1-23: What did you do during the war, daddy?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from history.com for January 21.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

President Carter Pardons Draft Dodgers

On this day in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter grant[ed] an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War.

The not-quite-existential question today is, if the president reinstituted the draft, would women be included?

Bon jour, Canada.

In total, some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early 70s to avoid serving in the war. Ninety percent went to Canada, where after some initial controversy they were eventually welcomed as immigrants….

Although I long ago concluded that the U.S. Army had no business in Vietnam, I have never been convinced that all draft dodgers actually, philosophically opposed the war. I believe that, for me, an unquantifiable number just flat-out didn’t want to go to war. At least Muhammed Ali claimed, “I ain’t got nothing against them Viet Cong”; and he suffered the loss of his title, World Champion, and the license to ply his trade.

For its part, the U.S. government continued to prosecute draft evaders after the Vietnam War ended. A total of 209,517 men were formally accused of violating draft laws … If they returned home, those living in Canada or elsewhere faced prison sentences or forced military service.

A word about that. There were judges throughout the country who, when sentencing draft-age offenders, gave them the choice of going to jail or entering the military. I can aver, first-hand, that these individuals did not make good soldiers. Those judges did not serve their country well.

A promise is a promise.

During his 1976 presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter promised to pardon draft dodgers as a way of putting the war and the bitter divisions it caused firmly in the past. After winning the election, Carter wasted no time in making good on his word. Though many transplanted Americans returned home, an estimated 50,000 settled permanently in Canada …

Back in the U.S., Carter’s decision generated a good deal of controversy. [He was] heavily criticized by veterans’ groups and others for allowing unpatriotic lawbreakers to get off scot-free …

A word about that. If submission to the draft is the chief criterion for one’s proof of patriotism, there were millions of unpatriotic law abiding young men who absolutely “got off scot-free” by wriggling deferments out of their local draft board. Scuzzball war mongerer Dick Cheyney did it five times, claiming later when he got promoted to chicken hawk that he had “other things to do.”

Yes, I still have a chip on my shoulder. No, I will not get over it.


The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *