Demonstrations, despite difficulties, were of great value to the antiwar movement. They fostered camaraderie, stimulated learning, encouraged activism, made a public statement, and gave people a sense of being part of something important and larger than themselves. They also fostered hope that the wheels of democracy would turn in favor of the protesters, that citizen advocacy would compel a recalcitrant Congress to put an end to the war. That hope was the source of much frustration as neither protest in the streets nor lobbying on Capitol Hill seemed to affect the administration’s relentless escalation of the war for three years running.
In the aftermath of this successful demonstration, SDS national leaders decided not to pursue antiwar organizing at the national level, a decision that SDS national secretary Paul Booth later called “a colossal blunder.” The SWP stepped into the breach and formed a new coalition in August, the National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Planning began for a major event in mid-October, the “International Days of Protest.” SANE and other liberal groups declined to participate and initiated plans for a separate demonstration six weeks later. Not wanting to exclude the left entirely, SANE invited 30-year-old SDS president Carl Oglesby to speak. Most people who attended these demonstrations were not too concerned which groups sponsored them, but the dueling demonstrations attested to the difficulty of national coordination.
However, this categorization of the Cold War has been proven false by many documents made public since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s.
I consider understanding the nature of both countries vital in order to understand the whole meaning of the Cold War, because there is no clear definition whether the Cold War was an inevitable event or not....
Since then, Russia's economy paralyzed, and the United States is three trillion dollars in debt, and both counties were weakened by the Cold War because of military spending.
Taking stock at the end of 1969, activists might have been encouraged by the successes of the antiwar movement. The Moratorium and New Mobilization were the largest antiwar protests in American history up to that time. Participation in antiwar activities had become “normalized” on college campuses. More Vietnam veterans and active duty GIs were connecting with the antiwar movement. The media on the whole was less hostile to the movement and more critical of the administration. Nixon’s secret war plans had been aborted (some suspected this); and U.S. troops were at least being withdrawn rather than added (troop levels declined from 537,000 at the beginning of 1969 to 474,000 at the end of it). Although beset with problems, the antiwar movement was making progress. According to Melvin Small:
The VMC raised funds, reached out to every other possible constituency, and generally presented the Moratorium as a legitimate redress of citizen grievances. By October, VMC had 31 full-time staff persons and 7,500 field organizers working to make the event a success. CIA operatives who infiltrated the Moratorium’s headquarters in Washington warned their superiors that the Moratorium was gaining wide support and that “prominent people regarded as loyal Americans have instilled the day with respectability and even patriotism.” These statements were correct. Among the Moratorium’s endorsers were nine members of Congress and the faculty at Harvard, which voted of 391-16 in favor of it. Participation on the day of the Moratorium exceeded expectations. According to Small:
As many as two million people in over two hundred cities and towns participated in Moratorium activities. Participants ranged from at least 15 combat soldiers in Vietnam wearing black armbands, to 100,000 listening on the Boston Common to South Dakota senator George McGovern and setting a record for the largest political crowd in the city’s history, to 250,000 in New York who attended rallies in Bryant Park and on Wall Street. Many Broadway shows canceled their matinees that afternoon and Republican Mayor John Lindsay ordered flags to be flown at half-mast on municipal buildings. As many as 90 percent of high school students in New York failed to show up for class that Wednesday. Turnouts were impressive as well in Chicago, Washington, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and Pittsburgh, where the city council endorsed the demonstration. Even more impressive were the dignified silent vigils and prayer meetings held in several hundred small towns where antiwar demonstrations had not been very popular.
As a way to show that Hanoi wanted reconciliation above all else, Cora Weiss and the Viet-My coordinated one last prisoner release in September 1972. This time, Hanoi stipulated that prisoners must return to the United States via commercial airline; hence they would be able to hold a press conference upon their return before being debriefed by the U.S. military. Hanoi and Weiss made it clear that any intervention on the part of the U.S. government could imperil the future release of additional POWs before the end of the war. Anticipating U.S. interference, they announced a false itinerary of their return trip to the United States. As expected, the U.S. military met the plane that the three POWs were supposed to be on in Laos with the intent of forcing the three men to fly the rest of the way back to the United States via military aircraft. All the while the POWs were actually escorted by Weiss on another day via a different route. Weiss wrote a press release stating that the intervention was evidence of Nixon’s disregard for POWs’ safe return and his attempt to conceal the truth from the American people.
Such harsh penalties undoubtedly dissuaded many GIs from directly challenging military authority, but other ways were found to debate and protest the war. With the support of local peace groups, coffee houses sprang up near military bases where GIs could freely exchange ideas. GIs began publishing off-base newspapers, one of the first being Vietnam GI in late 1967. More newspapers followed. Cortright counts a total of 259 over the course of the war, although many lasted only a few issues due to personnel relocation. In December 1967, the American Servicemen’s Union (ASU) was founded by socialist Andy Stapp, who purposely entered the Army in order to organize among soldiers. ASU developed chapters in bases at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Fort Benning, Georgia, and offered legal assistance to servicemen in support of GI rights. An increasing number of GIs also applied for C.O. status while in the service. Even if denied, their applications backed up the military courts and sometimes delayed deployment orders. At the Oakland Army Base, a primary embarkation point for Vietnam, the Pacific Counseling Service aided GIs in filling out C.O. applications, resulting in 1,200 soldiers successfully delaying their deployment orders by March 1, 1970.
Other raids, often led by clerics, destroyed draft records in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Chicago, Akron, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, New York, and Buffalo. Sentences were initially harsh, but in 1972, in a surprising turn, Judge John Curtin vacated the sentences handed down to the “Buffalo Five,” three men and two women who had broken into Buffalo’s Old Post Office building in August 1971 for the purpose of destroying draft files. Judge Curtin told the defendants, “Your love of country is above that of most other citizens. If others had the same sense of morality, the war would have been over a long time ago.”