Tuesday, February 28, 2017
The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace MovementAn 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.
"...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...
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."