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The War Is Over…The Struggle Continues


Leslie Cagan

Hard

to believe it, but April 30th will be the 25th anniversary of the end of the war

in Vietnam!!

In

Vietnam, activities commemorating the end of that long, painful period of their

nation’s history have already begun and will culminate in major events in both

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. But what about here? How are leftists, social change

activists, the progressive community, and people working on current foreign

policy issues relating to this anniversary?

Below

is a call written collectively by a group I am working with based in New York

City and in touch with people around the country. A modest operation, we have

come together to organize an educational and celebratory event on Sunday, April

30th. We will celebrate the victory of peace in Southeast Asia, the victory of

the Vietnamese people in successfully ending decades of war, intervention and

foreign domination, and the years of incredibly hard work by a peoples’ movement

in this country that grew strong enough to actually make a difference.

Often

anniversary events are occasions to look back, reflect on (and sometimes

romanticize) our history and revel in our previous successes. We hope this

anniversary will be a time to look back in order to learn more about the work

that needs to be done today. The war against the Vietnamese people ended 25

years ago, but have the goals of U.S. foreign policy changed all that much? Yes,

the world is certainly very different now, but are there not lessons we can –

and should – learn from our past that can be useful in today’s work?

In

addition to our efforts in New York City we hope people around the country will

put together their own activities on or around April 30th. We can help with

ideas for speakers and films/videos and we are developing a resource packet. The

details of our plans, a calendar of activities in other places, various

documents and resource materials are all going on to our web site, which we

encourage you to visit at www.vietnam25.org.

Let’s

use our history to strengthen our future. Let’s learn the lessons of the war in

Vietnam and the anti-war movement here. Let us re-commit ourselves to the

struggle for peace and justice throughout the world.

 

A

CALL TO REMEMBER

April

30, 2000 marks the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. An entire

generation has been born and grown to adulthood–with other generations on the

way–without knowing the horrors of that conflict.

But

we remember.

We

remember the millions of Vietnamese dead, and the millions more broken and

maimed bodies that survived the slaughter of the innocents. We remember the

Cambodian nation destroyed and the million of its people butchered in the

carnage that grew out of U.S. policy in Indochina. We remember that one half of

the Laotian people were forced for years to live as displaced persons in their

own country because of U.S. saturation bombing. We remember the Tiger Cages and

other tortures inflicted on Vietnamese patriots by the "government"

imposed on them by Washington. We remember the napalm and the phosphorous bombs

that rained on peasant villages, leaving burnt bodies and blackened holes where

once there was family life.

We

remember My Lai and hundreds of other hamlets where children, women and elderly

were killed by U.S. armed forces ordered to impose Washington’s will upon a

people who wanted to be left in peace. We remember the Agent Orange and other

poisonous chemicals that eliminated Vietnam’s forests and that left

behind–today, a quarter of a century later–an array of severe birth defects

passed along from generation to generation. We remember the policy decisions in

the White House and Pentagon to "bomb into the Stone Age" the

hospitals, schools, bridges, roads and civilian infrastructure of one of the

poorest countries on earth.

We

remember that, even as the civil rights movement gathered force to end

segregation in the Deep South and racism throughout this country, our government

sent as cannon fodder ground troops that were disproportionately

African-American and Latino while carrying out a criminal war against an Asian

people. We remember that the antiwar movement that grew to resist the aggression

was sparked and inspired by the civil rights movement, some of the most

courageous leaders of which came to speak on behalf of both movements.

We

also remember the more than 58,000 Americans–almost entirely the sons and

daughters of poor and working-class families–who lost their lives, ordered into

battle by arrogant men 10,000 miles away. We remember the hundreds of thousands

of GIs who returned home, many with bodies wounded and minds suffering with the

trauma of war. We remember those addicted to alcohol or drugs, others

incarcerated because of acts of despair, and still others homeless. We remember

how our government turned their backs on these veterans. We remember the many

thousands of families broken by the loss of loved ones who went to war, or went

to prison or into exile to resist the insanity. We remember that when peace

finally came, and our government agreed to help rebuild Vietnam with

reparations, that agreement was immediately betrayed and has never been

implemented. All of this has left a gaping wound in the life of our country that

has never been closed.

And

we remember that, because the Vietnamese would not bend to the will of U.S.

policy-makers, and because the American people in their majority came to oppose

this war of unending atrocity, we finally brought it to an end. After 14 years

of daily lies by our elected leaders, after jailings of thousands of resisters,

after killings of protesters at Kent State, Jackson State & other campuses,

after GIs refused to fight & organized an anti-war movement within the armed

forces, after teach-ins & sit-ins and peaceful protests and massive

mobilizations built a popular majority that forced Pres. Lyndon Johnson &

Pres. Richard Nixon out of office, the peoples of Vietnam & the United

States were able to impose peace. This was one of the great triumphs of an

incorruptible human spirit.

We

remember all this. And we will never forget it.

Subsequent

generations of U.S. policy makers have tried to make us forget, to glorify the

war, to "put Vietnam behind us," to end "the Vietnam

syndrome" by which is meant the unwillingness of Americans to kill and die

for the imperial designs of others. What the men who sit in the halls of power

have learned is that to conduct "successful" wars now requires

high-tech slaughter from the air (or where possible, the use of proxy armies),

economic sanctions which result in children dying from lack of food and

medicine, control of the television images reaching into our homes, and avoiding

casualties to U.S. troops–and to do so in the name of

"humanitarianism" and "non-intervention".

We

have learned different lessons–of the arrogance of power, of the right of

nations to self-determination, of the need to resolve political differences

peaceably, of the distinction between international solidarity and

"globalization". We have experienced the calamity to our cities, our

public-education and public-health systems when war making and war preparation

get first call on our nation’s treasury. We have also learned that when we are

determined, organized and united and when our cause is just, the people of this

country can impose our will on elected officials and policy makers.

These

are memories, lessons and moral responsibilities that we keep alive for new

generations. We ask, as a first step in fulfilling the U.S. commitment to the

agreements we signed in ending the war, that our government resolve, without

qualification, to work with Vietnam to eliminate the environmental and health

plagues visited on both our peoples by the use of Agent Orange and other

defoliants. We commit ourselves to continue to oppose U.S. interventionism,

foreign policy driven by corporate profits and greed, and assaults on the rights

of people around the world.

We

call upon you to join us in commemorating the 25th anniversary of the end of the

Vietnam War this Spring.

 

Issued

by the Vietnam Peace 25th Anniversary Committee. Visit our web site for the

complete list of signers on this call and other important information: www.vietnam25.org.