FW: For those old enough to remember Vietnam

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Sat Sep 15 19:43:42 MDT 2001


By Norman Solomon

On Sept. 14, the Senate voted 98-0 for a war resolution. It says: "The
president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against
those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized,
committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001,
or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future
acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations,
organizations or persons."

This resolution, written as a blank check, is payable with vast quantities
of human corpses.

* * * * *

The black-and-white TV footage is grainy and faded, but it still jumps off
the screen -- a portentous clash between a prominent reporter and a maverick
politician. On the CBS program "Face the Nation," journalist Peter Lisagor
argued with a senator who stood almost alone on Capitol Hill, strongly
opposing the war in Vietnam from the outset.

"Senator, the Constitution gives to the president of the United States the
sole responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy," Lisagor said.

"Couldn't be more wrong," Wayne Morse broke in. "You couldn't make a more
unsound legal statement than the one you have just made. This is the
promulgation of an old fallacy that foreign policy belongs to the president
of the United States. That's nonsense."

Lisagor: "To whom does it belong then, senator?"

Morse: "It belongs to the American people.... And I am pleading that the
American people be given the facts about foreign policy."

Lisagor: "You know, senator, that the American people cannot formulate and
execute foreign policy."

Morse: "Why do you say that? ... I have complete faith in the ability of the
American people to follow the facts if you'll give them. And my charge
against my government is -- we're not giving the American people the facts."

In early August 1964, Morse was one of only two senators to vote against the
Tonkin Gulf resolution, which served as a green light for the Vietnam War.
While reviled by much of the press in his home state of Oregon as well as
nationwide, he persisted with fierce oratory for peace. It would have been
much easier to acquiesce to the media's war fever. But Morse was not the
silent type, especially in matters of conscience.

On Feb. 27, 1968, I sat in a small room at the Capitol to watch a hearing of
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Six members of the panel were seated
around a long table. Most of all, I remember Morse's voice, raspy and

"My views are no longer lonely," he noted at one point, adding: "You have
millions of people who are not going to support this tyranny that American
boys are being killed in South Vietnam to maintain in power."

Morse summed up his position on negotiations between the U.S. government and
its Vietnamese adversaries: "Who are we to say there have to be two
Vietnams? They are not going to do it and they shouldn't do it. There isn't
any reason in the world why the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong should
ever come to a negotiating table on the basis that there must be two

Moments before the hearing adjourned, Morse said that he did not "intend to
put the blood of this war on my hands."

At the time, Oregon's senior senator was remarkable because he challenged
the morality -- not just the "winability" -- of the war. He passionately
asserted that the United States had no right to impose its will on the
world. In the process, he made enemies of many fellow Democrats, including
President Lyndon Johnson.

Like most heretics, Morse suffered consequences. After 24 years in the
Senate, he lost a race for re-election in November 1968. The winner was a
slick politician named Robert Packwood, who denounced Morse's antiwar

In his lifetime, Morse became a media pariah. In the quarter-century since
his death, political reporters have rarely mentioned his name.

"I don't know why we think, just because we're mighty, that we have the
right to try to substitute might for right," Morse said on national
television in 1964. "And that's the American policy in Southeast Asia --
just as unsound when we do it as when Russia does it."

Three years later, he declared: "We're going to become guilty, in my
judgment, of being the greatest threat to the peace of the world. It's an
ugly reality, and we Americans don't like to face up to it. I hate to think
of the chapter of American history that's going to be written in the future
in connection with our outlawry in Southeast Asia."

Such heresy infuriated many powerful politicians -- and journalists -- while
Wayne Morse did all he could to block a war train speeding to catastrophe.

* * * * *

Now, in the autumn of 2001, there's no one stepping forward from the Senate
to help block the war train. We'll need to do it ourselves.

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