Aug. 29 marked the 44th anniversary of the historic Chicano Moratorium anti-war march in East Los Angeles in 1970. This was the largest protest manifestation of the Chicano Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. The movement was the largest and most widespread civil rights and empowerment movement by Mexican-Americans in American history.
The march, organized by the National Chicano Moratorium Committee, witnessed perhaps as many as 30,000 people, mostly Chicanos or Mexican-Americans, marching against the Vietnam War. It was also the largest anti-war protest by any minority group in the country, including African-Americans.
Chicanos protested against the Vietnam War and the United States' involvement in it because Chicanos were disproportionately being drafted into the military as the canon fodder for the war. In the Southwestern states, where most Mexican-Americans lived at the time, they represented approximately 10 percent of the population of these states, yet represented 20 percent of the casualties in the war. Moreover, needed funds that might have helped Chicanos in education and jobs were being siphoned to pay for the war. This was a war that made no sense for Chicanos, and they joined millions of other Americans in protesting it.
My thoughts on the anniversary of the march emphasize to me that we as a country today have to be very cautious about allowing the Obama administration to get us back into a new war in Iraq and Syria. It's one thing to protect American lives and civilians who might be slaughtered by the Islamic State and another to begin an endless bombing campaign that will undoubtedly increase the number of American military "advisers" into the conflict.
Enough is enough. We have trained for years at the cost of billions of dollars the Iraqis, including the Kurds, and they now have to step up and fight for themselves. Americans can't and shouldn't do it for them. We can't allow the Sinjar mountains, where thousands of unarmed civilians were surrounded by Islamic State forces, to become a version of the Gulf of Tonkin, where in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson falsely claimed that American warships were fired upon by North Vietnamese gunboats in international waters. Johnson then used this lie to introduce in time half a million American combat soldiers into Vietnam and turned a civil war into an American war, with disastrous consequences.
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When are we going to learn that intervening in another country does not work and only makes things worse? American soldiers should not be fighting and dying for someone else's cause. American national security interests are not threatened by the Islamic State, and we can prevent any possible terrorist threat from the group through intelligence and vigilance without sending in "advisers" that may turn into combat troops. We also cannot continuously bomb the Islamic State and expect not to get more deeply involved in a fight that the Iraqis must do themselves. What happened to the fighter planes we gave them?
Aug. 29, 1970, reminds me that we cannot fight other people's wars. We have to instead fight our own wars at home against poverty, racism, and lack of good jobs and living wages, and for good and accessible education for all. This is America's war -- not the one in the deserts of Iraq.