It has come to this. A woman sits in the mud and puddles. The snow falls relentlessly. It is minus 6 degrees, even at 11 in the morning. But sit here she must.
If she moves suddenly, she will be hit, for she sits in the middle of the road and covered head to foot in the blue burkha. Her vision is restricted ahead and her peripheral vision is non-existent. And she’s in the middle of one of the busiest streets in probably the most traffic-choked capital on earth.
This is Kabul’s not-so-secret shame – women forced to do this in the hope that a hand might come from the window of one of the city’s legion of 4x4s and bestow a few precious Afghanis to keep her and her children alive for another day.
That is, if you can call this life, or living.
After all the billions poured into the country in foreign aid during the west’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, even in the capital the conditions in the fifty or more mostly illegal refugee camps have to be seen to be believed.
One of those begging women, Sakineh, agrees to take our cameraman Mehran Bozorgnia back to the Nasajiu refugee camp to show how things are for the poorest of the city’s poor.
There are scores of camps like these. At least 50,000 refugees across Kabul. Some have come back from the 2.6 million Afghans who fled the Taliban to the vast camps of Pakistan and Iran, many others have been displaced by the fighting which has continued ever since the west ousted those same Taliban fighters.
And they are desperate places at this time of year – or any other. Running water or sewerage would be a dream here. The stench of human waste mixes with the toxic fumes of plastic being burned – though aid organisations deliver some firewood, it is pitiful and nowhere near what is needed for people here.
A man shows Channel 4 News terrible scars on his back. He thought if he sold a kidney he would get enough money to escape here and never have to come back. That was several years ago now and he stands angry and despairing in the freezing muddy slime of this place.
Next door, a girl of perhaps 10 or 11 years old slowly peels back the dressing to reveal her entire hand burned by an accident with one of the open fires burning all over this place to try and keep people alive.
Agha Mohammad is livid.
“Come,” he says, beckoning.
“Look at this – human beings have to live here. Look at it. You can make your own judgement. You don’t need any words from me.”
The floor is awash with the slime of liquidising mud in the freezing cold. During the night the weight of snow collapsed the flimsy tarpaulin roof over this place. The children are ill with the toxic plastic fumes everywhere here and like everyone else, any fees for private medical treatment or even medicine itself – are way out of reach.
“See my leg – it was hit by a bullet,” adds Agha.
“My hand was hit by shrapnel. I’ve served this country for thirty years!”
He’s near to tears.
The UNHCR supplies the basics of shelter, some firewood and clothing for the children. But it cannot supply what’s needed – an economy, a functioning state and above all, jobs. Hanging over all of this the great spoken and unspoken question on everyone’s mind in this country. As the west retreats from its long-lost war here, just what happens to the have-nots who need the most help?
Once Nato has gone will the fear of intensified civil war become reality? And if it does, the western charities and the United Nations will not be here as they are now – and even now the UN sums up conditions in the camps in one word: “Appalling.”
We’ve had James Monroe and his doctrine of supremacy over Latin America. We’ve had Theodore Roosevelt and his invasion of Cuba; Nixon, Reagan, Bush-Bush and their mass murder, and all the war crimes and genocide committed by most presidents. Yes, but we never had a black man sit on the white throne of imperialism committing war crimes.
Thanks to the courageous action of Private Bradley Manning, the young soldier who has been held for over two years by the US military on trumped-up charges including espionage and aiding the enemy, we now have solid evidence that the country’s two leading news organizations, the Washington Post and the New York Times, are not interesting in serious reporting critical of the government.
Two young Afghan boys herding cattle in Uruzgan Province of Afghanistan were mistakenly killed by NATO forces yesterday.
They were seven and eight years old.
Our globe, approving of ‘necessary or just war’, thinks, “We expect this to happen occasionally.”
Some say, “We’re sorry.”
Therefore today, with sorrow and rage, we the Afghan Peace Volunteers took our hearts to the streets.
We went with two cows, remembering that the two children were tending to their cattle on their last day.
We are those two children.
We want to be human again.
Don’t we see it? Don’t we hear it?
All of nature, the cows, the grass, the hills and the songs, crave for us to be human again.
We want to get out of our seats of pride and presumption, and give a cry of resistance.
We want the world to hear us, the voice of the thundering masses.
“We’re so tired of war.”
“Children shouldn’t have to live or die this way.”
“This hurts like mad, like the mad hurt of seeing a child being caned while he’s crying from hunger.”
“We have woken up, and we detest the method of mutual killing in war that the leaders of the world have adopted.”
We say, with due respect to the leaders, but with no respect for their or any act of violence, “We are very wrong. You are very wrong.”
“We cannot go on resolving conflicts this warring way.”
Unless we see the cattle’s submission upon being blown up to pieces, and understand the momentary surprise of the seven year old listening to music on his radio, and empathize with the eight year old who had taken responsibility for the seven year old, and weep torrentially with the mother of the children, we are at risk of losing everything we value within ourselves.
Hearing the NATO commander General Joseph Dunford say that they’re sorry makes us angry; we don’t want to hear it.
We don’t want ‘sorry-s’. We want an end to all killing. We want to live without war.
We want all warriors to run back anxiously to their own homes, and fling their arms around their sons and daughters, their grandsons and grand-daughters, and say, “We love you and will never participate in the killing of any child or human being again.”
In the days to come, we’ll remember the distraught mother and family of the two children.
We know they won’t eat, or feel like breathing or living. They will remember, yet not want to remember.
Their mother will feel like giving away tens of thousands of cows just so she can touch her two children’s faces again. No, she’ll not only touch their faces, she will shower them with the hugs and kisses only mothers can give.
Do not insult her grief or her poverty by giving her monetary compensation for her children.
If they were alive, they would say along with their mother, “We are not goods.”
We went out there with our hearts and two cows this morning. We stood in front of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, next to a trash-lined river no one wants to clean up, and we began to feel human again.
I’m fed up with the trashing of the Baby Boom generation.
Sure you can find plenty of scoundrels, freeloaders, charlatans and thugs who were born between 1946 and 1964, but you can find bad and lazy people in every generation. In fact, the so called “Greatest Generation” who preceded the Boomers abounds in them. That doesn’t prove anything.
My paper, along with the papers of record in the state capital Augusta and in our state's largest city, Portland, is owned by S. Donald Sussman, the husband of our representative on the House Armed Service Committee, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
On February 11, 2013, the New York Times reported about the funeral of retired Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, portraying him as a “warrior and family man.” The highly politicized and massive public funeral, held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, points to the severe moral schizophrenia our nation has internalized. We see ourselves as the shining “city on a hill” and therefore a U.S. citizen who kills people in other lands becomes an unquestionably renowned hero. This must appear offensive and ridiculous to many people living beyond U.S. borders.
NEW YORK — Attacks by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, including air strikes, have reportedly killed hundreds of children over the last four years, according to the U.N. body monitoring the rights of children.
The Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child said the casualties were “due notably to reported lack of precautionary measures and indiscriminate use of force.” It was reviewing a range of U.S. policies affecting children for the first time since 2008 — the last year of the Bush administration and the year Barack Obama was first elected president.
The U.N. review is conducted every four years, and the report’s release came as U.S. policy on drone targeting and air strikes is under intense scrutiny in Washington.
For a masterpiece in cognitive dissonance, just look to the foreign editors and the managing editor of the New York Times, who ran two stories in Saturday’s paper without referencing each other at all.
Kabul, Afghanistan -- Compromise, conflict, or collapse: ask an Afghan what to expect in 2014 and you’re likely to get a scenario that falls under one of those three headings. 2014, of course, is the year of thedouble whammy in Afghanistan: the next presidential election coupled with the departure of most American and other foreign forces. Many Afghans fear a turn for the worse, while others are no less afraid that everything will stay the same. Some even think things will get better when the occupying forces leave. Most predict a more conservative climate, but everyone is quick to say that it’s anybody’s guess.
Only one thing is certain in 2014: it will be a year of American military defeat. For more than a decade, U.S. forces have fought many types of wars in Afghanistan, from a low-footprint invasion, to multiple surges, to a flirtation with Vietnam-style counterinsurgency, to a ramped-up, gloves-off air war. And yet, despite all the experiments in styles of war-making, the American military and its coalition partners have ended up in the same place: stalemate, which in a battle with guerrillas means defeat. For years, a modest-sized, generally unpopular, ragtag set of insurgents has fought the planet’s most heavily armed, technologically advanced military to a standstill, leaving the country shaken and its citizens anxiously imagining the outcome of unpalatable scenarios.
The first, compromise, suggests the possibility of reaching some sort of almost inconceivable power-sharing agreement with multiple insurgent militias. While Washington presses for negotiations with its designated enemy, “the Taliban,” representatives of President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council, which includes 12 members of the former Taliban government and many sympathizers, are making the rounds to talk disarmament and reconciliation with all the armed insurgent groups that the Afghan intelligence service has identified across the country. There are 1,500 of them.
There were no memorable lines in President Obama’s second inaugural address. Certainly nothing like Franklin Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” which was in his first inaugural, or like John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country.”
But there was plenty he said that was troubling.
The problem mostly wasn’t what he said. It was how he said it, and what he left unsaid.
In his first media appearance since visiting President Obama in Washington, Hamid Karzai announced that the United States had agreed to give his country a fleet of drones. The Afghan President didn't specify how many or which kind of drones Afghanistan would get, but he was careful to explain that the unmanned vehicles would be unarmed. American troops will even stick around and show Afghan forces how to use them. "They will train Afghans to fly them, use them and maintain them," said Karzai at a news conference. "Besides drones, Afghanistan will be provided with other intelligence gathering equipment which will be used to defend and protect our air and ground sovereignty." That includes 20 helicopters and at least four C-130 transport planes.
On January 10, thirteen peace, veterans and faith organizations from various parts of Oregon sent a letter to Governor John Kitzhaber urging him to keep the Oregon National Guard from its planned deployment of 1800 Oregonians to Afghanistan in 2014. The groups' letter cites a 2009 effort to keep the Guard in Oregon through the legislative process, and a similar letter sent to Governor Ted Kulongoski in 2008. The full text of the new letter is below and on line at http://www.pjw.info./guardletter2013.pdf .
The groups listed on the letter are: Peace and Justice Works, Military Families Speak Out of Oregon, Veterans for Peace Chapter 132 (Corvallis), Veterans for Peace Chapter 72 (Portland), Rogue Valley Veterans for Peace Chapter 156 (Grants Pass), Community Alliance of Lane County, Citizens for Peace & Justice (Medford/Rogue Valley), Peace House (Ashland), Oregon PeaceWorks, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, War Resisters League--Portland Chapter, 18th Avenue Peace House (Portland), and Augustana Lutheran Church (Portland).
The groups include locally based and statewide groups, groups connected to national organizations, and groups based in at least 6 of Oregon's 36 Counties. Two Portland area peace activists also signed the letter.
For more information contact Peace and Justice Works at 503-236-3065.
-------------------- Peace and Justice Works PO Box 42456 Portland, OR 97242 503-236-3065
To: Governor John Kitzhaber 160 State Capitol 900 Court Street Salem, Oregon 97301-4047(by e-mail and postal mail)
January 10, 2013
We are writing you today as organizations who, in 2009, worked with the legislature to keep the Oregon National Guard from deploying into undeclared military conflict zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, hoping you will exercise your authority of the Commander in Chief of the Guard to keep them from the planned deployment to Afghanistan in 2014.
Over 5500 people signed the petition supporting our legislation, known as HB 2556, and nearly 50 organizations supported the effort. We had pledges from at least 30 members of the House to support the legislation, but it was never brought to the floor.
The legal framework of the legislation was that the Authorization for Use of Military Force of September 18, 2001, which launched the "War on Terror," is overly broad and has allowed the United States to occupy Afghanistan and attack Somalia, Pakistan, and elsewhere, invade Iraq, as well as enabling the opening of the prison camp at Guantanamo, the PATRIOT act, military tribunals, and other affronts to human, civil and constitutional rights. The 2001 AUMF has been renewed annually by Presidents Bush and Obama, and has no provision to end the "war," a termination date nor a process or procedure to determine when the authorization should terminate.
Recognizing that in 1986, Congress passed and the President signed the "Montgomery Amendment," which provides that a governor cannot withhold consent with regard to active duty outside the United States because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such duty, we hold that the President must act pursuant to the Constitution and laws of the United States. The War Powers Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-148) specifically limits the power of the President of the United States to wage war without the approval of Congress. the 2001 AUMF could provide for the National Guard to be deployed indefinitely.
Deployment of Oregon National Guard members in Afghanistan has resulted, and continues to result, in significant harm to guard members and their families, including death and injury, loss of time together, and financial hardship.
While the bill at that time focused on the then-upcoming deployment of the Guard to Iraq, we feel it is your duty to ensure that the request by the federal government for Oregon's sons and daughters to be called into harm's way are lawful and Constitutional.
We concur with the Eugene Register-Guard, which wrote in its editorial on December 4, "The Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat team, with a battalion based in Springfield, is scheduled to deploy 1,800 soldiers to Afghanistan in 2014. It's Oregon's second-largest overseas deployment since World War II -- and it is a deployment that can be avoided if Obama heeds the advice of the U.S. Senate and decides that the time has come, not for sending more troops to Afghanistan, but for bringing the 66,000 who are there now home as quickly as possible."
Thank you for your consideration
Dan Handelman for Peace and Justice Works
Adele Kubein for Military Families Speak Out of Oregon
Bart Bolger for Veterans for Peace Chapter 132 (Corvallis)
Clayton Knight for Veterans for Peace Chapter 72 (Portland)
Jim Woods for Rogue Valley Veterans for Peace Chapter 156 (Grants Pass)
Michael Carrigan for Community Alliance of Lane County
Allen Hallmark for Citizens for Peace & Justice (Medford/Rogue Valley)
Herbert Rothschild for Peace House (Ashland)
Peter Bergel for Oregon PeaceWorks
Kelly Campbell for Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
John Grueschow for War Resisters League--Portland Chapter
John Schweibert for 18th Avenue Peace House (Portland)
Rev. W. J. Mark Knutson for Augustana Lutheran Church (Portland)
Geraldine Foote, St. Luke Lutheran Peace and Justice Advocacy Group*
Trudy Cooper, American Iranian Friendship Council*
*organizations listed for identification purposes only
Below is a transcript of an interview of Raz Mohammad, an Afghan Peace Volunteer, with questions prepared by Maya Evans of Voices for Creative Non Nonviolence UK.
Raz Mohammad : Salam ‘aleikum. I am Raz Mohammad. I’m from Maidan Wardak province and I’m Pashtun.
Kathy Kelly : Raz Mohmmad, what do you think about drones?
Raz Mohammad : I think drones are not good. I remember how, in my village, a drone attack killed my brother-in-law and four of his friends. It was truly sad. A beautiful life was buried and the sound of crying and sorrow arose from peaceful homes. I say that this is inhumane. Today, the idea of humanity has been forgotten. Why do we spend money like this? Why don’t we use an alternative way? The international community says that drones are used to kill the Taliban. This is not true. We should see the truth. Today, it’s hard to find the truth and no one listens to the people.
Kathy Kelly : How have drones impacted Wardak Afghanistan?
Raz Mohammad : Drones have a negative impact on the lives of the people of Wardak and other provinces in Afghanistan, because drones don’t bring peace. They kill human beings. Drones bring nothing but bombs. They burn the lives of the people. People can’t move around freely. In the nights, people are afraid. Drones don’t improve people’s lives, they limit the people’s lives. The people are not happy with drones. When they hear the sound of drones, they feel sad. Those who live in Kabul and those who live in the provinces especially in Pashtun areas feel differently about drones. Those in Kabul don’t feel the pain of those in the provinces where there’s war and family members are being killed. It is those families of victims who should be asked and whose voices should be heard.
Malalai Joya, 34, first gained international attention in 2003 when she spoke out publicly against the domination of warlords. She was at that time serving as an elected delegate to the Loya Jirga that was convened to ratify the Constitution of Afghanistan; in 2005 she became one of 68 women elected to the 249-seat National Assembly, or Wolesi Jirga, and was the youngest member of the Afghan parliament.Malalai Joya visits a girls school in Farah province in Afghanistan in 2007. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
In 2007 she again spoke out against former warlords and war criminals in the Afghan parliament and was thereupon suspended from the parliament. Since then she has survived many assassination attempts. She travels in Afghanistan with armed guards and has worked tirelessly on behalf of Afghan women and to end the occupation of her country.
She has received broad international recognition. In 2010, Time Magazine placed Malalai Joya on their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and Foreign Policy Magazine in listed her in its annual list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. In March, 2011, The Guardian listed her among "Top 100 women: activists and campaigners." Her most recent book is "Raising My Voice."
The above text and following interview is byElsa Rassbach, a US journalist and filmmaker based in Berlin, Germany.
RASSBACH: Last month in Paris representatives of the Taliban for the first time met with their former enemies of the Northern Alliance, the collection of militias that fought them in the 1990s and eventually helped the U.S. to oust the Taliban regime. Now President Obama has invited Afghan President Hamid Karzai to meet with him in Washington on January 11th.
Last night 18 month old Saiyma Gadazai froze to death in the Kabul refugee camp where she was born. Her father told how they fled the war in the South. He held both NATO and the Taliban in equal contempt. She was laid to rest next to a 3 year old boy called Janaan who died in the same camp 13 days ago. Also from exposure. This country has been under the control of the richest nations on earth for over 10 years. For children to be dying like this in its capital city is utterly obscene. SHARE if you think something should be done about this!
Kabul --Yesterday, four young Afghan Peace Volunteer members, Zainab, Umalbanin, Abdulhai, and Ali, guided Martha and me along narrow, primitive roads and crumbling stairs, ascending a mountain slope on the outskirts of Kabul. The icy, rutted roads twisted and turned. I asked if we could pause as my heart was hammering and I needed to catch my breath. Looking down, we saw a breathtaking view of Kabul. Above us, women in bright clothing were navigating the treacherous roads with heavy water containers on their heads or shoulders. I marveled at their strength and tenacity. “Yes, they make this trip every morning,” Umalbanin said, as she helped me regain my balance after I had slipped on the ice.
Zainab, Umalbanin, Ali, Kathy and Martha going up the mountainside
I was asked earlier this week by an reporter for PressTV, the state television network in Iran, if I could explain why the US political system seemed to be so dysfunctional, with Congress and the President having created an artificial budget crisis 17 months ago, not “solving” it until the last hour before a Congressional deadline would have created financial chaos, and even then not solving the problem and instead just pushing it off for two months until the next crisis moment.
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