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Reader: If you can't get your way by non-violence, change your politics



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It's 50 years since the height of the Vietnam War, so it's fitting that the brilliant documentary producer, Ken Burns, will soon present all phases of that hideous war, in a series on PBS.

It's sure to be a study in the deadly stupidity of some American politicians. More than 50,000 brave American soldiers and 2.5 million Asians, many of them children, were killed, according to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

The war was justified on two horrendously wrong theories. First the "containment theory" was the frantic fear of American politicians that China and Russia would continue their expansionist aspirations, and communism would take over more and more nations, threatening us. As we know, those communist nations morphed on their own into semi-capitalist economies.

The second bogus American theory was the "domino theory." It held that if Vietnam fell, then the other nations in Southeast Asia would then fall like dominoes and communism would control the Pacific rim, and threaten our shores. Vietnam did fall, but the dominoes did not, thus disproving the other false and fatal justification.

It was not — definitely not — the fault of the American soldiers that this incredibly ruinous war was fought and lost. It was politicians, American politicians.

While heroes were fighting an unwinnable war far away, I was doing all I could think of to stop the carnage on both sides (the Viet Cong fought bravely for their country too). I wrote my first letter against the war to a newspaper in 1965, marched in peace demonstrations at least a dozen times, gave lectures against the war, did draft counseling on my campus, helping my students go to Canada or legally declare Conscientious Objector status, took part in "teach-ins."

I do not diminish the heroism of American soldiers by insisting that there is nothing ethical in going abroad and invading foreign nations and killing defenders who get in our way, as is currently being done in Iraq and Afghanistan, two more unwinnable wars.

You cannot "win" by killing people. You make permanent enemies of their relatives and friends who never forget. And you sow the seeds of future wars.

If you can't get your way by diplomacy and non-violence, change your politics. It does work. Gandhi and Martin Luther King proved it.

Tune in to Ken Burns' treatment of a catastrophic war, for a more complete view.

— Larimore Nicholl, Colorado Springs

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