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The 1967 Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam: Confrontation at the Pentagon

An eye-witness report from 50 years ago

hundreds of thousands of protesters confront the US War Machine on Oct. 21, 1967 as Generals and DOD leaders watch from the Pentagon the roofhundreds of thousands of protesters confront the US War Machine on Oct. 21, 1967 as Generals and DOD leaders watch from the Pentagon the roof


Note 50 years after the March on the Pentagon:

This month marks the 50th anniversary of a historic event: the 1967 MOBE rally and march on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War. Hundreds of thousands of students, committed leftists and anti-war activists as well as veterans of the Civil Rights movement from all over the nation descended on Washington and put their bodies on the line at the center of the US War Machine. Over 700 were arrested and jailed, among them the author.

In this report -- this journalist’s first piece of newswriting, done at the age of 18 -- I think readers, and especially younger ones who missed the ‘60s, may get a glimpse of the kind of thinking that was going on among those of us who found ourselves coming unexpectedly face to face with the reality of our government as an oppressive global empire, and with the idea that our own government lies.

There is a naivety here that I hope people will understand and see for what it is: evidence of how middle-class people raised in the post-war era as I was had been lured into a sense of comforting illusion even as our nation was overthrowing governments, propping up brutal dictators, slaughtering Third World people on a scale that can only be called genocide, and promoting a Cold War with the USSR which threatened to trigger a thermonuclear war (sound familiar?).

What I missed in my instant, and rather pessimistic snap analysis of the significance of the MOBE at the time was that it actually led to the peace campaigns of both Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to seek another term as President. It also signaled the beginning of a more militant anti-war movement – one which no longer saw the war as just a mistake or a pointless effort, but as part of a vast imperial scheme of global dominance. In my observation about the relatively small number of genuine radicals at the march, I missed the reality that those hard-core radicals were the ones who had been protesting the war early, and who had done much of the organizing to make it happen. I also failed to even imagine that the violence I saw aimed at MPs guarding the Pentagon was almost certainly the work of agents provocateur -- something we learned more about a few years later later when COINTELPRO was exposed.

Despite the shortcomings of my 18-year-old report here, hopefully we can all learn something useful for today by looking back at that crucial event through the eyes of someone whose worldview was profoundly shaped by his participation in it.

Confrontation at the Pentagon

story | by Dr. Radut