Before she began working as the Grit TV producer-host and Blue Grit author Laura Flanders used to co-produce and host a non-commercial daily alternative morning news show called Undercurrents with Dennis Bernstein and Robert Knight of KPFA’s Flashpoints (www.flashpoints.net) daily alternative evening news show. Following is the sixth part of a 1991 interview with Flanders that appeared in the June 26, 1991 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newsweekly Downtown.
Speaking of the War. Why do you think that anti-war feminist women couldn’t stop the high-technology bombing blitz of Iraq [in 1991]?
Flanders: The whole Anti-War Movement couldn’t stop it. The progressive Movement in this country, of which the feminist anti-war movement is a part, couldn’t stop the War. And there are a lot of reasons for that. Reasons to do with the Movement’s divisions, the Movement’s lack of creative strategies. That I think we have to look at the overall structure of the society at the moment. Which is overwhelmingly dominated by the corporate media, an internationalist, multi-corporate, multi-national, capitalist economy, in which the average person feels incredibly disempowered and probably is enormously disempowered—as far as their potential to stop the bombing of Iraq [in 1991].
The bombing of Iraq took place with pilots, a few hundred pilots, a few thousand pilots. It didn’t require mass mobilization. They didn’t even use the ground troops until the last minute [in 1991]. The Movement and the feminist movement have to be directed to long-term political change in this country. So those decisions are unacceptable. Once those decisions, those political decisions, have been made and those interests are being pursued, there is little that an Anti-War Movement can do except to build itself and to build coalitions that empower people to protest. And that, in itself, builds, I think, the longer-term social change.
But if there had been more outcry, maybe there would have been more resistance, maybe there would have been more threats to more elected officials so that they would have been less likely to vote through the approval of the President’s proposals.
But, in effect, this was a War that was never brought before Congress. It was never brought before any of the democratic institutions of the country. So input from the populace was excluded right from the very beginning and throughout.
But I do think the Anti-War Movement could have used the experience of the feminist anti-war movement, much more effectively, in terms of the way that it held demonstrations and the way that it harangued people from stages—rather than thinking there are other ways to demonstrate and more creative forms of civil disobedience and direct action in which the Women’s Peace Movement excelled in the 1970s and in the 1980s. The Women’s Peace Movement was creative, energetic, imaginative, powerful and combative. And that experience wasn’t really used in the mobilization against the Iraq War [in 1991].
There’s one criticism, for instance, like there were about 600,000 women protesting the Supreme Court decision against abortion rights and yet NOW and some other organizations did not appear willing to do that kind of mobilization in support of Iraqi women? And, at the same time you had images of women serving in Operation Desert Storm in the U.S. military alongside statements by certain women Congress people that this was `a victory for women’s equality’?
Flanders: Well, I think with respect to the women’s movement’s attitude toward Arab women, that it’s classic racism was exhibited almost constantly. And that inhibited the Movement from taking any kind of useful stand around the War.
But as far as the presence of women in the military, and whether or not that was an achievement that should be praised? I think it’s a side issue. I think it’s a subsidiary issue. And as far as I’m concerned, I do think there should be equality between men and women in the armed services. And I think that if we could have the equality, then we could get back to the issue of not `who should fight wars’? but `should anybody fight wars’?
As long as there’s this question of `well, this is okay for men to do’ or, you know, `men can do it, but it’s a really horrid thing for women to do it,’ then we’re somehow admitting that what’s right for men is not right for women…There’s still this pretense that men wage war on behalf of the `weaker sex.’ And we don’t want them waging war on behalf of anybody. We don’t want anybody waging war.
But should women feel no reluctance about joining the military…or going to West Point?
Flanders: They should feel as much reluctance as anybody else about joining up in an institution that is designed by its very definition to kill and impose its will on other peoples. Nor more, no less…Maybe more…They should feel more discomfort about doing such a thing because women, I believe, are that bit more insightful as to the crimes of the status quo because they’re not part of the status quo by and large. But I don’t think women should be made to feel more guilty for joining the military than men should.
(end of part 6)
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