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Congresswoman Lee Leads Efforts to Bring Troops Home From Afghanistan Without Delay

Washington, D.C.—In light of the newly public draft security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan suggesting the possibility of an American troop presence in Afghanistan past 2014 and into 2024, a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Walter Jones, Jr. (R-NC), and Jim McGovern (D-MA), have sent a letter today to President Obama calling for a full withdrawal of U.S. troops and asserting Congress’ role in approving any further presence.

“This revelation is outrageous. The possibility of a military presence into 2024 is unacceptable. There is no military solution in Afghanistan. After 13 years and more than $778 billion invested in an unstable country and the corrupt Karzai government, it’s time to bring our troops and tax dollars home. The American people have had enough of the endless, open-ended war. It is time to focus on bringing our brave men and women in uniform home and transition to full Afghan control,” said Congresswoman Lee.

The letter reads, “While many of us would support removing all U.S. troops and military contractors out of Afghanistan with no permanent bases left behind by the end of 2014, we want to underscore that if any long-term commitment of U.S. troops beyond 2014 is made, it must have congressional authorization. The U.S. simply no longer has compelling security interests in Afghanistan that justifies the maintenance of troops beyond December 2014.”

Full text of the letter is below.

###

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

November 20, 2013

Dear Mr. President:

The war in Afghanistan has just entered its 13th year, and the need to bring our troops home could not be any more clear. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan suggested in a recent interview that he would be willing to see the permanent exit of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. President Karzai has also repeatedly stated that he sees no potential security benefit from an enduring U.S. security mission. Indeed at times President Karzai has claimed U.S. and NATO troops are the cause of insecurity in Afghanistan.

We believe that President Karzai’s comments raise serious doubts about the justification for a long-term military presence in Afghanistan. Lacking a supportive and viable political partner in Afghanistan, there simply is no military solution American troops can achieve, and extending U.S. troop presence will not serve vital U.S. security goals. Our men and women in uniform are immensely capable, but they cannot succeed with an openly hostile Afghan regime.

While many of us would support removing all U.S. troops and military contractors out of Afghanistan with no permanent bases left behind by the end of 2014, we want to underscore that if any long-term commitment of U.S. troops beyond 2014 is made, it must have congressional authorization. The U.S. simply no longer has compelling security interests in Afghanistan that justifies the maintenance of troops beyond December 2014. Furthermore, as coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan, U.S.-funded reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars will soon be inaccessible for safe inspection, raising serious questions about our responsibility to conduct vigorous oversight of taxpayer supported efforts.

There is a growing bipartisan sentiment in Congress and across the country for an expedited end of military activities in Afghanistan. After twelve years of war, thousands of lives lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, it is time to bring an end to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

 

Sincerely,

 

______________________ ______________________ ______________________

BARBARA LEE WALTER JONES JAMES P. MCGOVERN

Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress

Enlightenment

By Kathy Kelly

I’ve been a guest in Colorado Springs, Colorado, following a weeklong retreat with Colorado College students who are part of a course focused on nonviolence. In last weekend’s Colorado Springs Gazette, there was an article in the Military Life section about an international skype phone call between U.S. soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan and sixth grade girls at a private school in Maryland.  (“Carson Soldiers Chat With Friends” November 17, 2013 F4)

Soldiers from Fort Carson’s Company C Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division had been receiving care packages and hand-written letters from sixth grade girls at a private school in Brooklandville, MD.  The project led to a late October video chat session which allowed the soldiers and students to converse.

I read in the article that one of the U.S. soldiers in Kandahar assured the girls in Maryland that girls in Afghanistan now have better access to education than they did before the U.S. troops arrived.  He also mentioned that women have more rights than before.

On November 21st, I’ll participate in a somewhat similar skype call, focused not on soldiers in Afghanistan but on the voices of young Afghans.  On the 21st of every month, through Global Days of Listening, several friends in the U.S. arrange a call between youngsters in Afghanistan and concerned people calling or simply listening in from countries around the world. I long to hear the optimism expressed by the Fort Carson soldier reflected in the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ words.  But our young friends in Afghanistan express regret that their families struggle so hard, facing bleak futures in a country racked and ruined by war. 

According to Ann Jones, who has reported from Afghanistan since 2002, UNICEF’s 2012 report states that “almost half the “schools” supposedly built or opened in Afghanistan have no actual buildings, and in those that do, students double up on seats and share antiquated texts. Teachers are scarce and fewer than a quarter of those now teaching are considered “qualified,” even by Afghanistan’s minimal standards.  Impressive school enrollment figures determine how much money a school gets from the government, but don’t reveal the much smaller numbers of enrollees who actually attend. No more than 10% of students, mostly boys, finish high school. In 2012, according to UNICEF, only half of school-age children went to school at all. In Afghanistan, a typical 14-year-old Afghan girl has already been forced to leave formal education and is at acute risk of mandated marriage and early motherhood. A full 76 percent of her countrywomen have never attended school. Only 12.6 percent can read.” 

As for conditions among women in the area where the Fort Carson infantry are stationed, it’s worth noting that Kandahar is one of several southern provinces in Afghanistan where the UN reported, in September, 2012, that one million children suffer acute malnourishment.

Looking beyond southern Afghanistan, where the Fort Carson soldiers are based, the grim statistics persist. As of March 31, 2013, a total of 534,006 people were recorded by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) as internally displaced by conflict in Afghanistan. Increasing numbers of IDPs are moving to cities and towns, where they are co-settling with non-displaced urban poor, poor rural-urban internal migrants, and returning refugees. In Kabul there are 55 such informal settlements, housing about 31,000 individuals, and conditions are dire – especially with respect to shelter, access to water, hygiene and sanitation. I’ve personally visited some of these squalid, desperate camps, in Kabul, - one of the largest is directly across from a U.S. military base. 

Outside Kabul and a few other major cities, almost no-one in Afghanistan even has electricity. (The World Bank estimates that 30% of the population has access to grid-based electricity.) Only 27% of Afghans have access to safe drinking water and 5% to adequate sanitation.

Photo: Gul Jumma, originally from Helmand, who fled from the war there after her father was killed in a NATO air raid. She goes to a  tent-school run by Aschiana in an IDP camp in Kabul.

Recently, I studied the U.S. SIGAR (Special Inspector General on Afghanistan Reconstruction) report and puzzled over a chart which showed that even though U.S. non-military expenditures there approach 100 billion dollars spent since 2001, only 3 billion has been spent on humanitarian projects.  And the military expenditures far outstrip these logistics expenses. The U.S. is now spending 2.1 million dollars per soldier, per year as part of expenses incurred by the drawdown of U.S. troops, while the Department of Defense maintains 107,796 security contractors, with the state department and USAID hiring several thousand more. The Pentagon’s request for operations in Afghanistan in 2013 is $85.6 billion, or $1.6 billion per week.

In Afghanistan, prospects may be looking up for U.S. corporate control of crucial oil pipelines in the region; for early military encirclement of anticipated superpower rival China; and for unrivalled access to some 1 trillion dollars’ worth of copper, gold and iron ore, and perhaps 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements vital to Western industry, all of it awaiting extraction from the earth beneath Afghans’ feet.

While mainstream media in U.S. locales with a strong military presence may suggest that the U.S. has convincingly promised enlightenment for Afghan people, regarding women’s rights and girls education, many Afghans wonder how they will fare caught between Western nations ruling the skies above their heads and the mineral resources which those nations are so uncontestably eager to bring out of darkness and into the light.  Do they have a resource curse, they wonder, as other countries will want to avail themselves of these resources and jockey for control.  Why is the U.S. so intent on maintaining security in Afghanistan?  Whose interests do they want to secure? 

I think it’s important to establish skype connections between people living in the U.S. and people who are in Afghanistan. Toward that purpose, I want to encourage people in Colorado Springs and beyond to search for hope and security by listening to young people in Afghanistan tell about their experiences longing for a better world, a world wherein women and children can survive hunger, disease, pollution and illiteracy.   Please visit the Afghan Peace Volunteers at ourjourneytosmile.com and/or listen to their international call on November 21st.

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org).  While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, www.ourjourneytosmile.com

Afghan Tree Project

The Peace Poets Write from Kabul, Part 2

Mousab’s Exhibition 

Late at night, I sit alone in the office of The Afghan Peace Volunteer’s house in Kabul. The mountain cold wrapped itself around me. I finally got the Internet to work and found a message from Rashad, a good friend of mine in Sudan. I feel all the muscles in my chest tighten. Rashad wrote that in the protests in the streets of Khartoum our dear friend Mousaab had been shot and murdered by the police. I froze. Below his words is a picture of Mousaab bathed in his own blood in the back of a pickup truck. I stared at the picture and heard Mousab’s voice. I closed my eyes but the tears kept flowing down my cheeks as I saw the image of Mousab sitting next to Eddy in the Circle of Peace we built together in Khartoum. My memories transported me back to the some of the most truly human sessions, unforgettable moments with Unity House, our poetry family. I see Mousab showing me what he was drawing while everyone else was writing poems. His smile. The picture of him shot through the back bleeding uncontrollably. I was sobbing. I can’t remember crying like that for years. The tears just kept coming.

They seemed to pour out in protest of this injustice, out of love for this young brave artist brother, the tears poured out in rage against the Sudanese dictatorship and the authorities willing to murder their neighbors. I could barely breathe but felt I didn’t have a choice, my mind was rushing and I just let the tears flow out for his fellow painters and beloved friends- for Eddy and Muni’im, for Enas and Amani and everyone in Unity House who I know is hurting so much right now. 

Finally, the tears stop. I sit still alone in another warzone thousands of miles away from my friends in Sudan. I take a deep breadth. I remember ending every session of Unity House by saying together in one loud voice, “One Family” and then “We Are Together”. That one family always extended beyond the limits of our circle and even far beyond the borders of Sudan. Without a doubt it reaches here in Afghanistan where people are murdered everyday by any number of armed groups- the military, the NATO forces, the Taliban, the US forces and more are responsible for the deaths of young men like Mousaab. People who are acting peacefully and simply demanding dignity. As I reflect, I’m surprised by the sound of the door to the office opening because it’s the middle of the night. Abdulhai appears in the doorway and smiles. Even though I try to return the smile, he sees my tear soaked face and his expression turns immediately worried.

What happened? 

 -“My friend was murdered by the police in Sudan,” I told him. He cringed and tears welled up in his eyes. I was surprised he was so emotional. But soon I came to learn that he has lost loved ones in his country’s war. His father had been murdered years before. I’m sorry, he says. He put’s his hand on my shoulder and sits down next to me. Abdulahai stays there keeping me company while I write to my family from Unity House. With tears in our eyes for another fallen brother, our collective chant feels so real: We Are Together. With compassion, with commitment, with longing for justice and peace- we are together. And even though it was hurting me to not be physically present in Sudan with my people at this moment, I knew that they could feel the love I was sending them and that I had all of them right here with me in this cold night in Kabul.

I heard from Rashad again a few days later. Emanating from his words was the certainty that Moesia’s spirit was alive and with us. I could feel it too. Unity House had gathered together and decided that they would organize an exhibition of Mousab’s artwork. It was a dream he had always spoken of that his family was now going to make real. As I wrote these words, tears came again. But that must just be the presence of love, the power of our connection and fearlessness settling into my chest for the long hard struggle to make our dreams of come true- while we are still alive. 

While I do pray that our brother rest in peace, I also have the sense he is already inciting restlessness in me. Thank you Mousaab, I hope I can honor the courage and goodness and love you left within us.

The next morning I don’t say anything to the other community of young people I’m staying and working with here in Kabul. Instead I somehow get into a conversation with one of them, Raz Mohammad. He is telling me the story of his two classmates being murdered by drone attacks. He trembles as he recounts the story. “I just remember the day before walking to school with them. They were such good boys, my friends, so good…”

Talking to Raz I felt the closeness to death that I haven’t had recently. It comes at times when a lot of people you know pass away or you’re in a place like Kabul where everybody has been cut somehow by war’s relentless blades. In many ways, it’s good to dwell close to the funerals. It allows us to sit with our mortality and the reality of war and suffering that so many people in our family are living through. 

Raz then describes his family to me. Heart warming stories of his littlest brother who only wants to play with him when he goes home to visit and then always falls asleep in his arms. And of course, more heartbreaking stories: his older sister who was so full of life and laughter until another drone attack killed her husband. Now she is quiet. When he calls on the phone she cries. His little sister who only dreams of studying but there is no school for her to go to. Raz Mohammad says everything like it’s extremely important. At some point during our conversation I realize- It is.

Hikmatullah’s Hug 

He could stop the war. He’s a big jolly bear of a young man. Picture a dude with his hair always in his eyes a little who swings magically back and forth between serene and ecstatic. He is excitable and affectionate. If music is playing anywhere in the house, it’s only a matter of seconds before he’s on the scene shaking his belly and swirling around his hips, invariably inciting yells of celebration from whoever is present. A smile of pure joy shines forth as he dances. You gotta love him. I can’t see how anyone could resist his warm kindness. That’s why I think he could stop the war.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers and Luke Nephew of The Peace Poets

(Group spoken word piece)

Live from Kabul, October seventh, 2013 

The 12th Anniversary of the United States War in Afghanistan.

Today,

As the war turns 12 

Me and other Youth in Afghanistan worry we will not make it alive to visit our families 

for Eid,

As the war turns 12,

Women in Afghanistan are still sold and traded, beaten and degraded 

We are still demanding our education… but over two thousand and five hundred 

Afghan women have committed suicide so far in 2013

As the war turns 12,

Drone attacks still kill kids like they did my two classmates and my brother in law 

Night raids terrify the people praying

For a chance to sleep through the night in peace 

As the war turns 12, We, the young people are 75 percent of society,

But we struggle for basic education. 

We are searching for a peace and unity we have never seen.

We want to design the future ourselves… because as the war turns 12 

The US military says they should have total impunity for their crimes-

But We ask why! 

Why do they think they should not be held responsible?

As the war turns 12 

We hope it will not be possible for the US to leave 9 permanent bases the way they want

As the war turns 12, American people protest imperial violence 

And demand their government stop this war, respect the human rights of everyone in

Bagram and Guantanamo bay, WE say Salaam Alaykum, peace to all people, As the war 

turns 12:

The people of Afghanistan WANT 

 Enough peace to hear the music of their land,

 The laughter of their children, 

 The sound of a man laying a brick to build a home that he can know is not

 Going to be destroyed 

But war turns people into enemies

 Schools into battlefields 

 Homes into badly built bomb shelters

War turns, us against, each other 

 But we turn, toward each other

 To love all sisters and brothers 

We will turn this war torn nation

 Back into a place where we can dance 

And that is our dream,

 We are hoping 

 This war will never turn thirteen…

Luke Nephew, Co-Founder and Artist Educator of thepeacepoets.com is writing from Kabul where he is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. (ourjourneytosmile.com) He travelled there on behalf of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  (vcnv.org)

The Peace Poets Write from Kabul

By Luke Nephew

The flight from Dubai to Kabul:

It’s a flight full of Afghan people and soldiers. And me. And surely a handful of other curious characters.  The tension is palpable in the waiting area by the gate.  Eye contact between the warring parties is avoided let alone any dialogue.   I think about the time when we were in the Bahrain airport where all men and woman sit it different waiting areas and I took out the guitar and played Akon’s “Ain’t nobody wanna see us together but it don’t matter no, because we gonna fight, yah we gonna fight, fight for our right to love.”  Against all odds that went over great, this particular moment however just didn’t feel like it was asking for a song.  But then as the bus brought us across the runway to board the plane, an American soldier helped an Afghan family carry their bags up the stairs and store them above their seats.  The other people watched with quiet suspicion.  That’s what it is I think, as I sit myself down in the middle seat between two Afghan men, it’s a deep dark sense of distrust.  Distrust dangerous ground to build anything on, let alone a country, much less nine military bases or a prison like the one at Bagram Air Force Base outside Kabul where people are kept without charges for months or years.  Very dangerous ground. The plane shutters itself awake and rolls out onto the runway.  The lights go off.  The babies seem to all break the silence in unison.  Some of us don’t have the option of distrust they cry.  Their wailing for food or sleep or to be held sounds so beautiful to me in the harsh air of the old plane.  “Where are we going?” they seem to be asking.

The Safi Airways flight lands safely.  Victory counted. The babies are quiet.  Through the dusty windows I see lines of old grey bomber planes standing quietly in line on the asphalt.  They seem like guilty children, waiting in fearful anticipation to be reprimanded for something they knew was wrong but did anyway… It wasn’t our fault, they whisper, they made us do it.

There’s no line at the customs desk. I walk up, get my passport stamped and then the young soldier barks at me, “right thumb.”   For a real brief second, I thought it was the Afghan way of saying thumbs up and this guy was giving me a general affirmation and his tone didn’t match the sentiment, but hey, nobody’s perfect.  Ok, I’ll admit it. I actually gave him the thumbs up sign.  At that point, he face seemed to ask: are you serious bro?  He tapped the window to the side where I realized there was a little machine with outlines of fingers… it was a fingerprint machine.  “Right thumb”, he said again… ahhh. Right. Got it.  As this guy is taking my fingerprints I feel like I’m back in a precinct uptown.  Why do I get the feeling the Americans had something to do with this?  And that’s that. Customs, check.  I walk right out the door into the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.  A few tired looking taxi drivers are looking at me unimpressed.  Salaam Alaikum, I say.  Without a thought they instinctively respond, solidifying an important connection where one hadn’t existed seconds before, “Walaykum Asalaam.”  Good to be back in a land where that works.  A  few hundred yards away on the other side of a couple parking lots, my welcome party awaits.

    There was someone there waiting for me.  They just weren’t sure who I was.  I stood there for a few minutes and then I noticed three guys wearing matching blue scarfs.  Ahh yes, the color of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.  I met eyes with one of the young men.  He raised his eyebrows, took a step forward and said, “Luke?”  Yes. My peoples.  It turned out they saw the website and something in the communication at some point made them think that out of the five Peace Poets, there we’re expecting the big dark skinned one with locks.  So when I rolled through the parking lot, not even my bright Bolivian guitar case was enough of a reason for them to assume I might be the peace poet.  But, eye contact and instincts are lifesavers.  So Dr. Hakim, an amazing peace activist and medical doctor who lives and works with the community of Afghan youth, flashed his brilliant smile and it was big hugs all around.  Abdulhai and Raz Mohammed were the youth from the community who had made the early morning trip to the airport with Hakim to pick me up.  Good to be together, we hop in a cab and into the streets of Kabul.

Taxi Drivers should be News Reporters…

The streets of Afghanistan’s capital are tore up and full of dust.  We bounce around the back seat of the cab.  As for my first taxi driver, I gotta say this:  Taxi drivers should really be news reporters. They carry the wounds of the wars and the weights of daily lives, interviewing people all day who rush around with a world of problems and joys.  These guys know the deal.  They should at least have a section in the paper.  If my first taxi driver in Kabul had a section, he would have one article about how over 70 percent of Afghans have psychological disorders from the stress of all these years of war.  Facts. And that’s why he makes wrong turns sometimes.  Right.  And he’d definitely report on having been run up on in his village by armed groups who simply offered him and his friends different options for being killed, axe, blade, or club.  No bullets to be wasted on him.  Why? He had no idea who they were or what they wanted.  But still they were going to kill him.  He was beaten badly.  His friend died.  He lifts his pant leg as he drives and unveils a scar.  Of course, we’re a little crazy he nods.  And then he smiles.  I’m in the back seat still tripping over having to choose the weapon of your own order murder.  But he wakes me back up, his radiant eyes bunched up, his chest bellowing laughter. Breaking News: joy survives the impossible and is as stunning as ever amidst the early morning Kabul traffic.  You seen that in the Times? Welcome to Afghanistan.

Welcome Home

I walk into the humble home of the Afghan Peace Volunteers to a gentle barrage of hugs and warm smiles.  I put my bag down and was breaking bread and drinking tea within 30 seconds.  It goods to sit down on the other side of the world and realize you’ve made it home.


 

12 YEARS OF WAR

(spoken word piece)

 

12

Years

Of war

While in New York they cut Head Start to feed our hungry children breakfast

They spend billions as Afghan kids see heads cut off and learn to expect this,

I need to see a politician repent this,

Hang his head and cry that this many people have died

In 12 years of war

while the people of Des Moines, Iowa don’t even know there is a drone command center being put there that will tear brothers and sisters to pieces with chemicals that char the body turning everything black and exploding the head off the body… Raz tells me how it looks and shudders in unbearable disgust

Remembering 12 years of war,

The streets of Kabul beg in the dust,

Distrust and revenge a city, a country, a people condemned

After 12 years of war, some estimate 78% of Afghans have psychological disorders, the taxi driver says its more, says we Afghans can’t think right anymore, he shows us scars on his knees from the day he almost died, he sighs, ‘so many stories of pain…

But who are we to say we’re sane? When we remain entrenched after 12 years of war? I dare you to come here and still say you want more?

Another day, another year, then leaving 9 military bases here,

America has smashed the windows of people’s sanity,

People are demanding we leave, nobody wants to hear Obama make a pretty speech

In Kabul I’ve see anger rise like armies

in young men’s eyes that say you have harmed me and my family for the last time,

I wanna know what will be the last crime committed in the name of freedom,

more marines relieving themselves on corpses of murdered kids,

12 years of blood that did not have to get spilled,

12 years of mothers gone mad from mourning, what have we become?  

Afghanistan is a nation of American made guns and American made widows,

Hearts crumbling like bombed out windowsills

Wondering where they’ll find the will to teach their son not to kill

When inflicting death is the lesson they’ve best learned from us,

12 years of dust on boots and the truth being covered in mud,

But what will we do now…

Are we hoping a nation of 30 million will forgive and forget, would you let it go if an occupying army broke into your house killed your father and didn’t even say sorry, or admit it was a mistake, how many more years will it take Americans to wake up and say I will not live in debt while my government pays millions of dollars a day to make people hate me for my passport, want to cut my life short for my birth country’s flag, 12 years of war and not enough body bags to hold the soldiers, not enough words to say the funeral masses, not enough mass graves to hold the lives that 12 years of wartime has taken,

and when I ask a young Afghan woman named Zuhal, why she wants an end to the occupation,

She says, “12 years of war is too many, it’s time for the soldiers to go home to their families. They must miss them.”

 

Luke Nephew, Co-Founder and Artist Educator of thepeacepoets.comis writing from Kabul where he is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. He travelled there on behalf of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

The Illegality and Evil of the War on Afganistan

By Francis Boyle

Introduction

           Thank you.  I'm very happy to be here this evening once again at the Illinois Disciples Foundation, which has always been a center for organizing for peace, justice and human rights in this area ever since I first came to this community from Boston in July of 1978, and especially under its former minister, my friend Jim Holiman. I also want to thank Joe Miller and Jeff Machotta of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War for inviting me to speak here this evening.  People of my generation still remember how important it was for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War to be organized and to speak out against the Vietnam War. They continue to serve as a voice for peace in the world for the past generation.

I want to start out with my basic thesis that the Bush administration's war against Afghanistan cannot be justified on the facts or the law. It is clearly illegal. It constitutes armed aggression. It is creating a humanitarian catastrophe for the people of Afghanistan.

It is creating terrible regional instability.  Right now today we are having artillery barrages across the border between India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars before over Kashmir and yet today are nuclear armed.  The longer this war goes on the worse it is going to be not only for the millions of people in Afghanistan but also in the estimation of the 1.2 billion Muslims of the world and the 58 Muslim states in the world. None of them believe the Bush administration's propaganda that this is not a war against Islam.

Facts

Now let me start first with the facts.  As you recall, Secretary of State Colin Powell said publicly they were going to produce a “white paper” documenting their case against Osama bin Laden and their organization Al Qaeda. Well of course those of us in the peace movement are familiar with “white papers” from before. They're always laden with propaganda, half-truths, dissimulations, etc. that are usually very easily refuted after a little bit of analysis. What happened here? We never got a “white paper” produced by the United States government. Zip, zero, nothing.

What did we get instead? The only “statement of facts” that we got from an official of the United States government was mentioned in the October 3 edition of the New Speak Times [a.k.a.: New York Times] that described the briefings by the U.S. Ambassador who went over to brief our NATO allies about the Bush administration’s case against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda as follows: “One Western official at NATO said the briefings, which were oral, without slides or documents, did not report any direct order from Mr. bin Laden, nor did they indicate that the Taliban knew about the attacks before they happened.  A senior diplomat for one closely allied nation characterized the briefing as containing ‘nothing particularly new or surprising,’ adding: ‘It was rather descriptive and narrative rather then forensic.  There was no attempt to build a legal case.’”  That’s someone who was at the briefing!

What we did get was a “white paper” from Tony Blair. Did anyone in this room vote for Tony Blair?  No! That “white paper” is in that hallowed tradition of a “white paper,” based on insinuation, allegation, rumors, etc.  Even the British government admitted Blair’s case against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda would not stand up in court.  As a matter of fact it was routinely derided in the British press. There was nothing there.

Now I don't know myself who was behind the terrorist attacks on September 11.  It appears we are never going to find out.  Why? Because Congress in its “wisdom” has decided not to empanel a joint committee of both Houses of Congress with subpoena power, giving them access to whatever documents they want throughout any agency of the United States government, including F.B.I., C.I.A., N.S.A., D.I.A.. To put these people under oath and testify as to what happened under penalty of perjury. We are not going to get that investigation.

Law

Now let's look at the law.  Immediately after the attacks President Bush's first statement that he made in Florida was to call these attacks an act of terrorism.  Now under United States domestic law we have a definition of terrorism and clearly this would qualify as an act or acts of terrorism.  For reasons I can get into later if you want, under international law and practice there is no generally accepted definition of terrorism.  But certainly under United States domestic law this qualified as an act of terrorism. What happened?

Well again according to the New Speak Times, President Bush consulted with Secretary Powell and all of a sudden they changed the rhetoric and characterization of what happened here. They now called it an act of war. Clearly this was not an act of war.

There are enormous differences in how you treat an act of terrorism and how you treat an act of war. We have dealt with acts of terrorism before. Normally acts of terrorism are dealt with as a matter of international and domestic law enforcement.

In my opinion that is how this bombing, these incidents, should have been dealt with:  international and domestic law enforcement.  Indeed there is a treaty directly on point. Although the United Nations was unable to agree on a formal definition of terrorism, they decided to break down terrorism into its constituent units and deal with them piece-wise: Let's criminalize specific aspects of criminal behavior that we want to stop.

The Montreal Sabotage Convention is directly on point. It criminalizes the destruction of civilian aircraft while in service.  The United States is a party. Afghanistan is a party. It has an entire legal regime to deal with this dispute. The Bush administration just ignored the Montreal Sabotage Convention.

There was also the U.N. Terrorist Bombing Convention that is also directly on point.  Eventually the Bush administration just did say, well yes our Senate should ratify this convention. It's been sitting in the Senate for quite some time, lingering because of the Senate's opposition to international cooperation by means of treaties on a whole series of issues.

Indeed, there are a good 12 to13 treaties out there that deal with various components and aspects of what people generally call international terrorism that could have been used and relied upon by the Bush administration to deal with this issue. But they rejected that entire approach and called it an act of war. They invoked the rhetoric deliberately of Pearl Harbor -- December 7, 1941.  It was a conscious decision to escalate the stakes, to escalate the perception of the American people as to what is going on here.

            Of course the implication here is that if this is an act of war then you don't deal with it by means of international treaties and agreements.  You deal with it by means of military force. You go to war. So a decision was made very early in the process. We were going to abandon, junk, ignore the entire framework of international treaties and agreements that had been established for 25 years to deal with these types of problems and basically go to war.

An act of war has a formal meaning. It means an attack by one state against another state, which of course is what happened on December 7, 1941. But not on September 11, 2001. 

The U.N. Security Council

The next day September 12, the Bush administration went into the United Nations Security Council to get a resolution authorizing the use of military force and they failed. It's very clear if you read the resolution, they tried to get the authority to use force and they failed.  Indeed the September 12 resolution, instead of calling this an armed attack by one state against another state, called it a terrorist attack. And again there is a magnitude of difference between an armed attack by one state against another state -- an act of war -- and a terrorist attack. Terrorists are dealt with as criminals.  They are not treated like nation states.

Now what the Bush administration tried to do on September 12 was to get a resolution along the lines of what Bush Sr. got in the run up to the Gulf War in late November of 1990.  I think it is a fair comparison: Bush Jr. versus Bush Sr.  Bush Sr. got a resolution from the Security Council authorizing member states to use "all necessary means" to expel Iraq from Kuwait. They originally wanted language in there expressly authorizing the use of military force. The Chinese objected - so they used the euphemism “all necessary means.”  But everyone knew what that meant. If you take a look at the resolution of September 12 that language is not in there.  There was no authority to use military force at all. They never got any.

Israel, Palestine and Iran It's Time To Feed the Hungry Peace Wolves

By John Grant

 


All we are saying is give peace a chance
        - John Lennon
 

Whether war or cooperation is the more dominant trait of humanity is one of the oldest questions in human discourse. There are no satisfying answers for either side exclusively, which seems to suggest the answer is in the eternal nature of the debate itself.

The Forgotten War: 12 Years in Afghanistan Down the Memory Hole

By Ann Jones, TomDispatch

Will the U.S. still be meddling in Afghanistan 30 years from now?  If history is any guide, the answer is yes.  And if history is any guide, three decades from now most Americans will have only the haziest idea why.

After decades US still has huge poison gas stash: Washington Demands Syria Destroy Chemical Weapons Lickety-Split

By Dave Lindorff

 
The US is demanding, in negotiations at the UN, that all Syrian chemical weapons, stocks and production facilities be eliminated by June 30 of next year. This has an element of hypocrisy, because the US itself has been incredibly slow about eliminating its own stocks of chemical weapons.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to Syria as having one of the largest chemical stockpiles in the world. But the US and Russia both still have stocks of chemicals many times as large. Syria’s neighbor Israel, which refuses to admit it has the weapons and has yet to ratify the treaty banning them, is suspected of also having a large arsenal.

An Evening With Malalai Joya

In 2003 a 25 year old activist Malalai Joy stood up to the domination of warlords in her country Afghanistan. She began to work tirelessly on behalf Afghan women and ending the occupation of her country. In 2005, she became the youngest member of the Afghan parliament. She was suspended from Parliament in 2007 because she spoke out against warlords and war criminals. Meet Malalai  October 4, 2013 @ 6:30pm Community Church of New York. 40 E. 35th St. NYC

                                 

From Afghan youth to leaders of today: Daylight is almost here

By Dr. Hakim

The daylight of a global awakening

We, the Afghan Peace Volunteers, are finding strength amidst our dark nights because, in the daylight of a global awakening, we see people throughout the world refusing to comply with oppressive systems.   We see that we aren’t alone in rejecting governments and militant groups that wage wars and make deals at the expense of ordinary people.

Artificial borders may attempt to divide us, but through connections with ordinary people worldwide, we are affirmed as free human beings, free to nurture ways of living that aren’t monopolized by a few.

Daylight, in our hearts and everywhere, is laying bare the abusive, authoritarian power and wealth amassed  by elitist hoarders who control governments and militaries. These elite secure the interests of the privileged and neglect the interests of commoners who need food, water, education, decent shelter and employment, and peaceful relationships.

“The leaders of the world, like Assad, Obama and others, should not involve the people in their wars,” said Ghulamai, age 16, as we talked together last night “We people are very tired of the games that politicians play, killing the people while they profit. They are killing us.”

We regret our complicity

With our superficial “Hollywooding” of elected or non-elected officials, we regret having too often tolerated  public policies that aggravate grossly unequal and unfair socio-economic, environmental, education and healthcare conditions for the 99%.

Abdulhai in Kabul

“We’re excited, in our nights, that daylight is here.” Afghan Peace Volunteers

 

“I don’t feel like going to school as I hardly learn anything useful,” says Abdulhai, age 17. “ And even if education is just so that I can earn money in the future, it is connections and bribes that get us jobs, not what we’re qualified to do. Look at the numbers of unemployed people in the streets of Kabul!”

We regret our complicity in extracting minerals and material from Mother Earth, just to satisfy our materialistic  consumerism, stressing and exhausting our natural environment to a critical ‘5 minutes to midnight’.

“A mine collapse, yesterday, in northern Afghanistan killed at least twenty seven Afghan coal miners," lamented 17 year old Ali. “Who will care about them?” he asked. “Who will take care of their families?”

We also regret our complicity in the militarization of everything, from toys to science to jobs. Even the United Nations, with her ‘security’ council, hassometimes been a tool of war.

Raz Mohammad, whose brother-in-law was killed by a NATO drone in Afghanistan years ago, said, “Ordinary people are cornered by guns and bombs from all sides. The United States and Russia have chemical weapons, so it’s hypocritical for Putin or Obama to demand the surrender of chemical weapons from Syria when they are not surrendering theirs.”

In our small ways, we’ll live as free people in the daylight

So, in our individual and community activism and lifestyles, we’ll work across borders towards a composed, calm, clear and compassionate solidarity with the rest of an awakening human family:

No further consent to the decisions of the wealthy and authoritarian 1%.

No more extraction and heating of our blue-green planet.

No more wars.

In an old world order, kings ruled over their subjects, forcing subservience. President Obama and his allies, President Putin and his allies, Al Qaeda and the Taliban with their allies, operate in the old world, and we’re certain that they are worried about the global sea of awakening that is beyond their control. Edward Snowdensaid in a Guardian interview on 17th June, “All I can say right now is the U.S. Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”

 

Though still relatively separate, there are many non-violent, direct actions by ordinary people all over the world, building real alternatives to our destructive socio-economic inequalities, global warming businesses and lifestyles, and wars.

As Afghan Peace Volunteers, we have been living as a multi-ethnic community for the past year and a half, educating ourselves to become engaged members of the human family who wish to build a fair economy in which the basic human needs of all, and not just the 1%, are decently met. As part of this effort, we are trying to establish a viable Afghan women’s tailoring co-operative, including implementing a duvet project last winter.

We are seeking to learn more and do more for our earth, living simply and organizing tree planting and cleaning campaigns.

We have stepped out into the streets of Kabul to protest war and to reject all forms of killing and violence, and are learning ways of resolving conflicts non-violently, through global friendship, listening, and reconciliatory justice.

We want to reach beyond false borders and boundaries and work together, building a strong 99%, to create a better world. We wish to live without wars.

We’re excited, in our nights, that daylight is almost here.

 

Dr. Teck Young Wee, a Singaporean medical doctor, has been involved in health and development work in Afghanistan since 2004.  The name he uses, Hakim, was given to him by Afghans he served in refugee camps. In the Dari language, "Hakim" means "local healer.” He now lives and works in Kabul establishing small social enterprise and is a friend-mentor of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.   (ourjourneytosmile.com)

We don’t gas children, we shred them: Obama’s Grotesque Hypocrisy over Cluster Munitions

By Dave Lindorff


Syrian civilians and children should count themselves lucky that mass opposition in the US, the UK and much of the rest of the world to the idea of a US bombing blitz aimed at punishing the Syrian government for allegedly using Sarin gas in an attack on a Damascus neighborhood forced the US to back off and accept a Russian deal to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons.


Nobel Laureate president defends unprovoked war against Syria: Obama Offers No Evidence Assad Ordered Syria Poison Gas Attack

By Dave Lindorff


In what NPR called “perhaps President Obama’s last best chance” to make his case for launching a war against Syria, the president tellingly didn’t make a single effort to present hard, compelling evidence to prove that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had been behind the alleged Sarin Aug. 21 attack on residents of a suburb of Damascus.


Not one piece of evidence.

Interview: Students, Faculty Protest Presence of David Petraeus at CUNY Honors College

Cross-Posted from FireDogLake

On September 9, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus -- who also formerly headed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) International Security Assistance Force for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-wrote the Counterinsurgency Field Manual -- began a new job as an adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College.

A people’s victory over Syrian attack plan: In Historic First, American Empire is Blocked at the Starting Line

By Dave Lindorff


Let’s be clear here. The people of the US and the world have won a huge victory over a war-obsessed US government and an administration that was hell-bent on yet again launching a criminal war of aggression against a country that poses no threat to the US or its neighbors. Overwhelming public opposition in the US and the nations of Europe, as well as most of the rest of the world to a US strike on Syria have forced the US to falter and to accept the idea of a compromise deal offered by Russia.


Taliban Attack on Afghan Workers is Sign That One Program is Working

The execution of six Afghan development workers by the Taliban last month who were doing work for the NSP, the Afghan National Solidarity Program, may be a sign that after 11 years, development may be starting to work.  The attack signaled an escalation in the violence previously aimed at foreign non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross, and western corporations and their employees. The NSP is an indigenous program which, until now, insurgents have pretty much left alone.

Hopeful and disturbing signs in an unscientific neighborhood survey: Anti-War Conservatives and War-Monger Liberals

By Dave Lindorff


I just had two discussions with neighbors in my suburb of Philadelphia that offer both a hope that the Republican-run House may block President Obama’s war on Syria, and a warning that liberal Democrats could hand him the narrow majority he needs to claim Congressional backing for his war.

Obama’s and Kerry’s Big Lie: White House Document “Proving” Syria’s Guilt Doesn’t Pass Smell Test

By Dave Lindorff

 

The document released on the White House web site to “prove” to the American people that the Syrian government had used poison gas -- allegedly the neurotoxin Sarin -- to kill hundreds of civilians, is so flawed and lacking in real proof that if it were being used to make a case against a terrorist group it would be too weak to justify an indictment.


The Bellicose Obama Regime: Once Again, the Answer Is Bombing

By John Grant


Here we go again.

Polls suggest the American people are fed up after two full-bore wars and the killing of an ambassador in Benghazi following our escapade in Libya. Yet, the Obama administration seems poised to launch another war in Syria.

“We can’t do a third war in 12 years!"

Afghan Civilians, Gunned Down by US Soldier in Massacre, Speak Out

Afghan child: 'What did I do wrong to Sergeant Bales that he shot my father?'

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Manhattan vigil for Afghans killed in Kandahar massacre (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/ Alan Greig)For the first time, Afghan survivors of the March 2012 Panjwai massacre stood in the same room with U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who pled guilty to the unprompted onslaught that left 16 Afghan civilians dead—9 of them children, and 11 of them from the same family—and 6 wounded, and told what it was like to stand on the other side of Bales' gun.

A courtroom sketch of US Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (centrer) as he faces a military court martial for the massacre of 16 civilians in Afghanistan in 2012. "I thought I was dreaming but when I woke up I heard screaming," said 12-year-old Sadiquallah, who was shot in the ear and neck by Bales, addressing a panel of military officers. He explained that he still has nightmares from the incident.

Sadiquallah's father, Mohammed Haji Naeem, burst into tears in the courtroom as he described watching his other son die, AFP reports. "This bastard stood right in front of me, I wanted to ask him what I had done, why would you shoot me?" he said, indicating towards the man who shot him in the head and neck. "I have nerve damage and stutter since I was shot," he added later. "I wasn't weak but since this bastard shot at me I'm almost like nothing now."

15 year-old Rafiulla, who was shot in both legs, describes being awoken by the murderous rampage: "We were sleeping, we heard some noise. He [Bales] ran into the room and pointed his handgun at my sister's head." Speaking of his sister, who survived a gunshot wound to her head, he stated, "She was a very bright girl, everybody loved her. Now we're all sad for her."

Rafiulla's mother, Samiullua, explained her son has never been the same. "He wakes up at night with nightmares thinking Americans are chasing him," she said.

Khan, a child, described his father's death. "My father was lying down and we were all watching him," he said. "What did I do wrong to sergeant Bales that he shot my father?"

As the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan—now the longest official war in U.S. history—stretches through its 12th summer, over 60,000 U.S. troops remain, in addition to vast webs of U.S. private contractors and U.S. appointed Afghan military generals.  Despite a war-weary Afghan public, U.S. officials say troops are likely to stay far beyond the alleged 2014 pullout date. Meanwhile, attacks on Afghan children are skyrocketing, the UN reports.

The Kandahar massacre, notable for its high media profile while countless U.S. military acts of atrocity go unreported, had a very real and pervasive impact across an Afghanistan that has suffered under the constant reality of war and an occupying military force.

"Afghans are always dehumanized in the U.S. public, and I have to question how much value and weight the voices of these victims will have in court,"Suraia Sahar of Afghans United for Justice told Common Dreams.

Despite calls for Bales to be tried in Afghanistan, the U.S. instead whisked him away to stand trial in U.S. military courts.

"Bradley Manning's sentence today is evidence of the failure of the justice system in the U.S.," says Sahar. "It's all the more reason for Bales to be put on trial on Afghan soil."

_____________________

Manning get’s slammed; a mass-murderer got sprung Crimes and Punishment (or Not)

By Dave Lindorff


Right now I’m thinking about William Laws Calley. 


Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden: Whistleblowers as Modern Tricksters

By John Grant


Every generation occupies itself with interpreting Trickster anew.

                      -Paul Radin

 

Manning, Snowden and Swarz: America’s Police State Marches On, Media in Tow

By Dave Lindorff


The New York Times, in an editorial published the day after a military judge found Pvt. Bradley Manning “not guilty” of “aiding the enemy” -- a charge that would have locked him up for life without possibility of parole and could have carried the death penalty -- but also found him guilty on multiple counts of “espionage,” called the verdict “Mixed.” Not guilty of aiding the enemy, guilty of espionage.


His 'Crime' is Patriotism, not Betrayal Like Hale's Philip Nolan, Snowden has Become a 'Man Without a Country'

By  Dave Lindorff

 

In Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country," US Army Lt. Philip Nolan, following a court-martial, is exiled from his country, his citizenship snatched away, leaving him doomed to sail the seven seas confined to a Navy vessel, unable to make any country his home. His crime: being seduced by a treacherous leader to betray the US of A, the country of his birth.

A Noir America: Killers and Roller-Coaster Rides

By John Grant


We're all aware of the reputed Chinese curse about living in interesting times. Upheaval seems to be in the air. According to Wikipedia, the interesting times curse was linked with a second, more worrisome curse: "May you come to the attention of those in authority."

Stop the Army from deploying conscientious objector

PV2 Christopher Munoz

Ft. Hood command still plan to deploy private to Afghanistan despite CO claim

Killeen, Texas -  A soldier seeking a discharge from the Army based on a conscientious objection to war has been told by the command at Fort Hood that it still intends to deploy him to Afghanistan sometime in the coming weeks.

Private Second Class Christopher Munoz, 22, applied for a C.O. (conscientious objector) discharge on June 25, 2013. He has also asked for his deployment to be delayed until request for discharge would be given a fair hearing.

Servicemembers are eligible for C.O. status if they can prove to military authorities that they are opposed to all wars, and that the opposition is grounded in religious belief or moral conviction that is sincere and occurred at some point after enlistment. PV2 Munoz's application asserts that he qualified for this status according to the provisions of Army Regulation 600-43.

As a C.O applicant, PV2 Munoz cannot be made to carry weapons or munitions if deployed.

“If deployed, PV2 Munoz will be at significant risk for harassment by his fellow soldiers since he will effectively be a 'dead weight' on the unit. Despite these very real risks, PV2 Munoz's command has said that a delay of his deployment will not be considered,” said James M. Branum, an attorney who represents PV2 Munoz.

Click Read More to learn more about the case and see how you can help.

A Whole Different Class of People Here

   This one looks at yet another revelation that the military-industrial-spying 50+% of the federal government doesn't operate with the kind of oversight and accountability rules everyone else has to play by.

 

I was flabbergasted when the the Congressional Research Service reported on May 17 that the Pentagon didn’t have a clue what the 108,000 contractors the Department of Defense (DOD) has in Afghanistan were actually doing--let alone how well they were doing it.

The US's Afghan Exit May Depend on a Syrian One

Washington’s options in Syria are dwindling - and dwindling fast.

Trumped up chemical weapons charges against the Syrian government this month failed to produce evidence to convince a skeptical global community of any direct linkage. And the US’s follow-up pledge to arm rebels served only to immediately underline the difficulty of such a task, given the fungibility of weapons-flow among increasingly extremist militias.

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