I am writing in response to Eric Alterman’s column “Days of Crazy” [May 4]. I was a youthful member/advocate of the Students for a Democratic Society during that period, from 1969 to 1971. I was never a part and never a supporter of the Weatherman faction of SDS. In fact, I argued against tactics that could cause human harm. The split that created Weatherman was largely about the appropriateness of violence and the acceptability of collateral damage (harm to humans) from actions against the war machine.
But let us look back. US interference in Vietnam goes back to Eisenhower’s blocking free elections in 1958 because it was clear that Ho Chi Minh would win. This was followed by an ever-escalating war by the US government against the Vietnamese people. More than a decade later, Johnson had expanded the war, and Nixon was bombing Cambodia.
We had been marching to get the United States out of Vietnam for years. If the purpose was to end the war, chanting “Bring the troops home” was not working. “Bring the war home” changed the picture. The idea that a few casualties here might spare thousands in Vietnam was compelling. Young Americans came to the view that, if we had to have a war, we might as well have it here. This helped scare the country to its senses. It changed the conversation. The actions of the Weathermen that the author describes as “idiotic” helped to bring the war on Vietnam to an end.
grants pass, ore.
Eric Alterman Replies
In the words of that immortal moral philosopher Ricky Ricardo, “I don thin so…”
Dose of Reality
In her article “The Truth About the Measles” [March 23/30], Annie Sparrow declares that “the vaccine is safe.” This is not true. People suffer complications from vaccines quite often, and the US government has a program called VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) that has collected nearly 500,000 cases. There is also a federal vaccine-injury compensation program that has paid out $3 billion.
It’s true that some people have been using VAERS data inappropriately, claiming that the measles vaccine has caused hundreds of deaths. Yes, VAERS records do show over 300 reports of death following receipt of measles-containing shots. But the truth is more complicated. First, the measles vaccine is almost always administered with the vaccines for mumps and rubella; second, this MMR vaccine is often given along with many other childhood vaccinations during the same office visit. So it is impossible to state which shot or combination of shots caused a death. Also, VAERS does not have enough data to make conclusive scientific pronouncements about cause and effect. VAERS is merely an “indicator” of vaccine-injury trends that public-health officials and researchers can then explore in more detail.