[sixties-l] The Antiwar Movement We Are Supposed to Forget (fwd)

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    Date: Wed, 02 Jan 2002 18:26:16 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: The Antiwar Movement We Are Supposed to Forget

    This article is from The Chronicle of Higher Education
    (http://chronicle.com)from the issue dated October 20, 2000:

       The Antiwar Movement We Are Supposed to Forget


        Visualize the movement against the Vietnam War. What do you
       see? Hippies with daisies in their long, unwashed hair yelling
       "Baby killers!" as they spit on clean-cut, bemedaled veterans
       just back from Vietnam? College students in tattered jeans
       (their pockets bulging with credit cards) staging a sit-in to
       avoid the draft? A mob of chanting demonstrators burning an
       American flag (maybe with a bra or two thrown in)? That's what
       we're supposed to see, and that's what Americans today
       probably do see -- if they visualize the antiwar movement at

       We are thus depriving ourselves -- or being deprived -- of one
       legitimate source of great national pride about American
       culture and behavior during the war. In most wars, a nation
       dehumanizes and demonizes the people on the other side. Almost
       the opposite happened during the Vietnam War. Countless
       Americans came to see the people of Vietnam fighting against
       U.S. forces as anything but an enemy to be feared and hated.
       Tens of millions sympathized with their suffering, many came
       to identify with their 2,000-year struggle for independence,
       and some even found them an inspiration for their own lives.

       But in the decades since the war's official conclusion,
       American consciousness of the Vietnamese people, with all its
       potential for healing and redemption, has been deliberately
       and systematically obliterated. During the first few years
       after the war, while the White House and Congress were
       reneging on aid promised to Vietnam, they were not expressing
       the feelings of most Americans. For example, a New York
       Times/CBS News poll, published in July 1977, asked this
       question: "Suppose the President recommended giving assistance
       to Vietnam. Would you want your Congressman to approve giving
       Vietnam food or medicine?" Sixty-six percent said yes, 29
       percent said no. Ironically, it was only after the war was
       over that demonization of the Vietnamese began to succeed. And
       soon those tens of millions of Americans who had fought
       against the war themselves became, as a corollary, a truly
       hateful enemy as envisioned by the dominant American culture.

       The antiwar movement has been so thoroughly discredited that
       many of the people who were the movement now feel embarrassed
       or ashamed of their participation -- even such prudent and
       peripheral participants as William Jefferson Clinton. One
       would never be able to guess from public discourse that for
       every American veteran of combat in Vietnam, there must be 20
       veterans of the antiwar movement. And there seems to be almost
       total amnesia about the crucial role that many of those combat
       veterans played in the movement to stop the war.

       When did Americans actually begin to oppose U.S. warfare
       against Vietnam? As soon as the first U.S. act of war was
       committed. And when was that? In 1965, when President Johnson
       ordered the Marines to land at Da Nang and began the nonstop
       bombing of North Vietnam? In 1964, when Johnson launched
       "retaliatory" bombing of North Vietnam after a series of
       covert U.S. air, sea, and land attacks? In 1963, when 19,000
       U.S. combat troops were participating in the conflict and
       Washington arranged the overthrow of the puppet ruler it had
       installed in Saigon in 1954? In 1961, when President Kennedy
       began Operation Hades, a large-scale campaign of chemical
       warfare? In 1954, when U.S. combat teams organized covert
       warfare to support the man Washington had selected to rule
       South Vietnam? Americans did oppose all of those acts of war,
       but the first American opposition came as soon as Washington
       began warfare against the Vietnamese people by equipping and
       transporting a foreign army to invade their country -- in

       Those Americans who knew anything about Vietnam during World
       War II knew that the United States had been allied with the
       Viet Minh, the Vietnamese liberation movement led by Ho Chi
       Minh, and had actually provided some arms to their guerrilla
       forces, commanded by Vo Nguyen Giap. American fliers rescued
       by Giap's guerrillas testified to the rural population's
       enthusiasm for both the Viet Minh and the United States, which
       they saw as the champion of democracy, antifascism, and
       anti-imperialism. American officials and officers who had
       contact with Ho and the Viet Minh were virtually unanimous in
       their support and admiration. The admiration was mutual. In
       September 1945 the Viet Minh issued the Vietnamese Declaration
       of Independence, which began with a long quotation from the
       U.S. Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the
       establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The
       regional leaders of the O.S.S. (predecessor of the C.I.A.) and
       U.S. military forces joined in the celebration, with General
       Philip Gallagher, chief of the U.S. Military Advisory and
       Assistance Group, singing the Viet Minh's national anthem on
       Hanoi radio.

       But in the following two months, the United States committed
       its first act of warfare against the Democratic Republic of
       Vietnam. At least 8 and possibly 12 U.S. troopships were
       diverted from their task of bringing American troops home from
       World War II and instead began transporting U.S.-armed French
       troops and Foreign Legionnaires from France to recolonize
       Vietnam. The enlisted crewmen of these ships, all members of
       the U.S. Merchant Marine, immediately began organized
       protests. On arriving in Vietnam, for example, the entire
       crews of four troopships met together in Saigon and drew up a
       resolution condemning the U.S. government for using American
       ships to transport troops "to subjugate the native population"
       of Vietnam.

       The full-scale invasion of Vietnam by French forces, once
       again equipped and ferried by the United States, began in
       1946. An American movement against the war started to coalesce
       as soon as significant numbers of Americans realized that
       Washington was supporting France's war against the Democratic
       Republic of Vietnam.

       The years when the United States was steadily escalating its
       military presence and combat role in Vietnam -- 1954 to 1963
       -- were also years when fundamental critiques of U.S. foreign
       policy had become marginalized. Outspoken domestic opposition
       to cold-war assumptions had been eviscerated by the purges,
       witch-hunts, and everyday repression (misleadingly labeled
       "McCarthyism") conducted under the Truman and Eisenhower
       administrations. The main targets of that repression had been
       carefully selected to include anyone in a position to
       communicate radically dissenting ideas to a large audience:
       teachers, union leaders, screenwriters, movie directors, radio
       and print journalists. So by the early 1960's, the aftershocks
       of that earlier political hammering, combined with the
       stifling of foreign-policy debate by "bipartisanship" between
       the two ruling political parties and the supersaturation of
       cold-war culture, had stripped the American people of any
       dissenting political consciousness or even a vocabulary
       capable of accurately describing the global political reality.

       As the antiwar movement was becoming a mass movement, in 1965,
       it was fundamentally aimed at achieving peace through
       education, and it was based on what now seem incredibly naive
       assumptions about the causes and purposes of the war. We tend
       to forget that this phase of the antiwar movement began as an
       attempt to educate the government and the nation. Most of us
       opposed to the war in those relatively early days believed --
       and this is embarrassing to confess -- that the government had
       somehow blundered into the war, maybe because our leaders were
       simply ignorant about Vietnamese history. Perhaps they didn't
       remember the events of 1940 to 1954. Maybe they hadn't read
       the Geneva Agreements. So if we had teach-ins and wrote
       letters to editors and Congress and the president, the
       government would say, "Gosh! We didn't realize that Vietnam
       was a single nation. Did the Geneva Agreements really say
       that? And we had told Ho Chi Minh we'd probably support his
       claims for Vietnamese independence? Golly gee, we had better
       put a stop to this foolish war."

       Experience was the great teacher for those who were trying to
       teach, a lesson lost in the miasma of so-called theory that
       helped to paralyze activism in the 1990's. Teaching the
       Vietnam War during the 1960's and early 1970's meant giving
       speeches at teach-ins and rallies; getting on talk shows;
       writing pamphlets, articles, and books; painting banners,
       picket signs, and graffiti; circulating petitions and
       leaflets; coining slogans; marching; sitting in; demonstrating
       at army bases; lobbying Congress; testifying before war-crimes
       hearings and Congressional investigations; researching
       corporate and university complicity; harboring deserters;
       organizing strikes; heckling generals and politicians;
       blocking induction centers and napalm plants; and going to
       prison for defying the draft. It is hard to convey the
       emotions that inspired those actions. Probably the most widely
       shared was outrage, a feeling that many came to consider
       outdated in the cool 1990's.

       While the repression of the late 1940's and 1950's helped
       create the embarrassing naivete and innocence of the early
       1960's, these very qualities fueled the movement's fervor.
       People believed that the government would respond to them
       because they believed in American democracy and rectitude.
       Then, when the government did respond -- with disinformation
       and new waves of repression -- the fervor turned to rage.

       Back in December 1964, an obscure little organization called
       Students for a Democratic Society issued a call for people to
       go to Washington on April 17, 1965, to march against the war.
       Only a few thousand were expected. But when the march took
       place, it turned out to be the largest antiwar demonstration
       in Washington's history so far -- 25,000 people, most neatly
       dressed in jackets and ties or skirts and dresses.

       What seemed at the time very large demonstrations continued
       throughout 1965, with 15,000 marching in Berkeley on October
       15, 20,000 marching in Manhattan the same day, and 25,000
       marching again in Washington on November 27. Those early
       crowds would have been imperceptible amid such later protests
       as the April 1967 demonstration of 300,000 to 500,000 people
       in New York, or the half-million or more who converged on
       Washington in November 1969 and again in the spring of 1971.
       In the nationwide Moratorium, of October 15, 1969, millions of
       Americans -- at least 10 times the half-million then stationed
       in Indochina -- demonstrated against the war.

       Demonstrations were one form of the attempt to go beyond mere
       words. Other forms appeared as early as 1965. Many of the
       activists were veterans of the civil-rights movement, who now
       began to apply its use of civil disobedience and moral
       witness. That summer, the Vietnam Day Committee in northern
       California attempted to block munitions trains by lying on the
       tracks; hundreds of people were arrested for civil
       disobedience in Washington; and public burnings of draft cards
       began. Moral witness was taken to its ultimate by Norman
       Morrison, a 32-year-old Quaker who drenched himself with
       gasoline and set himself on fire outside the Pentagon; the
       pacifist Roger La Porte, who immolated himself at the United
       Nations; and 82-year-old Alice Herz, who burned herself to
       death in Detroit to protest against the war. By 1971, civil
       disobedience was so widespread that the number arrested in
       that spring's demonstration in Washington -- 14,000 -- would
       have been considered a good-size march in 1965.

       Whether the majority of Americans at any point supported the
       government's policies in Vietnam (or even knew what they were)
       is a matter of debate. Certainly most Americans never
       supported the war strongly enough to agree to pay for it with
       increased taxes, or even to demonstrate for it in significant
       numbers, much less to go willingly to fight in it. Nor were
       they ever willing to vote for any national candidate who
       pledged to fight until "victory." In fact, except for Barry
       Goldwater in 1964, every nominee for president of both major
       parties after the 1960 elections through the end of the war
       ran as some kind of self-professed peace candidate.

       Who opposed the war? Contrary to the impression promulgated by
       the media then, and overwhelmingly prevalent today, opposition
       to the war was not concentrated among affluent college
       students. In fact, opposition to the war was inversely
       proportional to both wealth and education. Blue-collar workers
       generally considered themselves "doves" and tended to favor
       withdrawal from Vietnam, while those who considered themselves
       "hawks" and supported participation in the war were
       concentrated among the college-educated, high-income strata.

       For example, a Gallup poll in January 1971 showed that 60
       percent of those with a college education favored withdrawal
       of U.S. troops from Vietnam, 75 percent of those with a
       high-school education favored withdrawal, and 80 percent of
       those with only a grade-school education favored withdrawal.
       In Lies My Teacher Told Me, James Loewen reports a revealing
       experiment he conducted repeatedly in the 1990's. When he
       asked audiences to estimate the educational level of those who
       favored U.S. withdrawal back in 1971, by an almost 10-to-1
       margin they believed that college-educated people were the
       most antiwar. In fact, they estimated that 90 percent of those
       with a college education favored withdrawal, scaling down to
       60 percent of those with a grade-school education.

       Opposition to the war was especially intense among people of
       color, though they tended not to participate heavily in the
       demonstrations called by student and pacifist organizations.
       One reason for their caution was that people of color often
       had to pay a heavy price for protesting the war. For speaking
       out in 1966 against drafting black men to fight in Vietnam,
       Julian Bond was denied his seat in the Georgia legislature.
       Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title as heavyweight boxing
       champion and was criminally prosecuted for draft resistance.
       When 25,000 Mexican-Americans staged the Chicano Moratorium,
       the largest antiwar demonstration held in Los Angeles, police
       officers attacked not just with clubs but with guns, killing
       three people, including the popular television news director
       and Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar.

       Certainly the campus antiwar movement was spectacular. The
       teach-ins in the spring of 1965 swept hundreds of campuses and
       involved probably hundreds of thousands of students. By the
       late 1960's, millions of students were intermittently involved
       in antiwar activities, ranging from petitions and candlelight
       marches to burning down R.O.T.C. buildings and going to prison
       for draft resistance. In May 1970, the invasion of Cambodia
       was met by the largest student-protest movement in American
       history, a strike that led to the shutdown of hundreds of
       campuses and the gunning down of students by National
       Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio (where 4 were
       killed and 9 wounded) and by state troopers at Jackson State
       College in Mississippi (where 2 were killed and at least 12

       There are three principal misconceptions about the college
       antiwar movement. First, it was not motivated by students'
       selfish desire to avoid the draft, which was relatively easy
       for most college men to do and automatic for women. In fact,
       one of the earliest militant activities on campus was physical
       disruption of the Selective Service tests that were the basis
       of draft deferments for college students; the student
       demonstrators thus jeopardized their own deferments in
       protesting against them as privileges that were unfair to
       young men unable to attend college. (The demonstrators also
       risked punishment by the college authorities and, sometimes,
       physical attacks by men taking the tests.) Second, most
       college students were not affluent (indeed, most came from the
       working class), and some of the largest and most militant
       demonstrations were at public universities that could hardly
       be labeled sanctuaries of the rich, like Kent State, San
       Francisco State, and the state universities of Michigan,
       Maryland, and Wisconsin. Third, although college antiwar
       activism did hamper those in Washington who were trying to
       conduct the war without hindrance, the most decisive
       opposition to the war came ultimately not from the campuses
       but from within the cities and the Army itself.

       To understand the antiwar movement, one must perceive its
       relationship with that other powerful mass movement
       hamstringing the Pentagon: the uprising of the
       African-American people.

       The African-American movement had been helping to energize the
       antiwar movement since at least 1965, when a number of leading
       black activists and organizations condemned the war as an
       assault on another people of color while articulating an
       anti-imperialist consciousness that would not be common in the
       broader antiwar movement until 1968. In January 1965, the
       month before he was assassinated, Malcolm X denounced the
       Vietnam War, placed Africans and African-Americans on the same
       side as "those little rice farmers" who had defeated French
       colonialism, and predicted a similar defeat for "Sam." That
       July, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party called on
       African-Americans not to participate in the Vietnam War and
       implied that their war was closer to home: "No one has a right
       to ask us to risk our lives and kill other Colored People in
       Santo Domingo and Vietnam, so that the White American can get
       richer. We will be looked upon as traitors by all the Colored
       People of the world if the Negro people continue to fight and
       die without a cause." In January 1966, the Student Nonviolent
       Coordinating Committee explained why it was taking a stand
       against the Vietnam War: "We believe the United States
       government has been deceptive in claims of concern for the
       freedom of the Vietnamese people, just as the government has
       been deceptive in claiming concern for the freedom of the
       colored people in such other countries as the Dominican
       Republic, the Congo, South Africa, Rhodesia, and in the United
       States itself." Stokely Carmichael was the main speaker at the
       first rally against napalm, in 1966. In 1968, dozens of black
       soldiers, many of them Vietnam veterans, were arrested and
       court-martialed for refusing to mobilize against antiwar
       demonstrators outside the Chicago Amphitheatre during the
       Democratic National Convention. What made the convergence of
       the black and antiwar movements explosively dangerous for
       those trying to maintain order and sustain the war was the
       disintegrating and volatile situation within the armed forces,
       as pointed out by an alarming article published in the January
       1970 Naval War College Review.

       Very little awareness of resistance to the war inside the
       military survives today. But without this awareness, it is
       impossible to understand not just the antiwar movement but
       also the military history of the war from 1968 to 1973, not to
       mention the end of the draft and the creation of a permanent
       "volunteer" army to fight America's subsequent wars.To begin
       to get some sense of the relative scale and effects of
       civilian and active-duty war resistance, compare the widely
       publicized activity of draft avoidance with some little-known
       facts about desertion (a serious military crime, defined by
       being away without leave for more than 30 days and having the
       intention never to return). Although draft evasion and refusal
       certainly posed problems for the war effort, desertion was
       much more common and far more threatening.

       The number of draft evaders and resisters was dwarfed by the
       number of deserters from the active-duty armed forces. During
       the 1971 fiscal year alone, 98,324 servicemen deserted, an
       astonishing rate of 142.2 for every 1,000 men on duty.
       Revealing statistics flashed to light briefly as President
       Ford was pondering the amnesty he declared in September 1974
       (at the same time he also pardoned ex-President Nixon for all
       federal crimes he may have committed while in office).
       According to the Department of Defense, there were 503,926
       "incidents of desertion" between July 1, 1966, and December
       31, 1973. From 1963 through 1973 (a period almost half again
       as long), only 13,518 men were prosecuted for draft evasion or
       resistance. The admitted total of deserters still officially
       "at large" at the time was 28,661 -- six and a half times the
       4,400 draft evaders or resisters still "at large." These
       numbers only begin to tell the story.

       Thousands of veterans who had fought in Vietnam moved to the
       forefront of the antiwar movement after they returned to the
       United States, and they -- together with thousands of
       active-duty G.I.'s -- soon began to play a crucial role in the
       domestic movement. Dozens of teach-ins on college campuses
       were led by Vietnam veterans, who spoke at hundreds of
       rallies. More and more demonstrations were led by large
       contingents of veterans and active-duty servicepeople, who
       often participated under risk of grave punishment. The
       vanguard of that Washington demonstration by half a million
       people in the spring of 1971 was a contingent of a thousand
       Vietnam veterans, many in wheelchairs and on crutches, who
       then conducted "a limited incursion into the country of
       Congress," which they called Dewey Canyon III (Dewey Canyon I
       was a 1969 covert "incursion" into Laos; Dewey Canyon II was
       the disastrous February 1971 invasion of Laos). About 800
       marched up to a barricade hastily erected to keep them away
       from the Capitol and hurled back their Purple Hearts, Bronze
       Stars, Silver Stars, and campaign ribbons at the government
       that had bestowed them.

       The antiwar movement initiated back in 1945 by those hundreds
       of merchant seamen protesting U.S. participation in the French
       attempt to reconquer Vietnam was thus consummated in a
       movement of tens of millions of ordinary American citizens
       spearheaded by soldiers, sailors, fliers, and veterans, which
       finally ended the war with a recognition that Vietnam could be
       neither divided nor conquered by the United States.

       No, it was not Vietnam but the United States that ended up
       divided by America's war. And the division cut even deeper
       than the armed forces, biting down into the core of the secret
       government itself. When members of the intelligence
       establishment joined the antiwar movement, they had the
       potential to inflict even greater damage than mutinous
       soldiers and sailors. The perfidy of the Central Intelligence
       Agency in Vietnam was revealed by one of its highest-level
       agents in South Vietnam, Ralph McGehee, author of Deadly
       Deceits: My Twenty-Five Years in the C.I.A. Philip Agee
       decided in 1971 to publish what eventually became Inside the
       Company: CIA Diary because of "the continuation of the Vietnam
       war and the Vietnamization programme," writing, "Now more than
       ever exposure of C.I.A. methods could help American people
       understand how we got into Vietnam and how our other Vietnams
       are germinating wherever the C.I.A. is at work." In that same
       year, two of the authors of the Pentagon's own supersecret
       history of the war, Anthony Russo and Daniel Ellsberg, exposed
       it to the American people and the world.

       Interviewed three years after the release of the Pentagon
       Papers, Ellsberg outlined the history of the Vietnam War by
       tracing the "lies" told by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower,
       Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. "The American public was lied to
       month by month by each of these five administrations," he
       declared. And then he added, "It's a tribute to the American
       public that their leaders perceived they had to be lied to."

       The end of the war did not end the lies. Since then, both the
       war and the antiwar movement have been falsified so grossly
       that we risk forfeiting the most valuable knowledge we gained
       at such great cost to the peoples of Southeast Asia and to
       ourselves. Nor can we understand what America is becoming if
       we fail to comprehend how the same nation and its culture
       could have produced an abomination as shameful as the Vietnam
       War and a campaign as admirable as the 30-year movement that
       helped defeat it.
       H. Bruce Franklin is a professor of English and American
       studies at Rutgers University at Newark. This essay is adapted
       from Vietnam & Other American Fantasies, published by the
       University of Massachusetts Press.

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