Rudy Perkins: The wisdom of peacemakers
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2011, file photo, former Democratic presidential nominee and U.S. Sen. George McGovern arrives for the funeral Mass for R. Sargent Shriver at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, Md. Sioux Falls, S.D. is welcoming political figures, family and friends in town Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 to mark the life and career of former Democratic U.S. senator and three-time presidential candidate George McGovern, a legend in state's political history who died Sunday, Oct. 21, at age 90. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, Pool, File) Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — Perhaps it is telling that 1972 Democratic presidential peace candidate George McGovern passed away before this November’s election. In Washington’s corridors of power, Sen. McGovern was one of the leading voices for peace and against the Vietnam war.
In his 1972 acceptance speech as Democratic presidential nominee, McGovern announced that he would “halt the senseless bombing of Indochina on inaugural day ... and within 90 days of my inauguration, every American soldier ... will be ... back home in America where they belong.”
He continued, in words that could echo over Kabul today: “Then let us resolve that never again will we send the precious young blood of this country to die trying to prop up a corrupt military dictatorship abroad.”
McGovern and Republican Mark Hatfield had earlier launched the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment to cut off funds for the war in Vietnam, a war being continued by President Nixon against the wishes of the American people and despite Nixon’s 1968 campaign promise that he had a “secret plan for peace.”
The McGovern-Hatfield Amendment attempted to reassert constitutionally appropriate Congressional control over the decision to make war. This is the kind of Congressional leadership for peace we have rarely seen in four decades of subsequent American presidential war-making, leadership we may wish emerges again in the coming months, no matter who wins the White House.
Just last week we watched the two major presidential candidates again trample the banner of peace underfoot. One candidate explained that the U.S. spends more on its military than the next 10 nations combined, including China and Russia, and yet noted that U.S. military spending had increased every year he had been president.
The other candidate bizarrely seemed to condemn even this as not enough military spending.
We saw both candidates essentially commit to at least another two years of American war in Afghanistan. We saw both expressly or implicitly champion the U.S. drone assassination campaign that is turning millions against us in the Middle East, undermining both international law and our own national security. We saw both continue their thinly veiled threats that they might attack Iran in a first-strike war, foreshadowing the terrible possibility of a new Pearl Harbor in which we would be the bombers, not the victims.
The bipartisan “consensus” for militarism and war tried to bury George McGovern’s courageous voice for peace long ago. But the voices for peace have a strong habit of being resurrected, even from the grave.
I have hope and faith that the wisdom of peacemakers like Sen. McGovern will return to help guide, inspire and lead our country again. It looks like we will need it.
Rudy Perkins lives in Amherst.