Muhammed Ali Was No “Draft Dodger”: I Don’t Think You Know What That Word Really Means
by Leonard Benton
In the aftermath of Muhammad Ali’s death and The Havok Journal article about it, the determination about his worth in the veteran community centered on one facet, his stance on Vietnam and his personal refusal to serve. The term most often used? “Draft dodger.” And it’s been used lavishly. And the term has been used inappropriately.
Consider first that the draft was created with specific rules and legal guidelines for deferment. Second, examine what dodging something actually means. For your entertainment, this video displays the exact definition of dodging something.
Was Muhammad Ali a draft dodger? No. He did not go to Vietnam, but he did go to court. He faced the consequences of his actions. Back then ‘go to war’ or ‘go to jail’ worked in both directions. He chose jail.
Whatever else he may have done in his life or whatever his skill in the ring, he stated his convictions and faced the court directly. That is not dodging anything, let alone personal responsibility and accountability.
There are, however, others who were less inclined toward honorable behavior. One such is the noted loud mouth musician Ted Nugent. I will link in some specifics, but in truth, this story provides no concrete answers, because there’s only one record and one storyteller. Ted Nugent stated in an interview:
“Ted Nugent: Ted was a young boy, appearing to be a hippie but quite opposite in fact, working hard and playing hard, playing rock and roll like a deviant. People would question my sanity, I played so much. So I got my notice to be in the draft. Do you think I was gonna lay down my guitar and go play army? Give me a break! I was busy doin’ it to it. I had a career Jack. If I was walkin’ around, hippying down, getting’ loaded and pickin’ my ass like your common curs, I’d say “Hey yeah, go in the army. Beats the poop out of scuffin’ around in the gutters.” But I wasn’t a gutter dog. I was a hard workin’, mother****in’ rock and roll musician.
I got my physical notice 30 days prior to. Well, on that day I ceased cleansing my body. No more brushing my teeth, no more washing my hair, no baths, no soap, no water. Thirty days of debris build. I stopped shavin’ and I was 18, had a little scraggly beard, really looked like a hippie. I had long hair, and it started gettin’ kinky, matted up. Then two weeks before, I stopped eating any food with nutritional value. I just had chips, Pepsi, beer–stuff I never touched–buttered poop, little jars of Polish sausages, and I’d drink the syrup, I was this side of death, Then a week before, I stopped going to the bathroom. I did it in my pants. poop, piss the whole shot. My pants got crusted up.”
Cool story, bro. Then in 2006, he said he made it up. However, he did not tell the entire truth then either. He explained he had a college deferment, which he did. But, when the deferment expired, Nugent had a medical exam and he was classified as unfit. He’s never explained that part. The real question, was he lying then, or is he lying now? Basically, he’s a liar, but it is more beneficial to lie now since he’s such a staunch Republican and supporter of veterans. I guess we can be frenemies if he bathes first, a lot, with bleach.
Two separate viewpoints, but one who stood and faced the music and one who fabricated a line of bullshit that dripped out of his pants. Which one reveals integrity? I don’t care about religious reasoning, brand affiliation, or any of the other noise. Which person proved they meant what they said?
Now, my own definition of draft dodging is simple: Anyone who left the country or through deliberate malfeasance to make themselves unfit for military service. This definition does not include anyone who had a legal deferment. So Dick Cheney, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and millions of others who went to college instead of war, did not dodge the draft. They used the system their fathers created. Ted dodged, Ali did not.
The draft system itself was easily manipulated by this simple fact: If you could afford college, and back then it was not easy at it might seem, you could essentially buy your way out of the draft. It was legal and it was used appropriately.
Another irony? When people go after George W. Bush who was in the military at that time. I’ve even heard the statement that people “joined the Guard” to avoid the draft. Most of the time those who say that are the same people who have no problem with Bill Clinton’s deferment–oh the hypocrisy.
I have no problem with blasting the draft. It was a system designed with loopholes for those who could reach high enough or afford to use them. The Social Security Number, while not mandatory exactly, is now a necessity for tax filing, government benefits of any kind so using that system we don’t need the draft any longer which in essence was just a number for the lottery. But it’s as difficult to stop a government program, as it is to lift yourself by your own ears.
You want to vilify draft dodgers, look towards those who ran to Canada, who went overseas, the ones Jimmy Carter pardoned so that they could come back and take over family businesses because all was forgiven.
Or you can push for change against the draft itself, which is something sputtering around Congress now, and get it removed. Whatever you do, bathe regularly.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal June 15, 2019.
Leonard O. Benton is retired from active duty military service with 24 years and two combat deployments to Iraq. He left the Regular Army after 10 years and became a National Guard Recruiter for his first tour in the AGR program followed by over 10 years in Operations as Force Protection, CBRN and three years as C-IED. He has an Associates degree and is currently working on his Bachelor’s. He is an amateur metal smith and when he is not working or writing he can often be found in his shop pounding away in the attempt to transform a lump of metal into an icon of beauty or function.
His years of operational planning, threat analysis, and a deeply cynical view of our imperfect world leads him to focus on world events and cultural beliefs that tend to cause the most friction and chaos in the world around us. He is a libertarian and he believes in personal freedoms and accountability. The Havok Journal gave him an outlet to express the things he sees wrong in the world and the opportunity to once again provide advice on how to fix it. Leonard can be contacted a firstname.lastname@example.org.
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