The leftward slide of the Democratic Party, which has made it an uncertain trumpet in matters of war and peace, may be said to have begun with the McGovern presidential campaign of 1972, whose slogan was “American come home,” as though America was the problem and not the aggression of the Communist bloc. The McGovern campaign drew in the rank and file of the anti-Vietnam left much as the anti-Cold War Henry Wallace Progressive Party campaign of 1948 and the Howard Dean anti-Iraq campaign of 2004. McGovern himself was a veteran of the Wallace campaign and, virtually all the leaders of the anti-Iraq movement, including most of the Democratic Party leaders who supported it are veterans of the anti-Vietnam campaign.
I have lived this history as both spectator and actor. My parents were Communists, and my first political march was a Communist Party May Day parade in 1948 supporting the presidential campaign of Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party against the Cold War, which meant against America’s effort to contain Communism and prevent the Stalin regime from expanding its empire into Western Europe. Our change was this: “One, two, three, four, we don’t want another war/Five, six, seven, eight, win with Wallace in ’48.”
This campaign was the seed of the anti-war movement of Vietnam, and thus of the political left’s influence over the post-Vietnam foreign policy of the Democratic Party. The Wallace campaign marked an exodus of the anti-American left from the Democratic Party; the movement that opposed America’s war in Vietnam marked its return.
The events that followed this retreat in Indo-China have been all but forgotten by the left, which has never learned the lessons of Vietnam, but instead has invoked the retreat itself an inspiration and guide for its political opposition to the war in Iraq. Along with leading Democrats like party chairman Terry McAuliffe, George McGovern called for an American retreat from Iraq even before a government could be established to deny the country to the Saddamist remnants and Islamic terrorists: “I did not want any Americans to risk their lives in Iraq. We should bring home those who are there.” Explained McGovern: “Once we left Vietnam and quit bombing its people they became friends and trading partners.”
Actually that is not what happened. Four months after the Democrats cut off aid to Cambodia and Vietnam in Jaunary 1975, both regimes fell to the Communist armies. Within three years the Communist victors had slaughtered two and a half million peasants in the Indo-Chinese peninsula, paving the way for their socialist paradise. The blood of those victims is on the hands of the Americans who forced this withdrawal -- John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean and George McGovern, and anti-war activists like myself.