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Anti-War America
Todd Gitlin
August 30, 2005

Todd Gitlin ( contributes regularly to and is the author of The Intellectuals and the Flag, forthcoming from Columbia University Press.

There come moments in the course of all movements when they go mainstream, despite the best efforts of their enemies to demonize them and of their most radical elements to purify them. Such a moment has probably arrived in the case of the current anti-war effort. But pitfalls also loom.

You cannot trade on certainties in such elusive matters, because events intrude. But a probable turning point arrived the evening of Wednesday, August 17, when (according to some hundreds of thousands around the country turned out for more than 1,600 candlelight vigils to express solidarity with Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey outside Crawford, Texas. In White Plains, N.Y., the more than 100 who gathered included, I was told by a correspondent, “loads of soccer moms, Little League dads and plenty of their kids.


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I was drafted in the Fall of 1969, the last one from Newport, RI before the lottery was instituted. As the "war" went on, more and more middle class kids were facing an unknown "lottery".

We still had Kent State to come, Nixon Agonistes and Watergate. The Pentagon Papers were to be released, the whole war apparatus in DC would finally fall under some satirical scrutiny. Those miliatry nuts in DC did not inspire support for the troops.

I, unfortunately, had three years left on my "commitment"... through Sep 1972. What happened to me, to my fellows in the breach and the SE Asian peoples (not in that order, necessarily) in those remaining years was criminal.

Now we have paid for a great (incomparable in any era); we are again an occupying power, forcing a kind of half-hearted democracy on these people, whether they want it or not.

So, there are more similarities to that era than differences. Soldiers and civilians die in suicide attacks (suicide attacks???); we faced sappers. They would throw themselves on the concertina wire with a bomb strapped to them. Sometimes it was a suicide attack, sometimes it wasn't.

Today we have another great public task; that is to rein in the government, its internal spying and its drift toward outright attempts at world domination.

The religous right wingnuts are not happy unless they foist their religious npractices on the rest of us... Their religious practice says they must worship on the public square. The right wingnuts will only stop when they have "evangelized" the rest of the world, primarily through intimidation and actual force, or until their entire movement, like the know-nothings are relegated to the dustbin of history.

I honor the efforts of our soldiers, all wars. I only criticize the leadership that is squandering our soldiers lives. I wish we would have learned something from your hard fought war. At times, our christian religions seem as extreme as the Islamic extremists.

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