At the Remembrance of the 1967 Pentagon Demonstration conference, I wanted to talk about past mistakes of leadership that inhibit the participation of youths and radicals. My comments on C-Span.

Here is some of what I would have discussed if I hadn't been cut off..

Walter Teague This conference in "remembrance" of the 1967 demonstration against the Pentagon and the U.S. war on Vietnam was held to apply lessons from the past to better work against the ongoing and future wars. My statement was cutoff because the organizers had second thoughts after inviting me to speak and reduced my time from 15 or more minutes to 5 and then as the last minute to only 2 minutes! Watch the video and you will see other speakers were allowed much more time. Why?

I believe their reasons were much the same as why the leadership in cut off Nguyen Van Luy half way through his two page double-spaced speech in 1967 at the Pentagon demonstration. They were afraid a Vietnamese anti-war speaker was too risky and he might throw in some radical statement at the end. As the leader of the anti-war Vietnamese in the U.S. they had checked him out thoroughly and had required his speech beforehand. But at that demonstration and since, leadership was often conflicted about including what they perceived as "radical" voices.

The lesson I wanted to add at this Remembrance was that leadership repeats mistakes when afraid of radical voices. This has unnecessarily slowed past movements and occurred again at the many of the recent 50th Anniversary memorials on the Vietnam war and MLK, Jr. events, many of the same mistakes continued. Mistakes that undercut the effectiveness of organizing and are unnecessary if leadership is not so tightly held by those glued to the past and afraid of the future.

Two recent examples I would have raised. On May 1-2, 2015 a major conference to commemorate and apply the “lessons of Vietnam” was held in Washington, D.C. called “Vietnam: The Power of Protest, Telling the truth. Learning the lessons. (VPOP)” The event was organized as a response to the U.S. government and Pentagon mounting a 13 year massive campaign to rewrite the history of that war. This new Pentagon campaign is designed to both hide past war crimes justify applying the lessons they learned from the U.S. failures in Vietnam, to support the new wars around the world, and also as part of a campaign to assert that the “mistakes” of that war did not include any ill-intent or War Crimes. Since 2015, the massive documentary The Vietnam War promotes this same view, that the war was only a mistake by well intentioned men. An obvious lie.

So while much of the anti-war leadership from the 60's and 70's rightfully decided to respond with an event to counter the Pentagon, but once again their excessive caution and efforts to keep control led to similar mistakes. Facing a hugely funded Pentagon campaign, amazingly they did not reach out to the many new groups around the U.S. and even ended up alienating some of the more active anti-war veterans groups. This attitude limited what groups were included in the organizing, and as a result there were very few young or people of color. They did provide for many excellent leaders and speakers, but even they noted that once again there were few young people! And while the government was investing millions and organizing thousands of events around the U.S., a restrained two day anti-war event with little publicity or outreach was tragically ineffective. Subsequent efforts and intentions have continued to suffer from the same leadership mistakes.

Fortunately as in 1967 and later, many of those alienated did find other ways to continue to organize. An excellent example is the very active web page Vietnam Full Disclosure organized by The Veterans for Peace organization. VietnamFullDisclosure.orgThis site attracted and published hundreds of very relevant and effective responses the both the pentagon’s plans and the Kenneth Burns propaganda documentary The Vietnam War. My review of the film as propaganda is at:

And similarly in recent years we have seen many examples of grass roots organizing neither stifled by or waiting for timid aging leadership; Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Me Too, Iraq Veterans Against the War, March for Our Lives, and so many more! Imagine the publicity and follow-up if some of these thousands of young people had been trusted enough to include in the organizing of the remembrances.

My last example is the long suppression of the most radical speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. Fortunately this cowardly hypocrisy is breaking through the censorship. But in 2013 almost no one at the 50th anniversary of “I Have a Dream” march, and in all the subsequent anniversary events and media coverage dared mention the definitely radical views King expressed in his last speeches. In his April 4, 1967 Riverside Drive NY speech he denounced the US as the main purveyor of violence around the world and that for poverty and oppression to be eliminated, capitalism must be replaced by a form of socialism responsive to human needs. If you haven’t recently read his speeches, I urge you to do so and keep in mind, many think his bravery in declaring his opposition to not only the US war on Indochina, but his opposition to imperialism were the brave acts that led to his assassination. And then ask yourself, why even as so many were lauding his greatness, were his last radical messages still so often hidden.

I do appreciate this issue is finally getting more attention and the obvious hypocrisy is being challenged. The question remains for all who are organizing to not just make a moral statement, but want to prevent imperial wars at home and abroad, how can we do better?