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Ali, Faiz and Abdulai at the Gandhi Memorial in New Delhi, India
Indian, Afghan and human poverty
Faiz, Abdulai, Ali and I are travelling in India to learn from Gandhian practitioners ( in Ekta Parishad ). We wish to learn how to mobilize people from the villages to protest non-violently.
Immediately, we’re encountering our own poverty.
Our flexible travel itinerary :
6th Jan to 9th Jan : New Delhi
10th to 15th Jan : Bhopal
15th to 21st Jan : Ahmedabad
23rd to 26th Jan : Aliabad?
27th Jan : Return to Kabul Afghanistan
6th Jan : Firsts for Faiz, Abdulai, Ali
First time on plane
First time above clouds
First time having pineapples
First time on elevator, travelator
First time using standing urinal and automatic sink-tap
First time in a big city that’s green ( Delhi )
First feelings penned at Kabul International Airport :
Faiz – ‘excited’
Ali – ‘very happy’
Abdulai – ‘eager to learn’
Hakim – ‘opportunity’
Kathy Kelly – ‘relieved, open’
Maya Evans ( UK peace activist ) – ‘discovery, adventure’
7th Jan : Other Firsts
First time up close to a Hindu temple
First time seeing so many women with uncovered heads
First time in underground Metro
First time being a foreigner
homeless in India
8th Jan : More Firsts
First time in multimedia memorial museum ( Gandhi Memorial )
First time seeing a lifelike statue ( of Gandhi and his wife )
First time presenting to an audience abroad ( about 100 students at Jawaharlal Nehru University ) – AYPVs spoke about : ‘Upon awakening, do not live normally.’
9th Jan : Lodhi Garden and Gandhi Peace Foundation
Lodhi was a Pathan
– the garden had green lawns, old ruins, swans, squirrels, parrots and other birds, smooching lovers
Gandhi Peace Foundation
-meeting held to discuss a high court case of an Indian activist charged with visiting a political prisoner, sedition included as one of the charges
-short messages to Indian human rights activists, AYPVs spoke about : ‘Dissolving the borders of peace’
Kathy Kelly ( USA ) , Paul and Kathrin ( Canada )
at the World Peace Gong in Gandhi Memorial
10th Jan : Railway train to Bhopal
It was a comfortable 8-hour ride on the train from Delhi to Bhopal.
Fields, fields, fields, litter, litter, litter, cattle, cattle, cattle…
We shared a urgent feeling for human livelihoods to return to the fields.
White House and State Department are in No Position to Issue Credible Denials Regarding Spying Charges
By Dave Lindorff
I wouldn’t want to be Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the 28-year-old former US Marine just recently sentenced to death by a court in Iran after being convicted of being an American spy.
Hekmati, who was born in Arizona to Iranian exile parents, and who grew up in Michigan, is being defended by President Obama, whose White House spokesman Tommy Vietor, declared, “Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for, or was sent to Iran by the CIA are false.” The White House, not content with that denial, went on to trash the Iranian government and legal system, with Vietor adding, “The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons.”
By Charles Davis and Medea Benjamin
In an age when U.S. power can be projected through private mercenary armies and unmanned Predator drones, the U.S. military need no longer rely on massive, conventional ground forces to pursue its imperial agenda, a fact President Barack Obama is now acknowledging. But make no mistake: while the tactics may be changing, the U.S. taxpayer – and poor foreigners abroad – will still be saddled with overblown military budgets and militaristic policies.
Speaking January 5 alongside his Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the president announced a shift in strategy for the American military, one that emphasizes aerial campaigns and proxy wars as opposed to “long-term nation-building with large military footprints.” This, to some pundits and politicians, is considered a tectonic shift.
By Tom Mellen, Morning Star
Only one in 10 of the prisoners held at the US prison camp at Bagram airbase have been charged and many are being abused and tortured, Afghan investigators revealed on Saturday.
Gul Rahman Qazi of the government's constitution watchdog said that just 300 of the 3,000 detainees had legal cases against them and Nato forces don't have enough evidence against the rest.
Inmates say they are kept in dark, freezing cells and humiliated with body cavity searches.
Mr Qazi said one elderly man had been locked in a pitch-black room and lost a tooth when punched by a guard.
Fellow investigator Sayed Noorullah said: "If there is no evidence they have the right to be freed," and the Afghan government should take control of the prisoners "as soon as possible."
Much to Forgive: The Story of Bibi Sadia.
By Kathy Kelly
One Week After Obama Claims Power to Hold Bagram Prisoners For Ever and Ever, Karzai Demands They All Be Turned Over in One Month
Hmm. Somebody is standing up to Obama. Still sort of wish it were us.
From Associated Press:
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President Hamid Karzai demanded Thursday that the U.S. detention center at Bagram Air Base be handed over to Afghan control within a month, along with all Afghan citizens held by the coalition troops across the nation.
Meanwhile, three NATO service members were killed in an explosion in the south of the country, the coalition said. It did not provide any other details about the incident.
A presidential statement said that keeping Afghan citizens imprisoned without trial violates the country's constitution, as well as international human rights conventions.
By Dave Lindorff
According to news reports, 15-year-old eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez, who was shot and killed yesterday by police in his middle school in Brownsville, TX, was hit three times: twice in the chest and once “from the back of the head.”
Police say they were called by school authorities because Gonzalez was carrying a gun, which turned out to be a realistic-looking pellet gun, a weapon that uses compressed air to fire a metal pellet which, while perhaps a threat to the eye, does not pose a serious threat to life.
By Tom Hussain | McClatchy Newspapers
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani Islamist militants on Sunday pledged to cease their four-year insurgency against Pakistani security forces, and join the Taliban's war against NATO troops in Afghanistan.
The agreement reunited four major Pakistan-based militant factions under the flag of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban chief, an announcement by the militants said.
Security experts in Islamabad said the agreement to end the insurgency with Pakistan was a dual-purpose tactical move by the Taliban.
It has lost hundreds of fighters during a two-year surge of U.S. forces in its southern Afghanistan strongholds.
The Pakistani militants, too, have been pummelled by security forces since 2009, and by late 2011 had splintered into dozens of factions without a unified command. The agreement coincided with discrete negotiations between the Pakistani militants and the government in Islamabad, held since October.
The pact would enable Mullah Omar to reinforce the Taliban ranks, while the pledged cessation of attacks against the Pakistani security forces would allow the militants greater freedom to launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
By John Grant
Ever since George W. Bush lost the popular vote by 500,000 souls and was selected President by a right-leaning Supreme Court, the United States has seemed to me devoted to a twisted fate of slow-motion Armageddon.
What seems to guarantee this is one of our most characteristic American traits: We don’t learn from the past; instead, we choose to officially forget embarrassing history so we can move on from our debacles without losing an ounce of glory. We all know how it goes: Sure, mistakes were made, but we need to keep our eye on the ball and move forward. The costs are paid in slow motion and out of sight.
Noam Chomsky on the US-Afghan Strategic Partnership: 'Part of a Global Program of World Militarization’
Editor's note: This is a transcript of a conversation between members of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Noam Chomsky, which took place on September 21, 2011. Each question was asked in Dari and translated by Hakim.
Hakim: Thank you, Professor Chomsky, for speaking to us. We are speaking from the highlands of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan, and we wanted to start off by thanking you sincerely for the guidance and wisdom that you have consistently given through your teaching and speeches in many places. We want to start off with a question from Faiz.
Faiz: In an article by Ahmad Rashid in the New York Times recently, he said that “after 10 years, it should be clear that the war in this region cannot be won purely by military force….Pakistanis desperately need a new narrative…but where is the leadership to tell this story as it should be told? The military gets away with its antiquated thinking because nobody is offering an alternative, and without an alternative, nothing will improve for a long time.”
Do you think there is any leadership in the world today that can propose an alternative non-military solution for Afghanistan, and if not, where or from whom would this leadership come from?
Noam Chomsky: I think it is well understood among the military leadership and also the political leadership in the United States and its allies, that they cannot achieve a military solution of the kind that they want. This is putting aside the question of whether that goal was ever justified; now, put that aside. Just in their terms, they know perfectly well they cannot achieve a military solution.
Is there an alternative political force that could work toward some sort of political settlement? Well, you know, that actually the major force that would be effective in bringing about that aim is popular opinion. The public is already very strongly opposed to the war and has been for a long time, but that has not translated itself into an active, committed, dedicated popular movement that is seeking to change policy. And that’s what has to be done here.
My own feeling is that the most important consequence of the very significant peace efforts that are underway inside Afghanistan might well be to stimulate popular movements in the West through just people-to-people contact, which would help impose pressures on the United States, and particularly Britain, to end the military phase of this conflict and move toward what ought to be done: peaceful settlement and honest, realistic economic development.
December 31, 2011
and January 1, 2012
Check the Global Day of Listening home page for details.
It is that time again—another opportunity for you to participate in a Global Day of Listening!
Every month people around the world listen together to the ordinary people living in war-torn countries. It a way of letting them know that someone is listening; that someone is listening to whatever it is they want to share.
We began meeting these 'ordinary people' through the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, and then met others.
Be a part of the conversation!
Selective Sympathy: War’s Mayhem and Murder is Somehow Less Hard to Bear than the Humane Termination of an Injured Animal
By Dave Lindorff
The officer rested his arm holding the stock of the assault rifle on the top of a log pile, and aimed directly between the target’s eyes. She was looking directly at him, unblinking, from 30 feet away, and exhibited no fear. “I hate doing this,” he muttered, before finally pulling the trigger.
A sharp “bang!” rang out, her head jerked up and then her whole body sagged to the ground, followed by some muscle jerks, and it was over.
The officer went over and checked the body, decided no second shot was needed to finish the job, and then walked back to his squad car, took out his phone, and called in the serial number of his rifle, reporting his firing of one round, as required by regulations.
By Dave Lindorff
It’s fascinating to watch the long knives coming out for Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, now that according to some mainstream polls he has become the front-running candidate in the Jan. 3 GOP caucus race in Iowa, and perhaps also in the first primary campaign in New Hampshire.
By Kathy Kelly
Arab Spring, European Summer, American Autumn, and now the challenge of winter. Here in Kabul, Afghanistan, the travelers of our small Voices for
Creative Nonviolence delegation share an apartment with several of the creative and determined "Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers" who’ve risked so
much for peace here and befriended us so warmly over the past two years.
Our apartment doesn’t have indoor heating or hot tap water. We bundle up, overnight, in blankets, quilts and sleeping bags, and the Westerners, unaccustomed to the indoor cold, wear at least five layers of clothing
during the daytime. Tap water is contaminated, electricity shortages are frequent, and internet access is spotty, but compared to those who live in
Kabul’s refugee camps, we’re ensconced in plenty of creature comforts.
This time of year is ideal for reflecting on the miracle of Christmas 1914, that famous temporary truce and friendship between opposing sides in the midst of a war. Here was a new type of slaughter confronted with a new type of humanism, the leading edges of two opposing trends.
An op-ed in the New York Times last week by Steven Pinker and Joshua Goldstein argues that peace, rather than war, was the dominant development, and that over the millennia, centuries, decades, and right up to this moment, "War Really Is Going Out of Style."
By Yasmeen Ali
Lahore -- Ever since 9/11 and the subsequent 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by the US, Pakistan’s world has been in turmoil.
19 December 2011 - Almost two-thirds of countries asked by human rights groups about their involvement in extraordinary rendition flights have failed to comply with freedom of information requests – with European nations in particular accused of withholding evidence of the controversial CIA programme.
Was the Attack on Pakistani Outposts Deliberate?: How Far Will the US Go to Target Pakistan's Military?
By Shaukat Qadir
This past June I posted an article by Anatol Lieven on Facebook. For those who are not familiar with his name, Anatol is from the UK and numbers among the few journalists whom I always enjoy reading. I have met Anatol a few times and he is the kind of person who likes to get acquainted with the psycho-social environment of the people he writes about. Written in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s execution, Anatol’s article was critical of the US approach to the region, particularly Pakistan.
By Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
KABUL – Top American officials in Afghanistan say the U.S. military intends to maintain a troop presence here beyond a 2014 deadline for Afghan troops to take over.
Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the Taliban and other forces in the region need to know the U.S. military will make sure the Afghans can handle the job.
"If you been waiting for us to go, we're not leaving," he said.
NATO forces agreed last year to set a deadline of the end of 2014 for turning over security to Afghan forces and ending combat operations.
The United States has 90,000 troops in Afghanistan. There are more than 30,000 troops from NATO allies.
By the end of the summer of 2012, U.S. forces are slated to drop to about 68,000.
Allen did not say how many American troops would remain or what role they would have beyond training the Afghan air force into 2016.
By John Grant
Ft. Meade -- Saturday, December 17th was Bradley Manning’s 24th birthday, and at least 300 supporters gathered outside Fort Meade, Maryland, where the military was in its second day of a preliminary hearing process that’s expected to take about a week. Manning worked in military intelligence and is alleged to have released military secrets to WikiLeaks, which released the material publicly.
By Kathy Kelly
Kabul--NATO/G8 meetings are scheduled to take place from May 19-21 next year in Chicago. Plans are ramping up everywhere. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen exulted over bringing NATO and the G8 to Chicago, and Clinton promised to call Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and convey Rasmussen's glowing opinion that Chicago, built upon diversity and determination, shares values that underpin NATO. Activists on the ground, envisioning a different kind of Chicago, and bracing themselves for the crushing, militarized police response that in recent years has consistently met protesters at these events, can only hope that this is not the case.
December 14, 2011 - One by one, the Marines sat down, swore to tell the truth and began to give secret interviews discussing one of the most horrific episodes of America’s time in Iraq: the 2005 massacre by Marines of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.
“I mean, whether it’s a result of our action or other action, you know, discovering 20 bodies, throats slit, 20 bodies, you know, beheaded, 20 bodies here, 20 bodies there,” Col. Thomas Cariker, a commander in Anbar Province at the time, told investigators as he described the chaos of Iraq.
By Dave Lindorff
James P. McGovern (MA)
Five-Minute Special Order
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
END THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN NOW
M. Speaker, on Saturday, the New York Times reported that our ambassador in Afghanistan, Ryan C. Crocker, told a group of journalists that U.S. troops could stay in Afghanistan long past the president’s 2014 deadline if the Afghan government asked us to stay.
The very next day, the New York Times reported Afghan President Hamid Karzai blaming foreigners, including the United States, for the corruption that is so rampant in his government. He had the audacity to say this at an event marking International Anti-Corruption Day.
M. Speaker, Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries on the face of the earth. Transparency International ranks Afghanistan as the 2nd most corrupt government, right behind Somalia and North Korea, which tied for first place.
Fact 1: It is not the case that all US troops will be removed from Afghanistan by 2015.
In his drawdown announcement this past June, President Obama did not say that all US troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. What he did say was 10,000 troops would be removed by the end of this summer, with 23,000 additional troops leaving at the end of the summer of 2012. After that, according to the President:
our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.
Notice that the President did not say that our mission in Afghanistan will end by 2014, only that it will cease to be a "combat" mission and become a "support" mission. What you should be asking yourself is, "what is a support mission?", "how many troops will be required for it?", and "how long will it last?" We will get to these questions shortly. First, it's important to highlight two things:
Fact 2: There is currently no end date for the war in Afghanistan.
Nowhere in the President's speech did he mention a deadline for the full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. No end date for the support mission has been supplied. At present, the expected duration of the war in Afghanistan is indefinite.
Fact 3: Obama's drawdown plan only removes roughly half the number of troops that he introduced into Afghanistan.
When President Obama took office, there were roughly 34,000 US troops in Afghanistan. In two "surges", Obama added to this figure over 66,000 additional troops. By reducing the US troop presence by 33,000, his drawdown plan will leave about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan next September with no timetable and no strategy for their removal.
Fact 4: The "support" mission will not necessarily be small, nor will it be free of combat missions.
A "support" mission sure sounds more reassuring than a combat mission, right? Sounds like only a few troops will remain behind to support the Afghan security forces?
Not if Iraq is any example. The combat mission in Iraq ended in August 2010, at which point troop levels were brought down to 50,000. Today, over a year later, there are still about 45,000 troops left in Iraq. Furthermore, these supposedly non-combat troops have engaged in combat missions and are described as having a "combat capacity" by administration officials, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in which they engage in "targeted counterterrorism operations" and work and fight alongside Iraqi security forces. In light of this, "support" seems to be nothing more than a euphemism for extended combat.
Per a previous agreement between the US and Iraqi governments, all US troops are supposed to leave Iraq at the end of this year. That didn't stop the Obama administration from trying to pressure the Iraqi government to extend the deadline, allowing the US to leave up to 10,000 troops indefinitely. Fortunately, this plan has been been abandoned, and all remaining US troops will leave except for 160 attached to the US Embassy. But a similar fight over keeping to a deadline for withdrawal may erupt in the future over Afghanistan.
Fact 5: Reports indicate that the Pentagon wants to keep 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan until at least 2024.
In August, it was reported that the Pentagon is trying to strike a deal with the Afghan government to leave 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan until at least 2024. Keep in mind that there were only 34,000 troops there when Obama took office. That means that the net withdrawal would be a mere 9,000 troops. Furthermore, before 2008, troop levels were at roughly 25,000 or less. So leaving 25,000 troops in Afghanistan would be to merely return to 2007 troop levels.
If this deal goes through, the US will be at war in Afghanistan for at least 13 additional years--that's three more years than we've been at war to this point. Meaning that we wouldn't even be at the half-way mark today, let alone nearing the end!
Fact 6: Keeping 25,000 troops in Afghanistan from 2015 to 2022 would cost approximately $120 billion--that's 10% of the total debt reduction that the Congressional Super Committee is supposed to come up with for that time period.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the current cost of keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan is $694,000 per soldier per year. So, using the CRS number, the cost of keeping 25,000 troops in Afghanistan from 2015 until 2021 would be about $120 billion.
This number is just an estimate, although it is likely to be an underestimate. Costs per soldier in Iraq have increased as troop levels have decreased, in part due to the costs of maintaining the massive US controlled infrastructure being spread among fewer people. A similar situation may arise in Afghanistan.
For more information on this topic, see Robert Naiman's article on the Huffington Post.
Fact 7: Ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could save the US roughly 400,000 jobs.
$200 billion is a conservative estimate of the savings to the federal budget from 2012-2021 of withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq this December (as previously agreed) and withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 2014 (as popularly understood.)
In a 2007 paper, Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the University of Massachusetts estimated the impact of an additional billion dollars in military spending on employment compared to other uses, using a standard input-output model of the U.S. economy.
They found that an additional billion dollars in military spending would create 8,555 jobs. In contrast, an additional billion in tax cuts for personal consumption would create 10,779 jobs. Other categories of federal spending examined - education, health, mass transit - created more jobs than tax cuts for personal consumption. [See table 1, page 6.]
Thus, the net effect of moving one billion dollars from the domestic economy to military spending would be to destroy at least 2,224 jobs; moving $200 billion from the domestic economy to military spending would destroy at least 444,800 jobs. Conversely, saving $200 billion by ending the wars as previously scheduled, rather than saving it from the federal budget by using the chained CPI and raising the Medicare retirement age, would save more than 400,000 jobs.
For a more information, see Robert Naiman's original article in the Huffington Post.
Fact 8: The lack of a timetable for withdrawal is a key obstacle in peace negotiations with the Taliban.
While major media outlets were recently declaring the peace process in Afghanistan lost due to the assassination of Berhanuddin Rabbani, the Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, they failed to point out that one of the primary barriers to peace has been in place for a long time: the refusal of the US government to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. Taliban spokesmen have made it quite clear that peace requires a willingness by the US to leave; but the US military has done just the opposite through its negotiations with the Afghan government to keep 25,000 troops in the country until at least 2024.
Fact 9: There are less than 100 al Qaeda left in Afghanistan--but there are over 670,000 Afghan and international forces there to fight them.
Last year, Leon Panetta said that there were less than 100 members of al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. According to the latest Brookings Institute Afghanistan Index, there are 130,670 international troops in Afghanistan under NATO and Operation Enduring Freedom; 305,516 Afghan Security Forces; 90,000 private Defense Department contractors; and 2,000 private contractors training the Afghan Army. Additionally, there are 150,000 Pakistani troops on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. That's a grand total of 678,195 versus 100. Seems a bit overkill.
Fact 10: There is popular support for ending the war now.
A recent CBS poll indicates that nearly 2/3 of Americans support ending the war in Afghanistan within the next two years. Sixty-two percent said troop levels should be decreased immediately. 38 percent want large numbers to return from Afghanistan within a year; 24 percent said they'd be willing to have troops there for one to two more years; ten percent said they'd accept two to five more years; 18 percent said they'd be willing to have troops there "as long as it takes." Thus, 62% want US troops out in no less than two years. Only one in three Americans think that fighting in Afghanistan is the right thing for the United States to do.
By David Lindorff Sr.
"We Are Many" shows how mobilization in 2003 set stage for Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street
Dec 8, 2011 - On Feb. 15, 2003, the planet experienced the greatest single non-military mobilization of humanity in the history of the world. People in 800 cities (and Antarctica) marched to voice their opposition as George Bush’s countdown clock ticked away the days toward the threatened U.S. invasion of Iraq. Estimates of the total numbers of protesters vary widely but it seems plausible that 15 million took to the streets.
Bi-partisan letter to Obama: No military solution in Afghanistan, bring troops home
Washington, D.C.– Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) were joined by 40 Members of the House of Representatives in sending a letter to President Obama urging him to speed up the return of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“We are calling on President Obama to recognize that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, and the longer we keep our troops there the longer we delay the progress of an Afghan-produced political solution,” said Congresswoman Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force.
By John Grant
Following a decade of military invasion and occupation in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, the United States is becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of empires: “We get no respect!”
The undisputed post-World War Two top dog in the world, on virtually every front the United States is more and more playing catch-up with two-faced, Clintonian shuttle diplomacy around the world and a well-entrenched regime of secrecy and sophisticated public relations aimed at keeping the dismal story of decline out of the domestic mind-space.