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Monday, February 22, 2010

Resistance

Truthout:

"I was a big supporter of waterboarding," Cheney told [Jonathan Karl of ABC News' "This Week"], as if he were issuing a challenge to officials in the current administration, including President Barack Obama, who said flatly last year that waterboarding is torture, to take action against him. "I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques..."

The former vice president's declaration closely follows admissions he made in December 2008, about a month before the Bush administration exited the White House, when he said he personally authorized the torture of 33 suspected terrorist detainees and approved the waterboarding of three so-called “high-value” prisoners.

“I signed off on it; others did, as well, too,” Cheney said in an interview with the right-wing Washington Times about the waterboarding, a drowning technique where a person is strapped to a board, his face covered with a cloth and then water is poured over it. It is a torture technique dating back at least to the Spanish Inquisition.

The US has long treated waterboarding as a war crime and has prosecuted Japanese soldiers for using it against US troops during World War II. And Ronald Reagan's Justice Department prosecuted a Texas sheriff and three deputies for using the practice to get confessions.

Remember when war criminals were actually sent to the Hague?  Slobodan Milosevic, for example, was put on trial until he cleverly escaped justice by dying.

Of course, the Serbian people themselves brought down Milosevic's regime and helped bring him to justice.  A very important component of their success was Otpor, a group of creative young people who learned from the failures of the Tiananmen Square protesters as well as their own opposition movement which evaporated after scoring a significant victory over Serbia's tyrant in 1997.

A Force More Powerful:

In place of barricades, Otpor staged raucous rock concerts and guerrilla theatre in the streets: a lunar eclipse observation featuring the gradual obliteration of Milosevic's image; a New Year's Eve party in which the year 2000 was rung in with the names and pictures of those who were killed in Milosevic's wars; a public parody of Milosevic's socialist party congress.

Otpor's ideas caught on quickly among young people, who had little to lose and saw a bleak future under Milosevic. In just over a year, Otpor's membership list grew to 70,000, mostly in the provinces where discontent was strongest. Their symbol - the clenched fist - and their slogans - "Bite The System" and "Resistance, Because I Love Serbia" blanketed the country on stickers and leaflets. Otpor became a ubiquitous brand-name, as familiar as Coca-Cola and Nike.

A self-proclaimed nonviolent movement, Otpor's stated goal was to remove Milosevic at the ballot box, not an easy feat against a regime that controls the electoral machinery. In the spring of 2000, with scheduled elections a year away, Otpor mobilized its national network, using neighborhood kids as organizers, building an email network, distributing leaflets, drafting quick response plans to meet the repression and arrests which they expected. Increasingly threatened by Otpor's successes, the state information minister went on national television to declare Otpor a terrorist organization. Otpor responded by sending out thousands of clean-cut kids, well-known in their communities, wearing T-shirts with the words: "Otpor Terrorist."

Against Milosevic's traditional weapons of oppression and control, Otpor used intelligence, creativity, and irony, preserving its unblemished image by refusing to align with any political party. Meeting in cafes and communicating by cell phone and e-mail, against a government apparatus that was technologically hapless, they organized a sustained and disciplined effort to create a nonviolent army.

In 2000, Milosevic called for early elections thinking he could throw the opposition off balance and shore up his power (guess he didn't learn from Marcos).  Otpor mobilized and unified various opposition factions.

Organizer Srdja Popovic wrote:

The scheduling of elections in August Otpor saw as the last showdown.  The initial parameters were set: the campaign against Milosevic needed to embolden the electorate and to convince them to vote in large numbers, and this had to be achieved under impossible conditions.  A system of covert command chains and a chain of hidden depots with campaign materials enabled a stable supply of materiel to all local branches – in all some 4.5 million pieces of campaign material were distributed.  Ceaseless police raids and confiscation proved disastrously ineffective.

From a strategic point of view, the campaign “He’s Finished!”, doubtless the most accepted political campaign ever carried out in Serbia, shaped the showdown between the two respective sources of power of the regime and of Otpor.  On its side, Otpor played on the intangible factor, that is on the agency of idea that the Dictator was finished when enough people though he was in fact finished.  Second, Otpor utilized its superior HR.  In the last phases of the campaign, an awesome 25,000 activists and citizens risked their safety daily by distributing material, posting stickers and writing graffiti.  For its part, the regime played on sanctions and fear.  With every new arrest, however, the other source of power of the regime, Milosevic’s authority, dissipated precipitously, and this only increased the movements power.

The remarkable response of the voters and the triumph of the democratic opposition’s candidate in the first round of voting led to the regime’s patently predictable next moves – denying the election results.  The next logical step of the movement was to ride on the wave of national energy and to train as many people on the local level in effective techniques of nonviolent action.  This, in a situation where some 2.5 million voters exuded a sense of outrage, amounted to a routine task.  A series of blockades that stopped the traffic in all of Serbia, followed with appropriate propaganda-educational material, such as stickers asserting “Blockade!,” “Barricade!,” and “You won’t pass!”), hundreds of planned and spontaneous local meetings of citizens and student marches culminated in the events of 5 October.  5 October represents a tactically exemplary instance of nonviolently coercing the regime into give-up power.

Otpor's combining the normal political process with nonviolent direct action sealed the Serbian dictator's fate.  I submit that we could learn from their example, adapt their techniques (which they themselves had adapted) and apply them even in the consumerist United States of 2010. 

We don't need regime change--not yet, anyway, in my estimation.  But imagine if we put real, almost revolutionary pressure on Obama and Congress to prosecute Bush Era war criminals, end our quagmire in Afghanistan and even get single-payer passed.

ntodd

February 22, 2010 in Why We Fight | Permalink

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Comments

I loved Otpor!

Still want one of the t-shirts.

Posted by: Buckeye ... | Feb 22, 2010 9:24:49 PM

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