Not your father’s peace movement

Not your father’s peace movement
: Jennie Bristow at Spiked argues that the peace movement of the ’60s and Vietnam is nothing like today’s ’03 Iraq peace movement.

…there is little comparison between the Vietnam War and Gulf War II, and even less between the Sixties anti-war movement and today’s ‘Not in my name’ campaign….

The superficial comparisons with the Sixties disguise the major difference: the absence of anything positive….

Today’s movement, by contrast, is for absolutely nothing. What Ciria-Cruz mistakes for a ‘clearer political message’ is the fact that those on the protests have nothing to say except ‘No War (without the backing of the United Nations)’….

Today’s anti-war movement is not against war because it wants to change things for the better. It is against this war because it fears that all will be for the worse, and does not want to imagine itself as part of that change….

If the Sixties anti-war protests were fuelled by disenchantment, the current movement is fired by despondency. John Lennon would turn in his grave.

She doesn’t lionize the ’60s protestors, pointing to their (read in my case: our) many weaknesses. But she says at least we were for things (even if we forgot some of what we were for as soon as gray hairs began growing out of our ears). And she’s right to pose the difference that way: Today’s movement is just against something.

But it’s almost important to look at what this movement is not against — that is, this movement chose not to be against Saddam. Oh, they can say they don’t like him and know he’s a bad guy. But saying that and not being willing to do anything about it and trying to stop us from doing anything about it means you’re more against us and action than you are against him and his tyranny. For a movement of conscience, that is an issue of conscience.

  • Writer Paul Berman also has an interesting angle on why people like me (who also protested the war in Vietnam) are for the use of force to remove Saddam even while being extremely disappointed in the way the Bush administration handled the related diplomacy.
    “It’s something of a scandal in my eyes that hundreds of thousands of people are not marching in support of the oppressed Iraqis,” said Paul Berman, a New York writer and cultural critic, whose forthcoming book, ‘Terror and Liberalism,’ advocates aggressive intervention to promote democratic ideals.”
    “No one should be surprised, said Mr. Berman

  • Infidel

    Well Jeff, as one who’s opted not to accept the galling assertion that this war will bring stability – never mind democracy – to the middle east, your definition of “conscience”, as far as I’m concerned, has just reared around and bit you on the ass.
    Which is roughly where you can shove your dewey-eyed, cliched nostalgia for the nineteen sixties.

  • What a shame she chose John Lennon for a call-out. He was an opportunist, and admitted it later. Mark Chapman was a sick dangerous loon, but even a stopped clock…: Lennon was a phoney, a crappy father and an adulterer to boot.
    A bed-in for peace? While (also a jerk) Bobby Seals was bound and gagged in a Chicago courtroom? Lennon was a fad-chasing limosene liberal.
    I’d think the three young men killed in Mississipi would have made for a more thoughtful analogy.

  • Danjo

    Dear Howard Sherman;
    This is an honest question and would like your thoughts on this. I know a lot of people who state that they protested the Vietnam War, as if it were a badge of honor. Even have been told that, “We stopped a war!”.
    What is your reaction/ feelings of your actions, knowing that as soon as the North Vietnamese achieved power in 1975, they executed/ eliminated anyone who was associated with the previous goverment, then moved on to execute anyone who could read(was educated). They promptly helped Cambodia Khmer Rouge to fight and killed over a million Cambodians. (The movie “The Killing Fields” was about that episode.) The protest movement helped get those people murdered. The “peace loving” people of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong were not so peace loving, when they got in power. I never here anyone mention those poor people who died as a direct result of the south losing the war. Which was a foregone conclusion once the USA withdrew.
    This is not a flame or put down, I would like an honest answer/opinion of how people feel about this situation. If you are not aware of the aftermath of the North Viets coming to power, please look it up. Start with the Killing Fields and go from there. Then give me an answer.

  • marvin

    The Viet Nam war protests were prompted by an unfair draft of military participants. The protests were fueled by inept political leaders unable to justify the mounting costs, both financial and human. The war was lost when the U.S. reached a point of exhaustion and, consequently, packed up and went home.
    Sadly, those that lost the war suffered terribly. Maybe, those that protested Viet Nam should have publicly reputiated the aftermath. Maybe not.
    As for the battle in Iraq, was war really necessary? Will war provide a better outcome than other alternatives? Are war protestors always wrong to question war? Who is the invader in this war? Does an evil government/dictator/Saddam justify an invasion? Who determines the standards of evil in another country’s government?
    Let’s hope the protests assure that all questions are fully debated in the future. Let’s hope the war effort provides some positive results.
    Maybe one day, we can all agree.

  • Laurie K

    I always enjoy reading aging hippies critiquing the current generation’s protests. “WE stood for something.” “WE accomplished something.” “OUR pot was better.” They look and sound and smell pretty much the same to me. And it all seems rather loopy and totally self-indulgent as well. These protests don’t seem any more or any less dopey than their predecessors, and probaby aren’t.

  • Danjo

    Dearest Marvin:
    Thanks for an excellent response. I agree with ya on the last sentiment.

  • Rufus T. Firefly

    “The Viet Nam war protests were prompted by an unfair draft of military participants.”
    Yeah, all the rich white kids might have had to go. Cowards. Most of them today, comfy in their teaching/law firm/media jobs have their heads too far up their own sagging butts to even tell the truth about why they were against the war.
    They were afraid. They didn’t give two shits about the VietNamese people.

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