Subject THE MEDIA MISSED THE EVENTS January 24, 1991 The Media Missed the Event by Paul Ri
Subject: THE MEDIA MISSED THE EVENTS
January 24, 1991
The Media Missed the Event
by Paul Richards
Many people in the peace movement believed that it would be impossible for
the government to launch another war with half a million troops in some far
off corner of the world. Why? In part it was because we in the peace movement
had made so much trouble for the politicians and because the military had lost
the war on the ground in Vietnam. (The patriotic claims to the contrary
notwithstanding) And yet, since the Vietnam war ended, the patriotic
right-wing consolidated itself, winning the presidency for Nixon, Reagan,
and Bush. Even the alleged ending of the cold war did not reduce the military
budget. The pentagon still serves the arms industry. They had two good
practice runs in Grenada and Panama. They learned nothing from their defeat.
And at the same time, the peace movement laid passively in wait, appearing to
be dead or at least asleep while the great patriotic wave swept across the
country for the last two or three decades.
And so, here we are at war again. Only this time, its an instant war. No
gradual escalation. In a matter of months, the whole 500,000 strong army,
navy, air force and marines are in place. A line is drawn in the sand. The UN
is manipulated into becoming a deadline giver. And Bang! We are off.
With this new war in the gulf, the peace movement was reborn. In a moment so
sudden and so complete (January 19th, to be exact) that unless you were part
of it, unless you allowed yourself to believe what you were seeing, you might
have missed it. And in fact, the media missed it, being unable to believe its
own eyes without official government sanctions and a pat on the head from
Now that we are at war, many are wondering why the peace movement has been so
absent, so somnambulant over the past decades. When peace broke out in 1975 as
North Vietnam and the NLF marched into Saigon, we all collapsed in horror,
feeling only relief believing that the nightmare was at an end.... But we were
wrong. And it should not be a surprise to us. (Although I must admit it is a
surprise to me.) The military establishment did not acknowledge defeat. We
paid no reparations. We provided no reconstruction aid. On the contrary, we
boycotted Vietnam, seeking to punish them for their victory.
The fact that the peace movement of the Vietnam era left no expensive
organizations and no political parties in the highly visible halls of congress
does not mean that it died. It means that it was (we were) the victim of the
cold war state that suppressed it and left it in such a weakened condition
that it appeared to be gone. But in the hearts and minds of the people,
including millions of past patriots who lost family and friends in Vietnam and
who now know the score, the peace movement lives. It lives as their response
to the prospect of a repeat of the senseless sacrifice of our children, our
loved ones to the voracious war machine. The Republican Party may have bought
up the electorate but the peace movement changed the basic political balance
of forces in this country forever. And those in power know it, even if they
won't let their media servants report on it.
The military since Vietnam went to work to make their machines and game plans
fit the new reality. Bombs are now laser directed to avoid those unacceptable
civilian casualties, we are told. The press is kept away from the front lines.
(Except Peter Arnett who was fooled into thinking that a milk factory was a
milk factory. What does he know? He was only there. He did not see the latest
Pentagon intelligence information on it.) The Pentagon is no longer counting
bodies. And the enemy is really a stinker. Sadam Hussein is no Ho Chi Minh.
And we have a volunteer war. No draft, yet. We now conduct a high tech war.
Not too many body bags, yet.
The new peace movement is a product of all this. It is a mass movement of the
heart. It is not led by our media or our government (and it never was). It
looks like, as of now, it has no leadership. It springs into existence because
our government is waging war again. It springs spontaneously from the horror
of watching C-Span TV coverage of Congress debating the declaration of war on
the last day before the UN deadline to an empty room.
So, last Saturday (January 19,1991) I witnessed the rebirth of the peace
movement stronger and more resilient than anything I can remember since the
year 1967. Last Saturday, I was depressed, full of the doom and gloom of the
endless death and horror of the Vietnam era. I walked down Market Street with
50,000 people, most of whom were young (including my son who is draft age) and
we looked at ourselves and knew that an event had taken place that day.
The UN fired the starter's pistol not only for Bush and his murder machine.
The UN fired the starter's pistol for the peace movement which awoke from its
slumber and marched down the streets of America rediscovering itself anew. We
start this race with tremendous power and strength. We are not what we were in
1965. We are starting from the end of that last war in 1975. We are millions
and we have yet to find our voice.
The media missed this event because they were under orders (and well paid) to
be stupid. We should ignore their stupidity and observe what we are now that
we have to do it again. This time, we have to do more than stop the war. We
have to make political changes that will make the war machine unable to
manipulate us into another war. And we have to face the truth of it: The only
way this can happen is when the patriots learn the lesson. We have to talk to
right-wing, mainstream America. We have to find ways to open up our ranks to
the patriotic masses so that, as they learn they have been suckered again,
they can join us.
It will not be easy. Many of us want to disrupt traffic and close buildings
for the personal satisfaction of making trouble for the ruling powers. The
peace movement never consolidated itself within the institutional framework of
our democratic infrastructure. And we never fully understood the importance of
speaking to the whole people, speaking to them in language they understand, on
terms they can relate to. During the Vietnam war, the constant flow of body
bags pushed the patriots into the peace movement in spite of the cultural
divisions and irresponsible rhetoric that has always characterized us. We must
learn from the past, consolidate our leadership and begin to make the
political moves which alone will end this war and make future wars impossible
If the maturity brought on by our years and the brutal lessons of Vietnam are
allowed to surface, we will find the ways to do this. We cannot rely on the
media for this, although we must use the media. The path ahead is not clear to
anyone. We have to rely on ourselves. We have to do it locally in every town
and every block. In this sense, it may be true that the revolution will not
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