Liberal, leftist, and pacifist groups all supported mass demonstrations, but differences arose as to the degree of confrontation. Demonstration organizers decided early on to separate civil disobedience actions, such as sit-ins and the burning of draft cards, from main events. Disorder and violence nevertheless erupted in a number of demonstrations due to an untoward mix of rowdy individuals, leftist militants, aggressive counter-demonstrators, government agent provocateurs, and repressive policing. The Johnson and Nixon administrations, for their part, welcomed unruly behavior as it undermined the movement’s public image and allowed them to claim the moral high ground – standing up for law, order, and decency – even as they unleashed wholesale violence in Vietnam.
The main organizational strategies of the antiwar movement involved education, political action, demonstrations (mobilization), and draft and GI resistance. National organizations differed in their strategic priorities. Liberal groups and some pacifist groups, such as FCNL, took the lead in lobbying, while SDS and SWP eschewed both lobbying and election work. Socialist Party chairperson Michael Harrington, however, was a strong advocate of political action, even arguing that the peace movement’s resources would be better spent on influencing Congress than on organizing mass demonstrations.
Jeremy Kuzmarov, The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009), 31.
Michael Mace in Michael Takiff, Brave Men, Gentle Heroes: American Fathers and Sons in World War II and Vietnam (New York: Morrow, 2003), p. 157, cited in Lt. Col. Gregory A. Daddis, “No Sure Victory: Measuring U.S. Army Effectiveness and Progress in the Vietnam War” (dissertation, Univ. of North Carolina, 2009), p. 310.
The Peers Inquiry report, Dept. of the Army, March 14, 1970, notes “a number of Vietnamese sources alleged that on 16 march 1968 approximately 80-90 noncombatants, including women and children, were killed by US soldiers in My Hoi subhamlet of Co Luy Hamlet, a coastal area of Son My village shown on US maps as ‘My Khe’” (page 7-1). Yet no serious investigation took place and no charges were filed. See the full report at . In 2001, Nick Turse, a graduate student researching post-traumatic stress disorder among Vietnam veterans, came upon the secret records of the Pentagon’s Vietnam War Crimes Working Group and later published his account of the records in Kill Anything That Moves (2013).
Heonik Kwon, After the Massacre: Commemoration and Consolation in Ha My and My Lai (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2006), p. 31; and Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, especially chapters 1-5.
Colby recounts his testimony in Andrew J. Rotter, Light at the End of the Tunnel: A Vietnam War Anthology (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010), p. 153. See also Kathy Kadane, “U.S. Had Role In Massacre Of 250,000, Ex-Diplomats Say,” The Seattle Times, May 20, 1990.
Gabriel Kolko, Vietnam: Anatomy of a War, 1940–1975 (London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1985), p. 89; the Pentagon Papers, Vol. I, p. 255; and Jeremy Kuzmarov, Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation Building in the American Century (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012), pp. 144-147.
Thak Chaloemtiarana, Thailand: The Politics of Despotic Paternalism (Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2007), p. 157. Of four independent states in Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Thailand joined SEATO, while Burma and Indonesia did not. Other SEATO members were the United States, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and Pakistan. Under the Geneva Agreements, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos could not take part in any international military alliance.
George McTurnan Kahin and John W. Lewis, The United States in Vietnam (New York: Dell, 1967), pp. 23, 24; and H. Bruce Franklin, Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), p. 50.
The renewal of massive U.S. bombing of North Vietnam in the spring of 1972 catalyzed the formation of a Campaign to End the Air War. CALC organized hundreds of people to lobby Congress and sponsored a radio program that ran six days a week on 300 stations. Folk singer Joan Baez was in Hanoi during the last, 11-day massive bombing campaign in December 1972. She had come to deliver Christmas mail to American prisoners of war. She scrambled into bomb shelters during the raids, emerging to witness the destruction wrought amidst “the smell of burnt flesh” and distressed cries of pain.
New Mobe and SWP organizers called for a demonstration in Washington on May 9. With only a week’s notice, 100,000 people showed up on the Ellipse behind the White House in a nationally televised rally. Several hundred federal employees waved banners outside office windows, one proclaiming, “We Have Found the Enemy and He Is Us!” Nine members of Congress joined Dr. Benjamin Spock on the platform. The rally was peaceful except for about 1,000 protesters who went off-route to engage in vandalism and block traffic in the street. Police wearing steel helmets and gas masks forcefully removed them. Rallies were also held in other cities, drawing 60,000 in Chicago, 50,000 in Minneapolis, 20,000 in Austin, and 12,000 in San Diego.
Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, pp. 58, 90, 91; and David Hunt, Vietnam’s Southern Revolution: From Peasant Insurrection to Total War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009), p. 162.