I was 23-years-old the first time I was arrested. It was at the Pentagon— an act of civil disobedience in protest of the U.S. war on Vietnam. My boyfriend, Jerry Rubin, and I were organizers for the National Mobilization Committee Against the War (familiarly called The Mobe).
Here we call it the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese more accurately call it the American War. After all, the U.S. was the aggressor. It was our troops that landed on their soil; our planes that bombed their cities and sprayed Agent Orange; our army massacred their civilians, women and children included. Not the other way around.
Like many young, politically engaged Americans, I had been reluctant to protest the war, even though we understood it was immoral, because I was afraid it would interfere with my work in the civil rights movement. That changed in 1967, when both the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammed Ali – two towering, but very different, black leaders – denounced the war. By the fall, the civil rights and antiwar movements were converging, and 100,000 people – blackand white, old and young – were descending on Washington to protest the war.
The March on the Pentagon, which occurred 50 years ago this month, led to the arrests of 1,000 people, including myself. It brought the antiwar movement into the spotlight, and the mainstream. Drawing on the lessons of the black freedom movement, it also showed the power that everyday people can have in changing the course of our country. Now 50 years later America is once again torn by racial and social strife, and I, and millions of others, are once again organizing, marching and resisting.
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s recent documentary about Vietnam calls it a mistake, began by people with honorable intentions. They’re not alone.
But those of us in the core of the antiwar movement knew that the war was not a mistake. It was a crime. It was a crime against humanity that left in its wake at least 2 (some say 4) million dead Vietnamese as well as an ecosystem corrupted by Agent Orange and generations of children born with severe birth defects. In the United States 60,000 American GIs, most of them unwilling draftees, came home in body bags or with wounds that last a lifetime.
That conviction that it was a crime drove us to build a movement that quickly grew beyond the core of students, religious leaders and other activists and, ultimately, played a critical role in bringing the war to an end.
One telling example: Watching us from the roof of the Pentagon that day was a young aide to McNamara named Daniel Ellsberg. He was already having doubts about the war, but the march left a big impression on him. Ellsberg would later join our ranks (and face charges of treason) for releasing the Pentagon Papers which exposed the conspiracy of lies that kept the war going.
Many other Americans, in different positions than Ellsberg, would make the same choice after watching our activism.
Meanwhile, draft cards were burned, President Johnson quit the field, and protesters were shot down at Kent and Jackson State while we (not McNamara!) were charged with “conspiracy”.
Did we disrupt the 1968 Democratic Convention? Hell yes, we did, and “the whole world was watching.” We had a huge advantage: a growing youth counterculture disenchanted with American materialism, conformity and racism. And a generation of activists learning from the black freedom movement.
The energy of the civil rights and antiwar movement was a catalyst for other movements – gay rights, women’s rights, denuclearization, the environment. Today protest politics are a central part of our national conversation. All the while, activists have learned from their mistakes, evolved strategies and attacked new challenges with vigor.
The problem is, the other side has learned, too. Just look at what The Masters of War learned from their military defeat: eliminate the draft and keep American casualties down by using contractors, drones, and “volunteers”; ignore national borders since “terrorists” can be found anywhere and everywhere; rely on “enhanced interrogation” which beats torture because it doesn’t leave marks; ignore the laws of war and the Geneva Convention entirely. Welcome to Guantanamo!
As to winning hearts and minds, there’s no more unlimited access to TV, “embedding” only authorized journalists. They’ve waged a propaganda campaign to obliterate the “Vietnam syndrome”, a campaign that muddies the waters about who was responsible (“both sides committed atrocities”), glorifies military service, and denigrates and trivializes the anti-war movement.
Today the U.S. war machine is bigger than ever. The American military-industrial complex (Eisenhower’s words, not mine) is the most powerful killing machine in human history with a vast network of bases around the world supporting half a million military personnel— soldiers, spies, contractors and others. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once reported “the US battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined— 11 of which are our partners and allies.”
And at this moment we are faced with a new “Afghan Surge”— thousands more U.S. troops into a country that has endured 16 years of carnage with 150,000 civilians killed.
However, I see a renewal of humanity in Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers, the Indian water protectors and their allies. I see a renewal of hope in the Town Hall meetings, the women’s marches, and the airport actions. A new generation is stirring and making the connections.
Our last great anti-war actions were in 2003, right before the Iraq invasion. Since then both parties have led us into war— Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria. These wars are happening in our name, without debate and without our consent. This is too important to leave to the politicians. We desperately need a people’s anti-war movement, one that collaborates with the other movements of these times.
This go-round we need to be aware that the police are now more militarized than ever before. Armored personnel carriers, assault rifles, submachine guns, and SWAT teams are now readily available here at home.
I am reluctant to give specific advice to today’s activists. Just as in the ‘60s we stopped troop trains, burned draft cards and marched on the Pentagon, today’s activists are inventing their own tactics— encamping at Standing Rock, jamming airports, and taking the knee. Movement veterans like me are inspired by their actions and are joining whenever and wherever we can.
My advice is simple. When you find your voice, be brave about using it. Yes on social media but also face-to-face with your friends, family, neighbors and strangers, at schools, workplaces, places of worship, and public areas. Use your creativity and imagination to rise up and make your protest visible. Find ways to resist, occupy, defy, disrupt, and disturb. That’s how we helped end the Vietnam war. Let us not throw away this shot.
Originally published on 2017-10-24
Author: Nancy Kurshan
Source: Counter Punch
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!
Donate to Support Us
We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]
On the eve of the Conference on Cyprus, we feel compelled to express our views on the Cyprus negotiations on behalf of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), the International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA), the Federation of Cypriot American Organizations (FCAO), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), the American Hellenic Council (AHC), the Hellenic Federation of New Jersey, and the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH). Our community has worked with successive US Administrations on behalf of a workable and lasting solution on Cyprus. In 2004, when we warned that the flawed Annan Plan was headed in the wrong direction, ...
Four men, accused of being partisans, are alleged to have been buried alive. The wife of a partisan is said to have been “pierced by bayonets and drowned in a garbage pit” [искололи тело штыками и утопили в помойной яме].The author (who is unnamed) states that his own elderly father was taken as a hostage by Allied forces from the town of Kharitonovka [Харитоновка]. He was returned home alive but in a bloodied condition. He is said to have died a few days later, after asking “Why did they torture me…”? [За что меня замучили]. The man is said to ...
One of the most disturbing aspects of the past two years of Donald Trump foreign policy has been the assumption that decisions made by the United States are binding on the rest of the world. Apart from time of war, no other nation has ever sought to prevent other nations from trading with each other. And the United States has also uniquely sought to penalize other countries for alleged crimes that did not occur in the US and that did not involve American citizens, while also insisting that all nations must comply with whatever penalties are meted out by Washington.The ...
Of the 22 Nazi concentration camps operating in the clerical fascist state of Croatia during World War II, nearly half were under the command of Roman Catholic priests.They were responsible for the grisly slaughter of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. Serbs, Roma, and Jews were specifically targeted for extermination.Catholic clergy was especially keen to eradicate the Serbian Orthodox Church. This led to the murder of Christian Serbian Priests, forced conversions of Serbian Christians, and the destruction of 450 Christian Orthodox Churches during World War II.“Kill all Serbs. And when you finish come here, to the Church, and ...
The Western-backed myth of a Greater SerbiaMuch space, time and efforts have been devoted in the recent history of West Balkans, and in particular in the latest political upheavals, about the alleged project of a Greater Serbia especially by the Western authors either academic scholars or journalists. The issue must be, however, considered together with its counterparts from Croatia (a Greater Croatia) and Albania (a Greater Albania). There are two focal questions that arose here:Were all these projects serious and what was the origin of this maximalist concept of forming the national states in the otherwise ethnically mixed area?Whose exact ...
“Rooted in a story of generosity and partnership, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for the gifts we have and to show our appreciation for all we hold dear….”
So begins the official Presidential Proclamation of Thanksgiving Day, 2015, signed and issued by Barack Obama.
While it hearkens back to earlier Thanksgivings in St. Augustine in 1565 and Plymouth in 1621, this is an essentially imperial document than gives only vague lip service to giving “thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us.” When his proclamation gets specific, in the third sentence, the President gives the highest place of ...
The history behind Palestine and Israel is a history of Jewish European settler-colonialism — i.e., Zionism. And since racism is a symptom and a tool of settler-colonialism, Zionism is also viewed as anti-Semitism, and as ethno-supremacy or Jewish supremacy, Arabophobia and Islamophobia.
The triangulation of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Arabophobia in the history of Palestine and Israel is part of the settler-colonial movement of Zionism and is not a “new history” in the sense of the term as introduced by Israeli historian Benny Morris in 1980 to humanize, in Israeli academic discourse, the victims of Zionism. It simply reflects modern terminology and ...
Canada has a reputation for being a relatively progressive state with universal, single-payer health care, various other social benefits, and strict gun laws, similar to many European countries but quite unlike the United States. It has managed to stay out of some American wars, for example, Vietnam and Iraq, portrayed itself as a neutral “peace keeper”, pursuing a so-called policy of “multilateralism” and attempting from time to time to keep a little independent distance from the United States.Behind this veneer of respectability lies a not so attractive reality of elite inattention to the defence of Canadian independence from the United ...
A Serb from Bosnia, General Mladic, protected Muslim civilians and gave them buses, food, and water to leave fighting zones. There was no genocide over the Muslim population in Srebrenica like mainstream media want you to believe – there was no genocide over Bosniaks because all Bosnian Muslims victims were jihad fighters who had been killed during fight (in war). Even the so-called „tribunal“ in The Hague for ex-Yugoslavia admitted that there was no genocide!The President of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, Alija IzetbegovićIn Srebrenica, there was a massacre over Serbian civilians: the youngest victim was a 4 years old boy ...
Šį straipsnį paskatino parašyti JAV specialiųjų tarnybų bei Lietuvos politinio elito sukelta ir eskaluojama plataus masto karo su Rusija propaganda ir tautinės nesantaikos kurstymas visame pasaulyje ir ypač Lietuvos viešoje erdvėje. Masinės Vakarų informacinės agresijos prieš Rusiją pretekstu tapo globalinė JAV-NATO karo nusikaltėlių gaujos klastotė 2014-03-16 Krymo pusiasalio gyventojų referendumo rezultatai ir jų pagrindu įvykęs Krymo prisijungimas prie Rusijos, savo istorinės, etninės Tėvynės. Vakarų reakcija į šį absoliučiai teisėtą Krymo gyventojų pasirinkimą, Vakarų inicijuotas ekonominis karas prieš Rusiją yra absoliučiai neteisėti tarptautinės teisės požiūriu – Vakarų sankcijos Rusijai už Krymo prisijungimą yra tik dar vienas globalinis JAV-NATO valstybių tarptautinis nusikaltimas. ...
Donald Trump‘s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened:The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. [prior to the Chemical Weapons attack] There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each ...
The Dayton system has kept the peace for twenty-five years. Why destabilize Sarajevo now?As befits a successful peace agreement, the November 1995 Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian war were marked on their twenty-fifth anniversary with a flurry of international conferences. Oddly enough, even though a general acknowledgment that the accords have kept the peace, most recommendations call for radically “revising Dayton,” on the grounds that Bosnia’s institutions are too cumbersome, prone to corruption and politically unfair to minorities. Even more oddly, many proposals have been made to address these problems by dismantling the very structures that have brought and maintained peace. ...
Michigan-based filmmaker Michael Moore makes the connection between Kosovo and the Columbine shooting in his Academy Award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine (2002). Moore puts Kosovo in the context of a broader U.S. foreign policy agenda and a domestic culture of violence. Moore asks: “Are we a nation of gun nuts or are we just nuts?”
In the first scene, Moore walks into the North Country Bank in Michigan to open an account. He saw an ad in the newspaper that the bank would give out free guns to those who open accounts there. Moore walks into the bank and tells the ...
Chances are, if a story about Russia appears on the cover of a major Western magazine, it’s not good news. Most likely, there’s been an international scandal, a breakout of geopolitical tensions, the resumption of Cold War hostilities, or some nefarious Russian plot to bring the entire free world to its knees.Russophobia — or the unnatural fear of Russia — generally leads magazine editors to choose the most over-the-top images to convey Russia as a backwards, clumsy, non-Western and aggressively malevolent power. Unfortunately, that’s led to a few rules of thumb for anyone trying to create a magazine cover featuring ...
The new US National Security Strategy released this week and the speech delivered by President Donald Trump Monday to introduce it constitute a grim warning to humanity that US imperialism is firmly embarked on a road that leads to a nuclear third world war.While the document has largely been passed over in silence by the president’s ostensible political opponents in the Democratic Party and given relatively short shrift by the establishment media, more thoughtful ideologists of imperialism have noted the far-reaching changes presented in the document.Writing in the Wall Street Journal, the historian Arthur L. Herman declared Trump’s National Security Strategy ...
Marko Attila Hoare rejects and suppresses this factual image of Bosnian history in favor of a fantasy or delusional image from a television comedy. The real Heinrich Himmler (Heimlich Bimmler) reviewing the real or “historical” Bosnian Muslim Nazi SS Division Handzar, 1943.
Did the Bosnian Muslim Army and Government reform or recreate the infamous Nazi SS Division Handzar or not? Based on Martko Attila Hoare’s response to my article, Hoare now concedes that, indeed, there was a formation in the Bosnian Muslim Army termed the “Handzar Division”.
Let me reiterate that. Hoare admitted that the Bosnian Muslim Government did indeed reform the ...
There is no significant anti-war movement in America because there’s no war to protest. Let me explain. In February 2003, millions of people took to the streets around the world to protest America’s march to war against Iraq. That mass movement failed. The administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had a radical plan for reshaping the Middle East and no protesters, no matter how principled or sensible or determined, were going to stop them in their march of folly. The Iraq War soon joined the Afghan invasion of 2001 as a quagmire and disaster, yet the antiwar movement ...
On November 26 the New York Times asserted that “Russia’s seizure [on November 25] of three Ukrainian naval vessels was the first overt armed conflict between the two since 2014, when Russian forces occupied Crimea.”
There was no armed conflict in Crimea and not a drop of blood was spilled. There was no “occupation” because, under treaty, over 20,000 Russian troops were stationed there.
Crimea’s citizens have always been Russian-speaking, Russian-cultured and in general pro-Russia. Following the US-sponsored rebellion in Ukraine that went the way the US intended it to go, there was the awkward matter of Crimea which had been part of Russia until, as noted ...
Whilst there are no golden ages, it is abundantly clear that the world today is in a very unhealthy state. From Eastern Europe to North Africa to the Middle East, countries, in recent years, have been severely destabilised, resulting in carnage and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives.And at the heart of that destabilisation is American and British foreign policy.But how have we arrived at this situation in the world today? And what are the roots of America and Britain’s ‘humanitarian intervention’?A lot of people answer the above questions by citing the illegal American and British invasion of ...
Every Friday, just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store.
The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism — the conservative ideology dominant in Saudi Arabia — in the 17 years since an American-led intervention wrested tiny Kosovo from Serbian oppression.
Since then — much of that time under the watch of American officials — Saudi money and influence have transformed this ...
A Letter From the Greek American Community on the Cyprus Talks
100 Years Ago US Troops Attacked Russia’s Pacific Coast and Committed Atrocities
Does Washington Rule the World?
Vatican War Crimes: Roman Catholic Priests Ran Half the Nazi Death Camps in Croatia
Thanksgiving for a Grateful Empire
The More Plausible and Reasonable History of Palestine and Israel
Why Canada Defends EuroUkrainian Fascism?
Bosnian Muslim Genocide against the Serbs in Srebrenica Municipality in 1992-1995 (Photo Album)
Krymas: Rusijos aneksija ar JAV/NATO/ES agresija?
Donald Trump is an International Law Breaker
The Ethno-Territorial Separation of Bosnia Was the Key to Ending the War and Keeping Peace
Kosovo: The US “Psyche”, US Culture and US Foreign Policy
Russophobia and the Dark Art of Anti-Russian Magazine Covers
Trump’s National Security Strategy: The Return of “Great Power” Military Conflict
The Bosnian Muslim Government Reformed the WWII Nazi SS Division Handzar in 1992-1995
The Paradox of America’s Endless Wars
Washington is Ramping Up Military Confrontation With Russia and China
The Defining Year was 1991: The Demise of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union
How Kosovo was Turned into Fertile Ground for ISIS
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS