From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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(This commentary piece also appears in THE VETERAN, Spring 2017 (Volume 47, Number 1).)

50 Years of VVAW

By Joe Miller

From the National Office

This year we mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). In New York City on April 15, 1967, a small number of Vietnam veterans marched together during a huge anti-war protest under a hastily-produced banner declaring them to be "Vietnam Veterans Against the War." That was the impetus for the eventual establishment of VVAW in June of 1967.

VVAW, New York City, 1967.

By 1967, many of us who eventually joined VVAW were in different places in our lives. Many of us were in uniform after serving for a number of years and moving against the war. Some had already served and were looking for a way to stop their war. Even more had recently joined the military thinking they were defending their country, "Killing Commies for Christ," as they were told. Greater numbers were still too young to serve, but would be sucked into the draft machine too soon. Thousands of these would also find their way to VVAW over the years.

It might be argued that we in VVAW were a part of what Dr. King called for — a "radical revolution of values." We were determined and young and idealistic. Many of us thought that if the country saw its veterans marching against the war they fought in, the country could be turned around. Even though VVAW had a direct impact on the movement against the Vietnam War, we soon learned that the system needed such wars. The system did not see us as heroes fighting for peace and social justice. The system saw us as a threat to its existence, along with all the other threats, such as Black Liberation, Women's Liberation, Student Power, etc.

So, we continued to fight, to organize, to exist. Fifty years later, we are still here - no longer young idealists, but still "angry young men and women" doing what we can to promote social and political activism in the long-term struggle for peace and social justice. Wherever VVAW members exist, they are willing (and mostly able) to join the fights, local and national. We remain true to our origins.

Now, our country and the rest of the world face new threats from a radical right wing Tweet Administration. This group of misleaders want to deconstruct the state machinery on the backs of the poor, the sick, the elderly, the very young, racial and religious minorities, the LGBTQ communities, and vets. It is a billionaire's club that is all about their bottom line, a line that keeps most of us on the bottom, grasping for crumbs.

Bill Branson and Joe Miller at Chicago
Women's March, January 21, 2017.

One of the more obvious signs of where this so-called Administration wants to take us is seen in the recent debacle surrounding the attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Tea Party members and moderates inside the Republican Party went toe-to-toe in an effort to repeal the ACA, all with the full support of the Blowhard-in-Chief. This fundamental campaign promise was to be the major signal achievement of the Tweet Administration.

However, as the population learned about the real details of this planned repeal, they began to make noise. Republican town halls across the country erupted into shouting matches, as the politicians tried to convince their constituents of the positive aspects of the new plan. Facts got in the way. Numbers got in the way. Soon 60% of those polled declared their solid opposition to this attempt to hijack their health care. Finally, President Tweet and his minions had to back off.

Then, there is the somewhat uncomfortable situation of the ongoing investigations of the Russian connection with the 2016 presidential campaign. Was the American electorate cheated in their selection of the new political leadership of this country? Were deals made with an outside power? What will be the ultimate outcome of all this? Impeachment? A Nixon-like resignation? Who the hell knows?

Activism against these right-wing attacks on the people's general welfare is on the rise, with the first worldwide demonstrations held the day after the inauguration of the new power clique. People everywhere are talking and acting in a resistance mode. We in VVAW will be there, perhaps in fewer numbers than in the old days, but we will be there. We call on all our members and supporters to be active wherever and however they can! Donate time, money, brain and muscle power. Act! Speak Out!

"A change is gonna come..."

Joe Miller is a VVAW board member.

Thanks to Jeff Danziger, Billy Curmano, and Travis Landchild for their cartoons. Thanks to Steve Millard for his sketches from Vietnam. Thanks to Bill Branson, Joan Davis, Joe Miller, Kim Shallcross, Jan Barry, Stanley Campbell, Maurice Simon, Susan Schnall, Louis DeBenedette, Mike Hastie and others for contributing photos.

Bill Branson
Jeff Machota
Ellie Shunas
Jen Tayabji

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