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In 1974 US Richard Nixon resigned his office rather than deal with a threat of impeachment by the US Congress. His resignation did not stop the investigation into his activities while he was President and he still faced the threat of prosecution despite the fact that he had resigned. On September 8, 1974 President Gerald Ford, who had been Nixon’s Vice-President and who succeeded Nixon as President, pardoned Nixon of all crimes he may have committed and stopped the investigations into Nixon’s activities. At about the same time (September 16, 1974) Ford announced a “clemency program” for draft dodgers, deserters and “bad paper” veterans of the Vietnam era. The International Conference of Exiled American War Resisters called for a boycott of the program because it was not the “universal and unconditional” amnesty they were seeking.

In September 1974 Philip Mullins received a certified letter from the Assistant United States Attorney in Pensacola, Florida advising him of President Ford’s offer of “clemency”. The letter explained that, “In accord with the President’s policy of granting leniency to certain individuals who are charged with violating Section 12 of the Military Selective Service Act, you are eligible for diversion to an alternate service program. Should you agree to undertake acceptable alternate service as an acknowledgement of your allegiance to the United States, this office will refrain from prosecution. Note, however, that if no agreement is reached before January 31, 1975, the United States will be free to prosecute you for the Section 12 charge. If the Director of Selective Service certifies to us that you have successfully completed your service, the pending charge against you will be dropped. However, failure to satisfactorily complete the alternate service will probably cause us to resume prosecution of the Section 12 charge.” Philip responded by asking for more information.

On October 15, 1974 the Assistant United States Attorney in Pensacola wrote back with details of the program including time-lines. He stated that, “…you would be encouraged to find your own employment in non-profit organizational work or where you would not interfere with the competitive labor market. Some examples of these may be non-profit hospitals and for state and local governments where it would not interfere with the competitive labor market. The job, at any rate, would have to be approved by the (Selective Service) State Director.” On November 8 Philip wrote to the State Director of the Selective Service System in St. Augustine, Florida to find out which jobs were acceptable to him.

On November 26, 1974 the State Director replied with a description of “eligible employers of returnees performing reconciliation service” and a separate list of “determining factors in selecting suitable reconciliation service jobs”. One of the items on the list stated that, “The compensation will provide a standard of living to the applicant reasonably comparable to the standard of living the same man would enjoy if he were entering the military service.” On December 4, 1974 the Assistant United States Attorney replied with more details of the agreement to perform employment. He also noted that, “…Attorney General Saxbe has requested that all files be reviewed for prosecutive merit and this I have done. I feel that the indictment against you still has prosecutive merit and therefore do not intend to dismiss the charges against you.”

In the meantime Philip had written to his father in Louisiana to look into the availability of jobs fitting the very narrow criteria given by the government. The economy of the United States took a downturn in 1974 and unemployment was high everywhere including Louisiana. Philip’s father asked around and discovered that there were few if any jobs in his area fitting the government’s criteria. Mr. Mullins was not optimistic that any job fitting the criteria could be found. Meanwhile the clock was ticking. By the middle of January it was obvious that nothing could be done by the January 31, 1975 deadline. Philip was never enthusiastic about the program and did not intend to perform the alternative service requirement anyway. Besides, he had already made his decision. He had applied for Canadian citizenship on August 11, 1974.

By December 1974 only 110 draft dodgers and 2,071 deserters had taken advantage of the “clemency” program. Of the 350,000 men eligible for the program only 27,000 applied and 21,800 men were actually granted clemency. The program is usually considered to have been a failure. Very few men from Canada participated in the program. Most of those who took part were already living underground in the United States. In January 1975 a final list of draft dodgers who were still wanted was released. There were 4,400 names on the list. Of the Ragnarokr family only Philip Mullins and Steven Spring were still on the list. They were both from Pensacola, Florida. Pensacola was a military town and the Assistant US Attorney in Pensacola had already indicated that he would not drop the charges against the men unless told to do so.

Immediately after the “clemency” program expired the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme (TADP) began to review the cases of the 4,400 draft dodgers who were still wanted for draft offenses. Philip’s brother, Jeff, who lived in Pensacola, agreed to get a copy of Philip’s Selective Service file from Local Board Number 49. The TADP provided each man with some draft questionnaires and ‘power of attorney’ authorization forms. These were sent, along with the copy of the draft file, to lawyers working with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Project on Amnesty. Philip never heard the results of the review of his draft file. The file, which was about four inches thick, never reappeared. The Selective Service destroyed the original in 1978.

President Carter’s first act as US President was to announce (January 21, 1977) an amnesty for the draft dodgers who still had outstanding warrants for their arrest. A few months later (April 5, 1977) he announced another program for military deserters. The plan was for deserters to turn themselves in and receive a “less-than-honorable” discharge. The American Friends Service Committee estimated that 28,420 military resisters found relief under the Ford and Carter program and another 550,000 received no relief at all. These men are still waiting. When George W. Bush became US President he encouraged law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute these men whenever possible. It is worth noting that George W. Bush was one of those who dodged the military draft by joining the Armed Forces Reserves. Like the deserters, he left the military before his term expired. However, unlike most deserters, he came from a privileged family, never suffered any harm from leaving his unit to pursue his personal goals and was later elected President of the United States.

Use this link to return to the narrative, Healing the wounds of war, 1969-1980

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