Ah Fall 1969: A time of graduation and marriage for many young folk, The Beatles release “Abbey Rd,” (including “Come Together” and “Something”) the Stones release “Let it Bleed with (with “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) and the Amazin'(or in my opinion just plain lucky) Mets win the World Series over the unluckly Baltimore Orioles. Also for the first time polls indicated more Americans oppose the Vietnam War than support it.
Of course much has changed since then: The music bands are gone (but the ageless Rolling Stones are still here), the Orioles of 1969 just had bad luck, now their just bad (to my great disappointment). But one similarity and one difference are connected: there isn’t a radical anti-war movement in the streets (difference), and for the first time a majority of Americans think “the war” was a mistake (similarity).
According to liberal columnist Harold Meyerson in a June 2005 article, “In Nov-Dec. 1969 the Gallup Organization found that 49 percent of Americans favored a withdrawal of U.S. forces and 78 percent believed that the Nixon administration’s rate of withdrawal was “too slow.” But there was one other crucial finding: 77 percent disapproved of the antiwar demonstrations, which were then at their height.
“That disapproval was key to Nixon’s political strategy. He didn’t so much defend the war as attack its critics, making common cause with what he termed the “silent majority” against a mainstream movement with a large, raucous and sometimes senseless fringe. When Nixon won reelection in a landslide, it was clear that the strategy had worked — and it has been fundamental Republican strategy ever since….” “However, the the absence of an antiwar movement is proving to be a huge political problem for the Bush administration, and why the Republicans are reduced to trying to turn Dick Durbin, who criticized our policies at Guantanamo Bay, into some enemy of the people. The administration has no one to demonize. With nobody blocking the troop trains, military recruitment is collapsing of its own accord. With nobody in the streets, the occupation is being judged on its own merits.”
Meyerson thinks that Dems should not shun a fight with Bush, but take him on head-on. He thinks that candidates who call for putting a date on US withdrawal from Iraq will be rewarded at the ballot box. I’m not sure I agree with that, but it is food for thought. His criticism of Kerry as having a “muddied” position on Iraq is wrong. Kerry said over and over we had to internationalize the Iraqi situation if the mission was to be successful and that we only had a few remaining months to get it right or else the situation would worsen as Iraqi views solidified into one where they uniformly thought of us as occupiers, not agents of democracy. Sometimes I wonder about these folks: it’s as though if the Dems don’t nominate another McGovern then they have to nominate a Bush clone.
Still, Meyerson’s point about how Nixon used the anti-war movement to his advantage, and that the anti-Vietnam War movement’s tactics only succeeded in pushing folks away from them who otherwise might be supportive is right in my book. You can read all of Harold Meyerson’s article here.
“The important thing to remember as anti-war Americans gather in Washington DC this weekend, is this:
1. Keep it nonviolent. The best friends Nixon had in 1968 were not southerners, corporate contributers, or Archie Bunker, but the violent anti-war protestors in Chicago at the Dem Convention in 1968. According to Harris polls, “Only 14% of Americans thought the rights of anti-war protestors were violated, while a whopping 66% disagreed with that view.”
2. Know thy REAL enemy. Yes the Republican Noise Machine folks are a bunch of liars, but anybody who gives this machine ammunition has only themselves to blame. Ergo, make clear that you are anti-war, NOT anti-American or anti-Armed Forces. This war in Iraq didn’t happen because the armed forces (especially the troops) wanted it, it happened because Bush, Cheney, and Haliburton wanted it.
3. Accept, don’t push away, new converts. Some people supported the Iraq war initially, others did not. The same was also true during Vietnam. One of the greatest mistakes the anti-Vietnam folks made was to adopt tactics that turned off folks that agreed with the anti-war movement’s main point that Vietnam was the wrong thing to do. There-to this day- tends to be a tendency among those who opposed Vietnam from the get-go to look down on those who did not oppose it from the get-go. Here in over-educated Montgomery County, where we have more aging anti-Vietnam snobs than the South has rednecks, I actually heard people saying they doubted Kerry’s commitment to peace not only because of his IWR vote but also because he volunteered to go to Nam. If anti-Iraq War folks come off as elitist, peace at any price, or angry anti-Americans, they are helping no one but Karl Rove.