TIME White House

Behind the Scenes with the Secret Service

A rare look into the life of the silent guards who keep watch over the White House

Photographer Brooks Kraft, a regular contributor to TIME, has been shooting the White House for 14 years, spanning a period that includes the 2000 election controversy, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Iraq War, a global financial crisis and more.

Through Kraft’s work at 1600 Pennsylvania there has been the quiet force behind the camera, silent and standing sentry, that quite literally keeps life going at the White House: The Secret Service.

Founded in 1865 to squash the production of counterfeit U.S. currency, today the Secret Service bears the burden of responsibility to protect the President and other VIPs, including the President’s family, presidential candidates and visiting dignitaries.

In light of recent security breaches at the White House, TIME takes a closer look at the men responsible for ensuring the President’s safety.

 

TIME politics

Rangel: It’s Time for a War Tax and a Reinstated Draft

Representative Charles Rangel Interview
Representative Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Friday, June 6, 2014. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is a combat veteran and former Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.

Everyone in America needs a real stake in any decision to go to war

While I am optimistic about our Commander-in-Chief’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, I voted against the Continuing Appropriations Resolution 2015 that would grant the President the authority to provide funds to train and arm Syrian rebels against the enemy. I opposed the amendment because I strongly believe amassing additional debt to go to war should involve all of America debating the matter. That is why I have called for levying a war tax in addition to bringing back the military draft. Both the war surcharge and conscription will give everyone in America a real stake in any decision on going to war, and compel the public to think twice before they make a commitment to send their loved ones into harm’s way.

As a Korean War veteran, I know the plight of war. Our military is the best in the world, but war is unpredictable and chaotic. In the event that the conflict in Iraq and Syria necessitates American troops on the ground, everyone should share the sacrifices instead of the small few who are already carrying that burden.

For a decade I have been calling for the reinstatement of the draft because our military personnel and their families bear a tremendous cost each time we send them to fight. Since 2001, nearly 7,000 soldiers have paid for these wars with their lives. More than 52,000 have been wounded, many narrowly saved by the miracle of modern medicine. The 3.3 million military households have become a virtual military class who are unfairly shouldering the brunt of war. Many men and women in uniform serve multiple tours, as many as 10, and 25 percent of America’s active duty military personnel suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is unacceptable that on average 22 veterans die by suicide every day. If war is truly necessary, we should all come together in defense of our nation, not just one percent of America.

In addition to the significant number of precious lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have accumulated too much debt to finance these wars. The United States has borrowed almost $2 trillion to fund our military engagements on foreign soil. It is estimated that the total cost would be close to $6 trillion; we continue to pay a heavy toll for these conflicts. Each dollar spent on war is a dollar not spent on education, energy, housing, or healthcare. We cannot afford to tread this same path when we are slashing domestic programs that are the lifelines for so many Americans. I will soon introduce a bill that will impose war tax to ensure that we do not have to choose between further gutting the social safety net and adding to the $17.7 trillion of national debt.

I continue to believe that under President Obama’s leadership, the international community will rid itself of this cancer. Secretary of State John Kerry has reported that nearly 30 countries have stepped up to support the fight against ISIS. These countries intend to provide financial resources, intelligence, equipment and training. Furthermore, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stated that their government also does not want President Barack Obama to send American ground troops to fight in Iraq. Nevertheless we must be prepared for the worst.

ISIS militants are a real threat. They have already killed two American journalists and thousands of Syrians and Iraqis in their brutal attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate. If left unchecked, they can jeopardize our core interests abroad and at home. We must share the burden in diminishing their impact to our national security. Containing their spread will help America and our allies to feel safe whether at home or abroad. Reinstating the draft and imposing the war tax will ensure that our safety is sustainable, our financial engagements abroad are not borrowed, and that all Americans have a role in defending and protecting our nation.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) is a combat veteran and former Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Republicans Condemn Maine Gubernatorial Candidate for Controversial Video

The Republican party is denouncing a promotional video for candidate Mike Michaud made by a local blogger which contains lewd lyrics about Senator Susan Collins

The Maine Republican Party denounced a video promoting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud on Friday. The soundtrack to the video, a rap song, contains the lyrics, “I’m the King of Maine. I’ve got Susan Collins giving everyone brain,” a slang reference to oral sex. (They lyrics began around the 1:58 mark in the video above.)

Michaud’s campaign said the candidate had no involvement with the production of the video, which was created by local blogger Alex Steed and his production company Knack Factory. “We had no control over this video just like we have no control over news coverage,” campaign spokesman David Farmer told the Portland Press Herald. “Mike doesn’t even listen to rap.” The campaign said it contacted Steed as soon as it divined the meaning of the lyrics and asked him to take the video down from the Bangor Daily News site, which he did.

Steed tweeted on Friday morning confirming that Michaud had nothing to do with choosing the song.

The tweet linked to a post on Bangor Daily News that explained Steed and Knack Factory did not know the meaning of “giving brain” when they created the video and chose the song by Maine rapper Spose.

Later, he apologized directly to Michaud for the mistake:

Republicans nonetheless condemned Michaud, a member of Congress, for the video. “It is absolutely appalling and completely inexcusable that Michael Michaud would make a video with such a vulgar reference to Susan Collins,” Maine Republican Party spokeswoman Deborah Sanderson said in a statement. “In his quest to win votes from a younger generation, Congressman Michaud has gone way over the line by participating in this depraved insult to Maine’s senior senator.”

Rap and pop music has a long history of making misogynistic references to politicians. In the song “Grillz,” Nelly raps, “Gotta bill in my mouth like Hillary Rodham.” Eminem raps “And I’ll invite Sarah Palin out to dinner then nail her, ‘Baby say hello to my little friend,'” in “We Made You.” And in Beyoncé’s recent song, “Partition,” she sing, “He Monica Lewinski’d all on my gown.”

TIME politics

Jon Huntsman: It’s Time to Break the Gridlock

National Clean Energy Summit 7.0 In Las Vegas
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. speaks at the National Clean Energy Summit 7.0 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on September 4, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. David Becker—Getty Images

Jon Huntsman was Utah's governor from 2005-09 and subsequently served as the U.S. ambassador to China and Singapore.

The 'National Strategic Agenda' will agree to agree 75 percent of the time to effect change in Washington

Is it interesting when two people agree? How about a group of people? What if they can’t agree on everything, but they can agree on 75 percent of things?

The framers of the U.S. Constitution used 75 percent as the threshold for agreement on issues of the greatest consequence. Any changes to our Constitution must be ratified by 75 percent of the states. History has shown us that this level of consensus isn’t just-good-enough, it is strong. It solves problems and gives citizens confidence in their government.

A new group of American leaders met this week and agreed to agree at least 75 percent of the time in order to develop a policy framework that we are calling the National Strategic Agenda—something that we believe will shape the national conversation around the next presidential election.

Our group is called No Labels. We are current and former elected officials from state, local and federal governments. We are a mix of Democrats and Republicans. And we decided that if 75 percent was good enough to build the foundation of our great nation, it is good enough for us.

Agreement, as it turns out, can be more interesting than disagreement—perhaps because, right now, it feels so rare. What we came up with this week is, objectively, far more interesting than any of the partisan fights that will continue to crowd the airwaves between now and November 4th.

Our first area of agreement was the easiest: Washington, D.C. is beyond gridlocked. It’s dysfunctional and it needs to change. We can’t wait any longer to move past re-election tactics and instead develop an actual process for solving our nation’s most pressing problems.

We also united around four goals:

  • Create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years;
  • Balance of the federal budget by 2030;
  • Secure Medicare and Social Security for another 75 years; and
  • Make America energy secure by 2024.

The discussion that followed was the harder part, as we sought to begin answering the big question of: How do we achieve these goals?

We don’t have all the answers, yet, to the question of “how,” but our conversation is off to a very good start.

For example, there was consensus that the role of the executive (i.e. the president and governors) is critical, and that leaders aren’t necessarily people who know all the answers, but rather people who bring parties to the table and get them to discover the answers, together.

There was a common view that trust is essential for government officials to work together…and that trust only happens when people talk to each other.

And there was collective relief when we realized none of us wanted to place blame anymore. We are instead energized by the prospect of charting a new course.

Throughout the discussions at the No Labels National Ideas Meeting, references were made to leaders who have worked together, who have found that 75-percent consensus level and made history as as result. Many conference attendees mentioned President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neil. They also referenced President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich.

These historic examples are helpful, but the most inspiring, to me, were far more current: State legislators from both parties and various states who commended their governors for reaching across aisles. Mayors who described town halls where they have found consensus among their constituents. Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell moderated one of our panel discussions and summed these stories up well by saying: “There is no substitute for listening.”

I believe that the winds of change were started at our meeting in Washington, D.C. this week. Now, we will move them out of the capital and across the country, where they can develop into a blueprint we can bring back to Washington at the right time, for use by a new president and a new Congress.

One year from now, in October of 2015, the No Labels National Strategic Agenda will be ready. It will be a gift for the right leaders, providing them with both direction and substance. Perhaps most importantly, our work will create a new politics of problem solving — something that will help unite our country. And since we can only stand strong when united, unity is a goal we can all agree on.

Jon Huntsman was Utah’s governor from 2005-09 and subsequently served as the U.S. ambassador to China and Singapore.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

Iowa, Step Aside: Arizona Should Be the Next Primary Leader

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Arizona State Capitol - Phoenix KingWu—Getty Images

Mike Saucier is the founder of Soss Communications. Chip Scutari is co-founder of Scutari and Cieslak Public Relations.

Despite its reputation as a redder-than-Red State, Arizona could glow purple in the coming years

Cue the scripted photo-op of the corn-dog eating candidate.

Yes, the quadrennial cliché has begun anew. The parade of presidential wannabes “exploring” their way through the homogenous hamlets of Iowa and New Hampshire is upon us. An annual Steak Fry with outgoing Iowa Senator Tom Harkin drew 200 or so requests from reporters seeking credentials, according to POLITICO. That news came as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie headed to an appearance at a bakery in Nashua, New Hampshire. Similar scenarios will play out in the coming months in both states as a smorgasbord of first, second and-third tier candidates from both sides of the aisle enter the first real “tests” of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Des Moines. Cedar Rapids. Manchester. Concord. Quaint places that put the V in Vanilla.

Nice people but not riveting testing grounds for presidential candidates. The American people deserve better.

Let’s say you could design a job interview that puts candidates through a grueling series of tests with a diverse set of issues and a diverse population. You would want to challenge the candidate in different environments and landscapes, all with a range of issues that resonate with the rest of the country and with people of all ranges of political stripes, class and ethnicities.

You might want a more challenging gauntlet than the predictable and parochial path set by Iowa and New Hampshire. Times change. Let’s not forget that Iowa leapt ahead of New Hampshire (mostly by accident) about 40 years ago.

If you are willing to look beyond some of its hard-won stereotypes, then Arizona is the choice to replace Iowa or New Hampshire as the first presidential contest. Before that can happen, however, Arizona has to be willing to provoke the wrath of both parties, which protect the Iowa and New Hampshire tradition by threatening not to seat delegates from states whose primaries are held too early.

No sweat. One thing about Arizona is that it does not take kindly to being told what to do by Washington.

It’s for that and other reasons that Arizona is the perfect host to determine presidential fitness.

Sure, we’ve supplied Jon Stewart with some comedy gold in recent memory with our proud federal defiance of pretty much everything and those tiny controversies about the “show us your papers” law in 2010 (which has been emaciated by the courts) and a refuse-to-serve-gays legislation (which was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer).

Yup. Three cheers for the Grand Canyon State.

Despite our generous contributions to Comedy Central and depictions as a redder-than-Red State, Arizona could glow purple in the coming years. Our demographics and growing population represent the future of our country. (Iowa and New Hampshire represent a shrinking slice of the past.) Latinos make up a third of our state’s population. We are home to 22 federally recognized Native American tribes. Independents are our largest voting bloc. The Land of Barry Goldwater now has five of nine congressional seats controlled by Democrats. The population of the Phoenix metropolitan area, known as the Valley, just about equals the population of Iowa and New Hampshire combined.

We share a border with Mexico, standing on the front lines of the immigration/border security debate. (Just picture presidential aspirants heading to Nogales to do the requisite border tour.) As one of the most gun-friendly states in the country, we are a flashpoint for gun rights or gun control—depending on who is campaigning.

We are TV-ready with amazing geographical diversity. Candidates weary of Phoenix and Tucson can campaign in a roster of quirky smaller cities and towns such as Jerome, Bisbee, Sedona, Tombstone, Patagonia and Williams. Tamales, enchiladas and other Mexican cuisine can replace corn dogs as the meal of choice on the trail.

At a time when both parties talk about expanding their bases—both courting Latinos—it makes more strategic sense to put our presidential wannabes right in front of those same constituencies. What better atmosphere for presidential candidates to walk into than an energized core of Independents?

Meanwhile, Iowa’s presidential beauty contest looks a bit unseemly these days. In August, a former Iowa state senator pleaded guilty to federal charges for receiving thousands of dollars in payments for switching loyalties from Rep. Michele Bachmann to then-Rep. Ron Paul before the 2012 caucuses. He had headed Bachmann’s effort there. While those kinds of shenanigans can happen anywhere, it did spark the question in the minds of two transplanted Arizonans: Are there better alternatives than these two states for us to first gauge the merit of our future presidents? The answer: Hell yes.

Of course, this will not be easy. State legislators signed a bill earlier this year that moved the Arizona presidential primary back to the middle of March, which brought it back into compliance with the national party delegate selection rules.

Gov. Brewer proudly touts “Arizona’s Comeback” with the arrival or expansion of iconic brands like Apple, General Motors and Go Daddy. But there is more to do. The next Arizona governor, whomever that is come Nov. 4th, can build on Brewer’s legacy by having the guts to stand up to the national party primary bullies. The presidential candidates, and their parties, love to talk about change, the need for reform and getting things done. Why not apply that to the primaries?

The first primary state is where we should see which candidates have the gravitas, the chutzpah, to be leader of the free world. Arizona is a vastly diverse political environment with a built-in slate of issues that matter to Joe Six Pack.

Iowa and New Hampshire. Been there. Done that. It’s Arizona’s turn to be the first float in the presidential parade.

Mike Saucier, a former newspaper editor, is a writer and founder of Soss Communications, a public relations company in Arizona. Chip Scutari, who covered politics for The Arizona Republic, is co-founder of Scutari and Cieslak Public Relations and a political consultant in Phoenix.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

What Happened Last Time Scotland Tried for Greater Independence?

SNP from Oct. 28, 1974, issue
Douglas Crawford, then vice chairman of the Scottish National Party, pictured in the Oct. 28, 1974, issue of TIME TIME

Back in 1974, TIME reported that Scots had a "general feeling" of England that "she's a tired old ship that is foundering at sea."

On Thursday, when Scottish voters put their relationship with the U.K. to the ballot, three hundred years of membership in the United Kingdom will be at stake. But those 307 years of togetherness haven’t passed unquestioned. In fact, it was almost exactly 40 years ago that the movement for an independent Scotland reached a similar tipping point.

The Scottish National Party had spent nearly half a century as a mere footnote to Scottish history when, in the mid-1970s, it became a force to be reckoned with. In 1974, running on a self-government platform, the party secured 30% of the vote, driven largely by Scottish interest in gaining control over North Sea oil production. “There is no rancor toward England in most cases, no implied violence or even incivility, just a general feeling that she’s a tired old ship that is foundering at sea,” TIME reported on Oct. 28 of that year. Polls at the time found that 17% of Scots wanted complete independence and 85% wanted self-governance without a split. By the end of the following year, Prime Minister Harold Wilson had announced that there could be a vote in Parliament delegating some of its duties to the regional governments in Scotland and Wales.

It took years for that promise to go anywhere, but in 1979 Scotland and Wales voted on “devolution,” that process of delegating authority. Wales rejected the referendum — and, in a surprise, Scotland did too. This despite the fact that polls one month prior to the vote had shown a 2-to-1 preference for devolution. The final count? A mere 33% voted yes.

“Appealing to local pride, the Scottish Nationalists argued that if devolution failed to pass, Scotland would ‘be good for nothing more than to tart up a few British ceremonies.’ But the antidevolution forces, led by the Conservative Party, mounted a late-blooming campaign that focused on an even more basic Scottish instinct: they charged that the cost of home rule would be quickly felt in the form of higher taxes,” TIME reported.

For this week’s vote, a large majority of Scots are expected to turn out to vote, and recent polls have shown that the yes/no votes could be close. But the 1979 vote, over a much less drastic change, was supposed to be a win for devolution. Instead, the status quo won handily. If this week’s vote follows the pattern of the 1970s decision, then a large percentage of the yes votes indicated in early polling will disappear when the decision must be made.

Support for increased Scottish independence has been fairly steady since the ’70s, according to the Scottish Parliament’s own historical records. In fact, that Parliament — which had been dissolved April 28, 1707, in order that a united Parliament of Great Britain could come into session — only exists because of that support. The first meeting of the Scottish Constitutional Convention took place in 1989, and in 1997 the U.K. government published a white paper on the topic of a Scottish Parliament. A referendum for devolution was held in September of that year, and the resulting “yes” vote led to the 1998 passage of the Scotland Bill, which established a Parliament that opened the following year. The powers of the Scottish Parliament, known as “devolved powers,” included education and housing; the “reserved powers” that stayed with the U.K. Parliament included immigration and defense. In 2012, another Scotland Act added — for example, setting a national speed limit — to the list of devolved powers.

The last time Scottish self-governance lost at the polls, TIME posited that the “no” vote wasn’t just a matter of taxes: “Some Scots also began to ponder the fact that devolution might lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom, which none but the most extreme nationalists want.”

Which is, of course, exactly what the Sept. 18 referendum — no matter of mere devolution — will determine. It’s no longer such an extreme-sounding prospect. In fact, Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, told TIME in 2011 that he believes Scotland will join the list of nations that used to live under English rule sooner or later.

Read the full interview with Alex Salmond here: Is Scotland’s Independence from the U.K. Inevitable?

TIME politics

Congress Must Vote on War

US-ATTACKS-9/11-MEMORIAL-OBAMA
US President Barack Obama speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, September 11, 2014, during a ceremony marking the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and author of legislation to sunset the post-9/11 authorization for use of military force.

We need to repeal the authorization of force against Iraq

In his address to the nation last week, President Obama made a compelling case for a concerted effort to destroy the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL), a terrorist group that has spread chaos and bloodshed across Syria and Iraq. But even as the Administration has acknowledged that taking the offensive against ISIL amounts to war, it has paradoxically taken the position that Congressional approval—while desirable—is not required.

The Constitution says otherwise.

The President has broad authority as commander in chief to defend the nation, but that authority is not without limit. It does not extend to situations like the present where the Administration has acknowledged that ISIL does not pose an immediate threat to our homeland. As one former constitutional law professor and then-Senator named Barrack Obama told an interviewer in 2007, “the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

The Administration has asserted that it has the requisite authority to act based on the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) passed in the days immediately following September 11th—this reasoning is tenuous at best.

The 2001 AUMF authorized military force against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks. The logic connecting this vote to ISIL stretches an already thin reed past its breaking point. ISIL did not exist in 2001 and has been formally disavowed by al Qaeda, both because of the barbarity of its tactics and for a set of aims that is distinct from those of al Qaeda’s leadership. The al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, is more likely to fight against than alongside ISIL, and al Qaeda has rejected both its declaration of a caliphate and its would-be caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Although the Administration makes a colorable claim that ISIL’s prior al Qaeda iteration and common desire to attack the west should be sufficient to bring it within the AUMF, the real question is not whether an ingenious lawyer can make the argument—that can always be done—but whether such an interpretation is consistent with a Constitution that vests the power to declare war in the Congress. Having said the military campaign against ISIL will take years and amounts to war, surely the separation of powers principles behind the declaration clause preclude executive reliance on an old authorization focused on a different enemy in a different land at a very different time.

The President’s reluctance to seek a Congressional authorization is understandable. Even in matters of national security, the dysfunction of Congress and the determination of some Republicans to foil the President at every turn have made Congressional approval a dicey proposition. This is true even here, where the nation is broadly united on the need to act against ISIL and supportive of the plan the President has put forward.

Nevertheless, there is a path that will provide the President the authority to act, permits Congress to assert its constitutional prerogative in the matter of war and peace, and will allow us to turn the page on the post 9/11 era so that we can focus on today’s threats—and tomorrow’s. It is a course the President invited us to take more than a year ago at the National Defense University when he pledged to work with Congress “to refine, and ultimately repeal, the [2001] AUMF’s mandate.”

The House and Senate should quickly take up a tailored and narrow authorization for the use of force in Iraq and Syria. Such an authorization should specify the enemy, declare that we are not authorizing the large-scale deployment of troops to fight in, or occupy either country, and contain an 18-month sunset clause so that Congress can insist on its oversight role. In doing so, Congress should also immediately repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, and provide the same 18-month sunset for the 2001 AUMF, to harmonize the legal authority we provide to wage war against any foe and to ensure that no future President can use it as a basis for unilateral action. I plan on introducing an authorization bill this week to accomplish these limited goals.

In matters of war, Congress is not some suitor that must be asked by the President to dance. Requested or not, Congress must exercise its responsibility to decide whether to send the nation’s sons and daughters to war. We should not go to war—let alone adjourn—without a vote.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and author of legislation to sunset the post-9/11 authorization for use of military force.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

How I Got Out of the Vietnam Draft — And Why That Still Matters

amnesty: Sept. 9, 1974
The Sept. 9, 1974, issue of TIME reports on the amnesty proposal, which was issued on Sept. 16, 1974. TIME

The Vietnam draft dodgers were offered amnesty 40 years ago today, but their story isn't over

My ’60s high-school experience was close to the stereotype — smoking pot, trying LSD, seeing the world in a new way, and questioning authority: If the government lied about drugs, why not about other things?

It turned out that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the justification for the Vietnam War, was one of those lies — as have been the justifications for most of our wars, I believe — but I didn’t find that out until later. Still, even before I knew that war was based on a lie, I could see that our nation was divided and confused about it. No one could give me a good, clear, convincing explanation of what was going on. Wasn’t that uncertainty a sufficient reason to refrain from killing millions of people? That’s how I felt at the time, though I couldn’t have articulated it so well back then.

I didn’t figure that out all by myself. I had the good fortune to fall in with some other teenagers who were also figuring it out. We spent many hot summer afternoons in someone’s cool basement, playing peace music and reading counterculture comic books. We listened to the sound track of Hair over and over. Clear Light’s cover of “Mr. Blue” was a stunning indictment of authoritarianism, though I didn’t learn the word “authoritarianism” until years later.

We felt that the war and the draft were bad, but I didn’t fully understand what my friends were going through; my own experience was too different. I was good at math, so I knew I’d be going to college, and I’d automatically get a draft deferment. Also, I felt less nationalism than most people. For me it would be just an inconvenience, not a great hardship, to flee to Canada, at that time a safe haven for draft dodgers. I knew that I would never wear a uniform.

Then, in November 1969, after I’d been in college for a year, the rules changed. A lottery began phasing out student deferments. My roommates and I started thinking and talking more about the draft. It occurred to me that the people on the draft board were human beings who deserved a friendly hello as much as anyone did, so I wrote them a letter.

The letter was very brief. I don’t remember the exact words, but they were something like this: “Dear Draft Board, I feel sorry for President Nixon. He must have had a terrible childhood. Why else would he be bombing all those Cambodians?”

It wasn’t just ink on paper. I thought anyone on a draft board must have a terribly drab life and deserved some cheering up – so, when my breakfast cereal box was empty, I cut out the front panel, which included a colorful cartoon character. I flipped it over to the blank cardboard that had faced the inside of the box. In crayon, with the great innocence that can come from LSD, I wrote the letter that I sent to my draft board.

It wasn’t a conscious attempt to get out of the draft. That payoff hadn’t even occurred to me. But my draft board promptly decided I was crazy, and classified me 4F, unfit for military service. They even phoned my parents to offer condolences. I got off lucky; a more authoritarian board would have drafted my sorry ass right then and there.

Perhaps I was crazy, but not as crazy as war. At any rate, I was safe, and home free, and no longer affected by the draft. I hardly noticed the draft-related events of the next few years: In 1973 the draft ended, in 1974 President Ford offered conditional amnesty to the draft dodgers — 40 years ago today — and in 1975 the war ended. But by then the draft had already done great damage to the U.S. military and its image. I’ve heard many stories of soldiers who didn’t like what they were forced to do.

During my college years, at first I joined in a few antiwar marches. But I found political arguments frustrating, so after a while I put them aside; I left the world in the hands of people who claimed to know what they were doing. I grew into a middle-class life, with spouse, house, two kids, and a tenured mathematics professorship at a prestigious university. I didn’t think about political ideas again for decades. Then, in 2006, a number of changes in my life gave me time to think, and I woke up. I realized the world was a mess, and taking care of it is the responsibility of all of us; it seems to me that the people in whose hands I’d left it did not know what they were doing. Since then I’ve been marching for many causes, and reading and writing about politics. Among other things, I’ve formed much stronger opinions about war and the draft.

It turned out that the Vietnam War never really ended — it changed its name and location, but as far as I can see, the questionable justifications have not changed. Politicians tell us that the people “over there” are different from us, but really those people are our cousins. I think we need politicians who will try harder to make diplomacy work.

And the draft never really ended either — now it’s a poverty draft. I hear stories all the time about people joining the military because they can’t find a decent job. Forty years after the draft dodgers were offered pardon, their message still matters: being able to choose what you’ll fight for is a freedom worth fighting for.

Eric Schechter is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Vanderbilt University. Since his retirement in 2013, he has devoted his time to political causes.

Read 1974 coverage of President Ford’s decision to grant amnesty to draft evaders here, in TIME’s archives: Choices on Amnesty

TIME politics

The History Behind the Other ‘United Nations’

united nations - Jan. 19, 1942
From the Jan. 19, 1942, issue of TIME TIME

In 1942, the group known as the United Nations was convened to accomplish one goal: defeat the Axis powers

The United Nations was created in 1942 — but not the United Nations as we know it, the group whose representatives are this week converging in New York City for the 69th General Assembly.

When the phrase first “slipped into the world’s vocabulary,” as TIME wrote, the world was in the midst of war, and the concept of wide-scale international collaboration was fraught. World War II had already exposed the failure of the League of Nations, the international organization set up after the previous world war. Still, in January of 1942, 26 nations, including the U.S., the U.K., Russia and China, signed a pact uniting them in one goal: to defeat the Axis powers. The name, which had been proposed by the Roosevelt administration, became the official title for the Allied powers.

“For the people of the Axis countries that fact could not be other than sobering: 26 nations—count them—26, all determined that Hitler and his tyranny shall be destroyed,” TIME wrote at the time.

Even then there was skepticism that the United Nations could be effective. Some called for a cooperative body to oversee the war effort, while others continued to call for a union of peoples and not just an intergovernmental pact.

But the United Nations prevailed, and when, after the war, world leaders descended on San Francisco for the conference to hash out the details of an intergovernmental organization to jointly confront the world’s problems, they called it the United Nations. The first session of the United Nations General Assembly opened in 1946.

Take a look at TIME’s coverage of the signing of the declaration of the original United Nations in 1942:

The significance of the pact was slower being digested. In Washington, enthusiasts compared it to the Articles of Confederation that had held the 13 States together until the Constitutional Convention. Advocates of Union Now thought it did not go far enough, wanted a union of peoples, rather than of governments. Josephus Daniels recalled his last talk with Woodrow Wilson, when Wilson had said: “The things we have fought for are sure to prevail . . . [and] may come in a better way than we proposed.” Advocates of a revived, strengthened League of Nations hoped the United Nations would prove the better way.

Taken at its face value, the Declaration was impressive. If the signing nations could actually employ their “full resources,” their power would be staggering. Their combined populations came to almost 1,500,000,000 of the world’s 2,145,000,000. They held twice as much of the world’s steel capacity as the Axis, most of its wheat, most of the materials needed for making war or prospering in peace.

Today’s United Nations, by those standards, is even more impressive: instead of 26 member nations, there are 193.

Read the 1942 story about the original United Nations here, in TIME’s archives: The United Nations

TIME China

Xi’s India Visit Highlights Changing Power Dynamic

Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping, makes a joint statement with Maldives President Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, unseen, in Male, Maldives, on Sept. 15, 2014 Fayaz Moosa—Associated Press

Xi is due in New Delhi on Wednesday for a three-day visit focused on trade, investment and the resolution of decades-old border disputes

(BEIJING)— Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to India this week highlights subtle shifts in the regional power dynamic that are bringing warmer ties between the two Asian giants, challenging China’s traditional relationship with Pakistan, and opening a new chapter in Beijing’s ongoing competition for influence with arch-rival Japan.

Xi is due in New Delhi on Wednesday for a three-day visit focused on trade, investment and the resolution of decades-old border disputes. With the world’s second-largest economy and a proven track record at building highways, railways, and industrial zones, China has much to offer India as it seeks to upgrade its creaky infrastructure.

The visit is the latest sign of easing suspicions between the two huge countries — which between them have 2.6 billion people — dating from a month-long border war in 1962 that left around 2,000 soldiers dead. That conflict ended in a standoff with both sides accusing the other of occupying its territory.

Xi’s visit “will definitely enhance the bilateral political mutual trust,” Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing last week.

While ties have been steadily growing for years, they’ve been given a major boost under new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s signaled he wishes to pursue a more vigorous foreign policy. Xi is the first Chinese head of state to visit in eight years, while the country’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, made Indiahis first overseas visit shortly after taking office last year.

“Good relations with India are a key part of China’s regional strategy and Xi’s visit creates the opportunity for direct face-to-face communication on the problems that still exist, such as the border issue,” said Zhao Gancheng, Director of the Asia-Pacific Center of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

Modi spoke repeatedly to top Chinese officials in the first weeks of his administration, and during a recentvisit to India, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the new relationship as “the emerging tip of a massive buried treasure.”

There’s certainly plenty of room for growth. China may be India’s biggest trading partner, but commerce between them dropped to an anemic $65 billion last year, with China exporting $48 billion more goods than it imported. For Modi, boosting trade and foreign investment is critical to making good on his campaign promise of creating jobs for the 13 million young Indians entering the labor market each year.

China also has a strong vested interested in preventing India from drawing too close to the West and especially to Japan, which has enthusiastically courted Modi’s government.

Recently, Modi paid a five-day visit to Japan, bringing home pledges of billions of dollars in aid and investment and an agreement to strengthen their economic and security ties. Modi has emphasized the value of their shared commitment to democracy in contrast to China’s one-party authoritarian communist system.

In light of that visit, Xi is expected to make investment pledges matching or exceeding the $35 billion Modi received in Japan — a sign of how Modi has been able to leverage the rivalry between China and Japan to maximize gains for India.

“China, I think, is conscious that we have a good equation with Japan,” said Jayadev Ranade, president of the New Delhi-based think tank Center for China Analysis and Strategy.

Both sides have said the border disputes shouldn’t impede relations and recent years have brought regular consultations between both their diplomats and troops on either side high along the Himalayan frontier.

That’s despite the occasional Indian accusation of Chinese incursions and an increased Chinese military presence along the border that has prompted India to deploy more armored units, refurbish air strips, and construct new roads in the area.

China lays claim to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, an immense territory of nearly 84,000 square kilometers (more than 32,000 square miles), while India says China is illegally occupying the region of Aksai Chin, a rocky and largely empty 37,000-square-kilometer (14,000-square-mile) region far to the east.

Talks have yet to produce a long-term solution, but until they do, China says its policy is to avoid conflict.

“We are all committed to tranquility and peace at the border. We will strive for an equitable and reasonable solution based on negotiation and consultation. We have confidence and capability for that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Thursday.

While both Xi and Modi are strong leaders who’ve shown initiative, they’re constrained on the border issue by domestic sentiment, particularly rising nationalism in China, Ranade said.

“There will be many issues raised and discussed but I don’t see a major breakthrough on the border issue. These are difficult issues,” Ranade said. “But even if they are discussed in a tangible fashion, which I expect the Modi government will do, it will be a move forward.”

Xi’s visit comes during a swing through the region that also includes stops in the Maldives and Sri Lanka, where Chinese companies are at work on a major port and other infrastructure projects.

He won’t, however, be stopping in on long-time ally and Indian rival Pakistan amid an outbreak of violent political protests in the capital, Islamabad. That offers further evidence for those who see a growing Chinese ambivalence toward Pakistan, although Ranade said the fact that the country was included on the original itinerary shows Beijing still values the relationship.

“Under the circumstances, it’s inappropriate to have such a high-level visit,” said the Shanghai Institute’s Zhao. Beijing hasn’t commented on reasons for the visit’s cancellation and the Foreign Ministry says China and Pakistan remain friendly neighbors.

China and Pakistan had in the past found common cause in checking India’s growth as a regional power, but China’s own stratospheric rise has alleviated that need. Beijing also has grown increasingly concerned with the threat to stability in its northwestern region of Xinjiang posed by Islamic radicals hiding out in northwestern Pakistan.

At the same time, Pakistan’s political dysfunction and economic malaise also offer little incentive for Chinese companies to take on the sort of major projects there that they’re now eyeing for India.

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