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January 29, 1970, Vol. XV, No. 5
Koch: Let Resisters Come Home
by Jonathan Black
Congressman Edward I. Koch, who recently returned from a two-day trip to three Canadian cities, is trying to initiate a Congressional campaign aimed at providing amnesty for the estimated 45,000 to 60,000 draft resisters in Canada. According to Canadian officials, he said, the number could reach 200,000 in a matter of years.
“There are those who argue that the Vietnam war is not even over yet, that amnesty is premature,” Koch explained, “but in our own Civil War, Lincoln allowed amnesty for the South long before hostilities ceased. And those were people fighting our own country.”
Koch believes one need not be opposed to the war in Vietnam to accept the principle of amnesty. Primarily, he sees the exodus north as a serious drain of some of the most gifted and talented young men in the United States. “Canada is delighted to have these people,” he said. “They are welcoming them with open arms and doing everything they can to provide them with immigrant status, places to stay, jobs.”
Contrary to Army propaganda, Koch said, a man who goes to Canada to avoid the draft or to flee the Army is perfectly safe from United States prosecution. There is no danger of extradition. Koch did not advocate fleeing to Canada to avoid the draft, but urged that amnesty measures be undertaken to make it possible for those who have gone to return without fear of prosecution. As a preliminary step, he suggested selective conscientious objection to provide for individuals who do not want to serve in Vietnam for political or moral reasons.
Koch granted that many draft resisters’ objections to U.S. policy go beyond the Vietnam war, and that even if amnesty were established, many might prefer to stay in Canada.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 1, 2010