Being the home to a couple of dozen peace groups, the Nonviolence Web has published a lot of press releases calling for an end to bombing in Kosovo and Yugoslavia. They’re all very fine but also all very predictable.
But as we write, the U.S. government continues pursuing a war that has no clear realistic goals, has led to even more killing in the region, and has seriously disrupted post Cold-War relationships with Russia and China (See George Lakey’s “Cold War Returning? — A Chilling Russian Visit”).
At home, Americans just watch the pictures on TV as they go about living a glorious Spring. We laugh, cry, work and play; we make trips to the shore for Memorial Day weekend; and we obediently flock to a movie called Phantom Menace that tells the story of the start of cinema’s most famous Evil Empire.
A new empire is being shaped here. The United States has been able to claim the title of “empire” for at least a hundred years. But something new is at work here ( see my own War Time Again). We’re witnessing the birth of a new American order which is starting a new wars every three months. New kinds of wars, which barely touch American lives, even those of the bombers waging them from 20,000 feet. The Pentagon and State Department’s planners are building on lessons learned at the start of the decade in the Gulf War. They’re refined their missiles for accuracy but they’ve learned how to spin the media
Now every new villain is presented to the media as the new Hitler. Saddam Hussein. Osama bin Laden. Milosvic. Everyone calling for peace is painted as a neo-isolationist, a contemporary Chamberlain appeasing a tyrant. Afterwards it’s easy to see how overly-dramatic the propaganda was and how ineffectual all the American bombs were. But still, here we are in Kosovo, in another Nineties war and next year we’ll be in yet another. Unless we stop the zest for these Clinton wars now.
What do we have to do to end this war? And what do we need to do to stop the U.S.‘s newfound zest for cruise missiles? How can peace and antiwar activists start acting beyond the press releases and isolated vigils to think creatively about linking folks together to bring new people and ideas into the peace movement?
I don’t pretend to know what exactly we need. All I know is that I’m personally bored of the standard issue peace actions we’ve been engaging in and want to see something new. Some of it might look like clichés from the 60s and some might look like rip-offs of McDonald’s latest ad campaign. But we need to build an antiwar culture that will intrude upon a sunny spring and remind people that a war is on. The real phantom menace this summer is an American Empire that is retooling it’s military and re-conditioning its citizens to think of war as a normal course of affairs.