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Opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War is significant because it was the first time a war was shown and accessed through the media to the public in the United States.

Contents

Timeline

1945

  • First protests against US involvement in Vietnam take place in 1945, when United States Merchant Marine sailors condemn the US government for the use of US merchant ships to transport French troops whose express purpose is to "subjugate the native population" of Vietnam. These protesters oppose the recolonization of Vietnam.

1963

  • May 1963, the first coordinated Vietnam War protests occur in London and Australia. These protests are mounted by American pacifists during the annual remembrance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

1964

1965

  • January 29, one of the first violent acts of protest was the Edmonton aircraft bombing, where planes being retrofitted in Canada were destroyed.
  • March 24, the anti-war organization Students for a Democratic Society attended the first teach-in, organized by some teachers, against the war at the University of Michigan, attended by 2,500 participants. This was to be repeated at 35 campuses across the country.
  • April 17, the SDS and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a civil rights activist group, led the first of several anti-war marches in Washington DC, with about 25,000 protesters.
  • The first draft card burnings took place at University of California, Berkeley at student demonstrations in May organized by a new anti-war group, the Vietnam Day Committee, where a coffin was marched to the local Draft board office, a teach-in was attended by 30,000, and president Lyndon Johnson was burned in effigy.
  • Gallup poll in May showed 48% of US respondents felt the Government was handling the conflict effectively; 28% felt the situation was being handled badly; the rest, no opinion.
  • First anti Vietnam war demonstration in London outside the U.S. embassy. May 1965.[1]
  • Protests were held in June on the steps of the Pentagon, and in August, attempts were made by activists at Berkeley to stop trains carrying troops from moving.
  • A Gallup poll in late August shows that 24% of Americans view sending troops to Vietnam as a mistake versus 60% who do not.[2]
  • In mid-October, the anti-war movement had significantly expanded to become a national and even global phenomenon, as anti-war protests drawing 100,000 were held simultaneously in as many as 80 major cities around the US, London, Paris and Rome.
  • On November 2, Norman Morrison, a 31-year-old pacifist, poured kerosene on himself and set himself on fire below the third-floor window of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at the Pentagon, emulating the actions of Thích Quảng Đức.
  • On November 27, some 40,000 protesters led by several student activist groups surrounded the White House, calling for an end to the war, then marched to the Washington Monument. On that same day, President Johnson announced a significant escalation of US involvement in Indochina, from 120,000 to 400,000 troops.

1966

  • In February, a group of about 100 veterans attempted to return their decorations to the White House in protest of the war, but were turned back.
  • Anti-war demonstrations were again held around the country and the world March 26 with 20,000 taking part in New York City.
  • A Gallup poll shows that 59% believe that sending troops to Vietnam was not a mistake. Among the age group of 21-29, 71% believe it was not a mistake compared to only 48% of those over 50.[3]
  • On May 15, another large demonstration, with 10,000 picketers calling for an end to the war, took place outside the White House and the Washington Monument.
  • June - The Gallup poll respondents supporting the US handling of the war slipped to 41%; 37% expressed disapproval; the rest, no opinion.
  • A crowd of 4,000 demonstrated against the US war in London on July 3 and scuffled with police outside the US Embassy; 33 protesters were arrested.
  • Protests, strikes and sit-ins continued at Berkeley and across other campuses throughout the year, and also, three army privates known as the 'Fort Hood Three" refused to deploy in Vietnam, calling the war "illegal and immoral", and were sentenced to prison terms.
  • Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali– formerly known as Cassius Clay– declared himself a conscientious objector and refused to go to war. According to a writer for Sports Illustrated, the governor of Illinois called Ali "disgusting" and the governor of Maine said that Ali "should be held in utter contempt by every patriotic American."[4] In 1967 Ali was sentenced to 5 years in prison for draft evasion, but his conviction was later overturned on appeal. In addition, he was stripped of his title and banned from professional boxing for more than three years.

1967

  • January 14 - 20,000-30,000 people staged a "Human Be-In" anti-war event in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, near the Haight Ashbury neighborhood that had become the center of hippie activity.
  • February 8 - Christian groups opposed to the war staged a nationwide "Fast for Peace".
  • February 23 - The New York Review of Books published The Responsibility of Intellectuals by Noam Chomsky as a special supplement.
  • March 12 - A three page anti-war ad appeared in The New York Times bearing the signatures of 6,766 teachers and professors. The advertisement spanned two and a quarter pages in Section 4, The Week in Review. The advertisement itself cost around $16,500 and was sponsored by the Inter-University Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy.
  • March 17 - a group of antiwar citizens marched to the Pentagon to protest American involvement in Vietnam
  • March 25 - Civil rights leader Martin Luther King led a march of 5,000 against the war in Chicago, Illinois.
  • On April 15, 400,000 people marched from Central Park to the UN building in New York City to protest the war, where they were addressed by critics of the war such as Benjamin Spock, Martin Luther King, and Jan Barry Crumb, a veteran of the conflict. On the same date 100,000 marched in San Francisco.
  • On April 24, Abbie Hoffman led a small group of protesters against both the war and capitalism who interrupted the New York Stock Exchange, causing chaos by throwing fistfuls of both real and fake dollars down from the gallery.
  • May 2 - British philosopher Bertrand Russell presided over the "Russell Tribunal" in Stockholm, a mock war crimes tribunal, which ruled that the US and its allies had committed war crimes in Vietnam. The proceedings were criticized as being a "show trial".
  • On May 30 Crumb and ten like-minded men attended a peace demonstration in Washington, D.C., and on June 1 Vietnam Veterans Against the War was born.
  • In the summer of 1967, Neil Armstrong and various other NASA officials began a tour of South America to raise awareness for space travel. According to First Man, a biography of Armstrong's life, during the tour, several college students protested the astronaut, and shouted such phrases as "Murderers get out of Vietnam!" and other anti-Vietnam War messages.
  • July 30: Gallup poll reported 52% of Americans disapproved of Johnson's handling of the war; 41% thought the US made a mistake in sending troops; over 56% thought US was losing the war or at an impasse.
  • On August 28, 1967, US representative Tim Lee Carter R-KY stated before congress: "Let us now, while we are yet strong, bring our men home, every man jack of them. The Vietcong fight fiercely and tenaciously because it is their land and we are foreigners intervening in their civil war. If we must fight, let us fight in defense of our homeland and our own hemisphere."
  • In October 1967, Stop the Draft Week resulted in major clashes at the Oakland, California induction center, and saw more than a thousand registrants return their draft cards in events across the country. The cards were delivered to the Justice Department on October 20.
  • The next day, October 21, 1967, a large demonstration took place at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. As many as 100,000 demonstrators attended the event, and at least 30,000 later marched to the Pentagon for another rally and an all night vigil. Some, including Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, attempted to "exorcise" and "levitate" the building, while others engaged in civil disobedience on the steps of the Pentagon, interrupted by clashes with soldiers and police. In all, 647 arrests were made. When a plot to airdrop 10,000 flowers on the Pentagon was foiled by undercover agents, these flowers ended up being placed in the barrels of MP's rifles, as seen in some famous photographs[5]. Norman Mailer documented the events surrounding the march on the Pentagon in his novel, Armies of the Night.

1968

  • February: Gallup poll showed 35% approved of Johnson's handling of the war; 50% disapproved; the rest, no opinion. [NYT, 2/14/68] In another poll that month, 23% of Americans defined themselves as "doves" and 61% "hawks".[6]
  • March 12: anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy received more votes than expected in the New Hampshire Primary, leading to more expressions of opposition against the war. McCarthy urged his supporters to exchange the 'unkempt look' rapidly becoming fashionable among war opponents for a more clean-cut style to appeal to middle-class and 'soccer mom' votes. These were known as "Clean Genes".
  • March 17 - Major rally outside the US Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square turned to a riot with 86 people injured and over 200 arrested. Over 10,000 had rallied peacefully in Trafalgar Square but met a police barricade outside the embassy. A UK Foreign Office report claimed that the rioting had been organised by 100 members of the German SDS who were "acknowledged experts in methods of riot against the police".
  • In March, Gallup poll reported that 49% of respondents felt involvement in the war was an error.
  • April 17, national media films the anti-war riot that breaks out in Berkeley, California. The over-reaction by the police in Berkeley is shown in Berlin and Paris, sparking reactions in those cities.
  • During the 1968 Democratic National Convention, held August 26–August 29 in Chicago, anti-war protesters marched and demonstrated throughout the city. Tensions between police and protesters quickly escalated, resulting in a "police riot". Eight leading anti-war activists were indicted by the U.S. Attorney and prosecuted for conspiracy to riot; their convictions were subsequently overturned on appeal. (See Chicago Seven).
  • August: Gallup poll shows 53% said it was a mistake to send troops to Vietnam.[7]
  • Among the academic or scholarly groups was the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, founded in 1968 by graduate students and junior faculty in Asian studies.

1969

  • March polls indicate that 19% of Americans want the war to end as soon as possible, 26% want South Vietnam to take over responsibility for the war from the U.S., 19% favor the current policy and 33% want total military victory.[6]
  • July 1969: A Gallup poll indicates that 53% of the respondents approve of Nixon's handling of the war; 30% disapprove; the balance have no opinion. [New York Times, 7/31/69]
  • The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam demonstrations took place on October 15, 1969. Millions of Americans took the day off from work and school to participate in local demonstrations against the war. These were the first major demonstrations against the Nixon administration's handling of the war. On November 15, 1969 crowds estimated up to half a million people participated in an anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C. and a similar demonstration was held in San Francisco. These protests were organized by the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (New Mobe) and the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (SMC).
  • In October, 58% of Gallup respondents said US entry into the war was a mistake.
  • In November, Sam Melville, Jane Alpert, and several others bombed several corporate offices and military installations (including the Whitehall Army Induction Center) in and around New York City in opposition to the war in Vietnam.

1970

  • Kent State/Cambodia Incursion Protest, Washington, D.C.: A week after the Kent State shootings, on May 4, 100,000 anti-war demonstrators converged on Washington, D.C. to protest the shooting of the students in Ohio and the Nixon administration's incursion into Cambodia. Even though the demonstration was quickly put together, protesters were still able to bring out thousands to march in the Capital. It was an almost spontaneous response to the events of the previous week. Police ringed the White House with buses to block the demonstrators from getting too close to the executive mansion. Early in the morning before the march, Nixon met with protesters briefly at the Lincoln Memorial but nothing was resolved and the protest went on as planned.
  • National Student Strike: more than 450 university, college and high school campuses across the country were shut by student strikes and both violent and non-violent protests that involved more than 4 million students, in the only nationwide student strike in U.S. history.
  • A Gallup poll in May shows that 56% of the public believed that sending troops to Vietnam was a mistake, 61% of those over 50 expressed that belief compared to 49% of those between the ages of 21–29.[8]
  • On June 13, President Nixon established the President's Commission on Campus Unrest. The commission was directed to study the dissent, disorder, and violence breaking out on college and university campuses.[9]
  • On August 24, 1970, near 3:40 a.m., a van filled with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil mixture was detonated on the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Sterling Hall bombing.

1971 and after

Avoiding service in the Vietnam War later became an issue in American politics. Politicians criticized for avoiding service included Vice-Presidents Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney; former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; and Senators Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

Opposition to the Vietnam War in Australia followed along similar lines to the United States, particularly with opposition to conscription. While Australian disengagement began in August 1971 under Prime Minister John Gorton, it was not until the election of Gough Whitlam in 1972 that conscription ended.

On April 23, 1971, Vietnam veterans threw away over 700 medals on the West Steps of the Capitol building[10]. The next day, antiwar organizers claimed that 500,000 marched, making this the largest demonstration since the November, 1969 march[11].

Two weeks later, on May 5, 1971, 1,146 people were arrested on the Capitol grounds trying to shut down Congress. The total of those arrested during the protest exceeded 12,000. Abbie Hoffman was arrested on charges of interstate travel to incite a riot and assaulting a police officer. [12]

In August, 1971, The Camden 28 conducted a raid on the Camden, New Jersey, draft board offices. The 28 included five or more members of the clergy, as well as a number of local blue-collar workers.

On March 29, 1972, 166 people, many of them seminarians, were arrested in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for encircling the Federal Courthouse with a chain, to protest the trial of the Harrisburg Seven[13].

On April 19, 1972, in response to renewed escalation of bombing, students at many colleges and universities around the country broke into campus buildings and threatened strikes[14]. The following weekend, protests were held in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and elsewhere[15].

On May 13, 1972, protests again spread across the country in response to President Nixon's decision to mine harbors in North Vietnam[16] and renewed bombing of North Vietnam (Operation Linebacker).

The bombing of Hanoi on December 24, 1972 resulted in harsh reactions from the prime-minister of Sweden, Olof Palme. During his famous speech that same day to the media (nowadays referred to as "The Christmas Speech"), Palme expressed harsh criticism for the war, comparing it with several of Nazi Germany's and the Soviet Union's worst deeds.[17] This froze the diplomatic climate between the United States and Sweden, a freeze that lasted until March 1974.

Overview

1964: Public opposition to the war builds on various college campuses in the United States. There is opposition to the war in Australia which was involved in the war as a US ally. There is also an anti-war movement in the United Kingdom by May 1965, although Britain itself is not involved in the war[1].

1968: By the end of 1968 U.S. troop casualties in southeast Asia surpass projections with no end in sight. Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans are opposed to the war and are in favor of a speedy conclusion to American involvement.[7]

Public Opinion

Public support for the war decreased as the war waged on throughout the sixties and beginning part of the 1970s.

William L. Lunch and Peter W. Sperlich collected public opinion data measuring support for the war from 1965-1971. Support for the war was measured by a negative response to the question: "In view of developments since we entered the fighting in Vietnam, do you think the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam?"[18] They found the following results.

Month Percentage who said no
August 1965 61%
March 1966 59%
May 1966 49%
September 1966 48%
November 1966 51%
February 1967 52%
May 1967 50%
July 1967 48%
October 1967 44%
December 1967 48%
February 1968 42%
March 1968 41%
April 1968 40%
August 1968 35%
October 1968 37%
February 1969 39%
October 1969 32%
January 1970 33%
April 1970 34%
May 1970 36%
January 1971 31%
May 1971 28%

Reasons for the opposition

The reasons behind American opposition to the Vietnam War fall into the following main categories: opposition to the draft; moral, legal, and pragmatic arguments against U.S. intervention; reaction to the media portrayal of the devastation in South Asia.

The Draft, as a system of conscription which threatened lower class registrants and middle class registrants alike, drove much of the protest after 1965. Conscientious objectors did play an active role although their numbers were small. The prevailing sentiment that the draft was unfairly administered inflamed blue-collar American opposition and African-American opposition to the military draft itself.

Opposition to the war arose during a time of unprecedented student activism which followed the free speech movement and the civil rights movement. The military draft mobilized the baby boomers who were most at risk, but grew to include a varied cross-section of Americans. The growing opposition to the Vietnam War was partly attributed to greater access to uncensored information presented by the extensive television coverage on the ground in Vietnam.

Beyond opposition to the Draft, anti-war protestors also made moral arguments against the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. This moral imperative argument against the war was especially popular among American college students. For example, in an article entitled, "Two Sources of Antiwar Sentiment in America," Schuman found that students were more likely than the general public to accuse the United States of having imperialistic goals in Vietnam. Students in Schuman’s study were also more likely to criticize the war as "immoral."[19] Civilian deaths, which were either downplayed or omitted entirely by the Western media, became a subject of protest when photographic evidence of casualties emerged. In response to these photos William F. Petter wrote that “A million children have been killed or wounded or burned in the war America is carrying on in Vietnam."[20 ]. An infamous photo of General Nguyen Ngoc Loan holding a pistol to the head of an alleged terrorist during the Tet Offensive also provoked a public outcry.[20 ].

Another element of the American opposition to the war was the perception that U.S intervention in Vietnam, which had been argued as acceptable due to the Domino Theory and the threat of Communism, was not legally justifiable. Some Americans believed that the Communist threat was used as a scapegoat to hide imperialistic intentions, while others argued that the American intervention in South Vietnam interfered with the "self-determination" of the country. In other words, the conflict in Vietnam was a civil war that ought to have determined the fate of the county and, therefore, America was not right to intervene.[20 ]

Additionally, media coverage of the war in Vietnam shook the faith of citizens at home. That is, new media technologies, like television, brought images of wartime conflict to the kitchen table. To illustrate this claim, Allen Guttman cites Mr. Fran McGee, NBC news figure who stated that the war was all but lost as a "conclusion to be drawn inescapably from the facts."[20 ] For the first time in American history the media was privileged to dispense battlefield footage to public. Graphic footage of casualties on the nightly news eliminated any myth of the glory of war. With no clear sign of victory in Vietnam, the media images of American military casualties helped to stimulate the opposition of the war in Americans.

Polarization

If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read "Vietnam."
 

The U.S. became polarized over the war. Many supporters of U.S. involvement argued for what was known as the domino theory, a theory that believed if one country fell to communism, then the bordering countries would be sure to fall as well, much like falling dominoes. This theory was largely held due to the fall of eastern Europe to communism and the Soviet sphere of influence following World War II. However, military critics of the war pointed out that the conflict in Vietnam was political and that the military mission lacked any clear idea of how to achieve its objectives. Civilian critics of the war argued that the government of South Vietnam lacked political legitimacy, or that support for the war was completely immoral.

The media also played a substantial role in the polarization of American opinion regarding the Vietnam War. For example, In 1965 a majority of the media attention focused on military tactics with very little discussion about the necessity for a full scale intervention in Southeast Asia.[22] After 1965, the media covered the dissent and domestic controversy that existed within the United States, but excluded the actual view of dissidents and resisters.[23]

The media established a sphere of public discourse surrounding the Hawk versus Dove debate. The Dove was a liberal and a critic of the war. Doves claimed that the war was well-intentioned but a disastrously wrong mistake in an otherwise benign foreign policy. It is important to note the Doves do not question the U.S. intentions in intervening in Vietnam, nor did they question the morality or legality of the U.S. intervention. Rather, they made pragmatic claims that the war was a mistake. Contrarily, the Hawks argued that the war was legitimate and winnable and a part of the benign U.S. Foreign policy. The Hawks claimed that the ‘one-sided criticism of the media contributed to the decline of public support for the war and ultimately helped the U.S. lose the war. For example, Allen Guttmann references William F. Buckley's journal in his article entitled, "Protest against the War in Vietnam," and claims that Buckley repeatedly wrote about his approval for the war and suggested that "The United States has been timid, if not cowardly, in refusing to seek 'victory' in Vietnam."[24]. The hawks claimed that that the liberal media was responsible for the growing popular disenchantment with the war and blamed the western media for losing the war in Southeast Asia.

Antiwar Movement

As the public became increasing disenchanted with the United States' intervention in Vietnam, a number of organizations were formed in opposition to the war effort.

Examples of Antiwar organizations

Committee for Non-Violent Action (CNVA)- radical pacifist organization that "blended philosophical anarchism with Gandhian pacifism." [25 ]. The organization used civil disobedience in direct action against military action.

Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE)- liberal international organization that was founded in 1957 by a group of nuclear pacifists. They attempted to increase public opinion in favor of their cause in an attempt to influence policy makers to halt atmospheric nuclear testing and reversing the arms race and the Cold War.[25 ]

Student Participation in the Antiwar Movement

Overview

There was a great deal of civic unrest on college campuses throughout the 1960s as students became increasingly involved in a number of social and political movements ranging from the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Rights Movement, and, of course, the Anti-War Movement. Doug McAdam explains the success of the mass mobilization of volunteers for Freedom Summer in terms of "Biographical Availability." In other words, individuals must have a certain degree of social, economic, and psychological freedom to be able to participate in large scale social movements.[26] This explanation can also be applied to the Anti-War Movement because it occurred around the same time and the same biographical factors applied to the college-aged anti-war protesters. Davie Meyers (2007) also explains how the concept of personal efficacy affects mass movement mobilization. For example, consider that America wealth increased drastically after World War II. At this time, America was the only remaining superpower and enjoyed great affluence after Thirty years of depression, war, and sacrifice. Benjamin T. Harrison argues that the post World War II affluence set the stage for the protest generation in the 1960s.[27]. His central thesis is that the World Wars and Great Depression spawned a 'beat generation' refusing to conform to mainstream American values which lead to the emergence of the Hippie and counter culture. The Anti-war movement became party of a larger protest movement against the traditional American Values and attitudes. Meyers (2007) builds off this claim in his argument that the "relatively privileged enjoy the education and affirmation that afford them the belief that they might make a difference." [28]. As a result of the present factors in terms of affluence, biographical availability and increasing political atmosphere across the county, political activity increased drastically on college campuses.

Examples of Student Organizations

The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF)- Conservative organization that developed a campus presence during the 1960s. The central purpose of this organization was to publicize the conservative cause. The main guiding principles of the organization are: opposition to the spread of communism, support for the United States involvement in Vietnam and opposition to the draft [29]

The Student Libertarian Movement- Libertarian organization that was formed in 1972. The guiding principles of this organization are: Opposition to the War in Vietnam, Opposition to the draft. The organization did not take a strong stand on racial issues. For example, "In virtually hundreds of issues of libertarian newspapers, bulletins, and journals, the civil rights movement, Black nationalism, or race in genera composed no more than 1 percent of all articles surveyed. [30]

In 1 January 1973 Motiul & Kader martyed to show the anti-imperialist movement by a procession in Dhaka against the Vietnam aggression by America.Motiul & Kader are given the honour of National Hero by Vietnam. They are the activist of Bangladesh Students’ Union.

Growing protests

Waist Deep in the Big Muddy; the Big Fool said to push on.
 
Pete Seeger, 1963/1967

Gruesome images of two anti-war activists who set themselves on fire in November 1965 provided iconic images of how strongly some people felt that the war was immoral. On November 2, 32-year-old Quaker Norman Morrison set himself on fire in front of The Pentagon. On November 9, 22-year old Catholic Worker Movement member Roger Allen LaPorte did the same in front of United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Both protests were conscious imitations of earlier (and ongoing) Buddhist protests in South Vietnam.

Anti-Vietnam war demonstration, 1967.

Protests against the Vietnam War took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The protests were part of a movement in opposition to the Vietnam War and took place mainly in the U.S. (See also Students for a Democratic Society, Free Speech Movement, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Youth International Party, Chicago Seven.)

The growing anti-war movement alarmed many in the U.S. government. On August 16, 1966 the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began investigations of Americans who were suspected of aiding the NLF, with the intent to introduce legislation making these activities illegal. Anti-war demonstrators disrupted the meeting and 50 were arrested.

In February 1967, The New York Review of Books published "The Responsibility of Intellectuals," an essay by Noam Chomsky, one of the leading intellectual opponents of the war. In the essay Chomsky argued that much responsibility for the war lay with liberal intellectuals and technical experts who were providing what he saw as pseudoscientific justification for the policies of the U.S. government.

On February 1, 1968, a suspected NLF officer was summarily executed by General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, a South Vietnamese National Police Chief. Loan shot the suspect in the head on a public street in front of journalists. South Vietnamese reports provided as justification after the fact claimed that the suspect was captured near the site of a ditch holding as many as thirty-four bound and shot bodies of police and their relatives, some of whom were the families of General Loan's deputy and close friend. The execution was filmed and photographed during the Tet Offensive and provided another iconic image that helped sway public opinion in the United States against the war.

The events of Tet in early 1968 as a whole were also remarkable in shifting public opinion regarding the war. U.S. military officials had previously reported that counter-insurgency in South Vietnam was being prosecuted successfully. While the Tet Offensive provided the U.S. and allied militaries with a great victory in that the Viet Cong was finally brought into open battle and destroyed as a fighting force, the American media, including respected figures such as Walter Cronkite, interpreted such events as the attack on the American embassy in Saigon as an indicator of U.S. military weakness.[31] The military victories on the battlefields of Tet were obscured by shocking images of violence on television screens, long casualty lists, and a new perception among the American people that the military had been untruthful to them about the success of earlier military operations, and ultimately, the ability to achieve a meaningful military solution in Vietnam.

On October 15, 1969, hundreds of thousands of people took part in National Moratorium anti-war demonstrations across the United States; the demonstrations prompted many workers to call in sick from their jobs and adolescents nationwide engaged in truancy from school. However, the proportion of individuals doing either who actually participated in the demonstrations is uncertain. A second round of "Moratorium" demonstrations was held on November 15, but was less well-attended.

The My Lai massacre was used as an example of outrageous military conduct during the Vietnam War.

The U.S. realized that the South Vietnamese government needed a solid base of popular support if it were to survive the insurgency. To pursue this goal of winning the "Hearts and Minds" of the Vietnamese people, units of the United States Army, referred to as "Civil Affairs" units, were used extensively for the first time since World War II.

Civil Affairs units, while remaining armed and under direct military control, engaged in what came to be known as "nation-building": constructing (or reconstructing) schools, public buildings, roads and other infrastructure; conducting medical programs for civilians who had no access to medical facilities; facilitating cooperation among local civilian leaders; conducting hygiene and other training for civilians; and similar activities.

This policy of attempting to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people, however, often was at odds with other aspects of the war which served to antagonize many Vietnamese civilians. These policies included the emphasis on "body count" as a way of measuring military success on the battlefield, the bombing of villages (symbolized by journalist Peter Arnett's famous quote, "it was necessary to destroy the village to save it"), and the killing of civilians in such incidents as the My Lai massacre. In 1974 the documentary Hearts and Minds sought to portray the devastation the war was causing to the South Vietnamese people, and won an Academy Award for best documentary amid considerable controversy. The South Vietnamese government also antagonized many of its citizens with its suppression of political opposition, through such measures as holding large numbers of political prisoners, torturing political opponents, and holding a one-man election for President in 1971. Covert terror/counter-terror programs and semi-covert ones such as the Phoenix Program attempted, with the help of anthropologists, to isolate rural South Vietnamese villages and affect the loyalty of the residents. In the Phoenix Program, assassinations and atrocities were committed, sometimes in order to blame them on Viet Cong insurgents.

Despite the increasingly depressing news of the war, many Americans continued to support President Johnson's endeavors. Aside from the domino theory mentioned above, there was a feeling that the goal of preventing a communist takeover of a pro-Western government in South Vietnam was a noble objective. Many Americans were also concerned about saving face in the event of disengaging from the war or, as President Richard M. Nixon later put it, "achieving Peace with Honor". In addition, instances of Viet Cong atrocities were widely reported, most notably in an article that appeared in Reader's Digest in 1968 entitled The Blood-Red Hands of Ho Chi Minh.

However, anti-war feelings also began to rise. Many Americans opposed the war on moral grounds, horrified by the devastation it was wreaking on ordinary Vietnamese civilians. Many viewed the conflict as a war against Vietnamese independence, or as intervention in a foreign civil war; others opposed it because they felt it lacked clear objectives and appeared to be unwinnable. Many anti-war activists were themselves Vietnam veterans, as evidenced by the organization Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In April 1971, thousands of these veterans converged on the White House in Washington D.C., and hundreds of them threw their medals and decorations on the steps of the United States Capitol. By this time, it had also become commonplace for the most radical anti-war demonstrators to prominently display the flag of the Viet Cong "enemy", an act which alienated many who were otherwise morally opposed to the conflict.

Political factors

In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson began his re-election campaign. A member of his own party, Eugene McCarthy, ran against him for the nomination on an anti-war platform. McCarthy did not win the first primary election in New Hampshire, but he did surprisingly well against an incumbent. The resulting blow to the Johnson campaign, taken together with other factors, led the President to make a surprise announcement in a March 31 televised speech that he was pulling out of the race. He also announced the initiation of the Paris Peace Negotiations with Vietnam in that speech. Then, on August 4, 1969, U.S. representative Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese representative Xuan Thuy began secret peace negotiations at the apartment of French intermediary Jean Sainteny in Paris.

After breaking with Johnson's pro-war stance, Robert F. Kennedy entered the race on March 16 and ran for the nomination on an anti-war platform. Johnson's vice president, Hubert Humphrey, also ran for the nomination, promising to continue to support the South Vietnamese government.

The draft

Students demonstrate in Saigon, July 1964, observing the tenth anniversary of the July 1954 Geneva Agreements.

"The draft" initiated protests on May 5, 1965. Student activists at the University of California, Berkeley marched on the Berkeley Draft board and forty students staged the first public burning of a draft card in the United States. Another nineteen cards were burnt May 22 at a demonstration following the Berkeley teach-in.[32]

At that time, only a fraction of all men of draft age were actually conscripted, but the Selective Service System office ("Draft Board") in each locality had broad discretion on whom to draft and whom to exempt where there was no clear guideline for exemption. In late July 1965, Johnson doubled the number of young men to be drafted per month from 17,000 to 35,000, and on August 31, signed a law making it a crime to burn a draft card.

On October 15, 1965 the student-run National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam in New York staged the first draft card burning to result in an arrest under the new law.

In 1967, the continued operation of a seemingly unfair draft system then calling as many as 40,000 men for induction each month fueled a burgeoning draft resistance movement. On October 16, 1967, draft card turn-ins were held across the country, yielding more than 1,000 draft cards, later returned to the Justice Department as an act of civil disobedience. Resisters expected to be prosecuted immediately, but Attorney General Ramsey Clark instead prosecuted a group of ringleaders including Dr. Benjamin Spock and Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin, Jr. in Boston in 1968.

The charges of unfairness led to the institution of a draft lottery for the year 1970 in which a young man's birthday determined his relative risk of being drafted (September 14 was the birthday at the top of the draft list for 1970; the following year July 9 held this distinction).

The first draft lottery since World War II in the United States was held on 1 December 1969 and was met with large protests and a great deal of controversy; statistical analysis indicated that the methodology of the lotteries unintentionally disadvantaged men with late year birthdays.[33] This issue was treated at length in a January 4 1970 New York Times article titled "Statisticians Charge Draft Lottery Was Not Random".

Thousands of young American men chose exile in Canada or Sweden rather than risk conscription. The Japanese anti-war group Beheiren helped some American soldiers to desert and hide from the military in Japan.[34] To gain an exemption or deferment, many men attended college, though they had to remain in college until their 26th birthday to be certain of avoiding the draft. Some got married, which remained an exemption throughout the war. Some men were rejected by the military as 4-F unfit for service failing to meet physical, mental, or moral standards. Still others joined the National Guard or entered the Peace Corps as a way of avoiding Vietnam. All of these issues raised concerns about the fairness of who got selected for involuntary service, since it was often the poor or those without connections who were drafted. Ironically, in light of modern political issues, a certain exemption was a convincing claim of homosexuality, but very few men attempted this because of the stigma involved. Also, conviction for certain crimes earned an exclusion, the topic of the anti-war song 'Alice's Restaurant' by Arlo Guthrie.

Even many of those who never received a deferment or exemption never served, simply because the pool of eligible men was so huge compared to the number required for service, that the draft boards never got around to drafting them when a new crop of men became available (until 1969) or because they had high lottery numbers (1970 and later).

Of those soldiers who served during the war, there was increasing opposition to the conflict amongst GIs,[35] which resulted in fragging and many other activities which hampered the US's ability to wage war effectively.

Most of those subjected to the draft were too young to vote or drink in most states, and the image of young people being forced to risk their lives in the military without the privileges of enfranchisement or the ability to drink alcohol legally also successfully pressured legislators to lower the voting age nationally and the drinking age in many states.

Student opposition groups on many college and university campuses seized campus administration offices, and in several instances forced the expulsion of ROTC programs from the campus.

Some Americans who were not subject to the draft protested the conscription of their tax dollars for the war effort. War tax resistance, once mostly isolated to solitary anarchists like Henry David Thoreau and religious pacifists like the Quakers, became a more mainstream protest tactic. As of 1972, an estimated 200,000–500,000 people were refusing to pay the excise taxes on their telephone bills, and another 20,000 were resisting part or all of their income tax bills. Among the tax resisters were Joan Baez and Noam Chomsky.[36]

Congressional hearings

Dellums war crimes hearings

In January 1971, just weeks into his first term, Congressman Ron Dellums set up a Vietnam war crimes exhibit in an annex to his Congressional office. The exhibit featured four large posters depicting atrocities committed by American soldiers embellished with red paint. This was followed shortly thereafter by a series of hearings on "war crimes" in Vietnam, which began April 25. Dellums had called for formal investigations into the allegations, but Congress chose not to endorse these proceedings. As such, the hearings were ad hoc and only informational in nature. As a condition of room use, press and camera presence were not permitted, but the proceedings were transcribed. A small number of other anti-Vietnam War congressional representatives also took part in the hearings.

The transcripts describe alleged details of U.S. military's conduct in Vietnam. Some tactics were described as “gruesome”, such as the severing of ears from corpses to verify body count. Others involved the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Soldiers claimed to have ordered artillery strikes on villages which did not appear to have any military presence. Soldiers were claimed to use racist terms such as "gooks", "dinks" and "slant eyes" when referring to the Vietnamese.

Witnesses described that legal, by-the-book instruction was augmented by more questionable training by non-commissioned officers as to how soldiers should conduct themselves. One witness testified about "free-fire zones", areas as large as 80 square miles (210 km2) in which soldiers were free to shoot any Vietnamese they encountered after curfew without first making sure they were hostile. Allegations of exaggeration of body count, torture, murder and general abuse of civilians and the psychology and motivations of soldiers and officers were discussed at length.

Fulbright Hearings, 1971

In April and May 1971, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator J. William Fulbright, held a series of 22 hearings (referred to as the Fulbright Hearings) on proposals relating to ending the war. On the third day of the hearings, April 22, 1971, future Senator and 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry became the first Vietnam veteran to testify before Congress in opposition to the war. Speaking on behalf of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he argued for the immediate, unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam. During nearly two hours of discussions with committee members, Kerry related in some detail the findings of the Winter Soldier Investigation, in which veterans had described personally committing or witnessing atrocities and war crimes.

Common slogans and chants

  • "Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?"
  • "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh! The NLF is going to win!" cheering a victory for the Viet Cong [NLF being the National Liberation Front]. This chant, naturally enough, enraged both war supporters and people who felt emotionally connected to Americans fighting the war.
  • The chant "One, two, three, four! We don't want your fucking war!" was chanted repeatedly at demonstrations throughout the U.S. in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
  • "Draft beer, not boys", "Hell no, we won't go", "Bring our boys home", "Make love, not war", "Eighteen today, dead tomorrow", and "LBJ – pull out like your old man should have!" were a few of the anti-war slogans.
  • "Fight the VD, Not the VC!" displayed sentiments to concentrate more on the familiar problem of venereal diseases than the foreign group, the Vietcong.
  • "Love our country", "America, love it or leave it" and "No glory like old glory" are examples of pro-war slogans.
  • "America, change it or lose it" was chanted in response to the pro-war "Love it or leave it".

See also

Further reading

  • John Hagan, Northern passage: American Vietnam War resisters in Canada, Harvard University Press, 2001. ISBN 9780674004719
  • Mary Susannah Robbins, Against the Vietnam War: Writings by Activists, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. ISBN 978074255914
  • Robert R. Tomes, Apocalypse Then: American Intellectuals and the Vietnam War, 1954-1975, NYU Press, 2000. ISBN 9780814782620

References

  1. ^ a b IV
  2. ^ http://www.usatoday.com/news/polls/2005-11-15-iraq-poll.htm
  3. ^ http://people-press.org/commentary/?analysisid=57
  4. ^ http://www.gale.com/free_resources/bhm/bio/ali_m.htm
  5. ^ Including a picture of Jan Rose Kasmir by Marc Riboud.
  6. ^ a b http://www.aei.org/article/13249
  7. ^ a b Gallup, Alec (2006). Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 315–318. ISBN 0742552586.  
  8. ^ Pew Research Center: Generations Divide Over Military Action in Iraq
  9. ^ (Subscription) The Report of the President's Commission on Campus Unrest. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1970. http://www.lexisnexis.com/academic/2upa/Aph/pcmCampusUnrest.asp. Retrieved 2007-04-16.   This book is also known as The Scranton Commission Report.
  10. ^ "Veterans Discard Medals In War Protest At Capitol", New York Times, April 24, 1971, P. 1
  11. ^ "Reports of Its Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated", James Buckley, New York Times, April 25, 1971, P. E1
  12. ^ "Protesters Fail to Stop Congress, Police Seize 1,146", James M. McNaughton, New York Times, May 6, 1971, P. 1
  13. ^ "Students Picket Harrisburg Trial", Eleanor Blaus, New York Times, March 30, 1972, p. 15
  14. ^ "Campus Outbreaks Spread", Martin Arnold, New York Times, April 19, 1972, p. 1
  15. ^ "War Foes March in the Rain Here", Martin Arnold, New York Times, April 23, 1972, p. 1
  16. ^ "Peaceful Antiwar Protests Held Here And in Other Cities Across the Nation", John Darnton, New York Times, May 14, 1972, p.30
  17. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zwBYkbMZFA The speach
  18. ^ Lunch, W. & Sperlich, P. (1979).The Western Political Quarterly. 32(1). pp. 21-44
  19. ^ Schuman, Howard.2000.'Two Sources of Antiwar Sentiment in America,' in Hixson, Walter L. (ed) The United States and the Vietnam War: Significant Scholarly Articles. New York: Garland Publishing,pp127-150
  20. ^ a b c d Guttmann, Allen. 1969. Protest against the War in Vietnam. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 382. pp. 56-63,
  21. ^ Life Magazine: Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. 40 Years Later. Time Inc, 2008. Pg 139
  22. ^ Herman, Edward S. & Chomsky, Noam. (2002) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon Books.
  23. ^ Herman, Edward S. & Chomsky, Noam. (2002) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon Books.
  24. ^ Guttmann, Allen. 1969. Protest against the War in Vietnam. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 382. pp. 56-63.
  25. ^ a b Debenedette, Charles. (2000). On the Significance of Citizen Peace Activism: America, 1961-1975,' in Hixson, Walter (ed) the Vietnam Antiwar Movement. New York: Garland Publishing
  26. ^ Meyer, David S. 2007.The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America. New York: Oxford University Press.
  27. ^ Harrison, Benjamin T. (2000)'Roots of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement,' in Hixson, Walter (ed) the Vietnam Antiwar Movement. New York: Garland Publishing
  28. ^ p49
  29. ^ Andrew, John(2001) Pro-War and Anti-Draft: Young Americans for Freedom and the War in Vietnam,' in Gilbert, Marc Jason (ed). The Vietnam War on Campus: Other Voices, More Distant Drums. Westport, CT: Praeger. p. 1-20.
  30. ^ Schoenwald Jonathan (2001). No War, No Welfare, and No Damm TaxationL The Student Libertarian Movement, 1968-1972,'in Gilbert, Marc Jason (ed). The Vietnam War on Campus: Other Voices, More Distant Drums. Westport, CT: Praeger. p. 1-20.
  31. ^ Karnow, Stanley "Vietnam"
  32. ^ http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pacificaviet.html
  33. ^ Nonrandom Risk: The 1970 Draft Lottery, Norton Starr, Journal of Statistics Education v.5, n.2, 1997
  34. ^ Antiwar campaigners to donate documents to Vietnamese museum, Keiji Hirano, Kyodo News, The Japan Times, February 16, 2002. (Web edition hosted by lbo-talk under the title "What Japanese Anti-Vietnam War activists are up to")
  35. ^ 1961–1973: GI Resistance in the Vietnam War, libcom.org
  36. ^ War Tax Resistance War Resisters League (2003) p. 75

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