MESSAGE TO ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT: DON'T BLAME THE VICTIM
By Deirdre Griswold
"Blame the victim." That's the tactic used by every police force accused of brutality in this country.
Tyisha Miller of Riverside, Calif., shot 27 times while in a diabetic coma, "looked like she was reaching for a gun." Amadou Diallo, whose body absorbed 19 of the 41 bullets fired at him by an elite unit of the New York police, supposedly looked like a police sketch of a rapist, explain the apologists for the cops.
If there's no weapon, plant one. Say he was resisting arrest. Say she had a history of drugs.
This technique is known as demonization--turning the victim into the criminal.
It has also been perfected by the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department, in their attempt to win public support for their aggressive wars abroad.
With all the weapons the U.S. has arrayed against the small country of Yugoslavia--B-2 and F-117 stealth bombers and fighters, aircraft carriers, Predator drones, Apache helicopters, and many more--the Pentagon's most potent weapon is propaganda.
This war is being fought not only in the skies over Kosovo, Belgrade, Novi Sad and Montenegro. It won't be decided just by how many U.S. ground troops are sent in.
It is being fought right now in the streets, homes, schools and work places of the United States and the other imperialist countries involved in the U.S./NATO war. It's a battle for what the military call "the hearts and minds" of the public, and every bit of information they release to the media is calculated for effect.
In preparing for the war, the Pentagon planners took stock of more than how many missiles, shells, bombs and bullets they had. They also lined up their assets who would feed out to the public a sanitized version of their bloody assault. The people in charge of public relations and psychological warfare worked overtime, anticipating massive outrage and figuring out how to deflect or quash it.
Their main problem is how to keep the masses confused and quickly overcome any resistance, or at least hold it at bay, until the back of their victim has been broken and any protests become irrelevant.
The anti-war movement should answer them in the same way that those fighting police brutality do: We know who the aggressor is. It is you.
The only way to end this is to stop your violence against the oppressed.
If this is true of the police with their semi-automatics, their dum-dum bullets and their ever-present squad cars and helicopters, how much more true it is of the military. The massive Pentagon war machine and the media apparatus of U.S. imperialism both stretch around the globe. No other country's arsenal comes near them in size or technical sophistication.
That's why the charges coming from the U.S. against Yugoslavia of aggression, genocide and schemes to take over the region are so ludicrous.
CONFUSION IN ANTI-WAR FORCES
There is a history in much of the U.S. anti-war movement of being caught off-guard at first, being confused about the character of alarming events that have been set into motion.
This was true in the early years of the Vietnam War. The existing peace groups--like the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy--tried to impose a position on the emerging movement that the only way out of the war was through a negotiated settlement. This may have sounded innocuous, but what did it really mean?
It meant that the Vietnamese must make concessions to the U.S. in order to get the Pentagon to stop the war.
This position put conditions on the Vietnamese. The war should end, but _ only if you agree to U.S. terms. The argument was that the U.S. government couldn't abandon its role there. It bought into the assumption that Washington's role could be positive for the people of Vietnam and the U.S.
It took several years of struggle within the movement for the slogan "Bring the troops home" to be adopted by the large anti-war coalitions. This happened only after many street struggles showed that the activist youth unconditionally rejected the war. They recognized that the Vietnamese would not surrender their sovereignty, that they would fight no matter what the cost, and that only the withdrawal of U.S. troops would end the war.
TWO COALITIONS DURING GULF WAR
A similar polarization took place within the movement at the time of the Gulf War. The coalition against the war that would evolve into the International Action Center demanded the U.S. stop bombing Iraq, withdraw and end all hostilities. This coalition organized many demonstrations as U.S. threats to bomb Iraq grew louder in the fall of 1990.
The Bush administration announced early in December that the bombing would start around Jan. 15--Martin Luther King Day. The coalition called a national demonstration in Washington for Jan. 19, 1991. But then another coalition formed and called a separate demonstration for one week later. Both were very large, and undoubtedly some people attended both Jan. 19 and Jan. 26. But the rank and file in the movement wanted unity.
What were the differences?
The issue that divided the two demonstrations was sanctions. The second coalition, just like the more centrist forces during the Vietnam War, wanted to impose conditions on Iraq to make it withdraw from Kuwait. Their demand was, "Sanctions, not war." But, as the first coalition pointed out, sanctions are a form of war, and are in fact the most brutal form, since their victims are primarily children and old people.
Eventually, Iraq did withdraw from Kuwait. But the sanctions remained, the excuse being that Iraq must hand over its "weapons of mass destruction." As everyone should know by now, the criminal sanctions have killed a million and a half Iraqi people. And the inspection teams supposedly looking for evidence of weapons were in fact supplying the U.S. with military intelligence--as exposed by Scott Ritter, one of the team members.
Now, many who once supported the sanctions have changed their position.
Today, the issue that may divide the movement again is the charge that the Yugoslav government is guilty of genocide and must stop "ethnic cleansing." Their slogan is, "Stop the bombing, stop the genocide."
Those who make this demand don't question the Pentagon script that says the Yugoslav government is responsible for the refugee crisis in Kosovo. They place an equal sign between the U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav forces' campaign against the KLA.
But there is another view, one that is held by the International Action Center and shared by many around the world. That is, that the refugee crisis and the chaotic situation in Kosovo are primarily the result of foreign intervention--the creation and arming of the KLA by Germany and the U.S., and now the massive bombing of the region. This is what has turned a long-simmering internal dispute over Kosovo into a major tragedy.
There should be collaboration among all those who want the murderous bombing of Yugoslavia to stop. But that can't happen unless there is respect for the very real political differences that exist in the movement.
Since the bombing began, it is clear that the Yugoslav people facing NATO's bombs, who include not only Serbs but other ethnic groups, are solidly behind their leadership. The parliament voted unanimously to back up President Slobodan Milosevic in his refusal to surrender to U.S./NATO demands. There have been massive demonstrations all over that country. Whatever political differences exist among them--and with five major political parties, there is much diversity--they are united against the imperialist aggressors.
Here in the United States, the power most responsible for this monumental violence against a small country, hysterical denunciations of the Yugoslav leadership are totally inappropriate and merely help the Pentagon bombers. If they carry the day in a significant section of the movement, it will make it very difficult to shape any united anti-war effort aimed at the real aggressors.
The movement must not be in the position of blaming the victim for resisting arrest.Back to texts' page