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Anti-Vietnam War protest

During the fifteen year American war in Vietnam, the US had up to over half a million troops there by the height of the war in 1968. We also had mass media that showed Americans the actual war, including the terribly destructive search and destroy missions.

One can read books on the atrocities committed such as Nick Turse’s “Kill Anything that Moves.” These things were done in the open, and journalists photographed and wrote about the war for Americans at home. Hence, people of conscience in Congress and among the public at large, especially college students, could develop an anti-war movement. That movement played a role in leading President Nixon to gradually withdraw American troops and end most involvement by 1973.

What governing imperialists would learn from Vietnam was not to stay out of foreign wars but to hide them from American public view. This policy began to be put into effect in the Second Iraq War (2003-11) begun by George W. Bush. His father, George H. W. Bush had invaded Iraq in 1991 to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait. We still maintain a garrison of troops in Iraq, something the Iraqis oppose. Geneva Convention outlawed chemical weapons, such as lethal white phosphorous were employed in Iraq, burning inhabitants severely and causing great suffering. The Iraq wars were far less photographed than Vietnam, but some journalists were able to report more or less what was going on. This was because over a hundred thousand Americans served in Iraq. And as with Vietnam, many who went there in favor of the war returned against it and commonly suffering from the nightmares and anxiety condition common among combat veterans.

The US remains a highly militaristic country, with somewhere between 700 to a thousand bases throughout the world. Today, however, those who plan our imperial wars have devised ways so as to minimize military participation. Recent American interventions include Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Outlawed bio-weapons, such as white phosphorous have often been used. These may well soon be used in Ukraine, where the US arms the Ukrainians against Russia. Though they signed the treaty outlawing such weapons, the US now operates over 300 bio-weapons laboratories throughout the world. It was one of those labs from which the corona virus, or COVID, was accidentally or perhaps deliberately released. Those who think it was deliberate note the way the pandemic was used to make governments more authoritarian. Fear of infection and the lockdowns rendered populations around the world more docile than usual, and government could get away with more authoritarian behavior. Would be dictators have regularly accrued vast powers during states of emergency. And the COVID emergency lasted two plus years. The Omicron strain is still wreaking havoc and causing lockdowns in parts of the world including China.

During the COVID lockdowns, the US foreign policy elite could exercise a more free hand in projecting American power around the world. The means of doing so in Europe was through the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO), which was formed in 1949 as a defensive organization against the Soviet Union, which was communist and seen as expansionist due to their communization of Eastern Europe. Over the past several decades, American foreign policy has become more and more the province of the neoconservatives, militant hawks who follow an ironclad doctrine that the US must dominate the world. And most importantly, the US must never allow a competitor to arise within the bounds of the former Soviet Union. This doctrine was developed following the Soviet breakdown, which was abetted by American fifth column operatives in the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy in the eighties.

Those entities planned the Second Iraq War during the George W. Bush era. And now they are intensely active in the Biden administration. Joe Biden, like Hillary Clinton, represents a Russophobic branch of the Democratic Party. Biden’s undersecretary of state, Victoria Nuland, is a militant neocon and former adviser to George W. Bush. Biden was vice president under Barack Obama, who while not a neocon, did begin the process of encircling Russia with missile bases. This policy was continued under Trump, whose secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is a neocon.

By expanding a fiercely anti-Russian NATO to Russia’s border and surrounding it with missiles, the hawks of the foreign policy establishment worked to carry out the neocon agenda. This led to the proxy war in Ukraine. The US is only indirectly involved in that war. They supply weapons of all kinds, likely to soon include chemical and biological agents. Hence, the US is up to its neck in war against Russia, through NATO, which aids the Ukrainians, including the fascist Azov battalion.

A peace movement today then must oppose all US and NATO encroachment on Russia through the countries at its border. Fomenting war with Russia is extremely dangerous, as it could easily lead to nuclear war between Russia and the US. This is something that wiser statesmen, who carried out foreign policy during the Cold War, including Dean Acheson, Averill Harriman, Walt Rostow, Dean Rusk, Henry Kissinger and Cyrus Vance understood well. But the reckless neocons now in power are hell bent on direct confrontation with Russia. Cooler heads favored peace negotiations, as they recognized the obvious fact that direct confrontation at the Russian border could lead to a world-ending war. A new anti-war movement must make the American people aware of that strong possibility. We can start by becoming familiar with and supporting anti-war veterans in the About Face movement.


Stephen Berk (B.A. Lehigh University; M.A. University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Ph.D. University of Iowa) is emeritus professor of history at California State University Long Beach.  He also holds a Master of Science in Counseling from Cal. State Long Beach. He taught at Cal. State Long Beach in the history department from 1970-2004).  He worked as a CA licensed psychotherapist in private practice from 1982-2004. Now retired, he writes occasional opinion pieces for periodicals, lives in Astoria, Oregon, and will soon be moving to the Boston, MA area, near where he grew up.  

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