tv Lectures in History Vietnam Anti- War Movement CSPAN September 3, 2021 3:58pm-5:10pm EDT
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and '70s. he believes protests against the vietnam war helped expand the nation's democratic process. >> we have been talking these last few weeks out loud about a few core issues that have in many ways given theatic intensity to the 160s era. we have been trying to think about the meaning and the era of equality in the united states in the 1960 as era. we have been pondering what democratic practice could and should look like in the united states and very much pertinent to what we are going to do today, what role the united states should play interinternationally. what role should the united states play in a world that was fast-changing in the 1960s? so we've gotten to the point in this class where we reach 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 '65. with the gulf of tonkin resolution, 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 at the gulf of tonkin. remember, when this resolution was brought before congress, every single member of the house of representative, republican, democrat, liberal, conservative, from the south, 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 reason, one was a liberal republican, that's kind of an oxymoron in 2010 language, but there were such things in the 1960s, a fellow named senator morse from oregon, he smelled a rat, he had a source in the pentagon that said
something was amiss about what johnson was telling the american people about that 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 groonen, was a kind of hard-nosed realist and he was doing a kind of a cost-benefit analysis and his critique was, don't get it, why does it make sense for the united states to spend blood and treasure going to vietnam. there was no moral critique. there was no moral issue about the meaning of americanness. it didn't add up for him. but again, these are two senators. there is almost no visible critique as johnson launches what would 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, morgan, a guy for the state department, with the united states, in the academic community, he raised those issues, walter litman, a famous
columnist, making pronouncements about american policy by the this time for 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, remember, there's a kind of consensus. it's an election here in '64. johnson and goldwater, the republican, and the democrat, running for president, are both advocating the maintenance of america's position in vietnam. and i emphasize this, for the sense of the fact that overwhelming what americans assert in their public lives, what their politicians were telling them, what their politicians believe, was that the war in vietnam was justifiable and necessary. now, johnson hammers this home, in february, 1965, after that play coup incident, that incident in which for the first time american marines were targeted and eight of them were
killed in the role protecting the 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. and he gives a kind of litany of what to americans seem compelling reasons. one he said we promised them we would do that. we pledged in 1954 that we would stand by south vietnam, this is a commitment we have as a nation to another nation-state, we have to do this. and then he echoes something that dwight d. eisenhower, the president in the 1950s had said about vietnam, he warned, if you let vietnam fall, all of asia could fall to communism. eisenhower called this the domino effect. johnson, the democrat, seconded it and agreed with the premise
that his republican president counterpart in the '50s 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 allow to take over south vietnam, hundreds of thousands of innocents would lose their lives so he made a moral case as well. so political, geopolitical, moral, 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 we begin in a sense of kind of a public consensus about the war in vietnam, as being necessary, and even more good, and honorable, and 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 called, remember there is 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, and quite pointedly, lyndon johnson unleashes an air war on now the enemy, an american air war, on north vietnam, an 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. these are targeted bombs. they're not wholesale destructions of cities. they're aimed at troop movements. aimed at munitions supplies. at factories building war materials. 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? yes, there are some americans who from the get-go, from the gulf of tonkin resolution, right through the play coup incident, the 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. and some cases, they're the people we've been talking about in here these last many weeks. 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 1950s, it's not a 1960s thing. this is a magazine called liberation run by dave dellinger, a pacifist, he oopz -- opposes all wars. during world war ii, a graduate, and dellinger refused to serve in world war ii. he had gone to jail. he served time. he was nonviolent. protests against the war. he refused to be complicit. so this is a guy who is against all wars. vietnam is just one more and another war he's going to protest and his magazine, the beachfront, so to speak, for that pacifist critique. a tiny group of pacifists who speak out. morally indefensible. there were other, student nonviolent coordinating
movement. sncc, and hardened places of racism in the united states in those day, mississippi, alabama, to become more and more radical and 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, and one of the critiques that they had developed by late 1964, early 1965, is sncc, radical activists was that the united states was complicit with the kind of imperialism that they found so immoral and wrong in places like africa. so their critique of vietnam as a theater which the united states would become involved stem from their already fairly richly developed critique about the u.s. involvement in what was
called end of third world. so from africa to asia 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 earlier, about the war in vietnam. this is not mainstream groups. the reverend king, for example, in '64 and '65 is not speaking out against the war in vietnam. he probably had reservations but he did not make public those concerns at this time. so these are again radical black activists in the united states. again for the overwhelming majority of american people, like the pacifists, this is a group that could essentially be dismisseds, these guys are radical, they have some overarching complaint about u.s. policy, whatever, and like the pacifists are not heard on the nightly news, not reported in "the new york times" or "time" magazine, there is a fairly narrow window of mass media at this point so it is hard to get
your voice into those few niches where you can be heard by more than a few hundred or thousand people. so these kind of people are not being loudly heard or really barely heard at all. they're dismissable. pacifists. black radical activists worried about imperialism. the third group that speaks out at this time is the nascent new left we talked about. those white radicals that are 1964 and '65 relatively few in number. many of them associated with the students for democratic society. that group that was formed back in 1960 and then began to spread throughout other campuses around the united states from its foundation, the university of michigan. they had a similar critique as their black radical counterparts. something about vietnam that seemed wrong. it seemed again to be some kind of american intervention and a third world country, where we're probably not welcome and we're probably not serving the need for those people to have a 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 got white and black radicals, you've got an older tradition, people who generally chronologically older coming out of a pacifist tradition, or a tradition of descent that extends back into the '40s and 50s, who are raising some 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. rads.
so mainstream conversations. "new york times." cbs news. "time" magazine. the president. the senate majority leader. the house speaker. republican democrat. liberal conservative. the establishment and some young people will start to refer to all these kinds, it's pretty much in lock-step with the policy that's developing. incrementally but also 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 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 grinds with some of the concerns that black activists had had probably earlier days, in the early 50s let's say, not the early '60s, but the early '50s 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, in the case of these black civil rights activists, this was jim crow laws, white supremacy, and other means of a hierarchy, now you have another group in the '60s, a small group, 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 have been bestowed by their political leaders is wrong.
it's flawed. immoral. the nature of the critique is fluid. 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 re-thinking this proposition. well, so how do you do that? how do you take this small minority trying to convince a large minority, if your president has misled you, that the congress is wrong, that the mass media is either misinformed or misinforming the public, what do you do? a lot of these people are either people who have been living in many ways outside the mainstream for a long time, or in the case of the white and black radicals i just described are, you know, you're age, 20, 25, 18.
what do you do? literally, what do you do? what repertoire of tactics, tools, methods, do you use again to try to convince the majority that they're wrong? 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 when there already is kind of a rich movement culture, a rich movement of people who have already embraced tools, techniques, tactics, to change political life. and this is happening simultaneously, with the civil rights movement. so in 1965, for example, roughly at that time that lyndon johnson is telling the american people, we've begun to escalate our 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 there is this kind of parallel social movement occurring as these early, and we can use the word now, anti-war advocates are trying to come up with their own answers and solutions. so obviously, to some extent, this nascent anti-war activism is going to look at the civil rights movement. they have a repertoire. they 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 again, a precursor to this. we talked earlier about what was happening at the university of california berkeley campus, in the fall of 1964, really just weeks after the gulf of tonkin resolution is passed, and the campus at the university of california, you remember, you
had the free speech movement erupting, mario savo getting on top of the police car, telling the students at 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, 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, at a university campus, 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, there's this, there's already this sort of available language and this available set of understandings and practices out there as these nascent anti-war activists are trying to think, what do we do? well, following that mile, it's intriguing to see what happens. and johnson's speech in '65, march, '65, is like a match that lights, well, it's not a bonfire at this point, it's like a little tiny fire that begins to erupt around places, and 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 anti-war mobilization effort begins, it's on the university campus. at the university of michigan, you got to remember the place where the students for a democratic society had been first founded just 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, might have been all men, i can't quite remember, in their late '20s and early 30s, who for various reasons are suspicious of literally what johnson has just told them in this speech, this nationally televised speech about why we have to start escalating our american involvement in vietnam and about 20 of these young professors, untenured, they have no job security gathered together in a room not unlike this and say what should we do, i think we have to do something on campus to bring to the attention of young people that something is amiss in vietnam. they literally sit around like this and try to brain storm, what can we do? and they kind of do almost like a tick list, what are the tools we can use, what are the possibilities, and they come up
with a pretty simple solution. they say you know what she would shoo do, we should not have classes on a date certain, pick a day, and instead of teaching our normal classes, we'll have a kind of a moratorium on every day business and they used the word moratorium, and we'll talk about the war in vietnam, we will try to find some informed opinion, we will try to find somebody who knows something about this, really none of the guys in the room knew about vietnam other than what they had read in "the new york times," and cbs, and listening to congress. and they had new official critiques. they just had suspicion. this was done publicly and they announced what they were doing and not surprised to understand that 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,
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 moneys for. so the professors get an -- so the professors, again, untenured no job security, sit back and think this through and come with an alternative plan. they compromise. they say okay, okay, okay, we won't strike. we won't have a moratorium, we'll teach our classes that day, but after classes at 8:00 p.m., can we have a room, a big room, an auditorium, university of michigan has some ma'amth auditorium, and let us use the p.a. system, and the blackboards and the room, we won't disrupt anything, there's nothing scheduled and let us have a teach-in. sit-ins from 1960s. 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 great issues of the day. and intriguingly the university of michigan, think about the university of california berkeley months earlier fighting tooth and nail to prevent savio et al to have open access to campus, university of michigan, every campus is different, as long as you guys don't strike you can do this. so a tactic is born. tactic negotiating, a tactic is born. we will 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 and interested and impassioned and, at minimum, informed. you teach them.
take the university. you extend it into the political -- 8:00 it starts and they're blown away. again, i don't know if you have ever done, this have a party, you have a party at your house, 8:30, there's nobody, there 9:00, seven people, seven people's cool, we'll be all right. but meanwhile you're praying that the 100 people you invited show up. they have no idea how many people will show up to this teach-in. 3,000 people come. right? nearly holds that many people. it's astonishing. the university campus. early 1960s. march 1965. there's 3,000 kids who want to hear about this. they want to talk about this. they don't just want to, they don't want this, you know, talking head up above telling them. they want some back and forth, they want to be part of this. that kind of sds participatory democracy spirit. they got 3,000 people to show up. they talk all night. and not all of them stay all night, mind you, 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, you have to leave now. no breaking the laws. this is all okay.
35 other campuses within a week do the same thing. now, intriguing issue. you have a teach-in. what do you teach? where do you get information? there's no internet. there's no like oh, vietnam, let's get a few perspectives, see what's happening. how do you do that? >> well, they are like scrambling trying to find these guys who started this teach-in. they don't know. they just got, you know, suspicions. who do they get? they know a guy who is an economics professor out east, who used to serve as an economic adviser in vietnam. remember, that nation building thing, they're bringing in all of these experts, smart guys, to try to help build an economy, vietnam and ports and infrastructure, and this is one of these guys, 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.
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're not welcome there, we are not seen as their great allies, we're seen as one more big power intervening in their effort. next guy who comes up, funny to think about this. he's anisimova though poll gist. he had done his fieldwork in vietnam. it was seen as a primitive place, that's how they saw it, right, he was going to do fieldwork as an anthropologist and worked with hill people in the hills, i can't remember if he worked with mali or some other group and been there a long time and comes back and says the vietnamese see the world this way, and this cultural way, and they see us as we're like china or like the other great powers of the centuries that have come and gone over their soil and 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, we are were going there for no other reason than to help and this anthropologist says, hey, hate to tell you, they don't want your help. so okay, interesting perspectives. it's not a four-star general. it's not a u.s. senator. these are like alternative voices. the third guy is kind of a radical intellectual. young guy, in his 30s, he is trying to piece together a living by writing and talking this guy, named arthur wasco, he kind of comes in and gives the barn burner, he echoes sncc, and sda and another word of imperialism, he uses the word the "i" word and the u.s. is an imperialist. you can imagine the students, okay, it's something to grapple with. that was two hours. and they had ten more hours,
then, of hanging out, talking, breaking into small groups, a classroom like this. and bring in somebody, an expert, somebody who knows something about vietnam and they -- again, often, no. there were no courses in any university in the united states in the history of vietnam. there was no university in the united states that taught the vietnamese language. so you didn't have a lot of inhouse experts in the united states on these issues. we didn't have many inhouse 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. another turn of the story. hard to get information. you have got young people. you have all kinds of people saying i don't trust "time" magazine, i don't trust "the new york times," i don't trust the president of the united states, 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, she's writing her doctorate on english literature, but she's part of this new left, involved in protests in the early '60s, she takes 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 almost no money in her pocket at all, she gets a little grant from the teachers union in new york, remember the united auto workers helped fund some of the early scnc activities, a little money, we're talking at this time hundreds of dollars, but enough to get a mimeograph machine and a few other things and she starts, i don't know, magazines, a too grandiose term for it, something called viet-report. an alternative magazine focused on vietnam. and well, okay, that's sweet. how do you fill the pages?
we're thinking practically. i have this cool idea. what goes in there? well, she had an intriguing idea. she didn't really trust that american writers, journalists, even academics, hair dare she, knew enough to really substantiate a monthly journal on vietnam that told what she saw as the true story 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, and all the way from communists to monarchists, and she began, like many of you would do today using the internet, she began to fish for sources that she saw as giving alternatives to the kind of things johnson and congress and the regular media in the united states was reporting. so she was using foreign
language she would translate them or get someone to translate them and we should 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. berkeley, you'll be shocked to hear, in berkeley, there was another character guy in a bar, steppenwolf bar, taken from the song, in which he decides that there's a need, he is sitting around the bar, people spewing forth this and that about politics in the united states and he's like you know what we need around here, we need our own newspaper. you know, there's the san francisco examiner, the oakland tribune, the regular newspapers, we need our own newspapers, where people like us who don't buy what they're telling us and he starts out of his pocket, a bar owner, he's got some cash, a newspaper called the berkeley barb until 1965.
in some ways this is the first underground newspaper. there will be lots of these underground newspapers that sprout up in every city in the united states. the 60s in philadelphia, the free press. there is lots of them. but this one sort of starts it off in '65 and he focuses on vietnam. and he talks to those people who had long been seen as marginal, he talks to passivists, he talks to sncc activists, he talks to sds and other new left radicals and he uses them as his sources. and journalists 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 small scale grass roots but fairly quickly growing alternative set of experts and he fills up his newspapers, now the berkeley bar was a pretty crazy newspaper, we have it here at temple, funny to look at,
filled with all sorts of transgress ive material, i think there is one in california, one in new york, for example, that prints sex ads, so this guy who runs it here, bar owner turned newspaper owner, he is kind of a wild and crazy guy, kind of a bohemian character, cultural radicals with political radicals and kind of an interesting new blend. okay, teach-ins. universities 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. diy. do it yourself. make your own stuff. and it 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 these other traditional tools available, too.
sds, the student democratic society, many of leaders, many of the chapters around the country, already suspicious, already raising questions about vietnam, but this is not their main issue. remember, we talked before that sds at this point was involved with that attempt to go into neighborhoods of poor people, white and black, organize them, and try to create some kind of economic justice movement in the united states, that was sort of the focus of sds at this point. nonetheless, they're watching what's going on, in michigan and berkeley and other places, and they say we got to do something about this vietnam thing, i know it's not our main concern, we are 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 and effort, and not a massive commitment, set up sources in europe, and all that, let's have a rally. let's have a march. this is something that's been happening by 1965, thousands of
times. now, 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 is like oh, yeah, what the black people do all the time, right, yeah, it's an available tool everyone kind of knows about and they think what the held, it won't be a big deal, let's go for it. so they announce with very little time, a few weeks lead time, we will 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 up out the word to their chapters and say, tell other people they should come this, it will be interesting. but 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. and you know, they didn't really know would appear, 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, almost 20,000 people, show up in washington, d.c. for what is the first anti-war march and rally. you know, the third tool that these guys are trying to create and develop. early days. april '65. there aren't that many troops yet in vietnam. though the bombing has begun. american troops in vietnam. the head of the organization, and i don't believe there is any video of this because again, 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 and 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, and he tries to wrap his head around what the united states is doing in vietnam. and he is sort of speaking almost in counter-point to johnson's speech that has come up the month before and he is publicly struggling, he had written his speech down but publicly struggling with why this is happening and 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, there's a system in the united states that creates these wars. that 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 20,000, there's no tv coverage, it's just them, we need to learn how to identify that system, again kind of an open-ended phrase, a system that will create wars in asia, for some kind of american interest that is hard to pin down. a radical critique but a kind of vague critique. interesting moment. and creating the open-ended question, again, it's kind of an interesting rhetorical move. instead of telling people here is what you should think. he is saying what mario savio said a few months earlier at berkeley, what should we do about this, what do you think is
happening? again, 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 the anti-war organizing in these early days. so he spreads the word, we have to do something. now there is another interesting touch to this piece and i shouldn't leave it alone because it is kind of a hallmark speech, the first big anti-war speech made in the united states. he does his critique. there's a system. we have to identify this system. what is it that makes these wars happen? what is the underveiling pressure and then he continues, he says, as i see it, what the people in vietnam want is really just like what we want here in the united states. and he's making quite a leap. again, he is a 20 something year old guy, doesn't speak the language, and doesn't know what is happening in vietnam and he has been reading the report and has facts in our fingers and
he says, these people i feel are just like us and they are fighting for some of the same things we're fighting for, they're fighting to determine their own lives, to have democratic autonomy, to liberty themselves, from forms of oppression. and here's a kind of a projection, that these are certainly the things that he is feeling and that many of his colleagues are feeling, and 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. 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 anti-war movement called later a kind of manakian world view, which is there is
sort of this good and evil, and you, remember that existential notion, you have to choose which side you're on. okay, 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 works bad, different fragments, right? it doesn't have to be that way. but the cold war made you kind of think that way. the soviets and the americans. we tend to do that i guess with our two arms, maybe, we're like this, that, third case, the leg. these sort of, he sort of posits this idea that the national liberation front, ho chi minh are similar to the student nonviolent coordinating committee. it is an intriguing development and a potentially risky one for the movement itself. early days. nobody is sure what is 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 ally, the south vietnamese, the band-aid fails. the military, with the tools johnson gives them, can't manage the deterioration of the army, the republican of vietnam and the republic of vietnam, our allies, that we oppose, the forces that we oppose are getting stronger. so johnson is forced to keep putting in more troops. escalating america's land war. and he's bargaining. he's trying to negotiate with ho chi minh. he is trying to work out a deal as he is so good with the united states congress, he's offering this, 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 tries to incrementally increase the pressure. now this pressure causes, 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 is 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, so more and more young people are getting their attentions focused on the war in vietnam. quick aside. the way the draft works is really, i don't know how to put it, messy. they're 26 million baby boomers who come of age during the war in vietnam. you don't, do that, a little over 13 million, wait, that's 26 million men, sorry about that,
that's 26 million men who come of age, turn 18, and you just don't need that many people in the army, right? you know, you have to stand like this or something in vietnam. so you got to have a system, a selective service system, it's called, that's the real name to pick which one goes. so rather than send all 26 million young men there, you pick which ones will go. to do that, you have to make some people not have to go. some people don't have to go because they're incredibly stupid, right, they're too stupid you can't serve in the military, some people are physically unable to go in the military, so they don't have to go. but then, once you rule 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 having to go. at least right away. so for example, an interesting one people don't tend to think about, if you're a skilled tradesmen, even an apprentice training to be a carpenter or electrician or 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 have. 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, this would be a shock to some of you, you're not supposed to stay in school forever, you're supposed to get out after a while, so eventually you become eligible for the draft but while you're a student you were deferred, you didn't have to serve. and one more thing about how the draft worked during this time, not only could you be deferred for various vocational or 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 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 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 guy, usually old white guys, sitting at a table, most of whom had served in world war ii, who were the draft board. literally, you tend to think this is abstract, it was some guys, and then you would pitch your story. i mean if you wanted to go, you didn't have to pitch a story, fill out the paperwork and moved on. if you said i have a reason i shouldn't serve, you present it. i have a note from my doctor, i have a really bad cold, i can't take the test and i can't go to vietnam. for years i had this psychiatric condition, i'm kind of crazy, and i have a note to prove it.
all kinds of reasons. and the draft board could look at this stuff and go whatever, on the bus, didn't happen that fast, but you get the point. or they could say, i know your dad, he was a good guy, you don't have to go. so it really was 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 did not want to serve. now, in '65, when there weren't that many draft notices being sent, most people take their -- 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, good, there's more people interested in saying there's a
certain self interest in this, is this a war worth dying for? you know, again, your mind is focussed if you're an 18 to 20-year-old young man facing that period of real decision, is this war worth dying for? so you have 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. still, i strongly underline overwhelmingly when people were called up to the draft board in '65 and '66, they went through the process and there was no gaming, but again, if you were a student or graduate student, you don't have to serve. there are ways out. well, not surprisingly by 1966 as draft is increasing, there are young people focused now on the draft who begin to resist. another tool, and a different
tool than the three we have talked b. here is this process that doesn't have a corollary than the three we have talked about in the process, and another draft and what should you in some ways protest this system. as early as 1966, a few of the radicals who were invested in the process publicly declare their unwillingness to serve and that guy like dave dillinger who said, i won't serve in any war, but this war based on what i know by 1966, i won't serve, and they did this literal catchy literal move, and you don't do this anymore and you have to register for the draft, but you used to have to carry a card, literally a draft card saying your status. as a young man you were required by law to carry it everywhere you went. so these guys took this card and they burned it.
i will not serve. now, this is symbolic, right? it is like they have a copy of your card somewhere in washington. it is not like it magically goes away, whoa, cool. but it is a symbol. and so, congress passes a law, and son, you can't burn the draft card, because that is commi wrong, and then the court put a five-year prison sentence on burning your draft card. court cases ensued, and essentially, the court said that if you burn your draft card, you will go to jail. but it is the beginning of the protest, and starting by 1966 and escalating by 1967 a draft resistance move begins. it starts in boston as the first one called resistance. and again, kind of quickly spreads. it is a different model, and
what it does to couch people on the ways to keep out of the draft. it also asks people to publicly state that they are refusing to serve in vietnam, and supposed to be a political thing, and not so what you have got now are people in '66 in early '67, in small ways, symbolic ways and mass mediated and oriented ways trying to come up with tools, techniques and 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 a process. how do you escalate that? so you have tens of thousands and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of americans who are going to become highly sus pesh shouse, and even opposed to this, and you are right, the nation at this time has 200 million people, and most people aren't on board with this, and how do you up the ante? well, instead of just going to
that one march and rally, you start to have all over the country, and organized nationally by a group that forms out of this radical faction to host to hold, to mobilize, and just gatherings of people, rallies, and anti-war rallies in which people would come to speak how the vietnam war is wrong. again, this is not a new invention, and before america's intervention of world war ii intervention is attacked. there were groups america's first is the most famous of them to hold similar rallies to keep americans out of the war in germany, and they were focused
on japan. but this is different, right? there is already a war. so as people are rallying and protesting or resisting entry into the draft, you have to remember that other young men are going to vietnam, and at this time, over 10,000 by the early 1967 have died fighting in vietnam, and many of the families are sacrificing. so this is a protest that is going on while there is a war being fought. little different than world war ii in that there was no declaration of war, so freedom of speech, freedom of assembly are still fully warranted constitution ally, and when war is declared, there is a different war declared between the public and the bill of rights, but there is no declared war, but you do have american young men die while these people are saying it is wrong. you can imagine the backlash. all right. you have again most of americans
are saying that the war is right, but secondly, right or wrong, our guys are dying over there. and so you have to shut up now, and you to rally around the troops. all right. so you can see that there is room here for more than just intellectual disquisition about policy, it is more high level stuff. so by 1967, the nation is beginning to polarize around this issue with a very small minority imposing the war, and a large majority saying that the troops are over there, and you have to rally around the troops, and this is going to heighten the stakes and make things trickier, ap complicates the process. there's blood being spilled. well, the war doesn't just end
in 1966, and if it did, this would not be a lecture, but it would be three sentences of a lecture, right. the war is going to keep continuing. and so by mid-1967, more than two years of war have been fought, and americans are now in vietnam, and not in small numbers and not on small units and not on guarding air bases, but in order to sustain the south vietnamese government, but in massive numbers and hundreds of thousands of american troops by 1967 are in vietnam. what are we doing? what is the end point? we have got all kinds of americans anxious about this war now. so, it is a kind of opening and as the war continues, more and more people are focused on it. you have still got this problem of how do you convince people to convince people who are in harm's way that this is ill advised. what are the tools that there
are? well, in 1967, part of the anti-war movement, which has been activated for a long time, and 2 1/2 years, they begin to up the ante, and in 1967, some of these long-time activists and some of them, the long activists, and dave dillinger, the guy i mentioned at the beginning, they started to say, we have to start combining our goals here. so we have a witness program, the gandhiian approach, that there are some americans who do not want to see this war continue in their name, but we need to do more, and so we have to adopt some of the guerrilla techniques that the vietnamese are using, and they don't mean violence, but they mean to convert and subvert and 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 what they see as slaughter to go on indefinitely. and in berkeley, for example, a small group, not part of the student new left for the anti-war group begin to blockade the troop ships that are taking the people to the depot to the port in oakland where the troop ships go off in the pacific and in vietnam, and they try to stop some of the troop trains of the groups to blockade the draft boards and link arms and not allow them to put people in draft boards, and up the ante. in 1967, there was a large group, some say 15,000 show up at the pentagon in 1967.
on one hand, it is typical protest, we don't like the war, it is immoral, and it is wrong rhetoric, but they try to surround the pentagon. have you ever seen the pentagon? it is really really big, and hard to surround, but they had a lot of people there, and so symbolically, they are trying to stop the brains of the war machine by literally, you know, blocking the pentagon. now, there's some characters in this protest who try to change the rules of the game, and in
doing these marches and the rallies and that might get some tv notice and people are kind of bored in marchs and protests, so we have to do something cool to catch people's attention, and this guy who thought of the troop blockade thing in berkeley named jerry rubin who is hooked up with a long haired guy in new york city called abby hoffman where they come up with a goof or scam where they announce if the press that the purpose of encircling and linking arms is not to block to keep people out, it is part of the magical right, and if done properly, they can levitate the pentagon, because the pentagon, everybody knows, it is the ancient symbol of evil. so we have to do the counter magic, and this is a goof. but the press is like, that is funny, and it is like our poor republican friend down in delaware who gets a lot of news coverage for saying stuff that is special. well, same idea. oh, the press is like, that is cool, you have long hair, and you are funny, can we take a picture of you.
and it catches people's attention, and then it clicks, and it is like, oh, if you want more attention and you are trying to reach the majority and the publicity, and you want people to hear you, and maybe you to do the clever goofy stuff to break the paradigm. and the civil rights movement, and sober, and the people are angry, and these guys are like, well, let's make it funny. make it clever. dangerous. we are talking about war and people dying in vietnam, but the american public is kind of fickle. so, maybe to reach them. so it is another how do you do contentious politic, and get people to listen and get a majority to focus and break them out of the apathy, and these two guys in particular, hoffman and rubin, they are trying to get two guys to focus. not individually trying to evade the draft, but to speak out publicly, and to change the
course of the nation's politics. i guess what i am trying to say is between 1965, and late 1967, all sorts of tools are being engineered and all sorts of modelings of how the public works are occurring. anti-war activists are stretching the boundaries of democratic practice, and you know, how do you do democracy as they try to figure out how to capture the nation's attention. now, in 1968, this anti-war movement will split. half is not fair, but some will stop this anti-rally protests like sit-ins, and protests at universities and another large segment is going to say, i think that we have convinced a lot of american folks that the war is
wrong. we need to now turn to the sort of the main highway of democratic politics in the united states which is electoral. 1968 is an election year, and 1964, we had the choice between bomb vietnam to the stone age versus incrementally try to change the policies of vietnam through an escalating war. republican and democrat both agreed that you have to keep it up, but maybe in 1968, we can have a choice. so some of the anti-war activists tried to cajole, persuade and fund an anti-war democratic party candidate. they can go mainstream in other
words. maybe we have enough support now the go main street, and maybe democracy in the most traditional sense will work. 1968, candidates are soft who can position themselves as anti-war advocates as a presidential candidate in 1964. the first candidate who comes forward is andrew mccarthy, and he turns forward to turn on the president of the united states saying that he will turn against andrew johnson and be an anti-war candidate. he shocks the punditry and almost defeats lyndon johnson in the first democratic primary in new hampshire in 1968. not quite, but he almost wins. and suddenly, it is like, hmm, even in conservative new hampshire, people don't like the war in vietnam, and not protesters and not radicals and the pacifists, and the black people, and i don't know if there were black people in new
hampshire in 1968, but regular folks. they don't like this -- well into the fray jumps the junior but well known senator from new york, bobby kennedy, the dead president's brother who also says, i too, i will stand against this war in vietnam and i will challenge the seated president of the united states. johnson is horrified at what he sees as betrayal by his own party's senatorial representatives and it is a real moment of truth for him. johnson is not in the best of health, and he has had gallbladder surgery, and his heart is not good. he has faced incredible stress from a war that he never wanted to fight, but he felt it was
unavoidable, and he decides in the face of this genuine challenge to quit. he does not quit the presidency, but he walks away from the campaign to be re-elected. electorally, this movement has had impact. but it doesn't have success. cut to the chase, the man who wins the democratic nomination is not kennedy. he is, as you all know, assassinated june 1968 by someone not interested in the war in vietnam, but he had other axes to grind, a kennedy is killed and probably would not have gotten the nomination, and mccarthy never would have had the gravitas, and he was not a charismatic figure to carry it off, and instead, a guy named hubert humphrey and a guy who was not ambivalent but carries off the nomination, and opposing
him, and a republic who has been around the bush a couple of time, richard milhous nixon. he had lost to kennedy and lost his bid to be californian governor, but richard nixon is not an easy guy to disappear. he comes back from the political dead, and he wins republican nomination, and he does something tricky, and i won't be able to say much more today. but he does something interesting. nixon had made the bones politically as a fierce anti-communist. as a guy who said always we must stand up to the threat of soviet communism. but by 1968, the war in vietnam was wear thin with again not just radicals and not just with the young people, but more and more americans, and they did not want to betray the troops or give up on the vision of what the united states stood for, and they did not have a radical critique of foreign policy, but my gosh, the war had been going on now for more than 3 1/2 days. so nixon offered something interesting, he said that we will win no matter the cost, and we will defeat communism no matter the burden. but he said something different,
americans must win this peace. americans must win this peace. what does that mean? he said, well, i promise you that i will win this peace for america, and i have a plan to end the war in vietnam, and everybody is like, thank goodness. how are you going the do this? he said, it would be unfair for me to tell you while i'm not the president of the united states, because that would undercut president johnson's efforts to negotiate with the enemies and you will have to believe me, because i am such a believable figure they have a plan to end the war in vietnam. so, we have to believe it here, and the war does not end with richard nixon's victory in 1968, and indeed, the war goes on the 1973 when richard nixon took office and 31,000 american soldiers had perished, and 27,000 more will die while richard nixon is president. because nixon does not quickly, easily effectively end the war in vietnam, the anti-war movement in the years ahead will radicalize and explode and create an incredible polarization among the american people. that is for next time. this year marks the 20th
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