You are hereAfghanistan
By Kathy Kelly
Kabul—Last week, here in Kabul, the Afghan Peace Volunteers welcomed activist Carmen Trotta, from New York, who has lived in close community with impoverished people in his city for the past 25 years, serving meals, sharing housing, and offering hospitality to the best of his ability. Put simply and in its own words, his community, founded by Dorothy Day, exists to practice “the works of mercy” and to “end the works of war.” We wanted to hear Carmen’s first impressions of traveling the streets of Kabul on his way from the airport to the working class neighborhood where he’ll be staying as the APVs’ welcome guest.
He said it was the first time he’d seen the streets of any city so crowded with people who have no work.
Carmen had noticed men sitting in wheelbarrows, on curb sides, and along sidewalks, unemployed, some of them waiting for a day labor opportunity that might or might not come. Dr. Hakim, the APV’s mentor, quoted Carmen the relevant statistics: the CIA World Fact Book uses research from 2008 to put Afghanistan’s unemployment rate at 35% - just under the figure of 36% of Afghans living beneath the poverty level. That’s the CIA’s unemployment figure - Catherine James, writing in The Asian Reviewthis past March, noted that “the Afghan Chamber of Commerce puts it at 40%, the World Bank measures it at 56% and Afghanistan’s labor leaders put it at a shocking 86%.”
Overall statistics for Afghanistan are grim. A recent article in the UK’s Independent reported that one million children under five are acutely malnourished, 54 per cent of girls do not go to school and war has displaced 630,000 Afghans within their own country. Relentlessly, the fighting continues. Now, on average, 40 children are maimed or killed in fighting every week.
Rustom Ali, a cobbler – a shoemaker, born here in Kabul – visited with me the day after Carmen’s arrival, and explained more about employment in his city, and the prospects for Afghans surviving this latest decade out of a near-half-century of near-constant foreign invasion. He had to find time out of a 12 hour workday to meet with me.
Rustom mends shoes, or waits for shoes to mend, 7 days a week, from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., at the roadside. His “shop” consists of a box containing equipment and a primitive, portable overhead shelter. He sits on a ledge, under the blazing sun, (or in freezing cold during Afghanistan’s harsh winter).
Each day he earns about 250 Afghanis, equivalent to roughly four and a half dollars in U.S. money. Dependent on him for food and shelter are his wife Fatima, his daughter Narghis (age 7), and five-year-old Mehdi, his son; Rustom’s father also lives with them and has no work. Each day, the price of bread to feed the family is 100 Afghanis ($1.76). Beyond supplying bread, rice, beans and oil, he must also pay for rent and gas. He will never be able to save money at this rate, despite his fierce yearning for a better future for his two children.
Twenty years ago, Rustom had hoped for a far different life for himself. He had travelled to Iran and, although Iranians generally discriminated against Afghans, he was able to go to school, where he was an excellent student, always working part time as a cobbler. He enjoyed sports, and also liked learning English in his spare time. He showed me two notebooks he had begun then, filled with details about his family history and reflections about his life.
One day, when he was 18 years old and still living in Iran, a car carrying flowers to a wedding hit him as he crossed an intersection, catapulting him into the air. He landed on his head. After 48 days in hospital and then three more months spent recovering at home, he was finally able to walk and speak again. His speech and memory are still affected by the accident.
Rustom hired a lawyer, hoping a judge would compel the driver who caused the accident to pay some reparations. But the driver was a native to Iran and Rustom was an Afghan. “I endured great pain and permanent brain damage because of the accident,” he said, “But being treated as though I wasn’t a human being,” – the reaction of the Iranian court – “it was more painful. Every day I could see this kind of discrimination against Afghans in Iran.” And so he took his chances and returned to Kabul.
When I asked Rustom about his greatest hopes for his own children, he said that he and his wife teach them, every day, never to discriminate against others the way he was discriminated against in Iran. He had been sorely hurt when the courts there refused to see him, a foreigner, as a human being.
Abdulhai, an Afghan Peace Volunteer, translated between me and Rustom, having developed a friendship with Rustom since they first sat and talked several months ago. Abdulhai had confessed to Rustom that he was struggling with loneliness and sadness. Rustom offered comfort and encouragement. He has great hopes for Abdulhai, who has, in his view, a future much brighter than so many here, given his enrolment in school and his interest in learning new skills. Rustom said that after four years sitting daily in the same place waiting to repair shoes, Abdulhai was the first person to engage him in a genuine conversation.
Dehumanization is central to war. Rustom Ali’s and Abdulhai’s friendship defies dehumanizing forces in their impoverished society, so battered by war makers ‘predatory ventures.
This morning, Carmen and Faiz, another APV member, took a long, early morning walk through a main street in the neighbourhood where we live. By now, Carmen is recognizing faces and names. He knows the bakers who’ve stopped their work to share a cup of tea with him. Sayyaf, who lost both legs during civil war in Kabul and survives by selling glasses and mousetraps from a somewhat ramshackle cart, waved to Carmen with a broad smile and offered him a cup of tea.
As the U.S. cobbles together justifications for its ongoing, foolhardy war in Afghanistan, glimmers of hope persist in small communities like Carmen’s in New York and the APVs in Kabul. They agitate against war. They believe that doing the works of mercy helps us set aside the works of war. And, they’re renewed, consistently, by solidarity with others longing to form humane relations and, as Carmen’s community puts it, “build a new world within the shell of the old.”
Photo credit: Abdulhai Safarali
I was not sure I would like a book called Worth Fighting For by a former soldier who walked across the United States to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation. The website of that foundation celebrates military "service" and the "higher calling" for which Tillman left professional football, namely participation in the U.S. war on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. Rather than funding efforts to put an end to war, as Tillman actually might have wished by the end of his life, the foundation hypes war participation, funds veterans, and to this day presents Tillman's death thusly:
"On the evening of April 22, 2004, Pat's unit was ambushed as it traveled through the rugged, canyon terrain of eastern Afghanistan. His heroic efforts to provide cover for fellow soldiers as they escaped from the canyon led to his untimely and tragic death via fratricide."
Those heroic efforts happened, if they happened, in the context of an illegal and immoral operation that had Tillman defending foreign invaders from Afghans defending their homes. And the last two words above ("via fratricide") tell a different story from the rest of the paragraph, page, and entire website of the Pat Tillman Foundation. Tillman was shot by U.S. troops. And he may not have died a thorough-going supporter of what he was engaged in. On September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had become critical of the Iraq war and had scheduled a meeting with the prominent war critic Noam Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, all information that Tillman's mother and Chomsky later confirmed. Tillman couldn't confirm it because he had died in Afghanistan in 2004 from three bullets to the forehead.
Rory Fanning's book -- Worth Fighting For -- relates, however, that Tillman looked forward to getting out of the military and sympathized with the actions of Fanning, a member of his battalion who became a conscientious objector and refused to fight. According to Fanning, Tillman "knew his very public circumstances forced him to stick it out."
That's obviously a different use of the word "forced" from "gravity forced the weight to drop" or "the missile striking the house forced the people inside to split apart into fragments of flesh and gore." Imagine the benefits to the cause of peace if the one troop who had a name, face, and voice had shattered the bullshit choruses of "Support the Troops!" by doing what Fanning did, and thus living to tell the tale? Instead Tillman stuck it out and left many believing that military propagandists had either become quite fortunate or something worse, when Tillman did not live to quite possibly oppose -- better late than never -- what he had been doing.
When I worked with a number of talented people to draft articles of impeachment for George W. Bush that were introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, they included this:
"The White House and the Department of Defense (DOD) in 2004 promoted a false account of the death of Specialist Pat Tillman, reporting that he had died in a hostile exchange, delaying release of the information that he had died from friendly fire, shot in the forehead three times in a manner that led investigating doctors to believe he had been shot at close range.
"A 2005 report by Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones reported that in the days immediately following Specialist Tillman's death, U.S. Army investigators were aware that Specialist Tillman was killed by friendly fire, shot three times to the head, and that senior Army commanders, including Gen. John Abizaid, knew of this fact within days of the shooting but nevertheless approved the awarding of the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion.
"On April 24, 2007, Spc. Bryan O'Neal, the last soldier to see Specialist Pat Tillman alive, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he was warned by superiors not to divulge information that a fellow soldier killed Specialist Tillman, especially to the Tillman family. The White House refused to provide requested documents to the committee, citing 'executive branch confidentiality interests.'"
What made Pat Tillman a particular hero to many in the United States was that he had given up huge amounts of money to go to war. That he had passed up the evil of hoarding wealth in order to engage in something even more evil does not register with supporters of war. And had the U.S. Army not killed him, and had he not subsequently killed himself (the leading cause of U.S. military deaths now being suicide), Tillman might have lengthened his life by leaving the NFL, which abandons its players to an average lifespan in their 50s and in some cases dementia in their 40s -- an issue that arises in Fanning's book as he meets with former NFL greats to raise money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.
Tillman was, by all accounts, kind, humble, intelligent, courageous, and well-intentioned. He clearly inspired many, many people whom he met, and whom he never met, to be better people. Fanning would, I think, include himself in that list. But when Fanning decided to walk across the country raising funds, and finding support and shelter for himself along the way, in the name of Pat Tillman, he was playing on the beliefs of a propagandized public, beliefs that he himself had ceased to fully share. A sheriff, in a typical example, takes Fanning's empty water bottles, drives 12 miles to refill them, and hands them back to Fanning with tears in his eyes, saying, "What Pat did for our country is one of the bravest, most admirable things I can remember anyone doing. Take this for your cause." And he handed Fanning $100.
Was generating hatred and resentment in Afghanistan by killing helpless people a service to the United States? Was the environmental destruction and economic cost and eroded civil liberties a benefit to us all? In the minds of the people whom the Pat Tillman Foundation is still trying to milk for funding, perhaps so. Such a foundation not only saves the government from providing for veterans (or anyone else) while investing more in weaponry, but it also generates public support for and identification with supposed military heroism. It's a double-victory for the makers of war in Washington, most of whom are far more misguided than Pat Tillman ever was, but most of whom are more remarkable for cowardice than bravery.
As I say, I wasn't 100% sure I would like Fanning's book. I believe things are worth working for, struggling for, suffering for, and dying for, but not fighting for. What could he mean? I was very pleasantly surprised, and recommend the book enthusiastically. It recounts an adventure worth having that contained no fighting at all. It's a tale told with wisdom, erudition, kindness, humor, humility, and generosity of which I think Tillman might have been proud.
Like the guy in that Craig's List movie, Fanning finds people going out of their way to help him as he very publicly walks across the country, doing interviews along the way, speaking at events, and chronicling his progress on a website (now gone). This does not, of course, prove that anyone without a public cause or celebrity label, or anyone of any race or sex or appearance, could safely and successfully find the same sort of selfless support from so many Americans. It is heartening and encouraging, nonetheless, to read. And these accounts come interspersed with descriptions and historical background on the places Fanning walks through that suggest he has a future as a travel writer if he wants it. Intermingled as well quite seamlessly is an account of how Fanning himself moved from being "a devout Christian to an atheist and from a conservative Republican to a socialist." He later adds that he ceased opposing environmentalists and became one. As this world needs such transformations on a large scale, a smart account by someone who's been through one has great value.
One aspect of Fanning's own drama that sheds light on the notion that Tillman was "forced" to "support the troops" even while being one (that is, support a war he may have disagreed with), is the description of how hard it was for Fanning to turn against the military (a process that may perhaps remain incomplete for him even now). Fanning had joined after 9-11 for similar reasons to Tillman, believing it his duty. He then found he "did not have it in him" to kill. And he saw the injustice and absurdity of capturing people falsely ratted out by rivals to an ignorant foreign occupier eager to punish (and torture) anyone it could. He came to see himself as an imperialist pawn rather than a rescuer on a mission for humanity. When he refused to go along to get along, he was ostracized and abused by everyone around him except Pat Tillman and his brother Kevin Tillman. Despite his refusal to fight, Fanning was sent to Afghanistan again, made to do chores, labeled "bitch" by his commander, and forced to sleep outside alone in the snow. And Fanning supported his own abuse, attempting to make himself ill, afraid of the shame of his own behavior rather than wishing to expose the shame of the evil behavior of those around him.
Fanning recounts a conversation with a military chaplain. Fanning made the case that the whole war was unjust. The chaplain made the case that God wanted him to do it anyway. The loser in that contest was apparently Fanning's use for the concept of "God."
But Fanning's struggle continued within himself even after getting home and getting out. "After I left the military," he writes, "the hardest thing I had to do was look someone in the eyes. I was afraid I would be exposed for breaking my oath." Not for having been part of an operation of mass-murder, but for having abandoned it. That's how Fanning thought even after getting out, so one can imagine how Tillman thought while still in -- and while in with a world telling him he was a god himself for being there. Fanning sees the contradiction. "I knew U.S. imperialism was destroying the planet," he writes, "but I still felt guilty for leaving."
Through Fanning's walk he gives talks that avoid mentioning what he (and perhaps Tillman) actually thought, until -- three-quarters of the way along -- a boy asks him which branch of the military to join, and he answers "I don't think you should join any of them." He then gives the $100 from the sheriff to a homeless man under an overpass.
Kill Team is not just a video game anymore, not just the inevitable pairing of two of the most popular words in American English. "Kill Team" is now a movie, and against the odds it's not a celebration of killing, but a particular take on an actual series of events made widely known by Rolling Stone.
U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan developed the practice of killing civilians for sport, placing weapons beside the bodies or otherwise pretending to have been attacked, keeping body parts as trophies, and celebrating their "kills" in photographs with the corpses.
For months, according to Rolling Stone, the whole platoon knew what was going on. Officers dismissed complaints from the relatives of victims, accepted completely implausible accounts, and failed to help victims who might still be alive (instead ordering a soldier to "Make sure he's dead.")
A key instigator, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, arrived in Afghanistan recounting a successful murder of a family in Iraq and bearing tattoos recording his kills. "Get me a kill" soldiers asked who wanted to participate in the kill team. Killers were treated as heroes, and the widespread understanding that they were killing civilians who'd never threatened them didn't seem to damage that treatment.
"Drop-weapon" has been a common term among vets returning to the United States from Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade, referring to a weapon used to frame a victim. "We're just the ones who got caught," says Pfc. Justin Stoner in the film. He also raises an important question that the film does not seriously pursue, remarking: "We're training you from the day you join to the day you're out to kill. Your job is to kill. You're infantry. Your job is to kill everything that gets in your way. Well, then why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?"
Eleven soldiers have been convicted of crimes as part of the kill team, including Gibbs who has been sentenced to life in prison. Why were these kills crimes and others not, wonders Stoner. It's a question worthy of consideration. The cover stories for the kills, including claims that people made some threatening movement, don't seem enough to justify these murders even if they had been true. What were the soldiers doing in these people's villages to begin with?
That's the question the movie opens with the soldiers asking themselves. They'd been trained for exciting combat and then sent to Afghanistan to be bored, hungry for action, eager to test out their training. This is a point often missed by those who advocate turning the U.S. military into a force for good, an emergency rescue squad for natural disasters, or a humanitarian aid operation. You would have to train and equip people for those jobs first. These young men were trained to kill, armed to kill, prepped to kill, and left to kick sand around.
They began premeditating the worst sort of premeditated murder. They openly recount their conversations in the film. They had weapons to drop, grenades that weren't "tracked," they'd pretend someone had a grenade and kill him. Who? Anyone. They saw everyone as fair game.
And they did as planned. And they were welcomed back to the "FOB" as heroes. And they did it again. And again.
The film does not tell the whole story. It focuses on Spc. Adam Winfield, his parents, and his court proceedings back in the United States. Winfield told his father on a Facebook chat, early on, what was happening. Winfield was afraid to talk to anyone in his chain of command, and in fact the mere possibility that he might resulted in death threats to him. His father, however, tried every way he could to get anyone in the U.S. Army to listen. No one would.
And then Winfield was present for another set-up and murder. He says he fired his gun away from the victim. He says that if he had shot the two U.S. soldiers, Gibbs and Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, the Army would have shown him "no mercy."
Then Stoner (was it his name that tipped the balance?) turned in Gibbs and others for smoking hash in his room. So they beat him and threatened to kill him. Then he told about the body parts being passed around. The Army locked up Gibbs and Morlock. Stoner was labeled a whistleblower, which he says is worse than a murderer. If he had the chance again, he says, he would say nothing.
Winfield found he could breathe, after months of fearing murder from his own "side."
And then Winfield was, himself, charged with first-degree murder. We see his horror. We see his parents' heartbreak. We go back to see his childhood. He read history books about American war heroes, his dad says. The possibility of changing those books is not explicitly raised. He ends up with a plea bargain and a sentence of three years in prison, for supposedly having done nothing to stop a murder. At one point he's offered the option of pleading guilty to "cowardice," despite every other member of his unit and chain of command right up to the President having outdone him in that regard.
"War is dirty," says Winfield. "It's not how they portray it in movies." It is, however, more or less, from a certain angle, how they've portrayed it in this movie, which ought to be shown in U.S. schools as a warning.
But not by itself. This movie does not give us the stories of the murder victims and their families. Imagine the power of a movie that included what this one does plus that! The opportunity is repeatedly and intentionally lost by Western film makers over and over again. Nor does the film give us the stories of the victims and families of supposedly legitimate murders. Imagine the drama of trying to distinguish the suffering of those killed fighting a foreign occupation from the suffering of those killed not fighting a foreign occupation, and the power of the inevitable failure of that effort! Imagine a movie that accurately conveyed the immense scale of the killing in these one-sided slaughters of the poor by the most technologically advanced killing machine ever devised!
From the angle that this film takes, however, critical questions are thrust upon us, including: Why imprison the killers? Will it deter others? Will atrocity-free-war finally be created before we've destroyed the earth as a habitable place? Would it not be easier to shut down the military and end the wars? The deterrence I'm most interested in is that of people like Winfield's parents who allowed him to join the military before he was 18, to demonstrate their confidence in him. I think this movie might deter some parents from making that same choice.
On the 8th of July 2014, during the fasting month of Ramadan, the Israeli government began yet another military offensive on the people of Gaza. By the 4th day, they had already killed 105 Palestinians, including at least 23 children.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers went out onto the streets of Kabul just before it was time to break their fast. They shared dates with the people in the streets, in solidarity with the Palestinians and the Israelis being killed by the bombs and rockets dropped and fired by their governments.
By sharing food, we resist war
No to War in Gaza and Afghanistan!
Share food, resist war.
We’re not only disgusted
by man-made bombs,
we’re angry at the governments
that drop them.
not of their physical destructiveness,
but of their depravity,
We’ve lost our children
& loved ones
Amidst the explosions
of our souls,
our mothers still
keep the wits around
our crying homes,
just so to feed us
after the fast.
That’s our resistance to their
that while they kill,
they can never stop us
from sharing our food.
They are the ones
with no clothes,
only futile weapons
their ceremonial crowns,
oblivious to the awakening giant
They are blind to the better world
in which their Power
and ‘haram’ money
are being frowned upon
in the streets,
and in our bread.
Share food, resist war
No! to war in Gaza and Afghanistan.
By Dr Hakim
Afghanistan Analysts Network reported on 9th July that “he ( Abdullah Abdullah ) told the crowd that he had received phone calls from both US President Barack Obama and State Secretary John Kerry and had been told that Kerry would make a stop-over in Kabul on Friday. It was clear he wanted see what could come of that.”
Abdullah Abdullah’s phone call with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry who arrived in Kabul today, shows that it is the U.S. government, and not Afghans, who run this country.
This is Amerikistan, not Afghanistan.
Even U.S. Senator Carl Levin has chipped in with his suggestion for this land which is about 10,864 kilometres away from America’s eastern shores.
I’m academically puzzled at why both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, who will speak with John Kerry today, have such confidence in promising to promptly sign the U.S. Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement should they win the Afghan Presidential elections when the Obama administration’s policies in the Middle East and in this part of the world are far from effective, and largely war-like.
As they make their deals with the White House in Kabul, President Obama has been ordering U.S. military advisors and troops into fragmenting Iraq and has okayed Israel’s new and continued offensive in Gaza, not policies that are entirely friendly to Muslims who are keeping their fast in those war-torn places.
If anything, Gandhi’s non-violent call to ‘Quit India’ needs to be made --- let John Kerry be warmly welcomed according to genuine Afghan hospitality, but also be respectfully asked to ‘Quit Afghanistan’!
U.S taxpayer money should be used to address the basic human needs of more than 40 million Americans living below the poverty line in the wealthiest country in the world, and not to finance what Abdullah Abdullah himself calls ‘industrial-scale’ fraud in the Afghan elections, and what former British Afghan envoy to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles called ‘the utter, unanswerable folly of Britain’s military intervention’ in Afghanistan.
Outgoing President Karzai’s cynicism about U.S. foreign policy is not inappropriate at this time of escalating militarism. Such doubtful questioning is human, healthy, and perhaps even critical.
It could be an important peaceful demand for fresh participatory democracy, and not tiring warocracy.
Dr Hakim is a medical doctor who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 9 years. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.
GUEST: David Swanson, author, activist, and blogger. His books includes Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union and War is a Lie and When the World Outlawed War. Follow him on Twitter.
TOPIC: David reacts to the news that Bowe Bergdahl has been released— and that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue.
ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Friday, June 6, 2014.
by Debra Sweet Anand Gopal has written a fascinating book after learning Pashto and living in Afghanistan for 5 years. No Good Men Among the Living, through the stories of 3 Afghans, tells the tale of how the US quickly defeated the Taliban in 2001, and then so oppressed, alienated, and night-raided the population, that they revived the Taliban, and created thousands of indidigenous operators becoming enriched by US contracts.
By John Grant
When lo! An angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, . . .
SEE THE SCHEDULE HERE
Summer Solstice Global Days of Listening
The Afghan Peace Volunteers have been rethinking . . . recommitting.
Talk & listen with them on Saturday June 21 - Request a time, here.
Kabul: 5:30 - 10 pm / England: 2:00 - 6:30 pm
US - Eastern 9 am - 1:30 pm, Pacific 6 - 10:30 am
They hope borders are not seen as a line to separate people,
but a place where we find our neighbors, our friends.
LISTEN TO THE LIVE CONVERSATION
Follow the Afghan Peace Volunteers at their website:
Our Journey to Smile
See and promote the Blue Scarf Campaign
love is how we will ask for peace,
for more information: globaldaysoflistening@gmail.
On ThisCantBeHappening! radio: Dave Lindorff and Vietnam Vet and Long-Time Peace Activist John Grant Discuss the Bowe Bergdahl
By Dave Lindorff
Bowe Bergdahl, the POW held for five years by the Taliban in Afghanistan who was recently traded for the release of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, has been convicted in the halls of Congress and in most of the media as a deserter -- even a traitor or a Taliban convert -- all without any trial or even any evidence. John Grant, a veteran of the Vietmam War, where desertions were common, says it's an old story: As America's losing wars wind down, those who advocated the in the first place and pushed for their continuation try to create a "stabbed in the back" narrative to explain the humiliating defeat of US military forces.
In 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan. The invasion was purported to be a response to the Taliban’s refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States, but probably had a lot more to do with enabling the construction of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan. Today, thirteen years later, U.S. soldiers continue to fight there.
Two years later, the U.S, the most powerful country in the world, unleashed its terrorism on Iraq, due, it was said, to the dubious then and later unproven charge that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was moments away from using them to destroy the American way of life (whatever that is). It wasn’t until 2011 that something that President Barack Obama and his minions decided to call ‘victory’ was sufficient to withdraw U.S. troops.
Sherif Samir, writing from Egypt
Thoughts behind the voting curtain…
Democracy is not the aim. The aim is justice, dignity, and development. Democracy is the way to it, and it's not the perfect way, but it's the best way so far. According to Rousseau, representative democracy is not a democracy at all, and even that democracy is so hard for us to reach to in Egypt.
As in Afghanistan and other parts of the third world, people must cross many obstacles before experiencing democracy. First, they must believe that politics controls the food on their tables, the education for their children, clothes, traffic, and everything else. Second, people must know that democracy is not infidelity, and that we can't go back in time and practice to the Muslim medieval regime (Khalifa), as fanatical Muslims always urge. Third, people have to know that democracy is not just an election, not just voting papers and transparent boxes. It is that and everything before and after it. It should be a free choice of a freely educated generation. It should be a choice of peace, not war, a choice of enlightenment, not ignorance, of progress, not poverty, of science, not myth, a choice of a people's representative, and not just of the lesser of two evils.
But this is not what we are having now in our countries. So, when I make my mark on the voting paper, place it in the box, put my finger in the phosphoric ink, smile at the camera and share the photo on Facebook, I won't be expecting any good change out of it, because it's a fake fruit of a fake tree.
“My dear voter, the multiple choice question you are answering now was written by me,” said the imperialist.
Dr Hakim, writing from Afghanistan
“In our history school text books, we are taught that ruthless conquerors were heroes,” offered 17 year old Najibullah, as a reason for the personification of warriors as strong leaders.
It is worrying that Afghans, like supporters of the National Rifle Association in the U.S., have unknowingly normalized the possession and use of weapons. Many Afghan parents are getting toy guns as gifts for their children, even for their daughters, on the Afghan New Year.
Children with toy guns at graveyard on Afghan New Year
“For this uncertain situation in Afghanistan, we need a good dictator,” says Murtaza, a law student at Kabul University.
Another young Afghan, Baqiatullah, says that people have to be pragmatic, so he has volunteered to campaign for one of the two Afghan Presidential candidates competing in the run-off elections on June 14th. “It’s the candidate that has more money, resources and connections that will win. Money buys votes. By the way, if you can get together some youth to form a soccer team, I’ll get you free T-shirts of Dr Abdullah Abdullah!”
In 2009, some youth and I had organized a half-day Peace Conference at Bamiyan University, and we were directed to a civil society group which turned out to be a vehicle for General Dostum’s outreach.
General Dostum is the vice-presidential candidate on Mr Ashraf Ghani’s team in this year’s election. After he had submitted his candidacy in October 2013, he had given a public apology, saying, “I would like to be the first person to say that we apologize to all who have suffered on both sides of the wars….”
I had arrived at the civil society group’s office on time, and was asked to wait for the ‘boss’ to come.
He came, a young upstart dressed in a suit and tie, appearing hurried and important. He sat behind a big mahogany desk, like a CEO of sorts, and began spouting the praises of General Dostum, who he claimed had ‘hundreds of thousands of supporters as far as Turkey’.
Then, a few young Hazaras came submissively into the office, and like indentured servants, they kneeled in front of the desk, none of them in shirt or tie, and all of them looking miserable but obedient.
I told the ‘boss’ about our Peace Conference, to which he replied crisply, “We’re very supportive of such wonderful peace efforts. If I’m too tied up with work, I will certainly send one of these members to the meeting.” With a wag of his chin, he gestured to the row of four subjects before his table.
I remember that while the ‘boss’ was boasting, one of the four Hazaras had quietly slipped out of the room, and later, came back with a pot of tea, which he poured for his ‘boss’.
His eyes had an unwilling glaze, his mind appeared to be elsewhere, but he was subserviently ‘loyal’. Did he choose to work like a slave?
No one from the group came to our Peace Conference.
While people know that perpetuating the unequal status quo dominated by a greedy and militarized elite is enslaving for the human spirit, a helpless feeling prevails that we can’t do much but vote once every four of five years.
Sherif Samir is an Egyptian writer and an Arabic teacher. He was the 2012 winner of the International Contest of Microfiction, awarded by Museo de la Palabra in Spain
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 9 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.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
DeSmogBlog has obtained emails via North Dakota's Open Records Statute revealing facts that could be interpreted as indicating that North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt broke State Investment Board ethics laws.
Photo Credit: Office of North Dakota State Treasurer; Obtained via ND Open Records Statute
A lead article on CNN today reads as follows: ‘Fellow soldiers call Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, not a hero.’
It seems that one is defining the term ‘hero’ in a rather odd way, if one can’t consider a deserter a hero. Let’s look first at what desertion from the U.S. military means, in terms of actions and possible consequences, and then more specifically at Mr. Bergdahl’s particular situation, or at least what is currently known of it.
By Dave Lindorff
The Real Villains of the Bergdahl Tale
June 3, 2014
Editor Note: The right-wing media is denouncing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as a “deserter” who wasn’t worth ransoming from the Taliban, but the real villains are the architects of the disastrous Iraq and Afghan wars who frivolously put the many Bergdahls in harm’s way.
By Ray McGovern
For me, the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl affair brings back angry memories of how, in 2009, President Barack Obama caved in to be-medaled and be-ribboned generals like David Petraeus and ordered a modified-limited-hangout-type “surge” of 33,000 troops into Afghanistan. Consequential cowardice at work – trading lives for political advantage – as bad as it gets.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt has responded to DeSmogBlog's investigation of the Bakken Shale basin fracking field trip her office facilitated for former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, who now works at the Manhattan-based private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).
No human being wants to be ruled by their people's murderers. Forgiveness through restorative justice may be possible, but being ruled by murderers is asking for too much.
Yet, that seems to be the Hobson's choice behind the Afghan presidential election, which is into its run-off between Dr. Abdullah / Mohaqiq's team and Dr. Ashraf Ghani / General Dostum's team, neither team having won more than 50% of balloted votes in the first round.
Both teams have members who are warlords accused of human rights abuses, as reported by the New York Times, including Dr. Abdullah Abdullah's running mate, Mohammed Mohaqiq, and General Dostum, who is Dr. Ashraf Ghani's vice-presidential candidate.
General Dostum, allegedly on the CIA's payroll in the past, apologized for his past war crimes when he registered as Dr. Ashraf Ghani's vice-presidential candidate. One of those crimes is the Dasht-e-Leili massacre which occurred in the fall of 2001. New York Times and Newsweek investigations alleged that hundreds or even thousands of surrendering pro-Taliban prisoners died of thirst, hunger and gunshots when they were stuffed into shipping containers for transport to an Afghan prison.
Both presidential hopefuls in the run-off elections on June 14th have already vowed to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which President Obama mentioned in his surprise visit to Bagram Air Base in Kabul, not even bothering to visit President Karzai who declined to visit him at Bagram.
Article 7 of the Bilateral Security Agreement, states that, "Afghanistan hereby authorizes United States forces to control entry to agreed facilities and areas that have been provided for United States forces' exclusive use…" and also that "Afghanistan shall provide all agreed facilities and areas without charge to United States forces."
Article 13 includes this: "Afghanistan ... agrees that the United States shall have the exclusive right to exercise jurisdiction over such persons in respect of any criminal or civil offenses committed in the territory of Afghanistan."
It is understandable that President Karzai isn't willing to sign the agreement. It may leave a disastrous legacy.
I asked an activist who has been working in Afghanistan for ten years what he thought about the run-off in Afghanistan's elections. "Many Afghans, and people all over the world, are getting more and more cynical about elections," he told me. "And they should be, because how did our psyche become conditioned to accept that by electing corrupt, selfish, proud, wealthy and violent elites every four or five years, our ordinary lives will be changed? Our planet is exasperatingly unequal and militarized. To place in power the ones who continue this status quo is bizarre."
Bizarre, yet disturbingly familiar.
USA Freedom Act has nothing to do with freedom: House-Passed Phone Surveillance ‘Reform’ Bill is an Obscene Joke
By Alfredo Lopez
It just wasn't a very good week for phones or for freedom.
By Dr Hakim
“Don’t you touch me!” declared Mi Ryang.
South Korean police were clamping down on a villager who was resisting the construction of a Korean/U.S. naval base at her village. Mi Ryang managed to turn the police away by taking off her blouse and, clad in her bra, walking toward them with her clear warning. Hands off! Mi Ryang is fondly referred to as “Gangjeong’s daughter” by villagers who highly regard her as the feisty descendant of legendary women sea divers. Her mother and grandmother were Haenyo divers who supported their families every day by diving for shellfish.
Since 2007, every day without fail, Mi Ryang has stood up to militarists destroying her land.
Mi Ryang, in white cap on the right, challenging a construction truck driver at the naval base gate
Mi Ryang, standing with Gangjeong Village Association members and Gangjeong’s mayor, outside the Jeju Courts, to refuse paying fines for protests against the U.S. naval base construction
In doing so, she confronts giants: the Korean military, Korean police authority, the U.S. military, and huge corporations, such as Samsung, allied with these armed forces.
Mi Ryang and her fellow protesters rely on love and on relationships which help them to continue seeking self-determination, freedom and dignity.
Jeju Island is the first place in the world to receive all three UNESCO natural science designations (Biosphere Reserve in 2002, World Natural Heritage in 2007 and Global Geopark in 2010). The military industrial complex, having no interest in securing the Island’s natural wonders, instead serves the U.S. government’s national interest in countering China’s rising economic influence.
The U.S. doesn’t want to be number two. The consequences of the U.S. government’s blueprint for ‘total spectrum dominance,’ globally, are violent, and frightening.
I recently attended a conference held at Jeju University, where young Korean men told participants about why they chose prison instead of enlisting for the two-year compulsory Korean military service. “I admire these conscientious objectors for their brave and responsible decisions,” I said, “and I confess that I’m worried. I fear that Jeju Island will become like Afghanistan, where I have worked as a humanitarian and social enterprise worker for the past 10 years.”
“Jeju Island will be a pawn harboring a U.S. naval base, just as Afghanistan will be a pad for at least nine U.S. military bases when the next Afghan President signs the U.S./Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement.”
When the Korean authorities collaborated with the U.S. military in 1947, at least 30,000 Jeju Islanders were massacred.
How many more ordinary people and soldiers will suffer, be utilized or be killed due to U.S. geopolitical interests to pivot against China?
As many as 20% of all tourists to Jeju Island are Chinese nationals. Clearly, ordinary Jeju citizens and ordinary Chinese can get along, just like ordinary Afghans and citizens from the U.S./NATO countries can get along. But when U.S. military bases are built outside the U.S., the next Osama Bin Ladens will have excuses to plan other September 11th s!
A few nights ago, I spoke with Dr Song, a Korean activist who used to swim every day to Gureombi Rock, a sacred, volcanic rock formation along Gangjeong’s coastline which was destroyed by the naval base construction. At one point, coast guard officials jailed him for trying to reach Gureombi by swimming. Dr. Song just returned from Okinawa, where he met with Japanese who have resisted the U.S. military base in Okinawa for decades.
The Okinawan and Korean activists understand the global challenge we face. The 99% must link to form a strong, united 99%. By acting together, we can build a better world, instead of burning out as tiny communities of change. The 1% is way too wealthy and well-resourced in an entrenched system to be stopped by any one village or group.
‘We are many, they are few’ applies more effectively when we stand together. Socially and emotionally, we need one another more than ever, as our existence is threatened by human-engineered climate change, nuclear annihilation and gross socioeconomic inequalities.
The governments of South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and even my home country Singapore, have dangerously partnered with the U.S. against China, in Obama’s Asia pivot, dividing human beings by using the threat of armed force, for profit.
The non-violent examples of the people of Gangjeong Village should lead people worldwide to make friendships, create conversations, build alternative education systems, promote communally beneficial, sustainable economies , and create peace parks where people can celebrate their art, music, and dancing. Visit Gangjeong Village and you’ll see how residents have created joyful ways to turn the Asia War Pivot into an Asia Peace Pivot, as you can watch in this video.
Alternatively, people can choose the “helpless bystander” role and become passive spectators as oppressive global militarism and corporate greed destroy us. People can stand still and watch destruction of beautiful coral reefs and marine life in Jeju, Australia and other seas; watch livelihoods, like those of Gangjeong and Gaza fishermen, disappear; and watch, mutely, as fellow human beings like Americans, Afghans, Syrians, Libyans, Egyptians, Palestinians. Israelis, Ukrainians, Nigerians, Malians, Mexicans, indigenous peoples and many others are killed.
The gorgeous Jeju Island coast at Gangjeong Village,
now being polluted and destroyed by the construction of a Korean/U.S. naval base
Or, we can be Like Mi Ryang. As free and equal human beings we can lay aside our individual concerns and lobbies to unite, cooperatively, making our struggles more attractive and less lonely. Together, we’re more than capable of persuading the world to seek genuine security and liberation.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers have begun playing their tiny part in promoting non-violence and serving fellow Afghans in Kabul. As they connect the dots of inequality, global warming and wars, they long to build relationships across all borders, under the same blue sky, in order to save themselves, the earth and humanity.
Gangjeong Village Mayor ( front row, second from left ), wearing the Borderfree Blue Scarf,
with Dr Hakim on his left. Mi Ryang is standing in the back row, third from the right
Through their Borderfree effort to build socioeconomic equality, take care of our blue planet, and abolish war, they wear their Borderfree Blue Scarvesand say, together with Mi Ryang and the resilient villagers of Gangjeong Village, “Don’t touch me!”
“Don’t touch us!”
Hakim, ( Dr. Teck Young, Wee ) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 9 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.
By Dave Lindorff
I was shocked to find myself in almost perfect agreement today with a recent column by the neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer.
Usually Krauthammer has me groaning, but yesterday his column nailed it.
- Fought to protect corporate America’s $50,000,000.00 investment in Cuba during the Spanish-American War;
- Died on foreign shores during World War I in what President Woodrow Wilson, who involved the U.S. in that war, later said “…in its inception, was a commercial and industrial war;”
- Sacrificed so much in World War II while U.S. companies, with U.S. government approval, continually supplied the Axis powers with goods that U.S. citizens had to ration, including materials used to help kill Allied soldiers;
- Suffered and died in Korea, to safeguard and ensure the expansion of U.S. trade throughout the region;
- Endured the hell of the Vietnam War to satisfy the egos of three presidents, and help ensure their elections and re-elections;
- Fought in the heat of the Iraqi and Kuwaiti deserts to protect Western oil sources;
We speak with Pat Alviso and Paula Rogovin of Military Families Speak Out about their campaign for Zero Troops in Afghanistan. See http://mfso.org
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!
Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
This goes deeper than the usual war lies.
We've had plenty of those. We weren't told the Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to a neutral nation to stand trial. We weren't told the Taliban was a reluctant tolerator of al Qaeda, and a completely distinct group. We weren't told the 911 attacks had also been planned in Germany and Maryland and various other places not marked for bombing. We weren't told that most of the people who would die in Afghanistan, many more than died on 911, not only didn't support 911 but never heard of it. We weren't told our government would kill large numbers of civilians, imprison people without trial, hang people by their feet and whip them until they were dead. We weren't told how this illegal war would advance the acceptability of illegal wars or how it would make the United States hated in much of the world. We weren't given the background of how the U.S. interfered in Afghanistan and provoked a Soviet invasion and armed resistance to the Soviets and left the people to the tender mercies of that armed resistance once the Soviets left. We weren't told that Tony Blair wanted Afghanistan first before he'd get the UK to help destroy Iraq. We certainly weren't told that bin Laden had been an ally of the U.S. government, that the 911 hijackers were mostly Saudi, or that there might be anything at all amiss with the government of Saudi Arabia. And nobody mentioned the trillions of dollars we'd waste or the civil liberties we'd have to lose at home or the severe damage that would be inflicted on the natural environment. Even birds don't go to Afghanistan anymore.
OK. That's all sort of par-for-the-course, war-marketing bullshit. People who pay attention know all of that. People who don't want to know any of that are the last great hope of military recruiters everywhere. And don't let the past tense fool you. The White House is trying to keep the occupation of Afghanistan going for TEN MORE YEARS ("and beyond"), and articles have been popping up this week about sending U.S. troops back into Iraq. But there's something more.
I've just read an excellent new book by Anand Gopal calledNo Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes. Gopal has spent years in Afghanistan, learned local languages, interviewed people in depth, researched their stories, and produced a true-crime book more gripping, as well as more accurate, than anything Truman Capote came up with. Gopal's book is like a novel that interweaves the stories of a number of characters -- stories that occasionally overlap. It's the kind of book that makes me worry I'll spoil it if I say too much about the fate of the characters, so I'll be careful not to.
The characters include Americans, Afghans allied with the U.S. occupation, Afghans fighting the U.S. occupation, and men and women trying to survive -- including by shifting their loyalties toward whichever party seems least likely in that moment to imprison or kill them. What we discover from this is not just that enemies, too, are human beings. We discover that the same human beings switch from one category to another quite easily. The blunder of the U.S. occupation's de-Baathification policy in Iraq has been widely discussed. Throwing all the skilled and armed killers out of work turned out not to be the most brilliant move. But think about what motivated it: the idea that whoever had supported the evil regime was irredeemably evil (even though Ronald Reagan and Donald Rumsfeld had supported the evil regime too -- OK, bad example, but you see what I mean). In Afghanistan the same cartoonish thinking, the same falling for one's own propaganda, went on.
People in Afghanistan whose personal stories are recounted here sided with or against Pakistan, with or against the USSR, with or against the Taliban, with or against the U.S. and NATO, as the tides of fortune turned. Some tried to make a living at peaceful employment when that possibility seemed to open up, including early-on in the U.S. occupation. The Taliban was very swiftly destroyed in 2001 through a combination of overwhelming killing power and desertion. The U.S. then began hunting for anyone who had once been a member of the Taliban. But these included many of the people now leading the support of the U.S. regime -- and many such allied leaders were killed and captured despite not having been Taliban as well, through sheer stupidity and corruption. We've often heard how dangling $5000 rewards in front of poor people produced false-accusations that landed their rivals in Bagram or Guantanamo. But Gopal's book recounts how the removal of these often key figures devastated communities, and turned communities against the United States that had previously been inclined to support it. Add to this the vicious and insulting abuse of whole families, including women and children captured and harassed by U.S. troops, and the revival of the Taliban under the U.S. occupation begins to become clear. The lie we've been told to explain it is that the U.S. became distracted by Iraq. Gopal documents, however, that the Taliban revived precisely where U.S. troops were imposing a rule of violence and not where other internationals were negotiating compromises using, you know, words.
We find here a story of a bumbling oblivious and uncomprehending foreign occupation torturing and murdering a lot of its own strongest allies, shipping some of them off to Gitmo -- even shipping to Gitmo young boys whose only offense had been being the sexual assault victims of U.S. allies. The danger in this type of narrative that dives deep into the crushing Kafkan horror of rule by brute ignorant force is that a reader will think: Let's do the next war better. If occupations can't work, let's just blow shit up and leave. To which I respond: Yeah, how are things working out in Libya? The lesson for us to learn is not that wars are badly managed, but that human beings are not Good Guys or Bad Guys. And here's the hard part: That includes Russians.
Dr. Ramazan Bashardost, 2009 Afghan presidential candidate, scholar, and former Minister of Planning, is accepting donations for Afghan landslide victims. Dr. Bashardost's history of outspoken criticism of corruption from all sides in Afghanistan, and his integrity beyond reproach, has earned him the title 'most honest man in Afghanistan.' In an email to friends and supporters Dr. Bashardost has assured that 'every penny' of donations made to the designated account will reach the neediest victims directly.
"I have unconditional support for our brave men and women serving America overseas, as well as for their families. As our military commanders have said, we must remain steadfast in a clear strategy to defeat the insurgency and prevent Iraq from again becoming a safe-haven for international terrorists. I think that the withdrawal of our troops should be based on the conditions on the ground, not political agendas."
When WAS Iraq a safe-haven for international terrorists?
What American men and women (as opposed to weapons) are now "serving" in Iraq?
Does the Congressman have Iraq and Afghanistan confused?
And should a government that can't keep all of its wars straight still be fighting them?
And should it hide its decision to engage in these murderous expeditions behind pretended concern for the young people sent to do the killing?
April 25, 2014
Dear Mr. Swanson:
Thank you for your recent communication concerning the United States' current involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. I appreciate your taking the time to express your thoughts on this important matter. I am grateful for the privilege of representing you and serving as a voice for the citizens of Virginia's Fifth District.
I have unconditional support for our brave men and women serving America overseas, as well as for their families. As our military commanders have said, we must remain steadfast in a clear strategy to defeat the insurgency and prevent Iraq from again becoming a safe-haven for international terrorists. I think that the withdrawal of our troops should be based on the conditions on the ground, not political agendas. We must not embolden the terrorists who believe that free societies will cave under the pressure of their violent acts. My highest priority is to safeguard our homeland. Please be assured that I will continue to monitor the conditions on the ground and will keep your thoughts in mind as events in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to unfold.
I hope you will stay connected to our office with updates on the latest news, legislation, and other useful information, by signing up for our e-newsletter on our website, hurt.house.gov. Thank you again for your communication and please do not hesitate to contact our office with any future questions or comments.
Taking the low road to war: Washington and the Corporate Media are in Full Propaganda Mode on Ukraine
By Dave Lindorff
The lies, propaganda and rank hypocrisy emanating from Washington, and echoed by the US corporate media regarding events in Ukraine are stunning and would be laughable, but for the fact that they appear to be aimed at conditioning the US public for increasing confrontation with Russia – confrontation which could easily tip over the edge into direct military conflict, with consequences that are too dreadful to contemplate.
When someone dies of decidedly unnatural causes, two words come immediately to mind: “closure” and “accountability.” The idea is that by holding the perpetrators of a crime accountable, we can both provide a measure of closure for the family and friends of the deceased as well as limit the possibility of such a fate befalling our own loved ones too.