Rare Reunion of Vietnam Protesters Revives Antiwar Message

 

Vietnam War protesters convened May 1 to 2 in the U.S. capital for what TV talk show pioneer Phil Donahue described as an "unprecedented" gathering of leaders sharing lessons for today's civic problems.

Phil Donahue“There has never been a gathering like this,” Donahue, 79 and shown in a file photo, said in welcoming the 300-person audience gathered in a church near the White House. “We were going in too many different directions. Now, we’re together for the first time.”

The opening keynoter was former California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only member of either the House or the Senate in 2001 to oppose the post-9/11 authorization for war in the Mideast. The Oakland Democrat, shown in an official photo, feared the resolution was too open-ended and would allow presidents to create new wars, not simply retaliate against 9/11 perpetrators. A similar debate is preventing congressional approval of force against the Islamic State group, ISIS. The group did not exist during 9/11 but the Obama administration is fighting them anyway.

“True peace,” she quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as saying in his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail, “is not just the ‘absence of tension’ but ‘the presence of justice.’”  She further quoted King as saying during the Vietnam era that America was “a society gone mad on war.”

“Today your country needs you again,” she told the audience at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. “During the Vietnam War, you raised your voices in protest and the nation listened.”  
 
Barbara Lee“We know that the billions spent on drone attacks could be used to educate the next generation,” she continued. “We must repeal this blank check for endless war.”

The conference, entitled Vietnam: The Power of Protest, was one of a four this editor attended in downtown Washington during recent days. Today’s column surveys the viewpoints we encountered and does not try to cover any of them in depth. Video teams filmed most of the proceedings,

Most notable among our other events were the annual Ridenhour Awards luncheon and an lecture organized by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce featuring GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, the junior U.S. senator representing Texas. Both were at the National Press Club April 30.

The Ridenhour Awards are named for the late Vietnam War veteran, My Lai Massacre whistleblower, and investigative reporter Ron Ridenhour. The awards recognize those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice, or illuminate a more just vision of society.

Those receiving them this year were:

James Risen, author and New York Times investigative journalist shown below, received the 2015 Ridenhour Courage Prize. Risen is credited "for his bold and forthright reporting shedding light on government abuses and his refusal to betray his sources in the face of overwhelming pressure and legal intimidation by the Bush and Obama administrations."

James RisenIn summarizing its decision to select Risen, the selection committee said, "Throughout his distinguished career, James Risen has investigated the world's most secretive and powerful government agencies. His work has opened doors they'd prefer kept shut and shed light on clandestine and unauthorized activities. From revelations of excessive government surveillance to exposing the CIA's controversial 'Operation Merlin' in Iran, his incisive reporting has highlighted the frequent contradictions between the conduct of our government and the fundamental principles of our democracy. Risen has fought bravely to protect his sources and combat pressures that would undermine his work and that of other journalists, even fighting a subpoena and vowing to go to jail if needed. We're honored to award James Risen the 2015 Ridenhour Courage Prize for his years of fearless reporting at the highest level of American journalism, his selfless defense of the First Amendment, and for championing and defending the core principles of journalistic integrity."

Seymour Hersh, a previous winner, introduced Risen, who commented that the real heroes are the whistleblowers who risk imprisonment to talk to reporters. Risen said he was forbidden by lawyers to discuss specifics from his own work. But his reference suggested his continued support for former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who faces a long imprisonment at sentencing this week after a federal court conviction on spy charges for allegedly communicating with Risen.

Aicha ElbasriAicha Elbasri was the winner of the 2015 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. Her disclosure of secret documents — including thousands of pages of emails, police reports, internal investigations and diplomatic cables — exposed the failure of the UN peacekeeping mission to protect millions of civilians under its care, and the mission's complicity with the Sudanese government in concealing an ongoing war that thrust non-combatants onto the front lines. Her heroic stand, including her public resignation in protest, resulted in a series of articles in Foreign Policy Magazine that obliged the UN chief Ban Ki-moon to act. She is shown at right.

Anand GhopalAnand Gopal, author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, won the Book Prize. Challenging predominant narratives, Gopal writes about America's longest war with intimate accounts of life in war-torn Afghanistan. 

The Documentary Film Prize went to Citizenfour , produced and directed by Laura Poitras, shown at right. The film "provides a first-hand account of Edward Snowden's disclosure of the NSA's mass surveillance program. The Ridenhour judges said the film documents the initial contact the former NSA contractor had with Poitras via anonymous, encrypted email Laura Poitrasmessages, and the whistleblower's "history-making disclosures that revealed chilling evidence of a worldwide web of mass surveillance. Poitras's film unfolds to show the headline-making events that followed as Snowden went public with his leaks and eventually settled into a life in exile in Moscow."

Later on April 30, the first-term Texas senator Cruz described how his conservative platform would benefit Hispanics as well as other Americans. Cruz, born in Canada and the son of Cuban immigrant, repeatedly stressed his support for small businesses as a gateway to opportunity for immigrants. He is shown in a file photo at left.

USA Today captured the candidate's aggressive style in a report on the talk headlined, Ted Cruz charges Obama has 'inflamed racial tensions.'

Ted Cruz“President Obama, when he was elected, could have been a unifying leader,” Cruz said in a general reference to disturbances such as those in Baltimore. Cruz added, “He has made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions.”

But when asked for specifics by the moderator, Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Javier Palomarez, Cruz could only point to 2012 campaign comments by Vice President Joe Biden and Obama's 2009 comments after local police mistakenly arrested Harvard professor Louis Gates at his home in Cambridge, MA. 

The Justice Integrity Project participates in many such events to add texture to our analysis although we do not usually publish columns about events widely covered elsewhere.
 
Marcus EcholsWe shall provide a broadcast analysis May 4 in a special two-hour radio interview here by host Marcus Echols.
 
The Alabama-based host, shown in a file photo, will explore such controversies as the Baltimore riots and police brutality, the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, and the lessons regarding the criminal justice system and the 2016 presidential race drawn from the book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters.

More generally, we frequently find ourselves in a position to draw on both first-hand observation of news makers as indicated above and also the reflected observations of those with many more years experience.

Donahue, for example, is no ordinary media personality. He is credited with creating on The Phil Donahue Show (later known as Donahue) first talk show format that included audience participation during its 29-year run on national television, ending in 1996.

Later, he hosted the highest-rated show on MSNBC in 2003 when it was cancelled. Later, an internal MSNBC memo revealed that the network cancelled his show because he opposed the then-imminent U.S. invasion of Iraq, as reported by author Chris Hedges, among others.

In The Day That TV News Died, Hedges wrote in 2013: "Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq."

General Electric and Microsoft — MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war — were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure.

An internal MSNBC memo leaked to the press stated that Donahue was hurting the image of the network. He would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” the memo read.

Donahue never returned to the airwaves.

 
 
Contact the author Andrew Kreig
 
 

 


Related News Coverage

Marcus Echols Show, Interview with Andrew Kreig on Alabama Prison Reform, May 4, 2015 (radio interview for 100 minutes).

USA Today, Ted Cruz charges Obama has 'inflamed racial tensions,'  Catalina Camia, April 29, 2015. After days of tensions in Baltimore, GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz said President Obama has “inflamed” racial tensions. “President Obama, when he was elected, could have been a unifying leader,” the Texas senator said at a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce forum Wednesday. “He has made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions.” Baltimore was trying to right itself Wednesday, following violence that erupted earlier in the week after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a spinal cord injury while in police custody. Obama has condemned Ted Cruzthe rioting and vowed there will be a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Gray’s death. Cruz cited a remark made by Vice President Biden during the 2012 presidential campaign that Mitt Romney and the GOP are “going to put y’all back in chains.” The Romney campaign seized on the comment as a “new low,” while the Obama campaign said the context of Biden’s comment was meant to convey the risks of letting Wall Street operate unregulated under Republicans. When asked to give an example of how Obama has inflamed racial tensions, Cruz said: “He has not used his role as president to bring us together. He has exacerbated racial misunderstanding and racial tension.” Cruz cited Obama’s facilitation in 2009 of what’s known as the “beer summit,” in which the president brought together Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Mass., police force, at the White House after a racially charged dispute. For more than an hour, Cruz answered a variety of questions about energy independence, the economy, and appealing to Hispanic voters that were posed by Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Javier Palomarez. The organization, which represents 3.2 million Hispanic business owners, hopes to have similar sessions with other presidential candidates. On the subject of immigration, Cruz repeated criticisms of the Senate bill that would have tightened border security and granted a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants already in the United States.

NPR, Latino 'Panhandlers,' Ted Cruz And The Republican Push For Hispanics, Amita Kelly May 1, 2015. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas spoke Wednesday at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., after the group criticized him for skipping their summit last month. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush went on a Spanish-language tour — first to Puerto Rico and then speaking to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in Houston. Latinos are part of the electorate everyone agrees is key, but the GOP has struggled to connect. Latinos have long skewed Democratic, but the past two presidential elections hit Republicans especially hard — Latinos voted overwhelmingly for Obama. This time around, two major candidates on the right — Cruz and Marco Rubio — are Hispanic. Jeb Bush is not Latino, despite that box he checked, but his wife is Mexican-American, and he speaks fluent Spanish. Cruz, who is Cuban-American, told the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce about his immigrant father who struggled to get a job in the 1960s. He said his father came to terms with the fact that if he was up against an American for a job, "they'll hire the other guy."

Truthdig via Bill Moyers & Company, The Day That TV News Died, Chris Hedges, March 25, 2013. I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place. The descent was gradual — a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Marvin Gaye "What's Going On" CoverWikipedia, What's Going On. What's Going On is the eleventh studio album by soul musician Marvin Gaye, released May 21, 1971, on the Motown-subsidiary label Tamla Records. The first Marvin Gaye album credited as being produced by the artist himself, What's Going On is a unified concept album consisting of nine songs, most of which lead into the next. It has also been categorized as a song cycle; the album ends on a reprise of the album's opening theme.

The album is told from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning to the country he had been fighting for, and seeing nothing but injustice, suffering and hatred. In worldwide critics', artists' and public surveys, it has been voted one of the landmark recordings in pop music history and is considered to be one of the greatest albums ever made. In 2003, the album was ranked number six on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time," placing in that same position nine years later.

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Baltimore Police Charged Six Suspects KTLAWashington Post, Six Baltimore officers charged in Gray’s death; five in custody, Lynh Bui, Arelis Hernández and Matt Zapotosky May 1, 2015. Six Baltimore police officers face charges ranging from assault to second-degree Marilyn Mosbymurder in the death of Freddie Gray, who died from injuries suffered in police custody, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said Friday. The officers placed a shackled Gray on the floor of a transport van, head-first and on his stomach, and ignored his complaints that he couldn’t breathe, the prosecutor said. List of charges against the officers What is depraved-heart murder? Mosby, in a mid-morning announcement from the steps of the War Memorial Building, delivered a stunning narrative alleging lethal indifference and cruelty on the part of officers who arrested and transported Gray on April 12. Mosby, shown in a file photo, said Gray suffered a severe neck injury after being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and allowed to careen unrestrained inside the Baltimore police wagon. After four intervening stops, including one to complete paperwork and another to pick up an additional prisoner, Gray was in cardiac arrest when the van arrived at the Western District police station. He died on April 19.

Freddie Gray Baltimore family photoWashington Post, Findings indicate Gray got head injuries in van, Lynh Bui, Dana Hedgpeth and Bill Turque, May 1, 2015. Investigators believe Freddie Gray suffered serious head injuries while he was in a police transport van, although they have not concluded how the injuries occurred, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation. One wound occurred when Gray, shown in a file photo, struck his head on a bolt that jutted out in the van, the official said, but that was not Gray’s only head injury. And the injuries overall are consistent with what medical examiners often see in car collisions, the official said. The findings, which have not been publicly released, are part of an investigation into Gray’s death that Baltimore police handed over to prosecutors Thursday.

New York Post, Former crony willing to testify Christie lied about Bridgegate, Joshua Saul and Bruce Golding, May 1, 2015. A former crony of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pleaded guilty Friday in the “Bridgegate” scandal — and is willing to testify that the fading GOP star knew about crippling lane closures as they were happening, his lawyer said afterward. David Wildstein, who scored a $150,000-a-year Port Authority job through his Christie connections, entered into a cooperation deal with prosecutors and admitted scheming to snarl traffic near the George Washington Bridge as part of a political payback David Wildstein and Bridgett Kellyscheme. Two other ex-officials with ties to Christie (shown in an official photo) were also indicted on charges they plotted with Wildstein to take revenge against Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich for refusing to endorse Christie’s 2013 re-election, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. Chris ChristieBill Baroni, former executive director of the Port Authority, and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, were slapped with multiple counts, including conspiring to misuse property of an organization receiving federal benefits and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. (Wildstein and Kelly are shown in file photos.) “Public officials must use government resources for proper government purposes,” Fishman said in a statement. “The indictment alleges, and Wildstein admitted, that the three defendants used Port Authority resources to exact political retribution … and concocted and promoted a bogus cover story to execute their plan and cover their tracks.”

New York Times, American Psychological Association Bolstered C.I.A. Torture Program, Report Says, James Risen, April 30, 2015. The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists. The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program was significant because it enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe.

Global Research, Political Assassinations in Ukraine, People’s Deputy of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, April 29, 2015. Translated by Alya & Alan Bailey / Edited by Olga Luzanova. Elena BondarenkoI, Elena Bondarenko, a deputy of the Party of the Regions, which is in opposition to the governing party in Ukraine, would like to make a statement about the fact that the government is directly threatening with assault opposition politicians, depriving them of freedom of speech in the parliament and in other places, as well as conniving in the crimes against opposition leaders and their children. Persistent threats, an undeclared ban on opposition parties appearing in the majority of Ukrainian mass media, purposeful baiting—these are everyday things in the life of the opposition in Ukraine. Everybody who calls for peace in Ukraine immediately becomes an enemy to the regime as it was, for instance, in 30-40’s Germany or in the USA during the McCarthyite era.

 President Obama with Japane's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, April 27, 2015President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan travel by motorcade en route to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., April 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

New York Times, Japan’s Bid To Stifle Media Is Working, Martin Fackler, April 26, 2015. An unexpected act of protest shook Japan’s carefully managed media world: Shigeaki Koga, a regular television commentator and fierce critic of the political establishment, abruptly departed from the scripted conversation during a live TV news program to announce that this would be his last day on the show because, as he put it, network executives had succumbed to political pressure for his removal. “I have suffered intense bashing by the prime minister’s office,” Mr. Koga told his visibly flabbergasted host late last month, saying he had been removed as commentator because of critical statements he had made about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Scholars describe a mood of fear spreading beyond the news media into the broader society, including in education where the Abe government is pressing textbook publishers to adhere more closely to the official line on topics like the 1937 Nanjing massacre and the use of so-called comfort women in wartime military brothels. “These unprecedented attacks on The Asahi and other media are creating a closed conformity in which the whole society is becoming afraid to say something different,” said Tatsuro Hanada, a professor of media studies at Waseda University in Tokyo.