 1941))

We might query further, too, whether if, as it is written in the Koran, jihad is a war between the recognition of monotheisim and polytheisim, then has not that war properly ended by and large long ago, with the decrepitude and relegation to anachronism of Greco-Roman and Viking mythologies, and other such polytheistic views of the universe, largely now obsolete in most world religions.

Is the definition of the one true God, Elohim, Jahweh, Jehovah, Allah, what have you, more a matter of names and slight shades of different meaning than ultimately a matter of substantive dispute as to what "god", as defined alternately as a benevolent or punitive spirit, based on the subject's conduct in life judged ultimately only by that god, truly means?

In the Christian meaning, for instance, God is defined as a unified concept of three distinct spirits, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, nevertheless a monotheistic religious view.

We observe, too, in passing, that it might be wise, rather than to spit in the face of those with whom one does not concur over ancient perceived wrongs in matters of war and death, to sit peacefully instead and discuss the differences of point of view, including different premises in the matter, and the reasons for them, then or now, for better and lasting peace.

Thus, we might guess, it is far less likely that some future poet de guerre in millennia yet to come might have to write woefully of that time far ago, reduced to sand, when man could not hinge to earth his vaunting desire for acquisition, to seat his own single point of view as that enthroned in emotional exultation, rationalizing the irrational, such that then the Tubes Rose and devoured the earth in flame and ash.

But, that's just our view.

 Mr. Justice Douglas, concurring.

I would reverse this judgment of conviction and set the petitioner free.

In Sicurella v. United States, 348 U.S. 385 , the wars that the applicant would fight were not "carnal" but those "in defense of Kingdom interests." Id., at 389. Since it was impossible to determine on exactly which grounds the Appeal Board had based its decision, we reversed the decision sustaining the judgment of conviction. We said: "It is difficult for us to believe that the Congress had in mind this type of activity when it said the thrust of conscientious objection must go to 'participation in war in any form.'" Id., at 390.

In the present case there is no line between "carnal" war and "spiritual" or symbolic wars. Those who know the history of the Mediterranean littoral know that the jihad of the Moslem was a bloody war.

This case is very close in its essentials to Negre v. Larsen, 401 U.S. 437 , decided March 8, 1971. The church to which that registrant belonged favored "just" wars and provided guidelines to define them. The church did not oppose the war in Vietnam but the registrant refused to comply with an order to go to Vietnam because participating in that conflict would violate his conscience. The Court refused to grant him relief as a conscientious objector, overruling his constitutional claim.

The case of Clay is somewhat different, though analogous. While there are some bits of evidence showing conscientious objection to the Vietnam conflict, the basic objection was based on the teachings of his religion. He testified that he was

"sincere in every bit of what the Holy Qur'an and the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad tell us and it is that we are not to participate in wars on the side of nobody who--on the side of nonbelievers, and this is a Christian country and this is not a Muslim country, and the Government and the history and the facts shows that every move toward the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is made to distort and is made to ridicule him and is made to condemn him and the Government has admitted that the police of Los Angeles were wrong about attacking and killing our brothers and sisters and they were wrong in Newark, New Jersey, and they were wrong in Louisiana, and the outright, every day oppressors and enemies are the people as a whole, the whites of this nation. So, we are not, according to the Holy Qur'an, to even as much as aid in passing a cup of water to the--even a wounded. I mean, this is in the Holy Qur'an, and as I said earlier, this is not me talking to get the draft board--or to dodge nothing. This is there before I was borned and it will be there when I'm dead but we believe in not only that part of it, but all of it."

At another point he testified: "[T]he Holy Qur'an do teach us that we do not take part of--in any part of war unless declared by Allah himself, or unless it's an Islamic World War, or a Holy War, and it goes as far--the Holy Qur'an is talking still, and saying we are not to even as much as aid the infidels or the nonbelievers in Islam, even to as much as handing them a cup of water during battle."

"So, this is the teachings of the Holy Qur'an before I was born, and the Qur'an, we follow not only that part of it, but every part."

The Koran defines jihad as an injunction to the believers to war against nonbelievers:

"O ye who believe! Shall I guide you to a gainful trade which will save you from painful punishment? Believe in Allah and His Apostle and carry on warfare (jihad) in the path of Allah with your possessions and your persons. That is better for you. If ye have knowledge, He will forgive your sins, and will place you in the Gardens beneath which the streams flow, and in fine houses in the Gardens of Eden: that is the great gain." M. Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam 55-56 (1955).

The Sale edition of the Koran, which first appeared in England in 1734, gives the following translation at 410-411 (9th ed. 1923):

"Thus God propoundeth unto men their examples. When ye encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads, until ye have made a great slaughter among them; and bind them in bonds; and either give them a free dismission afterwards, or exact a ransom; until the war shall have laid down its arms. This shall ye do. Verily if God pleased he could take vengeance on them, without your assistance; but he commandeth you to fight his battles, that he may prove the one of you by the other. And as to those who fight in defence of God's true religion, God will not suffer their works to perish: he will guide them, and will dispose their heart aright; and he will lead them into paradise, of which he hath told them. O true believers, if ye assist God, by fighting for his religion, he will assist you against your enemies; and will set your feet fast. . . ."

War is not the exclusive type of jihad; there is action by the believer's heart, by his tongue, by his hands, as well as by the sword. War and Peace in the Law of Islam 56. As respects the military aspects it is written:

"The jihad, in other words, is a sanction against polytheism and must be suffered by all non-Muslims who reject Islam, or, in the case of the dhimmis (Scripturaries), refuse to pay the poll tax. The jihad, therefore, may be defined as the litigation between Islam and polytheism; it is also a form of punishment to be inflicted upon Islam's enemies and the renegades from the faith. Thus in Islam, as in Western Christendom, the jihad is the bellum justum." Id., at 59.

The jihad is the Moslem's counterpart of the "just" war as it has been known in the West. Neither Clay nor Negre should be subject to punishment because he will not renounce the "truth" of the teaching of his respective church that wars indeed may exist which are just wars in which a Moslem or Catholic has a respective duty to participate.

What Clay's testimony adds up to is that he believes only in war as sanctioned by the Koran, that is to say, a religious war against nonbelievers. All other wars are unjust.

That is a matter of belief, of conscience, of religious principle. Both Clay and Negre were "by reason of religious training and belief" conscientiously opposed to participation in war of the character proscribed by their respective religions. That belief is a matter of conscience protected by the First Amendment which Congress has no power to qualify or dilute as it did in 6 (j) of the Military Selective Service Act of 1967, 50 U.S.C. App. 456 (j) (1964 ed., Supp. V) when it restricted the exemption to those "conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form." For the reasons I stated in Negre and in Gillette v. United States, 401 U.S. 437, 463 and 470, that construction puts Clay in a class honored by the First Amendment, even though those schooled in a different conception of "just" wars may find it quite irrational.

I would reverse the judgment below.

And, speaking of sport, congratulations to the Tar Heels for a championship well won as a unified team in 2005, in a non-bloody, innocent contest of will 'n' wisp. Would it were that others would take up the example rather than its bloody, primitive antecedents.

Net an' yahoo!

The All-American Mr. May, sing the truth, scores the points ev'ry time he shoots/ Play' basketball like he invented the game that brought Carolina so much fame/ Then there is Rashad, him too, dances Basketball into the Hoop,/ Makes three-point shots like child's play coup/ The Wills, they shot 27 of fifty-two/ Tar Heels Number One, win almost all, play' just for fun/ Champaign, they wilted at thirty-seven, scared the heck out o' ol' Blue Hea'en/ Manuel, Mr. Defense-man, blocks the ball ev'ry time he can/ Throw down the court to Jawad or Mel/ Other team caused to be felled/ Felton with the Tar Heel team/ Helped knock Illini off the beam/ Win the game with two free throw/ To be the star of the Gateway Show/ Tar Heels Number One, win almost all, play' just for fun/ The one-loss giant wilted for thirty-three/ Scared the heck out of you and we. (Apologies and kudos to Mr. Carmichael for the slight changes to the '57 Kansas City ditty.) And, sing thee, Noel.

One might even say, that with Defense, they be-Headed their opponent--figuratively, that is.

...The Friday Night Fights, brought to you (on Boxing Day) by Gillette, the razor that shaves close every time. The Boxer.


Horse & Cart

Let Us Get the Airport First, Then Work Out Details

It is unfortunate that Mr. John H. Small Jr. has attempted to start a controversy over the $60,000 airport bond election. That Mr. Small is carrying around within him a peeve against Mayor Douglas is public knowledge, and it may be that this fact will nullify the more or less pointless objections he has raised.

If Mr. Small didn't want a secondary airport, was opposed to the expenditure of any money at all for aviation facilities, his attitude would be understandable. Since he states, however, that "this is the time to get an airport," it is difficult to see what he aims to accomplish.

The principal purposes to which this money would be put, in the event that the people authorized its expenditure, are:

1. The purchase at a cost of some $15,000, of a tract of land to be made into an airport by the further expenditure of more than $300,000 of Federal funds.

2. The purchase of additional land, if it is needed, for the expansion of the Air Base at the old airport.

Now, the precise manner in which these two airports are to be operated, a question which apparently disturbs Mr. Small so greatly that he would defeat the bond election unless it be answered to his entire satisfaction, is the cart in the case. The horse comes first.

The logical procedure would seem to be to get the airport first and then discuss the details of its operation, such as where to put the refreshment stand. And inasmuch as the defeat of this bond at issue will mean that at least two years must elapse before the Legislature can authorize another election, always with the probability that the $300,000-plus Federal contribution will be no longer available, we consider that the choice of the voters, despite Mr. Small's warnings to the contrary, is open and shut.


The Serbs

Having Wrecked German Hope Once, They May Do It Again

The Germans must have met the Serbs before, and must remember it uneasily. This stubborn people, about whom the storms of the last war began, had much to do with the great break-through on the Eastern front in 1918 and the collapse of Austria--the beginning of the end of the Hun's first attempt at world mastery.

Their determined refusal to submit to Hitler may drive the Yugoslav Government to reconsider its attempt to take the country into the Axis--an attempt engendered by pro-Nazi Croat ministers who imagine that the move will give their people greater power within the state as against the Serbs.

And if it doesn't and the Serbs decide to resist, as they give every indication of doing, the Nazis will face a far more difficult task than that of subduing Rumania. The mountain country is better adapted to defense and guerrilla tactics than most of Rumania. Unlike their close cousins, the Russians, they are powerful and clever fighters.

Internal rebellion would be almost as good from the British viewpoint as if Yugoslavia as a whole defied Hitler. What the British want most is time. And the Nazis will hardly dare attack through Bulgaria until they have first pacified Yugoslavia, else they might be flanked through the Serbian mountains.


No Draft

Contrast With U.S. May Cause Canada Trouble

In Ottawa, according to the Associated Press, a stormy scene was precipitated in the Canadian House of Commons when George White (Conservative) demanded that Parliament "face the facts and admit that conscription of manpower for service anywhere in the world is the only answer to the present situation."

The debate was over extending the period of conscription for home defense of Canada from 30 days to four months--a measure that passed.

In fact, it is hard to justify the insistence of the Canadian Government on a purely volunteer policy in face of the fact that the United States has already adopted the draft for men between 21 and 35 for a year's service--longer if we should go to war or the emergency justifies it.

The Canadian Defense authorities claim they are getting along all right without the draft. The fact that only 6,000 men are to be called up under the four months provision hardly bears it out.

One reason for the hesitancy is undoubtedly the prickly problem of the French-Canadians who gave the government a bad headache in the last war with their violent resentment, and often even defiance, of the draft.

Nevertheless, with great armies of United States men training, it is going to be increasingly hard for the Canadians to justify their timid policy in the eyes of questioning citizens of this country.


Trick Play

President Neatly Skirts Around Senate's Power

The President has neatly side-stepped Article II, Sec. 2, of the Constitution, which says:

He (the President) shall have power by and with the consent of the Senate to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur...

In 1934 Mr. Roosevelt presented to the Senate a treaty with Canada for the harnessing of the St. Lawrence River and opening up of the Lake region to ocean-going navigation. The Senate rejected it.

The President has now signed another treaty with Canada to the same purpose. Only, now he calls it an "agreement for the national defense" by way of bringing it under the extraordinary powers granted him for that purpose. And proposes to get it accepted simply by resolution which requires only a majority and not two-thirds consent.

For all we know, it may or may not be a good thing to develop the St. Lawrence. With the merits of that dispute we are not concerned.

What seems fairly clear is that it has precious little to do with national defense. The project cannot be completed in less than five years, when the present emergency will either be over or the world will be in ruins. And the claim that it is necessary to get power in that region for national defense industries is puerile. The coal deposits of America still exist.

It is clear enough, in short, that it is a scheme to use national defense and its extraordinary powers to put over what could not be put over in the Senate if it were presented for what it really is.

Precisely this kind of tricky maneuvering has done more to breed suspicion of the President than all the Burton Wheelers and all the Republicans.


Good Start

Ten Civic Clubs Could Get Action on Crime Here

At the organization meeting of the Association of Civic Clubs, which will serve as an activities agency of the ten civic clubs in the city, a committee was appointed to study the crime situation in Charlotte. Of this The News reported:

The latter will submit a report which will become the basis of the decision whether or not the ACC will adopt as its first project a study of crime in the city.

This can be very useful if it were gone about energetically.

The crime problem in the city deserves more study than it has had. A number of factors are obvious, but as we have pointed out before there are still puzzles in the case which are hard to explain by the known factors or any combination of them.

But it is likely that it is on the side of action that the ACC would find its greatest usefulness.

A good part of the crime here is plainly due simply to inertia--to the characteristic reluctance of public men to do anything at all unless they have to. To the inertia of the courts and the City authorities, the refusal of politicians to do to any extent the things which are plainly indicated, to remedy situations which unquestionably can be remedied.

The combined weight of the ten civic clubs ought to be able to smash this inertia and to prod the politicoes into doing their duty.


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