Amnesty Question

August 9, 1972

Report Outline
Debate over amnesty for war evaders
Uses of Amnesty in American History
Steps for Expunging Anti-War Offenses
Special Focus

Debate over amnesty for war evaders

Weight of Political Campaign on Amnesty Issue

The Emotion-laden issue of amnesty for draft evaders and deserters is becoming increasingly insistent in its claim on public attention. The question is what to do about the many thousands of young American men who have fled the country, gone to jail or slipped underground in order to avoid military service in Viet Nam. Should they be condemned to permanent exile and be branded as criminals or fugitives from justice for the rest of their lives—or should means be sought to welcome them back into the national community?

The hope for an end to American participation in an unpopular war in Viet Nam and the political weight of an election year have combined to push the issue forward. All leading candidates for the presidential nomination, the President included, felt obliged to speak publicly on amnesty, and considerably more is expected to be heard before election day. Political analysts frequently mention amnesty in writing of Republican attempts to portray the Democratic nominee, Sen. George S. McGovern, as a radical.

While both McGovern's position and the newly adopted Democratic Platform plank for granting amnesty are cautiously stated, they do differ somewhat from Nixon's expressed views and provide the Republicans a chance to state further differences in the platform they adopt at their national convention, Aug. 21–23, in Miami Beach. However, the amnesty issue is not entirely a partisan matter. Members of both parties in Congress have introduced bills to provide conditional amnesty for draft evaders. But both parties have tended to avoid mention of deserters. Although no action has been taken on the bills, a subcommittee headed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D Mass.) held three days of hearings, Feb. 28-March 1, 1972.

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