News Release

Washington’s Current Debate on Iraq Echoes the Rhetoric of Vietnam Era


While debate over Iraq intensifies in Washington, a new film’s rarely-seen archival footage shows that current arguments against withdrawing U.S. troops are eerily reminiscent of persistent claims from the Johnson and Nixon administrations during the Vietnam War.

Parallels emerge sharply in the documentary, “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Striking footage of Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush presents similar patterns of spin aimed at maintaining basic war policies in the face of mounting public opposition.

President Johnson declared that opponents of the Vietnam War should offer “a solution that does not call for surrender or for cutting and running now.”

LBJ’s rhetoric appears in the film to foreshadow President Bush’s declaration that “we’re not going to cut and run, if I’m in the Oval Office.”

The Vietnam War continued for years after opinion polls showed that most Americans had turned against it. That pattern has held during the Iraq war. In both instances, top administration officials denounced war critics as unduly pessimistic and defeatist.

Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, complained to an appreciative crowd of GOP war supporters: “In the United States today we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.”

War Made Easy,” narrated by Sean Penn, notes that “even when calls for withdrawal have eventually become too loud to ignore, officials have put forward strategies for ending war that have had the effect of prolonging it — in some cases, as with the Nixon administration’s strategy of Vietnamization, actually escalating war in the name of ending it.”

As if anticipating the current president’s declaration that “as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down,” President Nixon solemnly told the American people that the U.S. government had previously “Americanized the war in Vietnam” but that “we are Vietnamizing the search for peace.”

“War Made Easy” is based on the book of the same name by Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He contends in the documentary that Nixon’s model was “to use air power while pulling out U.S. troops and training Vietnamese to kill other Vietnamese people” — an approach with similarities to Bush’s goal of “Iraqization.”

A full transcript of “War Made Easy” plus audio excerpts for radio use and a complete electronic press kit are posted here.

The editor of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Jay Cassidy, says that the “War Made Easy” documentary is “a total tour de force” — and adds that “the film’s stunning archival footage shows what a tremendously important tool fair use is for dialogue in a democracy.”

“War Made Easy” is scheduled for screening in several dozen cities across the United States during the next few weeks. Loretta Alper, who produced the film along with the independent filmmaking team at the Media Education Foundation, calls the movie “a powerful organizing tool for the growing mainstream antiwar movement.”

A video excerpt from the film, together with an interview with Norman Solomon, was posted today on AlterNet.

For more information on the film, go to War Made Easy or contact:
Kendra Olson Hodgson, (413) 584-8500 ext. 2203

To arrange interviews with the producers of the film, contact:
Jeff Cohen, (845) 679-3313
David Zupan, (541) 484-9167.