2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It also marks another milestone: the 50th anniversary of the height of the Vietnam War and the popular movement that arose to confront it. By 1969, more than 14,500 young American soldiers had been killed and a half million had served in combat. Antiwar protest raged in the streets, on campuses and in capitols across the country. One of the unusual features of the Vietnam era was the emergence of citizen diplomacy — Americans who traveled to Vietnam and return to tell what they saw. In 2013, one group returned to Vietnam to participate in observances of the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords that ended the war. Out of that trip came a book, The People Make the Peace: Lessons From the Vietnam Antiwar Movement, edited by Karín Aguilar-San Juan and Frank Joyce. A number of the contributors recently returned from Vietnam where they launched a Vietnamese language edition of the book. Three of those contributors discuss their history with the Vietnam War, their trips to Vietnam during the war and lessons that the antiwar movement holds for today’s activists. Judy Gumbo is an original member of the Yippies who visited the former North Vietnam and helped organize a Women’s March on the Pentagon; she spent most of her professional career as a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood. Jay Craven is a Vermonter, award-winning producer, independent film writer/director, impresario, and community arts activist. He traveled to Vietnam in 1970 as part of a delegation of college newspaper editors and student body presidents and returned to help lead the 1971 May Day demonstrations in Washington that resulted in the largest mass arrest for non-violent civil disobedience in U.S. history. Frank Joyce has been in involved in many labor, antiracist, human rights and antiwar campaigns. He was a member of the UAW International Union staff for eighteen years. (July 17, 2019 broadcast)
As The US has been embroiled in numerous foreign wars in the last few decades, some of the most passionate activists for peace have been military veterans. Guys Like Me: Five Wars, Five Veterans for Peace(Rutgers University Press, 2018), by Michael Messner, tells the story of these veterans. We speak with these veterans about what transformed them into fighters for peace. (December 12, 2018 broadcast)
Daniel Craig, US Army, Gulf War
Jonathan Hutto, US Navy, Operation Iraqi Freedom
Ken Mayers, US Marines, Vietnam War
Michael Messner, professor of sociology and gender studies, University of Southern California, author, Guys Like Me
Fifty years ago, US soldiers entered the village of My Lai in Vietnam and massacred more than 100 villagers. A year later, a young freelance reporter named Seymour Hersh exposed the massacre in articles that ran in newspapers around the world. It was the beginning of a long and storied career of exposing official secrets as a reporter for the New York Times and The New Yorker. Hersh, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his My Lai reporting, is widely recognized as America’s leading investigative journalist. Among his other notable accomplishments are exposing the Abu Ghuraib prison abuse scandal in Iraq, US-backed assassinations around the world, many Watergate revelations, the CIA role in spying on antiwar protesters, and more. Hersh has just published a new memoir, Reporter. He discusses how he gets the stories, how the press is getting it wrong in their coverage of Pres. Trump, the future of journalism, and more. (July 25, 2018 broadcast)
The Post is a new Hollywood movie about the dramatic decision by the Washington Post (together with the NY Times) to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The movie features Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. The real-life star of this drama was Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the top-secret history of the Vietnam War to the newspapers. Ellsberg was a former Marine and adviser on the Vietnam War to Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The Pentagon Papers revealed that top US government officials had been lying about the Vietnam War to the American people.
For leaking the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was charged with theft, conspiracy and violations of the Espionage Act, but his case was dismissed as a mistrial when evidence surfaced about the government-ordered wiretaps of his phone and break-ins of his psychiatrist’s office.
Daniel Ellsberg is now 86 years old and remains active in the peace movement. I interviewed Ellsberg in 2015, when this originally aired on the Vermont Conversation. (January 17, 2018 broadcast)
Ron Dellums is an American political legend. A native of Oakland, California, Dellums was first elected to Congress in 1970 as an opponent of the Vietnam War. He became an expert in military and foreign policy, he rose to become chair of the powerful House Armed Services Committee. He was re-elected 13 times, retiring from the House in 1998.
Dellums used his leadership positions to question US policy on weapons systems and foreign intervention.He also led the fight against apartheid in South Africa, winning passage of the US Anti Apartheid Act of 1986 over the veto of President Ronald Reagan. His efforts helped win the release of Nelson Mandela. In 2006, Dellums emerged from retirement and was elected mayor of Oakland from 2006 – 2011.
Dellums reflects on his lifetime of social change and service, from Vietnam to helping free Nelson Mandela to his advice to Black Lives Matter activists today.
Tom Hayden was a leader of the student, civil rights, peace and environmental movements of the 1960s. He went on to serve 18 years in the California legislature. He was a founder of Students for a Democratic Society and was described by the NY Times as “the single greatest figure of the 1960s student movement.”
During the Vietnam War, he made controversial trips to Hanoi with his former wife, actress Jane Fonda, to promote peace talks and facilitate the release of American POWs. He helped lead street demonstrations against the war at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, where he was beaten, gassed and arrested twice. Hayden was indicted in 1969 with seven others on conspiracy and incitement charges in what became the Chicago Eight trial, considered one of the leding political trials of the last century.
Hayden is Director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center in Culver City, California, he organizes, travels and speaks on a variety of issues. He helps advise Gov Jerry Brown on renewable energy, and He is the author and editor of 20 books, his current one is Why Cuba Matters.
Tom Hayden is now 75 years old. I caught up with him last week at the U of Michigan Ann Arbor, where Hayden was speaking at the 50th anniversary of the first Vietnam War teach in held on a US college campus.
Gov. Phil Hoff, the first Democrat elected governor in Vermont in over a century, permanently changed the politics of the Green Mountain state during his tenure, 1963-1969. Hoff — who pursued sweeping initiatives in civil rights, education, and was the first Democratic governor to break with LBJ and oppose the Vietnam War — is widely recognized as the founder of progressive politics in Vermont. Hoff celebrated his 90th birthday in June 2014. He talks about his victories and defeats, his relationship with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, his struggle with alcoholism, his views on universal health care and education, his legacy, and he offers advice to today’s leaders.