The American War

Hits: 221

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”]

READ MORE!
The Lost Journalistic Standards of Russia-gate
A danger in both journalism and intelligence is to allow an unproven or seriously disputed fact to become part of the accepted narrative where it gets widely repeated and thus misleads policymakers and citizens alike, such as happened during the run-up to war with Iraq and is now recurring amid the frenzy over Russia-gate.For instance, in a Russia-gate story on Saturday, The New York Times reported as flat fact that a Kremlin intermediary “told a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, that the Russians had ‘dirt’ on Mr. Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, in the form of ‘thousands of emails.’” The Times ...
READ MORE
Waffen-SS Im Einsatz: Hitler’s Soviet Muslim Legions
During World War II, hundreds of thousands of foreign peoples joined with Hitler's legions to bring theirs people into special status in Hitler's New Order. Tens of thousands among them were Muslims, where the majority of them came from Soviet Union. Under the banner of the crescent and the swastika, these Soviet Muslims believe to become holy warriors to liberated theirs land. But the end of this unholy alliance was a disaster for them.The Pro-Nazi Soviet Muslims When the German Army invaded Soviet Russia on June 22, 1941 they saw many of their opponent inhabitants welcomed them as liberators. One ...
READ MORE
UN Anti-Nazi Resolution 10 Year Anniversary: Syria, Israel and North Korea Support It, US Adamantly Opposes It
Throughout the past decade, the UN General Assembly Third Committee has adopted the resolution: “Combating Glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”Every year the resolution is adopted by an overwhelming majority of UN member states, while the European Union, which, as the battleground of Nazism should have supported the resolution, merely abstains, and their fence-straddling raises disturbing questions about their actual tendencies. Japan’s abstention raises equally disturbing questions. The United States has consistently, and shockingly, opposed this resolution.The resolution is sponsored by the Russian Federation, which ...
READ MORE
The Media Is Lying to You on Macedonia. US Is Backing an Illegal Coup D’état
Media narrative: Hateful protestors stormed the Macedonian parliament after an ethnic Albanian Talat Xhaferi was elected speaker for the first time. Truth: Protestors stormed the parliament because Xhaferi was declared speaker in an illegal, unconstitutional manner as part of an ongoing coup d'état. It had nothing whatsoever to do with his ethnicity. Even though Xhaferi was "elected" in an irregular manner, the US and EU have already stated they recognize his appointment. This now paves the way for ethnic Albanian parties and the smaller of two main Macedonian parties (Social Democrats) to proclaim a government without the constitutionally required go-ahead from the President of the Republic. The latter has defied ...
READ MORE
The Criminal Roadmap Towards “Greater Israel”?
The concept of a “Greater Israel” according to the founding father of Zionism Theodore Herzl, is a Jewish State stretching “’From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.’Rabbi Fischmann, of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, stated to the UN Special Committee on 9th July 1947 that:The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt up to the Euphrates, it includes parts of Syria and Lebanon’”, wrote Michel Chossudovsky. (1)Thus “from the Nile to the Euphrates.” Herzl’s detailed thesis was written in 1904.Quoted in the same article is Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya on The Yinon Plan (1982) “ … a continuation of ...
READ MORE
The CIA and the Media: 50 Facts the World Needs to Know
This article  by Professor James Tracy first published in August 2015 is of particular relevance in relation to the “fake news” campaign directed against the alternative and independent media.In a bitter irony, the media coverup of  the CIA’s covert support to Al Qaeda and the ISIS is instrumented by the CIA which also oversees the mainstream media.Since the end of World War Two the Central Intelligence Agency has been a major force in US and foreign news media, exerting considerable influence over what the public sees, hears and reads on a regular basis. CIA publicists and journalists alike will assert they have few, ...
READ MORE
Yet Another President Commits the Ultimate War Crime of Launching a “War of Aggression”
President Donald Trump campaigned last year making the sensible argument that the US should no longer engage in a policy of regime change, and should attempt to have friendly relations with other countries like Russia and China. Yesterday he blew those ideas out of the water by launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase and by calling for the removal of Syria’s leader, Bashar al Assad. The pretext for the US cruise missile blitz, an alleged attack on a rebel-held town called Khan Shiekhun in Idlib province, where some 70 people, including children, were reported to have died from illegal ...
READ MORE
The Failure of US Democracy
I am now convinced that the Oligarchy that rules America intends to steal the presidential election. In the past, the oligarchs have not cared which candidate won as the oligarchs owned both. But they do not own Trump.Most likely you are unaware of what Trump is telling people as the media does not report it. A person who speaks like this:- is not endeared to the oligarchs.Who are the oligarchs?— Wall Street and the mega-banks too big to fail and their agent the Federal Reserve, a federal agency that put 5 banks ahead of millions of troubled American homeowners who ...
READ MORE
The True Cost of Israel: U.S. Support Goes Far Beyond the Official Numbers
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) concluded its annual conference late last month, triggering the usual debate in various alternative media outlets. Why does so much U.S. taxpayer money go to a small and not particularly useful client state that has a vibrant European-level economy and is already a regional military colossus? Those who support the cash flow argue that Israel is threatened, most notably by Iran; they claim the assistance, which has been largely but not completely used to buy American-made weapons, is required to maintain a qualitative edge over the country's potential enemies. Those who oppose the aid ...
READ MORE
These are all the Countries where the US has a Military Presence (in 2015)
On Mar. 24, US president Barack Obama announced that all 9,800 US troops currently stationed in Afghanistan will remain until the end of 2015. This generated a fair amount of criticism: it was, after all, Obama’s promise that the last American troop would leave the country in 2014.How have Obama’s plans for pulling out of Afghanistan fared so far?Those expecting the US to leave Afghanistan, however, should take a minute to consider this: the US still hasn’t left Germany. In fact, there are quite a few places the US hasn’t left, and while certainly most of them don’t pose a threat to American soldiers, ...
READ MORE
War Crimes: Agent Orange, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Other Ugly Legacies of the Vietnam War
Fifty years ago this next month (December 1965), with the urging of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the rubber stamp approval of President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the United States Air Force started secretly spraying the forests of Laos with a deadly herbicide that was known as Agent Orange. Operation Ranch Hand, whose motto was “Only We Can Prevent Forests” (a shameful takeoff of Smokey the Bear’s admonition), was a desperate, costly and ultimately futile effort to make it a little harder for the National Liberation Front soldiers from North Vietnam to join and supply their ...
READ MORE
The Lies that are Used for Denying the Legitimacy of Crimea’s Breakaway
Crimea’s breakaway from Ukraine and rejoining Russia is treated in the US-and-allied world as being justification for the explosive re-emergence in 2014 of America’s Cold War NATO alliance as being a restored war against Russia; and, so, whether or not that ‘justification’ is truthful is the paramount geopolitical issue in our era; and it will therefore be discussed and (via the links here) documented in this article.Though international law is generally an unenforced mess that is interpretable far more by partisanship than by any clearly applicable principles, the US Government does quite blatantly violate it on a routine basis, by ...
READ MORE
CIA Was Aiding “Jihadists” before Soviets Invaded Afghanistan
Originally, there were four parties involved in the Afghan conflict which are mainly responsible for the debacle in the Af-Pak region. Firstly, the former Soviet Union which invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. Secondly, Pakistan’s security agencies which nurtured the Afghan so-called “mujahideen” (freedom fighters) on the behest of Washington.Thirdly, Saudi Arabia and the rest of oil-rich Gulf states which generously funded the jihadists to promote their Wahhabi-Salafi ideology. And last but not the least, the Western capitals which funded, provided weapons and internationally legitimized the erstwhile ‘freedom fighters’ to use them against a competing ideology, global communism, which posed a ...
READ MORE
Australia’s War Crimes and Culture of Impunity
There is yet no reckoning for Australia’s SAS war crimes in Afghanistan, although details of horrendous atrocities are coming to light. A 2016 report detailing the extent of torture and extrajudicial killings by the Australian SAS forces in Afghanistan have been described as “fuelled by blood lust”, and compared on a scale to the infamous torture and murder practices at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.The 2016 report which has recently been seen by two leading Australian news outlets, was compiled by sociologist Dr Samantha Crompvoets. Testimonies of war crimes, accompanied by the normalisation of such action and recurring impunity, have been ...