Sunday, November 16, 2008

November 15, 2008

     The New York Times reminds us that on this date in 1969--39 years ago--something like a quarter of a million people massed in Washington to demonstrate, mostly peacefully, against the Vietnam war.  The Mall was full, from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.  I'm sure there were speeches.  I don't remember any of them.  What was extraordinary was this huge crowd assembled to tell its government--hey, you've messed up.  This war is a mistake.
     Nothing like that nowadays.  I'm not sure why.  I thought the Vietnam war was a mistake, especially after I'd covered it for some months.  I haven't covered Iraq--too old and slow--but from the start I've thought it was a mistake as well.  Sure, Saddam Hussein was a bad man, but he was no threat to the United States and he had nothing to do with the terrorists in Al-Qaeda.
     One difference, of course, is  that we still had a draft then.  Every draft age young man, and every parent of one, could think--hey, I have a stake in this.  Today our armed forces are volunteer.  Another difference is that American casualties are lower--fewer than, 5,000 Americans killed in Iraq;  58,000  American names are on the Wall here which honors the Americans killed in Vietnam. 
     Still, a bad war is a bad war.  That one was.  This one is.  I'm surprised we are not angrier about it.  Will President-elect Obama get us out of it as Richard Nixon, of all people, finally decided to get us out of Vietnam?  We have to hope so.
     I remember that demonstration, all those years ago.  There were many demonstrations and I could be wrong, but I think I ended my report for CBS News 39 years ago by saying, "It's been a very long day.  It's been a very long war."  This time too, Mr. President-elect.  This time too.

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