The following is Bill Clinton's December 1969 letter to his
ROTC Director, Colonel Eugene Holmes. This text was taken verbatim from
"SLICK WILLIE", by Floyd G. Brown. Not a word has been changed.
I am sorry to be so long in writing. I know I promised to let you hear from me at least once a month, and from now on you will, but I have had to have some time to think about this first letter. Almost daily since my return to England I have thought about writing, about what I want to and ought to say.
First, I want to thank you, not just for saving me from the draft, but for being so kind and decent to me last summer, when I was as low as I have ever been. One thing which made the bond we struck in good faith somewhat palatable to me was my high regard for you personally. In retrospect, it seems that the admiration might not have been mutual had you known a little more about me, about my political beliefs and activities. At least you might have thought me more fit for the draft than for ROTC.
Let me try to explain. As you know, I worked for two years in a very minor position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I did it for the experience and the salary but also for the opportunity, however small, of working every day against a war I opposed and despised with a depth of feeling I had reserved solely for racism in America before Vietnam. I did not take the matter lightly but studied it carefully, and there was a time when not many people had more information about Vietnam at hand than I did.
I have written and spoken and marched against the war. One of the national organizers of the Vietnam Moratorium is a close friend of mine, After I left Arkansas last summer, I went to Washington to work in the national headquarters of the Moratorium, then to England to organize the Americans for the demonstrations Oct. 15 and Nov. 16.
Interlocked with the war is the draft issue, which I did not begin to consider separately until early 1968. For a law seminar Georgetown I wrote a paper on the legal arguments for and against allowing, within the Selective Service System, the classification of selective conscientious objection, for those opposed to participation in a particular war, not simply to "participation in war in any form."
From my work I came to believe that the draft system itself is illegitimate. No government really rooted in limited, parliamentary democracy should have the power to make its citizens fight and kill and die in a war they may oppose, a war which even possibly may be wrong, a war which, in any case, does not involve immediately the peace and freedom of the nation.
The draft was justified in World War II because the life of the people collectively was at stake. Individuals had to fight, if the nation was to survive, for the lives of their countrymen and their way of life. Vietnam is no such case. Nor was Korea an example where, in my opinion, certain military action was justified but the draft was not, for the reasons stated above.
Because of my opposition to the draft and the war, I am in great sympathy with those who are not willing to fight, kill, and maybe die for their country (i.e. the particular policy of a particular government) right or wrong. Two of my friends at Oxford are conscientious objectors. I wrote a letter of recommendation for one of them to his Mississippi draft board, a letter which I am more proud of than anything else I wrote at Oxford last year. One of my roommates is a draft resister who is possibly under indictment and may never be able to go home again. He is one of the bravest, best men I know. That he is considered a criminal is an obscenity.
The decision not to be a resister and the related subsequent decisions were the most difficult of my life. I decided to accept the draft in spite of my beliefs for one reason: to maintain my political viability within the system. For years I have worked to prepare myself for a political life characterized by both practical political ability and concern for rapid social progress. It is a life I still feel compelled to try to lead. I do not think our system of government is by definition corrupt, however dangerous and inadequate it has been in recent years. (The society may be corrupt, but that is not the same thing, and if that is true we are all finished anyway.)
When the draft came, despite political convictions, I was having a hard time facing the prospect of fighting a war I had been fighting against, and that is why I contacted you. ROTC was the one way left in which I could possibly, but not positively, avoid both Vietnam and resistance. Going on with my education, even coming back to England, played no part in my decision to join ROTC. I am back here, and would have been at Arkansas Law School because there is nothing else I can do. In fact, I would like to have been able to take a year out perhaps to teach in a small college or work on some community action project and in the process to decide whether to attend law school or graduate school and how to begin putting what I have learned to use.
But the particulars of my personal life are not nearly as important to me as the principles involved. After I signed the ROTC letter of intent I began to wonder whether the compromise I had made with myself was not more objectionable than the draft would have been, because I had no interest in the ROTC program in itself and all I seemed to have done was to protect myself from physical harm. Also, I began to think I had deceived you, not by lies because there were none but by failing to tell you all the things I'm writing now. I doubt that I had the mental coherence to articulate them then.
At that time, after we had made our agreement and you had sent my 1-D deferment to my draft board, the anguish and loss of my self-regard and self confidence really set in. I hardly slept for weeks and kept going by eating compulsively and reading until exhaustion brought sleep. Finally, on Sept. 12 I stayed up all night writing a letter to the chairman of my draft board, saying basically what is in the preceding paragraph, thanking him for trying to help in a case where he really couldn't, and stating that I couldn't do the ROTC after all and would he please draft me as soon as possible.
I never mailed the letter, but I did carry it on me every day until I got on the plane to return to England. I didn't mail the letter because I didn't see, in the end, how my going in the army and maybe going to Vietnam would achieve anything except a feeling that I had punished myself and gotten what I deserved. So I came back to England to try to make something of this second year of my Rhodes scholarship.
And that is where I am now, writing to you because you have been good to me and have a right to know what I think and feel. I am writing too in the hope that my telling this one story will help you to understand more clearly how so many fine people have come to find themselves still loving their country but loathing the military, to which you and other good men have devoted years, lifetimes, of the best service you could give. To many of us, it is no longer clear what is service and what is disservice, or if it is clear, the conclusion is likely to be illegal.
Forgive the length of this letter. There was much to say. There is still a lot to be said, but it can wait. Please say hello to Col. Jones for me.
The following is Colonel Eugene Holmes's September 1992 affidavit concerning Bill Clinton and the draft.
Colonel Eugene Holmes is a highly decorated officer of the United States Army. He is a survivor of the Bataan Death March and three and a half years as a POW of the Japanese. He served 32 years in the army before retiring with 100% disability. His decorations include the Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars, 2 Legions of Merit, the Army Commendation Medal and many others. During the Vietnam War, he personally inducted both his sons into the service--one for 3 years as a regular army enlisted man, and the other as a commissioned officer (after he had completed ROTC training).
There have been many unanswered questions as to the circumstances surrounding Bill Clinton's involvement with the ROTC department at the University of Arkansas. Prior to this time I have not felt the necessity for discussing the details. The reason I have not done so before is that my poor physical health (a consequence of participation in the Battan Death March and the subsequent three and a half years interment in Japanese POW camps) has precluded me from getting into what I felt was unnecessary involvement. However, present polls show that there is the imminent danger to our country of a draft dodger becoming Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. While it is true, as Mr. Clinton has stated, that there were many others who avoided serving their country in the Vietnam war, they are not aspiring to be the President of the United States.
The tremendous implications of the possibility of his becoming Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces compels me now to comment on the facts concerning Mr. Clinton's evasion of the draft. This account would not have been imperative had Bill Clinton been completely honest with the American public concerning this matter. But as Mr. Clinton replied on a news conference this evening (September 5, 1992) after being asked another particular about his dodging the draft, "Almost everyone concerned with these incidents are dead. I have no more comments to make". Since I may be the only person living who can give a first hand account of what actually transpired, I am obligated by my love for my country and my sense of duty to divulge what actually happened and make it a matter of record.
Bill Clinton came to see me at my home in 1969 to discuss his desire to enroll in the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas. We engaged in an extensive, approximately two (2) hour interview. At no time during this long conversation about his desire to join the program did he inform me of his involvement, participation and actually organizing protests against the United States involvement in South East Asia. He was shrewd enough to realize that had I been aware of his activities, he would not have been accepted into the ROTC program as a potential officer in the United States Army.
The next day I began to receive phone calls regarding Bill Clinton's draft status. I was informed by the draft board that it was of interest to Senator Fullbright's office that Bill Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar, should be admitted to the ROTC program. I received several such calls. The general message conveyed by the draft board to me was that Senator Fullbright's office was putting pressure on them and that they needed my help. I then made the necessary arrangements to enroll Mr. Clinton into the ROTC program at the University of Arkansas.
I was not "saving" him from serving his country, as he erroneously thanked me for in his letter from England (dated December 3, 1969). I was making it possible for a Rhodes Scholar to serve in the military as an officer. In retrospect I see that Mr. Clinton had no intention of following through with his agreement to join the Army ROTC program at the University of Arkansas or to attend the University of Arkansas Law School. I had explained to him the necessity of enrolling at the University of Arkansas as a student in order to be eligible to take the ROTC program at the University. He never enrolled at the University of Arkansas, but instead enrolled at Yale after attending Oxford. I believe that he purposely deceived me, using the possibility of joining the ROTC as a ploy to work with the draft board to delay his induction and get a new draft classification.
The December 3rd letter written to me by Mr. Clinton, and subsequently taken from the files by Lt. Col. Clint Jones, my executive officer, was placed into the ROTC files so that a record would be available in case the applicant should again petition to enter the ROTC program. The information in that letter alone would have restricted Bill Clinton from ever qualifying to be an officer in the United States Military. Even more significant was his lack of veracity in purposefully defrauding the military by deceiving me, both in concealing his anti-military activities overseas and his counterfeit intentions for later military service. These actions cause me to question both his patriotism and his integrity.
When I consider the calabre, the bravery, and the patriotism of the fine young soldiers whose deaths I have witnessed, and others whose funerals I have attended.... When I reflect on not only the willingness but eagerness that so many of them displayed in their earnest desire to defend and serve their country, it is untenable and incomprehensible to me that a man who was not merely unwilling to serve his country, but actually protested against its military, should ever be in the position of Commander-in-Chief of our armed Forces.
I write this declaration not only for the living and future generations, but for those who fought and died for our country. If space and time permitted I would include the names of the ones I knew and fought with, and along with them I would mention my brother Bob, who was killed during World War II and is buried in Cambridge, England (at the age of 23, about the age Bill Clinton was when he was over in England protesting the war).
I have agonized over whether or not to submit this statement to the American people. But, I realize that even though I served my country by being in the military for over 32 years, and having gone through the ordeal of months of combat under the worst of conditions followed by years of imprisonment by the Japanese, it is not enough. I'm writing these comments to let everyone know that I love my country more than I do my own personal security and well-being. I will go to my grave loving these United States of America and the liberty for which so many men have fought and died.
Because of my poor physical condition this will be my final statement. I will make no further comments to any of the media regarding this issue.
Eugene J. Holmes, [RETURN TO T'NAILS]
Colonel, U.S.A., Ret,