[IMC-DC] BTL Q&A 5-9-05: Marcus Raskin on the Lessons from Vietnam War
sharris at snet.net
Thu May 12 08:41:44 PDT 2005
Between the Lines Q&A
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BETWEEN THE LINES Q&A
for the week ending 5/13/05
Bush Administration, Peace Movement Learned
Very Different Lessons from Vietnam War
Interview with Marcus Raskin,
co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies,
conducted by Scott Harris
Listen in RealAudio:
(Needs RealOne player or RealPlayer)
With the recent escalation of violence by insurgents in Iraq that
includes daily attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces, car bombings and
kidnappings, the optimistic picture recently painted by White House and
Pentagon officials of diminishing violence, stability and a short-term
reduction in the number of American occupation troops seems ever more
implausible. Meanwhile, nations such as Italy and the Ukraine that had
initially deployed soldiers to support the Bush administration's
occupation of Iraq are now steadily withdrawing.
While differences outnumber similarities between the Iraq war and the
U.S. war in Vietnam, there are a growing number of observers who are
concerned that the Bush administration may be making the same critical
mistakes that led to the American defeat and withdrawal from South
Vietnam 30 years ago. Critics and supporters of Washington's war in
Southeast Asia, haunted by the deaths of 58,000 American troops and more
than a million Vietnamese, have drawn very different lessons from the
Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Marcus Raskin, co-founder of
the Institute for Policy Studies in 1963, and a vocal opponent of the
Vietnam war and military draft. Raskin assesses the current peace
movement's demand for a rapid U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the lessons
he believes should have been learned in Vietnam.
MARCUS RASKIN: Well, I think that if you look at the Vietnam War, there
was an election in September of 1967 in South Vietnam, and the
assumption in the press and among people in the administration was, "You
see, this election is working, and it will result in the stabilization
of the South Vietnamese government and everything is going to be hunky
The same sort of crude understanding of life of another culture is
happening in Iraq. There's nothing to suggest, at least at this point --
and there's nothing on the horizon to suggest that the attempt to have
an election or an election on top of what is now an incipient civil war
-- that it will result in any sort of quiet in allowing the United
States to leave.
Furthermore, though, there is in case no apparent reason the United
States will leave. It wants to have the bases in the Middle East; it
wants to be the nation that is able to guide where the oil is supposed
to go, etc. And it wants to establish itself directly as the nation that
has the sphere of influence over that area.
BETWEEN THE LINES: By all accounts, U.S. military recruitment is down,
and there are real prospects out there that a draft may be
re-established in this country soon. What do you think the response of
the peace movement who want a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from the
occupation of Iraq -- what do you think the peace movement should be
MARCUS RASKIN: I think that there are several things that should go on.
One is obviously the increase of marches and demonstrations, which I
think does have an effect. I think also, there is a core question of
legitimacy of the war -- that is to say, it's based on a lie. There were
no weapons of mass destruction, on and on. That the president had no
intention of following whatever the intelligence said -- that he and
(British Prime Minister Tony) Blair wanted to make war and planned to do
this several years ago. So that this was an aggressive war, that being
an aggressive war is something which is violative of the Nuremberg
principles which the United States supported as it related to German war
Furthermore -- and that's just a part of an argument -- it strikes me as
mistaken in the extreme, not to raise the question of either censure or
impeachment with regard to the president and his Cabinet, and at least
the president in order to make clear that these people indeed have acted
in an unlawful way.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Just a final question, if I could. Many half-truths
and blatant lies were told in justifying the Iraq War on the part of the
Bush administration, but our government seems unaccountable for these
breaches of trust. In fact, policymakers have been rewarded with
promotions, medals and re-election. The press was blamed for the loss of
the Vietnam War by conservatives who supported that conflict, and it
seems that the press in the United States has been asleep at the switch,
to say the least, in terms of scrutinizing and challenging the
rationales for war in Iraq.
MARCUS RASKIN: Well, I think that's right, and for the most part, our
press is what you would call a palace court press. That is to say, it
takes handouts, and is more willing to take propaganda than doing
individual or critical research on various questions. It's a great
shame, because what that means is that the people of this country suffer
as a result of it.
This issue is going to become more and more important as people in any
case, move away from reading newspapers and dependent on the mass media,
such as television, which indeed, only tells a fleeting glimpse of any
story. So the country is faced with a very, very great problem now, in
terms of how news is gathered, how criticism is made and how it gets
BETWEEN THE LINES: Any lessons you want to impart from you learned
during the Vietnam War in your activism against that conflict?
MARCUS RASKIN: I think that there's one principle, and that is less a
principle, I think, than a stand. And that is that unless you speak out
and act, the social and political space will close down. The only way to
keep open that social and political space is to use it.
Contact the Institute for Policy Studies by calling (202) 234-9382 or
visit their website at www.ips-dc.org. Raskin and Carl Lavan are the
editors of a new book titled, "In Democracy's Shadow: The Secret World
of National Security."
* "The Unreported Vietnam-Iraq Parallel," by Danny Schechter,
CommonDreams.org, May 1, 2005
* "From 'Gook' to 'Raghead'," by Bob Herbert, by the New York Times, May
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be
heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our
website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured
on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The
Lines for the week ending May 6, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was
compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.
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