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Live from the Mall: The Long Shadow of Vietnam

As often happens in these demonstrations, the specter of Vietnam hangs over the proceedings, as if all of the social and political change of the past three decades--not to mention the dramatic change in how we communicate--have failed to move the debate beyond the cultural divide that opened up in the 1960s and 70s.

All week long, the buildup to the demonstrations was peppered with references to Vietnam, from both sides of the Iraq war debate. In their tactics, their ability to reach the broader public, and their stylistic choices, the organizers of these demonstrations seem always to be glancing over their shoulders at how things were done during the anti-Vietnam War protests.

At a news conference this week, when Brian Becker, national coordinator of ANSWER, was asked about proposals to draw down gradually the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, his response was to immediately recall how even after the withdrawal from Vietnam began, American soldiers continued to fight and be killed for years. "Unless we go from protest to resistance, which is what we hope to trigger, this war is inevitable," Becker said.

After the news conference, when Post reporter Michelle Boorstein asked Becker how this week of civil disobedience will differ from previous anti-war actions since 2003, he immediately and intensely described the famous scene of Vietnam veterans hurling their medals in defiance over a fence at the U.S. Capitol. "That," Becker said, "was a shifting moment in the war. That stereotyping Nixon had done of the anti-war movement as a bunch of outsiders was being exposed."

During the news conference, Mahdi Bray, director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, said there has not been enough attention given to the anti-war positions taken early in the Iraq conflict by many major religious denominations. "It took years during the Vietnam War for clergy to speak out," Bray said, his voice rising.

Here's how the D.C. coordinator for the Gathering of Eagles, Kristinn Taylor, describes her motivation for organizing today's events: "I've felt the same sense of urgency since Sept. 11, 2001. I vowed then that I would not allow the anti-American left to do to this generation of servicemen and women what they did to the Vietnam veterans: Deny them the victory they earned on the battlefield by destroying morale on the home front."

And here's how Chris Hill, the Eagle's national director of operations, puts it: "We have all promised not to let this generation be treated as our brothers from Vietnam were. They are winning, and we must support them until the fight is done. They are doing their part. Now we must each do a little bit more than our part."

Vietnam--the war that never really ended.

By Marc Fisher |  September 15, 2007; 11:25 AM ET
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Great! And if these people feel so strongly about the war why aren't they over there helping to fight it? Get a little taste of what it's all about and then talk about "staying the course". More chickenhawks around than you can count.

Posted by: jerryvov | September 15, 2007 11:36 AM

I'm curious why you pretend the protests are of the same size or level of organization?
Is this really the case, or just something you do so you can't be accused of having 'bias'?

Posted by: Steve | September 15, 2007 11:36 AM

I was invited to demonstrate this weekend by two different organizations, Veterans for Peace and Veterans for Freedom. I listen to both because I am trying to keep my mind open. One striking difference between the two invitations was that VFP expects me to pay my own transportation and lodging, but VFF offered to pay all my expenses.

I wonder where VFF gets their money. Your guess is at least as good as mine.

Posted by: Frank | September 15, 2007 11:37 AM

"One striking difference between the two invitations was that VFP expects me to pay my own transportation and lodging, but VFF offered to pay all my expenses.
I wonder where VFF gets their money. Your guess is at least as good as mine."

A very good question, I'd be curious if such a question ever occurred to Fisher?

Posted by: Steve | September 15, 2007 11:40 AM

I'll be heading down there in a few minutes myself. Thought I'd check first to see how it's being reported. The best thing about living in DC is you don't have to rely on the reporters, you can actually go down & see for yourself.

p.s., good question, where does the VFF funding come from? I think we know.

Posted by: Annie | September 15, 2007 11:50 AM

I find it so ironic that the groups in support of George Bush and his war/occupation have names like "Free Republic" and "Gathering of Eagles". I find it immensely troubling that the folks who are in favor of the war seem so oblivious to how our rights and freedoms here in our own country have been slowly eroding since George Bush took office. Whenever I see an American flag waving on someones door step, or tacked up on an office wall, or stuck on a car I automatically think that they are pro-war. I feel like our flag has been hijacked by these "freedom" people; and it's these "freedom" people with all this patriotic fervor that go and protest against the folks that are against the war who are the ones trying not to lose any more freedoms because of what the war and this administration is doing. I'm ready to take the flag back from all the neo-fascists supporting George Bush because the flag isn't just for the lovers of war and hypocrisy.

Posted by: Feddup | September 15, 2007 11:54 AM

What about the lie that was told to fire up counter-protesters at the march on the 4th anniversary of the invasion of the Babylon Oil Colony?

Remember, when the Gathering of Vultures claimed that marchers were going to deface the Vietnam Wall of Death Memorial? They were supposedly going to splash paint on it, or attack it with hammers or something.

No matter that no anti-war group planned any such thing. It was a made-up smear based on what the reich-wing imagines peace marchers to be. Or what they would do themselves. Are the Turkeys making the same claims this time?

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | September 15, 2007 12:39 PM

MR Kristinn Taylor from the Gathering of Eagles was on C Span this am,lots of BS about freedom, the need for victory, a couple of cut& run references, then a caller asked about his own service. Wow, Mr Fisher unfortunately had a disability,
which prevented him from serving. YOu know like Rush's hemorrhoids, Cheney's other priorities and Bush's need to defend his favorite barstool in Louisiana. Amazing how tough these guys get defending Mom, home and apple pie on the streets of Washington. Similar to that other chickenhawk Romney, he with the 5 sons who are serving their country getting him elected. Spare me, please. Frank Rich wrote
an op ed recently entitled " A Nation of Nitwits", they are well represented by Mr Taylor and his brave motorcycle gang.

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