Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You co-authored The People Make the Peace: Lessons from the Vietnam Antiwar Movement. What about the anti-war movement in the United States today?
Frank Joyce: What is most often overlooked about the massive opposition by U.S. Americans to the invasion of Viet Nam is what an aberration it was. The violence inherent in settler colonialism and slavery established the worship of militarism, guns and brutality toward people of color that remains dominant to this day. The current absence of significant organized opposition to war represents the regression-to-the-mean, that is returning to the commitment to war and violence that is at the core of the identity of the U.S.
This is reflected in the vast extent of military bases and operations as well as insanely high levels of foreign and domestic military spending. The prevalence of violence and militarism in popular entertainment and the extent of personal gun worship and ownership also reflect this culture. The results include high suicide rates among armed personnel, foreign and domestic along with frequent mass shootings in schools, movie theaters, military bases, concerts, stores, or, really, anywhere that people are gathered.
In your opinion, why the Americans couldn't get over the trauma of the Vietnam War?
As with the U.S. Civil war, no genuine healing or reconciliation has taken place. Devotion to violence and white supremacy remain too powerful.
According to you, why the United States still needs wars? Isn't it the military-industrial complex that dictates its law to the American leadership?
The U.S. government has four branches: Congress, the executive, the judiciary and the Pentagon. They work in a bi-partisan way to protect and extend the U.S. empire. This requires frequently inventing pretexts for the invasion and occupation of foreign nations as well as more limited interventions including assassinations, the manipulation of elections, the training of foreign dictators and soldiers along with supplying them with weapons of all kinds. A far greater portion of the U.S, economy depends on this military-industrial business than is generally understood or acknowledged.
In the event of Trump's re-election, and given the unstable state of this person, isn't there a risk of a war that would be worldwide?
There is great risk of worldwide war if Trump is reelected. There is the near certainty of increased domestic political violence and repression whether he is elected or defeated. There are heavily armed militias throughout the United States who are already positioned for this purpose.
That said, we should be careful about paying too much attention to Trump and his personality defects. He is a product of forces of white supremacy and white nationalism that are deeply embedded in U.S. society. His active enablers include his family, his cabinet, his staff, most of the Congress, most of the media, most business leaders and the 63 million who voted for him in 2016.
Should the anti-war movement not alert the American population to the arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in particular, which are massacring the people of Yemen?
Yes, absolutely. Many peace activists are aware of this and doing what they can. A large part of the U.S. American population is numb to the suffering carried out in their name, wherever it takes place. Making matters worse, much of the slaughter isn’t reported at all.
You are a very committed activist for peace in the world and you have received a decoration from Vietnam for your action for peace and friendship between nations. What is the impact of the work you are doing with your movement to counter the US imperialist wars?
The impact obviously is not enough.
Don't you think that the American war in Iraq was a disaster and that George Bush and the neocons should be tried for the crimes they committed there?
Every instance of U.S. Imperialism is a disaster. Very few U.S. Americans have any idea that their country has killed at least 20 million people just since the end of WWII. The methods used to seize land and enforce slavery established a disregard for civilian casualties that endures to this day. The bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the use of agent orange in Viet Nam, Lao and Cambodia are powerful examples of this.
I have serious doubts about trying war criminals, be they Presidents, Generals or the rank-and-file perpetrators of atrocities of all kinds. For one thing, the Eurocentric “crime and punishment” model of controlling undesirable behavior is itself suspect for many reasons including its failure to prevent war or war crimes. Rather, I advocate building a movement for genuine non-violence in all relationships among humans and between humans and other life forms. In other words, repudiating Christianity’s patriarchal claim of human “dominion” over all life.
With your organization, the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee (VPCC), you have done an outstanding job in monitoring the Pentagon's commemoration activities in its public program to retell the story of the Vietnam War and commemorate Vietnam veterans on the war’s 50th anniversary. Have all the truths been told about the Vietnam War?
Nothing close to the truth about the war has been told, including what it should be called. The Vietnamese call it the American war which is certainly more accurate. The Pentagon and most of the media is deeply invested in perpetuating a mythical version both of the war and of the opposition to it. They have been successful to the point that even many who participated in antiwar activities have what I call an inferiority complex about the movement. VPCC works hard to combat the myths but they are deeply entrenched.
Knowing that mainstream media are at the service of big business and the establishment, don't alternative media have a large role to play in informing the public about the abuses of leaders?
Absolutely. For one thing, strong alternative media exerts pressure for greater accuracy from mainstream media. Further, in-and-of-itself, it builds the muscles of the movement.
You are involved in several organizations, including the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, where you sit on the board of directors. Can you explain your organization's actions to our readership?
MCHR was founded more than 30 years in Detroit Michigan ago to combat what then called itself the Moral Majority. White supremacy regularly creates organizations to advance its ideology. Examples would include the KKK, white citizens councils, the Black Legion which was very active in the mid-western U.S. including Detroit. (At its peak in the 1930’s many high-ranking Detroit government officials were members.) More recently the Tea Party helped pave the way for the election of Donald Trump. MCHR works on many action and educational fronts to offer a different vision of what our society can become.
You have a very rich background in various fields ranging from unionism to the media, you are also very involved in the anti-war and anti-racist movement. Don't we need a global anti-war front today?
There is exciting transformational work going on all over the world. What we need desperately is a way to coordinate the strategy and resources of a global movement that is too fragmented. At one point, the World Social Forum seemed as though it might help fulfill this role. At the moment we are in search of that unifying machinery. The problem is obviously complex since within the U.S. and other nations, as well, fragmentation prevails.
My own view is that we do not have much time to solve this. The systemic collapse of global race-based capitalism we anticipated and predicted is upon us.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Franck Joyce?
Frank Joyce, a lifelong political activist, has chaired the board of The Working Group (TWG), a non-profit media production company that supports the anti-hate movement Not In Our Town (NIOT). He is member of NCOE (National Council of Elders), an organization of the Civil Rights veterans who advocate for justice and non-violence. He has served for many years on the board of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR). He was Communications Director of the United Auto Workers union for many years. The political activism of life long Detroiter Frank Joyce began with the civil rights movement. He joined the Northern Student Movement (NSM) in the early 1960’s and later helped found People Against Racism (PAR). He has been in involved in labor, anti-racist, human rights and peace campaigns ever since. He and five other U.S. peace activists, including his wife, received the "For Peace and Friendship among Nations" insignia from the Vietnamese Union of Friendship Organizations (UVOA) in recognition of their contributions to peace and friendship between the two peoples.
His writing is published at AlterNet and elsewhere. His book, co-edited with Karin Aguilar-San Juan, The People Make The Peace, Lessons From The Vietnam Anti-War Movement, was published in September, 2015.
Published in American Herald Tribune April 16, 2020: https://ahtribune.com/interview/4085-frank-joyce-us-americans.html