Jewish World Review Oct. 14, 2002 / 8 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Zev Chafets

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Geriatric war resisters | Lately, President Bush has been moving the country to war by quoting from the stirring speeches of John F. Kennedy. But Bush's evident success in readying public opinion owes more to JFK's old rival, Richard Nixon.

It was Nixon in 1973 who presided over the end of military conscription. The effect of that decision is apparent in the geriatric nature of today's peace movement, whose prominent members are not energized students, but the graying remnant of the Vietnam resistance era.

The leading congressional critic of the war, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), is 84. Byrd, of course, wasn't a hippie - his last fling at social activism was as a youthful member of the Ku Klux Klan - but he has become a hero to the Old New Left, many of whom seem to have gone straight from the SDS to AARP without experiencing a single adult thought.

A week ago today, they gathered in Central Park to rally against the war, carrying "Imagine" signs and reminiscing about the days when scoring a joint meant getting high, not having a hip replacement. They came to hear NBC's Martin Sheen, Tim Robbins and outgoing Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.).

The rally was put together by the Not In Our Name Project, acoalition of superannuated Maoists, anarchists, Saddamites, Starbucks-resisters, anti-imperialists and the robotic followers of Ramsey Clark. One of the rally's chief organizers was Mary Lou Greenberg of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

A few days before the rally, Not In Our Name published an anti-war petition. Its signatories included Vietnam vets (stateside division) Tom Hayden, Angela Davis, Daniel Ellsberg, Philip Berrigan and Gloria Steinem. This is the wrinkled face of resistance 2002. Today's Jane Fonda is Jane Fonda.

In the '60s, when resisters were young, there was a rule: Never trust anyone over 30. Exceptions were made for geezers like Dr. Benjamin Spock, who could help you get a medical discharge, or Timothy Leary, who had the recipe for LSD.

But the movement's leaders were young rebels with a very personal cause - staying out of the Army.

Nobody has that problem now. The American military is made up of professionals, men and women who are in uniform because they choose to be. There are no students in the streets chanting, "Hell no, we won't go!" because, frankly, who wants them?

That leaves a vacuum that the graybeards have filled. The war hasn't even begun, but they are against it anyway, and their complaints have the sour, dyspeptic flavor of senior-citizen kvetching. "Invade Iraq? What for? It will take too long!" And, "I can't understand what the President is saying!"

This isn't wisdom, it's excessive vanity mixed with a blinding nostalgia. For the gray ghosts, Iraq is a fountain of youth. Kick out the jams! Start the party again! Bring on the sex, drugs and ... what was that third one again?

It appears that the Revolutionary Communists and the other America haters of the Not in Our Name Project think they can use these sad, old hippies to rekindle a campus revolution. But they are mistaken. Students aren't about to sign on as foot soldiers in a baby boomer march down memory lane. Why should they? They're not going to war.

Nixon, who was hounded and despised by the peaceniks, saw to that. Somewhere, Tricky Dick is looking down, or up, and laughing.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

09/27/02: Al Gore: The Lost Boy of American politics
09/05/02: The intifadeh's over, and the Israelis won
08/29/02: At the world summit, just anger & hypocrisy
08/21/02: No time for weak knees on Iraq
08/16/02: A pro-Arab pol may get the beating she deserves
08/13/02: Fight it out now
08/02/02: Memo to The Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. values won't sell in Arab world
07/31/02: Israel's nutty neighbors

© 2002, NY Daily News