to believe it, but April 30th will be the 25th anniversary of the end of the war
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
CALL TO REMEMBER
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
remember all this. And we will never forget it.
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".
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.
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.
call upon you to join us in commemorating the 25th anniversary of the end of the
Vietnam War this Spring.
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.