Carl Oglesby

The president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), 1965-66, died September 13, age 76. I remember him best for a speech of his I heard during the March on Washington, November 27, 1965, a speech passionately received by the tens of thousands crowding the National Mall:

The original commitment in Vietnam was made by President Truman, a mainstream liberal. It was seconded by President Eisenhower, a moderate liberal. It was intensified by the late President Kennedy, a flaming liberal. Think of the men who now engineer that war — those who study the maps, give the commands, push the buttons, and tally the dead: Bundy, McNamara, Rusk, Lodge, Goldberg, the President [Johnson] himself. They are not moral monsters. They are all honorable men. They are all liberals.

He insisted that America's founding fathers would have been on his side. "Our dead revolutionaries would soon wonder why their country was fighting against what appeared to be a revolution." He challenged those who called him anti-American: "I say, don't blame me for that! Blame those who mouthed my liberal values and broke my American heart."

We are dealing now with a colossus that does not want to be changed. It will not change itself. It will not cooperate with those who want to change it. Those allies of ours in the government — are they really our allies? If they are, then they don't need advice, they need constituencies; they don't need study groups, they need a movement. And if they are not [our allies], then all the more reason for building that movement with the most relentless conviction.

It saddens me to think that virtually nothing has changed for the better in US foreign policy since Carl Oglesby spoke on the Mall that day. America's wars are ongoing, perpetual, eternal. And the current war monger in the White House is regarded by many as a liberal, for whatever that's worth.

"We took space back quickly, expensively, with total panic and close to maximum brutality," war correspondent Michael Herr recalled about the US military in Vietnam. "Our machine was devastating. And versatile. It could do everything but stop."