Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Pentagon 1968...who spit on who?
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Monday, February 05, 2007

Vietnam and the 60s: Phantoms and Realities

Dailykos the other day had prominent threads on two new books that concern the 1960s and Vietnam. One by devilstower was about The Spitting Image by Jerry Lembke, which debunks the media legend that protestors spit on returning Vietnam veterans. I have to confess that even I was taken in by this right wing smear. Emotions did run high, and I guess I could picture protests getting out of hand. Now I'm not sure what I remember versus what I saw in the movies about this. I know that there were protests at recruitment centers and draft boards. We protested ROTC and recruiters on campus (on our campus we did so by singing "Alice's Restaurant" at top volume.) But the image of protestors lined up at airports to dis returning soldiers comes not from history or reality but pernicious fiction.

I do clearly remember finding common cause with returning vets, and obviously many of them eventually became active, and became leaders, in the antiwar movement, just as Iraq vets are doing now. Even the young officer in charge of my group at my (first) draft physical closed the door at the end of it and told us that Vietnam was a crock and to stay out of it in any way we could. I also remember that protestors were spit on, as well as clubbed, gassed and punched.

As devilstower points out, the spitting on veterans lie was part of the attempt to spin the history to say that the U.S. lost Vietnam because of protestors, lack of support at home and the resulting lack of will by spineless politicians. It appears to be the argument that George Bush buys, and that informs his prosecution of Iraqnam.

The other frontpage post was by SusanG, about Jeff Kisseloff's Generation on Fire, an oral history told by 1960s activists. She also provided a link to Jeff's website , which will soon be a permanent link from this site. Susan (as usual) provides a thoughtful analysis of what she learned from these interviews (there are some on Jeff's site that aren't in the book) that pertains to progressives and activism today. I'm looking forward to exploring Jeff's site in detail and his book, but one thing is already clear: the "spitting" protestor is a phony phantam of the 60s, so it's about time to hear a little more of the reality.