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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Anti-War Lector: It May Be Too Late for Nonviolence

    ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Thesubject of war with Iraq is a highly controversial issue. WhetherAmerican-Iraqi tensions would best be solved through violent confrontation is ahotly debated issue.

    Students for Peace & Humanityrecently organized a lecture and discussion with the Director of theInternational Center on Nonviolent Conflict, Jack DuVall. DuVall sought toillustrate the potential for a peaceful resolution in Iraq by comparing thesituation to that of Serbia in the year 2000: ‘?one of the best examplesof the success of nonviolent conflict,’ as he put it.

    The film A Force More Powerful, produced by DuVall himself, was shown at the event.The documentary depicted the struggle of a group of Serbian students who soughtto nonviolently overthrow the regime of Slobodon Milosevic.

    In 1998, NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days in a threebillion dollar campaign, causing Milosevic to withdraw his forces from Kosovo.Despite this utter destruction, Milosevic still survived as the president ofSerbia and actually increased his hold on power in the country. Thousands ofprotestors marched to cry out against the attacks on their country and remainedfaithful to their leader.

    In the year 1998, a group ofstudents formed an organization called ‘?Otpor,’ the Serbian wordfor resistance. They received U.S. foreign aid in their attempts to oustMilosevic from power using nonviolent methods.

    Using a closed fist as its symbol,Otpor organized mass protests, concerts, and rallies to gain the support of theSerbian people. They were labeled as terrorists and fascists, but their proclaimedgoal was to restore democracy to a country they felt was overcome by tyrannyand corruption.

    Otpor’s principal goal was toreplace Milosevic with a democratic candidate through the country’spresidential elections. They found their candidate in Vojislav Kostunica, whowas chosen when 18 separate political parties were merged to back onecandidate.

    On September 24, 2000, Kostunicawon the election, but Milosevic attempted to negate the victory by manipulatingthe election. In response, hundreds of thousands of Serbian citizens marchedinto Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, to protest. Eventually, even the policeconceded their loyalty to the cause of the protesters. The people of Serbiafinally took power and overthrew Milosevic’s regime.

    ‘?Political violence findssupport among people who feel they have no voice or influence, who are sodesperate that they think they have no other way to press their cause,’said DuVall after the film ended. ‘?The only reason why Saddam issupported is because the people think he’s going to stay in control. Theyhave to make him lose control.’

    Some people might argue that SaddamHussein is not as benign as Milosevic was in Serbia. To this, DuVall responds,’?The harsher the ruler, the less he’s liked, and the morewillingness there is to see him gone.’

    If 5,000, 10,000 or even 20,000Iraqis marched on Baghdad, it is possible that Hussein would take extrememeasures against them. But when 100,000 people rally in Iraq’s capital,said DuVall, Saddam will be finished.

    The lecture was closed with an openforum, in which DuVall was asked his opinion about a number of different issuesconcerning nonviolent conflict. One individual asked what happens whennonviolent protests turn out like the Beijing Massacre in Tiananmen Square.

    ‘?Their strategic mistake wasnot to realize that their principle responsibility was to maintain themovement,’ replied DuVall. ‘?They tried to do too much, toofast.’

    As of now, DuVall feels that theU.S. may be too close to war for nonviolent protest to be truly successful inIraq. If it were July 1, 2002, we could still go to Congress and the media andgain support for Iraqi citizens, DuVall said. Iraq could benefit frominternational support, and the United Nations could donate information,know-how, and training, he added.

    There were some in the audience whoechoed DuVall’s uncertainty. ‘?The situation in Serbia seems veryinspiring,’ junior Amy Jameson said. ‘?But I would be very amazedif something similar could happen i

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