Lyndon Baines Johnson in Poster Art: 1962 – 1968
Published December 1, 2009, on
the occasion of President Obama deploying 30,000
combat troops to Afghanistan.
Written by artist, Mark Vallen.
Lyndon B. Johnson making a speech
to supporters in Indianapolis, Indiana,
1966. While opposition to the Vietnam
War was growing, large sectors of
the population still backed L.B.J.’s
war plans. Smaller signs in the photo
express support for Cyrus Vance, who
at the time was L.B.J.’s Deputy Secretary
of Defense. Initially a hawk on Vietnam,
Vance would eventually advise L.B.J.
to withdraw U.S. forces from South
Vietnam. Photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto.
December 1, 2009, in an
address to the nation
delivered from the United States Military Academy
at West Point, President Obama announced the sending
of an additional 30,000 U.S. combat troops to
Afghanistan in order to wage what he calls a "war
of necessity" - and by doing so he stepped into
the abyss that previously swallowed-up President
Lyndon Baines Johnson.
many others from my generation, I remember Lyndon
Baines Johnson, or L.B.J., mostly for one thing
– America’s war on Vietnam. My assessment of the
Democratic Party and of mainstream U.S. politics
in general was in large part shaped by the Texas-born
Johnson. He served as Vice President to President
John F. Kennedy from 1961 to 1963, and then succeeded
to the presidency after the assassination of Kennedy;
becoming the 36th U.S. President from 1963 to
are those who peddle Johnson as a strong
progressive" who knew how to rally
the Democratic party base to "get things done",
what I remember most vividly about the Johnson
presidency was the chant his antiwar opponents
made popular from coast to coast; "Hey, Hey, L.B.J.,
How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”
so long ago president-elect Obama was unendingly
to the 32nd president of the U.S., Franklin D.
Roosevelt, and liberals were abuzz with talk of
Obama implementing a "new New Deal." But after
less than a year in office, Obama became more
often compared to President Johnson. On August
22, 2009, the New York Times published an article
Afghanistan Become Obama’s Vietnam?
That article stated bluntly: "The L.B.J. model
- a president who aspired to reshape America at
home while fighting a losing war abroad - is one
that haunts Mr. Obama’s White House as it seeks
to salvage Afghanistan while enacting an expansive
an interview with director Emile de Antonio regarding
his powerful 1968 anti-Vietnam War documentary
The Year of the Pig, the filmmaker
commented, "I don’t think history is Kleenex,
it is not a disposable item you put to your nose
and chuck out. History has to be recaptured -
history dies unless we recapture it." Here then
through the antiwar poster art of the 1960s, along
with some of my personal recollections, is an
attempt to recapture a bit of the forgotten history
surrounding L.B.J., a liberal Democratic President
who ended up destroying his presidency - along
with a good number of people - by escalating an
unpopular foreign war. To my knowledge this is
the first comprehensive illustrated essay on historic
U.S. posters that were critical of L.B.J.; a presentation
that no doubt holds timely lessons as President
Obama spends hundreds of billions of dollars on
expanding the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan
while sending ever more combat soldiers into the
is the earliest poster of L.B.J. displayed in
this presentation - that alone makes it a notable
work. Remarkably, the poster was designed and
distributed by New York designer Bob Dara in 1962,
while L.B.J. served as Vice President to President
Kennedy. Today this satirical poster may seem
tame as a critique; it may even be misread as
praise for a president "cool" enough to fit the
outlaw biker mystique, however, the poster designer
most likely meant to ridicule Johnson. The artwork
would even prove to be of a prescient nature.
the knuckles on L.B.J.’s left hand are tattooed
letters spelling out, "BULL." The lapel buttons
and badges on the president’s sleeveless leather
motorcycle jacket read, "ME." Appearing on the
bike’s gas tank is a fictional name for the motorcycle’s
manufacturer - "HARLEY BIRD." The poster depicts
L.B.J. as an antisocial desperado to be avoided.
His wife Lady Bird and their two daughters, Lynda
Bird and Luci Baines, all had the initials of
L.B.J., but it was the nickname of Johnson’s wife
that seemed to attract the most attention – especially
from critics. "Bird" became a common reference
to the president, something I will expand upon
later in this article.
Dara’s poster took on new meaning when L.B.J.
ascended to the presidency after the assassination
of Kennedy in 1963. In October 1965, the Hells
Angels motorcycle gang assaulted a crowd of 5,000
anti-Vietnam War protestors in Oakland, California,
ripping up banners, attacking protestors for being
"communists", and promising more violence against
future antiwar demonstrations. Further hostilities
were averted when an entourage of hippies - led
by poet Allen Ginsberg (who by that time was closely
identified with Hippie and the antiwar movement
of the L.B.J. era), visited the home of Hells
Angels leader Sonny Barger to negotiate an uneasy
peace. While the agreement between the hippies
and the Angels held, Dara’s poster transforming
L.B.J. into a motorcycle tough sent a powerful
message; the Commander in Chief had a war to win
and he was willing to ride roughshod over his
- Bob Dara. 1962. Offset poster. 109 x 74
cm. Image supplied by Lincoln Cushing -
Docs Populi archive.
Bob Dara was distributing his L.B.J. biker poster
in 1962, President John F. Kennedy had his hands
full with not-so-secret operations in Vietnam.
On March 14, 1962, Kennedy said, "I would go to
Congress before committing combat troops" to Vietnam,
but J.F.K.’s remark was a subterfuge. Months later
the New York Times wrote an explosive October
17, 1962 editorial that read in part:
death of three American flyers and the injury
of another this week revealed to the American
people what the Communists have known for a long
time - that United States Air Force planes, manned
by United States pilots, as well as many Army
light planes and helicopters have been engaged
in active combat against the Vietminh guerrillas."
1961 Kennedy had sent 16,000 U.S. Special Forces
and military "advisors" to Vietnam, as well as
authorizing the creation of "free-fire zones"
and the use of U.S. piloted jet planes in dropping
napalm and defoliants on Vietnamese guerrilla
fighters. Much of this was kept hidden from the
American public but eventually revealed in 1971
when a top-secret Pentagon study, The
Pentagon Papers, were leaked to
the New York Times by military analyst, Daniel
Who Meddles In A Quarrel Not His Own
Vic Dinnerstein. Offset poster. 1965.
Image supplied by CSPG.
Who Meddles In A Quarrel Not His Own
had a pair of beagles named Him and Her that were
seemingly inseparable from the president, and
the press regularly photographed Johnson with
his dogs. In May of 1964, while playing with the
beagles on the White House lawn, L.B.J. lifted
Him up by the ears. A photographer captured
and the photo was published around the world.
Dinnerstein, a designer who lived and worked in
Los Angeles, California, saw the photo of L.B.J.
mishandling the pup and had a sudden realization.
"Like the man who seizes a passing dog by the
ears is he who meddles in a quarrel not his own"
was a Biblical
(26:17) that perfectly described the photo of
the president - especially since L.B.J. was meddling
in Vietnam. Dinnerstein would combine the photo
with the Biblical Proverb to create a poster he
titled, He Who Meddles In A Quarrel Not His
the time Dinnerstein published and distributed
his poster in 1965, The U.S. Congress had passed
of Tonkin Resolution
on August 7, 1964, giving President Johnson the
power to attack North Vietnam without a formal
Declaration of War. In February of 1965 Johnson
launched Operation Rolling Thunder - the sustained
aerial bombing campaign of North Vietnam. Serious
opposition to the Vietnam War was just beginning
in the U.S. in 1965. In March the Students for
a Democratic Society organized the first anti-Vietnam
War "teach-in" at the University of Michigan at
Ann Arbor. Students at thirty-five campuses across
the nation followed suit. In April the first mass
march against the war took place in Washington,
DC, drawing over 25,000 protestors.
of America’s most determined opposition to the
Vietnam War was organized and carried out by the
nation’s religious community. On April 4, 1965,
the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Clergymen’s
Emergency Committee for Vietnam published a full
page ad in the New York Times in opposition to
the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam – the ad was
signed by 2,500 priests, ministers, and rabbis.
Concerned About Vietnam was founded in New York
in October, 1965, changing its name and focus
a year later to become Clergy and Laymen Concerned
About Vietnam (CALCAV). The multi-denominational
group of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, quickly
grew into a national network, and by 1967 CALCAV
was organizing civil disobedience against the
war. The Reverend
William Sloane Coffin Jr.
was just one prominent member of CALCAV who supported
non-violent resistance to the war. He led an October,
1967 church service in Boston were over 1000 draft
resisters turned in their draft cards in open
defiance of the government. CALCAV issued a "Statement
on Conscience and Conscription," in which the
group promised to assist those who were non-violently
resisting the draft, a document that over 1,300
clergymen would sign. [back
– David Levine.
Pen and ink. 1966.
Levine's "Surgery Scar" Cartoon
L.B.J. underwent gallbladder surgery at Bethesda
Naval Medical Center on Labor Day weekend in 1965,
U.S. troop levels in Vietnam had reached 184,000
and the average monthly death toll for U.S. soldiers
was 172 (U.S. troop levels would reach 200,000
by year’s end). After his release from the hospital
Johnson met with reporters, and to everyone’s
surprise he lifted his shirt to display the surgical
scar that ran across his abdomen. Charles Tasnadi
of the Associated Press snapped
of L.B.J. just as the president was pointing at
his scar with his right hand - the instantly famous
photo became a godsend to opponents of the Vietnam
1966 the illustrator and editorial cartoonist
David Levine created a pen and ink drawing of
L.B.J. that was loosely based upon Tasnadi’s photograph,
but where the photo had revealed a surgical scar,
Levine’s interpretation turned the scar into a
map of Vietnam. Commissioned and published by
the New York Review of Books, Levine’s drawing
revealed the obvious; L.B.J’s Vietnam policy had
become a self-inflicted wound. His "Great Society"
was rotting away in the humid jungles of Vietnam.
I seem to recall the cartoon being reproduced
in underground newspapers and on antiwar flyers
of the period - it certainly was widely discussed,
hotly debated, and very influential. While Levine
aimed at Johnson and the Vietnam War, it is his
"map" cartoon that is best remembered. [back
the anonymous 1967 silkscreen poster, The Great
Society, L.B.J.’s ghostly white face hovers
above an apocalyptic scene of despair and violence
as the racial powder-keg of U.S. urban centers
literally goes up in smoke. The president’s huge
disembodied head is juxtaposed against a tiny
African American child - the disparity in their
sizes indicative of the political and economic
power Whites held in comparison to Blacks.
multi-layered complexity of the poster’s message
is found in its portrayal of soldiers vs. citizens.
It is a given that the depiction is of African
American communities occupied by the U.S. military
during urban insurrections, but the tableau could
just as easily represent U.S. combat troops occupying
a village in Vietnam.
domestic reform initiatives meant to transform
the U.S. into a more equitable nation, L.B.J.
attempted to bring about what he referred to as
"The Great Society"; but his Vietnam policy complicates
the matter of establishing his legacy as "progressive."
Great Society legislation included the creation
of the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the
Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (the so-called
"War on Poverty"), as well as the National Endowment
for the Arts and the National Endowment for the
some of L.B.J.’s programs continue to the present-day,
overall his Great Society was sidelined because
prosecuting the war became a higher priority.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his April 1967
Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence:
Great Society –
Anonymous silkscreen poster. 1967. 40 x
26 inches. Image supplied by CSPG.
seemed as if there was a real promise of hope
for the poor - both black and white - through
the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes,
new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam,
and I watched this program broken and eviscerated,
as if it were some idle political plaything of
a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America
would never invest the necessary funds or energies
in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures
like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills
and money like some demonic destructive suction
tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see
the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack
it as such."
The Civil Rights Movement
in the U.S during L.B.J.’s tenure made significant
gains but it also suffered terrible losses; the
list of violent acts of repression and outright
acts of terror and assassination committed against
Blacks is much too long to mention here, though
the history is well documented. In the early 1960’s
African Americans were still unable to exercise
their rights as citizens in Southern states, and
the Democrats who enabled racial discrimination
and oppression throughout the South came to be
known as Dixiecrats. In his January, 1963 Inaugural
Address as the Democratic Governor of Alabama,
George Wallace forcefully declared: "In the name
of the greatest people that have ever trod this
earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the
gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say,
segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation
his April, 1964 address, The
Ballot or the Bullet,
Malcolm X described the Democratic Party and its
relationship to the power structure of the Deep
South in the following manner: "A Dixiecrat is
nothing but a Democrat in disguise. The titular
head of the Democrats (L.B.J.) is also the head
of the Dixiecrats, because the Dixiecrats are
a part of the Democratic Party. The Democrats
have never kicked the Dixiecrats out of the party."
Malcolm X ended his speech by challenging L.B.J.
to go to the U.S. Congress to "denounce the Southern
branch of his party", or else the President would
"be responsible for letting a condition develop
in this country which will create a climate that
will bring seeds up out of the ground with vegetation
on the end of them looking like something these
people never dreamed of." Less than a year later,
Malcolm X was assassinated in Manhattan’s Audubon
Ballroom, February 21, 1965.
Mississippi not only denied voting rights to Blacks,
it barred them from the Democratic Party altogether.
In 1964, civil rights activists from the state
of Mississippi organized the Mississippi
Freedom Democratic Party
(MFDP), which sought to unseat the segregationist
Mississippian Democratic Party delegates to the
1964 Democratic National Convention. The MFDP
wanted Black and non-racist Whites seated as delegates
to the DNC, but President Johnson and his Democratic
Party refused them. L.B.J. feared losing the support
of White Southerners in his campaign against the
Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater. L.B.J.
attempted to negotiate a "compromise" with the
MFDP, offering them two observer seats among the
delegates, but the maneuver was rejected by the
civil rights activists. L.B.J.’s treachery represented
a turning point for the Civil Rights Movement.
L.B.J. did persuade Congress to pass the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 (outlawing racial segregation
throughout the U.S.), and later the 1965 Voting
Rights Act (guaranteeing African Americans the
right to vote). Nonetheless, L.B.J’s integrity
continually eroded as Black
opposition to the Vietnam War
grew. Draft age Blacks could not accept the admonition
to remain nonviolent in the struggle to secure
their civil rights at home - while at the same
time being drafted to fight, kill, and die in
a war supposedly waged for democracy. To this
younger generation, L.B.J. became known as "Lynch
‘N Burn Johnson", and the cry of "Burn, Baby,
Burn" was heard from coast to coast as Black urban
against racial oppression. [back
Kong’s Song –
Anonymous artist. Offset poster. 1967-1968.
Published by "Black Light. © Los Angeles."
Image supplied by CSPG.
anonymous artist who created the 1967 poster King
Kong’s Song, was making an obvious reference
to the milestone 1933 film, King Kong.
The gargantuan anthropomorphized ape in the artwork
bears the face of L.B.J. and wears his ten-gallon
hat; straddled atop the Empire State Building
the mighty Kong howls his "song" of war as the
U.S. crumbles in his shadow. Instead of clutching
Fay Wray the giant gorilla holds two men in his
grip. One is labeled "Peace and Freedom", the
other "Civil Rights" - the ideals of a democratic
state held captive by war.
poster design alludes to the U.S. flag, incorporating
the red, white, and blue of the national banner.
The deep blue sky is replete with the white stars
of Union states, but something is amiss with the
vertical red and white stripes in this flag. The
white bars have been transformed into sheep that
frolic into a Washingtonian Draft Board; the herd
exits wearing army helmets.
Johnson escalated the war, military conscription
or "the draft", became increasingly unpopular.
There was active resistance to the draft during
the 1960s, from students taking advantage of legal
exemptions and medical deferments, to militant
expressions that included draft-card burnings
and blockades of draft boards and induction centers.
1967 African American conscripts accounted for
16 percent of casualties in Vietnam, though Blacks
were only 11 percent of the U.S. population. By
1969 well over 80 percent of U.S. soldiers fighting
in Vietnam were draftees.
its January 6,1966 Position
Paper on Vietnam,
the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
(SNCC, pronounced "snick") asked: "Where is the
draft for the freedom fight in the United States?"
That same year heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad
stated that he would not fight in Vietnam, declaring;
"I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong."
In 1967 the U.S. government convicted Ali of draft
evasion and sentenced him to a five year prison
sentence with a $10,000 fine. He was stripped
of his heavyweight title, banned from fighting
in the U.S., and had his passport revoked.
April 15, 1967, tens of thousands of antiwar demonstrators
took part in the Spring
Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam,
holding rallies in New York and San Francisco
that were at the time the largest anti-Vietnam
War protests to have been held nationally. Stokely
Carmichael, then Chairman of SNCC, addressed
of over 130,000 held outside the United Nations
in New York City (view
a reenactment of the speech). He said
the following to the massive crowd:
position on the draft is very simple: hell no,
we ain’t going. (....) The President has conducted
the war in Vietnam without the consent of Congress
or of the American people - without the consent
of anybody except Luci, Linda, and Ladybird (L.B.J’s
daughters and the First Lady). In fact, the war
itself is for the Birds! (….) The draft is white
people sending black people to make war on yellow
people in order to defend the land they stole
from red people. The draft must end: not tomorrow,
not next week, but today." [back
1967 the average monthly death toll for U.S. soldiers
in Vietnam had reached 779. That same year in
New York Barbara Garson premiered her Off Broadway
stage production of MacBird!, a comedic
send-up of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth.
The play was a searing critique of the Kennedy
administration, L.B.J., the Vietnam War, and the
liberal political establishment - taking its mocking
wordplay title from the name of L.B.J.’s wife,
Lady Bird. Well versed in Shakespeare, Garson
borrowed the famous line from Richard III
("Now is the winter of our discontent"), and altered
it so that when denied the position he felt he
so richly deserved, the character of MacBird grumbled
in a Southern drawl - "This here is the winter
of our discontent."
Press published a book version of the play, the
text based upon the Off Broadway production. Selling
over 200,000 copies in 1967, the book’s cover
art portrayed MacBird dressed in kilt and cowboy
boots, armed with lance and presidential shield,
rushing onto a battlefield - which was undoubtedly
Vietnam. Charles Tasnadi’s photo of L.B.J. showing
off his surgical scar inspired the poster announcement
for the January-February 1968 engagement of MacBird!,
which ran at the Memorial Auditorium Little Theater
in Sacramento, California. The poster depicted
L.B.J. pointing at his scar - the stitches still
in place spelling out "MacBird."
ran in theaters on both coasts of the U.S.
(enjoying a long run in Los Angeles in '67); a
recording of the Off Broadway production was released
as a record album, which in turn was broadcast
on listener sponsored Pacifica Radio up until
the late 1960s.
– Artist unknown.
Offset theatrical poster. 1967. 38 x 27
cm. Image supplied by Lincoln Cushing -
Docs Populi archive.
– Artist unknown.
Book cover. 1967. Grove Press.
controversial play was another indication of just
how deeply divided the country had become; the
counterculture and antiwar activists embraced
it wholeheartedly while the corporate press generally
maligned it. Time magazine’s March 3, 1967 review
of the play being a typical example:
is a mangy little terrier of a satire, nipping
at the trouser cuffs of the mighty. Its bark
is its bite. Holier than thou in its complacency
and self-indulgently assured of how In-funny
it is, MacBird is an off-campus transplant
of college humor. (....) Garson's ineptitude
as a satirist is her determination to testify
in the courtroom of drama to so many things
she knows to be not true. Her tactic for showing
aversion to the Viet Nam war is not to question
the logic of that war but to imply that Johnson,
like Macbeth, has 'supped full with horrors'
and is an unfeeling, bloody-minded monster."
magazine’s hostile review should come as no surprise
since the magazine had supported the U.S. war
in Vietnam from the start. Time defined its editorial
stance in its May, 1965 edition: "The Vietnamese
conflict is the right war in the right place at
the right time." (One can hear echoes of Obama’s
assertion that Afghanistan is the "right war.")
This was pretty much standard fair from mainstream
publishers and broadcasters of the period; as
a for-instance, the April 21, 1967 edition of
Life magazine described Martin Luther King Jr.’s
Beyond Vietnam speech as "demagogic slander
that sounded like a script from Radio Hanoi."
should be noted that Garson's stage play enjoyed
a revival in the fall of 2006 when the American
in Arlington, Virginia, restaged MacBird!
this 1967 poster, an anonymous artist imagined
a patriotic statue to celebrate the glorious martial
achievements of America’s Commander in Chief,
Lyndon Baines Johnson. Printed in red, white,
and blue, the poster mockingly quoted the aesthetics
of ancient Greek statuary; the artist presented
a likeness of President Johnson as a classical
nude marble statue, wearing only an Eagle crested
war helmet and a pair of cowboy boots.
statue of the heroic leader is shown standing
upon a vanquished foe, a small Vietnamese rice
farmer. Instead of a sword the Chief Executive’s
likeness holds a missile in its right hand, as
if to salute marching armies; the marble base
of the statue is fractured and crumbling, winter
winds have blown off the leaves from nearby trees
- not to mention the statue’s fig leaf.
the immediate aftermath of President John F. Kennedy’s
assassination in Dallas, Texas, on November 22,
1963, Vice President Johnson was sworn in as president.
Broadly hailed as a "progressive", L.B.J.’s administration
was greeted with initial approval.
landslide electoral victory against the Republicans
in the presidential elections of 1964 renewed
L.B.J.’s honeymoon with political elites, the
press, and the general public; largely because
Johnson’s reign was viewed as an extension of
the "Kingdom of Camelot" that was the Kennedy
– Anonymous artist.
Offset poster. 1967. Published by Pentagonal
Dodecahedron Ltd.-The Bindweed Press. ©
San Francisco, California. Image supplied
by the CSPG.
election to the presidency on November 8, 1960
was accompanied by a corresponding cultural phenomenon,
the 1960 Broadway musical Camelot. With
words and lyrics by librettist Alan Lerner and
music by Frederic Loewe, the production was loosely
based upon the legend of King Arthur and his Knights
of the Round Table. Starring Richard Burton, Julie
Andrews, and Robert Goulet, Camelot opened
on Broadway a month after Kennedy’s election.
The musical won four Tony Awards and ran for an
astounding 873 performances. Its original cast
album became a top-selling LP in the U.S. for
an unprecedented 60 weeks - the music heard by
virtually anyone with a television or a radio.
importantly, Camelot served as thinly veiled
if unintentional Cold War propaganda. Lerner and
Loewe’s vision of a just and magical kingdom ruled
by charming and benevolent monarchs struck a chord
with Americans, who viewed the majestic castles
atop Camelot’s hills as a metaphor for the Whitehouse.
Likewise, President Kennedy and his enchanting
wife, Jacqueline, were seen as mirrors of Camelot’s
elegant King Arthur and Queen Guenevere. The President
and First Lady were enamored of the Camelot
soundtrack, and the
hit song "Camelot"
was a personal favorite of J.F.K.’s. The tune,
and the very concept of Camelot, became the not-so-unofficial
visage of the Kennedy administration.
Washington Camelot saga was obliterated by an
assassin’s bullet, but myths die hard. L.B.J.
managed to prolong the fantasy for a time, but
he did not possess the glitz and glamour of the
Kennedy clan; moreover, the Knights at Johnson’s
Round Table were Cold War hawks who pressed for
escalating the war in Vietnam, and L.B.J.’s ideas
were always in tandem with those seated at his
Round Table. It did not take long for the gleaming
castle spires of Camelot to sink beneath the rice
paddy mud of Vietnam, and within a short period
of time L.B.J. became the target of intense public
ridicule due to the hubris of his directing the
unpopular foreign war.
though the ruins of the shimmering city of Camelot
had been washed away in torrents of blood by the
end of L.B.J.’s period in office, and all vestiges
of its ancient walls lay buried and forgotten;
some have recently insisted that Barack Obama
is capable of "Reviving
Those with a slightly more pessimistic view of
things have still found it necessary to call Obama,
New Knight." Now that our President
in Shining Armor is sending off young soldiers
to do battle in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan
- perhaps it is finally time to cast aside the
Camelot illusion. [back
– Sture Johannesson.
Offset poster. 1966. 70.5 x 45 cm.
Image supplied by Lincoln Cushing
- Docs Populi archive.
psychedelic poster designed in 1967 by Swedish
artist Sture Johannesson offers valuable insight
into the alternative culture of the period. The
poster’s visual language is a perfect example
of how counterculturists and political activists
of the era were intermingling and becoming unified.
a design standpoint the poster’s dreamlike imagery
and opposing primary colors were pure psychedelia;
the style found in hippie newspapers like The
San Francisco Oracle and the plethora
of concert posters and handbills widely distributed
during the 1967 Summer
at the very top of the poster is an all seeing
eye, a transcendental icon flanked by images of
mind-numbing horror. On the left, corpses of dead
Vietnamese are spread out at the feet of U.S.
soldiers, on the right; the Vietnamese Buddhist
self-immolates during the massive 1963
against the U.S. backed government in South Vietnam.
The poster’s not so inconspicuous emerald green
background consists of a verdant field of marijuana.
focal point of the poster is a depiction of L.B.J.
standing at the entrance of a citadel composed
of U.S. corporate logos; Ford Motor Co., General
Electric, Goodyear, Honeywell, IBM, Westinghouse,
and others - a good number of which were military
contractors for the Vietnam War.
particular poster is significant for bringing
attention to the economics behind the war. In
fact, a group called the Industry
(IAC) representing some of the most powerful companies
in the U.S., met at the Pentagon three times a
year from 1962-72; their mission - to obtain lucrative
war production contracts from the U.S. military.
the desk over which L.B.J. stands can be seen
a paper that reads, "DOW shall not kill"; the
twisting of a biblical commandment to include
the name of the Dow Chemical Company, the sole
supplier of napalm to the U.S. military.
Dow also supplied the U.S. military with the chemical
which was sprayed by planes over vast areas of
Vietnam to deforest the country, thereby denying
Viet Cong guerrillas jungle cover and food. The
U.S. military ultimately sprayed more than 21
million gallons of the herbicide on South Vietnam.
aesthetics and philosophy were to a great extent
inspired by the spirituality found in India’s
Hindu tradition as well as the metaphysics of
America’s indigenous tribes. That sense of the
mystical is found in this poster as well, though
what was being pointed out to the viewer was not
the sacred - but the unholy. The poet Allen Ginsberg
touched upon this theme of spiritual evil in his
1956 poem, Howl. In that work humanity
was preyed upon by a monstrous unclean spirit
named "Moloch." The ancient Hebrews knew Moloch
as a shameful entity that demanded sacrifices
of blood and treasure, but Ginsberg wrote of the
monster as the personification of America’s hyper-materialist
society. Sture Johannesson’s poster can be read
as an evocation of Ginsberg’s vision, the "all
seeing eye" in the artwork is that of Moloch,
the entrance in which L.B.J. stands is Moloch’s
open maw, with the folds of the drapes behind
L.B.J. taking the appearance of the monster’s
at the very bottom of the poster in faux Germanic
script are the words "Take a day and walk around
- watch the Nazis run your town", a line lifted
from the 1967 song Plastic People, by Frank
Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Of course
at the time a wide range of musicians were writing
songs that either directly or indirectly condemned
L.B.J. and the Vietnam War, from Folk musicians
like Pete Seeger (Waist
Deep in the Big Muddy) Phil Ochs
of Revolution) and Peter Paul &
Great Mandala), to rock bands like
Country Joe and the Fish (Feel
Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag, Superbird)
and The Doors (The
Unknown Soldier). [back
the close of the Second World War in 1945 the
United States, Great Britain, France, and the
Soviet Union established the International
Military Tribunal in Nuremberg,
Germany to prosecute major war criminals from
the defeated Nazi regime.
Nuremberg Trial charged Hermann Göring, Rudolf
Heß, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Albert Speer, and
dozens of other Nazi war criminals, with; "common
planning or conspiracy to carry out a war of aggression
or a war violating international treaties, crimes
against peace, war crimes, and crimes against
the November 20, 1945 Formal Opening of the Nuremberg
Trial, an unknown photographer took a series of
photos that showed 21 of the Nazi defendants sitting
in the courtroom awaiting trial.
John Jeheber. Offset poster. 1967.
Image supplied by the CSPG.
1967 artist John Jeheber altered a reproduction
of one of the Nuremberg Trial photos, transforming
the image into one calling for a new war crimes
trial against the U.S. architects of the Vietnam
War. Using the photomontage technique to construct
his artwork, Jeheber glued photos of U.S. President
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara,
Secretary of State Dean Rusk,
into the Nuremberg courtroom scene. Retouching
the combined photos with paint and brush, the
artist painted a circle around the U.S. defendants
for added emphasis. The explosively controversial
poster thus equated the deeds of L.B.J. and two
members of his war cabinet with those of Nazi
and Rusk were both part of the so-called "Best
and the Brightest" inner-circle of Democratic
Party intellectuals that served in the administrations
of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Though liberals,
the Best and the Brightest were Cold War hawks
whose militant anti-communism lead them to formulate
policies that proved disastrous in Vietnam. In
March 1964 Robert S. McNamara had said "We will
stay in Vietnam for as long as it takes. We shall
provide whatever help is required to win the battle
against Communist insurgence." Dean Rusk was an
articulate point-man for L.B.J.’s policy of escalating
the war. Rusk was villainized and reviled by the
antiwar movement. In January of 1966, responding
to criticisms that L.B.J. was escalating the war,
Rusk averred: "It is not McNamara’s war; it is
not the United States’ war… it is Ho Chi Minh’s
war. Maybe it is Mao Tse-Tung’s war."
creation and distribution of John Jeheber’s updated
Nuremberg Trial poster in 1967 coincided
with an event that received much international
attention, but very little mention in the U.S.
- the 1967 International
War Crimes Tribunal.
Founded by British philosopher and Nobel Prize
and by French philosopher and playwright, Jean-Paul
the International War Crimes Tribunal was conducted
in two sessions; Stockholm, Sweden (May 2-10,
1967), and Roskilde, Denmark (Nov. 20 - Dec. 1,
1967). The aim of the tribunal was the exposure
of crimes against humanity committed in Vietnam
by the U.S. government and military. In his closing
address to the Stockholm Session, Bertrand Russell
said the following about the U.S. war on Vietnam:
United States is using fascist states to facilitate
its plans for new levels of crime. Each day bombers
leave Thailand to saturate Vietnam in steel pellets
and liquid fire. Has one American city been attacked?
Are Canada and Mexico bases for the destruction
of America by a power on the other side of the
world? If one American city suffered two hours
of bombing such as has been inflicted for two
years on Vietnam the world press would inform
us rather fully. This imbalance is a clear indication
of the great injustice we are investigating. The
difference in power is matched by the indifference
of the powerful and those who serve them or depend
on their favour."
his address, On Genocide, presented to
the Denmark Session, Jean-Paul Sartre stated that:
"America is guilty of following through and intensifying
the war, although each of its leaders daily understands
even better, from the reports of the military
chiefs, that the only way to win is to rid Vietnam
of all the Vietnamese." [back
& Clyde –
Anonymous artist. Offset poster. 1968.
Published by "Alexicon Corp. © New
York, New York." Image supplied by
Bonnie & Clyde
1967 Warner Brothers Studios released director
Arthur Penn’s Bonnie
and Clyde, a blockbuster film starring
Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Gene Hackman.
Based somewhat loosely on the lives and misadventures
of the Great Depression era bank robbers, Bonnie
Parker and Clyde Barrow,
the film was extremely popular and received ten
Academy Award nominations - winning two Oscars
for Best Supporting Actress and Cinematography.
is important to realize here is that the Bonnie
and Clyde film was groundbreaking for its
unprecedented graphic violence, the likes of which
had never before been seen in movies. The bloody
onscreen mayhem was understood as a reflection
of the real world; the agony of Vietnam was on
everyone’s mind, as were the cities burning across
America in uprisings against racial oppression.
1967 would be the year African American radical
H. Rap Brown proclaimed: "Violence is as American
as cherry pie."
1968, tapping into the immense popularity and
mythos of the Bonnie and Clyde movie, an
anonymous artist published a poster depicting
President Johnson, his wife Lady Bird, and Vice
President Hubert H. Humphrey, as members of the
notorious Bonnie and Clyde gang. The widely distributed
print was based on the artist’s cleverly executed
photomontage, and the artwork delivered an unmistakable
message - L.B.J. and his liberal Democratic administration
were little more than brutal gangsters.
April 4, 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. was gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee. A week
later Bonnie and Clyde received its two Oscars
at the Academy Award ceremonies in Hollywood,
An Eastern Theatre Production
U.S. soldiers were killed in Vietnam during the
first month of 1968, the same year David Nordahl
designed the widely distributed mock movie poster,
Vietnam: An Eastern Theatre Production.
parody of Hollywood action movie advertisements,
the poster featured a nonchalant L.B.J. relaxing
on a lounge chair with a cool drink in his hand
while the horror of the Vietnam War swirled all
around him. Nordahl’s poster not only damned L.B.J.,
it rebuked the viewer for passively watching the
war as if it were the latest B movie from Tinsel
Town. The text on Nordahl’s poster reads from
top left to bottom right:
Eastern Theatre Production: SEE…A Cast Of Thousands!
SEE… Modern Atrocities In Full Color! SEE… The
Accounts Of A Nation Destined To Save The World
In Spite Of Itself! Gripping… Moving… A Film The
Whole Family Is Sure To Enjoy - VIETNAM. Filmed
thru the courtesy and cooperation of the entire
military forces of the world’s mightiest and most
benevolent nation. Filmed In Real Blood ‘N Guts
Color. 'A Truly Remarkable Portrayal of American
Foreign Policy', 'Beautiful-Poignant. ' PRICE
OF ADMISSION: YOUR SON PLUS TAXES."
An Eastern Theatre Production
– David Nordahl. 1968.
Offset poster. 28 ½ x 22 5/8. Image supplied
Johnson’s assertions that the war was being "won"
and that there was "light at the end of the tunnel",
were swept aside when National Liberation Front
guerillas and North Vietnamese regulars launched
a coordinated massive
offensive during Tet
- the Vietnamese New Year. The military campaign
began on January 31, 1968, when communist forces
attacked over 100 cities in U.S. controlled South
Vietnam, even penetrating the U.S. Embassy compound
in downtown Saigon. During the February high-point
of the Tet offensive, 2,197 U.S. soldiers were
killed; in the following three months 5,000 more
would loose their lives. In March of 1968, U.S.
soldiers under the command of Lt. William Calley,
massacred over 300 unarmed Vietnamese civilians
at the village
of My Lai.
The heinous atrocity was not made known to the
American public until November, 1969. [back
– Ward Kimball.
1968. Hand painted animation cel from
Ward Kimball’s anti-L.B.J. animated
particularly devastating critique made of L.B.J.
and the Vietnam War came from one of the most
celebrated animators from Disney Studios, Ward
(1914-2002). Mr. Kimball belonged to the group
known as the "Nine Old Men", the brilliant senior
animators that formed the core of Disney studio’s
very short list of Kimball’s accomplishments at
Disney Studios would have to include his being
an animation supervisor for Fantasia (1940),
an animator for Cinderella (1950), and
animation director for Alice in Wonderland
(1951). Walt Disney himself referred to Kimball
as "one man who works for me I am willing to call
apart from his work at Disney, Kimball produced
and distributed Escalation in 1968 on his
own time and with his own money. It would be the
only independently produced animation any of the
"Nine Old Men" would create, and as a piece of
animation it was about as far removed from the
conservative "family values" reputation of Disney
as one could possibly get.
two-minute animated short began with a dirge-like
drum beat and a numerical countdown. It alluded
to the countdown used in the infamous anti-Goldwater
Girl" television advertisement that
Johnson and the Democratic Party released during
the 1964 presidential elections; an ad that cast
Johnson as the "peace candidate", while implying
Goldwater would use nuclear weapons in Vietnam.
In fact, Johnson’s sustained aerial bombardment
of Vietnam with conventional bombs far surpassed
the destructive power of the atomic weapons dropped
on Japan. During a single 1968 bombing operation
dubbed, "Operation Niagara", "U.S. air forces
dropped bomb tonnage equivalent to 10 Hiroshima-sized
atomic bombs" on communist soldiers massed at
Khe Sanh [Source: The Vietnam War 1956-1975
(Essential Histories) Publisher: Routledge - July
24, 2003. ISBN-10: 0415968518.]
the countdown in Kimball’s animation, a crippled
and dying cartoon white dove of peace painfully
flapped its way across the screen, followed by
an enormous portrait bust of L.B.J. wheeled out
from stage right. At first the bust had the visage
of a Mardi Gras float, but when L.B.J.’s nose
began to grow long like Pinocchio’s (Kimball had
created and animated the Jiminy Cricket character
in Disney’s 1940 Pinocchio), it took on
the appearance of a bizarre battle tank. A voice
actor imitated the president singing The Battle
Hymn of the Republic as the Pinocchio-like
nose kept getting bigger and bigger, taking on
an undeniable phallic symbolism. Ultimately the
exaggerated cannon-nose-phallus discharged in
what can only be described as an orgasmic visual
explosion of Americanisms. The animation ended
as the smoke cleared, death-bells peeled and L.B.J.’s
mechanized portrait head cracked, fractured, and
fell to pieces.
animated film was screened across the U.S. at
film festivals and on college campuses where it
was well received by the antiwar students who
formed the animation’s natural fan base. It should
go without saying that Kimball’s animation was
not screened or even discussed by mainstream venues
or critics. One can only imagine the slack-jawed
reaction to the film from Democratic Party stalwarts
and supporters of the war. In a 2000 interview
shortly before his death, Kimball complained that
Escalation had in no way garnered the recognition
it deserved, and that not a single animation historian
had bothered to write about it. In 2007, Ward
Kimball’s estate posted Escalation,
where it can presently be viewed. [back
Of Murder: LBJ-USA
unbridled fury aimed from some quarters at President
Johnson and U.S. foreign policy was evident in
this 1968 street poster, Guilty Of Murder LBJ-USA.
The poster utilized the artwork, Calavera Huertista
(Skeletal Follower of Huerta) created by the Mexican
in the last year of his life. The anonymous poster
designer no doubt chose this image by Posada (1852-1913)
because it was an attack against the followers
of Mexican President, General Victoriano Huerta,
who seized power in a 1913 military coup.
contemporary designer therefore was able to draw
a connection, albeit an obscure one, between L.B.J.
and one of Mexico’s most reviled military despots.
Huerta’s reign lasted a year before he was driven
from power by the combined revolutionary armies
of Álvaro Obregón and Pancho Villa.
the controversial LBJ-USA poster was based upon
an appropriated or un-credited "borrowed" image,
the graphic was fairly well known as having been
created by Posada, whose legacy was undergoing
a renaissance in the U.S. at the time thanks to
the burgeoning Mexican American civil rights and
Chicano arts movement. Furthermore, the anonymous
poster was not utilized to garner profit nor boost
someone’s career in art; its purpose was strictly
and solely meant to serve political ends - remaining
an anonymous production even till this day. [back
Of Murder. LBJ-USA. –
Anonymous. Offset poster circa 1968. 57
x 45 cm. Poster based on an image created
by the Mexican printmaker, José Guadalupe
Posada. Poster image supplied by Lincoln
Cushing - Docs Populi archive.
End Of The War –
Artist unknown. Offset poster circa
1968. 58.5 x 40 cm. Poster image supplied
by Lincoln Cushing - Docs Populi archive.
End Of The War
Straight Theater in the Haight-Ashbury
district of San Francisco was a central cultural
venue for the Hippie movement between the years
1966 to 1969. It was an old abandoned vaudevillian
theater that was transformed into a massive hall
for acid rock concerts and psychedelic lightshows.
With a 1,500 person capacity, the renovated Straight
had a 5000 sq. ft dance floor and 40 foot high
walls upon which experimental films and lightshows
were projected from a balcony.
roster of psychedelic bands that played
at the Straight
is still impressive: The Grateful Dead, Country
Joe and the Fish, Moby Grape, Janis Joplin & Big
Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger
Service, and many others. On April 5, 1968, the
Beatles arranged the West Coast premier of their
Magical Mystery Tour film at the Straight,
an event attended by some 2,000 people. The Straight
produced psychedelic posters and handbills for
all of their events, and many of those artworks
have subsequently been published in books or acquired
for special collections.
the very day of the U.S. presidential election,
November 5, 1968, the marquee on the Straight
read, "The End of The War." The theater was presenting
a wild kinetic happening that evening against
the Vietnam War and the state of the country,
an event co-sponsored by the
Haight-Ashbury’s anti-capitalist countercultural
provocateurs. The political atmosphere surrounding
the revelry was explosive; the war was raging,
Martin Luther King, Jr. and presidential hopeful
Robert F. Kennedy had been slain by assassins,
U.S. cities were set afire in uprisings against
racism, peace demonstrators had been beaten bloody
in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic
National Convention - where conservative Democrats
nominated Hubert H. Humphrey as their presidential
candidate. The flower children of the 1967 Summer
of Love had wilted away to be replaced by tough
new hybrids unafraid of the word, "revolution."
anonymous artist working for the Straight designed
the poster for the event, an artwork that depicted
President Johnson hugging Ho
the communist leader and President of the Democratic
Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). The artwork’s
aesthetics were in keeping with the flood of psychedelic
images hitherto produced by the Straight. Most
psychedelic posters were highly detailed and intricate,
offering drawings or distorted photographic images
of things supernatural, hallucinogenic, surrealistic,
and dreamlike. But aside from psychedelicized
Art Nouveau maidens and flaming flying eyeballs,
what poster image from '68 offered a more delirious
and otherworldly vision than that of the leader
of the capitalist U.S. embracing the leader of
communist North Vietnam?
over capacity crowd showed up for the free event
at the Straight that included throngs of naked
dancers writhing through the gathering, an intense
multimedia lightshow, and an unannounced performance
by the Steve
- who performed an extraordinary version of When
Johnny Comes Marching Home Again. The End
of The War was most definitely the concept
everyone had in mind, but the anguish of Vietnam
would continue to grind on for years to come.
pro-war Democrats lost the election to the pro-war
Republicans, and L.B.J.’s war became Richard M.
Nixon’s. What happened next - Nixon’s 1969-1973
bombing of Laos
(where the U.S. dropped more bombs than it had
on Germany and Japan during World War II); the
1970 U.S. invasion
(protested in the U.S. by a national student strike
of over 4 million students, and culminating in
National Guard troops massacring four unarmed
students at Kent State University); and the massive
Bombings" of North Vietnam during December
1972 – are subjects for another essay.
The Way With LBJ
ended up being completely overwhelmed by opposition
to his Vietnam War policy, so much so that in
the run-up to the 1968 presidential election campaign
he surprised the nation and the world by announcing;
"I shall not seek, nor will I accept the nomination
of my party for another term as your President."
In a last defiant gesture, L.B.J. backed his Vice
President, Hubert H. Humphrey - a hawk on Vietnam
- as the party’s candidate for president. Infuriated
by the choice, peace activists who had already
vowed to demonstrate against the war at the '68
Democratic Party Convention in Chicago, Illinois,
had further grounds for protest. Humphrey
was long derided by people in the peace movement;
one of the many reasons for his being scorned
was an ill-famed remark he made in 1965 - "Only
the Vietcong has committed atrocities in Vietnam."
Afterwards, activists derisively nicknamed Humphrey,
the run-up to the Democratic Convention, an anonymous
artist in San Francisco, California designed a
mock Democratic Party election poster that altered
L.B.J.’s campaign slogan, from: All The Way
With LBJ, to: All The Way With HHH
(Hubert H. Humphrey). The artist made use of a
clever visual pun, depicting L.B.J. riding the
Democratic Party mascot, but in this case the
donkey was in actuality a stand-in for Hubert
H. Humphrey. The poster’s message was clear; a
victory for Humphrey really meant another term
for L.B.J. and a continuance of the Vietnam War.
But the jackass L.B.J was riding was not on the
road to electoral victory, rather it was on the
path to nuclear apocalypse. To the poster’s patriotic
color scheme of red, white, and blue, the artist
added a background of mourning funeral black -
indicating the death of democracy.
The Way With HHH –
Anoymous. Offset poster 1968. 18 x 24 in.
Published by Happening Press, San Francisco.
1968 Democratic Party Convention,
the Democrats ended up nominating
Humphrey as their presidential candidate.
Outside the convention hall, upwards of 20,000
police and National Guardsmen were deployed to
some 10,000 antiwar demonstrators.
As the Chicago police gassed and beat people live
on national television, protestors chanted: "The
Whole World Is Watching!" Just prior to his nomination
Humphrey said: "I think that withdrawal [from
Vietnam] would be totally unrealistic and would
be a catastrophe. (....) The roadblock to peace,
my dear friend, is not in Washington, D.C. - it
is in Hanoi, and we ought to recognize it as such."
should be remembered that during the earlier U.S.
presidential elections of 1964, L.B.J. ran as
an "antiwar" candidate against the ultra-conservative
Referring to his Republican opponent, Johnson
said on August 12, 1964: "Some others are eager
to enlarge the conflict. They call upon us to
supply American boys to do the job that Asian
boys should do." Johnson and the Democrats attacked
Goldwater as a dangerous right-wing extremist
who would send U.S. soldiers into Vietnam and
bomb North Vietnam - possibly with nuclear weapons.
"Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The
stakes are too high for you to stay home", became
the slogan used in L.B.J.’s campaign ads."
his landslide victory against Goldwater, Johnson
ultimately sent 543,000 soldiers to Vietnam. He
also began the devastating and sustained bombing
of North Vietnam on March 5, 1965; a campaign
that would last three and a half years, dropping
a daily average of 800 tons of bombs on the North.
One of the specifics listed in the 1971 Pentagon
Papers release, was the revelation that L.B.J.
had made his decision to bomb North Vietnam –
before he was elected president in 1964. However,
L.B.J.’s secret decision did not prevent him from
using campaign rhetoric that suggested a Goldwater
presidency would mean the bombing of North Vietnam.
is past is prologue
Shakespeare wrote in his play The Tempest,
"What is past is prologue." While people around
the world debated whether or not Obama would intensify
the war, the expansion was a fait accompli. In
early '09, he deployed 21,000 soldiers to war
shattered Afghanistan. In a backdoor escalation
he then sent - unannounced - an
"support troops"; bringing the number of U.S.
soldiers in the war by the end of '09 to 71,000
- the largest contingent to the US/NATO International
Security Assistance Force
(ISAF), commanded by U.S. General Stanley McChrystal.
By early 2010, the combined US/NATO military force
in Afghanistan will number around 103,500. President
Obama’s latest deployment of 30,000 combat
troops will increase that number to 133,500; a
tally that does not include U.S. "support
troops", additional NATO troops, nor the over
68,000 "private contractors"
(i.e., mercenaries) in Afghanistan that are working
for the Pentagon. By contrast, the army sent into
Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union in the
1980s never topped 104,000
in any given year.
button from the 2008 presidential
cost of sending an individual U.S. soldier to
Afghanistan - and maintaining that soldier’s presence
in the field for a year - is
which is the finding of the White House Budget
Office. A recent breakdown of costs calculated
by the Pentagon controller’s office put the price
tag of sending 1,000 soldiers to Afghanistan at
$1 billion; an estimate the Obama administration
used in determining the cost of deploying more
same Pentagon report
stated that it costs an average of $400 to put
a single gallon of fuel into a combat vehicle
in Afghanistan. The real question is - what will
these costs be years from now? At an August 13,
'09 Pentagon briefing a reporter asked Obama’s
Defense Secretary Robert Gates how long U.S. soldiers
would stay in Afghanistan; his answer was - it’s
can be of no comfort to Mr. Obama that in a CNN
poll released in September '09, 58 percent of
Americans expressed opposition
to the war in Afghanistan.
He anticipated the Afghan
presidential elections of August '09
would provide legitimacy for his escalating war
- instead the elections have been revealed as
a complete sham. They were so catastrophic that
posed the question:
"Can President Barack Obama ask Americans to send
more of their sons and daughters to die in Afghanistan
to defend a government willing to steal an election?"
President Obama continues
that Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan pose
the gravest of threats to the U.S., General McChrystal
stated in September of 2009 that he saw no "indications
of a large Al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan now."
In early October 2009, U.S. National Security
Adviser General James Jones said that he believed
are fewer than 100 Al-Qaeda operatives in all
Is President Obama actually deploying 30,000 combat
troops to Afghanistan to fight fewer than 100
Al-Qaeda terrorists, or is the war really about
securing wider U.S. geopolitical interests? Might
the U.S. presence in Afghanistan have something
to do with Central Asia having tremendous reserves
of oil and natural gas, with Afghanistan
being a crucial transit corridor
for transporting those resources out of the region
Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech in
Los Angeles, California, on February 25, 1967,
Casualties of the War in Vietnam.
In that speech King declared, "The bombs in Vietnam
explode at home - they destroy the hopes and possibilities
for a decent America", a judgment still applicable
even though the bombs have today been retargeted
to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Just as L.B.J.’s
Great Society crumbled in the jungles and rice
paddies of Vietnam, so too will Mr. Obama’s "Hope
& Change" presidency be broken on the craggy mountaintops
Democratic Party and their "antiwar" candidate,
L.B.J, were in large part responsible for the
disaster that was the Vietnam War, a fact that
receded from the collective memory of Americans.
Senator Obama campaigned for the presidency in
'08 on a promise to send
thousands more U.S. combat soldiers into Afghanistan,
pledging to make that country his central front
in the "war on terror", yet his supporters praised
him as an "antiwar" candidate. On October 9, 2009,
President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international
diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Scant
hours after winning the Nobel Prize, Mr.
Obama gathered his "war council"
of military and political aids for a White House
Situation Room strategy session on how best to
win the so-called "Af-Pak" (Afghanistan-Pakistan)
war; it was an irony noted by people around the
world. President Obama shall be the first U.S.
Commander in Chief to direct two foreign wars
as a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
a September 14, 2009 interview
with the New York Times and CNBC,
President Obama rejected his Afghan war escalation
being compared to Lyndon Johnson’s intensification
of the war in Vietnam, saying: "You have to learn
lessons from history. On the other hand, each
historical moment is different. You never step
into the same river twice. And so Afghanistan
is not Vietnam." In this article’s description
of Sture Johannesson’s anti-L.B.J. poster, I made
mention of Pete Seeger’s folk song, Waist
Deep in the Big Muddy.
President Obama’s metaphoric language regarding
stepping into a river conjures up the refrain
from Seeger’s piece of music: (….) "Every time
I read the papers, that old feeling comes on;
we're - waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big
fool says to push on."