• April 25, 2014

The Night They Burned Ranum's Papers

The Night They Burned Ranum's Papers 1

David Fenton, Getty Images

The late John Jacobs (center, foreground), enraged at opposition to the student strike at Columbia, took years’ worth of research notes from the office of Orest Ranum and set them on fire, according to a new book by a fellow protester, Mark Rudd.

At about 2:30 a.m. on May 22, 1968, as New York City police entered Hamilton Hall, on Columbia University's Morningside Heights campus, to clear it of demonstrators, files belonging to Orest A. Ranum, an associate professor of history, were ransacked, and papers documenting more than 10 years of research were burned. The fire came at the tail end of a month of protests that had roiled Columbia, paralyzing the university and provoking the biggest police bust ever undertaken on an American campus. Members of Students for a Democratic Society, which led the protests, denied responsibility for the arson, claiming that if anyone had set fire to Ranum's papers, it was the police.

Now a key participant in the Columbia rebellion has made a startling confession. Mark Rudd, who was chairman of the SDS chapter during the disturbances, acknowledges that a fellow radical, John "J.J." Jacobs, set the fire in Hamilton Hall, and that he, Rudd, went along with the plan. The confession, a depressing postscript to the 1960s, solves a four-decade-long mystery. It offers a grim testament to just how mean things got at Columbia, and a sobering reminder that not all student radicals were starry-eyed idealists. In more than a couple of cases, they were power-hungry extremists jostling for control of the student-protest movement. And Ranum had the audacity to get in their way.

"I was in the center, and the people in the center were the people who got clobbered," Ranum said over the telephone this summer from Villefranche-de-Panat, the hilltop village in south-central France where he and his wife, Patricia, have restored a 16th-century house.

The papers were irreplaceable. They dated back to Ranum's time as a student at the University of Minnesota, where he got his Ph.D. in history. The notes were going to lay the basis for a textbook on early modern European history that he had been commissioned to write for a series edited by the British historian Sir John Plumb.

After the papers were burned, Ranum withdrew from the book project and returned the small advance he had received from the publisher. He left Columbia for the Johns Hopkins University, where, now 76, he is an emeritus professor of history and one of the country's best-known experts on 17th-century France.

Ranum had been at Columbia for only six years when the rebellion broke out. Just 35 years old at the time, an earnest man with a keen sense of collegiality, he appeared poised for a bright future there. Paris in the Age of Absolutism, his social and political history of France in the 17th century, had just been published. He had been granted tenure and led the Contemporary Civilization program, a rotating assignment that put him in charge of the courses that all Columbia College students take during their freshman year.

Ranum was curious about the protesters and initially sympathetic. He supported their demand that Columbia cut its ties to the Institute for Defense Analyses because the think tank was involved in Vietnam War research. He also shared the protesters' opposition to the university's plan to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park, in Harlem, a plan widely regarded as racially insensitive.

But Ranum strongly believed that scholars should be able to teach and pursue research free of harassment by political activists. He made it clear to the leaders of SDS that, while he shared their goals, he didn't support their tactics, which had become so disruptive that university officials had moved to discipline six students for violating a ban on indoor demonstrations. Rudd, a 20-year-old college junior from Maplewood, N.J., was among the six activists, who had been placed on probation and were facing suspension for refusing to discuss their participation in the demonstration that had violated the ban.

On April 23, 1968, Rudd led a noontime rally to protest the planned punishment. At first the protest faltered. To many observers, it seemed that the SDS leaders were making a self-serving pitch for support. But then members of the Student Afro-American Society, the main black student organization on the campus, joined the protest. Their takeover of Hamilton Hall, which housed classrooms and faculty and administrative offices, lent the demonstration an air of legitimacy. Within 72 hours, 1,100 students had poured into five campus buildings, and Columbia's SDS chapter had the numbers it needed to bring the university's business to a halt.

Like other faculty members, Ranum scrambled to stop the sit-ins. Unlike any of them, he did so in full academic regalia, climbing through the window of President Grayson Kirk's office, in Low Memorial Library, wearing, as usual, a flowing black gown.

"I did that as dramatically as I could," Ranum said. "I was in fine shape, and I was interested in the demonstrators as a political historian. To me the world is a laboratory to understand the past." Once inside Low, he concluded that Rudd, although a strong leader and a superb tactician, had only a limited grasp of issues, including the issue of whether it was legitimate to use violence to advance the radical cause.

"I explained that they should get out of there, that the possibility for their punishment would go up the longer they stayed, and, if they did get out now, this might be treated more as a prank than as a political act," Ranum told the university's oral-history project about a month later. "I held over their heads, as dramatically and forcefully as I could, the possibility of a counterrevolution at Columbia, and I said that the United States is a fundamentally liberal society but with politically conservative, authoritarian elements, and that, rather than accept a radicalized university, the society would snuff out the university—and that I for one would prefer the existing state to the totalitarian state which a counterrevolution would bring about."

Neither argument had any effect on the protesters, who believed that the people of Harlem were going to rise up and join the demonstration, turning a campus rebellion into a biracial revolt. To Ranum, that was fanciful thinking. The radicals, most of them upper-middle-class white kids, spoke a language most Harlem residents would find incomprehensible: the language of Marxism. They regarded the university as the "soft underbelly" of capitalism and believed shutting it down would provoke change. "They did not want to come out, I believe, except by the police," Ranum told the oral-history project. "They needed the issue of the police. They needed the issue of police brutality, further to radicalize the campus."

David B. Truman, the popular, energetic dean whom Kirk put in charge of handling the crisis, had come to the same conclusion. "Calling the police would have given the SDS the confrontation that for months and longer they had been seeking. It would also have activated the strong faculty aversion to having the police on campus," he wrote in his unpublished memoirs. When the police were finally called in, a week after the building occupations began, things went as disastrously as Truman had expected. More than 700 people were arrested, and nearly 150 were injured in the violence that accompanied the raid.

The raid produced an angry backlash against the university and generated enormous sympathy for the protesters. Rudd and the SDS chapter were propelled to national prominence, making them de facto leaders of the New Left. But the student members still faced suspension or expulsion for their role in the rebellion, and they had it in for Ranum, who, after meeting with them in Low Library, had put out a mimeographed statement saying that the only alternative to police action would be for the students occupying the buildings to seize control of the demonstration from SDS.

On May 21, there were renewed protests, set off by the university's decision to suspend Rudd and three other SDS leaders. As police entered Hamilton Hall for the second time in a month to clear it of demonstrators, Jacobs took Rudd aside. "I want to set a fire upstairs. These [expletive] have got to fall," Rudd says Jacobs told him. "OK, go ahead," Rudd says he replied. Jacobs went to Ranum's office, on the sixth floor, removed piles of personal papers from the professor's file cabinets, and set them on fire.

"It was a real mess," Ranum said, describing the scene in his office the next day. "The file drawers were all torn open, there were files all over the place and furniture turned upside down." The papers had been taken to a nearby lecture hall, where they had been crumpled up, spread on 15 to 20 desktops, and burned. "I was very subdued. I wasn't really angry. I'm not a person who gets angry easily. I don't even think I was profoundly hurt."

But he does acknowledge that he was upset. Ranum hadn't believed it when the radicals had threatened to burn down the university. He couldn't understand at first why they had singled him out. "Why me?" he recalls asking himself. Then he remembered the mimeographed statement: "That was the most public thing I did."

The fire should have turned public opinion against the protesters, but some liberals were so awed by the radicals, and guilt-ridden about their own inaction, that they went into denial. The literary critic Dwight Macdonald, writing in The New York Review of Books, said that while he found the arson "base and disgusting," he doubted that SDS was responsible. He went on raising money for the organization, from which, within a year and a half, the violent Weathermen faction would emerge. On March 6, 1970, three members of that group, making bombs in a town house in Greenwich Village, accidentally blew themselves up.

Ranum was touched when experts working on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Jewish Theological Seminary offered to try to restore his papers, but he declined the offer. "I just felt my stuff wasn't important enough," he said.

In the months that followed the fire, Ranum felt increasingly ill at ease at Columbia. The atmosphere had changed. One professor stopped asking Ph.D. candidates questions during dissertation defenses; he didn't feel he had the moral authority. Other faculty members stopped speaking to Ranum, furious at him for opposing their call for Kirk's resignation and for supporting the decision to empty the buildings by force. "You did it. You brought the police!" Ranum recalled two instructors screaming at him as police officers led away students arrested in the raid. "I never had any problem forgiving the students," he said, "because they were young and full of vinegar. But some of my colleagues were really outrageous. And some of those relationships could never be repaired." In March 1969, Ranum announced that he had accepted a better-paying position at Johns Hopkins.

SDS has always denied responsibility for burning Ranum's papers. For more than 38 years, Rudd didn't correct the record. Then, suddenly, he confessed, saying that only he and Jacobs—who died of skin cancer 12 years ago—knew who burned Ranum's papers, and that both had kept it a secret from the rest of SDS. In a 2006 speech at Drew University, Rudd issued a lengthy apologia, not only acknowledging complicity in the arson but also taking the blame for the strategy that he believes destroyed the New Left.

"As I make this disclosure to you, I find it quite shocking, as I'm sure you do. Setting a fire in an occupied building is a very ugly deed. ... Continuing to hide this crime, for it is that, serves no end other than obscuring the complicated fact that the roots of Weathermen ran all the way back to Columbia. At Columbia we felt ourselves at war, and once war is declared, the limit on tactics and weapons gets blurred very quickly. So does the definition of participatory democracy, on which SDS prided itself, since it was J.J. and I who made this decision alone, without democratic consultation of any sort."

Rudd's speech went largely unnoticed. It wasn't until his memoir, Underground: My Life With SDS and the Weathermen, was published last year by HarperCollins that it became widely known that Rudd had given Jacobs the OK to set the fire.

"I didn't know that he was going to target Professor Ranum, but I suspect that he knew exactly whose office he was breaking into," Rudd writes. "J.J. hated hypocritical liberals, and the professor, who had tried to stop the original occupation of Low by saying he was sympathetic to our ends but not our means, had become an opponent of the strike."

In an e-mail message, Rudd expressed remorse for the fire as well as for the Greenwich Village explosion, connecting both to the strategy of "armed struggle" that arose during the Columbia rebellion. It was partly because he wanted to repudiate that strategy, and partly because he felt guilty, he said, that he admitted complicity in the fire.

"I have never, alas, apologized directly to Prof. Ranum or to the families of the three people killed at the town house. I did not want to reraise painful memories for those individuals, especially because to do so would be mostly self-serving," he said.

Ranum has been a prolific scholar since he left Columbia, producing numerous works on 17th-century French history, including The Fronde: a French Revolution, 1648-1652 (W.W. Norton, 1993), an account of the instability, violence, and war that swept France before the reign of Louis XIV. But the textbook on early modern European history that he had been commissioned to produce was never written. It went up in flames on the night the notes he had accumulated since graduate school were set on fire.

John Castellucci, a former reporter at The Providence Journal, was a student of Orest Ranum.

Comments

1. kilchis - February 15, 2010 at 03:11 am

I was serving in the army at that time.I was back on campus in the fall of '69, a bitter,anti-war veteran. I saw the Movement dominated by young pampered drugstore revolutionaries with no real experience in the world.I feel terrible for Professor Ranum's loss.Some of the events of those years were akin to the burning of the library at Alexandria and in the spirit of Pol Pot,the Nazi bookburnings and Mao's Cultural Revolution.It was good for Rudd to finally'fess up.Looking back,there were some noble acts by some noble people,and there were punks.

2. zhizn35 - February 15, 2010 at 05:35 am

Even though this revelation comes late in the day, it is extremely valuable that it has occurred and been publicized. I was born in 1965 and view "JJ", Rudd and their ilk as absolutely having squandered their birthrights (ie an orderly and liberal culture) and, more importantly, the birthrights of later generations. I was born in 1965 and (like many in my cohort) are still blindingly angry at these childish criminals. It must be said that they seem to have been ably assisted by the incomprehensible weakness of the academic establishment.

3. zhizn35 - February 15, 2010 at 05:40 am

As a postscript to the previous message, those who want to understand from whence the support of the young for Ronald Reagan sprang need look no further than the facts behind this story.

4. stannadel - February 15, 2010 at 06:14 am

This story treats the incident as if SDS had burned Ranum's papers. But it is actually clear from Rudd's apology that SDS as a whole had no knowledge of this dispicable act and that Only Mark Rudd and John Jacobs/JJ knew about it or aproved of it at the time. It was a terrible thing and JJ was an unstable fanatic who decided on his own (or with Rudd's approval)to do it. Using this incident to disparage SDS as a whole when it and its members all condemned the act (and thought it had been done by the police to cast blame on them) is unfair and feeds in to the myth that all of SDS was represented by the crazies and the Weathermen--who turned out to be only a very small minority, albeit one that helped destroy the organization.

5. stannadel - February 15, 2010 at 06:15 am

I wrote "Using this incident to disparage SDS as a whole when it and its members all condemned the act" when I should have written "Using this incident to disparage SDS as a whole when it and its members generally condemned the act"

6. rickinchina09 - February 15, 2010 at 06:53 am

The largest lesson of this little "period piece" is that the New Left was arrogant enough to believe its actions didn't constitute extremism of any sort. But at least the youths among them can be forgiven for their naivete. Their elders, however, could learn a lot from Professor Ranum. Activists on the Left then and now refused to acknowledge a simple truth: extremism on either side of the political spectrum comes to the same end--totalitarianism.

7. morton_s - February 15, 2010 at 07:17 am

Let's keep this in perspective-

America's rulers murdered 4-6 million Southeast Asians during that period.

It wouldn't hurt to mention this from time to time.

8. torquemada - February 15, 2010 at 07:46 am

No one will miss this unwritten textbook.

9. meshabob - February 15, 2010 at 09:17 am

It was wrong obviously to burn the man's papers but he sounds like a self-important rightwing fool.

10. superdude - February 15, 2010 at 09:42 am

1960s = fail. Can't wait 'till the boomers are all gone. Then maybe we can finally start repairing this country.

11. johnhurt - February 15, 2010 at 09:54 am

In answer to an earlier comment, let me say that I miss the textbook already, which I had not known was underway; and so will all my colleagues in early modern European history. Comment # 9 does not merit attention.

12. schulman - February 15, 2010 at 10:36 am

No, it was the movement that LBJ was fighting - the movement SDS supported - that killed, more like 10 million people, and immiserated an entire subcontinent for a generation. SDS and other anti-war Americans (among whom I was numbered) have this blood very much on our hands. And to stannadel: what makes you think that SDS members at the time largely condemned the arson? Just look at the comments to this article - even today's lefty punks support it. You may be sure that most SDS members at the time share the views which "torquemada" has helpfully restated - although, for what it's worth, they ran real risks in 1968, which took a certain amoung of courage, risks from which today's punks are safe and courage which today's punks need not bother with.

13. ralphnovy - February 15, 2010 at 11:25 am

"The Fronde: a French Revolution, 1648-1652 (W.W. Norton, 1993), an account of the instability, violence, and war that swept France before the reign of Louis IV."

Louis IV, eh?

Sloppy.

14. juliemoody - February 15, 2010 at 11:55 am

My son will be a freshman at Columbia University this Fall semester. I will forward this article to him as a rich snapshot of that point in history at Columbia. I find Ranum's ability to forgive the students for destroying his years of research commendable.

15. philobiblos - February 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I too was a student of Orest Ranum between 1963-1967, who was a good teacher and a person of liberal disposition. He reinforced those of us who were interested in learning and refused to wear the spectacles the popular leftist determinisms.
My fellow students who ended up as "radicals," bookburners, bombers and members or sympathizers of SDS, generally were spoiled upper middle class kids who sought attention and meaning for their lives by having (often violent) tantruns which they justified by facile moralisms or by reference to the esoterics of scholastic Marxism.
The sad result was that these intellectual thugs signalled the beginnings of a rejection of the aims of classical education, a characteristic of which is the capacity to deal with ambiguity and contradiction without needing to impose arbitrary intellectual straitjackets...
Unfortunately people with these antecedents and attitudes now make up a significant portion of people who pass as "academics" today.

16. amnirov - February 15, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Yeah. Good riddance to the boomers. It will be awesome when the last of them has ridden off into the sunset. Worst. Generation. Ever.

17. raghuvansh1 - February 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Any writing which expose our hypocritical belief or naked people for their true nature that writing either ban or burn is natural tendency.That trand is common today also.Either reading people neglate or shut down it from web.Many writers experience on web also.Recently my 100 blogs are closed without my consent on Open Salon.What a common writer do?

18. zhizn35 - February 15, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I have been engaged in a generational guerrilla war against the baby boomers for the entirety of my life. My "resistance" has been largely ineffectual because I was too young. Now that I have begun to accrue power, I am looking for opportunities to knock these people out of theirs. If the answer to the question: "Where were you in 1968?" is not "serving the United States in Vietnam" then the presumption is that you are guilty.

19. nacrandell - February 15, 2010 at 01:14 pm

Some of the comments read as if this is the online site for People magazine.

Understanding the period is important. Alice Herz believed that she had exhausted all available avenues for civil disobedience before she immolated herself. Jacobs and Rudd, however, choose their opponents method of lying, intimidation, and cover-up to present their message.

Prof. Ranum's life after the sit-in illustrates the hidden costs associated with violent and personal attacks.

The old saying that two wrongs do not make a right applies. The government, read the Pentagon Papers Mr. Zhizn35 or read about the Senate and House Watergate hearings, was acting without accountability and Jacob and Rudd accepted this freedom from accountability willingly.

20. francishamit - February 15, 2010 at 01:20 pm

zhizn35:

I was in Vietnam in 1968 and I disagree with your sweeping statement in #18. I'm technically too old to be a "boomer" but your stereotyping is as bad as that of the SDS radicals at the University of Iowa in 1971, when I returned from the Army. Veterans were harrassed by these pricks as a matter of policy regardless of Vietnam service (and your chances of actually serving in Vietnam were actually quite small, even if drafted. It was a very large military back then). The SDS chapter had seized control of the student newspaper, the Daily Iowan, and the standard for employment there became not your skill or experience but whether or not you agreed with their extreme politcal views. But the anti-war sentiment had become generalized and I was denied employment at local mainstream newspapers as well. I'm not shocked that some in SDS would burn a professor's research. They were self-professed guerilla fighters and capable of far worse, as the article points out. There was a counter revolution among the others of their generation, who finally said "enough!" But the damage they did to veterans like myself persists to this day. Your call for generational war is simply the mirror image of what they did and makes you no better than they were. Enough!

21. zhizn35 - February 15, 2010 at 01:41 pm

Mr. Crandell, JJ and Rudd knew that short of actually committing murderous terrorism that they would be fine. They were not facing true arbitrary state power like those in Hungary in 1956 or Prague in 1967. Their "resistance" was gutless and cheap. Mr. Hamit, what can I say other than that you, like Professor Ranum, seem to apply the Christian virtue of forgiveness in a most commendable way. I can appreciate the nuances and inadequacies of the times without having tolerance for those who mistreated returning GIs for fuzzy-minded politics. I guess what I would say is that inter-generational warfare was their London Blitz, and they shouldn't be surprised when Dresden arrives.

22. zhizn35 - February 15, 2010 at 02:03 pm

Just to be clear, that while I understand that the boomer generation did "self-police" to an extent, the boomer bill of accountablity is not just owed to their age cohort. They also owe the younger generations for having altered the American Dream to disadvantage. This is unconscionable. Among other things, if they think that I or any other right-minded person is going to pay upwards of 80 grand a year for them to "educate" our children, they have another thing coming.

23. wjgordon99 - February 15, 2010 at 02:43 pm

Am shocked by the "anti-boomer" sentiment expressed in these comment pages. Is it jealously or misunderstanding?

Those of us who participated in the demonstrations, etc of the late sixties and early 70's believed we were helping to make a better world. Where we spoiled middle class kids, probably? Did we think we were making a difference? YES.

We're passing the baton to the younger generations; let's hope they have as much intelligence and courage as we did. From the looks of these postings, we may be in trouble. Maybe I should have posted it on FB or Twitter.

24. jsch0602 - February 15, 2010 at 03:09 pm

It was wrong obviously to burn the man's papers but he sounds like a self-important rightwing fool.
____________________________________

Odd that he was working at a school that only employs self-important leftwing fools?

25. rjg33 - February 15, 2010 at 03:13 pm

It amazes me to read the sad comments by some- aging- sympathizers for SDS, Jacobs, Rudd, and their brownshirted ilk. I wonder how amny of the- alleged- "academics" here would be pleased to have had their hard work trashed by a handful of petulant children with no respect for the rights and property of others as long as their crimes are done in the name of "The Cause?"

Future generations will- indeed, are already- looking back on the many excesses of the 1960's as less the vanguard of any great societal or political change and more the self-indulgent, spoiled behavior of a minority of those who came of age in that over-rated time.

26. zhizn35 - February 15, 2010 at 03:16 pm

You thought you were helping to make a better world? By undermining the foundations of the Republic in a dangerous world and leaving us with a legacy of brainless sloganizing as a substitute for political debate (on left and right), you have, I would submit, achieved just the opposite. If I had a facebook account, I would "friend" you anyway.

27. nortonm - February 15, 2010 at 05:05 pm

I was a graduate student during the period described in this article. I was neither pampered, or rich. Rather a professional trying to better prepare myself to make the world a litte better through teaching. I had taken out a loan for tuition, and the thought of classes being cancelled with non-refundable tuition, plus losing a semeser of progress towards a graduate degree was shattering. Final outcome I have three graduate degrees from Columbia,and learned that you can bring about change in the world without destroying other people's property, or reputation, or burning down buildings. My course was to deliver healh care in the Cambodian Refugee Camps, develop a school of nursing in Pakistan,use one of several Fulbright Awards to research with Jordanian Colleagues the risk factors for breast cancer in Jordan women. I am a "boomer" not retired in the south of France, rather still trying to bring about world peace through non-violent means.

28. kilchis - February 15, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I am disappointed that the boomer generation is so generally condemned by young consevatives.I'm not apologizing for the likes of John Kerry,Al Gore and myself who were idealistic, served in Viet Nam and were against it once we knew about it.I'm not even going to apogize for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who were for it and dodged it, or Bill Clinton ,who was against it and dodged it.We are all between 46 and 64 now.We've contributed as much as any generation before us.Every generation has heroes,villains,nobodies(like myself) and twerps.Compare Reagan and Nixon with George H.W.Bush,George McGovern and Bob Dole during WWII.The SDS was like a left-wing TEA Party in the 60's.Idealistic,fanatical and short-sited.

29. morris_older - February 15, 2010 at 10:31 pm

There are some minor details as well important historical context missing from this article as well as from many o fthe comments.

Details--the article presumes that somehow SDS was running the strike. In fact the 1100 students, including a few outsiders, who occupied the buildings, met as communes in each occupied building to make decisions, and elected representatives to a Strike Coordinating Committee. Yes there were SDS members in both the communes and the SCC, but they were a minority of both.

Why were so many students willing to put their academic careers on the line, and to risk police violence and criminal records for their participation? That is where the context comes in. Our government was bombing peasant villages in Vietnam, and strafing civilians with napalm. A greater tonage of bombs was dropped on a country about the size of New Jersey than was used in all theaters of WW2. Our university was engaged in weapons research to make this warfare more efficient. Despite larger and larger demonstrations against the war, and the shifting of public opinion as the death toll of over 50,000 American GIs and 2 million Vietnamese mounted, our government was determined to completely ignore demands to end the war and sought instead to increase the violence.

At the same time, Columbia over the years had bought up real estate in the Morningside Heights area. Tens of thousands of mostly minority residents had been evicted from their houses, which were rehabbed and turned into faculty and student housing. The University sought to build a private gym for students in the hillside public park nearby that delineated the border between the University on the hill, and Harlem below. About two weeks before the Columbia Strike began, Harlem had erupted after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Students felt like they had an obligation to protest. Many remembered that at Nurmeberg, "I was only following orders" was not considered a valid defense for those who turned their eyes as the Nazis murdered millions. Black students at Columbia, who had been subjected to racism on a daily basis for years while attending the university, were the first to formalize the occupation of the first building, and the white sutdents emulated their action.

Are those of us who participated proud of everything done by some people on our behalf? Of course not, and the burning of Ramnum's papers was one that only 2 of the 714 arrested students, or the thousands who joined the strike after the arrest, had knowledge of. But those of us who participated can look back with a clear conscience and remember that we tried to stop the far greater horror that was being committed in the name of our country.

It's easy to condemn the 60s, but as we go through the next 10 years we will be celebrating the 50th anniversay of everything that happened in that decade. A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins which began the desegregation not only of Woolworth's but of a whole lot more in the South. And as the next few years go by, we will celebratethe annivesaries of important civil rights victories, important accomplishments in sturggle for gender equality--at Barnard, the sister college of Columbia, a student was expeeled the year before the strike for living off-campus with her boyfriend: imagine that happening today--and many other advances. Those of us who participated in bringing about those advances are quite reasonably proud of what we did. Was every aspect of that perfect?--of course not, nothing is ever 100% good. But we set important historical trends in motion that have imporved society since then and that still represent many of the best American tendencies today.

30. amnirov - February 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm

It's not just republicans who condemn boomers. I'm a liberal. Selfish boomers absolutely ruined the world, destroyed the planet, and are still convinced that their generation can walk on water. Why would anyone think that Gen X would be jealous of boomers? Ridiculous. The revenge we shall take is the rapid marginalization of boomer history until their generation loses its last footnote and vanishes.

31. clarsen - February 15, 2010 at 11:04 pm

This article and commentary are UNBELIEVABLE!!!

A guy who opposed the antiwar protests lost some notes and then got a higher paying job. The note-destruction was done by 2 guys, not the "Antiwar Movement."

The US was MURDERING MILLIONS OF CIVILIANS in SE Asia and the Pentagon later admitted that domestic protest was critical to ending the war!

I feel like I'm taking CRAZY PILLS reading this revisionist nonsense.

To the self-proclaimed vet, you're either lying or clueless that the antiwar movement "targeted" returning vets for abuse.

In fact the Antiwar Movement was PROUDLY LET by ANTI-WAR VETS who put together the Winter Soldier investigation and catalyzed actions around the country. If anything it's people like you who heaped abuse on these true heroes.

I'm not a "boomer" and don't care for hippies and so on, but the kind of moral calculus the commenters and author express is nothing short of Naziesque.

"Fail?" Give me a break and learn to talk like an adult.



32. hiltono - February 16, 2010 at 12:05 am


First, those of us who were involved in 1968 organized a conference on the 40th anniversary in 2008. It was held at Columbia, and Columbia's president Lee Bollinger welcomed the 400 or so conference participants back. There was, in a small way, a reconciliation -- despite the fact that there was yet another war (Iraq), the university was expanding into Harlem again, and controversies raged. For some people it was very difficult. One African American participant had refused to step back on campus because of how racist Columbia had been. He said those 4 years were the worst experience of his life, except for his wife dying of cancer. Now he's a judge in the South. In any case, if anyone is interested in learning of the 1968 rebellion from the perspective of those who took over the buildings and organized the strike, we have a web site with video and audio of the conference (plus accounts of people's lives since 1968, documents, and lots of photos). I especially suggest that you listen to the session called What Happened. Here's the site: www.columbia1968.com

At the time Orest Ranum's papers were burned I, along with everyone I knew, believed it was done by a police agent. In many respects, JJ, who was an amazing person but also regarded by me and others I knew as one of the "crazies," created a provocation. We condemned it then, and still do. It was a failure on the part of Mark Rudd to allow him to do it, and it's good that he's clearing this up. But Mark Rudd, despite the media creation then and still today, was not the sum total of the strike. Burning Ranum's papers was a terrible injustice. At the same time, I have to agree with the post by "clarsen" that there were far more terrible crimes taking place. In a time of upheavel (just a few weeks after MLK's murder), a lot of people were pushed to extremes.

I was in Low Library when Orest Ranum flew in the window in his academic robes (We thought it was a vision of Batman), and we didn't accept his position that we did all that we could and we should evacuate the president's office and leave it up to the grown ups to negotiate. Sorry. I still think we made the right decision to stay. Incidentally, in all of this it should be mentioned that 1) the university dropped its ties to the IDA (even though CU had said it had already severed ties - that was a lie) and 2) the gym was never built in Morningside Park. At the end of the 2008 conference we joined the current head of the city parks and community groups to plant a tree at the place where the gym was supposed to be built. Very satisfying, after 40 years.

Earlier posts corrected some of the misinformation in the article. But I'd like to respond to add a few more corrections:

I don't have a survey, but from personal knowledge, I would say that many if not most of the students protesting did NOT come from upper middle class backgrounds. Many, like myself, were first generation college students. An underlying dynamic -- in addition to the racism suffered by the small number of black students -- was that Jews had been admitted without restrictive quotas for only a few years. Many of these Jews, like myself, had family murdered by the Nazis or were keenly aware of what it meant to be "a good German" or came from left-wing families who were deeply anti-fascist. We refused to be good Germans. And in the face of a genocidal war and blatant racism, we had to act.

I could go on -- for example, GIs actually made up the core of the anti-War movement, refusing to go out into combat, fragging gung-ho officers, and more. Students played an important role, but U.S. war plans could not be carried out because the regular GI said NO. They too were "boomers." See the film "Sir, No, Sir." There needs to be a lot more done to get the history straight.

33. amnirov - February 16, 2010 at 06:47 am

I think that what the boomers are failing to understand (understanding fail) is that no one outside of their generation gives a toss about the self-indulgent, self-centered, shallow 1960s. My generation has its own Vietnams (a number of them) that the Boomers started. So go roll a joint, hippy. All your generation did was destroy things, whether it was some scholar's research, the nation's economy, or the entire planet's environment. Well done.

34. lawman11 - February 16, 2010 at 10:00 am

The U.S. murdered no one in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese did, on a genocidal scale, prior to and subsequent to their invasion of the South, which was accomplished by 22 divisions. Remember the boat people?

35. sgtrock - February 16, 2010 at 10:57 am

Wow, talk about different memories of the same times. I remember changing buses near a demonstration in Griffith Park in 1966. I was a Private in uniform and the violent reaction to me and my buddy by the "peace demonstrators" was the most frightening event of thirty years of active and reserve service in the Marines.

I only knew one Marine with an Ivy League degree in all my years of service -- most officers I knew came from land grant schools and were engineers or business majors. My enlisted friends were all from small towns -- most with only a couple of years of high school. Everyone was just trying to get by.

The protest events at Columbia were as relevant to us, at the time, as landing men on the moon. We believed that most of the protesters simply were trying to beat the draft.

36. rjg33 - February 16, 2010 at 11:58 am

It's pathetic to read the apoligists for 60's student criminals attempting to impugn those who take a more mature view of their antic. Oldsters- not everyone who found/finds the thuggery of groups such as SDs and individuals such as Jacobs repellant is/are the hated Right-wingers you people curiously seem to find as more contemptible than the communist butchers in SE Asia, and elsewhere. Some of us hold conservative POVs, some libertarian, some centrist/moderate, some even liberal. We all are bright enough to- most- of 60's era radicalism and radicals for what it and they truly were.

Lastly, you people need to evolve. You need to move beyond your simplistic Left/Right, Us/Them, Establishment/anti-Establishment mindsets. There was and is no Grand Conspiracy; the universe was and is indifferent. Put another way... at long last please grow up.

37. jakester - February 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I'm reminded of course of the loss of Carlyle's work on the French Revolution; I'm reminded not only of a book lost, but of the grace with which such a tragedy can be accepted. I'm also reminded of the importance of backing up. Speaking for myself, I've got a current manuscript in three separate places.

I want to disagree sharply with Point No. 25. Future generations will view the '60s as the vanguard of great and essential change AND as a time of self-indulgent, spoiled behavior. In the '60s, as in so many aspects of life and history, the good resided cheek-to-jowl with the bad, the beautiful with the ugly, the graceful with the clunky, the idealistic with the debased.

38. morris_older - February 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm

For many years we have had a pretty big divide in this country. There were the white Southerners who thought civil rights was a Communitst plot and the people who struggled for equal rights. There was the anti-war movement and those who supported the war against Vietnam. There were the feminists and those who thought they were destropying the family. Obama was the first President in quite a while to get more than 50% of the votes--but still less than 53%.
Where we get our opinions and our facts from of course helps mold our world-view. A poll last year found that people who watched Fox News were 30% more likely to believe that Obama's birth certificate was forged, and that the health care reform being considered by Congress was about death panels, federally funded abortion, and about taking health care away from Americans to cover illegal immigrants.

So the idea that we have different views of history, as expressed here, is hardly surprising. And really the venom expressed here against the boomers shouldn't surprise anyone either. After all, part of the 60s was a youth rebellion against all we saw unjust that came before. One 60s leader famously said "don't trust anyone over 30" and the Who sang "Hope I die before I get old" in My Generation.

At the same time, however, the Beatles were singing about what it would be like when they are 64, and some of them are now. Looking back, the biggest mistake in this conversation is to attribute everything that has happened in the last generation to 'the Boomers" when in fact the Boomers worked for and against Ronald Reagan, when the Boomers developed Earth Day and brought environmental awareness to new heights--while other boomers ran coal and oil companies. The boomers brought agricultural production and our food industry to new chemical, hotmone, antibiotic, non-nutritious levels, but also developed and codified the concepts of organic foods and promoted harmony with the land.

All of these things of course started before the 60s, and wil continue after "the Boomers' are gone. But no generation is a monolith, and every generation has both good and evil tendencies.

Those of us who stood up to try and stop the war, who fought for civil rights, for a cleaner environment, for equality for women and for gay people can justly claim that we have tried to make the world a better place. But with our government today spending as much on the military as the rest of the world combined, with our corporations dominating the international armns trade, with US-made weapons fighting against US-made weapons in regional skirmishes around the world, with health care costing us twice as much as the rest of the civilized world, with the environment deteriorating before our very eyes, "the boomers" and the generations that have followed all still have serious work to do, work that can only be done by the most dedciated people of all generations working together

39. hayforda - February 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

What always astonishes me in far too many of these discussions is the general nastiness of tone and name calling that characterizes so many of them. I would have thought that most people who read the Chronicle are academics who have been trained in some degree of rational discourse. I find it really disturbing that people who presumably have the education to understand what it takes to make reasonable arguments, and may of whom are, presumably, teaching today's youth resort to wide generalizations unsupported by evidence and to personal nastiness. (By the way, I was there in 68, part of the collectives but not sitting in, opposed to the burning of papers [which I also thought had been done by the police] and other calls for radical democracy in education, since even then I had the kind of respect for education,scholarship, educators, and scholars that leads me to be [naivele?] disturbed by the tones of these discussions, even after nearly 40 years of sitting through faculty meetings.....)

40. hayforda - February 16, 2010 at 01:00 pm

sorry about the typos in the preceding message, I really can spell...

41. clarsen - February 16, 2010 at 02:24 pm

"The U.S. murdered no one in Vietnam."

Did even Nazi supporters ever make claims like this about their wars of aggression?

The US started funding the French genocidal campaigns to the hold their colony even before the end of WWII.

The US pushed the French to be more aggressive and well over a million Vietnamese were killed in that campaign alone, many through starvation tactics that the US would then reemploy on a large scale during the phase of direct US involvement.

The US prevented elections in Vietnam that everyone knew would have let to clean victory for Ho Chi Minh and his associates, who were still not yet fully committed to the Communist bloc and hoped to live in peace with the US.

The US installed an incredibly brutal, corrupt and torturing puppet regime in S. Vietnam, which it later claimed to be "protecting."

The main US war was against the S. Vietnamese, especially rural people. Do you remember My Lai? A top US General gave a sobering admission at the time that "every sizable unit has it's own My Lai(s)..."

Torture, rape, mutilation were not just informal practices but also the formal policy of the US under Operation Phoenix, etc.

The bombings of N. and S. Vietnam, of Cambodia and Laos, killed millions of people by most estimates. The bombings in Cambodia led directly to the rise of the Khmer Rouge, who the US later supported... the one major "national liberation" by foreign invasion I can think of since WWII was the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia which overthrew the Khmer Rouge, much to the anger of the US.

Vietnam today is far from perfect. Many people who had cast their lot in with the massive US war machine (often for purely economic reasons) found their lives in danger and fled.

This also is the fault of the US govt.

All this "lifestyle politics," blah blah blah "boomers" (dumb word btw), blah blah blah "hippies," blah blah blah "I fought in a war, respect me!"

It's not even a grain of sand compared to the massive human suffering the US govt caused to the people's of SE Asia. "We" achieved our political goal, to destroy the chances for successful development of socialist countries in the third world. (Actually it took a lot more torture, murder, and covert action, but Vietnam was certainly a turning point.)

PS - I know many anti-war Vets and in their experience returning to the US, the discrimination they faced was from conservative war supporters who called them traitors.

To the guy who claims he was "abused" by the "peace movement," I would ask, did you and do you still support the US genocide against the people's of SE Asia? (If you're going to claim that "N Vietnam" killed more civilians or anywhere near as many civilians, then you must have some alternate reality statistical analysis to back that up.)

If you supported those things and actively asserted that then I think you have no one but yourself to blame for being called names or whatever you're crying about.

42. rjg33 - February 16, 2010 at 02:37 pm

#41- "... the massive human suffering the US govt caused to the people's of SE Asia. "We" achieved our political goal, to destroy the chances for successful development of socialist countries in the third world."

Yes, because the regimes established in: PR China, North Korea, Cuba, VietNam, Cambodia, Angola, and countless other Thirs World attempts at establishing "successful" socialism in the Third World were, or could/would have been such noble experiments if only for the "evil" United States. Tell that to the millions of victims of human suffering directly at the hands of: Mao and his successors, the Krazy Korean Kims, Castro, Ho, Pol Pot, and more.

Question- did you even think before you made that silly assertion?

43. atheistconservative - February 16, 2010 at 03:05 pm

"Those of us who stood up to try and stop the war, who fought for civil rights, for a cleaner environment, for equality for women and for gay people can justly claim that we have tried to make the world a better place"

It's precisely this type of ignorant, self-important nonsense that makes people hate boomers.

You people "standing up to stop the war" were one of the primary reasons the war went poorly. If we had simply conducted the war correctly, rather than letting left-wing 'whiz kids' try to 'manage' the conflict, and responding to protests in the street by scaling back war actions (when the majority of the US actually supported the war in Vietnam throughout); if we hadn't listened to Cronkite and others saying we lost after Tet when in fact Tet was a huge setback for the enemy; we might have won Vietnam, and instead of seeing a massacre by the savages that people like you glorified.

You didn't "fight for civil rights". The Civil Rights act was passed before all the boomer protests. And it was passed by Republicans, something we never seem to hear about.

I'm really interested to hear how you "fought for a cleaner environment". Every time left-wingers stage protests they destroy things, burn cars, and leave tons of garbage behind.

"Equality for women and gay people" is just nonsense-speak.

The reality of the boomer generation is of a bunch of useless people who had the world in their hands and decided to childishly destroy it; who felt that the world owed them more than the riches they were handed by the greatest generation, and who proceeded to refuse to act like adults and then spawned an even more whiny, childish generation (Generation X).

44. atheistconservative - February 16, 2010 at 03:08 pm

"Vietnam today is far from perfect"

Ah, yes, I love how the left-winger will enumerate every failure of the US, but gloss over the horrors of Socialism/Communism with "it's far from perfect".

Because the 60 million people killed by Chairman Mao - that's just breakage. The millions killed by the Khmer Rouge, the fact that the Communist leaders in Vietnam were willing to see an entire half of their population destroyed - that's irrelevant.

The fact remains: Vietnam was a just and winnable war. The only reason we didn't win it was because we didn't fight it like a war. We fought it like a left-wing sociology project. This is just further proof that left-wingers are idiots.

45. drhypersonic - February 16, 2010 at 04:49 pm

Fascinating dialogue! Those of a leftist persuasion need to do their homework on Vietnam. First thing they should do is read Norman Podhoretz 'Why We Were in Vietnam.' Second thing they should do is read Lewis Sorley 'A Better War.' Third thing they should do is go to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, stand in front of it, and apologize to all the dead that they have defamed through the years, and who were, individually and collectively, much better men and women than they will ever be.

46. fulmerjk - February 16, 2010 at 06:14 pm

Boomers, yes, much done well, much done poorly--or with as much cruelty as your forebears might have, hhad they been so well-fed and so well cared for. Everyone forgets the obvious: they have that nickname because they outnumbered every other living generation. And now, after they've been given everything the Great Society and the "Greatest Generation" had to give, there's so little left for the younger ones. Broken homes as the norm, friends dead from AIDs (thanks, Sexual Revolution!), no jobs left in academia--what age range were those college administrations who replaced TT job lines with all temps-all the time? Hmm....and you're wondering where the anti-Boomer attitudes come from?? Of course it's *wrong* to dismiss a whole group! But the people who caused the current disfunction happen to be numbered among them. You came through this country like a plague of adorable, pampered little locusts in the 1950s...then changed everything fot *both* good and ill...and now Gen. X and the Millenials have to clean up after your parade--and we have neither the resources nor the bounty to do it with that you did.

47. amnirov - February 16, 2010 at 07:08 pm

Furthermore, boomers, do you know who ended the Vietnam War? A bunch of old men in suits sitting around a table in Paris. Kissinger ended it. Do you honestly think he cared about anti-war protestors? Stop deluding yourselves. Bad hair, poor quality pot, and ugly clothes are not the raw materials of greatness. The Civil Rights movement pre-dated your generation. Heck, even abortion was decided by people far far far removed from your generation. One of the judges was even born in the 1800's and only two were born after the American entry into the First World War. So what exactly have you done to earn your ceaseless self-congratulatory garbage? You gave us 8 years of Bush and 8 years of Clinton and now, you're going to give us at least 4 years of Obama. Just a bunch of nothing. Where's our socialized medicine? Some idealists you all turned out to be in the real world.

48. tcicollegeof - February 16, 2010 at 09:37 pm

An impassioned discussion. 47 entries. Must be an exceptionally gripping topic.

My classmates and I didn't know we were poor. I was in a conservative Catholic college in Mass. when MLK led Civil Rights demonstrators; I knew next to nothing of it but wanted to write against Communists. I was in the Navy Air Reserve driving a truck for UC Berkeley when the Free Speech Movement occurred around me; I had little to say yet. In 1965, I discovered myself a pacifist during war because I'd been influenced not by Communists, as my father thought, but by the Pope and the Catholic Worker movement. I went to jail briefly and saw men join the military because they were more afraid of their own government and neighbors than the enemy. I never smoked a joint nor dropped acid, but started a house of hospitality for people who had and who were students, alcoholics, or mentally damaged. At a cost of $1500, I traveled for a year with my wife, then homesteaded to explore a different way of life; the Movement turned violent in the interim, but I knew little about it. When we left, peace demonstrators had offered flowers to soldiers. In the 70s my wife divorced in the wave of those who did during the feminist revolution; many men who were divorced are still haunted by it. We found few reliable answers and little information for resolving the questions that challenged us and the projects that we attempted; misleading and shallow answers were offered. We were nieve and inexperienced in a world for which we were not raised. We compromised where we had to or were too weak to persist. But we have found a lot of answers; the world today is incredibly different from the one in which I grew up.

The U.S. today shows every sign of an empire in decline and a society in decadence. We have our own questions to face. Propaganda envelops us. Politics is one part of life and is much larger than parties and partisans. Survival of life itself is an issue; we live in a world that proposes death and death threats as solutions, that lives by generally accepted ideas and enterprises that are hardly questioned but powerfully supported and very profitable. It is difficult to uncover what is real. Many flee from the pain of trying into whatever distractions are convenient.

We can be sure that our efforts will be scorned.

49. clarsen - February 17, 2010 at 01:20 am

Atheist Conservative - Great combo! I guess neither one of those persuasions by itself afforded you enough chance to sneer at the perspectives of the majority of the world.

So because Mao had a lot of starved then it's great for the US to murder millions of peasant farmers in separate countries? (The Vietnamese during the war were aligned with the Soviets, not the Chinese. THE US allied itself cautiously with China during the Nixon years there guy.)

I won't even get into the ridiculousness of the "60 million killed," and how this comes from assuming that very high pre-famine birthrates were consistent throughout the famines there, something that's biologically impossible.

(Non-partisan demographers have said that 10 to 20 million victims perished in that horrible crime, about as many Chinese as were killed by the Japanese and in the civil war proceeding Communism. For some perspective about 100 million people starved to death in the colonially "capitalist" engineered famines at the close of the 1800's, read Late Victorian Famines.)

But there are SOOOO many problems with your line of thought here. The first and most important is that Mao is YOUR kind of guy, not mine.

The kind who thinks that wiping out some "subversive" enemy to an evil state justifies absolutely any means.

Let me ask you this, if the most commonly accepted definition of "socialism" is "to each according to their need" then could there be anything LESS socialist imaginable than Mao and Stalin engineering famines as a political tool to wipe out opponents and maintain power? "But, but, but... they called THEMSELVES socialists?"

Yeah, I guess you believe the People's Democratic Republic of Korea must be a democracy too?

But this has NOTHING TO DO WITH VIETNAM!!! Just like you Tea Party "morans" need to understand that universal healthcare isn't "Stalinist" just because the USSR (in theory) had universal health insurance also.

I wish I could've brought you to a recently napalmed child, one of tens of thousands in Vietnam in the late 60's, and explained to her why she had to be burnt alive to keep evil Communists from coming to redistribute the ownership of farmland away from the feudal ownership patterns the US was so dedicated to preserve.

My conscience is clean in politics at least, because I KNOW that if I lived under Mao I would've been among the first to rebel (and die probably), whereas "right-wingers" like you would be licking his boots and salivating at the chance to turn your "intellectual" neighbors into the torture camps.

"Generations" are marketing concepts, they don't exist as real things with uniform personalities or "spirits."

To the know-it-all who says Kissinger "ended the war"... he "made" the Vietnamese accept virtually the same offer they had given to him 4 years before. The US establishment had decided to continue the butchery for 4 more years... at the cost not only of millions of lives, but also, many economists believe, of the US economy as well, soon to plunge into stagflation and the horros of Reaganomics. All of that has it's origin in Vietnam too.

I don't really know how much the protesters affected the decisions at the top. I've already referenced a quote from a US General that fear of domestic "disturbance" (protest) would make it impossible to further escalate the war.

Ultimately though determining "how much" protest can do is not only virtually impossible, but also an exercise in immorality.

Think about the "White Rose" movement in Germany. Did they stop the Nazis? No... but these "decadent youth" of their era sacrificed their own lives to try and wipe away the horrors and shame that were running their own (ungrateful to them) nation.

I'm sure the of the next 20 commenters, 15 will spot on about the nobility of the US cause and the horrors of "boomers" without paying attention to or confronting the points I made.

Then again Bush and probably most of these horrible commenters were also "boomers" technically, so nothing is black and white that's for sure.

50. francishamit - February 17, 2010 at 03:05 am

For the record, I don't feel all that forgiving about the SDS chapter at the U of Iowa in 1971. Their cruelties were legend. One of their members changed my registration in such a way to get my G.I Bill benefits cancelled, which meant I had some difficulty paying my bills. (I got them back, but it was an effort). I was accused of taking "blood money". They also threatened to picket the bookstore where I had a part time minumum wage job. The owner was a coward and fired me. I was threatened with physical harm for photographing a demonstration by a member of the Daily Iowan staff. I was on assignment for another newspaper. (I threatened back and his girlfriend hauled him out of there before he had to back his words with action. Probably saved him serious injury because I'd pretty much had enough and I am a "trained killer" i.e. I've been through military basic training (Well what did you think they teach there-- flower arranging?) But all of that not a patch on the guy who asked a veteran on crutches making his way across the Quad if he'd lost his leg in Vietnam? When the veteran answered in the affirmative he said "good". By that point the anti-war fever had spilled over into the larger community. The Managing Editor of the Iowa City Press Citizen, a mainstream Gannett newspaper rejected my application for a job as a reporter (I'd just spent two years on an army newpaper in Germany) with "I'm not having any baby-burning son-of-a-bitch work here!"

So, no I'm not inclined to forgive any of this,and I'm not a Christian either. I am inclinded to write about the entire era in a memoir. There are two ways to view the anti-war movement. One is to cast them as heroic resisters who stopped a bad war (and even people in the US military thought it a bad war, but went anyway, because that's the job they do. Fight wars.). The other is to consider them fools and dupes whose actions undermined national security and created problems for the United States military that lasted ten to twelve years beyond the end of the war in terms of morale and readiness. I spent my last two years in the service dealing with these problems...in Germany! A long way from Vietnam, but we had underground newspapers and FTA coffee houses. There the Vietnam War was viewed as a nosy sideshow to the main event; the much anticipated but fortunately never realized threat of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. And before you typecast me a some sort of right winger, let me add I'm a life-long Democrat and was very supportative of the Civil Rights movement then and later. I also opposed the War in Iraq.

51. cgettle - February 17, 2010 at 03:13 am

I was in Low Library when Orest Ranum came through the window and tried to convince us to leave. He was always considered something of a character for wearing his academic robes around campus.

I quoted something from Georges Sorel, the French anarchosyndicalist who advocated the use of a general strike to effect significant social change. Ranum said: "Sorel is dead."

Anyway he didn't persuade us to leave and he left. I think he was accompanied by a couple of New York's finest.

I knew Mark Rudd and John Jacobs, but I agree with James Simon Kunen's assessment that the '68 uprising at Columbia was a spontaneous and basically leaderless event. We were a bunch of young students quite disillusioned with our university's involvement with a war we considered cruel and unjust. We were also upset with Columbia's rather cavalier attitude towards its neighbors in Harlem.

We may have acted with the brashness of youth, but our actions were in line with Thoreau's concept of civil disobedience as the right response to injustice. We had student deferments and were less in danger of dying in Vietnam than many others of our generation. It wasn't simply about us as some of the posts suggest.

Columbia had a roster of exceptional historians in 1968--Fritz Stern, Peter Gay, James Shenton, Eric Foner, Richard Hofstadter, among others. I don't think that academia would place Orest Ranum in that Pantheon, but neither I nor many other participants in the '68 uprising would have ever endorsed destroying a scholar's work. That kind of behavior has nothing to do with ending wars or racism. It was because we were students who believed in scholarship and learning that we found Columbia's involvement with war and destruction so repugnant.

Orest Ranum is a historian who participated in a historical event. It was a non-academic exercise. I completely disagree with the notion that Columbia would have severed its ties with the Institute for Defense Analysis through dialogue, or petitions, or other "acceptable" forms of protest. It doesn't work that way with institutions.

Had the student protest of the late '60s that began with the Columbia uprising managed to end the War in Vietnam, millions of lives would have been saved in Southeast Asia. Tens of thousands of American soldiers and their families would have been spared the awful traumas that resulted from their deployment. Billions of dollars would have been saved. Vietnam would have avoided the ecological devastation wrought by bombs and defoliants. But that didn't happen.

The warmongers certainly learned a few important lessons from the Columbia uprising:

1. Don't put the war on television.
2. Don't put protestors on television.
3. Don't draft the young to fight.



52. ruralcounsel - February 17, 2010 at 09:34 am

I think only a few lessons can really be learned from both this story and the accompanying comments.

1) The schism in our society created by the bellicosity of the antiwar movement has not, and in fact probably will not ever heal. But our society seems to have learned its lesson, and the "peace movement" for Iraq and Afghanistan is a sad, marginalized, group of mostly old white haired women. And the community looks at them with a good dose of mistrust, thinking them delusional, misguided, or entering dementia.

2) Many of the antiwar demonstrators still can't or won't take responsibility for the events that unfolded from their actions. I was amazed at the comments of the participants saying this story vindicated them, because it wasn't the SDS but a couple of loose cannons. (Kind of what the U.S. Army said about Lt. Calley.)

3) There is a cognitive disconnect between the factions here. What is war versus what is murder, and whether or not one even recognizes that there is a difference.

I recollect when the Harvard SDS marched through Cambridge, breaking windows and trashing storefronts of hard working shopkeepers. Rich kids throwing a temper tantrum, hurting working folks.

I consider the SDS and their ilk a scourge on this country, and it will take another few decades to purge them out of the population. They mostly are beyond redemption, incapable of accepting responsibility (then or now), and forever in a paen of self-justification. They have the bitterness of a group whose worldview has proven itself to be a sham.

The bulk of that generation was nothing more than consumerist clowns led about by whatever fad got them laid or stoned, and gave them a rationalization for not feeling guilty about having a deferment. To this day, Viet Nam was a "bad" war, because to acknowledge anything else is to acknowledge one's own cowardice. Not gonna happen.

But don't take it out on the generation. We also had our share of brave men going to do a nasty job, who sweated and bled for the guys next to them. And unfortunately, many of them never came home, or are likewise approaching old age. The tragedy of Viet Nam was that we expended a lot of our "best and brightest" on a war the American people didn't have the backbone to see through to the end, and were left with the dregs of the self-righteous self-centered peaceniks who opposed the war by creating a war in their own country. The war they created has never ended. They may have moved on to positions in government or academia, working for change from the inside, infiltrating the corridors of power ... which, come to think of it, is why so many of the American public have such great mistrust of our government and other self-anointed elites. Could explain the Tea Party folks. Those who aren't willing to be governed by the remnants of the SDS and its sympathizers. We remember what you did. We saw where you went. And we will not obey you, because we know you for the liars that you are.

53. oldbilly - February 17, 2010 at 02:19 pm

I'm disgusted by a lot of the comments here. There is a segment of the population who refuses to learn the lessons of the Vietnam war. To them, I can only plead: read some history.

It seems that some believe all the ills of the time and since can be blamed on the anti-war movement. That is ludicrous.

The anti-war movement had plenty of flaws. There was a perceived class disconnect. There was the motivation of self-interest in those who wanted to avoid service in the armed forces. There was the confused and overly idealistic moralism.

So what.

The anti-war movement was not responsible for the Vietnam war or any of the repercussions. If there are idiots who still believe that the Vietnam war could be "won" if only it was better executed, they are ignorant and delusional. I suggest you read about "forced urbanization" and operation Rolling Thunder. We had no business there, and we decimated the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Countless tons of explosives, incendiaries, and toxic defoliants were indescriminately spread over someone else's country for a nebulous strategic vision - and for profit.

Yes, communism has produced terrible mass killing. But the Khmer Rouge wasn't created because the Vietnam war was stopped. It was created because the Vietnam war was started.

When the United States of America has stopped making war for empire (and for profit) you can start blaming the anti-war movement and the baby-boomers for screwing up the country.

Regarding the article itself, there is no doubt that the SDS could have used better tactics, and I'm glad to see responsibility accepted for the destruction of Dr. Ranum's work. Much like the radical environmentalist's attacks on academic institutions, the tactics of violent destruction and intimidation are unacceptable in our society.

54. fulmerjk - February 17, 2010 at 02:45 pm

Best comments thus far: Mr. Tcicollegeof. I'm so sorry for your loss in the 1970s. I wish more people who reflect on your era had your understanding. I think what younger people secretly react badly to is that so many who are in charge now (and then) so often imply that their generation was the best, did no wrong, and why aren't we more grateful and more like them"?" Their parents literally saved the Western World, but you didn't/don't hear them mention it so much; it takes Tom Hanks to publicize it (?!) If only more Boomers had shown the insightful grace and humility in their accomplishments as Mssrs. Tci and Hamit, we perhaps wouldn't be seeing so many knee jerk reactions (My sympathies to you, too, Mr. Hamit, in what you faced. I was a small child in the 70s but I vividly remember the awful behavior of some who weren't really for peace, so their PR was useless on me.) But the details remain that there's no more "boom"--it's gone until further notice--and there needs to be more concern shown toward the younger adults who must take care of themselves and the aging Boomers. Please, we need jobs to do this! Stop dismantling the college systems to save money. Stop abusing contingency workers! Only more intergenerational rage will result the more we have to hear how wonderful the 60s were and how pale we are by comparison. I hope Mssrs. Tcicolleof and Francishamit do write their memoirs, as I suspect they will spend more ink thinking about others as well as themselves a may prove better models to the other memoir writers.

55. zzyzx - February 17, 2010 at 03:18 pm

I have learned a number of things from reading this piece, together with the accompanying comments.

1) With respect to the Left, it is clearly more dangerous to be a friend than an enemy. Ranum sympathized with 'goals, but not methods'. His notes were burned. Similarly, the intellectual opposition to the Bolsheviks fled the Soviet Union during the Civil War. Those who, like Rykov and Bukharin, sympathized with the 'goals but not methods' of Stalin remained, ultimately to be tortured to death by their friends.

2) It is remarkable to see the smug preening among those who 40 years earlier were unwitting (in most cases) agents for regimes based on those of Stalin and Mao (e.g. Vietnam and Cuba), each of whom killed more people than Hitler. I would think that a more appropriate attitude for previous support of totalitarianism is shame, not pride. You preeners should get to know people who lived under these regimes in a non-Party/non-cadre role, together with the detailed experiences of their relatives who were treated as class enemies.

3) Clearly the appropriate response of Columbia would be not to call to NY Police on students, but rather to instantly expel from student status all building occupiers. Rudd's worry about his student status shows his devotion to the revolution doesn't go past his ID card, and in any case if it does 'student' and 'revolutionary' are both full time occupations.

3) I'm an academic. I am in favor of the threat (backed up by possible action) of deadly force for the protection of property. That includes scholarly notes.

4) Finally, it is important to be extremely tough minded in dealing with the attitudes shown by the more Left commenters to this article---not much attitudinal slack should be extended to the preening on pure motives (I am making a little 'Critique of Pure Tolerance' here, like their hero Marcuse). I say this because I have seen a big change over the years in the attitudes of the strikers: back in 1989, I listened (on the Columbia radio station) to the strike leaders discuss their actions. At the time, the maim point of the discussion was that it was all a big mistake: they wanted to 'bring the war back home', and it was a tactical disaster. Now, after a few years of glory supporting another Stalin-like monster (Saddam Hussien) under the banner of 'peace and freedom', the dupes and fellow travelers of the 1960s want to make themselves and the shallow thugs (like Rudd and Jacobs) who led them in 1968 heros again. That should be as socially unacceptable as smoking.

56. morris_older - February 17, 2010 at 09:31 pm

Some of what I read here is truly amazing--Republicans passed the Civil Right Act, the "dupes and fellow travelers of the 1960s" supported Saddam Hussein, the Vietnam war would have been won if the leftists hadn't prevented the military from doing its job (argued simultaneously with the left had no effect on the military), "equality for women and gay people is just nonsense-speak," none of the boomers have helped clean up the environment, and it goes on and on...

No generation has a monopoly on good or on evil. Every person in fact has both good and not-so-good sides to them. But people who try to make the world a better place CAN and do make a difference. As Margaret Mead famously said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." And when more people try, change can come that much faster.

Out...

57. hiltono - February 17, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Comment sections of on-line articles are notorious for allowing a few people to launch insults and vent, dominating the conversation. I suppose, as these things go, this is a rather tame group. Still, I'm astonished also at the wild assertions, over-generalizations and castigations. I think I may use these comments in classes to illustrate faulty reasoning, slander, and the like. So, I'll just make a few points that, I'm sure, will go past the flamers. Mass historical events, such as Columbia 1968 and the anti-Vietnam War movement, involve all sorts of people in many different ways. Many people who participated at Columbia were expelled or had to leave school and were drafted. Many (probably most) did not come from wealthy backgrounds; many were first-generation college students. Some anti-war students, like David Harris at Stanford, chose to go to jail rather than submit. Others fled to Canada. Some, like me, got lucky and their number never came up. People I went to high school with were killed in Vietnam, resisted in the military, and many returned to resist the war as vets. As I said before, the anti-war movement involved more than students -- it also involved GIs and the civil rights movement. The article and the comments say little or nothing of the black students who were involved at Columbia -- who are also "Boomers" -- and the dangers they faced, including expulsion and immediate draft. This is like the way people say 1967 was "The Summer of Love" -- but they forget that 1967 was also the Detroit rebellion. Finally, those folks who seek to make this an inter-generational conflict, consider the fact that people of all ages are being screwed by the current economic disaster. In California, where I am, there is a wonderful unity being developed between students of all backgrounds, faculty and staff to resist the decimation and privatization of public universities. I think the kind of mindless polarization some people are expressing here is being nullified by action.

58. clarsen - February 18, 2010 at 02:11 am

To 50. francishamit - You admit the war was "bad" (try evil), but still think that antiwar protests "undermined national security."

How much brainwashing do they make you do in basic training?


To 52. ruralcounsel - Luckily you're wrong on your most "original" point, that the antiwar movement today is somehow smaller than that of the 60's.

It took years of US atrocities in Vietnam before any anit-war movement started. Noam Chomsky talks about how, as the first "spokesman" for the anti-war movement, used to give talks in churches to "3 people... one who supported me, one who wanted to kill me, and a drunk who wondered in."

Compare that to the Iraq war, where MILLIONS of people took to the streets to protest the war BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED!

Yeah we learned out lessons from the 60's, but definitely not the lessons you think we did.

You continue... "The damage will never heal," that the ANTIWAR movement (not hte US military) did?

Much of Vietnam is still a toxic mess with unprecendented levels of birth defects and cancer due to US chemical warfare, just one of the many kinds of actual damage to human beings that is very, very hard to heal.

The breaking of windows you reference is nothing, and is also totally unrepresentative of the millions who protested and broke nothing. Many peaceful protesters were beaten and shot by war supporters in the US though. That, again, is actual damage.

You compare a guy who burned some notes to a guy who led the massacre of over 500 Vietnamese women, babies, and old people. And while setting fires wasn't common for protestors, massacring Vietnamese civilians was THE RULE for the US military, especially in "free fire" zones.

My Lai was "successfully covered up," since as a top general said, "Every unit of decent size has it's own My Lai somewhere."

When whistleblowers finally brought it to media attention the only one to suffer serious official reprimand for what they did was the GUY WHO STOPPED the massacre.

You're damn right there's a lot of "cognitive dissonance" going on here.

You insist Vietnam was a "good war"?

IF you had the guts to say that to the face of a room full of disfigured and orphaned Vietnamese victims I'd ALMOST be willing to buy your ticket over there.

59. clarsen - February 18, 2010 at 02:12 am

To 55. zzyzx - You're an academic? "Liberal" college professors indeed...

You want to peg the murders of Stalin and Mao on progressive people even though Stalin and Mao are right-wingers who focused their early purges mostly on people who were "to the left" of them?

(BTW, Hitler was responsible for the deaths of 20 million Soviet citizens, and the rise of the Nazis also caused the paranoia that brought Stalin to power. Mao was opposed by newly Stalin-less USSR as he carried out his insane purges, but was soon welcomed as an ally by the US, etc., etc. NONE OF THAT has anything to with Vietnam MUCH LESS Cuba.)

You're in favor of the use of deadly force to protect scholarly notes. I'll try and stay away from the cure for cancer you've got tucked away in your office drawers.

60. ruralcounsel - February 18, 2010 at 09:34 am

58.clarsen - Cognitive dissonance is right. Because the antiwar movement, IMO, didn't suffer anything by comparison. You're still whining about getting teargassed and bruised for starting riots. Huh! And the head instigators, such as the SDS and the Weather Underground, your wonderful representatives, burned and blew up buildings, robbed banks, killed innocent civilians. Regularly. In a nation that didn't even have a war going on in its borders! Your memory is pretty selective, isn't it? You folks continue to think you're Hotel Sierra...which borders on the comical.

http://www.theospark.net/2010/02/video-honor-at-last-for-roy-p.html#links

Go talk to a bunch of boat people, and I'll be happy to talk to those orphaned victims. Won't bother me at all. BTW, that famous photo of the little girl napalmed at Phan Thi Phuc was hit by a SOUTH VIETNAMESE airstrike. Not U.S., as is usually lied. All wars have collateral damage, it wasn't unique to the big bad U.S.. Rural populations caught between armies never fare very well. If your point is bad things can happen in wars, well, duh!

You guys are beyond rational discourse, because we just don't have the same value system or view of history. Your concern for Vietnamese civilians evaporated the day after Saigon fell. Not any protest about the reeducation camps. No, I take that back. Your concern for Vietnamese civilians was always selective, even before the NVA won - no worries about the mass graves at Hue, was there? Chomsky at first denied the Khmer Rouge had done anything evil, and later, when the evidence was irrefutable, blamed it on the US (Pol Pot was educated in Paris to be a Marxist...how we were responsible for that I will never understand).

And that's why this culture war will NEVER end.

I'm certain the lessons you learned are different from the ones I learned. Which is why I'm making sure my kids learn from me, and not you. They'll be ready for you and your propaganda. Carter may have granted legal amnesty, but there are lots of us who never will grant you any other kind.

61. francishamit - February 18, 2010 at 01:52 pm

As for the basic training "brainwashing" I wasn't a good candidate. I grew up in the Army. My father was a full Colonel, US Army Medcial Corps and an Inspector General in Vietnam in 1967. Even he didn't think the war could be won and said so in his trip report. He retired six months later while I was doing my own tour as an enlisted man. I volunteered for Vietnam, but was a clerk, not a combat soldier. I volunteered because I couldn't tell what was going on from the reports in the media, and at the end of a year, I knew less than I did at the beginning. However, I was not persuaded that the solution to my confusion was to do drugs, or to lie for the good of the cause on either side...and lying for the good of the cause (i.e. disinformation) was the stock in trade of the SDS at the University of Iowa.

The staff at the Daily Iowan wasn't interested in truth, just anti-war propaganda. Their takeover and abuse of that publication, along with a too enthusiastic embrace of "new journalism" cost the Journalism department its accreditation for a few years. I wrote an editorial deploring the Kent State shootings in my US Army newspaper; one that put the blame on not following Army doctrine. (You never have loaded weapons in a riot situation, simply to prevent such shootings. Look it up.) I also, in a later issue ran a letter to the editor from one of our resident Black Panthers about racial attitudes in the unit. This was well within my right and duty as an editor of one of these publications, per the relevant Army Regulations. So you tell me; who was brainwashed here. The SDS or the Army?

And, again, for the record. The people I despise from that era are not the protestors but the guys who joined the National Guard so they would never be sent to Vietnam. And the people within the Army itself who also hid out from duty in the war zone. There was as much prejudice against Vietnam veterans within the army as without, in the larger society.

The antiwar movement was an aggiprop psychological warfare operation that only failed because the Soviets were more afraid of us than we were of them. They weren't ready for a war and trying to get ready wrecked their economy. All we had to do was spend money on defense and watch them go broke tryng to keep up. Vietnam was part of the scheme, but it was still a tremendous waste of lives. It satisfied geopolitcal aims and wrecked a generation of American lives on both sides.

The war was not lost on the ground in Vietnam, but on the streets of America. At the peace talks, an American General said to his Vietnamese counterpart "You never beat us militarily". The Vietnames General nodded. "That is true. It is also irrelevant."

I'm still trying to figure this out more than forty years later. I have a worm's eye view. So I will write my little memoir and leave the big questions for later generations. Given the number of people who still think the South was right about the American Civil War, I don't expect any kind of rational resolution or consensus.

62. zzyzx - February 18, 2010 at 01:59 pm

morrisolder 56: I'm not surprised that you are amazed by my (and other) comments: Truth is stranger than fiction, after all. I agree that no generation has a monopoly on good and evil--indeed, lumping people into 'generations' is a boring method of classification. You are correct to quote Margaet Mead in saying that "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world". Indeed they can: the Leninist centralized Party organization is exactly such a collection, and the truth of Mead's comment is demonstrated by the Soviet coup of October, 1917. The tens of millions of deaths resulting from that particular collection of 'concerned citizens' demonstrates that the real problem is making sure that such collections of the silly, led by the sinister, do not succeed. As Malcolm X pointed out: "Self defense by any means necessary".

57. hiltono says "I think I may use these comments in classes to illustrate faulty reasoning, slander, and the like.", but gives no examples. Some of the more intelligent people in hiltono's classes will not accept such an argument from authority: for them hiltono will have not only beclowned him or herself (not a problem), but more seriously the entire 2500 year old intellectual tradition he or she claims to represent.

59. clarsen inquires: "You're an academic? "Liberal" college professors indeed...". Yes, I am an ex faculty brat who has spent the whole of his or her life in Universities. It's because of that that I can see that the American intellectual elite is rotten to the core. Fortunately, there are specialized backwaters away from politics where scholarship as opposed to Leftist agitation still prevails.

clarsen, you need to study Party history more carefully. It is hilarious when you write:
"You want to peg the murders of Stalin and Mao on progressive people even though Stalin and Mao are right-wingers who focused their early purges mostly on people who were "to the left" of them?" Stalin and Mao are only 'right wingers' in the little world you live in where 'right' = bad, and 'left' = good. Stalin attacked Bukharin
as a 'right deviationist', and that is how he was denounced at the 16th Party Congress. Furthermore, the 'purges' weren't started by Stalin or Mao. They were started by Lenin, who
on one occaision sent a telegram that said: "Is this a Dictatorship of the Proletariat or a bowl of mush? Shoot them all!" (see Volkogonov's biography or "The Black Book of Communism", both contain this quote).

You state: "the rise of the Nazis also caused the paranoia that brought Stalin to power." Stalin became General Secretary of the CPSU in 1922 and was the de facto ruler of the USSR once Lenin became incapacitated a few months later. All independent power centers within the Party ceased to exist by 1929. Hitler took power in 1933. I hope you don't teach this stuff...

By the way: Russian war memorials always say "1941-1945". That's because they don't want to talk about the fact that Stalin and Hitler were allies for 2 years, and furthermore that ally status didn't change voluntarily on Stalin's part.

Finally, you comment: "You're in favor of the use of deadly force to protect scholarly notes. I'll try and stay away from the cure for cancer you've got tucked away in your office drawers."
Thanks. Glad you get the message.

As ruralcounsel so correctly observes: "You guys are beyond rational discourse". His comment on Chomsky is dead on. Many left posts here sound like they come from little would-be Chomskys. On the other hand, whatever you think of Chomsky's politics it is impossible to think about the use of language by people or computers without engaging with Chomsky's (nonpolitical) ideas. I wonder if this statement is true for any Left commenters on this article?

63. grandcosmo - February 18, 2010 at 04:45 pm

Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Voting by party.

The original House version:

Democratic Party: 152-96 (61%-39%)
Republican Party: 138-34 (80%-20%)

Cloture in the Senate:

Democratic Party: 44-23 (66%-34%)
Republican Party: 27-6 (82%-18%)

The Senate version:

Democratic Party: 46-21 (69%-31%)
Republican Party: 27-6 (82%-18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:

Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%)
Republican Party: 136-35 (80%-20%)

from Wikipedia

64. clarsen - February 18, 2010 at 06:22 pm

Well if all you got out of what I said is that I "admire" Lenin or Stalin or any other dictator, I think there's zero hope that I can reach you about anything.

Why do you assume I'm a "boomer"? I'm 30 years old, an entreprenuer and family man.

I also live 5 minutes from "Little Saigon" here in California. I feel a lot of respect and sadness for what all kinds of refugees had to and have to go to.

I'm 100% opposed to militaries of all kinds, especially our here that wastes more money than the combined totals of all other militaries in the world put together (and acts as an excuse for them to spend more too).

Once again... Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Johnson... evil is evil, my "enemy's enemy" doesn't magically become my friend.

The same kind of pro-military, nationalistic, authority loving and protester-hating people as you commenters supported the Hitlers, Stalins, and Maos in their countries.

Their use of the terms "left" and "right" is illuminating as Kim Jong-Il's use of the word "Democratic" and "Republic" to describe his country. Dictator is as dictator does zzyzx .

Socialist = to each according to their need... forced starvations and death camps, with all economic surplus devoted to military = NOT socialist. It just so happened to favor both the US and USSR to maintain that illusion.

It was mostly LEFT WING (stupid term by which I mean "egalitarian") protesters who brought the collapse of Communism in the Soviet bloc countries. Unfortunately they were mostly shut out of power in the era of privitizations and mass decline in the quality of life that followed.

PS - Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act because they represented the same NON-SLAVE states that Democrats passed today. It's kind of a weird factoid, but totally irrelevant to your supposed "political point."

65. clarsen - February 18, 2010 at 06:24 pm

I meant Democrats today REPRESENT the same NON-SLAVE states that Republicans used to represent.

Sorry for all the many grammatical mistakes in hindsight, English is not my first language.

66. grandcosmo - February 18, 2010 at 07:11 pm

>>>Once again... Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Johnson... evil is evil, my "enemy's enemy" doesn't magically become my friend.

The fact that you would put Johnson on that list is evidence of either breathtaking ignorance or moral bankruptcy.

67. morris_older - February 19, 2010 at 03:10 am

Yes it is true that the representatives of the Southern states, Democrats at that time, voted against the civil rights bill. Also true, as your Wikipedia quote documents, that even so, more Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act than Republicans. And also true that it was a Democratic President who pushed it through Congress...

the result of the Democrats pushing through Civil Rights was the end of their dominance of southern politics...

68. morris_older - February 19, 2010 at 03:20 am

" the Soviets were more afraid of us than we were of them. They weren't ready for a war and trying to get ready wrecked their economy. All we had to do was spend money on defense and watch them go broke tryng to keep up."

At the same time we destroyed our own economy and have turned America from the pre-eminent economic world leader to an empire in decline. After the Berlin wall came down, we increased military spending and even today spend as much as the rest of the world combined on "defense." The results, from declining health care standards, to lowered educational standards, to the shrinking of research budgets, to shrinking of the arts, the loss of manufacturing, the loss of technological leadership in the world, and the list can go on and on, are quite evident and have become more and more obvious as the years go by. California now spends more for its prisons than its university system, and we have the highest incarceration rate in the world.

If the Cold War caused the Soviet Union to implode, have we really fared that much better?

69. zhizn35 - February 19, 2010 at 08:50 am

One interesting aspect of this generational disjointedness is the effect of the collapse of communism in 1989. Yes, in a macro-sense, it exposed the entire Soviet system as bankrupt, but the collapse also created enormous opportunity to young post-boomer Americans just entering professional careers. A surprising number of the most adventurous headed to Russia and Eastern Europe and got a first-hand look at the depth of the problems created by socialism.

After you have been nosing around in the wreckage in a place like Nizhny Novgorod or Minsk, it becomes clear just how blinkered all the fellow travelers in the west really were. While the rightist critique has been termed revisionist on this board, the tolerance of the left for the communist enterprise was real and should not be forgotten. Post-boomers who have sifted through the detritus of socialist collapse rightly deploy the gimlet eye when confronted by left-wing enablers camoflaged as boomer triumphalists.

70. francishamit - February 19, 2010 at 10:20 am

There are people who think that the collapse of the Soviet Union was caused by Harmonic Convergence. Throughout my life I've met people who were convinced that Marxist theory would triump in the end,and bought inot whatever lie would serve that end,starting with the high school classmate who repeatedly stated that the Ho Chi Minh trail was myth. The people who drove the anti-war movement have a lot of answer for. They were sincere in their convictions, but that sincerity simply gave them license to lie, cheat and try to steal power. Many of them stayed in Academia and continued to work for their vision of a future world which is never going to come. It's a form of religion and as the Jesuits so often say, matters of faith cannot be debated. You either believe or you don't.

Many of the people who jumped on the bandwagon during the protest era were anything but sincere believers. They were just trying to buy peace for their own lives. My great sin in their eyes was that I didn't play the game and refused to apologize for serving my country in difficult times. Vietnam was a bad war because we weren't fully committed to the fight and the Vietnamese were. General Giap said "We will lose ten and you will lose one, but in the end it is you who will tire of it." He was right, of course. The Vietnamese were true patriots while our effort was based upon an anti-communist rhetoric that most didn't care about, much less buy into. That lack of commitment also characterizes our current conflicts. As a friend of mine remarked, "The Army is at war. The country is at the Mall."

I think people get so passionate about this anti-war effort because it is the only time in their life when they felt the exhiliration that comes with being in the midst of combat. I had a friend who was in the Days of Rage in Chicago in 1968 and his descriptions of the action weren't that much different than my own experiences on an Army air base in the Mekong Delta. Either way, you were somewhat in harm's way. He was serious SDS but dropped out when they tried to recruit him for the Weathermen. He died back in 1998 and I still miss him because he and I could talk about this as equals. We'd both been there. "Seen the elephant" as it were. We had a lot in common and a mutual respect.

As for how we came out of it, well the Army did change a few things to try and avoid a repeat. The key support units such as military police and intelligence were mostly moved into the National Guard and Reserves to prevent them from copping out in the future. It was a speed bump laid down to prevent another "war of choice" but simply showed us the dark side of civilian control of the military. We got Iraq, which no one with any kind of real military experience wanted. (Bush and Rumsfeld were flyboys.) We didn't have the forces required and still don't. But the National Guard and Reserves stood up this time. They had to or it couldn't be done. Even shrunk down as we are we still have more military power than the rest of the world combined. That's neither good not bad, It just is and we have to deal with it. Academia can deplore it, but that doesn't change anything. We still need soldiers.

71. ymcaymca - February 23, 2010 at 09:57 pm


thanks a lot to all 68s.

thank you for burning it.

pigs should understand the problems they are causing.

72. civilian - February 24, 2010 at 05:57 pm

Sorry I am late to the party. I was having problems posting earlier. Apparently, you are not supposed to edit your comments on a word processor then cut and paste into this box.

Anyway, I am very discouraged to see people who should have experienced some maturity in forty years still spouting the rhetoric they learned as a college teen.

Why would anyone would hold the United States responsible for the millions of deaths in Vietnam without considering that had Ho Chi Minh shown loyal to Vietnam rather the Soviet Union, no one would have died or been injured.

He and the Soviets chose to murder tens of thousands of nationalists and anti-Stalin communists in the 1940's and 1950's, forcing their opposition to flee south and split Vietnam.

A simple respect for basic human dignity would have prevented that tragedy.

But this blame-one-side-and-assign-no-blame-to-the-other is symptomatic of the left. The anti-war movement embraced the Soviet invasion of Poland during the first years of WWII then turned from opposition to total support of total war on the afternoon that Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, not when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

A decade later, they were silent when the Soviets invaded Hungary.

A decade after that they were silent when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia, yet the very next year, millions protested U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Again when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan - utter silence, yet when the U.S. moved on Iraq, the largest protest in history.

Let's see the anti-war movement for what it was and still is - a tool of Soviet (and Russian) empire.

As for those who continue to believe in the myth of American empire, here is a clue. Empires do not run trade deficits.

73. ymcaymca - February 24, 2010 at 07:54 pm


civilian, I apologize, but your IQ is not very high.

Why are you trying to justify American Empire?
Because you are profiting.
or because you are brain-washed.

American Empire is an imperial empire.
It is an empire that spreads democracy in the world.
democracy meaning colonialism.

take a look at the US invasion of panama. or of Haiti.

anti-war (anti-military) movements are humanitarian, peaceful, compassionate.

No guns, no bombs, no tanks, no junk!

dont ever try to say anything stupid about anti-military movements.

74. civilian - February 25, 2010 at 07:04 am

So how exactly am I profiting from "American empire"? By the Federal Government borrowing money from Chinese pensioners to fund social programs here? Now there is a curious take on empire.

Anti-war movements are humanitarian, peaceful and compassionate?

Which explains why they used to meet in the shadow of Soviet tanks in Prague a block and a half from where poet, writer and nationalist Vaclav Havel was imprisoned.

75. ymcaymca - February 26, 2010 at 04:25 pm


you are not a wage-slave. that is how you profit from it.

Anti-war movements are humanitarian, peaceful and compassionate.
Anti-war movements are humanitarian, peaceful and compassionate.
Anti-war movements are humanitarian, peaceful and compassionate.

dont ever try to say anything stupid about anti-military movements!
dont ever try to say anything stupid about anti-military movements!
dont ever try to say anything stupid about anti-military movements!

anti-military movements are good.
NATO, American Empire, WTO are bad!

dont ever try to disprove this fact with false facts.

more importantly, break your chains and join the anti-militaty movement.
try to do something to abolish guns, bombs, tanks, and junk.
talk to people, discuss and try to do something for the peace.

76. civilian - February 28, 2010 at 08:10 pm

The anti-war movement ONLY objected to Soviet guns, bombs, tanks and junk. There is no humanitarianism, peace or compassion in remaining silent while half of Europe and most of Asia suffered under Marxist slavery.

Stalin had a great term for the anti-war types. He called them useful idiots.

77. civilian - March 01, 2010 at 07:43 pm

"The anti-war movement ONLY objected to Soviet guns, bombs, tanks and junk."

..., that was sarcasm, you know.

The anti-war movement never protested East German border guards shooting people at the wall, nor for that matter did they ever protest Soviet tanks in Poland, Hungary or Czeckloslovakia. They simple walked around the tanks and bodies to join their brothers and sisters in the east to protest US "imperialism".

Of course it never dawned on them that they were meeting in the Soviet Empire.

The classic case of this behavior was Barak Obama's mentor Alice Palmer who attended "The World Peace Conference" in Prague in 1983.

Of course, the irony of attending a Peace Conference in an occupied country never occurred to Miss Palmer. Nor did the fact that the occupier had just invaded another country, Afghanistan.

She was there to protest US "imperialism".

78. oscarw - March 04, 2010 at 08:31 pm

Lets get some things straight. I am one of those boomers and I do remember all (many, not all) the lefties disparaging vets who had the misfortune of serving in the armed services in Vietnam. They labeled the vets "babykillers".

Rudd conveniently blames a dead thug, John Jacob, for committing Arson in the first degree, a crime equivalent to Murder under New York Law. It's always the dead guy.
The "justification"? It was a political act. Hah! These criminals destroyed someone else's scholarship. They themselves accomplished nothing except endanger the lives of their fellow "students" (if they were such indeed) and the safety personnel who responded to a fire.

My mother, born in the USA and always proud of it, was mortified in 1952 when some doctors from Mexico wanted to visit the world famous Columbia University. The problem was that they would have to cross the crime ridden Morningside Heights. Her pride in her city caused her not to tell the visitors that it was lunacy to cross that "urban paradise" without an armed escort. She was sick for days afterward for having exposed her guests to the danger of that slum.

79. ymcaymca - March 08, 2010 at 01:56 pm


I cant believe you cannot differentiate between US government and people of US.

US government IS imperial and babykiller!!!

People of US are peaceful!!!

government(s) and army(s) and pig(s) must be smashed.

You must understand this!

Dont ever try to argue against this truth!!!

today's world is full of alienated and indifferent people.
I wish today's society was acting the same way that the students in Columbia in '68 acted.

US(and others) cause hell in world.
Then, people of US should cause hell in Morningside Heights too.(again)

!

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