They fought for the same cause when they walked through Harvard Yard, but more than 20 years later, three anti-Vietnam War activists are taking different stands on the war in the Gulf.
James C. Pinney '67, a former member of Students for a Democratic society (SDS), the left-wing student group that led anti-Vietnam War demonstrations here, says operation Desert Storm is 'a fine and just and honorable war." But Ellen J. Messing '72-'73, a former SDS co-chair who was suspended twice and prosecuted twice for her participation in demonstrations, and Aldyn J.B. McKean '70-'71, who joined messing in the student occupation of University Hall in August, 1969, are both actively protesting the Gulf War.
McKean, who worked for the G.I. peace movement as an infantry soldier in Vietnam, has already helped organize anti-war marches in New York City, where he lives.
"Having seen what war is first-hand...I know what a bullet from a rifle can do to human flesh," said McKean, who believes that the United States government did not give sanctions enough time to work. "The Bush Administration was much too quick to resort to violence."
McKean said he has other reasons for protesting the war.
"I am a gay man...who is part of a community that has been at war for over 10 years," he says. McKean says that the war against AIDS has left me than 100,000 dead, but that the government has spent only $1 billion to research a cure for the deadly disease.
"Meanwhile, they're spending two to three billion dollars a day in the Gulf," McKean says.
McKean believes that groups such as the gay community who protest the war "will become united around specific demands" to end the war.
Messing, a civil rights lawyer in Boston who has provided legal representation for demonstrators against the Gulf War, agrees that groups traditionally oppressed in America will unite around the anti-war cause.
"There is a lot of effort being made to point out the connections between this war and how colored people are treated in America," Messing said, referring to a similar effort which was made during Vietnam.
Messing believes that the main reason for what some say is a low level of interest in anti-war protests now is the "immediacy" of the conflict.
"It was only when large numbers of Americans were killed or injured that students came out" against the Vietnam War, Messing says
Unlike McKean and Messing, Pinney sees no connection between the Gulf war and Vietnam.
"The parallel between this war and the Vietnam War doesn't exist. People have tried to paint it [the Gulf war] with the Vietnam brush," Pinney says.
Pinney believes that the "indescribeably hideous regime of Saddam Hussein" is justification for Operation Desert Storm. He says he protested the Vietnam War because "the means--napalm, carpet bombing, mass murder--became so out of proportion to the ends."
Pinney says that if the means grow disproportionate to the ends in the Gulf--if, for example, "the United States were to use nuclear weapons in response to a chemical attack by the Iraqis"--then he would oppose such an action.
Pinney also says that the only reason that Blacks and other groups who opposed the Vietnam war are protesting against the Gulf offensive now is that "these people have grown up with an anti-war stance."
"If they had not had the Vietnam experience, they would realize that the operation in the Gulf is a fine thing to do," Pinney says.