1967 April 24

Gen. Westmoreland Blames War Protesters for Lack of Progress in Vietnam War


On this day, General William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, blamed anti-war protesters for the lack of progress in winning the war. Westmoreland’s attack reflected an anti-free speech view that has surfaced in almost every war, which holds that any criticism of American involvement in the war undermines the war effort. Many Espionage Act prosecutions during World War I, for example, were based on this concept. Most notably, Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to prison for a speech on June 16, 1918, in which he talked generally about war but did not even mention or criticize the then-current war.

Following the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, moreover, Attorney General John Ashcroft, on December 6, 2001, argued that criticisms of the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts were helping America’s enemies.

In addition to the attack on dissent posed by this incident, the Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

Learn more about the anti-Vietnam war protests: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTMv2FmSXWg

Read about the Vietnam War veterans movement: Gerald Nicosia, Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans’ Movement (2001)

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