Decades after the end of the Vietnam War, the impact on both Vietnam and the United States is still felt. Yet few Americans are aware that the conflict, which killed several million people, ended in large part thanks to the anti-war movement made up of, among others, 570,000 Americans that refused to be drafted to fight a war that many saw as immoral even then. Among those, 3,250 draft resisters--many of whom considered themselves conscientious objectors--were punished with up to five years in prison, including the anti-war activist and journalist David Harris. These valiant young men from a wide range of social classes are the subject of the documentary “The Boys Who Said No,” directed by Judith Ehrlich, who joins Robert Scheer on this week’s “Scheer Intelligence” to discuss her film.
Ehrlich, whose film “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” won a George Foster Peabody Award, in addition to being nominated for an Academy Award and Primetime Emmy, tells Scheer about how her recent documentary began with a reunion of draft resisters that she was invited to by Christopher Colorado Jones, a conscientious objector who served time in prison. Clips that Jones, who was a founding producer of “The Boys Who Said No,” was able to record with a smuggled camera while in prison appear in the documentary.
As editor of Ramparts Magazine during the Vietnam War and a leading anti-war activist, Scheer also shares his unique perspective on the draft and the anti-war movement portrayed in the film, adding that he and his fellow Ramparts journalists also publicly burned their draft cards. While acknowledging the importance of people like Harris, whom he interviewed on “Scheer Intelligence” previously, as well as Harris’ wife Joan Baez, the podcast host tells the film director that the strength of her film lies in telling the story of the collective power that so many young people--many of which will remain unnamed in history books--changed the course of history despite suffering great personal costs.
Listen to the full conversation between Ehrlich and Scheer as they discuss how the conscientious objectors in her film displayed a type of bravery that they lament seems absent from American activism nowadays.