An opinion from 20 years ago
Vietnam. Cambodia. Kent State, Laos.What should we, what can we, as members of a university community, do?
The invasion of Laos earlier this week by the South Vietnamese army, with American air support, has been met with sporadic demonstrations at colleges and universities across the country. The report that American ground troops are fighting in Laos, though denied by government and military officials, has not been hard for many of us to believe; it was almost expected, because of the credibility crisis which the Nixon administration has passed off as a dispute over “semantics.”
And now rumors that North Vietnam will be invaded. These rumors apparently stem from a communiqu‚ from a North Vietnamese delegate at the Paris peace talks, to a peace conference last weekend in Ann Arbor, saying that an invasion of the North by South Vietnam was being planned. South Vietnamese Vice-President Ky, addressing a reunion of pilots he led on a raid of the North in 1965, was quoted earlier this week as saying:
“To be sure to win, one must realize that at a certain point one will have to cross to the other side of the Banhai River and attack the rear bases and the North Vietnamese troops on their own territory.”
The White House Wednesday refused to rule out the possibility of American air support for a South Vietnamese thrust into North Vietnam, but denied any present plans to do so. We can believe that plans for this invasion do exist, because we remember Nixon’s remark that the United States has never lost a war, and his vow not to be president when the first loss comes; because we remember that, when we asked him to end the war, Nixon’s reply was not to end it, but to “Vietnamize” the war effort, thereby changing the color of the corpses.
We can believe it. But can we accept it? Can we go on with our normal, daily lives, accepting the atrocious continuation and escalation of the war which our government perpetrates under the false cry of freedom?
If we can accept this, then one might ask how long those normal, daily lives will continue, as the danger of world war looms closer on the horizon.
But if we cannot accept it, then we are left with the question that has plagued the peace movement since last May: What can we do? What should we do?
The “system” does not provide any answer. We can’t expect results from writing to our congressman. We have failed to get results through peaceful marches in the streets. And attempts to stop the system with rocks and bombs have also failed.
The violence of last spring has not stopped the war, though it has led to increased support for Nixon’s policies and a paralysis of the peace movement. It seems that the question of what we can do has become an insurmountable obstacle. Perhaps the system can be stopped through a tremendously-well organized national strike. But that possibility is not even close.
The war used to be, for many of us, the most disgusting and crucial issue of our lives. But now that has changed. For the most crucial and disgusting issue today is the powerlessness to control our government, to even influence the decisions our government is making.
What can we do?
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