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Vietnam War protesters in 1966. Credit: The Nation, AP Photo/Bill Ingraham
Vietnam War protesters in 1966. Credit: The Nation, AP Photo/Bill Ingraham

Let me tell you a story about a moment in my life I’m not likely to forget even if, with the passage of years, so much around it has grown fuzzy. It involves a broken-down TV, movies from my childhood, and a war that only seemed to come closer as time passed.

My best guess: it was the summer of 1969. I had dropped out of graduate school where I had been studying to become a China scholar and was then working as a “movement” printer — that is, in a print shop that produced radical literature, strike posters, and other materials for activists. It was, of course, “the Sixties,” though I didn’t know it then. Still, I had somehow been swept into a new world remarkably unrelated to my expected life trajectory — and a large part of the reason for that was the Vietnam War.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t particularly early to protest it. I think I signed my first antiwar petition in 1965 while still in college, but as late as 1968 — people forget the confusion of that era — while I had become firmly antiwar, I still wanted to serve my country abroad. Being a diplomat had been a dream of mine, the kind of citizenly duty I had been taught to admire, and the urge to act in such a fashion, to be of service, was deeply embedded in me. (That I was already doing so in protesting the grim war my government was prosecuting in Southeast Asia didn’t cross my mind.) I actually applied to the State Department, but it turned out to have no dreams of Tom Engelhardt. On the other hand, the U.S. Information Agency, a propaganda outfit, couldn’t have been more interested.

Only one problem: they weren’t about to guarantee that they wouldn’t send a guy who had studied Chinese, knew something of Asia, and could read French to Saigon. However, by the time they had vetted me — it took government-issue months and months to do so — I had grown far angrier about the war, so when they offered me a job, I didn’t think twice about saying no.

Somewhere in that same year, 1968, I joined a group called the Resistance and in an elaborate public ceremony turned in my draft card to protest the war. For several years, I had been increasingly involved in antiwar activism, had marched on the Pentagon in the giant 1967 processional that Norman Mailer so famously recorded in Armies of the Night, and returned again a year or two later when, for the first time in my life, I got tear-gassed.

For a while, I had also been working as a draft counselor with a group whose initials, BDRG, I remember. A quick check of Google tells me that the acronym stood for the Boston Draft Resistance Group. Somewhere in that period, I helped set up an organization whose initials I also recall well: the CCAS. Though hardly an inspired moniker, it stood for the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars. (That “concern” — in case it’s not clear so many years later — involved the same war that wouldn’t end.) With a friend, I designed and produced its bulletin. As one of those “concerned scholars,” I also helped write a group antiwar book, The Indochina Story, which would be put out by a mainstream publishing house.

Of course, there’s much that I’ve forgotten and I can’t claim that all of the above is in perfect order. Even at the time, life was a blur of activism. Nearly half a century later, I’m a failing archive of my own life and so much seems irretrievable.

My intention here, however, is simply to offer a sense of how so many lives came, in part or in whole, to revolve around that war, while other things went by the wayside. It’s true that our government hadn’t mobilized us, but we had mobilized ourselves. Though much has been written about “dropping out” in the 1960s, this antiwar form of it has been far less attended to.

Images of War

So much of what I’m describing must seem utterly alien today. At a time when America’s endless wars might as well be millions of miles from our shores (and the national security state desperately needs a few “lone-wolf” Islamic terror types to drive home how crucial it is to our protection), it’s hard to remember how large the Vietnam War once loomed in our national life. In this age in which Americans have been demobilized from the wars fought in our name, who recalls how many people took to the streets how repeatedly in those Vietnam years, or how much the actions of our government were passionately debated from Congress to kitchens, or how deeply plagued and unnerved two American presidents were by the uproar and fuss? Who remembers how little the antiwar movement of that moment was a weekend operation and how central throwing some kind of monkey wrench into that war became to so many lives?

Much of the tenacious antiwar opposition of that era, when thought about now, is automatically attributed to the draft, to the fact that young men like me were subject to being called up and sent thousands of miles from home to fight in a conflict that looked more brutal, despicable, and even criminal by the second. And there is, of course, some truth to that explanation, but it’s a very partial, dismissive truth, one that, for instance, doesn’t explain the vast number of young women who mobilized against the war in those years.

ORDER IT NOW

While the draft was a factor in the growth of war consciousness, it was hardly the only one. It’s easy to forget that a generation raised in the Golden Fifties believed the American system would work for them and that, if it didn’t, it was the obligation of the citizen to try to fix it. Those young people were convinced that, if you spoke up loudly enough and in large enough numbers, presidents would listen. They also believed that you, as an American, had an obligation to step forward, to represent the best in your country, to serve. Hence my urge to join the State Department. In other words, I came from a generation primed — in part by the successes of the Civil Rights Movement (when it seemed that presidents were listening) — to believe that, in a democratic country, protest worked.

Of course, by the time the antiwar movement took off, it was hardly stylish to admit to such sentiments of service, but that didn’t make them less real. They were crucial to a passionate protest that began mainly with students but grew to include everyone from clergy to businessmen, and that, in its later years, would be led by disillusioned military veterans home from the country’s Southeast Asian battlefields.

The importance of an antiwar movement that refused to stand down, that — while two administrations continually escalated the killing in Vietnam and spread it to Laos and Cambodia — never packed up its tents and went home, can’t be emphasized too strongly. Its refusal to shut up brought Vietnam, both literally and figuratively, to America’s doorstep. It made that grim war a living (and dying) presence in American lives — and no less important was what it made present.

Somehow, from so many thousands of miles away, we were turned into witnesses to repeated horrors on a staggering scale in a small, largely peasant land: free-fire zones, the body count, torture, assassination, war crimes, the taking of trophy body parts, and above all the feeling that a spectacle of slaughter was occurring and we were responsible for it. We here at home had a growing sense of what it meant for the U.S. military to fight a war against guerilla forces (which, at least on the left, came — unlike the Islamic insurgents of the twenty-first century — to look ever more heroic and sympathetic), with every means available short of nuclear weapons. That included bombing campaigns that, in the end, would outdo in tonnage those of World War II.

The images of that time still remain with me, including Ron Haeberle’s horrific photos of the My Lai massacre, which appeared in LIFE magazine in December 1969, and Associated Press photographer Nick Ut’s iconic 1972 shot of a young Vietnamese girl napalmed by a South Vietnamese plane and caught in pain and terror running naked down a road.

If you were in the antiwar movement in those years, you couldn’t help coming across testimony by American soldiers who had been in Vietnam and were ready to paint a nightmarish picture of what they and their companions had seen or done there. In the growing alternative or (as it was romantically termed then) “underground” press of those pre-Internet days, snapshots of unbearable atrocities were soon circulating. These undoubtedly came directly from soldiers who had snapped them, or knew those who had, or were like the servicemen — stirred to action by a growing military antiwar movement — who appeared at the Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971. There, they essentially testified against themselves on the commission of war crimes. Others similarly moved handed such photos over to alternative publications.

I’ve never forgotten, for instance, a trophy shot I saw in those years, of an American soldier proudly holding up a severed Vietnamese head by the hair. (If you want to imagine the impact such photos had, click here to see one that circulated in the alternative press at that time.)

In those years, thanks to the efforts of the antiwar movement, the Vietnamese — the dead, the wounded, the mistreated, as well as “the enemy” (“Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF Is Gonna Win!”) — seemed to come ever closer to us until, though I was living in quiet Cambridge, Massachusetts, I sometimes had the eerie feeling that Vietnamese were dying right outside my window. In the post-9/11 American world, that sounds both ludicrous and histrionic. You’ll have to take my word for it that I’m not exaggerating and that the sensation was visceral indeed.

A Spectacle of Slaughter

Which finally brings me to that clunky television set. At some point in 1968 or 1969, I got an old black-and-white TV. I have no idea whether I bought it or someone gave it to me. I do remember one thing about it, though. In that era before remote controls, the dial you turned by hand to change channels was broken, so I used a pair of pliers. Sometimes, I had it running on my desk while I worked; sometimes, it was propped on a chair, just an arm’s reach from my bed. (Remember those pliers!) And in the off hours when old movies filled schedules on secondary channels, I began to re-watch the westerns, adventure films, and war movies of my childhood.

I no longer know what possessed me to do so, but it became an almost obsessional activity. I watched at least 30 to 40 of them, no small feat in the era before you could find anything you wanted online at a moment’s notice. Keep in mind that those films from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s — grade B-westerns, John Wayne-style World War II movies, and the like — were for me the definition of entertainment sunny side up. I had only the fondest memories of such films, in part because they were bedrock to the American way of life as I understood it.

You always knew what to expect: the Indians (or Mexicans, or Japanese) would fall in vast numbers, the cavalry would ride to the rescue in the nick of time, the Marines — it hardly needed to be said — would advance triumphantly before the movie ended, the West would be won, victory assured. It was how it was and how it should be.

Add in a more personal factor: my father had been in World War II in the Pacific. It wasn’t something he generally cared to talk about. (In fact, it made him angry.) But he often took me to such films and when we sat together in silence in some movie theater watching Americans fight his war (or cowboys and blue shirts fight the Indian wars), I felt close to him. In that shared silence, I felt his stamp of approval on what we were watching. If he and his generation were far more conflicted and less talkative about their war experiences than we now like to remember, they really didn’t need to say much in those days. After all, we kids knew what they had done; we had seen it sitting beside them at the movies.

Imagine my shock, on looking at those films again so many years later — with that visceral sense of Vietnamese dying in my neighborhood — when I realized that the sunniest part of my childhood had been based on a spectacle of slaughter. The “Vietnamese” had always been the ones to fall in staggering numbers just before the moment of victory, or when the wagon train again advanced into the West, or the cowboy got the girl.

Consider this my own tiny version of the disillusionment so many experienced with the previously all-American in those years. Our country’s triumphs, I suddenly realized, had been built on conquest and on piles of nonwhite bodies.

ORDER IT NOW

Believe me, looking back on one of the sunniest parts of my childhood from that antiwar moment was a shock and it led me to produce “Ambush at Kamikaze Pass,” the first critical essay of my life, for the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. “Anyone who thinks the body count is a creation of the recent Indochinese war,” I wrote then, “should look at the movies he saw as a kid. It was the implicit rule of those films that no less than ten Indian (Japanese, Chinese…) warriors should fall for each white, expendable secondary character.” Almost a quarter century later, it would become the heart of my book The End of Victory Culture.

The Spectacle of Slaughter Updated

In 2015, the spectacle of slaughter is still with us. These days, however, few Americans have that sense that it might be happening right down the street. War is no longer a part of our collective lives. It’s been professionalized and outsourced. And here’s the wonder of it all: since 9/11, this country has engaged in a military-first foreign policy across much of the Greater Middle East and northern Africa, launching an unending string of failed wars, conflicts, raids, kidnappings, acts of torture, and drone assassination programs, and yet Americans have remained remarkably unengaged with any of it.

This is not happenstance. There is, of course, no draft. President Richard Nixon ended it in 1973 with the demobilizing of the antiwar movement in mind. Similarly, the military high command never again wanted to experience a citizen’s army reaching an almost mutinous state and voting with its feet or its antiwar testimony or its medals. Ever since Vietnam, the urge of successive administrations and an ever-expanding national security state has been to fight wars without the involvement of the American people (or the antiwar version of democratic oversight). Hence, the rise of the warrior corporation and the privatization of war.

Especially after 9/11, a kind of helplessness settled over Americans left out in the cold when it came to the wars being fought in their name. In some sense, most of us accepted our newly assigned role as a surveilled and protected populace whose order of the day was don’t get involved.

In other words, amid all the military failures of this era, there was a single hardly mentioned but striking victory: no antiwar movement of any significance proved to have staying power in this country. Osama bin Laden can, at least in part, be thanked for that. The 9/11 attacks, the shock of the apocalyptic-looking collapse of those towers in New York, and the loss of almost 3,000 innocent civilians inoculated America’s second Afghan War — launched in October 2001 and still ongoing — against serious protest.

The invasion of Iraq would prove another matter entirely. That act of Bush administration hubris, based on kited intelligence and a full-scale White House propaganda campaign filled with misinformation, brought briefly to life something unique to our era: a massive antiwar movement that preceded the launching of the war it was protesting. Those prewar demonstrations, which stretched worldwide, ran into the hundreds of thousands and were impressive enough that the New York Times front-paged “public opinion” as the other “superpower” in a post-Cold War world.

But as soon as the Bush administration launched its much-desired invasion, the domestic movement against it began to crumble. Within a couple of years — with the exception of small groups of antiwar veterans — it was essentially dead. In the end, Americans would generally live through their twenty-first-century wars as if they weren’t happening. There would neither be an everyday antiwar movement into which anyone could “drop out,” nor a population eager to be swept into it. Its lack would be a modest tragedy for American politics and our waning democracy; it would prove far more so for Afghans, Iraqis, Yemenis, and others.

For the spectacle of slaughter itself continued, even if few in this country were tuning in. Don’t consider it a fluke that the war culture hero of the period — on the bestseller lists and in Hollywood — was an American sniper whose claim to fame was that he had created his own singular body count: 160 “confirmed” dead Iraqis. Skip the unknown number of casualties of every sort (ranging from Iraq Body Count’s 219,000 up to a million dead) that resulted from the invasion of Iraq and the chaos of the occupation that followed or the tens of thousands of civilian dead in Afghanistan (some at the hands of the Taliban and their roadside bombs, some thanks to U.S. efforts). Consider instead the slaughter that can be connected to this country’s much-vaunted “precision” air weaponry, which — so the claim has gone — can strike without causing what’s politely termed significant “collateral damage.”

Start with the drone, a robotic machine that guarantees one thing in the ongoing spectacle of slaughter: no American combatant will ever die in its operations, no matter how many Afghans, or Yemenis, or Iraqis, or Syrians, or Pakistanis, or Libyans, or Somalis may die when it releases its aptly named Hellfire missiles. From that heroic investigative crew, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, we have an approximation of the casualties on the ground from Washington’s drone assassination campaigns across the Greater Middle East, and they run into the thousands (including hundreds of children) and lots of what might be called the mistaken dead. Keep in mind that the most basic drone attack of Washington’s wars in the Greater Middle East has been the “signature strike,” as it’s euphemistically known. These target not specific individuals, but groups on the ground that seem to fit certain behavioral patterns suspected of being telltale marks of terror outfits — particularly young men with weapons (in regions in which young men are likely to be armed, whatever their affiliations).

ORDER IT NOW

Or consider U.S. air strikes targeting the Islamic State’s forces in Iraq and Syria. Again, with the grim exception of one Jordanian pilot, there have, as far as we know, been no casualties among American and allied combatants. That shouldn’t be a surprise, since the Islamic State (like just about every group the U.S. Air Force has faced in the twenty-first century) is incapable of bringing down a fighter jet. In the last year, according to a recent report, the U.S. and its allies have launched more than 5,700 strikes against Islamic State operations, claiming at least 15,000 dead militants. (Such figures, impossible to confirm on the ground under the circumstances, are undoubtedly fantasies.) The Pentagon has acknowledged only two civilian deaths from all these strikes, but a new study by Airwars of what can be known about just some of them indicates that hundreds of civilians have died, including more than 100 children.

To offer one more example, since December 2001 U.S. air power has obliterated at least eight wedding parties in three countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen). According to my count (and as far as I know there are no others), just under 300 people died in these eight strikes, including brides, grooms, and celebrants of every sort. Each of these incidents was reported in the western media, but none had the slightest impact here. They went essentially unnoticed. To put this in perspective, imagine for a moment the media uproar, the shock, the scandal, the 24/7 coverage, if anyone or any group were to knock off a single wedding party in this country.

And this just scratches the surface of Washington’s long “global war on terror.” Yet without an antiwar movement, the spectacle of mayhem and slaughter that has been at the heart of that war has passed largely unnoticed here. Unlike in the Vietnam years, it’s never really come home. In an era in which successes have been in short supply for two administrations, consider this a major one. War without an antiwar movement turns out to mean war without pause, war without end.

Admittedly, American children can no longer catch the twenty-first-century equivalents of the movies of my childhood. Such films couldn’t be made. After all, few are the movies that are likely to end with the Marines advancing amid a pile of nonwhite bodies, the wagon train heading for the horizon, or the cowboy galloping off on his horse with his girl. Think of this as onscreen evidence of American imperial decline.

In the badlands and backlands of the planet, however, the spectacle of slaughter never ends, even if the only Americans watching are sometimes unnerved drone video analysts. Could there be a sadder tale of a demobilized citizenry than that?

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: American Military, Vietnam War 
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  1. George A. says:

    This story brings back a lot of memories. A war that was real for my generation. It is something of a shame that the draft ended. No accountability for the people waging tne 21st century’s endless wars. I was in Seattle in September 2013 in the runup to the aborted Syrian war. There was an antiwar demonstration that weekend and about 150 persons attended. It was a lovely summer day and people were in cafes or out in parks. No one seemed to care for anything but enjoying the day. I had hoped for the glory of the 60s and that there would be 10,000 demonstrators. I was despondent that so few people could care. It was only a few days later that I realized that the protests had not been in vain.

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  2. “It was only a few days later that I realized that the protests had not been in vain.”

    Now they have the Syrian war they wanted, anyhow. What really stopped it then was the failure of a vote for it in England and Kerry misspeaking about what would stop it, which Putin immediately picked up on and acted on unexpectedly. Shortly thereafter, Putin became the neocons’ new “Hitler” for that impropriety and was targeted for regime change indirectly via the Nuland coup in Ukraine.

    • Agree: Seamus Padraig
    • Replies: @Bill Jones
    , @George A.
  3. @George A.

    What a Statist piece of totalitarian filth:

    “It is something of a shame that the draft ended.”

    A supporter of compulsory slavery for the purpose of murder.

    • Replies: @conatus
  4. @Sojourner Truth

    Barry slipped the war on the Syrian people in while everybody was horrified at the death of the Lion.

  5. As Bill Jones described the draft:
    “A supporter of compulsory slavery for the purpose of murder.”

    I agree with that description. But the draft, I think, actually has a built in limiting factor on wars. A draft “spreads the pain”. That is to say all classes of people, or more to the point all classes of parents, kith and kin will be subject to seeing their “babies” mandatorily being sent off to fight satan in “Islamistan”. It is assumed that if the ruling classes in the U.S., be those classes political or business, see the distinct likelihood of their children going off to do something they, up until the draft, had no problem with other parents children going off to do would chose to insert themselves in the process to make sure that wars are entered into as infrequently as possible, if at all. America took up hobbyist patriotism after 9/11. Yuppies everywhere became willing to send someone else’s children off to fight wars. With the draft, the “hobby” is kind of spread around for all to enjoy. I bet with all the pressure, arm-twisting and politicking that would come into play by the wealthy and powerful parents that the current conflicts would quickly wither on the vine and we would find consensus for future conflicts much more difficult to obtain. The war in Iraq is fought by volunteers, which means that no one in power cares about them. No one in the mysteriously named “elite” gives a damn about some kid from a town in Tennessee that has one gas station and a beer hall with a stuffed buck’s head. Such a kid is a redneck at best, pretty much from another planet, and certainly not someone you would let your daughter date. If conscription came back, and college students with rich parents learned to live in fear of The Envelope with “Greetings” at the top of the first page, riots would blossom as before. Currently Yale can rest easy. Thank God for throwaway people. When the people who decide whether the nation should go to war don’t bear the costs of that decision; they are likely to overestimate the benefits of doing so. When the benefits of a behavior go to me, but the costs fall on you, it’s easy to see why I might keep engaging in that behavior even if the overall costs are higher than the benefits. As the occupation of Iraq all too clearly illustrates, nothing is easier than posturing about how “we” are disarming a tyrant, or fighting terrorism, or bringing democracy to the Middle East or whatever this month’s justification is for sending someone else into a war zone that “we” wouldn’t be willing to go anywhere near for all the Yuan in China. When people of prime fighting age argues that “we” should “throw a crappy little country against the wall” every few years, just to remind the rest of the world who’s the boss, this “we” has a special, technical meaning. In fact it’s the meaning normally conveyed by the word “they.” And the people calling for military action generally includes pretty much the entire American upper class and are always somewhere else when the trigger is being pulled. “We” can blather on about how freedom isn’t free, and Gettysburg and Omaha Beach, but it’s the great anonymous “they” – the kids from the projects in Brooklyn and from depressed farming towns in North Dakota, and from East Los Angeles barrios – who do the fighting and the dying. A draft, or indeed even the serious threat of one, would start internalizing some externalities. Would American troops spend another week in our Middle East adventures if the real costs of the occupation were in any measure borne by those who have the power to bring the troops home?

    To ask the question is to answer it.

    • Agree: SolontoCroesus
    • Replies: @George A.
  6. Tom’s at it again, he used the personal pronoun “I” no less than 49 times. He must believe he’s one super-important professional hand-wringer. One thing you can bet on is, Tom Englehardt will never take you into the real danger zones of the current corruption enriching the military industrial power elite; certainly not when he’s feeding you all the ‘Bin Ladin did it’ official 9/11 fantasy.

    http://ronaldthomaswest.com/2014/12/20/alfreda-bikowsky-the-definition-of-stupid/

    ^ My comedy is more dangerous than anything you’ll typically see at TomDispatch –

  7. Dwright says:

    No, it was all about the draft. When it stopped most of the protests waned considerably.
    Why were women involved in the antiwar movement? Because their men were.

    • Replies: @George A.
    , @pseudo
    , @Blair
  8. Blobby5 says:

    As Ron Paul noted, the Fed is the biggest driver of unlimited warfare, if people were taxed for these moronic incursions war weariness would set in very quickly.

  9. norm741 says:

    The USSR was helped and aided the Anti war movement. Today the wars in the middle east help Israel and the MIC which controls the USA

  10. JohnDough says:

    There is no anti-war movement because there is no draft. There is also no anti-war movement because many of the wars in the Middle East are for Israel.

  11. George A. says:
    @Seoulsurvivor

    My regret for the passing of the draft had much to do with the passing of the Citizen Army and not any defense of compulsory slavery. I speak this as someone who had to live with a Selective Service bayonet in my back. The Citizen Army can win when the cause is just but can revolt when it is not. There was dissention in the streets, campuses and in the ranks. The elites abolished the draft when it was plain that the Citizen Army couldn’t be counted on to fight their wars of choice.

    A Citizen Army is also somewhat closer to what the Founding Fathers would have approved of.

    The All Mercenary Army, recruited from the margins of society and alienated from mainstream America, could be used to fight the interminable wars of the 21st century. It’s hard to imagine the Iraq war being fought with draftees. I fear that, when things go south in the States, the All Mercenary Army could be counted on to go after the civilians who “stabbed them in the back” like the Reichswehr after WW1.

    The only decent thing to come out of the abolition of the draft is that there just aren’t enough volunteers to wage a truly big war. So maybe we might not be going to Iran.

    What happened to the Antiwar movement? When the general population was disconnected from the war fighting they couldn’t get very concerned. If the Draft was still around you could be assured that there would be a very vigorous Antiwar movement.

    War is very personal. I never had the feeling that the Vietnam War was being fought outside my window but it was very much part of my life.

  12. George A. says:
    @Dwright

    The climax of the Vietnam War protests could have been the Kent State killings. In the spring of 1970 it truly appeared that a revolution was imminent. When I returned in the fall semester of 1970, it was as if the revolution had never happened.

    The drawdown of forces in Vietnam began in earnest in 1970 and accelerated in 1971. The announcement of a transition to an All Volunteer Army came in 1970. With these it was plain that the war would end.

  13. George A. says:
    @Sojourner Truth

    True! A war stopped by English dissention, some deft diplomacy by Putin and a lot of people calling their congressmen.

    Sadly, we seem to be trying to sneak back into Syria.

    It goes to show that the elites are nothing if not stubborn in their plans.

    • Replies: @SolontoCroesus
  14. Nothing happens until and unless the MSM cover it. As a veteran of more than one colossal anti-iraq-war protest in Washington DC, I can attest that if the MSM are in favor of a war, protests and protestors will be vilified, caricaturised, and marginalised–when they’re not simply ignored.

  15. unit472 says:

    While it is ‘axiomatic’ to the leftist that the ‘Vietnam War’ was immoral, unnecessary, racist or what have you, in retrospect it was the high water mark of the international communist movement and the war laid the groundwork for American technological supremacy.

    The Vietnam war’s high casualties and loss of pilots put an end to WW2 style tactics for the US military and exposed the weakness of communist economies. There could be no more ‘Hamburger Hills’ for US infantry nor wasting 10 aircraft to take out a bridge over North Vietnam. At the same time the USSR could not support the material requirements of supplying a large conventional force engaged in combat with the United States even if the Red Chinese allowed them secure routes to send material into the war zone.

    While Brezhnev would spend the rest of his reign trying to re-establish Soviet military equality with the United States via nuclear weapons, Soviet conventional military power was shattered by the United States as a result of the Vietnam War. Economically Chou En Lai realized the Soviet economic model was inferior and he began the Sino-Soviet split that led to Deng Xioping’s embrace of western capitalism.

    • Replies: @Yevardian
  16. anowow says:

    I’d be interested to learn of the politics of those two young people in the picture. How much you wanna bet there is a direct correlation of increased economic conservatism- but not necessarily social- excepting, of course, gerontocratic socialism, and militarism as they and their cohorts rose through the ranks of private industry and government.

    Some might say the boomers losing their binary Manichean revolutionary world-view is a sign of maturity. I’d say it’s more likely hypocrisy. Boomer thinking- when “they” do it, it’s evil. When “we” do it, it’s tragic necessity.

  17. Yevardian says:
    @unit472

    Noam Chomsky (probably not popular here) surprisingly enough, also has stated many times that he has never been against conscription; for precisely the same reasoning as George A.

    One of Australia’s early left wing Prime Ministers, Billy Hughes; thought the same.

  18. I was in college 1965 – 1969 and grad school (off and on) 1970 – 1977. The vast majority of anti-war sentiment I saw was motivated solely by the fear of being drafted. Only the really radical fringe may have been motivated by something more. And I was in the heart of “radical” country, Brandeis, U Penn, and Brown. When the draft went so too did mass protests against the Vietnam War.

    Now there is no draft. The neocons that promote our proxy wars for Israel and all the human misery caused by these wars sneer at the culture and ideals motivating the naive young men they send out to be maimed and killed. Meanwhile the sons of these same neocons, who scoff at serving their own country in any way, often spend a coddled year or two in the Israeli Defense Force beating up on Palestinians. The Israelis love this because it tightens their bonds with AIPAC and other traitor organizations in the US. You can bet the Israelis make sure these propaganda pawns are protected from the realities of military service. But this doesn’t prevent the little chickenhawks from coming home to strut their phony machismo in front of the ignorant. (I’ve personally witnessed this.) These are the only salient differences between then and now.

    • Agree: Seamus Padraig
  19. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Having a professional volunteer army means that they know the risks and are willing to undertake them. If they get hurt then that’s the way the ball bounces, despite all the ‘wounded warrior’ rhetoric. The government has learned since Vietnam how to minimize domestic dissent by keeping our casualties low through the use of air power, drones, use of locals as cannon-fodder, etc. Insofar as the draft acting as a check on military adventurism the reality hardly seems to confirm the theory. The Vietnam war dragged on for years despite all the protests and the major factor in our exit was the fact of them being able to militarily stymie us, not picket sign holders as the stab-in-the-back rewrite of history might claim. Getting a lot of people’s sons and brothers killed as a way of effecting change doesn’t seem very efficient. What if it were your son? Anyway, the draft is a form of slavery whereby one group of people assert the right to force another group to engage in a war that they had no hand in creating. Young people are not someone else’s property. Your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aren’t the property of the likes of whoever is president at that moment.

  20. Flower says:

    “And this just scratches the surface of Washington’s long “global war on terror.” Yet without an antiwar movement, the spectacle of mayhem and slaughter that has been at the heart of that war has passed largely unnoticed here.”

    Tom, what are you going on about now? The anti-war movement existed by virtue of one thing that existed then, but doesn’t exist now: a free Press that is something other than a rubber stamp, propaganda machine for the establishment. How many different owners of the US media were there in 1968? How many today?

    The war protesters protested because they received at least some unbiased news about the war. We protested My Lai because we heard about My Lai. We protested the illegal bombing of Cambodia because we heard about Cambodia. We protested about the meaningless deaths of Americans due to the incompetence and dishonesty of the Pentagon because we heard about the cowardice and lies that make up the US General Staff, and the silliness of the “body counts” that became a daily, in your face, disrespect of the credulity of the American public.

    Yeah, the establishment couldn’t hate those hippies enough. Too bad the hippies were right.

    • Replies: @Ronald Thomas West
  21. Help get Benjamin Netanyahu arrested for war crimes: sign this petition

    In September 2015, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes an official state visit to Britain. A parliamentary petition is calling for him to be arrested for war crimes following Israel’s barbaric assault on Gaza in Summer 2014, in which over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians, including more than 500 children.

    The petition says:

    Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold talks in London this September. Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the U.K for the massacre of over 2000 civilians in 2014.

  22. @George A.

    All the angst about Hillary’s emails and the possible illegality of having communicated classified information.

    All that is interesting in an Elliot Ness kind of way — whatever it takes to bring that war criminal down.

    However, what is more interesting to me is what was communicated in those classified emails.

    Do they incriminate HRC/State Department as well as the White House in US participation in enflaming what started out as minor civil unrest in Syria?

    I recall hearing HRC on some media outlet in 2011 saying “right now it’s only the poor people who are protesting; the business class is behind Assad. When the business class turns against him, and they will, then he will have to resign. He should resign now.”

    Funny how that conflict metastasized just as HRC predicted.

  23. @Flower

    Tom, what are you going on about now? The anti-war movement existed by virtue of one thing that existed then, but doesn’t exist now: a free Press that is something other than a rubber stamp, propaganda machine for the establishment. How many different owners of the US media were there in 1968? How many today?

    Tom will never go to the danger zones of reality, preferring to steer the progressives and discontented (with status quo) away from the authentic sources of the rank criminality .. by ‘virtue’ of hand-wringing and encouraging people to shed a tear or two while keeping them preoccupied with what was (maybe) & what might have been (but never was or will be.)

    I suggest a read of Phillip Agee’s ‘Inside The Company’ with particular attention given to manipulation of ‘unwitting’ assets (anyone with Tom’s narcissistic fixation on the personal pronoun “I” profiles as ripe for manipulation) and tying that to the book’s revelations concerning penetration of media. It’s a 45 years past work but the basic principles remain unchanged. Leopards don’t change their spots.

    Meanwhile just a few informed terms entered in any good search engine ties Tom’s ‘Nation Institute’ sponsor to (place your best guess here ___, it’s a three letter acronym) pretty much rendering his work on ‘shadow government’ (and anything else) worthless –

  24. The flip side of the same argument is that a “professional” military requires war of a duration that will stretch at least until career ambitions can be achieved and retirement benefits can be earned.

    A professional military with no war to fight is like a very highly trained staff of buggy-whip salesmen with no horses to flog.

    Andrew Bacevich participated in a panel discussion with the puke-inducing Evan Bayh and court historian Doug Brinkley, moderated by war criminal Bob Kerry, (Bayh calls him a great Amerikun hero).

    Brinkley lists the institutions created by the FDR-to-Truman administration to perpetuate what is called by the Kaganites the “international order” that USA enforces.

    Bacevich described the “rules” that define that international order:

    -global military presence
    -projection of power
    -chronic interventionism

    http://www.c-span.org/video/?296526-1/presidents-war (Bacevich @ 12 min about how Truman signed into law the “national security state” which, Bacevich says, “has borne poisonous fruit,” but listen to Brinkley’s earlier comments as well).

  25. Blair says:

    There is only an anti-war movement if the media say there is one. If they never cover it, and never talk about it, then it doesn’t exist.

    Alternative media don’t cover it either, so…

    • Replies: @Flower
  26. Flower says:
    @Blair

    I can understand your point in ref to the MSM. They are neither informative nor trustworthy. But why do you think the alternate media won’t cover it?

    • Replies: @Ronald Thomas West
  27. conatus says:
    @Bill Jones

    Jeesus, don’t get so pissed off, i took it to mean he wished there was a draft so the population would have skin in the game. Most of the population of the US, as long as they have their NFL and Budlight, give nary a shit about what happens to our military. It is just entertainment to the Budlight drinkers.

    A conversation at the water cooler:
    “Wow did you see that drone blow up that terrorist safe house last night on the news?”
    “It was a mistake, it was really a school, fifty ten year olds died…collateral damage”
    “Oh well it looked cool”

    • Replies: @Seoulsurvivor
  28. Sunbeam says:

    “Montezuma’s coronation was a huge ceremony involving the sacrifice of many prisoners.
    .
    .
    .
    Moctezuma and his brother also constructed many temples in and around the city, including a new temple to Huitxilopochtli, the god of battle. The temple of Huitxilopochtli was consecrated in 1455 with the sacrifice of a large number of Huaxtec prisoners of war.
    .

    [MORE]

    .
    .
    Probably at the urging of his brother, Tlacaelel, Moctezuma instituted Sumptuary Laws which codified and reinforced the already-stratified Aztec class system. A person’s station in life determined what he or she could wear and how he or she could speak. The poor were not allowed to wear cotton cloth, sandals or any clothing that extended below the knee. Only the nobility could live in homes of greater than one story. Crimes were punished by slavery, the lowest of all classes, or by being sacrificed.
    .
    .
    .
    During Moctezuma’s rule, his brother Tlacaelel worked on reforming the Aztec religion. He rewrote the Aztec religious texts, ordering the destruction of many others which did not agree with his interpretations of the Aztec history and religion. Under Tlacaelel the Aztec religion became more militaristic, demanding ever more sacrifices of captured enemy soldiers. The need for prisoners for sacrifice would over time become one of the driving forces behind Aztec foreign policy.
    .
    .
    .
    As ruler Moctezuma sought to strengthen the “Triple Alliance” between the Central Mexican city-states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan. He also expanded the Aztec empire by conquering Panuco, the Totonacs, Coatzocoalcos and the Chalca. Some theorize that he conquered the tribes for their tribute, hoping to ensure a continuous food supply for Tenochtitlan, which despite his best efforts continued to suffer from periodic famine. Another theory is that he did so to feed the Aztec religion’s ever-chronic need for prisoners of war to sacrifice. Yet another theory is that he did it because that’s what Aztec Emperors did – conquer stuff. The answer is likely to be something of a combination of all three theories. ”

    Okay this is a cut and paste obviously. But what gets an older me about arguments like the writer expresses is how provincial they all are. I think there is a kind of belief that mankind inexorably moves in the direction someone with the writer’s ideals finds acceptable.

    Instead he is very much a product of a certain culture, has been selected by recent evolution to most likely carry certain behavioral genes (got to work the hbd in there). And most of all his arguments only work because he has an audience of people very much like him to sway.

    So what happens when he meets a hard, hard man who isn’t buying any of it? And whose culture finds it insipid at best?

    I don’t even think he could get the Chinese to buy into it, and they have been civilized for millenia.

    The only reason the writer can indulge his personal idealism is because of the young men with the severed head. Cause otherwise he might get… any one of a number of bad fates, to include not having the cush gig he has had most of his life.

  29. @Flower

    The multi-billion dollar Ford Foundation’s historic relationship to the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] is rarely mentioned on Pacifica’s DEMOCRACY NOW / Deep Dish TV show, on FAIR’s COUNTERSPIN show, on the WORKING ASSETS RADIO show, on The Nation Institute’s RADIO NATION show, on David Barsamian’s ALTERNATIVE RADIO show or in the pages of PROGRESSIVE, MOTHER JONES and Z magazine. One reason may be because the Ford Foundation and other Establishment foundations subsidize the Establishment Left’s alternative media gatekeepers / censors -Bob Feldman

    http://web.archive.org/web/20110724025952/http://questionsquestions.net/feldman/feldman01.html

    I call it ‘Alternative Mainstream Media’ .. here’s one of my rants for anyone interested:

    http://ronaldthomaswest.com/2015/06/18/truth-jockeys/

  30. pseudo says:
    @Dwright

    Idiot statement. The ones I marched with thought for themselves. Some were ideologically far ahead of their male comrades. Back in your hole, toadboy.

    • Replies: @Blair
  31. joe webb says:

    one of the reasons, if not the main reason, is that the ‘anti-war’ folks who organized the demonstrations in the SF area a few years ago, ANSWER, was and is a communist (trot variety) outfit.

    They discovered that the folks like yours truly (see Uncle Sam and Joe Webb ) effectively under-cut their oil-war thesis with the Israel Thesis instead.

    So, they called off the demos, not without threatening my life on SF Indy website.

    The Becker bros, jews, run ANSWER. They folded their tents after the Israel Thesis became so much more obvious.

    Joe Webb

  32. joe webb says:

    this spectacle of slaughter stuff is just liberal hand-wringing, Enough.

    Stay with hard political science, not fluff.

    Yeah, I go back to Vietnam demos, went to jail for civil disobedience, etc.

    Did not see the words , Israel, neoconservatives, jews… in the article.
    Strange but true. Liberals lie, it is that simple. Diversionary tactics, deception, etc.

    Joe Webb

  33. Blair says:
    @Dwright

    This is exactly right.

    There was a draft.

    Women’s sons, brothers, husbands etc., were being conscripted and dumped in the meat grinder.

    Now with no draft, it is a guy’s choice.

  34. Blair says:
    @pseudo

    Yeah, they thought for themselves. And they thought they didn’t want their sons, husbands and brothers forced to go die for something that wasn’t our business.

  35. Arius says:

    I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and I remember the visceral hatred of Bush for launching the Iraq war on a pack of lies.

    But the elites are clever, they put a black face in the White House which has neutralized progressives from being able to criticize Obama for Libya, Ukraine, and Syria.

    Obama has caught up with Bush and killed his million+. They both surpassed Clinton’s measly half-million dead Iraqis.

    I am surprised that Tom didn’t say one word about Obama.

  36. @conatus

    I agree. America’s not at war. The military’s at war. America’s at the mall.

    And along the lines of the volunteer military comes this very tired platitude: “Thank you for your service”. Yeah, right. But there is a second line to that bromide that is left unsaid. And it goes, “So I and any of my kith and kin don’t have to serve.”

  37. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Thanks, Tom! It started for me as a high schooler in 1965, attending a lecture on SE Asian policy at the University of South Carolina (!). It dominated my education, ‘ruined’ my career path and nearly drove me nuts by the polarizing power of the anti-anti-war movement in the South. One aspect you didn’t dwell upon has been the main learning of the US military from Vietnam: never again let the public news media have any role not subservient to the general staff. When CNN canned their man in Baghdad, they took out the very last voice of independent journalism, and no one employed by Big Media has since survived the smallest exercise of dissent. Factor in enormous funding for internet trolling operations to cancel out the effectiveness of the web, and here we are. For all our primitive black and white tvs, we had more news of authentic provenance than we do today.

  38. IA says:

    Here you have what Scruton calls the “exalted nihilist.”

  39. Sure thing Engelhardt. Bush’s war, protested. Circa 2009, Obama’s escalated wars, including the directly authorized murder by CIA of American citizens, not protested. All quiet on the protest front for Obama, smooooth sailing. Fast forward to the Trumpening of the U.S., magically, PROTESTS and riots.

    Gee, I guess the Soros protest movement knows who to take directions from. What a fish wrap this was.

    Hey Engelhardt, do you Soros, BlackLivesMatter, and/or Moveon.org much? You’re a tool, too. The protest movements and your favorite anarchy groups are in full song. This piece is a coverup and a hit piece on Bush, not that I have any use for HIM. You really aren’t fooling anyone..

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