Muhammad Ali Was No Draft Dodger; His Stance Against War Was Libertarian

220px-Muhammad_Ali_NYWTSAmerica awoke today to the sad news that boxing legend Muhammad Ali has passed away. And while the overwhelming majority of public remembrances will be praiseworthy, there are still those who have never forgiven Ali for his refusal to comply with the military draft in the 1960s. Even his archrival, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, resorted to calling Ali a “draft dodger.”

Ali took some controversial racial positions early in his career, some of which he regretted later in life, but the charge of draft dodger is completely unfounded. Ali never dodged the draft; he opposed it, accepting the legal consequences without any attempt to evade them. He didn’t flee to Canada or enroll in college to obtain a deferment. From the moment he learned of his induction, Ali stood firmly in the proud tradition of civil disobedience, saying “just take me to jail.”

And while Ali cited his religion as the chief basis for his objection to the war, most of his statements were firmly rooted in the libertarian principle of non-aggression:

“Why should me and other so-called ‘negroes’ go 10,000 miles away from home, here in America, to drop bombs and bullets on other innocent brown people who’s never bothered us and I will say directly: No, I will not go.”

This writer has long argued the declaration of war power granted to Congress is not the power to start a war, but to declare that one already exists, based on the founding libertarian principle of nonaggression.

Ali’s principled stand cost him quite a bit at the time. He was stripped of his boxing title and sentenced to five years in prison. While he eventually won an appeal and avoided the prison sentence, he was indebted for years and reviled by a large portion of the American public.

Throughout it all, he maintained his stance, reiterating the non-aggression principle over and over as he toured America speaking against the war. Certainly, racial inequality was interwoven into his position and some of what he said was regrettable, including “my enemy’s the white people, not the Vietcong, the Chinese or the Japanese.” But while those words were rash, it’s not like he didn’t have a point.

More importantly, history has vindicated his principled stand against a war nearly everyone now considers a mistake. After invading a tiny nation that had never attacked the United States and losing over 50,000 U.S. soldiers, the United States left Vietnam to the communists, who quickly took over the entire country.

According to proponents of the war at the time, this should have led to a “domino effect,” wherein the rest of Asia and subsequently the world succumbed to the communist menace. Instead, communism failed on its own and the Vietnamese began adopting a market economy a mere twelve years later, as eventually did virtually every other communist nation. Today, Vietnam is a trading partner with the U.S.

A lot of very smart people defended the Vietnam War at the time and for a long time afterwards. Some of the most hawkish wonks still do. Imagine the lives and fortunes that could have been saved if they had just listened to a loudmouthed young boxer with a purported IQ of 78, who wisely articulated the eternal law of nature in opposing an immoral and unnecessary war.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

16 thoughts on “Muhammad Ali Was No Draft Dodger; His Stance Against War Was Libertarian

    1. Valerie Jones

      READ the FULL QUOTE. the term White Slave Masters seemed to be left out in this report.
      I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.

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  2. W. Ince

    Cassius Clay was indeed a draft dodger. He was convicted as such. Politics saved him regarding that cconviction later on.
    He did not become a Muslim until the Vietnam war started going hot and it was apparent that he may get drafted. His proclaimation of Islam came out of no where, but was very convenient. The corts then did not buy it. I still don’t.
    He used Islam to avoid serving in the armed forces.
    I was there and witnessed it. He will always be Cassius Clay, the draft dodger, and the best boxer in history.

    1. Valerie Jones

      You are half right. he played the Religion card. But his statements that were quoted showed it a bit different. Read my post below…. IF THEY DON”T change it. Reporters do not like the truth… Seems he left out of the quote……domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.”

    2. John A Delaney

      I am so glad someone else was there. He was a draft dodger, just like John Wayne. Wayne became a super hero playing a soldier on the silver screen. Playing the part in make believe that he ran away from in real life. Cassius couldn’t hurt the non-white in Asia but he could beat the crap out of them in the ring. Sure don’t make sense to me. I’m an old vet. and I pray for all my Brothers every day.
      Wonder if they ever found the gold medal he threw in the river??

      1. Tom Mullen Post author

        Why are you glad someone else was in Vietnam? The war was a complete waste of over 50,000 American lives, 2 million Vietnamese lives and trillions of dollars in today’s money. It accomplished nothing. Had the U.S. not invaded, Vietnam may have turned it’s back on communism 14 years earlier.

  3. Valerie Jones

    Seems your report leaves out the FULL QUOTE. The term white slave masters seemed to slip past you. Was not libertarian or Religion. convicted 5 years Prison & $10,000
    ………………………Full QUOTE………….
    “I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.”

    ……………………………..Second QUOTE………………………
    “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong No Vietcong ever called me nigger”

    1. Tom Mullen Post author

      I said twice in the article he said regrettable things and quoted him saying “white people are my enemy.” What’s your point?

  4. Roy Foster

    Mr. Mullen is full of shit,Muhammad Ali was a coward and dodged the war by going to jail,the American flag should never been lowered for him.

    1. Tom Mullen Post author

      It was a lot braver to stand up to the government than just do what you were told and march off to fight a Third World country that never attacked the U.S. Had George Washington’s wise advice on foreign entanglements been followed, everyone would have been better off.

      1. Dan

        Really Tom. Would’ve, should’ve, could’ve, so you disagree with Govt, then make a public statement and then show how brave you are because you went to take another’s place in the fight. He was a draft dodger, coward and racist. I am too young to have seen him fight but refused to ever watch him on t.v.. It is NOT brave to allow other people to fight and die in your place. If you were old enough, maybe he would have joined you in spitting on the soldiers and holding baby killer signs when they got back. You probably have a pic of Jane Fonda too, smh…..

  5. Jack

    The Nation of Islam, which Ali was a member of and mouthpiece for until 1975 was racist and corrupt, far from libertarian. His friend Malcolm X, on the other hand, after visiting Mecca, rejected racism and their corruption by leaving them and paid the ultimate price when assassinated by one of its members.

  6. Pingback: Muhammad Ali Was America's Most Effective Anti-War Advocate (And Still Is) | Michigan Standard

  7. harry

    He was a coward plain and simple. He loved brown people so much he called Joe Frazier an uncle Tom and never apologized. That was bullshit


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