By Damon Krane (on behalf of group of one dozen rally organizers who also endorsed letter)
October 2, 2001
The Post (Athens, Ohio)
While we appreciate The Post’s coverage of the September 20 Athens Peace Rally, it contained significant flaws of which readers should be made aware.
Reading about the event in the Sept. 21 edition of The Post, one would think that the only people opposed to military retaliation for the recent terrorist attacks are pacifists. That is, people who oppose all forms of violence in all situations. This view was certainly present at the rally. However, video taped footage of the rally shows that roughly 75 percent of statements made by presenters had to do with why reforming U.S. foreign policy is more likely to prevent future terrorist attacks than is military retaliation.
Athens resident Jason Tockman, for instance, argued that because the United States supported extremist elements “in the form of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden” in Afghanistan’s war with the Soviet Union, bombing Afghanistan “would be bombing U.S. policies.”
“The Taliban that is now in control of Afghanistan – with its repressive policies toward women, toward civil liberties, toward almost every independent thought – was propped up and put in place by US policies,” said Tockman.
Meanwhile, OU associate professor Duane McDiarmid criticized President Bush’s commitment to punish states that train terrorists.
“Not to be so glib about it,” McDiarmid remarked, “but I think that’s Florida.”
“The terrorists learned to fly the planes they crashed in Florida,” he continued. “I don’t think the Floridians are responsible. And, likewise, citizens of other countries around the world are not necessarily responsible for the specific acts of their government or everything that goes on within their borders. We have to be very careful who we punish.”
Athens county resident Pete Hill also spoke of states that train terrorists when he discussed his work with Guatemalan human rights activists.
“The principal financier, trainer and supplier of hardware and software for a terror campaign of 35 years duration in Guatemala was the U.S. government,” said Hill. “I don’t think Osama bin Laden’s outfit puts them out as fast as the U.S. Army School of the Americas,” he added, referring to the institution based at Fort BenninS, GA. which has been training the militaries of repressive Latin American regimes for over 50 years.
OU senior Damon Krane argued, “Instead of carrying out military retaliation, killing more innocent civilians, and giving more reasons for people overseas to hate this country’s government we should take a hard look at some of the things that the government has been doing in our names.”
“If we’re interested in finding peace and security, we should look at things like the seven-digit civilian body count of the decade long U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq and U.S. complicity in Israeli atrocities in Palestine and Lebanon – for starters, at least,” Krane said.
Of the above speakers, only Krane was quoted in The Post’s article. Unfortunately, though, it was not for anything he actually said. Instead, a statement made by Appalachian Peace and Justice Network program coordinator Mara Giglio was attributed to Krane. While an admirable plea “to give peace a voice, reconciliation a voice,” this particular statement by Giglio made no reference to the U.S. government’s role in world affairs. Like other quotes used for The Post’s story, it conveyed a pacifist opposition to war. Every single reference made to U.S. foreign policy was, on the other hand, altogether omitted from The Post’s story. Thus The Post’s coverage perpetuates the misconception that the only people who could possibly oppose U.S. military ventures are those who oppose any and all violence. The story also avoids some of the key questions posed by speakers.
Reverend Jan Greisinger, of United Campus Ministries, encouraged the crowd to ask which group has the power in situations of racial and international conflict. Another participant asked: “When Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building, did we declare war on violent white males? But when brown people do the same thing,” he added, “all hell breaks loose.”
Krane challenged people “to have the courage to ask… Why do so many people overseas hate the U.S. anyway?”
Students and community members have been posing similar questions in letters to the editors of other local papers, but over the past week The Post has chosen to publish pro-war U-WIRE editorials from as far away as Texas in place of the opinions of members of the local community. If The Post wishes to maintain its status as a credible news source, the newspaper’s attention to the current crisis needs to more accurately report and reflect the range of local and national opinion.