activist, journalist, author, college professor (and more)
October 5, 2009
By Joan Brunwasser
Harvey Wasserman is a most versatile individual. College professor,
author, journalist, senior editor for FreePress.org, he is also
knee-deep in the movements for peace, no nukes, the environment,
social justice, and the preservation of our elections. I first became
acquainted with Harvey after the 2004 election. Living in Ohio,
Wasserman was perfectly positioned to observe and chronicle our
broken election system at its epicenter. And chronicle it he did.*
Welcome to OpEdNews, Harvey. You just wrote a piece called "Obama's
LBJ Moment."Can you recap your argument for those readers who missed it?
We are on the brink of the abyss, as we were in 1965. Back then
Lyndon Johnson had the choice of pulling out of Vietnam or plunging
in. He made the wrong decision, and we have been paying for it ever
since. Wanna know why we don't have health care? Why college tuitions
have soared? Why our infrastructure has crumbled? Not all of it is
due to Vietnam, but certainly much of it. We squandered $100 billion
and the soul of a generation, winding up with 250,000 homeless vets,
Agent Orange and so much more.
Now Obama has the parallel choice in Afghanistan. It is utterly
unwinnable. To send more troops is to throw our the last of our
diminished fortunes and the blood of yet another generation into the
abyss. It will also destroy Obama and his presidency. We cannot let it happen.
What can citizens do about it? While Obama was voted in on a wave of
change, so far, he has not been living up to that promise.
We must do what we always do: organize. Demonstrate, call/write
Congress, maintain our non-violent opposition. But this is a
tremendously critical moment. If we are dragged into this war, the
consequences will be unimaginable. We have no margin for error.
Is the public aware that we are on the brink of another abyss?
There are some who understand, especially those who suffered through
Vietnam. Frank Rich has a good column in Sunday's NYTimes that I
think will get some traction. But much of the nation is totally
uninformed. Certainly you won't get it off the corporate media.
There's a reason those in power don't like to have history taught in
schools. For the new generation, Vietnam is as far distant as WWI.
But I think the nation's instincts are on target. There's plenty of
opposition to this war. Obama will have an instant negative reaction
to going in. It's up to us to make that reaction as powerful and
effective as possible. NOW!!
You slipped a tantalizing factoid in your article: "In the 1980s I
debated [Army General] Westmoreland on two college campuses." I
couldn't let it pass. How did that come about and what was it like?
Westmoreland was involved in a huge lawsuit. He was suing the media -
I think particularly CBS - for asserting that he knowingly misled LBJ
on Vietnamese troop strength and the winnability of the war. I
believe they finally settle with him. I don't remember the details -
maybe someone else will.
So I think he needed the money. In any event, we debated on the
nuclear freeze. He really knew nothing about nukes. Our first debate
was at the University of Florida at Gainesville. The second time was
at a small college in Pennsylvania. [Here's a piece about it.]
It's a great article. Your last paragraph could have been written
now: "So maybe what the General really epitomized was why the
futility and psychosis seem even deeper and uglier this time around,
when some have learned nothing, and history repeats itself as both
tragedy and farce." But you didn't quite answer this question to my
satisfaction yet: What were you doing in the '80s? How did you come
to be the one who debated Westmoreland?
In the early 1970s I was incredibly fortunate enough to be living on
a commune in western Massachusetts. The local utility announced their
plans to build a nuclear plant four miles from our house, where we
were dedicated to organic gardening. I helped coin the phrase "No
Nukes" and have been campaigning on the issue ever since. So when my
lecture agency--Great Talent Network--got the word that Westmoreland
was on the circuit, they chose me to debate him.
Cool! How long did you live on this commune, how did you get there,
and is it still going?
We founded Montague Farm in August, 1968. It grew out of our anti-war
Liberation News Service. [See Ray Mungo's Famous Long Ago and Steve
Diamond's What the Trees Said.] An incredible place. I lived there
until the mid 1980s when I came back to Ohio to be with my parents,
who both passed away in 1994. A Glimpse of the Big Light is my
memorial to these two wonderful people.
The Farm went on through the 1990s with a younger generation. Then,
early in the new millennium, we turned it over to the Zen Peacemaker
Society, including Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko. They have done
great things with the place and the organization does fantastic work
for peace, both inner and global. So we now have more than 40 years
with this wonderful farm, which I just visited a few weeks ago with
two of my daughters. Some things do work!
It's so great that the farm still exists and is functioning. And
that you have gone back with your own kids. What did they think of
it, and of what you were doing so long ago?
My kids have all been back with me to the farm and to western
Massachusetts, where we made so many great things start to happen.
They like it a lot. We have wonderful friends and family still there.
I always loved the outdoors. But living in central Ohio was pretty
disorienting. The farm was my first real immersion into nature, as it
was for many of the other suburban baby boomers who moved to communes
in the late 1960s and early '70s. Our first decision at Montague Farm
was to not use chemicals on the garden. We were actually written up
by Rob Rodale in Organic Gardening & Farming Magazine. So when the
nuke plant proposal came to town, we knew what we had to do, which is
to stop it! And we did.
Let's pause here. When we return, Harvey will explain just how he
and his cohorts stopped the nuclear plant and more. Please join us.
*How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & is Rigging 2008 by Bob
Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, CICJ (2005).
What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the
2004 Election Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman. The
New Press (NY: 2006).
Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election?
Essential Documents, Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey
Wasserman. CICJ (2005).