---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 20 Oct 2002 22:25:04 -0700
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Veterans of Vietnam War protests aim to stop attack on Iraq
Old hands stoke anti-war effort
Veterans of Vietnam War protests aim to stop attack on Iraq
By Mike Brunker
Oct. 17 ^× Just as seasoned military strategists will direct U.S.
forces in the event of an attack on Iraq, battle-tested veterans of the
anti-war movement ^× many of whom earned their stripes during the Vietnam
War ^× are taking leading roles in the campaign aimed at heading off
hostilities. "Many people who don't consider themselves part of the anti-war
movement are opposed to this," said Ted Lewis, a 44-year-old who attended
peace rallies with his activist parents decades ago and now works for the
San Francisco-based organization Global Exchange. "The challenge is
translating those numbers into real political power."
THE OLD HANDS are participating at every level of the budding effort to
avert a military conflict with Iraq, circulating petitions, bombarding
newspapers and lawmakers with letters, email and faxes, organizing
demonstrations and forming new coalitions.
And some who attained the status of counterculture celebrities are helping
build enthusiasm for the current campaign, as was the case when Ron Kovic,
the paralyzed Vietnam veteran and anti-war activist whose story was the
basis for the movie "Born on the Fourth of July," appeared at an Oct. 6
rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles.
The involvement of the peace movement veterans is for many a natural
extension of a lifetime of involvement in liberal causes.
"I've always been an activist," said Nancy Rising, 68, of Kirkland, Wash.,
who in recent years has taken to the streets to protest the policies of the
World Trade Organization and the Persian Gulf War. "My brother started
dragging me around door-belling when I was 4."
Some observers say that the noticeable presence of the elders also indicates
a dearth of anti-war sentiment on college campuses, attributable in part to
the absence of a military draft.
'THEIR FUTURE ... IS BEING RUINED'
But Roger Lippman, 54, a former Students for a Democratic Society
leader in Seattle, said that while that view might have been valid until
recently, it is no longer accurate.
"There are certainly a lot of veterans of the anti-war movement who have a
lot of valuable experience," said Lippman, who spent time in a federal
penitentiary in the late 1960s for his role in planning anti-war protests in
Seattle. "But there is a large number of young people who are very
committed, who feel that this is their future that is being ruined by
And Rising said the estimated 3,000 people who turned out for a candlelight
vigil and march last week in Seattle clearly demonstrated that the current
movement is not confined to 50- and 60-somethings trying to recapture the
fading glory of the Vietnam-era protests.
"There were little kids and young parents, and students and the elderly and
middle-aged," she said. "Yes, the 'usual suspects' were there, but I also
saw a huge number of people that I'd never seen before."
Still, activists acknowledge that the atmosphere today is very different
than it was when the Vietnam War protests were beginning to build momentum.
"The anti-war movement in the '60s ^Å grew out of the (Students for a
Democratic Society), which grew out of civil rights," said Renny
Christopher, author of "Vietnam War/The American War" and a professor at
California State University Channel Islands in Southern California. "We don'
t have a lot of organized social movements going on now ^Å and (the anti-war
effort) has to be organized almost from scratch."
LITTLE ATTENTION FROM MEDIA
The media, which was instrumental in galvanizing opposition to the
war in Vietnam, also has contributed to the perception that there is little
opposition to a war with Iraq by largely ignoring the anti-war movement, the
activists say. They note that recent demonstrations in cities like Denver,
Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.,
many of which drew thousands of protesters, as well as much larger
demonstrations overseas received scant attention in the U.S. media, the
"The media covered the Vietnam protests because the demonstrators were
getting their heads busted open and shot by the National Guard," said
Christopher. "^Å I think the media like to cover violence and if there's no
violence at a peaceful protest, there's no story."
Lewis, the director of Global Exchange's human rights program, said the
public also is unlikely to get the full story of the conflict if the United
States does attack Iraq. The reason, he said, is that Pentagon's strategy of
relying on surgical air strikes to soften up an enemy serves the dual
purpose of preventing TV networks and newspapers from showing the graphic
battlefield images that helped fuel opposition to the Vietnam War.
"When you're living in a sanitized media bubble, it's easier not to have to
psychologically engage with the issue," he said. "If you don't know someone
that's involved (in the fighting), it's an abstraction."
Despite such impediments, Mike Yarrow, a 62-year-old organizer for the
interfaith Fellowship of Resistance in Seattle, said that the process of
ramping up to oppose a war with Iraq has been far more rapid than he
"I've been astounded by the incredibly swift mobilization of various
groups," he said, describing how 24 disparate organizations quickly joined
the newly organized (Puget) Sound Non-violent Opponents of War (SNOW)
coalition. "There are churches that have taken 300 (anti-war) yard signs and
then called back for more and we've got people calling our office every day.
That's much farther along than in the early days of the Vietnam War
Lewis, also sees encouraging signs that Americans who harbor "quiet doubts"
about President Bush's threat to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam
Hussein are privately voicing their concerns.
SENSE OF MOMENTUM
"They aren't taking it to the streets yet, but they're taking it to
the phone, to the fax and to the email," he said, adding that some members
of Congress reported communications from constituents ran as high as
100-to-1 against going to war with Iraq before recent votes on a resolution
authorizing the use of military force.
"No one thought we were going to see 133 (House) members voting against the
resolution," he said. "We thought it was going to be a stampede, but there
was a tremendous outpouring from the grass roots."
While many activists share the sense that their effort to prevent a military
conflict is gaining momentum, Yarrow, the Seattle organizer, said that the
prevailing mood of those involved in the campaign could hardly be described
"People are heartsick ^Å when they contemplate what this could lead to, both
for the Iraqi people and for the young Americans," he said.
Nor is there any feeling of nostalgia for those whose service to the cause
dates back to the heady days of the protests against the Vietnam War, said
"In my list of life priorities," he said, "this is the last thing I want to
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