The Stalemated War,
On November 2, 1965, in a garden near the Pentagon, within sight of Secretary of Defense McNamara's office, a thirty-one-year old pacifist Quaker from Baltimore, Norman Morrison, soaked himself with gasoline, set his infant daughter aside, and burned himself to death. Earlier he had asked his wife: “What will it take to stop this war?”1 As he prayed to God the answer came to him. His self-immolation was a principled act of protest against the war, a sign of the way in which the conflict would touch Americans in mysterious and unforeseen ways.
Early on President Johnson sensed that he would have trouble explaining this war to the American people. In mid-1965 the government produced a film entitled Why Viet-Nam, which opened with Johnson reading a letter from a midwestern woman asking why her son was in Vietnam. He responded by asking questions of his own. “Why must young Americans, born into a land exultant with hope and with golden promise, toil and suffer and sometimes die in such a remote and distant place?” “The answer,” the president concluded, “like the war itself, is not an easy one.”2 As the film progressed the