On June 5, between 12,000 and 15,000 protesters marched from the Washington, DC, Veterans Memorial Wall to the Pentagon, calling for an end to the bombing of Yugoslavia and nearby areas. But neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times carried a word about it. On the other hand, C-SPAN broadcast everything.
Reaching DC on the evening of June 3, I learned that 25 people had committed civil disobedience (CD) at the White House that day, including Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and Rev. John Dear, executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. I couldn’t be there because I’d been meeting Vermont high school students who, among other things, had eagerly asked my wife Elizabeth and me about the gains that could be made with increased CD. On Friday, June 4, however, I discovered that no CD was planned for the weekend.
The next day, we joined a permitted rally in front of the White House from noon to 1 p.m. Placards condemned the sanctions against Iraq and ALL bombings. We planned to do CD afterward. But at 12:55, the police announced that anyone who stayed on the sidewalk would be arrested. Six of us didn’t leave.
Our hands were cuffed behind our backs, painful for me with a broken wrist. It became even more uncomfortable when the driver of the paddy wagon drove extremely fast and kept stopping abruptly. The results were painful for everyone. Eventually, we arrived at a cell block, and were given the same July trial date as the people arrested earlier. We were released in time for the rallies and march.
Two of my grandsons, aged 17 and 19, had come from Boulder, Colorado, to join me. They were disappointed, as I and others were, that the march went through a relatively unpopulated area. Not only did the organizers plan rallies and marching without CD, they meekly accepted the government’s proposed route rather than fighting for one that would take them past a larger number of people.
The boys also were displeased that the rally was held in a similarly isolated area far from "the steps of the Pentagon," as the original call had promised. Despite these disappointments, they were happy that so many people turned out to protest US attempts to selfishly rule the world through its military power.
When I spoke at the Pentagon rally, I was brief. So many speakers had already talked at length. They’d been invited from across the country, and from other nations, including Yugoslavia and its former parts. Most were excellent, but they frequently repeated observations that had already been voiced.
The loud speakers were poor at the memorial, and most people couldn’t hear what was said. On the plus side, this allowed them to look up friends and get into discussions. Near the Pentagon, the amplification was excellent and everyone could hear.
"The US military budget totals more than the next eight largest military budgets taken together: Russia, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Italy, and South Korea," I said. "Moreover, the Pentagon has 6500 employees whose job is to sell arms to approximately 180 third world countries. Usually, the sales are to both sides of a conflict. Seventy-five percent of the sales are to opponents of human rights.
"No wonder the US created and armed the Kosovo Liberation Army, a terrorist organization which stabbed and shot Serbs before the US started bombing. And no wonder the corporately controlled media haven’t told us this. Or that Milosevic turned down the so-called ‘negotiations’ at Rambouillet because the US demanded that the KLA control Kosovo, along with NATO.
"But the problem is not just military. In the US, one percent of the population controls more wealth than the bottom 95 percent, double that of the bottom 80 percent. Less than one percent controls national elections and every branch of government. So the US is not a democracy.
"Martin Luther King, Jr., said in 1967, less than a year before his assassination, ‘The evils of capitalism are as great as the evils of militarism and racism.’ …
"In conclusion, the International Committee of Human Rights should indict President Clinton, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, the CIA, and several others for their violations of human rights."
After my talk, I was greeted by many people, including some from Yugoslavia. Whatever their viewpoints, all felt that the KLA had been created and armed by the US, and had attacked the Serbs first.
I mentioned that when Lord Bertrand Russell asked me to be on the War Crimes Tribunal in 1967, he also asked Vladimer Dedijer of Yugoslavia. In the course of our meetings in Paris, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, Dedijer noted that Yugoslavia was independent of both Europe and the Soviet Union. Although he had minor disagreements with President Tito, he argued then that Yugoslavia was more democratic and had more human rights than Europe, Russia, or the US.
Over the years, through contacts Dedijer opened up, I discovered he was right.
— Dave Dellinger is co-chair of TF’s Board of Directors.