Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement 
An eloquent call to reclaim our history and honor those who resisted the war, from a key architect of the opposition.

By Tom Hayden    JANUARY 5, 2017

Hell, no! Vietnam Veterans Against the War end their 40-hour occupation of the Statue of Liberty, December 1971. (Anthony Camerano / AP)

"...We were a generation divided by big lies and propaganda, although many had finally achieved reconciliation on personal levels. We wanted now to honor Vietnam veterans for their sacrifice and suffering, including the many thousands who had created an unprecedented GI peace movement and led the effort to end the war.

We believed we must put a stop to false and sanitized history; real truth and sharing of stories were crucial to any authentic reconciliation. We had learned, almost accidentally, that the Pentagon was embarked on a congressionally mandated and funded effort to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war’s escalation in 1965, when the first combat troops were sent to Vietnam...

Even though the Vietnam War ended in a historic US failure, the hawks who supported it have gone on to enjoy comfortable roles in successive administrations. Few of the pro-war pundits, elites, and think-tankers have apologized or resigned since Vietnam. Instead, they have risen in the ranks of the national-security establishment while implementing further military follies based on many of the same assumptions that led to the Vietnam collapse…

The trivializing of the peace movement’s history has distorted the public memory of Dr. King, who opposed the Vietnam War in a speech in August 1965, a few months after the first SDS march on Washington. His most important antiwar orations, delivered in April 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York and at a mass rally in Central Park, were met by angry editorials in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

He was condemned by the Johnson White House, as well as by the leaders of labor and most civil-rights organizations. It was inappropriate, many claimed, for a “Negro spokesman” to stray into the territory of foreign policy. And though his antiwar message is included on the plaque at the King Memorial, he is generally remembered today as a civil-rights leader, not as a man who opposed the Vietnam War and was organizing a Poor People’s Campaign until his last breath. 

The myth persists that freedom can be expanded at home while repression is imposed and massive bombings escalated abroad…

…It is not too late to recover and begin again. This is already happening in the reconciliation process between the Vietnamese and our country. But we must not forget that for the Vietnamese, the war is not fully over. The soil of Vietnam is contaminated with Agent Orange. Unexploded ordnance still covers the landscape. Those deformed by our defoliants will transmit their disabilities to their children for generations. Each generation of Americans has a responsibility to help mitigate this permanent damage.

And yet, by the tens of thousands, American veterans and their families are touring old battlefields, shaking hands and sharing tea with their old enemies. The sentiments of resolution are palpable. So are the feelings experienced by visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

The disaster that began in Vietnam still spirals on as a conflict between empire and democracy. The cycle of war continues its familiar path. Truth, it is said, is war’s first casualty. Memory is its second."

READ the complete article:

TOM HAYDEN Tom Hayden, the former California state assemblyman and senator, author, lifelong activist, and Nation editorial board member, died in Santa Monica on October 23, 2016. He was the author of more than 20 books, including most recently Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement (Yale) and Listen, Yankee! Why Cuba Matters (Seven Stories).

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