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The first time I remember going inside the Pentagon was in 1969 when I was 14. My dad was coming back from Vietnam and his next assignment was Germany. For some reason we had to go to the Pentagon for something having to do with our upcoming trip. The thing I remember most was its vastness. It was the largest building I had ever been in. In fact, it remains the largest building I have ever been in. A year or two earlier, I was in the locker room at the junior high I attended in suburban Maryland getting ready for gym class. A friend of mine was talking about his sister coming home from college for the weekend. Apparently, his parents were a little upset because the real reason she was leaving her school in New York was to attend the October 27, 1967 protest against the war in Vietnam at the Pentagon. I asked him what he thought and all he said was that he wished he could go. So did I.
History tells us that that march in 1967 made a bit of a difference, if not to the warmakers, at least to the war protesters. One could easily argue that the October 1967 March on the Pentagon was a quantum leap forward for that movement. The publicity it garnered created a situation that pushed the numbers and the credibility of the movement into the mainstream of US society. If one wants to read about that march, they should read Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night. This book is not only some of the best reportage of the 1960s, it is some of the best reportage ever. In my mind, there are three or four journalistic scrolls that encompass the essence of the 1960s: Mailer’s Armies of the Night, Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972, and Raymond Mungo’s Famous Long Ago. These books stand out not only because they describe essential events, personalities and consciousnesses of that period of time, but because they extract the intrinsic properties of the period’s’ zeitgeist.
But, let’s get back to the Pentagon. For those unfamiliar with the 1967 march, let me provide a few fundamentals. The march was originally called by the New Mobe (New Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam), a loose coalition of 150 groups ranging from pacifists to socialists. The March was sure to become something more when David Dellinger, Mobe co-ordinator and radical pacifist, asked future Yippie Jerry Rubin to be project director. From there, it became something more. Rubin, originally a relatively straight New Leftist influenced by the Berkley-San Francisco counterculture picked up on an idea being spread by folks like Beat poet and leader of the iconoclastic New York rock band the Fugs Ed Sanders, included in the permit request a request to surround the Pentagon. The reason for this was because, according to various legends of the occult, the ultimate demon–the demon of war–lived inside a Pentagon and the only way to exorcise that demon was by completing a circle around the pentagon the demon was enclosed. Only then would the demon be released and leave the earth. Whether one believes this or not, it is interesting to note that the government refused to grant a permit to encircle the Pentagon.
All that being as it is, my intention here is not history, but to encourage those opposed to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the looming war in Iran) to attend the March on the Pentagon this March 17, 2007. Sure, there are other protests planned around the country that day, but this march on the Pentagon is the most important of them all. Without going into the petty squabbles (and genuine ideological differences) between the two organizations calling for the March 17th protests (ANSWER and UFPJ), let it suffice to say that the ultimate symbol of Washington’s warmaking power must be confronted by as many people as possible. After all, who cares who gets the permits, which is really the primary function of these topdown coalitions?
The military leadership has been able to avoid its complicity in the mass murder occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan for too long. Unlike their troops, the military and civilian leadership that work in the Pentagon are not just following orders. They are calling the shots. It is their computer programs that plan wars and send troops off to kill and die. It is their planning sessions and contingency plans that determine how, where and when the men and women enlisted in the military for whatever reason will be deployed to carry out their design for conquest. It is their callous disregard for the individual humanity of not only their designated enemies but their own troops that has created the rising death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are as complicit as the civilians they conspire with. It is time that they be called to task for their complicity.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is forthcoming from Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org