The World

The deserter: some men in exile still feed on dreams

HARTLEY STEWARD February 7 1977
The World

The deserter: some men in exile still feed on dreams

HARTLEY STEWARD February 7 1977

The deserter: some men in exile still feed on dreams

The World

“I feel cheated,” says Jack Colhoun. "We were told to trust Jimmy and everything would be all right. Well, everything is not all right. The man who campaigned for the presidency as the champion of underprivileged America has slapped underprivileged America in the face with his first act as President.”

The first Presidential act was the pardon for Vietnam draft evaders, a pardon that does not include deserters. Colhoun is a deserter. He’s been living in Toronto for the past 6V2 years co-editing a magazine for exiled Americans called Amex-Canada. Colhoun is one of the few Americans who, given the opportunity, would dearly love to go home to stay. The fight, he says, is far from over. Indeed, at month’s end Colhoun was busy with plans for an international conference of Vietnam War resisters in Toronto which would discuss ways to keep alive the fight for total, unconditional amnesty for the two groups excluded from the Carter pardon—deserters and those with less-than-honorable discharges. Suggestions included more demonstrations in the United States by draft evaders who can now enter the States.

Colhoun’s argument, shared almost totally by those lobbying for amnesty, is that the only difference between a draft

dodger and a deserter is one of timing and that timing was determined by economics and race. "The difference,” says Colhoun, “is that draft evaders are mostly middle-class white, universityeducated people who could afford lawyers and had an opportunity to find loopholes to avoid the draft. The deserter didn’t have the money or opportunity to discover how to avoid the draft.” Colhoun believes that by the time the war’s unpopularity became widespread the

lower-class kids were already drafted and middle-class kids who were successfully avoiding the draft—often by attending university—continued to do so. His reasoning is supported by a study of Vietnam War resisters done for President Ford which indicates that blacks and people from lower-income backgrounds are proportionately higher in the deserter cate'gory while draft evaders tend to be white and middle-class.

“Nothing short of an unconditional pardon for deserters will be acceptable,” Colhoun says. Colhoun, who untypically for a deserter holds a PhD (in American history from York University in Toronto), claims that even Carter’s proposed case-by-case review for deserters is unfair since the deserter is the least well equipped to fight for his rights against a Pentagon review board. Colhoun thinks he would probably fare well in a case-by-case review but he’s “disappointed, angry, hurt and determined to fight for amnesty for deserters.” To those who think it is a lost cause, Colhoun says simply: “Back in 1964 most people supported that war and nobody believed there would ever be a pardon for anyone. Now almost no one will defend the war and we have a pardon for evaders. It can and will happen for dese rte rs. ” HARTLEY STEWARD