Saturday, April 29, 2006

These veterans marched in New York today, along with 300,000 other antiwar protestors . As Vietnam veterans did in the 1970s, they return to America knowing first hand about the war they say should end. In their case, it's happened faster and more: there are 50 or more Iraq veterans running for Congress in 2006, almost all of them as Democrats and opponents of the Iraq war. Posted by Picasa

Coretta Scott King in 2002 Posted by Picasa
For Heroines of the Sixties: Statutes, Not Statues

In In These Times, Susan Douglas wrote a perceptive column about two prominent women of the 1960s who'd died earlier this year, Coretta Scott King and Betty Friedan. They both changed life dramatically for women, especially young women, of the early 21st century.

But though they were eulogized as heroes of perception (especially Friedan and "the feminine mystique"), Douglas points out another key to their achievements: But in addition to the lessons in courage the Democrats might take from these women, they might note that both women fought for concrete, systematic policies and laws—to be enacted and enforced by, yes, state and federal governments—that dramatically reduced and, in some cases, ended inequality.

Douglas reminds us of what life was like in the mid-1960s for women (gender-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers, few women doctors, lawyers or executives, no pregnancy leave, no sexual harrassment laws and lax rape enforcement; no sports for women or girls, etc. ) Women's issues were linked early on to Civil Rights legislation, and asserting independent rights for women was instrumental to improving the lives and prospects of women of color and their families.

Douglas is not just offering a history lesson, but advice to politicians today, especially Democrats: "Like Friedan and King, they need to offer concrete proposals for progress before we regress to a time when nothing seemed possible."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

John Kerry in April 2006 Posted by Picasa
Dissenter in Chief

John Kerry spoke at Fanuiel Hall, an historic symbol of free speech, about the right and the responsibility to dissent, especially when dissent is necessary. It is a right and an act dear to the hearts of many veterans of the 1960s, and not just veterans of the war but of the anti-war. Some of us paid for that dissent, in large ways and small, for the rest of our lives. Here is some of what Senator John Kerry said:

Thirty-five years ago today, I testified before the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate, and called for an end to the war I had returned from fighting not long before.

It was 1971 – twelve years after the first American died in what was then South Vietnam, seven years after Lyndon Johnson seized on a small and contrived incident in the Tonkin Gulf to launch a full-scale war—and three years after Richard Nixon was elected president on the promise of a secret plan for peace. We didn’t know it at the time, but four more years of the War in Vietnam still lay ahead. These were years in which the Nixon administration lied and broke the law—and claimed it was prolonging war to protect our troops as they withdrew—years that ultimately ended only when politicians in Washington decided they would settle for a “decent interval” between the departure of our forces and the inevitable fall of Saigon.

I know that some active duty service members, some veterans, and certainly some politicians scorned those of us who spoke out, suggesting our actions failed to “support the troops”—which to them meant continuing to support the war, or at least keeping our mouths shut. Indeed, some of those critics said the same thing just two years ago during the presidential campaign.

I have come here today to reaffirm that it was right to dissent in 1971 from a war that was wrong. And to affirm that it is both a right and an obligation for Americans today to disagree with a President who is wrong, a policy that is wrong, and a war in Iraq that weakens the nation.

I believed then, just as I believe now, that the best way to support the troops is to oppose a course that squanders their lives, dishonors their sacrifice, and disserves our people and our principles. When brave patriots suffer and die on the altar of stubborn pride, because of the incompetence and self-deception of mere politicians, then the only patriotic choice is to reclaim the moral authority misused by those entrusted with high office.

I believed then, just as I believe now, that it is profoundly wrong to think that fighting for your country overseas and fighting for your country’s ideals at home are contradictory or even separate duties. They are, in fact, two sides of the very same patriotic coin. And that’s certainly what I felt when I came home from Vietnam convinced that our political leaders were waging war simply to avoid responsibility for the mistakes that doomed our mission in the first place. Indeed, one of the architects of the war, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, confessed in a recent book that he knew victory was no longer a possibility far earlier than 1971.

By then, it was clear to me that hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen—disproportionately poor and minority Americans—were being sent into the valley of the shadow of death for an illusion privately abandoned by the very men in Washington who kept sending them there. All the horrors of a jungle war against an invisible enemy indistinguishable from the people we were supposed to be protecting—all the questions associated with quietly sanctioned violence against entire villages and regions—all the confusion and frustration that came from defending a corrupt regime in Saigon that depended on Americans to do too much of the fighting—all that cried out for dissent, demanded truth, and could not be denied by easy slogans like “peace with honor”—or by the politics of fear and smear. It was time for the truth, and time for it all to end, and my only regret in joining the anti-war movement was that it took so long to succeed—for the truth to prevail, and for America to regain confidence in our own deepest values.

The fissures created by Vietnam have long been stubbornly resistant to closure. But I am proud it was the dissenters—and it was our veterans’ movement—and people like Judy Droz Keyes—who battled not just to end the war but to combat government secrecy and the willful amnesia of a society that did not want to remember its obligations to the soldiers who fought. We fought the forgetting and pushed our nation to confront the war’s surplus of sad legacies—Agent Orange, Amer-Asian orphans, abandoned allies, exiled and imprisoned draft dodgers, doubts about whether all our POWs had come home, and honor at last for those who returned from Vietnam and those who did not. Because we spoke out, the truth was ultimately understood that the faults in Vietnam were those of the war, not the warriors.

Then, and even now, there were many alarmed by dissent—many who thought that staying the course would eventually produce victory—or that admitting the mistake and ending it would embolden our enemies around the world. History disproved them before another decade was gone: Fourteen years elapsed between the first major American commitment of helicopters and pilots to Vietnam and the fall of Saigon. Fourteen years later, the Berlin Wall fell, and with it the Communist threat. You cannot tell me that withdrawing from Vietnam earlier would have changed that outcome.

The lesson here is not that some of us were right about Vietnam, and some of us were wrong. The lesson is that true patriots must defend the right of dissent, and hear the voices of dissenters, especially now, when our leaders have committed us to a pre-emptive “war of choice” that does not involve the defense of our people or our territory against aggressors. The patriotic obligation to speak out becomes even more urgent when politicians refuse to debate their policies or disclose the facts. And even more urgent when they seek, perversely, to use their own military blunders to deflect opposition and answer their own failures with more of the same. Presidents and politicians may worry about losing face, or votes, or legacy; it is time to think about young Americans and innocent civilians who are losing their lives.

The rest of the speech is published at Raw Story here.

John Kerry in April 1971 Posted by Picasa