Lessons of the Vietnam War.
Since August we began the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. The Pentagon has $63 million to commemorate the war until 1975. It was a long war. The priorities are to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, to highlight the service of the Armed in the war, and contributions on the home front. There is a website for the Pentagon commemoration at http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/. When activists of the peace movement during the war saw the website they found it to be mostly propagandistic and needing correction. I agree.
The Pentagon commemoration omits contributions of the peace movement “on the home front” that helped bring an end to the war. It was movement of leaders and activists: veterans, mothers, wives, children, civil rights, faith, labor, student and academic progressives. Chican@s were part of it.
To correct the distortions a peace commemoration is being organized. The first step is a conference this Friday and Saturday May 1-2 in Washington D.C. titled “Vietnam – THE POWER OF PROTEST – Telling the truth”. Learning the Lessons. We appreciate the sacrifice of the veterans but are critical of the policies, policy makers and their results. The conference has a star studded program of progressive leaders of the past half century: Dolores Huerta, Danny Glover, Dan Ellsberg, Phil Donahue, former Congresspersons Pat Schroeder, Ron Dellums and current Reps Barbara Lee and John Conyers, singer Holly Near and more.
Dolores Huerta and three other Mexican American/Chicanos are in the program: Luis J. Rodriguez Poet Laureate of Los Angeles who marched in the National Chicano Moratorium against the the war as a teenager banger in the National Chicano Moratorium against the war on August 29, 1970, Dr. Jorge Mariscal Vietnam veteran, professor and author about the Chicano movement and the Vietnam War, and myself who chaired the August 29 1970 National Chicano Moratorium. We helped form a new group, the Chican@ Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee to support the conference and to educate our communities on truth and lessons of the war afterwards.
The largest peace activities were in the East and Midwest. The greatest impact of the war was in African American and Latino communities. Protesters Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali were the major African American leaders. Early Latino protest by leaders like Congressman Ed Roybal, journalists Ruben Salazar, Francisca Flores and Enriqueta Vasquez, activists Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Corky Gonzales, Reies Tijerina and Bert Corona were not covered. National publicity came when police attacked the Chicano Moratorium and confrontation ensued which the establishment and media blamed on the community.
The 30,000 demonstrators were proportionately equal to over a million people as Mexican Americans in the 1970 census were about 2.5 % of the population. Armed Forces statistics report “Hispanic” fatalities as 349, the truth is closer to 10 times that. National GI Forum Leader Ruben Treviso says that one of every two Latinos in the war were in a combat unit, one of every 5 was killed in action, one out of every three was wounded.
Poverty and discrimination were causes of the high death rate but official policy was the main cause. Project 100,000 instituted in October 1966 reduced standards of the Armed Service for language proficiency, “mental and physical” deficiencies. The people of color and poor troops brought in under the program were over 10% of the total serving disproportionately in combat, while predominately white college students were exempted from the draft. We will be reporting back on the conference soon.
The Chican@ Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee (CVPCC) can be contacted at email firstname.lastname@example.org, and CVPCC, 1107 Fair Oaks Blvd, South Pasadena 91030
Copyright 2015 by Rosalio Munoz. To contact Rosalio write: email@example.com