Wayne Morse of Oregon
Source Carrol Cox
Date 01/09/17/01:08

[submitted to marxmail by Jim Craven]


By Norman Solomon

On Sept. 14, the Senate voted 98-0 for a war resolution. It says: "The
president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force
against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned,
authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on
Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to
prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United
States by such nations, organizations or persons."

This resolution, written as a blank check, is payable with vast
quantities of human corpses.

* * * * *

The black-and-white TV footage is grainy and faded, but it still jumps
off the screen -- a portentous clash between a prominent reporter and a
maverick politician. On the CBS program "Face the Nation," journalist
Peter Lisagor argued with a senator who stood almost alone on Capitol
Hill, strongly opposing the war in Vietnam from the outset.

"Senator, the Constitution gives to the president of the United States
the sole responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy," Lisagor

"Couldn't be more wrong," Wayne Morse broke in. "You couldn't make a
more unsound legal statement than the one you have just made. This is
the promulgation of an old fallacy that foreign policy belongs to the
president of the United States. That's nonsense."

Lisagor: "To whom does it belong then, senator?"

Morse: "It belongs to the American people.... And I am pleading that the
American people be given the facts about foreign policy."

Lisagor: "You know, senator, that the American people cannot formulate
and execute foreign policy."

Morse: "Why do you say that? ... I have complete faith in the ability of
the American people to follow the facts if you'll give them. And my
charge against my government is -- we're not giving the American people
the facts."

In early August 1964, Morse was one of only two senators to vote against
the Tonkin Gulf resolution, which served as a green light for the
Vietnam War. While reviled by much of the press in his home state of
Oregon as well as nationwide, he persisted with fierce oratory for
peace. It would have been much easier to acquiesce to the media's war
fever. But Morse was not the silent type, especially in matters of

On Feb. 27, 1968, I sat in a small room at the Capitol to watch a
hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Six members of the
panel were seated around a long table. Most of all, I remember Morse's
voice, raspy and urgent.

"My views are no longer lonely," he noted at one point, adding: "You
have millions of people who are not going to support this tyranny that
American boys are being killed in South Vietnam to maintain in power."

Morse summed up his position on negotiations between the U.S. government
and its Vietnamese adversaries: "Who are we to say there have to be two
Vietnams? They are not going to do it and they shouldn't do it. There
any reason in the world why the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong should
ever come to a negotiating table on the basis that there must be two

Moments before the hearing adjourned, Morse said that he did not "intend
to put the blood of this war on my hands."

At the time, Oregon's senior senator was remarkable because he
challenged the morality -- not just the "winability" -- of the war. He
passionately asserted that the United States had no right to impose its
will on the world. In the process, he made enemies of many fellow
Democrats, including President Lyndon Johnson.

Like most heretics, Morse suffered consequences. After 24 years in the
Senate, he lost a race for re-election in November 1968. The winner was
a slick politician named Robert Packwood, who denounced Morse's antiwar

In his lifetime, Morse became a media pariah. In the quarter-century
since his death, political reporters have rarely mentioned his name.

"I don't know why we think, just because we're mighty, that we have the
right to try to substitute might for right," Morse said on national
television in 1964. "And that's the American policy in Southeast Asia --
just as unsound when we do it as when Russia does it."

Three years later, he declared: "We're going to become guilty, in my
judgment, of being the greatest threat to the peace of the world. It's
an ugly reality, and we Americans don't like to face up to it. I hate to
think of the chapter of American history that's going to be written in
the future in connection with our outlawry in Southeast Asia."

Such heresy infuriated many powerful politicians -- and journalists --
while Wayne Morse did all he could to block a war train speeding to

* * * * *

Now, in the autumn of 2001, there's no one stepping forward from the
Senate to help block the war train. We'll need to do it ourselves.

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