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By Dave Lindorff
Some on the left are writing hopefully these days that perhaps President Obama has finally realized he needs to back off on his warlike posture on drones and the War on Terror. They are seeing his talk about scaling back the use of drone killing machines and of reconsidering or “investigating” recent Justice Department attacks on the press and its use of leaks by government whistle-blowers, as a sign that he is perhaps regaining his constitutional senses and perhaps even “moving” to the left to rebuild support he has been losing in droves.
What: Live Video Series from Kabul: Perspectives on the Afghan-US Strategic Partnership
When:Wednesday, June 5th at 10am EDT (US)/6:30pm AFT (Kabul)
Where:Live online video facilitated by Google Hangout, streamed to YouTube. See also: http://bit.ly/AfghanSecurity
How do Afghans feel about the Strategic Partnership and how do they articulate their own security needs and interests?
Broadcast live from Kabul, Washington DC, and Philadelphia, this conversation will address security issues from an Afghan perspective, with:
Sami Sadat, Director of Strategic Communications at Afghanistan’s High Peace Council
Abdul Waheed Wafa, Executive Director of the Afghan Center at Kabul University
Mohammad Hamid Saboory, Master’s degree consultant to Kardan University in Kabul
Matthew Southworth, Foreign Policy Legislative Associate for the Friend’s Committee on National Legislation
Moderated by Peter Lems, Program Director of Education and Advocacy for Iraq and Afghanistan at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
A strategic partnership is right now being negotiated between the governments of Afghanistan and the United States. At stake will be the number and type of U.S. forces after 2014, whether those forces will have immunity from Afghan law, what type of access they have to bases in the country, and the focus of financial assistance the U.S. will provide in the future.
These are fundamental questions for Afghans, and will dramatically affect their future and their country’s stability and development.
Because the US involvement is overwhelmingly military, we rarely hear about the goals of Afghan civil society and the type of relationship they would like to see with the U.S.
Join us for an on-going series of conversations looking at the key issues for Afghans. This dialogue will include what security looks like for Afghans, the regional dynamics of an on-going US presence, the need for assistance that supports civil society initiatives, and the broader question of accountability.
Boston, MA Kabul, Afghanistan Philadelphia, PA
To submit questions for discussion subjects, contact Peter Lems at email@example.com.
By Kathy Kelly
A few evenings ago, as the sky began to darken here in Kabul, Afghanistan, a small group of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, (APVs), gathered for an informal presentation about WikiLeaks, its chief editor Julian Assange, and its most prominent contributor, Bradley Manning. Basir Bita, a regular visitor to the APV household, began the evening’s discussion noting that June 1st will mark the beginning of Bradley Manning’s fourth year in prison. Two days later his trial will begin, a trial which could sadly result in his imprisonment for a life sentence. June 1st also begins an international week of support and solidarity, aimed at thanking Bradley Manning. #ThankManning!
Basir believes that the vast majority of Afghans are among myriads world-wide who have Manning to thank for information they will need in struggles for freedom, security, and peace. He wishes that more people would find the courage to stand up to military and government forces, especially their own, and act as “whistle-blowers.”
I often hear Afghan individuals and groups express longing for a far more democratic process than is allowed them in a country dominated by warlords, the U.S./NATO militaries, and their commanders. In the U.S., a lack of crucial information increasingly threatens democratic processes. How can people make informed choices if their leaders deliberately withhold crucial information from them? Manning’s disclosures have brought desperately needed light to the U.S. and to countries around the world, including struggling countries like Afghanistan.
Hakim, who mentors the Afghan Peace Volunteers, recalled that Bradley Manning passed on documents that record 91,730 “Significant Actions,” or “SIGACTS” undertaken here by the U.S. /ISAF forces, of which 75,000 were released by WikiLeaks.
These SIGACTS include attacks by drones, sometimes invisible drones, and night raids.
Our group turned to discussing the history of WikiLeaks, how it formed and how it now functions. Those most familiar with computers and internet explained the process of disclosing information by anonymously following a computerized route to a “dropbox.”
In fact, the Afghan Peace Volunteers themselves have been communicating with Julian Assange.
Last winter, Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire had stayed with them shortly before she traveled to London for a visit to Julian Assange. Through Mairead, they had sent Assange a letter of solidarity.
The APVs heard that Manning has been more isolated than Assange; they all shook their heads when Basir reminded them that Bradley Manning was initially in solitary confinement for eleven months.
Ghulamai thought through the ironic process of how governments designate some documents ‘secret,’ and how he would presume that the person who shares those secrets was a ‘criminal.’ But Ali said that governments chiefly hide ‘secrets’ from the public to maintain power. Hakim asked Abdulhai to imagine himself as the head of a government or of a large family. “If you are working for the good of the family or the state, would you need to do things secretly?” he asked.
“No,” Abdulhai replied. “If I have power, and I am truly working for the best interests of my people, I will not need to do things in secret.”
There was a keen conversation about who Bradley Manning was and what he did. Bradley Manning’s own words, which journalists had to actually smuggle out of his pre-trial hearing, described how Bradley’s mind had largely been made up by watching the secret video that he would come to release under the title “Collateral Murder:”
They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote "dead bastards" unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there’s an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew's lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see that the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew-- as soon as the individuals are a threat, they repeatedly request for authorization to fire on the bongo truck and once granted they engage the vehicle at least six times.
Together, the APVs watched the deeply disturbing “Collateral Damage” video itself. They were avid to learn what they could do to support and thank Bradley Manning. Yet they’re aware of the risks faced by people who organize public demonstrations in Afghanistan.
It’s far easier to stand up for Bradley where I live, back in the U.S. I hope many more of us will devote the time and energy we owe this young man for risking everything, as he did, to enlighten us and the world.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers are eager for ways to link with others worldwide to express thanks and concern for a remarkably brave and conscience-driven 25-year old man whose courage and whose light is so acutely needed in this darkening time. I’ve seen the fierce light of these young people and, knowing them, I’m certain that others will be seeing it too in the years ahead. Are we readying signals with which to answer them, are we preparing ways to show people like them, and like Julian Assange, and like Bradley Manning, that they are not alone?
Photo caption: Afghan Peace Volunteers with a sign that thanks Bradley Manning
Photo credit: Hakim
Doubting Obama’s Resolve to Do Right
Editor Note: In his counterterrorism speech, President Obama ruminated about the moral and legal dilemma of balancing the safety of the American people against the use of targeted killings abroad. But Obama’s handwringing did not sit well with some critics including ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
By Ray McGovern
An article in the Washington Post on July 6, 2010, reported me standing before the White House, announcing a new epithet for President Barack Obama: “Wuss – a person who will not stand up for what he knows is right.”
Afghan president confirms he received tens of millions of dollars from the CIA in suitcases and sacks 'for access to Karzai's inner circle'
- Headline, The Daily Mail, 29 April 2013
By Kathy Kelly
When she was 24 years old, in 1979, Fahima Vorgetts left Afghanistan. By reputation, she had been outspoken, even rebellious, in her opposition to injustice and oppression; and family and friends, concerned for her safety, had urged her to go abroad. Twenty-three years later, returning for the first time to her homeland, she barely recognized war-torn streets in urban areas where she had once lived. She saw and felt the anguish of villagers who couldn’t feed or shelter their families, and no less able to accept such unjust suffering than she’d been half her life before, Fahima decided to make it her task to help alleviate the abysmal conditions faced by ordinary Afghans living at or below the poverty line - by helping to build independent women’s enterprises wherever she could. She trusted in the old adage that if a person is hungry it’s an even greater gift to teach the person how to fish than to only give the person fish.
Last week, our small delegation here in Kabul traveled around the city with her to visit several clinics and “shuras,” or women’s councils that she has opened.
The first clinic we visited has been here since 2006. Two women, a doctor and a midwife, told us that they are part of a staff who work in three shifts to keep the clinic open “24-7.” Not one of their patients has died while being treated at the clinic.
Next we visited two villages, one Pashtun and the other Tajik, on the outskirts of Kabul.
“Why did you pick this village?” asked Jake Donaldson, an M.D. from Ventura, CA who joined us here in Kabul about a week ago. “I didn’t pick them,” Fahima exclaimed. “They picked me.”
A year previously, the villagers had asked her to build a clinic and a literacy center. She had told them that if they would agree to organize a women’s cooperative and pool their resources to hire teachers, midwives and nurses, she herself would build the physical building and help with supplies.
In each village, we visited a newly constructed building which will house a clinic, a women’s cooperative for jewelry-making, tailoring, and canning, a set of literacy classes for children and adults, and even a public shower which families can sign up to use. A young teacher invited us to step inside his classroom where about fifty children, girls and boys, were learning their alphabet in the first week of a literacy class. Several villagers proudly showed us the well they had dug, powered by a generator. The well will help them irrigate their land as well as supply clean drinking water for the village.
Before we left, a male village elder described to Fahima how valuable her work has been for his village. Fahima seemed to blush a bit as she gratefully acknowledged his compliment.
Such appreciative words, along with the children’s eager expressions, seem to be the main compensation for her tireless work. “I and the board members of The Afghan Women’s Fund are 100% volunteers,” Fahima assures me. “Our board members are people of tremendous integrity.”
On the day before our tour, Fahima had come to the Afghan Peace Volunteer home to speak to the seamstresses who run a sewing cooperative here and encourage them to hold on at all costs to their dignity. She urged them never to prefer handouts to hard work in self-sustaining projects. Fahima had helped the seamstresses begin their cooperative effort at the Volunteer house when she purchased sewing machines for them a little over a year ago.
“Not all of the projects I’ve tried to start have worked out,” said Fahima. “Sometimes people are hampered by conservative values and some families don’t want to allow women to leave their homes. Most often, it is war or the security situation that prevents success.”
She firmly believes that war will never solve problems in her country - or anywhere else, for that matter.
Fahima is outspoken, even blunt, as she speaks about warlords and war profiteers. She has good reason to be bitter over the cruelties inflicted on ordinary Afghans by all those interested in filling their own pockets and expanding control of Afghanistan’s resources. She advises the Afghan Peace Volunteers with the voice and love of a mother. “The world is gripped by a class war in which the 1% elite, irrespective of nationality or ethnicity and including the Afghan and U.S./NATO elite, have been ganging up to control, divide, oppress and profit from us, the ordinary 99%. Resist these ‘dark times’, resist war and weapons, educate yourselves, and work together in friendship.”
Fahima’s spirit of youthful rebellion clearly hasn’t been snuffed out by age or experience. Her practical compassion is like a compass for all of us who learn about her work.
For more about the Afghan Women Fund, go to www.Afghanwomensfund.org
Kathy Kelly, (firstname.lastname@example.org), co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). She is living in Kabul for the month of May as a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/).
By Dave Lindorff
(This article was originally written on assignment forwww.counterpunch.org)
With U.S. approval of Congress holding steady at a whopping 15%, one wonders just who it is the elected representatives are representing. Perhaps we can answer that question, by looking at some of their recent activities, and considering some of the things currently left undone.
|Source: Afghan Women's Writing Project "A Mother Expecting Still"|
By John Grant
By Kathy Kelly
Kabul--Since 2009, Voices for Creative Nonviolence has maintained a grim record we call the “The Afghan AtrocitiesUpdate” which gives the dates, locations, numbers and names of Afghan civilians killed by NATO forces. Even with details culled from news reports, these data can't help but merge into one large statistic, something about terrible pain that's worth caring about but that is happening very far away.
It’s one thing to chronicle sparse details about these U.S. led NATO attacks. It’s quite another to sit across from Afghan men as they try, having broken down in tears, to regain sufficient composure to finish telling us their stories. Last night, at a restaurant in Kabul, I and two friends from the Afghan Peace Volunteers met with five Pashtun men from Afghanistan’s northern and eastern provinces. The men had agreed to tell us about their experiences living in areas affected by regular drone attacks, aerial bombings and night raids. Each of them noted that they also fear Taliban threats and attacks. “What can we do,” they asked, “when both sides are targeting us?”
THE FIRST RESPONDER’S TALE
Jamaludeen, an emergency medical responder from Jalalabad, is a large man, with a serious yet kindly demeanor. He began our conversation by saying that he simply doesn’t understand how one human being can inflict so much harm on another. Last winter, NATO forces fired on his cousin, Rafiqullah, age 30, who was studying to be a pediatrics specialist.
"A suicide bomber had apparently blown himself up near the airport. My cousin and two other men were riding in a car on a road leading to the airport. It was 6:15 AM. When they'd realized that NATO helicopters and tanks were firing missiles, they had left their car and huddled on the roadside, but they were easily seen. A missile exploded near them, seriously wounding Rafiqullah and another passenger, while killing their driver, Hayatullah."
Hayatullah, our friend told us, was an older man, about 45 years old, who left behind a wife, two boys and one daughter.
Although badly wounded, Rafiqullah and his fellow passenger could still speak. A U.S. tank arrived and they began pleading with the NATO soldiers to take them to the hospital. “I am a doctor,” said Rafiqullah's fellow passenger, a medical student named Siraj Ahmad. “Please save me!” But the soldiers handcuffed the two wounded young men and awaited a decision about what to do next. Rafiqullah died there, by the side of the road. Still handcuffed, Siraj Ahmad was taken, not to a hospital, but to the airport, perhaps to await evacuation. That was where he died. He was aged 35 and had four daughters. Rafiqullah, aged 30, leaves three small girls behind.
And Jamaludeen knows that those girls, in one sense are lucky. Four years ago, he tried to bring first aid as an early responder to a wedding party attacked by NATO forces. Only he couldn’t, because there were no survivors. 54 people were killed, all of them (except for the bridegroom) women and children. “It was like hell,” said Dr. Jamaludeen. “I saw little shoes, covered with blood, along with pieces of clothing and musical instruments. It was very, very terrible to me. The NATO soldiers knew these people were not a threat.”
THE MANUAL LABORER'S TALE
Kocji, who makes a living doing manual laborer, is from a village of 400 families. His story took place three weeks ago. It started with a telephoned warning that Taliban forces had entered the Surkh Rod district of Jalalabad, which is where his village is located. That day, at about 10:00 p.m., NATO forces entered his village en masse. Some soldiers landed on rooftops and slid expertly to the ground on rope ladders. When they entered homes, they would lock women and children in one room while they beat the men, shouting questions as the women and children screamed to be released. On this raid, no one was killed, and no one was taken away. It turned out that NATO troops had acted on a false report and discovered their error quickly. False reports are a constant risk. - In any village some families will feud with each other, and NATO troops can be brought into those feuds, unwittingly and very easily, and sometimes with deadly consequences. Kocji objects to NATO forces ordering attacks without first asking more questions and trying to find out whether or not the report is valid. He’d been warned of a threat from one direction, but the threats actually come from all sides.
THE STUDENT’S TALE
Rizwad, a student from the Pech district of the Kunar province, spoke next.
Twenty-five days ago, between 3 and 4 a.m., twelve children were collecting firewood in the mountains not far from his village. The children were between 7 and 8 years old. Rizwad actually saw the fighter plane flying overhead towards the mountains. When it reached them, it fired on the twelve children, leaving no survivors. Rizwad’s 8 year old cousin, Nasrullah, a schoolboy in the third grade, was among the dead that morning.
The twelve children belonged to eight families from the same village. When the villagers found the bloodied and dismembered bodies of their children, they gathered together to demand from the provincial government some reason as to why NATO forces had killed them. “It was a mistake,” they were told.
"It is impossible for the people to talk with the U.S. military,” says Rizwad. “Our own government tries to calm us down by saying they will look into the matter."
THE FARMER’S TALE
Riazullah from Chapria Marnu spoke next. Fifteen days previously, three famers in Riazullah's area had been working to irrigate their wheat field. It was early afternoon, about 3:30 p.m. One of the men was only eighteen - he had been married for five months. The other two farmers were in their mid-forties. Their names were Shams Ulrahman, Khadeem and Miragah, and Miragah’s two little daughters were with them.
Eleven NATO tanks arrived. One tank fired missiles which killed the three men and the two little girls. “What can we do?” asked Riazullah. “We are caught between the Taliban and the internationals. Our local government does not help us.”
THE STORY OF U.S./NATO OCCUPATION
The world doesn't seem to ask many questions about Afghan civilians whose lives are cut short by NATO or Taliban forces. Genuinely concerned U.S. friends say they can't really make sense of our list - news stories merge into one large abstraction, into statistics, into "collateral damage," in a way that comparable (if much smaller and less frequent) attacks on U.S. civilians do not. People here in Afghanistan naturally don’t see themselves as a statistic; they wonder why the NATO soldiers treat civilians as battlefield foes at the slightest hint of opposition or danger; why the U.S. soldiers and drones kill unarmed suspects on anonymous tips when people around the world know suspects deserve safety and a trial, innocent until proven guilty.
“All of us keep asking why the internationals kill us,” said Jamaludeen. “One reason seems to be that they don’t differentiate between people. The soldiers fear any bearded Afghan who wears a turban and traditional clothes. But why would they kill children? It seems they have a mission. They are told to go and get the Taliban. When they go out in their planes and their tanks and their helicopters, they need to be killing, and then they can report that they have completed their mission.”
These are the stories being told here. NATO and its constituent nations may have other accounts to give of themselves, but they aren’t telling them very convincingly, or well. The stories told by bomb blasts or by shouting home-invading soldiers drown out other competing sentiments and seem to represent all that the U.S./NATO occupiers ever came here to say. We who live in countries that support NATO, that tolerate this occupation, bear responsibility to hear the tales told by Afghans who are trapped by our war of choice. These tales are part of our history now, and this history isn’t popular in Afghanistan. It doesn’t play well when the U.S. and NATO forces state that we came here because of terrorism, because of a toll in lost civilian lives already exceeded in Afghanistan during just the first three months of a decade-long war – that we came in pious concern over precious stories that should not be cut short.
Kathy Kelly, (email@example.com), co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence www.vcnv.org She is living in Kabul for the month of May as a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/)
Photo caption: Twelve children killed in the Kunar province, April 2013
Photo credit: Namatullah Karyab for The New York Times
Boston Suspect’s Writing on the Wall
Editor Note: Hiding and near death, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly scrawled on the inside of a boat that he did what he did to avenge innocent Muslims killed by U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a rare look at the why behind “terrorism."
By Ray McGovern
Quick, somebody tell CIA Director John Brennan about the handwriting on the inside wall of the boat in which Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding before Boston-area police riddled it and him with bullets. Tell Brennan that Tsarnaev’s note is in plain English and that it needs neither translation nor interpretation in solving the mystery: “why do they hate us?”
"Winding Down" War on Afghanistan to Continue With Nine Huge Bases After it "Ends" in a Year and a Half
The United States has requested the use of nine large military bases in Afghanistan after international forces complete their combat mission here at the end of next year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday.
In the first public disclosure of the number of bases under discussion in security talks between the U.S. and Afghanistan, Karzai indicated that he would agree to the U.S. request. But he said Washington must provide unspecified "security and economic" guarantees in return.
But, of course, neither non-combat combat forces nor combat non-combat forces nor even plain old combat forces will ever do enough combatting to win Karzai's government the support of the people of Afghanistan. So, at some point, ending the war is going to have to involve ending the war.
Dear friends and fellow human beings,
9th May , 2013 ( Gregorian calendar )
20th Saur , 1392 ( Afghan calendar )
I can’t quite bear to see the forever-sorrow in my mother.
She walks in a sad way.
Once, I had called from Kabul to speak to her in Bamiyan, and I can’t recall what I had laughed over. She thought I was ridiculing her, despite my explanations of how I would never ridicule her, my widowed mother.
Since then, I’ve been calling her less often because I don’t quite know how to respond to her sadness.
I mean, I myself have a heaviness which sits inside. I used to cry easily as a kid, until I was older.
Last year, when I got angry with Hakim, and I said I wanted to leave the community, it hurt me very much to hear Hakim say, “If you really want to go, you are free to leave.”
Can you imagine why, like most other Afghans, I sometimes get tired of my feelings?
My mother and I and all, we are all war children.
Hakim asked me to describe what makes me happy.
‘Friends and family’ was my answer.
On a wall in the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ house, one of the volunteers, Sadaf, had painted two doves flying away from a cage, into the blue ‘lake’.
I told Hakim this drawing was a happy one. “Why?” Hakim asked.
“The doves are beautiful.”
Part of the loss of human dignity experienced by Afghans is the feeling that no one notices.
Bare mountains, rivers drying up, children with malnourished cheeks, beings under ‘burqas’, chair-less tent schools, fatherlessness, family-less-ness…..and yet, still un-regarded.
I re-print some thoughts I had sometime in 2004 ( italicized below ) , as I crossed over the harsh, no-man’s land from Quetta to Kandahar, learning from Abdulhai whom I met years later that we often walk like we’re in a prison, and that we can be happy when, like the imaginative art offered by doves, we labor daily to be free.
As I was going on foot from the Pakistan Immigration office into Afghanistan, I quietly felt fatigued, wishing for the comforts of home and the company of friends. But we have all taken this road before, venturing past unfamiliar limits and handling uneasy tasks, knowing that while it is ideal to travel together, sometimes, we need to walk a little way on our own.
Near the Pakistan Afghanistan border
Crossing the border
I wanted to shout out loud
As I crossed the border alone
Just so I could hear my voice
Above the bareness of my bones
The lines that divide our hearts
Are a hazy black and white
I can’t tell a right from a lie
Or when a struggle becomes a fight
I remembered the orphan boy Najib
His hard work and his strife
How he took that foreign journey
His mistake or his hope or his life
These zones, these places of nowhere
Can strengthen or cripple our course
Such that when we cross those borders
For a second, our history breathes a pause…
For a moment, I lost my resolve
Abdulhai, Samia and Hakim
By John Grant
It was the summer of 1981. I was working on an ambulance in Philadelphia, transporting a cancer patient to a hospital for radiation treatments. The man was in his sixties, and I felt he knew his days were numbered.
In my conversations with the man, it came up that I was a Vietnam veteran. He told me he was in the CIA in Saigon in the early 1970s.
“What did you do?” I asked.
OUT OF AFGHANISTAN
a speech in Congress by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), on May 7, 2013
Full Text Below, adapted from the Congressional Record.
Mr. Speaker, like most Members of Congress, I was home last week and did two or three different civic clubs. Everywhere I went, when I said it's time to get our troops out of Afghanistan, save lives of our American soldiers, and save money, I would get applause.
Also, in the last couple of weeks, my office has sent out a survey, and 17,000 people of the Third District responded, and 70 percent of the 17,000 said the same thing: Why are we still in Afghanistan spending money we do not have and having our young men and women to give their life for a failed policy known as Afghanistan? ....
.... Mr. Speaker, I'm on the Armed Services Committee, and I have written a letter to the chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee and asked her to hold hearings and bring in the inspectors general who've been looking into how the waste, fraud, and abuse abounds in Afghanistan. They can't even account for half the money we've spent over in Afghanistan. We've already spent over $700 billion in Afghanistan, and half of it we can't even account for ....
.... But when you hear about the CIA sending cash money for 10 years, millions and millions and millions of dollars to Karzai so that he can take care of the warlords over in Afghanistan and give a little bit of money to the Taliban so they can buy weapons to kill Americans, then I don't know and I sometimes just am frustrated. Where is the outrage in Congress? ....
.... We're not going to change one thing. They've already acknowledged, Mr. Speaker, that we are fighting the Taliban, and most of the Taliban are Pashtuns, the largest tribe in Afghanistan. They will eventually be the leaders, and Mr. Karzai will not even be in Afghanistan. He'll probably be in Switzerland counting his money that Uncle Sam has sent to him. ....
By Dave Lindorff
My mother died last Thursday at the age of 89. Her death, fortunately coming peacefully after she suffered a stroke during her sleep, followed a long mental decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Two recent, but seemingly unrelated, news articles are worth reviewing more carefully, to see a common thread.
The first concerns remarks made by special rapporteur with the UN Human Rights Council, Richard Falk. Following the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon, Mr. Falk said this: “…the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks, and these may yet happen, especially if there is no disposition to rethink U.S. relations to others in the world, starting with the Middle East.”
|Photo source: Huffington Post / "Afghanistan: NATO Air Strike Kills 11 Children" April 8, 2013
The following poem was written by Dennis Serdel, Vietnam 1967-68 (one tour) Light Infantry, Americal Div. 11th Brigade, Purple Heart; United Auto Workers GM Retiree. It is re-published here with his permission. I added the graphics.
It is the Afghanistan Marathon
Runners Race beginning in Lashkar
Gah in Helmand Province
& ending In Kabul so the US
Dictator Stooge Karzai could crown
The first bunch to take off
were Afghanistan Civilians, then off
went the Afghanistan Fake Soldiers,
coming up behind them were
the Taliban with all kinds of weapons,
then after that, the American Soldiers
were bringing up the rear.
The air & the road was so Hot
that Human Beings handed out
Water in cups to the Runners.
Half way in the Marathon
the Taliban set up IED's
in the pressure cooker race
& took off some of the American Soldier's
legs, killed three & wounded
more, they had to be choppered
out to the hospital & it really made
the US Top Brass mad
because they had bets on which
Army Unit would win,
So they sent two drones to cripple
the Taliban & it worked as the US
Soldiers passed the Taliban,
Arms, Legs lay everywhere.
The Afghanistan Fake Soldiers
began shooting the American Soldiers
until the US Air Force took some of them
out as the Rest tore off their Uniforms
& Ran & Escaped back to their War Lords,
Who were Not happy, because they
had bets on the Winners too.
Three quarters of the way,
the American Soldiers set up an ambush
& killed & crippled the
rest of the Taliban
but the damn Civilians who started
out First, were getting Closer & Closer
to the Finish Line
So at the last minute, the US Air Force
sent so many drones in
that they killed all the Civilians,
arms, legs, heads cut off
& the Winners were the US Mountain
Infantry who found it easy to run
at Sea Level where the air was thick
but the bastard Karzai
said they cheated & would Not
make them the Winners & would Not
give them their Trophies
But he gave them to the few remaining
Taliban Patriots on the long bloody road
& Kept the Winners Money that
the Americans gave him for Himself
instead of the Winners.
The American Brass
were so mad, that they sent a 100 drones
out to kill any Afghanistans who were
at Funerals in the next few days
burying their Dead & then they'll bury more.
This Long Afghanistan Marathon War
has killed so many Afghanistan Children
Mothers, Fathers, GrandFathers / Mothers
for All these years, they can only Estimate
how many Died, it's in many thousands.
But at least we know
how many, American Soldiers
have been killed so far,
it's a Marathon,
an Afghanistan War Marathon
supposed to end next year
or the year after that,
no one seems to know
where the Finish Line is.
Written by Human Being Dennis Serdel for Military Resistance
By Dave Lindorff
I ran the Boston Marathon back in 1968, and, my feet covered with blisters inside my Keds sneakers, dragged across the finish line to meet my waiting uncle at a time of about 3 hours and 40 minutes. It was close enough to the time that the current bombing happened in this year’s race -- about four hours from the starting gun -- that had I been running it this year, I might still been near enough to the finish line to have heard the blasts.
Manning's Co-Defendant is the Internet Itself Bradley Manning Update: How to Commit Espionage Without Trying!
By Dave Lindorff
If it wasn't clear up to now, it was made crystal clear last week. The co-defendent in the Bradley Manning trial is the Internet itself.
By MIKE PRYSNER and GERRY CONDON
Veterans For Peace has once again teamed up with March Forward to bring the Our Lives Our Rights campaign to active duty Gis facing deployment to Afghanistan. Since Monday, Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans—including active-duty soldiers—have been engaged in a daring outreach campaign on and around Fort Hood, TX, the biggest U.S. military base in the world.
Every morning, as soldiers flood onto Fort Hood, Our Lives Our Rights organizers have been holding a massive 50-foot banner at the base gates reading “You don’t have to go to Afghanistan.” This trip was timed ahead of the deployment of Fort Hood’s III Corps in May.
This message—and information about why and how soldiers can resist deployment to Afghanistan—is also on thousands of leaflets and educational pamphlets.
This week, our organizers are actually on base at Fort Hood, distributing all of this literature to soldiers in uniform. Soldiers are also finding this literature in waiting rooms and lobbies at the USO, mental health clinic, post hospital, art and recreation center, and more. Soldiers will also open the Fort Hood post newspaper to find our literature stashed inside.
The goal of this outreach is to let deploying soldiers—who by mainstream polls overwhelmingly oppose the continuation of the Afghanistan war—know that they have a variety of options to not have their life thrown away. Not just that, but that they would be morally right for doing so, and that they have the support of countless other soldiers, veterans and civilians who will stand beside them.
One of those options, seeking a discharge from the military as a Conscientious Objector, was the topic of the Thursday evening “Ribs and Rights” forum at Under The Hood Cafe and GI Outreach Center. Several active duty GI's participated, including a young soldier who has applied for a C.O. discharge and is “hopeful.”
March Forward organizer and VFP member Kevin Baker explained that the Our Rights Our Lives campaign. “Withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan immediately—as favored by a large majority of Americans and Afghans—would be the right thing to do,” said Baker, a former Army sergeant who spent 28 months in Iraq, but refused his third deployment. “If this government is not willing to withdraw the troops, then individual soldiers of conscience have the right to withdraw themselves from this illegal, immoral occupation.”
VFP board member Gerry Condon spoke of the many ways to resist illegal wars and occupations and called for support for GI whistleblower Bradley Manning. VFP members Helen Jaccard and Doug Zachary also participated in the lively discussion among active duty GI's, veterans and supporters.
A Fort Hood soldier and combat veteran had the following to say:“The work this campaign is doing is more effectively fulfilling my oath to this country and humanity. It is my responsibility to disobey an unlawful order, and these occupations are no exception. Simply by having these type of conversations, we are fostering independent thought, which is a form of resistance in itself.”
Iraq veteran Malachi Muncy, who coordinates Under the Hood and hosted the event, was a gracious host. The ribs were great.
So far, the Our Lives Our Rights campaign has received several phone calls and emails from soldiers and military families seeking more information about resisting deployment.
JOIN THE GI OUTREACH AT FORT HOOD
The Our Lives Our Rights efforts at Fort Hood will continue throughout April. A concentrated effort will take place from Wednesday, April 17 through Saturday, April 20, immediately before many veterans will be attending the Bush Liebury events in nearby Dallas, April 22-26.
Veterans and friends who would like to reach out to GI's at Fort Hood should get in touch with Gerry Condon at firstname.lastname@example.org by phone at 206-499-1220 or March Forward organizer Kevin Baker at 213-925-5506.
How can a veteran of war in Afghanistan help us understand good conscience?
Dr. Hakim interviews Nao Rozi
Below are excerpts of an interview of Nao Rozi, an Afghan National Army veteran, and now a member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.
Excerpts of Video Transcript
Nao Rozi: I was an Afghan soldier for 2 years and had combat roles.
Hakim: What did you learn from your experience?
Nao Rozi: If I think about the root issues, philosophy since the time of Plato has tried to bring the minds of the public under government control. Sometimes, I thought that soldiers and wars were necessary but when I joined the military as a soldier, I saw the injuring and killing of soldiers and opponents like the Taliban. I thought, “Is my presence necessary? Is it correct to have a weapon?” I held a weapon before people I didn't know and who didn’t know me... We weren’t enemies because we didn’t even know one another. Even before greetings, we were supposed to kill one another.
I concluded that I should leave the army and after that, I had a crisis.
I had almost changed 180 degrees. I was affected by the war.
I tried committing suicide a few times. I felt alone.
Hakim: Some people who hear your story may think your mind was weak; you wanted to commit suicide…
Nao Rozi: Veterans who commit suicide are not cowardly…they are victims of the war.
Life becomes meaningless. It becomes difficult. You think you’ve done something such that you feel you no longer have the right to live.
Those US veterans who committed suicide had a conscience.
Hakim: What message do you have for friends and for the world?
Nao Rozi: Teacher, how I wish that every human in the world would…just for once, sit down alone and ask, “What are we here for?”
How have we been deceived? How true to self have we been?
I was brought up under the ‘government system’ and things I heard from society and the media. I was captive to these. Now, I am free!
Nao Rozi lives and struggles with the Afghan Peace Volunteers,
seeking a better life, seeking a better world.
Afternote by Dr. Hakim
I believe the medical community has made a mistake in considering war-related post-traumatic stress a disorder.
War related post-traumatic stress is a natural order, not a disorder.
I speak as a general medical practitioner, not as a psychiatrist. But more importantly, I speak as a human being whose thinking about war trauma transformed in the few minutes that I was interviewing Faiz Ahmad a few years ago, and then recently in interviewing Nao Rozi, an Afghan National Army veteran.
Anyone who witnesses gruesome violence and death would feel nauseous and repulsed, and these reactions are a natural order of human preservation, not a disorder.
War-related post-traumatic stress prompts us to avoid the blood and gore of mutual killing. Collecting and hearing all the stories of war veterans should prompt us to seriously abolish wars. Albert Einstein had said, “War cannot be humanized, only abolished. War is a terrible thing, and must be abolished at all costs. “
Nao Rozi had painted for me a morbid scene that poets and writers have consistently described in different ways over the centuries, “There were so many dead young bodies, and all of them were strangers to me. I thought, ‘Why did we do this to one another? Who benefited from these deaths? Weren’t their mothers waiting for them at home?’ ”
These questions changed the course of his life.
While making sense out of what he had experienced, he had tried to kill himself a few times.
Today, there is an on-going suicide epidemic among U.S. soldiers and veterans.
A portion of the Guardian article which touched on this suicide epidemic among U.S. soldiers is worth reproducing here.
Libby Busbee is pretty sure that her son William never sat through or read Shakespeare's Macbeth, even though he behaved as though he had. Soon after he got back from his final tour of Afghanistan, he began rubbing his hands over and over and constantly rinsing them under the tap. "Mom, it won't wash off," he said.
"What are you talking about?" she replied.
“The blood. It won't come off."
On 20 March 2012, the soldier's striving for self-cleanliness came to a sudden end. That night he locked himself in his car and, with his mother and two sisters screaming just a few feet away and with Swat officers encircling the vehicle, he shot himself in the head.
At the age of 23, William Busbee had joined a gruesome statistic. In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone.
Tomas Young, an Iraq veteran who has decided to end his life, wrote a letter to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney stating "My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness."
In the words of Erica Modugno, author of a pledge some veterans are making to dying Tomas Young:
“We see you. We hear you. We will not remain passive. We will not be silent.
Farewell, Tomas, and thank you.”
I’m sad that some of us may still conclude that Nao Rozi, William Busbee and Tomas Young were ‘wimpy soldiers’, not brave enough to unflinchingly continue doing their jobs.
Rather, their post-traumatic stress was a natural order seeking to preserve their good conscience, a kind order that can help us find a better world.
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)
Why did the peace movement of the middle of the last decade not grow larger? Why did it shrink away? Why is it struggling now?
As has been documented, a huge factor in the shrinking away was partisan delusion. You put a different political party's name on the wars and they become good wars.
But that also means that what you had was a peace movement that believed in the possibility of good wars. In fact, much of it believed that Iraq was a bad war and Afghanistan a good war. Many people even went out of their way to display their "reasonableness" by declaring Afghanistan a good war without actually examining the war on Afghanistan; this was imagined to be a strategic way to prevent or scale back or end the war on Iraq.
Of course, when the bad war ends, and all that's left is the good war, those who are actually motivated by opposition to war must shift to opposing the former good war as the current bad war. And why would you listen to anyone who did that?
Many, of course, opposed the war on Afghanistan until the invasion of Iraq, and then switched to talking almost exclusively about Iraq. Afghanistan was labeled the good war once Iraq had happened, just as World War II was labeled the good war once Vietnam had happened. Our beliefs regarding contrasts between Iraq and Afghanistan are mostly false. The invasion of Afghanistan was no more legal or moral or honest or U.N.-authorized than the invasion of Iraq. The occupation of Afghanistan is no less of a vicious one-sided slaughter of helpless people who wished us no ill than the occupation of Iraq was.
But we aren't in the habit of talking about wars as one-sided slaughters of innocent men, women, and children. And we aren't in the habit precisely because that is the essential feature that all of our wars share in common.
When we chose to oppose the war on Iraq without opposing all wars, we were obliged to find a reason why. We were obliged to oppose the war . . .
· because Iraq had no weapons (as if a government's possessing weapons were grounds for its people being bombed -- a notion that could cost Iran dearly),
· or because Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 (as if a government's association with a group affiliated with a party having once met with a wing of an organization connected to a group involved in 9-11 were grounds for being bombed -- a notion now costing the lives of drone strike victims by the thousands, not to mention sustaining the war on Afghanistan),
· or because the war in Iraq wasn't being won (a notion that helped escalate that war and later the occupation of Afghanistan as well),
· or because -- in fact -- the war on Iraq was a Republican Party war (as of course it was not; just check who controlled the U.S. Senate at the time -- remember the Senate, that body that long prevented President Obama from doing any of the wonderful things he'd like to have done in his secret, if not imaginary, heart of hearts? And look at what happens to opposition to Republican wars when a Democrat is put on the throne.)
A forthcoming book by Paul Chappell is even better than all of his other ones, and I highly recommend it, but it's marred by advocacy for appealing to people's patriotism and religion. I attended a peace conference recently at which some of the speakers claimed that the movement against the war on Iraq had been more strategic than that against the war on Vietnam, and had done so by appealing to patriotism, waving flags, avoiding disrespect for the U.S. military, and not opposing war in general. For several years now, peace groups have been preaching that it would be unstrategic, if not racist, to oppose President Obama. We must oppose Obama's wars, but not him or his political party, as that might turn people off. So we're told.
Often it's considered humble and inclusive to reach people "where they are" and nudge them ever so slightly toward where you'd like them to be. And most of our country is saturated with militarism. But if a peace-in-certain-circumstances movement does manage to turn out a crowd for a march or two, what remains behind when the marches are over? Certainly not an understanding of what's wrong with militarism. Not even an understanding of what the war was that was marched against.
A majority of Americans believes the war on Iraq benefitted Iraq but hurt the United States. A majority wanted that war ended, year after year, for several years, many motivated by selfishness -- by a desire to cease bestowing such philanthropy on the undeserving and ungrateful people of Iraq. A majority believes President George W. Bush lied the nation into the war, but not that all wars are begun with similar lies. And almost no one in the United States understands what was done to Iraq, that more Iraqis and a higher percentage of Iraqis were killed than were Americans in our civil war, or British or French or Japanese or Americans in World War II, or that three times that many Iraqis were made refugees, that towns and neighborhoods and populations were wiped out, infrastructure destroyed and never yet rebuilt, cancer and birth defects at record levels, civil rights worse than under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, a nation devastated as totally as almost any other in history.
We opposed this without understanding a fraction of it, without educating others about it, and without displaying disrespect for the U.S. military. Is that an accomplishment to be truly proud of? How can counter-recruitment efforts possibly succeed in limiting the military's supply of cannon fodder if the peace movement doesn't disrespect the military? I think the simplemindedness here is not in the public we're so arrogantly trying to manipulate gently, but in ourselves. When we tried to impeach George W. Bush it was not with ill-will toward him, but with an eye on the future behavior of future presidents. When we treat membership in the U.S. military as respectable, how can we simultaneously convey to high school students the disgust we will feel for their action, should they choose to enlist? I said for their action, not for them. Are we not capable of recognizing the economic bind students are in and nonetheless stigmatizing participation in mass-murder? Or are we perhaps not even capable of recognizing mass-murder for what it is?
Here's a secret about people in this country: they don't support mass murder. Here's another: they're not stupid. So, when you force them to be aware that their government is committing mass murder and glorifying it, they get upset, angry, and often energized to make a change. And when you talk to them honestly, they know you're being honest even if they don't agree with you at first. And when you respectfully disagree, they are able to notice whether your position makes any sense. So, if you oppose wars because you oppose killing people, you have to explain to everyone you can that you oppose wars because they kill people. You can't say "I oppose this particular war because Paul Bremmer did something dumb," because everyone will fantasize about a future war that doesn't include the dumb thing. And once you've said that, you have to downplay the fact that the war is an act of mass-murder, because if it were, then why wouldn't you be opposing it for that reason? Why wouldn't your interlocutor as well? You have joined in a cooperative agreement to keep that matter secret as you turn the conversation to the WMD lies or the financial costs or the costs to the U.S. troops who made up 0.3% of the deaths.
On the train home from a recent peace conference, I spoke to a young woman who told me she was studying dentistry and would be in the Air Force. Couldn't she be a dentist without the military, I asked? No, she answered, not without $200,000 in debt. Yes, I replied, but without the Air Force, we could have free colleges and no debts. No, she replied . . . and, if you think for a moment, I know you'll know what she said next. It had nothing to do with the lies about Iraq, the financial cost of Iraq, the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq, or what war mongers the Republicans are. It had nothing to do with any of that. Think for a second, and you'll know.
Got it? She replied: if we didn't have the Air Force, North Korea would kill us.
Now, if you have a little education you probably realize that North Korea couldn't attack the United States without being completely obliterated, and that any nation on earth would scream angry threats if we pretended to drop nuclear bombs on it after having destroyed all of its cities, killed millions of its people, and threatened and antagonized it for over half a century through control of the military belonging to its former other half.
But if you'd just learned that the war on Iraq was a dumb war that cost too much, that nothing is more heroic than militarism, that even the peace movement should be led by soldiers, and that waving flags and valuing a particular 5% of humanity to a special degree are admirable values, where would you be? What would you know about militarism, where it exists, or how it functions?
There will always, always, always be another North Korea that's supposedly about to kill us. We don't need rapid-response fact corrections. We need citizens with some understanding of history, with knowledge of the Other 95%, with the capacity to resist terrorism-by-television, and capable of independent thought. To get there, we need a peace movement that moves us, at whatever pace it can, toward peace -- toward the popular demand for the absolute abolition of all war.
By Dave Lindorff
The history of third parties in America is pretty dismal. The system is rigged against them, for one thing. But equally problematic is the lack of focus that leads to infighting and splits whenever a third party is created.
By John Grant
“The elite always has a Plan B, while people have no escape.”
- Ahmad Saadawi
By Linn Washington, Jr.
The HISTORY channel is catching righteous hell for crafting the character of Satan in its miniseries “The Bible” to bear an uncanny likeness to U.S. President Barak Obama.
Is it just coincidence that the dark-skinned Satan in this HISTORY channel miniseries looks hauntingly similar to the first black man to occupy the Oval Office seat in America’s White House?
By Alex Thomson
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.”
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