Amnesty for 70,000 Draft Resisters?
An Ohio Republican who is known to be on very good terms with President Nixon has proposed a bill which will grant amnesty to draft resisters, though those pardoned would be required to do three years of alternative service with the military.
Three years of alternative service, for example three years of work as an orderly in a mental hospital, is now required for conscientious objectors.
Senator Robert Taft proposed the bill this week. It is similar to a measure put forward recently by Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern in that resisters who return to the U.S. from Canada or other foreign countries would not be prosecuted. McGovern's deal goes further, however, in that his proposal would not require any alternative service for men who have fled the country to avoid the draft or who have gone to jail rather than serve in the Armed Forces.
Richard Nixon has said a strong "no" to the proposal of amnesty for draft resisters, but McGovern's office told Earth News this week that it is their opinion that Nixon is changing his mind and that Taft is working with the blessings of the White House.
Jeff Gralnick of McGovern's office pointed out what he called several "flaws" in the Taft bill. The first is the requirement of alternative service. McGovern feels that a man who has been locked up for some time or who has been in exile "has done enough alternative service." It was also pointed out that under Taft's proposed law the Attorney General's office would make decisions as to what qualifies as "alternative service." Gralnick does not think of the Justice Department as the most humanitarian government agency.
Taft estimated that there are now 500 men in U.S. prisons serving time for draft resistance, and another 70,000 young men living in exile in Canada and elsewhere.