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
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 1969.
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 titled, Could
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 domestic program."
an interview with director Emile de Antonio regarding
his powerful 1968 anti-Vietnam War documentary In
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 quagmire.
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
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 Own.
the time Dinnerstein published and distributed his poster
in 1965, The U.S. Congress had passed the Gulf
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 War.
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 created other
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
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
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 oratory, Beyond
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 forever."
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
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 centers exploded
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
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
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,
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! [back
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 White House.
– 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, "Camelot’s
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
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
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 monk, Thich
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
(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 fangs.
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 (Ringing
of Revolution) and Peter Paul & Mary
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
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 humanity."
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.
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 Johnson, U.S.
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 winner,
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 CSPG.
Bonnie & Clyde
1967 Warner Brothers Studios released director Arthur
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
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, California. [back
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 by CSPG
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
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 short.
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 animation division.
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 a genius."
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 "Daisy
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
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
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 secret
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 aerial "Christmas
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.
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 Hump."
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 repress
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
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 Republican Senator
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. [back
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
"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
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 troops.
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
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 Reuters
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 there
are fewer than 100 Al-Qaeda operatives in all of Afghanistan.
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
being a crucial transit corridor
for transporting those resources out of the region by
Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech in Los Angeles,
California, on February 25, 1967, titled The
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 of Afghanistan.
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
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."