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Rep. Keith Ellison, joined by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and 14 additional House colleagues, sent a letter to President Obama requesting a full and independent investigation into the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan that killed 12 humanitarian workers and 10 patients.
Additional signers of the letter include: Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).
October 26, 2015
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
We write to request a full and independent investigation to determine what led to the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Afghanistan. We appreciate your willingness to reach out directly to MSF to apologize and your call for a Pentagon investigation. We believe a civilian-led independent investigation is also necessary to ensure an impartial assessment and confidence in the findings of the investigation.
We are deeply disturbed by the news that U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan destroyed the MSF trauma hospital in Kunduz, killing 12 humanitarian aid workers and 10 of their patients lying in their beds, including three children. The repeated airstrikes on the hospital also injured 37 civilians, including 19 MSF staff members.
Cooperating with a thorough investigation conducted by the United Nations or other independent body would send an important message to the world that the United States is unequivocally committed to the transparency and accountability required to ensure such a catastrophic event does not happen again.
Under international law, hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces. An independent investigation will help ensure future military engagements keep humanitarian heroes, like the MSF staff, safe.
Your leadership and statements by our top military officials communicates the sentiment of many who are saddened by this tragedy: deep regret and a desire to ensure it never happens again. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the United States prioritizes protection of civilians in its conduct of military operations around the world.
By Kathy Kelly
“These are people who had been working hard for months, non-stop for the past week. They had not gone home, they had not seen their families, they had just been working in the hospital to help people... and now they are dead. These people are friends, close friends. I have no words to express this. It is unspeakable.
“The hospital, it has been my workplace and home for several months. Yes, it is just a building. But it is so much more than that. It is healthcare for Kunduz. Now it is gone.
“What is in my heart since this morning is that this is completely unacceptable. How can this happen? What is the benefit of this? Destroying a hospital and so many lives, for nothing. I cannot find words for this.” - Lajos Zoltan Jecs
Lajos Zoltan Jecs survived October 3rd in the Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, which the U.S. bombed for well over an hour, at fifteen minute intervals. The bombing continued, despite frantic communication by the hospital staff who told U.S., NATO and Afghan officials that their hospital was under attack. Afterwards Jecs reported the indescribable horror of seeing patients burning in their intensive care unit beds.
U.S. people have much to bear in mind as the Pentagon prepares to release its investigation of the attack.
One consideration is that the MSF staff, as a matter of humanitarian policy, treated anyone needing care that was brought to the hospital. The U.S. may have regarded some of the patients as enemies of the U.S., but this does not justify bombing a hospital. Recent leaks of U.S. drone assassination policy, published by the online journal, The Intercept, clarify that the safety of U.S. people and the elimination of U.S. enemies have long overridden concern on Washington's part for the preservation of other peoples’ lives, including civilians.
Secondly, the U.S. Government seems unable to imagine that attacks supposedly taken in U.S. national interests can be war crimes.
Thirdly, Medecins Sans Frontieres has issued a strong, globally-echoed call for an independent investigation into the attack. The U.S. insists on pursuing its own investigation, one element of which was an evidence-endangering attack actually crashing a tank through the burnt hospital's shell of a first floor.
According to the New York Times, U.S. military commanders are expected to cite the ongoing partial withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to help explain why a U.S. C-130 transport plane killed 25 people, 12 staff and 13 patients, three of them children. In a front page story, the NYT reported that Pentagon investigators asked whether “lack of experience in working together” on the part of U.S. and Afghan troops “may have directly contributed to the series of mistaken decisions that led to the attack.” The NYT report goes on to say that: “They attributed those problems, in part, to the withdrawal of American forces from northern Afghanistan that has been part of the United States’ gradual drawdown of forces in the country.”
The following day, AP reported that the Army's $5 billion DCGS intelligence network, criticized by many as a boondoggle but elsewhere praised as having "saved lives” by collecting “drone footage, mapping software, human source reports, social media and eavesdropping transcripts”, was non-functional during the attack. The report was based on anonymous government leaks.
Does this mean that on the day in question, the U.S. lacked a staff trained sufficiently well to consult a map, identifying the hospital they were attacking? Had the U.S. military lost its most convenient means of checking the map online? And despite these handicaps, the military went on killing anyway? It went on killing blind?
We ought not to be blinded by media theater, or by habits of dismissing the doubts, and even the deaths, of countless people just like ourselves, overseas, whenever our government offers us its unsubstantiated explanations, its sincere good will, its apologies. The world can't be blinded to attackers in a tank lunging through the gaping sockets, familiar to us from haunting pictures, of the hospital's blackened windows and doors. The United States must allow the world to see what it has done.
Ordinary people worldwide should be encouraged not to cooperate with the war makers and war profiteers who masquerade as providers of security.
I think ordinary people can understand Lajos’s affection for colleagues, his pride in hard work. But it’s difficult, perhaps impossible to grasp even a fraction of the terror Lajos experienced when the U.S. airstrikes destroyed the Kunduz hospital and killed so many innocents.
We must nevertheless try to imagine Lajos’s shock and terror and then imagine further how he might feel upon learning that the attackers, the killers, relied on 5 billion dollars’ worth of “intelligence” systems, which happened to be on the blink that day, and that they didn’t understand that it’s murderously wrong to bomb a hospital, at fifteen minute intervals, causing six separate blasts, even after being notified by panicked staff that their hospital was in flames and patients were burning.
Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)
By Kathy Kelly
Kabul--Tall, lanky, cheerful and confident, Esmatullah easily engages his young students at the Street Kids School, a project of Kabul’s “Afghan Peace Volunteers,” an antiwar community with a focus on service to the poor. Esmatullah teaches child laborers to read. He feels particularly motivated to teach at the Street Kids School because, as he puts it, “I was once one of these children.” Esmatullah began working to support his family when he was 9 years old. Now, at age 18, he is catching up: he has reached the tenth grade, takes pride in having learned English well enough to teach a course in a local academy, and knows that his family appreciates his dedicated, hard work.
When Esmatullah was nine, the Taliban came to his house looking for his older brother. Esmatullah’s father wouldn’t divulge information they wanted. The Taliban then tortured his father by beating his feet so severely that he has never walked since. Esmatullah’s dad, now 48, had never learnt to read or write; there are no jobs for him. For the past decade, Esmatullah has been the family’s main breadwinner, having begun to work, at age nine, in a mechanics workshop. He would attend school in the early morning hours, but at 11:00 a.m., he would start his workday with the mechanics, continuing to work until nightfall. During winter months, he worked full time, earning 50 Afghanis each week, a sum he always gave his mother to buy bread.
Now, thinking back on his experiences as a child laborer, Esmatullah has second thoughts. “As I grew up, I saw that it was not good to work as a child and miss many lessons in school. I wonder how active my brain was at that time, and how much I could have learnt! When children work full time, it can ruin their future. I was in an environment where many people were addicted to heroin. Luckily I didn’t start, even though others at the workshop suggested that I try using heroin. I was very small. I would ask ‘What is this?’ and they would say it’s a drug, it’s good for back pain.”
“Fortunately, my uncle helped me buy materials for school and pay for courses. When I was in grade 7, I thought about leaving school, but he wouldn’t let me. My uncle works as a watchman in Karte Chahar. I wish I can help him someday.”
Even when he could only attend school part-time, Esmatullah was a successful student. His teachers recently spoke affectionately about him as an exceptionally polite and competent student. He would always rank as one of the top students in his classes.
“I am the only one who reads or writes in my family,” says Esmatullah. “I always wish that my mother and father could read and write. They could perhaps find work. Truthfully, I live for my family. I am not living for myself. I care for my family. I love myself because of my family. As long as I’m alive, they feel there is a person to help them.”
“But if I had the freedom to choose, I would spend all my time working as a volunteer at the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s center.”
Asked how he feels about educating child laborers, Esmatullah responds: “These children shouldn’t be illiterate in the future. Education in Afghanistan is like a triangle. When I was in first grade, we were 40 children. By grade 7, I recognized that many children had already abandoned school. When I reached grade 10, only four of the 40 children continued their lessons.”
“When I studied English, I felt enthusiastic about teaching in the future and earning money,” he told me. “Eventually, I felt I should teach others because if they become literate they will be less likely to go to war.”
“People are being pushed to join the military,” he says. “My cousin joined the military. He had gone to find work and the military recruited him, offering him money. After one week, the Taliban killed him. He was about 20 years old and he had recently been married.”
Ten years ago, Afghanistan had already been at war for four years, with U.S. cries for revenge over the 9/11 attacks giving way to unconvincing statements of retroactive concern for impoverished people who are the majority of Afghanistan’s population. As elsewhere where the U.S. has let “no fly zones” slide into full regime change, atrocities between Afghans only increased in the chaos, leading to the maiming of Esmatullah’s father.
Many of Esmatullah’s neighbors might understand if he wanted to retaliate and seek vengeance against the Taliban. Others would understand if he wished the same revenge on the United States. But he instead aligns himself with young men and women insisting that “Blood doesn’t wipe away blood.” They want to help child laborers escape military recruitment and ease the afflictions people suffer because of wars.
I askedt Esmatullah how he feels about joining the #Enough! campaign, - represented in social media by young people opposed to war who photograph the word #Enough! (bas) written on their palms.
“Afghanistan experienced three decades of war,” said Esmatullah. “I wish that one day we’ll be able to end war. I want to be someone who, in the future, bans wars.” It will take a lot of “someones” to ban war, ones like Esmatullah who become schooled in ways to live communally with the neediest of people, building societies whose actions won’t evoke desires for revenge.
This article first appeared on Telesur.
Global Days of Listening
led by the Afghan Peace Volunteers
October 21, 2015
5 – 8 pm : Kabul, Afghanistan
3:30 – 4:30 pm : Gaza, Palestine; Israel
1:30 – 4:30 pm : UK
8:30 – 11:30 am : Eastern time US
Listen to the conversation live: GlobalDaysofListening.
... as we talk of:
Afghan Peace Volunteeers supporting
What does it mean to Afghans that the US changed the end-of-war date?
THE CLIMATE CRISIS MUST BE ADDRESSED
JOIN THE CALL see the schedule
write to: globaldaysoflistening@
Signers of this statement are listed below.
“The U.S. and NATO occupy my country under the name of all the beautiful banners of democracy, women’s rights, human rights. And for this long time, they shed the blood of our people under the name of the war on terror…” —Malalai Joya
President Obama’s decision to leave actually ending, as opposed to officially “ending,” the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan to his successor (barring Congress developing the nerve and the decency to act) illustrates our collective and his personal failure to overcome what candidate Obama once called the mindset that gets us into wars. The idea that year 15 or year 16 is going to go better in Afghanistan than the first 14 years have gone is based on no evidence whatsoever, but merely the hope that something will change combined with a misguided and arrogant sense of responsibility to control someone else’s country. As numerous Afghans have been saying for nearly 14 years, Afghanistan will be a disaster when the U.S. occupation ends, but it will be a larger disaster the longer it takes to do so.
This longest-ever U.S. war since the destruction of the Native American nations is, when measured in deaths, dollars, destruction, and numbers of troops and weapons, far more President Obama’s war than President Bush’s. Yet President Obama has been given credit for “ending” it, without actually ending it, for nearly seven years, including while he was more than tripling the U.S. troop presence. The idea that escalating a war helps to end it, built on myths and distortions about past wars (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Iraq “surge”), has to be set aside after these many years of failure. The pretense that a military can both end and not end the occupation of another people’s country by shifting to “non-combat” troops (even while bombing a hospital) must be abandoned.
The view that further war, in particular with drones, is counterproductive on its own terms is shared with us by
—U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in August 2014: “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict.”
—Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief Michael Scheuer, who says the more the United States fights terrorism the more it creates terrorism.
—The CIA, which finds its own drone program “counterproductive.”
—Admiral Dennis Blair, the former director of National Intelligence: While “drone attacks did help reduce the Qaeda leadership in Pakistan,” he wrote, “they also increased hatred of America.”
—Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We’re seeing that blowback. If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.”
—Sherard Cowper-Coles, Former U.K. Special Representative To Afghanistan: “For every dead Pashtun warrior, there will be 10 pledged to revenge.”
—Matthew Hoh, Former Marine Officer (Iraq), Former US Embassy Officer (Iraq and Afghanistan): “I believe it’s [the escalation of the war/military action] only going to fuel the insurgency. It’s only going to reinforce claims by our enemies that we are an occupying power, because we are an occupying power. And that will only fuel the insurgency. And that will only cause more people to fight us or those fighting us already to continue to fight us.” — Interview with PBS on Oct 29, 2009
—General Stanley McChrystal: “For every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.”
Afghanistan need not be “abandoned.” The United States owes Afghanistan reparations in the form of significant actual aid, the cost of which would of course be less than that of continuing the war.
The U.S. air strikes on the Kunduz hospital have generated more attention than many other U.S. atrocities committed in Afghanistan. Yet horrific attacks have been the mainstay of this war which was begun illegally and without U.N. authorization. The motivation of revenge for 9-11 is not a legal justification for war, and also ignores the Taliban’s offer to have bin Laden face trial in a third country. This war has killed many thousands of Afghans, tortured and imprisoned, wounded and traumatized many more. The top cause of death among members of the U.S. military who have gone to Afghanistan is suicide. We shouldn’t allow continuation of this madness to be depicted as reasonable and cautious. It is criminal and murderous. A third U.S. president should be given no opportunity to continue “ending” this war for additional years.
End it now.
David Swanson, director of World Beyond War
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, Code Pink
Ret. Col. AnnWright, former U.S. diplomat, including in Afghanistan
Mike Ferner, former Navy Hospital Corpsman and president of Veterans For Peace
Matthew Hoh, Former Marine Officer (Iraq), Former US Embassy Officer (Iraq and Afghanistan)
Elliott Adams, former National President, Veterans for Peace, FRO
Brian Terrell, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Ed Kinane, Steering committee, Syracuse Peace Council
Victoria Ross, Interim Director, Western New York Peace Council
Brian Willson, Esq., Veterans for Peace
Imam Abdulmalik Mujahid, Chairperson, World Parliament of Religions
David Smith-Ferri, Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Dayne Goodwin, secretary Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice, Salt Lake City
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Randolph Shannon, Progressive Democrats of America – PA Coordinator
David Hartsough, Peaceworkers
Jan Hartsough, San Francisco Friends Meeting
Judith Sandoval, Veterans for Peace, San Francisco
Jim Dorenkott, Veterans for Peace
Thea Paneth, Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Arlington United for Justice With Peace
Rivera Sun, author
Michael Wong, Veterans for Peace
Sherri Maurin, Global Days of Listening co-coordinator
Mary Dean, Witness Against Torture
Dahlia Wasfi MD, Iraqi-American activist
Jodie Evans, Co-Founder, Code Pink
Let us bomb your neighborhood
Guided by our intelligence.
Let us erase your neighbor
Out of love.
Kunduz hospital attack was no mistake: US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
By Dave Lindorff
Evidence continues to mount that the US committed a monstrous war crime in attacking and destroying a fully operational hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on the night of Oct. 3, killing at least 22 people including at least 12 members of the volunteer medical staff of Medicine Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the French based international aid organization that operated the hospital.
There is video and audio. It exists. The Pentagon says it's critically important. Congress has asked for it and been refused. WikiLeaks is offering $50,000 to the next brave soul willing to be punished for a good deed in the manner of Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and so many others. You can petition the White House to hand it over here.
The entire world thinks the U.S. military intentionally attacked a hospital because it considered some of the patients enemies, didn't give a damn about the others, and has zero respect for the rule of law in the course of waging an illegal war. Even Congress members think this. All the Pentagon would have to do to exonerate itself would be to hand over the audio and video of the pilots talking with each other and with their co-conspirators on the ground during the commission of the crime -- that is, if there is something exculpatory on the tapes, such as, "Hey, John, you're sure they evacuated all the patients last week, right?"
All Congress would have to do to settle the matter would be to take the following steps one-at-a-time until one of them succeeds: publicly demand the recordings; send a subpoena for the recordings and the appearance of the Secretary of "Defense" from any committee or subcommittee in either house; exercise the long dormant power of inherent contempt by locking up said Secretary until he complies; open impeachment hearings against both the same Secretary and his Commander in Chief; impeach them; try them; convict them. A serious threat of this series of steps would make most or all of the steps unnecessary.
Since the Pentagon won't act and Congress won't act and the President won't act (except by apologizing for having attacked a location containing white people with access to means of communication), and since we have numerous similar past incidents to base our analysis on, we are left to assume that it is highly unlikely that the hidden recordings include any exculpatory comments, but more likely conversation resembling that recorded in the collateral murder video ("Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.")
There isn't actually any question that the U.S. military intentionally targeted what it knew to be a hospital. The only mystery is really how colorful, blood-thirsty, and racist the language was in the cockpit. Left in the dark, we will tend to assume the worst, since past revelations have usually measured up to that standard.
For those of you working to compel police officers in the United States to wear body cameras, it's worth noting that the U.S. military already has them. The planes record their acts of murder. Even the unmanned planes, the drones, record video of their victims before, during, and after murdering them. These videos are not turned over to any grand juries or legislators or the people of the "democracy" for which so many people and places are being blown into little bits.
Law professors that measure up to the standards of Congressional hearings on kill lists never seem to ask for the videos; they always ask for the legal memos that make the drone murders around the world part of a war and therefore acceptable. Because in wars, they imply, all is fair. Doctors Without Borders, on the other hand, declares that even in wars there are rules. Actually, in life there are rules, and one of them is that war is a crime. It's a crime under the U.N. Charter and under the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and when one mass-murder out of millions makes the news, we ought to seize that opportunity to draw attention, outrage, and criminal prosecution to all the others.
I don't want the video and audio recordings of the hospital bombing. I want the video and audio recordings of every bombing of the past 14 years. I want Youtube and Facebook and Twitter full, not just of racist cops murdering black men for walking or chewing gum, but also of racist pilots (and drone "pilots") murdering dark-skinned men, women, and children for living in the wrong countries. Exposing that material would be a healing act beyond national prejudice and truly worthy of honoring Doctors Without Borders.
By Dave Lindorff
Really? The best that Nobel Peace Laureate President Obama can do after the US bombs and destroys a hospital in Afghanistan, killing 22 people, including 12 volunteer doctors from Doctors Without Borders, is to say, “We’re sorry”?
By Kathy Kelly
Before the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing in Iraq, a group of activists living in Baghdad would regularly go to city sites that were crucial for maintaining health and well-being in Baghdad, such as hospitals, electrical facilities, water purification plants, and schools, and string large vinyl banners between the trees outside these buildings which read: “To Bomb This Site Would Be A War Crime.” We encouraged people in U.S. cities to do the same, trying to build empathy for people trapped in Iraq, anticipating a terrible aerial bombing.
Tragically, sadly, the banners must again condemn war crimes, this time echoing international outcry because in an hour of airstrikes this past Saturday morning, the U.S. repeatedly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, a facility that served the fifth largest city in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.
U.S./NATO forces carried out the airstrike at about 2AM on October 3rd. Doctors Without Borders had already notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces of their geographical coordinates to clarify that their compound, the size of a football field, was a hospital. When the first bombs hit, medical staff immediately phoned NATO headquarters to report the strike on its facility, and yet strikes continued, at 15 minute intervals, until 3:15 a.m., killing 22 people. 12 of the dead were medical staff; ten were patients, and three of the patients were children. At least 37 more people were injured. One survivor said that the first section of the hospital to be hit was the Intensive Care Unit.
“Patients were burning in their beds,” said one nurse, an eyewitness to the ICU attack."There are no words for how terrible it was." The U.S. airstrikes continued, even after the Doctors Without Borders officials had notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan military that the warplanes were attacking the hospital.
Taliban forces do not have air power, and the Afghan Air Force fleet is subordinate to the U.S., so it was patently clear that the U.S. had committed a war crime.
The U.S. military has said that the matter is under investigation. Yet another in an endless train of somber apologies; feeling families' pain but excusing all involved decision makers seems inevitable. Doctors Without Borders has demanded a transparent, independent investigation, assembled by a legitimate international body and without direct involvement by the U.S. or by any other warring party in the Afghan conflict. If such an investigation occurs, and is able to confirm that this was a deliberate, or else a murderously neglectful war crime, how many Americans will ever learn of the verdict?
War crimes can be acknowledged when carried out by official U.S. enemies, when they are useful in justifying invasions and efforts at regime change.
One investigation the U.S. has signally failed to carry out would tell it how much Kunduz needed this hospital. The U.S. could investigate SIGAR reports ("Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction") numbering Afghanistan's "U.S. funded health care facilities," allegedly funded through USAID, which cannot even be located, 189 alleged locations at whose coordinates there are demonstrably no buildings within 400 feet. In their June 25th letter they astoundingly write, “My office’s initial analysis of USAID data and geospatial imagery has led us to question whether USAID has accurate location information for 510—nearly 80 percent—of the 641 health care facilities funded by the PCH program.” It notes that six of the Afghan facilities are actually located in Pakistan, six in Tajikstan, and one in the Mediterranean Sea.
Now it seems we've created yet another ghost hospital, not out of thin air this time but from the walls of a desperately needed facility which are now charred rubble, from which the bodies of staff and patients have been exhumed. And with the hospital lost to a terrified community, the ghosts of this attack are, again, beyond anyone's ability to number. But in the week leading up to this attack, its staff had treated 345 wounded people, 59 of them children.
The U.S. has long shown itself the most formidable warlord fighting in Afghanistan, setting an example of brute force that frightens rural people who wonder to whom they can turn for protection. In July of 2015, U.S. bomber jets attacked an Afghan army facility in the Logar Province, killing ten soldiers. The Pentagon said this incident would likewise be under investigation. No public conclusion of the investigation seems ever to have been issued. There isn't always even an apology.
This was a massacre, whether one of carelessness or of hate. One way to join the outcry against it, demanding not just an inquiry but a final end to all U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, would be to assemble in front of health care facilities, hospitals or trauma units, carrying signage which says, “To Bomb This Place Would Be a War Crime.” Invite hospital personnel to join the assembly, notify local media, and hold an additional sign which says: “The Same Is True in Afghanistan.”
We should affirm the Afghans' right to medical care and safety. The U.S. should offer investigators unimpeded access to the decision makers in this attack and pay to reconstruct the hospital with reparations for suffering caused throughout these fourteen years of war and cruelly manufactured chaos. Finally, and for the sake of future generations, we should take hold of our runaway empire and make it a nation we can restrain from committing the fathomlessly obscene atrocity that is war.
Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (vcnv.org) She returned from Afghanistan in mid-September, 2015 where she was a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (ourjourneytosmile.com)
Maria Santelli is Executive Director of the Center on Conscience & War, a 75-year old organization founded to provide technical and community support to conscientious objectors to war. Based in Washington, D.C., Santelli has been working for peace and justice since 1996. She discusses conscientious objection and this week's attack on a hospital in Afghanistan.
Read her articles at http://www.truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/51409
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During the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing on Iraq, and afterwards, anti-war campaigners with Voices for Creative Nonviolence were encouraging people around the country to go in front of hospitals with signs and banners saying, "To bomb this site would be a war crime!"
At around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, Oct. 3, 2015, U.S./NATO forces carried out an airstrike that hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Medical staff immediately phoned NATO headquarters to report the strike on its facility, and yet strikes continued on for nearly an hour. At least nine medical staff were killed and seven patients including three children. At least 35 more people were injured.
Taliban forces do not have air power, and the Afghan Air Force fleet is subordinate to the U.S., so it is patently clear that the U.S. has committed a war crime. This occurred just days prior to the 14th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, which was itself the "supreme war crime" of aggression against a nation that posed no imminent military threat. The U.S. remains culpable for all the chaos that has followed its invasion. Now, almost 6 years after Obama’s 2009 “surge," there remain close to 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with the Pentagon talking up the need to keep those troops there.
We want to affirm the Afghans' right to medical care and safety, and we want the aggression to end. Only Afghans themselves can engineer their own society to fit their aspirations. If the U.S. has any role to play at all, it is only to provide reconstruction funds for Afghan-led projects that can actually uplift civil institutions.
VCNV is mobilizing activists to gather in front of hospitals around the U.S. and beyond, under the message, "Dropping Bombs Here would be a War Crime!" and "The same is true in Afghanistan." We will be protesting in Chicago on Tuesday, October 6, at 3 PM in front of Stroger Hospital (at Ogden and Damen). We are joined by our partners: Chicago World Can't Wait, Chicago Area Peace Action, and Gay Liberation Network.
Life is a very jumbled mixture. The pain of it, if you're awake and thinking, brings into your mind the happiest moments you can remember and transforms them into agony unless you resist bitterness with every drop of strength you have left, if not more. Physical pain makes clear-thinking and generous thinking more difficult, until death appears in front of you, and then the physical pain is as nothing.
I know that I'm not supposed to be bitter, and yet that somehow makes it harder not to be. When my father and sister and two cousins were blown into little pieces last year, it was the action of some distant office worker pushing a switch on a remote-controlled airplane. And I'm supposed to believe that they meant well. And this is supposed to make it better. But somehow it makes it worse.
The war that landed me in this hospital in Kunduz, along with all of the screaming men, women, and children around me whose voices have now faded into what I imagine the roar of the ocean must be, this war comes from a distant land that we are told means well. Yet it generates enemies through its horrors. It funds those enemies through its incompetence, corruption, and insistence on buying protection for its occupiers. It fights those enemies with such marvelous weaponry that it kills and kills and kills until many more enemies face it, and it goes on fighting from afar. I'm told the people in America believe the war ended, that it isn't even happening, that it isn't entering Year 15 in four days, while I will never enter Year 14.
I've only known war. I've only heard of peace. Now I will know only the peace of the dead. And I've been told that the dead go on with living somewhere else, but I'm told this by people whose other statements are nothing but lies, so I prefer to wait the endless moments of this hospital burning to the ground with me inside it, and then see for myself.
I understand that I am only an Afghan. I am not an American school student wrongly murdered. I am not an Israeli settler brutally blown up. I'm not a U.S. soldier or a Syrian or Ukrainian who was killed by the wrong side. But this is what makes my bitterness so hard to push back against. I'm an Afghan being bombed for women's rights that I will never ever have a chance to exercise, because I will never ever be a woman. So, I must focus on my gratitude to those who have been kind to me, including those who left this world ahead of me to guide the way.
When I focus on the good in my life intensely, I can shut out any echoes of the evil. I can almost even come back to the evil with a sense of forgiveness and the realization that really, truly, the people who do these things must not know what they are doing. I understand that no one could really begin to understand my experience who isn't me.
By Kathy Kelly
#Enough! Fatima needs food and proper medical care, not war!
Kabul—Some days ago, at the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ Borderfree Center, I met Jamila, the mother of a little girl, Fatima, who comes to the Street Kids School, a program designed to help children working on the streets go to school. Jamila, a young mother of seven, smiles and laughs easily, even though she faces dire circumstances here in Kabul.
Nine years ago, at age 19, she fled escalating conflict in Pul e Khumri, located in the northern province of Baghlan, and moved to Kabul. Jamila had already been married for 12 years.
Her family, desperate for income, had sold her in marriage to an older man when she was seven years old. As a child, she lived in servitude to the family of her future husband, earning a small income for them through sewing and embroidering.
At age 13, She gave birth to her oldest daughter . With her when we met were two of her middle daughters, Fatima and Nozuko. Her oldest daughter is no longer with her, as, at age 12, she was given away, six years ago now, in marriage. Jamila is determined not to give her remaining daughters away in marriage while they are still children.
One and a half years ago, Fatima, then aged 9, developed a fever which lasted for about a month. All four of her limbs became paralyzed. In a hospital at Wazir Akbar Khan, doctors said she was 10 minutes away from death. They treated her for typhoid meningitis and hospitalized her. After a month, the doctors said she was not ready for discharge, but Jamila had other children to take care of and had already incurred huge debt. The doctors made her sign a form saying they were not responsible if Fatima died. They said Jamila must continue with twice-a-day injections of strong antibiotics.
After being discharged from the hospital, Fatima continued receiving the injections for a year and a half until, one day, about three months ago, Jamila abruptly stopped giving Fatima the injections. When Fatima developed a fever, Jamila became panicky again.
Fatima finally ended up in a private hospital whose initial tests cost 3,000 Afghanis (about $50 U.S. dollars). Jamila begged loans from her sister, her uncle and her cousins to pay for the lab tests.
Doctors told Jamila that Fatima needed the injections because the typhoid bacteria were in her blood.
At this point, Jamila, facing a debt of 140,000 Afghanis (about $2333 U.S. dollars ), finds it hard to sleep, worrying for Fatima and her other children. How will she pay her debts? How can she buy flour to make bread so that the children have something to eat?
Her only means of income is through washing clothes. The people she washes clothes for say times are hard, and they don’t have any income themselves. They have only paid her twice over the past two months, once in the form of some meat and rice.
Fatima in her mud house compound, with Ali,
an Afghan Peace Volunteer teacher who helped Fatima get a proper medical assessment
Jamila met the Afghan Peace Volunteers when Hadisa and Abdulhai visited her home in April this year as part of a survey designed to identify children who could participate in the Street Kids School. When Ali, a volunteer teacher at the Street Kids School, learned about Fatima’s illness, he introduced Jamila to Hakim, the mentor for the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Hakim is a medical doctor from Singapore. Since 2004, when he first began working in Afghanistan, Hakim has recognized that the country’s health care system is riddled by pervasively corrupt practices. Appalled by the massive doses of antibiotics prescribed for Fatima, Hakim recommended a stool sample analysis which could be done through the lab of a local hospital. The lab report showed that Fatima no longer needed the antibiotics, that her medical condition was normal.
The medical system in Afghanistan failed to help Jamila and Fatima. Lack of oversight allowed corrupt doctors and pharmacists to over-prescribe antibiotics, and Jamila had nowhere to turn for a second opinion or for any assistance. Greedy predators, purportedly delivering health care, have steadily taken money from desperate people, like Jamila, in payment for useless or even murderous treatments.
Jamila and Fatima clearly trust Hakim. They both looked relieved as he emphatically encouraged the mother and daughter to overcome fears about Fatima’s health. He told Fatima that she can become strong and stay healthy by drinking clean water and having a healthy diet, including her favorite dishes of beans and chick peas. But Jamila faces another tragic health problem - she can’t even afford flour for bread, let alone nutritious but costly beans for her children.
The World Food Programme recently reported an alarming rise in food insecurity, across Afghanistan.
The U.S. pours billions of dollars into surveying Afghanistan, flying Predator drones over cities, towns and roadways, claiming to better understand “patterns of life” in Afghanistan. But the war system establishes tragic patterns of death, of poverty, misinformation, desperate insecurity, and continued despair. If she could flee her circumstances, Jamila surely would seek refuge elsewhere in the world. But she has nowhere to turn and nowhere to hide from Predators near and far.
Young people gathering at the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s Borderfree Center long to embrace innumerable people afflicted by war who share Jamila’s seemingly insoluble problems. Thoughtfully, carefully, they’ve designed a campaign that they call #Enough! – a simple yet compelling call to abolish wars and instead work to meet human needs. We asked Jamila if she thought her problems were connected to war. “Yes,| she said. “War leads to poverty and because of that poverty I have had so many problems. I hope the war will end so that I can find enough food.”
photo credit: Dr. Hakim
By Dr Hakim
Hadisa, a bright 18 year old Afghan girl, ranks as the top student in her 12th grade class. “The question is,” she wondered, “are human beings capable of abolishing war?”
Like Hadisa, I had my doubts about whether human nature could have the capacity to abolish war. For years, I had presumed that war is sometimes necessary to control ‘terrorists’, and based on that presumption, it didn’t make sense to abolish it. Yet my heart went out to Hadisa when I imagined her in a future riddled with intractable violence.
Hadisa tilted her head slightly in deep thought. She listened attentively to different opinions voiced by fellow Afghan Peace Volunteers. She struggles to find answers.
But when Hadisa turns up at the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School every Friday to teach the child breadwinners, now numbering 100 in morning and afternoon classes, she lays aside her doubts.
I can see her apply her inner compassion which rises way above the war that is still raging in Afghanistan.
Hadisa, like 99% of human beings, and the more than 60 million refugees fleeing from military and economic wars, usually chooses peaceful, constructive action rather than violence.
“Dear students,“ Hadisa says, “In this school, we wish to build a world without war for you.”
Her street kid students enjoy Hadisa’s teaching. What’s more, away from the rough and unpredictable streets of Kabul, they find the space at the school affirming, safe and different.
Fatima, one of Hadisa’s students, participated in the very first street kids’ demonstration in Kabul demanding a school for 100 street kids. In subsequent actions, she helped plant trees and bury toy weapons. In another two days, on the 21st of September, the International day of Peace, she will be one of 100 street kids who will serve a lunch meal to 100 Afghan labourers.
“In place of war,” Fatima learnt, “we will do acts of kindness.”
This action will launch #Enough!, a long-term campaign and movement initiated by the Afghan Peace Volunteers to abolish war.
Wow! What practical learning!
If the street kids were taught erroneous ways, and became ‘terrorists’, would the solution be to eventually ‘target and kill’ them?
I couldn’t bear to think of it, and am more and more convinced, like Hadisa and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, that killing those labelled ‘terrorists’ by waging war against them doesn’t work.
War and weapons don’t heal the root causes of ‘terrorism’. If our brother or sister was violent, we wouldn’t think of killing them to reform them.
I was in the class when the question was first posed to the street kids: “To whom would you wish to serve a meal?” Hands went up like love and hope blooming for the new Afghan generation, and Habib, an older street kid who was Hadisa’s student last year, echoed along with many others, “The labourers!”
I felt immensely moved, having seen a definite glimmer of our human capacity to care for others, rather than exercise hate, discrimination, indifference or apathy.
Yesterday, Habib helped his volunteer teacher, Ali, to invite labourers to the meal on the 21st. As I filmed and photographed Habib taking down the names of Afghan men much older than him, I felt renewed faith in our human ability to do good, and a warm, tender feeling overwhelmed me.
With people like Hadisa, Fatima, Habib and the many wonderful young Afghans I’ve met, I know that we can abolish war.
For their sake and the sake of human kind, we should work together with much patience, and all of our love.
In 1955, after two world wars and the loss of at least 96 million people, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein wrote a Manifesto, saying, “Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?”
After finishing the invitations, as we were walking along the very streets where Habib used to take the weight of pedestrians to earn some income for his family, I asked him, “Why do you want to end war?’
He replied, “Ten persons killed here, ten persons killed there. What’s the point? Soon, there’s a massacre, and gradually a world war.”
Dr Hakim, ( Dr. Teck Young, Wee ) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.
Today, every day, we wake up, and we want to live differently, because the status quo stinks! :) Join the Afghan Peace Volunteers and street kids, Zarghuna, Muheb, Barath, Mursal, Inam, Deeba and Zahra, to say #Enough!
100 Afghan street kids, including Muqadisa in the photo, will cook and serve a meal for 100 Afghan labourers to launch #Enough! on 21st Sept, the International Day of Peace. Beautiful! Why do the elite know only ugly violence and ugly war? #Enough!
We want to abolish war, and we need you! So, we hope that you and your friends can:
- Sign ‘The People’s Agreement to Abolish War’ at http://enough.ourjourneytosmile.com. You’ll be generating the critical mass of friends needed to build a world without war.
- Get together with one or more friends to serve a vulnerable person/persons in your vicinity. Energies and resources invested in wars will instead be redirected toward meeting human needs. Register your local solidarity action at http://enough.ourjourneytosmile.com/wordpress/solidarity-actions
- Give one another hope and be in solidarity by writing a letter to email@example.com, or send a selfie, a photo of friends with ‘#Enough!’ written on the palms of your hands, or a captioned photo of your solidarity action.
Love and thanks,
Hakim with the Afghan Peace Volunteers
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: This morning we have a special offer for you. TomDispatch regular David Vine will send any of you willing to donate $100 (or more) to this website a signed, personalized copy of his groundbreaking new book, <
By Dave Lindorff
President Barack Obama is on track to go down in history as one of the, or perhaps as the worst and most criminal presidents in US history.
By Kathy Kelly and Buddy Bell
A second round of peace talks between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives, expected to begin before the end of July, 2015, suggests that some parties to the fighting want to declare a cease fire. But even in the short time since the first round on July 7th, fighting has intensified. The Taliban, the Afghan government forces, various militias and the U.S. have ramped up attacks, across Afghanistan.
By John Grant
"Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."
It's not terrorism if it's retaliation: Chattanooga Shooting, If Linked to ISIS, is a Legitimate Act of War
By Dave Lindorff
I'm not a fan of war or of killing of any kind, but the labeling of the deadly attack by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez on two US military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee as an act of terror is absurd.
We’re #1...in the heroin business!: US Lost in Afghanistan, But Did Make Afghanistan World’s Top Heroin Exporter
By Jack Balkwill
...The US government pretends to care about eradicating opium production in Afghanistan, while production soars to record levels. Can this be an accident?
The largest marketplace for illegal drugs continues to be the United States, despite a decades-long so-called "war on drugs." Can this be an accident?
By Kathy Kelly
Each year, throughout the Muslim world, believers participate in the month-long Ramadan fast. Here in Kabul, where I'm a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, our household awakens at 2:15 a.m. to prepare a simple meal before the fast begins at about 3:00 a.m. I like the easy companionship we feel, seated on the floor, sharing our food. Friday, the day off, is household clean-up day, and it seemed a bit odd, to be sweeping and washing floors in the pre-dawn hours, but we tended to various tasks and then caught a nap before heading over to meet the early bird students at the Street Kids School, a project my hosts are running for child laborers who otherwise couldn't go to school.
I didn't nap - I was fitful and couldn't, my mind filled with images from a memoir, Guantanamo Diary, which I've been reading since arriving here. Mohamedou Ould Slahi's story of being imprisoned in Guantanamo since 2002 rightly disturbs me. In all his years of captivity, he has never been charged with a crime. He has suffered grotesque torture, humiliation and mistreatment, and yet his memoir includes many humane, tender accounts, including remembrances of past Ramadan fasts spent with his family.
Describing his early time in a Jordanian prison, he writes:
By Jack Balkwill
How many days has it been
Since I was born?
How many days
'Til I die?
Do I know any ways
I can make you laugh?
Or do I only know how
To make you cry?
― Leon Russell, Stranger in a Strange Land
There has been much talk of late about the courage of Caitlyn Jenner. A recent Vanity Fair cover showed the transformation of former 65-year-old Olympic gold medal winner Bruce Jenner to Caitlyn, an attractive woman who appears to be in her thirties.
But let us look for a moment at the definition of courage. Merriam-Webster defines it thusly: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”.
By John Grant
We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.
- George Orwell
By Kathy Kelly
“Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world… Shall we say the odds are too great? … the struggle is too hard? … and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message -- of longing, of hope, of solidarity… The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, “Beyond Vietnam”
Kabul—I’ve spent a wonderfully calm morning here in Kabul, listening to bird songs and to the call and response between mothers and their children in neighboring homes as families awaken and prepare their children for school. Maya Evans and I arrived here yesterday, and are just settling into the community quarters of our young hosts, The Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs). Last night, they told us about the jarring and frightening events that marked the past few months of their lives in Kabul.
They described how they felt when bomb explosions, nearby, awakened them on several mornings. Some said they'd felt almost shell-shocked themselves discovering one recent day that thieves had ransacked their home. They shared their intense feelings of alarm at a notorious warlord's statement condemning a human rights demonstration in which several community members had participated. And their horror when a few weeks later, in Kabul, a young woman, an Islamic scholar named Farkhunda, was falsely accused in a street argument of desecrating the Koran, after which, to the roared approval of a frenzied mob of perhaps two thousand men, members of the crowd, with apparent police collusion, beat her to death. Our young friends quietly sort through their emotions in the face of inescapable and often overwhelming violence.
By Dr Hakim
Inam polishes leather shoes and Adilah sells flour pancakes.
They make a living on the dangerous streets of fortified Kabul, two of an estimated 60,000 working street kids in the capital.
10 years old, that’s how small they are.
Imagine ourselves at the same eye-level as Inam and Adilah, in the dusty alleys, swarmed by smelly drains, threatened by desperate crimes.
Like them, you often hear helicopters hovering so close overhead that the windows in your rented mud rooms rattle. You see the polished, bullet-proof cars of the corrupt Afghan ‘elite’, mostly men, dressed in suits and ties.
Adilah with her leek pancakes ( ‘bolonis’ ), waiting for customers
Some American friends smile when they hear that the pancakes, filled with delicious mashed potatoes or salted leek, are called ‘bolonis’ in Dari.
“Nowadays, I don’t often let Adilah sell ‘bolonis’ in the streets. What if she’s near a suicide bomb attack?” Adilah’s aunt said about the worsening security, despite 14 years of U.S. / NATO’s ambitions.
Adilah’s aunt frying the leek ‘bolonis’ in their rented single room
Adilah leaves her rented room to go out into the streets, carrying the ‘bolonis’ in a tray
Adilah walking past a gas canister shop
Adilah squats in front of a provision shop, hoping for her first customers for the day.
She makes about 5 Afghanis ( less than one U.S. cent ) for each ‘boloni’ she sells.
Adilah’s thoughts are ‘all over the place’ when she works in the streets of Kabul
A young passerby asks, “How much is it for a ‘boloni’?”
Adilah’s voice can hardly be heard.
She appears lost in her world of uncertainties.
Earlier, her aunt had served Zarghuna and I two sizzling ‘bolonis’.
We had eaten one of them, so Adilah had gestured to the other,
“Put that on the tray too. I can sell it.”
She whispered to the customer, “Ten Afghanis.”
That’s how the world economy works today.
Even war-weary, impoverished Afghans sympathize with her,
as the young man took out a typically crumpled 20-Afghani note,
handed it to Adilah,
and waved deferringly, as if in protest,
no, please, keep the ‘bolonis’….
The young Afghan man must have been contemplating
what he could do in the face of 60% unemployment.
He must have been thinking,
“Why is a small girl doing what we adults ought to be doing?”
Inam, standing in a newly-constructed shop space, with his blue plastic jerry-can
of boot-polishing tools and a pair of sandals for his customers to wear while he polishes their boots
“I don’t enjoy polishing boots but I have no choice,” replied Inam, describing his breadwinning role in a family of six persons. His father can’t support the family as he is one of Afghanistan’s 1.6 million drug addicts, and lives in another province. “We haven’t heard from our father for about 5 years.”
Inam, describing how some students in school are punished if they don’t do their homework,
“They stand like this for half an hour!”
Inam, along the street where he usually polishes boots. A few days ago, he had left his boot-polishing tools at a bakery while he played street soccer. “Someone stole my tools!” Inam understands why he has to work, but is determined to study hard too, so he can fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor.
What does Inam wake up to every day?
His mannerisms are beyond his 10 war-years,
with a spirit of acceptance
akin to ‘innocence’,
though he is far from naïve to be able to
evade the drug dealers,
huge speeding cars with snarling armed guards
and angry, hungry Afghans looking for cash.
“The drug business is violent,
as the addicts can’t do anything
except smoke under the bridges,” Inam tells the class,
which is a story about his own estranged father.
The least the American elite could do for Inam, their fellow human being,
is not to lie that their military strategy has been a ‘success’.
The elite need to know
that Inam, like billions of the awakening 99%,
understand what’s going on.
We understand the realities in our flesh and blood.
Inam was hoping to hear his name being called out in the enrollment of street kids into the Borderfree Street Kids School,
where he learns Dari and Math, and nonviolence, and gets a monthly assistance of rice and oil.
The mission of the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School for 2015 is to ‘share learning skills with 100 Afghan street kids ( including Adilah and Inam ) on understanding language, nature, humanity, and life, and to be students and practitioners of nonviolence. ‘
About 92% of the required budget for the school is spent on providing the street kids and their families with a needed monthly gift of a sack of rice and a bottle of oil.
It costs $534 to put one street kid through the street kids school for one year.
Those interested to support the project can browse http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/borderfree-afghan-street-kids-school/ for more info and write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations will be directed to Voices for Creative Nonviolence U.S. and UK, who are partners in this project.
NB : New video clips will be on this post soon, showing Adilah and Inam on the streets of Kabul