Draft dodger

From Academic Kids

Draft dodger is a term that became current during the Vietnam War to describe American citizens who were in threat of being drafted and who fled abroad, usually to Canada, to avoid it. The term is also sometimes also applied to the much larger group who illegally avoided the draft but remained in the United States.

Their actions were criminal offences and once they had left the country draft dodgers could not return or they would be arrested. This changed in 1977 when President Jimmy Carter issued an amnesty (in the form of a pardon) to all the draft dodgers.

The motivations for draft dodgers were manifold. Those who backed the war often argue they were naught but cowards lacking in patriotism, but most draft dodgers had objections to the Vietnam War, which many saw as an unfair war. About 100,000 draft dodgers fled abroad throughout the war. Another large group hid within the United States.

The largest group of draft dodgers, about 20,000 to 90,000, fled to Canada. They were accepted as immigrants and no separate records of the number of draft dodgers were kept. Accepting them in Canada was at first controversial, but the Canadian government eventually chose to welcome them. As Canada had no draft at the time, draft evasion was not a criminal offence under Canadian law. The issue of deserters was more complex as desertion was a crime in Canada, and the Canadian military was strongly opposed to condoning it. The government maintained the theoretical right to prosecute these deserters, but in practice the government left them alone and border guards were instructed to not ask questions relating to the issue. The number of deserters was relatively small, with only some 1000 making it to Canada.

While many of the draft dodgers returned home to the United States after they were pardoned in 1977, many others stayed in their adopted country. Sociologist John Hagan estimates that there were 50,000 draft dodgers who settled in Canada. This influx of young educated left-leaning people had a large effect on Canada. It was a boon to Canada's arts scene and to academia. They also helped push Canadian politics further to the left. A number of notable Canadians were draft dodgers such as Jay Scott, William Gibson, and Michael Hendricks.

In recent years the term draft dodger has been used often in American politics to attack candidates who managed to avoid serving in Vietnam (although no prominent political figure fled to Canada). Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Howard Dean, and Dick Cheney have all been accused of being draft dodgers, even if none of them were by the 1960s definition of the term.

See also:

External links

Further reading

  • Halstead, Fred. GIs speak out against the war: The case of the Ft. Jackson 8. 128 pages. New York: Pathfinder Press. 1970. ASIN B0006C0BA6

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