[sixties-l] Antiwar then, antiwar now (fwd)

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    Date: Wed, 09 Oct 2002 13:08:49 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Antiwar then, antiwar now

    Antiwar then, antiwar now


    By James Carroll, 10/8/2002

    IN 1971, WASHINGTON was shocked when a throng of battle-scarred veterans
    showed up to protest the war in Vietnam. They camped on the Mall, and the
    Nixon administration quickly obtained a ruling from Chief Justice Warren
    Burger ordering the veterans to clear out.

    They refused. Would they be arrested? It was then that Senator Edward M.
    Kennedy boldly went to the Mall where the antiwar veterans had pitched
    their tents and sleeping bags. ''You have served your country well
    abroad,'' he told them, ''and will serve it even better here in Washington.''

    Kennedy's public support of the illegal demonstrators was key in turning
    the tide of opinion - and then law - in the veterans' favor, and a crucial
    blow against the war was struck (See ''Home to War'' by Gerald Nicosia).

    Ted Kennedy is doing it again. ''I started my career at a time when there
    was a war that was important to end,'' he said to me as we sat together
    last Saturday. ''And now - not that I am finishing my career - there is a
    war that requires us to relearn those lessons of history.''

    A few minutes later, in Harvard's Sanders Theater, Kennedy delivered a
    stirring address at the induction ceremony of the American Academy of Arts
    and Sciences, perhaps the strongest criticism of the move toward war in
    Iraq yet made by a leading politician, although you would not know that
    from the way the speech was ignored in the drum-beating media.

    Instead of focusing on the details of the prowar resolution that Congress
    will likely approve this week, Kennedy hom ed in on ''a more fundamental
    debate that is only just beginning - an all- important debate about how,
    when, and where in the years ahead our country will use its unsurpassed
    military might.'' Iraq is simply the first case in point.

    Responding to the Bush administration's recently published ''National
    Security Strategy of the United States,'' Kennedy carefully dissected the
    radical assumptions that are driving the nation toward war. First, he
    showed that by equating the two quite distinct purposes of ''prevention''
    and ''preemption,'' President Bush is leading America to embrace a course
    of action it has long condemned in others.

    ''Traditionally,'' Kennedy said, ''`preemptive' action refers to times when
    states react to an imminent threat of attack.'' He offered Israel's
    response to the border-moves of Egypt and Syria in 1967 as an example of
    justified preemption. By contrast, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,
    intending to undercut a potential ''capability that could someday become
    threatening,'' was a ''preventive'' action. ''The coldly premeditated
    nature of preventive attacks and preventive wars makes them anathema to
    well-established principles against aggression.''

    To Kennedy, preventive war is still anathema, and his denunciation of the
    Bush embrace of preventive war against Iraq draws its edge from the fact
    that President John Kennedy, in 1961 and 1962, rejected the argument for
    preventive war against the Soviet Union, protecting a moral boundary. ''For
    175 years,'' Edward Kennedy quotes Robert Kennedy as saying, ''we have not
    been that kind of country.''

    Are we now? The Bush administration's new doctrine, Kennedy said, ''asserts
    that global realities now legitimize preventive war and make it a strategic
    necessity. The document openly contemplates preventive attacks against
    groups or states, even absent the threat of imminent attack I strongly
    oppose any such extreme doctrine.''

    The second feature of Bush's radical new approach that Kennedy lambasted
    was its assumption that the United States is somehow exempt ''from the
    rules we expect others to obey.'' Kennedy reiterated an old cliche of
    public morality - ''Might does not make right!'' - but in the present
    context, his reference rang with prophetic relevance. The hubris of
    overwhelming power is corrupting the nation. ''America cannot write its own
    rules for the modern world. To attempt to do so would be unilateralism run
    amok.'' Bush is undercutting the war on terrorism, destroying alliances,
    setting dangerous precedents, and eviscerating America's moral legitimacy.

    Again daring to go where few of his colleagues venture, Kennedy defined all
    of this by its proper name: ''The administration's doctrine is a call for
    21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should
    accept.'' The debate in Congress this week is centered on Saddam Hussein
    and Iraq, but what is really at stake are basic structures of the American
    idea. The name Kennedy is properly attached to this nation's noblest
    impulse, and it is fitting that the last of the brothers is raising his
    voice in its defense.

    The afternoon of his speech, the senator and I were sitting in a Somerville
    cafe. A customer approached our rear-corner table to say, ''Senator, I want
    to thank you for all you're doing to stand up for us against this rush to

    I asked her name, and if I could quote her. ''Lucy Borodkin,'' she said
    firmly. ''And you certainly can.''

    James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

    This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 10/8/2002.

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