Breaking Away From Apathy: The First Step

AFTER so many years of opposition to the war in Vietnam, it is difficult not to think of any new developments there as an adversary conflict not between the United States and the Vietnamese but between Mr. Nixon and us-the students.

Nixon's resumption of bombing raids well over the 20th parable? in North Vietnam strikes many students as aggressive, inhumane, hypocritical, and short sighted, But the deeper personal threat one can't conceal is that the raids are an arrogant slap in the face of the anti-war movement challenging it to react.

The raids are another in a series of gameboard moves to "show the Communists that the United States means business"; no amount of external pressure or internal political divisions can alter our determination to place the South Vietnamese countryside solidly in Thieu's hands whether, in fact, it is inhabited or not.

With the elections over, the only serious obstacle to renewed raids might have been pressure from the anti-war movement; but Nixon has gotten only one message from the summer forays of his aides onto the campuses: the movement's dead. "A lot more dead leaves on the ground this fall," as Kingman Brewster has remarked.

Much as we would like to pour 500,000 people into Washington this weekend to shut down that city, the movement has neither the leadership, the organization, nor the network of news dissemination to make such a protest effective.


Nixon has interpreted the movement's coordination as its decline. He is wrong. The strength and depth of opposition to the war has never been greater. Many, however, are languishing under the false impression that the President's commitment to withdraw 280,000 troops by next May represents the first step to removing the United States presence from Vietnam.

Last week's bombing raids signal jut the opposite-much more clearly than the Cambodian invasion. The master plan, according to Washington sources, calls for a continued presence of a smaller troop commitment over the next several years, bolstered by increasing and wider bombing pressure to keep the North Vietnamese "off balance," The war will not end and the best Nixon can hope for is that less Americans will die there and the eyes of the public will turn away.

If his new bombing raids are not strongly challenged, he will have conditioned America to be more accommodating toward more such "limited" raids when, not if, they come. The only viable alternative must be to reconstitute the anti-war movement again, with the specific goal of forcing Nixon to clarify his intentions beyond the May troop cuts and leading the American resistance to his policies. There can be only one demand: unilateral and immediate withdrawal of all American troops and support.

Rebuilding the anti-war movement beyond its peak in 1969 may well take most of the winter, especially after five futile and discouraging years of protest have given us a president whose vision is even less than his predecessor. Lyndon Johnson was, for all his failings, a moral man who could be broken by an appeal to his morality on the war. On more than one occasion, he expressed, bewilderment and apprehension over the sight of thousands in the street protesting his own role as a war monger.

We cannot expect that kind of response from Nixon, Students speak to him of burning babies in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and he laments the sad state of the surfboard. One must perceive Nixon as a political man. His most genuine anger in the last two years has been directed against a balking Senate after the Carswell defeat. And only in the Senate, is an immediate and stinging response to the raids on North Vietnam possible.

While Congress sits in lame duck session with seven appropriations bills, and most of President Nixon's major domestic programs, pressure can be applied to the so-called Senate doves to immediately reopen televised Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Vietnam and filibuster until the President gives Congress his assurance the bombing raids will not continue.

The filibuster can be tied to the $1 billion foreign aid appropriations bill that includes a $255 million in assistance to Cambodia. Democratic leaders expect to be able to defeat the Cambodian appropriation, but it would be far more dramatic and meaningful to use it to tie up that Congress-essentially to shut it down-down until the closing days of the session.

Last year, we said there can be no more business as usual until the war ends. We closed down 169 universities and perhaps the swan boat concession in Boston Common October 15. But the force of the gesture was lost on the great majority of Washington policymakers.

Included in this lame duck Congress are five Senate doves who have nothing to lose by leading a filibuster to show their colleagues and the President that the cry for no business as usual applies most directly to them; Goodell, Tydings, Gore, McCarthy and Yarborough have already put their Senate seats on the line in opposition to the war. Dramatic opposition to the President when it can be so effective is only consistent with their higher goals.

Other so called doves share the responsibility, especially those who were re-elected overwhelmingly on dove platforms: Kennedy, Muskie, Fulbright, Hart, Nelson, Hatfield, McGovern, Proxmire, Cooper, Hartke, Magnuson, Bayh, Saxbe and others. The must know it is not enough to give speeches against the war and cling tenaciously to a few plaudits for voting yes on the McGovern-Hatfield amendment.

The students have exhausted their resources against the war and are now devising new methods. Liberal Senator can rightly be asked "Just what can you do to stop this war and exactly how much have you done?" The list of so-called dove senators includes most major contenders for the democratic presidential nomination in 1972. It is difficult to foresee any massive student support building around a man who would not step into the fight at this crucial time and lead the antiwar forces.

For too many years students have been filling the vacuum and leading the anti-war forces, grateful for any politician that cared to come along. Until the movement can once again be resurrected, the burden of opposition to the president must fall to those who are in a position to be most effective. What pressure students can exert must be applied directly and exclusively to those liberal senators who have been riding the wake of an anti-war crest. The message is simple: filibuster-like the lives of millions of innocent Vietnamese depend on it.