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tv   Lectures in History Vietnam Anti- War Movement  CSPAN  July 5, 2020 12:01am-1:10am EDT

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on the in history, professor david farber teaches a class on the origin of the 1960's vietnam antiwar movement and how in his view, it helped to expand the nation's democratic process. american history tv taped this class in 2010 in temple university in philadelphia. professor farber now teaches at the university of kansas. american history tv offers viewers a seat in college and university classrooms in its weekly lectures in history series. 10s fall semester marks the year semester -- year anniversary of his debut. prof. farber: so we've been talking these last few weeks out loud about a few core issues that have in many ways given thematic intensity to the 1960's era. we've been trying to think about the meaning and reality of equality in the united states in the 1960's era.
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we've been pondering what democratic practice could and should look like in the united states, and then very pertinent to what we'll do today, what role the united states should play internationally. what role should the united states play in a world that was fast changing in the 1960's? so we've gotten to the point in this class where we've reached a point where president johnson has decided by early 1965 to begin a forthright military intervention by the united states in vietnam. and the reasons have been fairly compellingly laid out by johnson between 1964 and 1965. with the gulf of tonkin resolution in 1964, the president made his case that there was aggression coming from north vietnam pointed at the south, and pointed at the united states as well in the attack on u.s. ships in international waters on that gulf of tonkin. and remember it is really important to understand when this resolution was brought before congress, every single member of the house of
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representatives, republican or democrat, liberal or conservative, from the south or from the north, all of them voted to approve this resolution in the house of representatives. in the senate, only two senators voted against the gulf of tonkin resolution. and they had very different reasons. one was a liberal republican. that is kind of an oxymoron in 2010 language. there were such things in the 1960's. a senator named senator morse from oregon, he smelled a rat. he had a source that said something was amiss about what johnson was telling the american people. about the incident in the gulf of tonkin. the other guy was a curmudgeon senator from alaska, the new state of alaska. it had only just become a united states state. and this guy, senator gruning, was a kind of hard-nosed realist. he was doing a cost/benefit analysis. his critique was, i don't get it. why does it make sense for the united states to spend blood and treasure going to vietnam? there was no big moral critique.
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there was no larger issue about the meaning of americanness. it didn't add up for him. but again, these are two senators. there's almost no visible critique as johnson launches what will quickly become an american war in vietnam. there were a few other voices, a few public voices that raised questions, mostly from that realist perspective. does this add up? hans morgan, a big guy, he raises those issues. walter litman, a famous columnist, had been making pronouncements about american policy for, by this time, some 50 years. he raised some questions. he also critiqued this as a really -- just not a reasonable solution to america's interests in asia. but otherwise there's a kind of consensus. it's an election year in 1964. johnson and goldwater, the republican and the democrat running for president, are both emphasizing this.
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overwhelmingly what americans heard in their public lives, what their politicians were telling them, what their politicians believed was that the war in vietnam was justifiable and necessary. now, johnson hammers this home in february 1965. after the pleiku incident in which for the first time american marines were targeted, and eight of them were killed in their role protecting an american air base in vietnam. he goes on national television to really make the case, not just for a resolution to allow the united states to move forward, but to tell the american people because of the aggression by the north, north vietnam, because the defense of south vietnam is necessary, we're going to have to start escalating our commitment militarily to the republic of vietnam, south vietnam.
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and he gives a kind of litany of what to americans seem as compelling reasons. one, he said, we promise them we'd do that. we pledged in 1954 that we'd stand by south vietnam. this is a commitment we have as a nation to another nation state. we have to do this. and then it echoes of something dwight d. eisenhower, the president in the 1950's, had said about vietnam. he warned if we let vietnam fall, all of asia could fall to communism. eisenhower called this the domino effect. johnson, the democrat, seconded and agreed with the premise that his republican president counterpart in the 1950's had said. all of asia could fall if the united states doesn't honor its commitment to south vietnam. and he also talked about the potential bloodbath that could occur if north vietnam was allowed to take over south vietnam. that hundreds of thousands of innocents would lose their lives, so he made a moral case as well. so political, geopolitical, moral.
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these were grounds upon which he placed the american involvement in vietnam. and again, americans overwhelmingly supported this commitment. both in congress and in the public. so you begin in a sense with a kind of public consensus about the war in vietnam as being necessary and even more good and honorable, appropriate, and necessary commitment to the people of south vietnam. this is the beginning. and by 1965, early 1965, the war begins to escalate from an american involvement perspective. so american troops begin to be sent over, draft calls. remember, there's a draft at this time. young men are eligible to be drafted into the military. and the numbers of young men being drafted begins to increase by 1965. quite pointedly, lyndon johnson unleashes an air war on now the
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enemy, an american air war on north vietnam. and operation rolling thunder, as it's called, begins in which massive amounts of bombs from u.s. airplanes flown by u.s. pilots begin to be unleashed on north vietnam. now these are targeted bombs. they're not wholesale destructions of cities. they are aimed at troop movements, they are aimed at factories building war materiel. they're targeted bombs. they're not terror bombing. they're not like what happened in the end of world war ii. but the bombs are intense. 600,000 tons of bombs will be dropped on north vietnam in this operation rolling thunder. large-scale support at this point. so is there any critique at this point beyond those very few voices that i discussed earlier? yeah. there are some americans who from the get-go, from the gulf of tonkin resolution right through the pleiku incident, the
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death of eight marines, the launching days later by lyndon johnson of operation rolling thunder, who do protest, who do raise questions. but most of these voices, most of these individuals and groups, are readily dismissed by most americans. in some cases, they are the people we've been talking about in here. one of the first and earliest voices raised against the war in vietnam comes from a radical pacifist, who runs a small , almost underground magazine called "liberation." it starts in the 1950's. it's not a 1960's thing. this is a magazine called "liberation" run by a guy named dave dellinger. a pacifist. he opposes all wars. during world war ii he was a young man. he had recently graduated from yale during world war ii. he was called up to be drafted. and dellinger refused to serve in world war ii. he'd gone to jail. he'd served time.
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it was a non-violent protest against the war. he refused to be complicit. so this is a guy who's against all wars. so vietnam is just one more in another war he's going to protest, and his magazine is a beach front, so to speak, for that pacifist critique. so there's this tiny group of pacifists who speak out. oh, my gosh, america is entering another war. this is morally indefensible. there were others. we talked about the student non-violent coordinating committee. by 1964 and 1965, sncc, that group that had started in 1960 , had become out of their experiences to become more and more radical. they weren't just looking at instances of bad policy in the united states but were trying to create a more systemic critique of american government policy.
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and one of the critiques they had developed by late 1964 or early 1965, sncc, the radical activists, was that the united states was complicit with the kind of imperialism they found so immoral and wrong in places like africa. so their critique of vietnam, as a theater in which the united states would become involved, stemmed from their already fairly, richly developed critique of u.s. involvement in was called then the third world. so from africa to asia was for these sncc activists not a long leap. and other militant african-americans, not just associated with sncc, also using this kind of critique. began to speak out early about the war in vietnam. now, this is not mainstream groups. the reverend king, for example, in 1964 and 1965, is not speaking out against the war in vietnam.
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he had private reservations, but he did not make public those concerns at this time. these are more, again, radical black activists in the united states. again for the overwhelming majority of american people, like the pacifists, this was a group that could be essentially dismissed. ok, these people are radical. they've got some overarching complaint about u.s. policy. you know, whatever. and like the pacifists, these are not voices that are heard on the "nightly news," they're not reported in the "new york times" or "time" magazine. there's a fairly narrow window of mass media at this point. it's hard to get your voice into those few niches where you can be heard by more than a few hundred thousand people. these people are not being loudly heard or really barely heard at all. they're dismissible, pacifists, black radicals worried about imperialism. a third group that speaks out at this time is that kind of nascent new left we talked about, those white radicals that are in 1964 and 1965 relatively
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few in number, many of them associated with the students for democratic society, the group that was formed in 1960 and had begun to spread throughout other campuses around the united states from its foundation at the university of michigan. they had a similar critique as their black radical counterparts. there is something about vietnam that seems wrong. it seems, again, to be some kind of american intervention in a third-world country where we're probably not welcome, and we're probably not serving the need for those people to have democratic self-determination. remember, the sds activists, the white new left in particular, were really honed in on this idea of democratic self-determination. that people, including the american people, should have the tools and the means to realize their own destiny, to fulfill their own promise and their own policy concerns. so you've got white and black radicals.
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you've got an older tradition, people who are generally chronologically older coming out of a pacifist tradition or a tradition of dissent that extends back into the 1940's and 1950's who are raising real questions. early days about the war in vietnam. but again, a very quiet voice in the national conversation. a voice that a large majority of americans can dismiss as kooks, literally crazy people, radicals. so mainstream conversation, the "new york times," cbs news, "time" magazine, the president, the senate majority leader, the house speaker, republican, democrat, liberal, conservative, the establishment, as some young people have start to refer to all of these kinds is pretty much in lockstep with the policy that's developing,
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incrementally, but almost inexorably by the united states government in vietnam as the war escalates. and again month by month, incrementally, more troops are being sent from the united states to vietnam. more air missions are being launched from bases mostly at this point in vietnam to attack the north and to try to end the insurgency within the south of vietnam itself. so this is the process. so in some ways, it mirrors roughly, or at least maybe it rhymes with some of the concerns that black activists had had probably earlier days. in the early 1950s, let's say. not the early 1960's, but the early 1950's. when you've got a large majority of the citizenry of the united states in essential agreement about a policy, a way of life, a vision of how america operates.
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in the case of these black civil rights activists, this was jim crow laws, white supremacy and other means of maintaining a racial hierarchy. so now you have got another group in the 1960's, a small group of pacifists, radicals, who are trying as a small minority to convince, convey, inform the large majority that the policy they take is a given. that the conventional wisdom that they've been bestowed by their political leaders is wrong. flawed, immoral, the nature of the critique is fluid. but you've got this tiny minority saying, what we're doing in vietnam is wrong. and even though the large majority of americans think it's fine, we have to somehow wrestle them into rethinking this proposition.
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well, so how do you do that? all right, if you're this small minority trying to convince a large majority that your president has misled you, that congress is wrong, that the mass media is either misinformed or misinforming the public, what do you do? and again a lot of these people are either people who have been living in many ways outside of the mainstream for a long time, or in the case of the white and black radicals i have just described, are, you know, your age. they're 20. they're 25. they're 18. what do you do? literally, what do you do? what repertoire of tactics, tools, methods, do you use, again, to try to convince a majority that they're wrong? you know, you can sort of imagine in your head there's all sorts of ways you might proceed on that. now, this is happening at a time
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when there already is a kind of rich movement culture, rich movement of people who have already embraced tools, techniques, tactics to change political life. it's happening simultaneously with the civil rights movement. so 1965, for example, roughly at the time that lyndon johnson is telling the american people, we've begun to escalate a military involvement in vietnam, you've got martin luther king and tens and tens of thousands of others marching in selma, alabama to ensure the right of african-americans to vote in a state that had long disenfranchised them. so right? so there's this kind of parallel social movement occurring as these early, and we can use the word now, antiwar advocates are trying to come up with solutions. so obviously to some extent, this nascent antiwar activism is going to look at the civil rights movement. they have a repertoire.
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we already have some means and tools and practices that might be adaptable to our cause. so that's one piece out there. there's another piece out there that's almost happening simultaneously, but it's again a precursor to this. we talked earlier about what was happening on the university of california berkeley campus in the fall of 1964, really just weeks after the gulf of tonkin resolution is passed. on the campus at the university of california, you remember, you had the free speech movement erupting. mario savio getting on top of the police car, telling the students of the university of california, you have a right to political practice on campus. you have a right to speak out freely on campus about the political causes of the day. now, he was talking about civil rights issues, about racial justice issues. he was not talking about vietnam. but he was offering again a kind of interesting locus, a place
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from which you might launch some kind of political protest. and here it's more pertinent for the white majority. here's a white radical activist on a university campus of suitable age saying we can use this place. we should be allowed to use this place, the university campus, as a place to mobilize, organize, and perhaps launch protests against a policy we don't think is right. so right, there is this -- there is already this sort of available language and this available set of understandings and practices out there as these nascent antiwar activists are trying to think, what do we do? well, following that model, it's intriguing to see what happens. and johnson's speech in 1965, march 1965, is like a, a match that lights -- well, it's not a bonfire at this point.
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it's like a little tiny fire that begins to erupt around places in which there already is an established political arena and critique in the united states. so one of the first places in which a kind of antiwar mobilization effort begins is on a university campus at the university of michigan. again, remember the place where the students for democratic society had been first founded a few years earlier. there's a movement among faculty, not undergraduates, not graduate students, but basically junior faculty. these are men, almost all men. it might have been all men. i can't quite remember. in their late 20's and early 30's who, for various reasons, are suspicious of literally what
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johnson has just told them in this speech, this nationally televised speech about why after pleiku we have to start escalating our involvement in vietnam. about 20 of these young professors, untenured, they have no job security, they gather together in a room not unlike this and they say, what should we do? i think we have to do something on campus to bring the attention of young people that something is amiss in vietnam. they literally sit around like this and try to brainstorm. what can we do? they do like a tick list. what are the tools we could use? what are the possibilities? they say, we should not have classes on a date certain. we'll pick a day. and instead of teaching our normal classes, we'll have a kind of moratorium on everyday business. and they use the word moratorium. and we'll talk about the war in vietnam. we'll try to find informed opinion. we'll try to find somebody that knows something about this. none of the guys in the room knew anything about vietnam
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other than what they'd been reading in "time" and "new york times" and cbs and listening to congress. so they had no particular expertise, they just had suspicion. so that's what they figure. this is all done publicly. they announce what they're doing. many powerful citizens in michigan, as they get wind that these professors are going to not do their job for which they're paid that day, not teach their classes, deny the students the opportunity to proceed, they get a lot of pushback from this. and basically they're told, you do this, you could be fired. this is inappropriate. and it's not right to basically force your students not to be able to attend the class that they, you know, paid their money for. so the professors, again, untenured, no real job security, they kind of sit back, and they try to think this through, and they come up with an alternative plan. they compromise.
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they say, ok, ok, ok, we won't strike. we'll teach classes that day. fine, fine, fine. but after classes, at 8:00 p.m., can we have a room, a big room, an auditorium -- the university of michigan has some mammoth auditoriums, and let us use the p.a. system and the blackboard and the room. we don't disrupt anything. there's nothing scheduled. and let us have a teach-in. sit-ins from 1960, right? they kind of coin a phrase. we'll have a teach-in. and we'll bring in some people, hopefully smart guys who know something about vietnam, and we'll debate the greatest issues of the day. and intriguingly, the university of michigan -- think about the university of california berkeley just a few months earlier, who are fighting tooth and nail to prevent savio et al to have access to the campus, university of michigan says, as long as you guys don't strike, you can do this. so a tactic is born. through this kind of negotiating
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and thinking through. a tactic is born. we'll have a teach-in. these are early days. how do you convince a majority of people who are either supportive of the president's policy or in all likelihood, no offense to you 18 to 25-year-olds, apathetic about the policies that are ensuing? how do you get them excited, interested, and impassioned and at a minimum informed? you teach them. take a university, you extend it into the political realm. that's what happened. 8:00 it starts, and they're blown away. i don't know if you've ever done this, you had a party. you have a party at your house. 8:00, there is no one here. 8:30, there's nobody here. 9:00, there's seven people here. they have no idea how many people will show up to this teach-in. 3,000 people come. right, the auditorium doesn't nearly hold that many people. it's astonishing. you know, on a university campus, early 1960's, march 1965, there's 3,000 kids who want to hear about this.
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they want to talk about this. they just don't want, you know, this, talking head up above telling them. they want some back-and-forth. they want to be part of this. that is that kind of sds participatory democracy spirit. they got 3,000 people to show up. they talk all night. not all of them stay all night. but they go all the way to 8:00 the next morning. 12 hours. and then they kind of, you know, classes start in three minutes. we have to leave now. no breaking of laws. this is all ok. 35 other campuses just like within a week do the same thing. now an intriguing issue. you have a teach-in. what do you teach? and where do you get information? there's no internet. there is no like oh, vietnam, let's get a few perspectives. let's see what's happening. how do you do that? well, they like scramble and try to find these guys. they started this teach-in, they don't know. they just got, you know, suspicion. who do they get?
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they know a guy who is an economics professor out east who used to serve as an economic advisor in vietnam. remember, that nation-building phase? they're bringing in experts. trying to build an economy in vietnam and ports and infrastructure, he's one of these guys. you know, he had a contract, he had a grant to do this work in vietnam. so he comes. and he's informative. he spent three years on the ground in vietnam, and he says, it's not working. i mean, we went there with good intentions. they don't want us there. they want to do it their way. they don't want to do it our way. what the president tells you is not accurate. we are not welcome there. we are not seen as their great allies. we're seen as one more big power intervening in their affairs. next guy who comes up, again, it's funny to think about this. he's an anthropologist. he had done his field work in vietnam.
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you know, it was a primitive place. that's how they saw it, right? that you would go and do field work as an anthropologist. he'd work with hill people up in the hills. i can't remember if he worked with the hmong or some other group. but he'd been there a long time. he said, the vietnamese see the world very different than us. they have this cultural critique. but they see us as sort of like china or like the other great powers that for centuries have come and gone over their soil. they just want -- same thing. he says, they don't see us as the freedom-loving democratic people of the united states there to just lend a hand. president johnson said we're going there for no other reason than to help. and this anthropologist says, hey, i hate to tell you, they don't want your help. so ok. you know, interesting perspectives. not traditional perspectives. it's not a four-star general. it's not a u.s. senator. these are like alternative voices. the third guy is this kind of radical intellectual. young guy, he's in his 30's.
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he's trying to piece together a living by writing and talking and a guy named arthur waskow comes in there and gives the barn burner. the seconds that radical critique. he's older. he's well-read. he says, yes, this is another war of imperialism. he uses the "i" word. right? the u.s. is a new imperialist. imagine, ok, something to grapple with. that was like two hours. then they had ten hours of hanging out, talking. they broke into small groups, classrooms like this. ok. and these things spread. that's what i guess i'm trying to say. who did you bring in varied, did you an expert, did you have somebody who knew something about vietnam? often no. there were no courses in any university in the united states on the history of vietnam. there was no university in the united states that taught the vietnamese language.
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so you didn't have a lot of in-house experts in the united states on these issues. alas, we didn't have many in-house experts in the state department or the cia either on vietnam, but that's another can of worms. so it was hard to get information. ok. another turn of the same story, hard to get information, right? you've got young people. you've got all kinds of people saying that. i don't trust "time" magazine, i don't trust "new york times," i don't trust the president of the united states. but i can't go to a teach-in every day. what do i do? so a 26-year-old graduate student in new york, an english literature major, she's writing her doctorate on english literature, but she's sort of part of this new left. she's been involved in protests in the early 1960's. she tries to take advantage of her skill set. i can write. i can do research. i know how to do these things. i'll set up an alternative media on this issue. and really in an incredibly rapid time with no money in her
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pocket at all, she gets a little grant from a teachers union in new york. remember the united auto workers helped fund some of the early sncc activity? here's another group, you can grab a little money. i'm talking hundreds of dollars. but enough to, you know, get a mimeograph machine. she starts something called viet report, an alternative magazine focused on vietnam. and, well, ok, that's sweet. how do you fill the pages? i mean, you can think really practically. ok, i got this cool idea. what goes in there? well, she had an intriguing idea. she didn't really trust that american writers, journalists, even academics, how dare she, knew enough to really substantiate a monthly journal on vietnam that told what she saw as the true story.
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so she luckily spoke some french, she had some connections in england through like a graduate student network, and she began to use the european press, which remember had a far wider ideological range than the american press, i mean all the way from communists to monarchists. and she began, like many of you using the internet, she began to fish for sources that she saw as giving an alternative to the kind of things johnson and congress and the regular media in the united states were reporting. she was using foreign language, she would translate them. or get somebody to translate them. she'd use that to piece together this alternative media. again, cool. like what are the tools of contention? how do you create a counter-public to the established one? so this was step two. she wasn't alone in this. in berkeley, you'll be shocked to hear in berkeley there was
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another character, guy, who had a bar, steppenwolf taken from the song, who figured out there was a need. he's sitting around the bar a lot of drunken nights, people spewing stuff about politics in the united states. he's like, you know what we need around here? we need our own newspaper. you know, there's the san francisco examiner, there's the oakland tribune, there's the regular newspapers. he was like, we need our own newspaper for people like us who don't buy what they're telling us. and he starts out of his pocket. he is a bar owner, he has got some cash, a newspaper called "the berkeley barb" in 1965. this is like the first underground newspaper. there have been lots of these underground newspapers that sprout up in every city in the united states in the 1960's, here in philadelphia, the free press. there's lot of them all over the country. this one sort of starts it off in 1965. and he focuses on vietnam. and he talks to those people who had long been seen as marginal. he talks to pacifists. he talks to sncc activists. he talks to sds and other new left radicals.
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and he uses them as his sources. right, i mean, if you're a journalist normally, who do you talk to? you know, you call up the congressman, you call the mayor, you talk to their spokespersons. he doesn't use those as his sources. he uses this, this small-scale grassroots but fairly quickly growing alternative set of experts. and he fills up his newspaper. "the berkeley barb" is a pretty crazy newspaper. we have it here at temple. it's funny to look at. it's filled with all sorts of transgressive material. that's a nice way to put it. it's the first newspaper i think in california, there was already one in new york, but it will print sex ads. so this guy, the bar owner, he's kind of a wild and crazy guy. kind of a bohemian character. so it combines cultural radicals with political radicals. kind of an interesting new blend. ok.
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teach-ins. university-based. get the young people invested. this might have relevance to them, especially the young men who could be drafted and go to war. try to create an alternative mass media. you can't trust the establishment media. d.i.y., do it yourself. make your own stuff. this starts to spread. these are tools of contention. how do you try to convince more and more people that something is afoot that they should not accept? so that's the beginning. now, there's all of these other traditional tools available, too. sds, students for democratic society, many of the leaders, many of the chapters around the country, already suspicious, already raising questions about vietnam. but this is not their main issue. you remember, we talked before that sds at this point was involved with that attempt to go into neighborhoods of poor people, white and black, and organize them and try to create some kind of economic justice movement in the united states.
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that was sort of the focus of sds at this point. nonetheless, they're watching what's going on. university of michigan and berkeley and other places, and they say, we've got to do something about this vietnam thing. i know it's not our main concern. we're really focused on issues of racial justice, economic justice, but let's do something. so what do you do if you want to kind of do something on the cheap that doesn't take a lot of time or effort, that's not a massive commitment of trying to set up sources in europe and polling -- let's have a rally. let's have a march. right, this is something that's been happening by 1965 thousands of times. mainly having to do with race issues in the united states. but it's easily accessible. and if you say to somebody, hey, we're going to have a march and a rally. you want to join? by 1965, everyone goes like, oh, yeah, like what the black people do all the time. right. it's an available tool. everybody kind of knows about it. so they figure, what the hell.
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let's go for it. and they announce with very little time, a few weeks' lead time, we're going to have a march and rally in washington, d.c. april 1965 to protest lyndon johnson's escalation of the war in vietnam. and once again, it's like that party. they plan for a few hundred people to show up. i mean, again, they don't have like national advertising for this. they have no budget at all to market or announce this. and again, there's no twitter. there's no social networks. there's no easy way to get people's attention. all they have are chapters around the country. and they put out the word to their chapters and say, tell, like, other people that they should, like, come to this. it will be interesting. well, once again, there's a kind of shocking moment when these few characters from sds are kind of up in front of the crowd in washington, d.c. and people just keep coming. you know, they didn't really know would appear.
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5,000, 10,000, 15,000, almost 20,000 people show up in washington, d.c. for what is the first antiwar march and rally. you know, the third tool that these guys are trying to create and develop. these are early days. april 1965. there aren't that many troops yet in vietnam. though the bombing has begun. american troops in vietnam. the head of the organization -- i don't believe there's any video of this. because again, it's like, right, this is not the big-time. a guy named paul potter. he's, you know, maybe not the greatest public speaker in the world, but he's the president of the organization. so he gets to give the big speech. and he gets up there, and he kind of gives a very carefully rational, dispassionate -- there's no waving of arms or anything like that, speech. he tries to wrap his head around what the united states is doing in vietnam.
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and he is sort of speaking almost in counterpoint to johnson's speech that had taken place the month before. and he is sort of publicly struggling. he'd written the speech down. but he's publicly struggling with why is this happening. why is the united states going to start a land and air war in this little country 8,000 miles away in asia? and he kind of comes to this conclusion that he says there's some kind of system in the united states. that's the phrase he uses over and over. there is a system in the united states that creates these wars. it creates these interventions. and he says essentially, i don't know what it is. i don't know how to call it. i don't know how to identify it. but i know it's there. and we, talking to the 20,000 again, there's no tv coverage, it's just them. we have to learn how to identify that system. get a kind of open-ended phrase. a system that will create wars
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in asia for some kind of american interest that's, you know, hard to pin down. a radical critique, but a kind of a vague critique. it is an interesting moment. and creating the open-ended question, again, it's kind of an interesting rhetorical move. instead of telling people, here's what you should think, he's saying like mario savio did just a few months earlier at berkeley, what should we do about this? what do you think is happening? so again, it is kind of an interesting organizing tool. you don't preach. you question. kind of a rhetorical style that you'll see in a lot of this anti-war organizing. at least in these early days. so he spreads the word, we have to do something. now, there's another interesting touch to this speech. i should not leave it alone because it is kind of a hallmark speech, one of the first big antiwar speeches made in the united states. he does this critique.
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there's a system. we have to identify the system. what is it that makes these wars happen? what's the underveiling pressure? and then he continues, and he says, as i see it, what the people in vietnam want is really just like what we want here in the united states. now, he's making quite a leap. again, he's a 20-something-year-old guy. he doesn't speak vietnamese. he doesn't know much about what is happening actually in vietnam. he's been reading the first issue of viet report. i mean he has got a little facts on his fingertips, but he says, but these people, i feel, are just like us. and they're fighting for the same things we're fighting for. they're fighting to be able to determine their own lives, to have democratic autonomy, to liberate themselves from forms of oppression. this is kind of projection, you know. these are certainly the things he's feeling and that many of his colleagues are feeling. he attributes the same struggle in vietnam as the struggle in the united states for a kind of democratic self-determination. there's truth to it.
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but he goes further and he sort of says, what we're fighting here in the united states is the same as what they're fighting in vietnam. we're alike, and we share much of the same vision of how the world works. and we're fighting something that's dark and oppressive. this is what one of the members of the antiwar movement would later call a kind of manichaean worldview. there's good and there's evil. on that existential notion, you have to choose which side you're on. ok, this is a little risky as a proposition. i mean, there don't have to be two sides to every struggle with one good and one bad. there could be two good, two bad. 50 fragments, right, it doesn't have to be -- the cold war kind of made you think that way. there's the soviets and the
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americans. we tend to do that. i guess because we have two arms. maybe we like -- the third case. so he sort of posits this idea that the national liberation front, ho chi minh, are similar to the students for democratic society. it's an intriguing development. and a potentially risky one. for the movement itself. early days. nobody is sure what's happening. it's unclear. well, between 1965 and 1966, by the end of 1966, the war in vietnam has begun to escalate rapidly. and it escalates rapidly because each time president johnson tries to essentially band-aid the deterioration of the american allies, the south vietnamese, the band-aid fails. the miliryt manage the deterioration of the army of the republic of vietnam and the government of the republic of vietnam, our ally.
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this, the forces that we oppose, the national liberation front, the north vietnamese, are getting stronger. so johnson is forced to keep putting in more troops, escalating america's land war in asia. he's bargaining, he's trying to negotiate with ho chi minh. he's trying to work out a deal as he's so good at doing with the united states congress. he's offering this, he's offering that. but the american enemy won't move. they won't negotiate. they won't do a deal. they won't compromise. so johnson keeps trying to incrementally increase the pressure. now, this pressure causes a -- this incremental pressure causes a couple of things to happen. one, the war is starting to cost more and more money. we're all familiar with that phenomenon. and it's causing more and more young men, remember the draft only calls up young men, women are not eligible for the draft, to be called up into service.
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so more and more young people are getting their attentions focused willy-nilly on the war in vietnam. now, quick aside, remember, the way the draft works is really -- i don't know how else to put it -- messy. there are 26 million baby boomers who come of age during the war in vietnam. you don't -- that's a little over 13 million. wait, that is 26 million men. sorry. that's 26 million men who come of age, turn 18. you just don't need that many people in the army, right? you know, they'd have to stand like this in southern vietnam. so you have to have a system, a selective service system to pick which ones go. that's the real name. so rather than send all 26 million young men, you pick which ones will go. to do that, you have to make some people not to have go. some people don't have to go because they're incredibly stupid, right? if you're too stupid, you can't serve in the military. some people are physically unable to go into the military so they don't have to go.
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but then once you've ruled that out, you still got a whole lot of people. so who do you pick to go? well, there are deferments, methods that are used to keep you from coming to go, at least right away. so, for example, an interesting one people don't tend to think about, if you are a skilled tradesman, even an apprentice training to be a carpenter, an electrician or a plumber, that was seen as a worthy skill that was more important to the united states economy than sending you as a combat soldier into vietnam, so you could be deferred because of the job you held. in this case, a skilled tradesman. you didn't have to defer. you could volunteer. you could serve. but you would be deferred. more famously, if you were a college student or a graduate student, you would be deferred from having to serve. now, college student is a specific amount of time. you can't stay -- i mean, this
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will be a shock to some of you, but you're not supposed to stay in school forever. you're supposed to get out after a while. so eventually you would become eligible for the draft, but while you were a student, you were deferred. you didn't have to serve. one more weird thing about how the draft worked during this time, not only could you be deferred for various vocational or different positions you have in american society, you could sort of negotiate with the people who were picking the draftees. it didn't happen in washington, d.c. there wasn't a giant ibm computer that spit out of the names of who would be drafted. the way it worked instead was you did receive a notice that you were eligible to be drafted. you as a young man of a certain age, and you would have to go to your local draft board. i mean, literally your local guys. in north philly, there would be a draft board. in doylestown, there would be a draft board. there would be places you would literally go, and there would be some guys, usually old white guys, sitting at a table, most of whom had served in world war
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ii, who were the draft board. literally, again, it's a -- we tend to think of things as abstract. it was some guys. and then you would pitch your story. i mean, if you wanted to go, you didn't pitch a story. you just filled out the paperwork and moved on. but if you said i have a reason i shouldn't serve, you would present it. i have a note from my doctor. i have a really bad cold. you know, i can't take the test. the equivalent of i can't go to vietnam. oh, you know, for years, i've had this psychiatric condition. i'm kind of crazy. sorry, and i have a note to prove it. all kinds of reasons. the draft board could look into it stuff and say yeah, whatever, on the bus. or they could say, oh, i know your dad. he's a good guy. you don't have to go. so it was really wide open as to who would end up going to vietnam. obviously if you had more resources, access to psychiatrists, access to good jobs that were necessary, the money to keep staying in school, you had a real advantage if you
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did not want to serve. now in 1965, when there weren't that many draft notices being sent, most people, they got called up, they did their thing. if they got drafted, they went. but every month as more and more people are going, as these university protests are heating up, as word is spreading that there are some at least who think this war isn't right or good, you know, there's more people interested in saying, you know, there's a certain self-interest in this. is this a war worth dying for? you know, again, your mind is focused if you're a 18, 20-year-old young man, facing that very real decision. is this war worth dying for? it tends to concentrate the mind. so you've got now a pool of people who are potentially now more motivated to think about an issue than if it was, well, not draft-induced might not.
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still, i -- i strongly underline overwhelmingly when people are called up to the draft board, in 1965 and 1966, they went through the process. if you are a student, you don't have to serve. there are ways out. not surprisingly, by 1966, as the draft is starting to increase, there are young people focused now on the draft who begin to resist. another tool, and a different tool than the three we've talked about. so here is this kind of process that doesn't really have any corollary in certainly the civil rights movement or in the other protest movement. the draft. how do you -- what do you -- should you in some ways protest this system? as early as 1966, a few of these radicals who were already invested in the process, publicly proclaim their unwillingness to serve.
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a little like that guy dave dellinger, the pastor who said i won't serve in any war. they did this publicity-garnering move. every -- you guys don't do this anymore. you have to register for the draft still. you used to have to carry a card. literally a draft card, saying your status. and as a young man, you were required by law to carry it everywhere you went. so these guys took their card, and they burned it. i will not serve! now this is symbolic, right, they still have a copy of your card somewhere in washington. it is not like it magically goes away like oh, cool. but it's a symbol. interestingly after these guys do this, congress passes a law saying you can't burn your draft card. that is commie rot. that's wrong.
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they literally put a five-year sentence on burning your draft card. interesting court cases ensue and the courts substantiate if you burn the draft card, you go to jail. starting in 1966, a draft resistance movement begins. it begins in boston. it is the first one, it is called resistance, it is the first model. what it does, it couches people on ways you can keep out of the draft. it asks people to publicly state they are refusing to serve in vietnam. supposed to be a political thing, not a private tricky thing. that was called draft evasion. a little different than draft resistance. but at the same time, people are being shown how to stay out of war. a different kind of technique. a different tool. what have you are people in and early 1967 in small ways,
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symbolic ways, mass media oriented ways trying to come up with tools, techniques, maybe an overarching strategy, to somehow get americans, young and old, to rethink the premises that their president, their congress and others have told them is the national duty. right, so you have got this process. how do you escalate that? you have tens of thousands, maybe by this time, fair to say hundreds and hundreds of thousands of americans who have become highly suspicious, even opposed to this war. but the nation at this time has got 200 million people. most people aren't on board on this. how do you up the ante? well, instead of just having that one march and rally, you start so have all over the country and organize nationally by a group that forms out of the various usually radical factions
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to host, to hold, to mobilize just gatherings of people, rallies, anti-war rallies, people would come and speak and explain why the war in vietnam is wrong. this is not a new invention. before america's intervention in world war ii, before the december 7, 1942 attack, there were organized groups in the united states. america first was the most famous of them, that held similar rallies to keep america out of the war in germany. they weren't really focused on japan, but this is a little different, isn't it? there already is a war. so as people are rallying and protesting, refusing or resisting entering the draft, you have got to remember, other young men are going to vietnam. at this time tens -- over 10,000 by the end -- by early 1967 have died fighting in vietnam.
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many families are sacrificing. so this is a protest going on while there is a war being fought. a little different from world war ii in that there was no declaration of war. freedom of speech, freedom of assembly are still fully warranted constitutionally. when a war is declared, there is very different rules of engagement between the public and the bill of rights. but there is no declared war, but you do have american young men dying while these people are saying this is wrong. you can imagine the backlash. you have got again most americans think the war is right first of all, but secondly, right or wrong, our guys are dying over there. you have to shut up now, rally around the troops. you can see there is room here
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for more than just intellectual disquisition about policy. this is getting to be more and more visceral stuff. the stakes are ever more high. by late 1966 into 1967, the nation is beginning to polarize around the situation. a very small minority actively opposing the war, a large majority saying, you know, the troops are over there, you have got to rally around the troops. this heightens the stakes, makes things trickier, complicates the process. there is blood being spilled. well, the war doesn't just end in 1966. if it did, this wouldn't be a lecture, this would be three sentences of a lecture. right? the war is just going to keep continuing. so by mid-1967, more than two years of war have been fought.
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and americans are now in vietnam not in small numbers, not in support units, not on guarding air bases, but in order to sustain the south vietnamese government, they are there in massive numbers. hundreds of thousands of american troops by mid-1967 are in vietnam. what are we doing? what is the end point? you have got all kinds of americans anxious about this war now. so it's kind of opening as the war continues, more and more people focused on it. you have still got this problem, how do you convince people to care? how do you convince people whose sons are in harm's way that this is ill advised? what other tools are there? what other techniques are there? in 1967 part of the anti-war movement, which has been active for two years, they begin to up the ante.
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in 1967, some of the older guys, dave dellinger, literally at the heart of this movement, and others younger as well are saying we are going to have to start combining our goals here. so we've got this witness program, this gandhian approach. we are we are nonviolent, we assemble. we witness we think this war is wrong and we want people to see that there are some americans that don't want that war to continue in their name. but we need to do more to catch their attention. and some of the younger people involved say we have got to adopt some of the guerilla techniques that the vietnamese use. they don't mean violence. but they mean ways to sort of confront, subvert, get in the way of the war machine. so that the pentagon and the white house and congress understand that not all americans are going to allow this -- what they see now as slaughter to go on indefinitely.
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so in berkeley, again, for example, a small group, not part of the student new left, sort of an independent group, try to blockade the troop ships where troop ships go off to vietnam. they literally try to stop some of the troop trains that are delivering young recruits on the way to the war. they are trying to blockade the war. others start to protest the draft boards. try to link arms and not allow people to get into draft boards, trying to up the ante. in 1967, a large group, some 75,000, some say over 100,000, show up at the pentagon in the united states in october. this is by 1967. on the one hand it's a typical protest, we don't like the war, it's immoral, wrong. rhetoric. but they also literally try to surround the pentagon. have you ever seen the pentagon?
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it's like really, really big. it is really hard to surround, but they had a lot of people there, and they sort of symbolically are trying to stop the heart or the brains i guess you could say of the war machine by literally, you know, blocking the pentagon.
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