April 18, 2007
It’s What We Know That Ain’t So

It is often said that Americans cannot learn from the past because we cannot remember.

In truth, though, we are not amnesiacs. Our national memory functions very well, even remembering things that never happened. Remember how America rose up in a fine rage once the horrors of Vietnam had been exposed by a courageous press, promptly marching on the Pentagon and bringing the war to an end?

No, no, and no. The truth is that for many years the press and a large majority of the public supported the war. When doubts finally did begin to appear in the papers, they were in the form of constructive criticism: everybody knows the job is worth doing but we’re bungling it.

The truth also is that domestic opposition to Bush’s present murderous venture on the other side of the world arose much earlier than it did over Vietnam, and is having a much greater effect. For fuller discussion of this, read Amy Goodman’s interview with Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. In this brief excerpt, Chomsky is speaking:

In 1962, Kennedy sent the U.S. Air Force to start bombing South Vietnam, under South Vietnamese markings — but nobody was deluded by that — initiated chemical warfare to destroy crops and ground cover, and started programs which rounded openly millions of people into what amounted to concentration camps, called strategic hamlets, where they were surrounded by barbed wire to protect them as it was said from the guerrillas, who everyone knew they were voluntarily supporting, an indigenous South Vietnamese resistance. That was 1962.

You couldn’t get two people in a living room to talk about it in October 1965, right here in Boston, maybe the most liberal city in the country. There were then already a couple hundred thousand troops, bombing North Vietnam had started.

We tried to have our first major public demonstration against the war on the Boston Common, the usual place for meetings. I was supposed to be one of the speakers, but nobody could hear a word. The meeting was totally broken up by students marching over from universities, by others, and hundreds of state police, which kept people from being murdered.

The next day’s newspaper, the Boston Globe, the world newspaper was full of denunciations of the people who dared make mild statements about bombing the North.

…Opposition to aggression is far higher [today] than it was in the ’60s.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at April 18, 2007 11:28 AM
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I had a friend who in 1962 started college and joined the mandatory ROTC program. After the ROTC instructor explained what was going on in Southeast Asia, my friend and a lot of others left ROTC, left the college where it was mandatory, and started studying about deferments.

Americans in general were slow to catch on, even with the spur of the draft. They're much quicker this time around, but still abysmally slow-witted and incurious.

Posted by: Joyful Alternative on April 18, 2007 12:39 PM

If it wasn't for Bush, we might have forgotten.

Great picture.

Posted by: Thomas Ware on April 18, 2007 4:50 PM

The so-called "Peace Movement" was nothing but a draft riot carried out by boomers who had the luxury of a strong, war-fueled economy to sustain them. If things got a little tight they could always --EEK--find a job for a few weeks to tide them over and score a little pot. The same punks would be in the streets again today if Nixon hadn't had the brains to go with a volunteer army.

Posted by: Nugatory on April 18, 2007 6:57 PM
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