It’s been many years since I published this, my first poster, in 1965. That’s when my friend Richard Fahrner and I would listen to the depressing news about the escalating ‘Viet Nam War’ while on our way to work at Contact Printing in San Francisco. We didn’t like to hear how our America was getting ever deeper into the deadly quagmire of far off Viet Nam’s civil war. One morning while driving to work I suddenly visualized a jarring poster idea – our flag superimposed with a nazi-style swastika. So shocking it was instantly instructive! Richard was enthused too so after some more discussion among other friends as well I then went on to create this intentionally disturbing self published poster.
When I first laid it out and took it to West Coast Lithograph to have it printed; I showed it first to Ivor Powell, the jocular, quick witted English pressman – a man who enjoyed sharing his opinions. When he looked at my design his usual smile faded fast and he said something like this: ‘Wow - Wes you’d better add something else - like maybe “Are We Next?” – or most people just won’t get it!’ My original design contained only the words “Be Aware. However it didn’t take long for me to realize that Ivor had made a very important point. So after those words were added to the artwork I had several hundred posters printed. I then distributed and sold many of them to appreciative Bay Area folks. Back in 1965 when the official U. S. commitment was to further expand the American military role in the ‘police action’ of South Viet Nam I felt it was an important question – and had to be asked.
I’m glad I did something to significantly express my shock and anguish as an American about such an obviously erroneous and costly ethical ‘mistake’ as was the Viet Nam War. Today however we have been attacked by ultra-cunning and ruthless terrorists and in response to that horribly destructive day our government was forced to suddenly power up our national security agencies like never before. However, the ‘facts’ about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that were so widely believed, have now been wholly discredited for all to see. Because of that ‘mistake’ we too rapidly invaded Iraq without thoroughly working out both a military plan and the fuller use of the many normal diplomatic protocols which are so useful in less stressful times such as was done prior to the Gulf War. Such haste has also raised ‘constitutional issues’ about “rights” here at home. Because more practical protocols as well as United Nations involvement were employed and respected by the first President Bush – we gathered a whole spectrum of willing allies who come to our aid in freeing Kuwait using multinational forces.
Consequently, due in large part to ‘haste makes waste’ we are now deeply involved in the wasteful horrors of another costly ‘mistake’ - the current Iraq War. However, despite not yet knowing fully just how this all could have happened – we are at war inside Iraq. The Iraq situation is different from Viet Nam and we should strive to leave in grace and avoid the ‘dropping everything and running.’
It seems to me that since we don’t know just how all ‘this difficulty’ came about - the question “Are We Next?” still applies. And, as it relates to continuing the grand open and fair ideals plus continuing on in the hopes and practices of our Democratic Republic – this notable admonition continues for all Americans as well - “Be Aware!”