Posts Tagged afghanistan
10 Years of War – Protesting Drones Made by General Atomics
An email exchange only last week, based on research he had done, with Malachy Kilbride, brought news that he had found a lobbying office for General Atomics right around the corner from the White House. General Atomics is a manufacturer of parts for drones. Given the 10th anniversary of the US occupation of Afghanistan, and the mobilization of an occupation/encampment which began on October 6, at Freedom Plaza in Washington, we quickly decided to protest General Atomics.
3 1/5 scale models of Reaper drones, produced by Nick Mottern of Consumer for Peace, and a group of upstate NY activists. (There are 9 more drone models in the works. Hung on the drones were signs such as “assassination vehicle.”
3 banners, including a 30 foot long one saying “DRONES: making enemies faster than we can kill them.”
Symbolic representations of babies wrapped in shrouds, carried by a dozen protesters.
Assorted antiwar signs, symbols, drums, cameras, voices, and stories.
About 250 people aged 16-80.
Based on a couple of announcements and emails, we didn’t know who would march beyond supporters of Code Pink, Upstate (NY) Drone Action and World Can’t Wait. But as we gathered in the middle of Freedom Plaza, dozens materialized, and soon we took off on a march with over 200. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17729809
The original idea was to have a silent march – but we were going right by the White House. How could we be silent? On the spot we developed a chant: “When drones fly, children die! Stop the wars NOW!”
By the time we got in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we paused, partly by plan, and partly because again, we had to. Here lives the Commander in Chief who sent more troops than the Bush regime ever did to Afghanistan, and who has used drones 8 times as much as Bush did, spreading the drone war to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and even recently, Iraq. I had to tell those gathered that the slang term used by pilots of the unmanned drones — who sit at video monitors half way across the globe — for their targets, is “squirters.”
We went on to General Atomics, in a drab office building on Pennsylvania Avenue. A few people looked out the window as we marched up – we were loud. Spontaneously, dozens of people went up to the door of the building, and went in. Some held the doors open, and fairly soon, they were ejected, roughly by security guards. DC police blocked the doors, but too late, we had taken the steps. We held a one hour rally on the steps, spilling across the sidewalk and into the street. David Swanson, Malacky Kilbride, sisters from Code Pink who have protested drones at Creech Air Force Base and in upstate New York, Greg from Wisconsin, a Veteran for Peace, Ray McGovern and Ann Wright, spoke from the steps along with me.
Afterwards, I heard from quite a few people who stopped me to say that they learned much along the way about the Obama administration’s expansion of drone warfare, and more detail about how the drones are used. I could see people in the crowd, including those who were holding the “shrouded babies,” crying. I explained how in January 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, the Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, I had seen a photo of a large extended Palestinian family, standing around 3 tiny shrouded bodies. Whatever the Obama administration claims — including the ridiculous assertion that “not one civilian” was killed this year by one of their drones — we know that civilians are being killed, because the Afghans, the Pakistanis, Yemenis and Somalians tell us.
While several people were suggest to me, as the impromptu MC, that we get someone to speak on the “economic” issues, a fellow from Madison came up to speak, and I thought, being from Wisconsin, he’d talk about the repression on unions, and other issues that brought people to surround the state capitol this winter. But Greg spoke about how his wife and other relatives who are teachers are “sick” of having their students go off into the military because they have no jobs and no future. What an outrageous situation in this country where the only steady work people can get is as part of an occupying army!
The building’s front door was shut down for an hour. We began to get peace signs flashed to the crowd from people inside. Probably they didn’t work at General Atomics, but we made sure everyone inside heard our chant: STOP MAKING DRONES!
See videos of the rally. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17731070 http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17731348
When Barack Obama announced in early 2010 that he had put Anwar al-Awlaki on his hit list, I heard from people for whom the announcement was a breaking point in their support for the president.
World Can’t Wait published a statement titled Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them. It said
In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly.
The ad got significant support in The New York Review of Books, and Rolling Stone. It was much more controversial when it went into The New York Times, on the anniversary of Bush’s bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, October 6, 2010. That paper, so far, has not published its opinion on the Obama administration’s killing of al-Awlaki and another American, on September 30, in an secret operation in Yemen, so we may assume it joins in supporting this crime by our government.
On October 2, they published an opinion by Jack Goldsmith, who you’ll remember as a lawyer for the Bush regime tainted by the torture scandal. Titled A Just Act of War, Goldsmith’s piece praises Obama’s aggression, because the Office of Legal Counsel came up with opinions justifying the killing by unmanned drone of al-Awlaki and another American citizen. For Goldsmith “what due process requires depends on context,” so it’s all good.
The assassination is hypocritical because America routinely criticizes (and justifiably so) such extrajudicial assassinations when they occur at the hands of another government.
The Bush-loving Washington Times, in a piece by Rowan Scarborough, whines that Al-Awlaki would have been difficult to try as a civilian. So just kill him.
“I think it’s pretty easy to understand why they didn’t take him alive. Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial, an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American court,” said a former military intelligence officer who worked with special operations troops to hunt down high-value terrorism targets.
Over at the more “liberal” Washington Post, John Bellinger III settles for the administrations’ self-enforcing opinion:
the Justice Department reportedly prepared an opinion concluding that his killing would comply with domestic and international law. This is likely to be considered sufficient due process under U.S. constitutional standards.
Leaving aside this monstrous immorality — no government should be allowed to kill with impunity, much less from a distance, in secret, off a battlefield — there may be a price the U.S. pays for such actions. Even Jack Goldsmith acknowledges
Such caution, however, does not guarantee legitimacy at home or abroad. There are relatively few complaints in American society about the drone program, but drones are becoming increasingly controversial outside the United States on the ground that they violate international law.
The best piece on what line has been crossed here is Glenn Greenwald’s Friday piece in Salon. See The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality. Today, he says
This was absolutely the heart and soul of the Bush War on Terror: the President can do whatever he wants to anyone he wants — with no oversight, due process, or checks — because we’re at War and these are Bad Terrorists (says the President, unilaterally and in secret).
Don’t want a world like this? Protest on October 6, 7, 8, and keep at it. Ten years is way too long for the richest country to be destroying one of the poorest on the planet, Afghanistan.
October2011.org at Freedom Plaza. I’ll be there. Join us!
Standing at #OccupyWallStreet this week, we got a chance to talk with occupiers, supporters, and tourists about the upcoming 10th anniversary of the U.S. bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, and plans to protest it next week, particularly starting Thursday, October 6 at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.
The great majority warmly embraced us, some literally, helping to write “Stop the War” in Arabic, Spanish, and French for our signs, or dropping donations in our bucket. People stared a long time at a photo of Afghan civilians wounded by a U.S. bomb, and asked, “Is that war still going on?” “Why hasn’t it been stopped, because we’re all against it?” “I think the people there must hate us.”
A couple of Wall Street occupiers took issue, not with ending the war, but with making it a main focus. One said that he is mainly worried about people in this country, whom he called “Americans.” A friend of his accurately reminded him that this whole hemisphere is filled with Americans, but only in one country does the use of that term refer exclusively to citizens of the United States.
I read them one of my favorite one-liners from BAsics, the speeches and writings of Bob Avakian.
“American lives are not more important than other peoples’ lives.”
I said why it’s such an outrage that the richest country in history is destroying one of the poorest. With more than 1,100 U.S. bases in countries around the world, U.S. power amounts to a world-wide empire, and the U.S. has a larger military budget than all other countries combined. Think about the destruction of the global environment caused by this military machine, the largest user of fossil fuels in the world, again, more than most countries.
They were kind of with me on that point. “Think what could be done with all that money at home,” said the kid with peace sign tattoos. ” I can see why you think it’s important to end the war. The U.S. really can’t afford the billions of dollars for war.”
But, in reality, the people who run this country can’t afford not to maintain an empire. It’s how they dominate strategic parts of the world, especially the oil-rich Middle East, and keep other countries from controlling them. War and the projection of military power is how they control globalized markets and production, which they would lose without the guns to back up their exploitation of people and resources.
Our opposition to U.S. wars of occupation is fundamentally based on morality. They’re not fought in our interest, and certainly not in the interests of the people of the world.
Stopping the wars is so fundamental because they protect a system which hourly promotes a bigger gap between rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, on a world-wide basis.
Come out, protest, occupy, raise your voices against the 10 years of war in Afghanistan and against US domination of the globe. That’s where the horrors start, and where we must put a stop to them.
Write me at debrasweet at worldcantwait.net for information on a conference call Thursday Sept. 29. 10pm Eastern/7pm Pacific discussing Why is the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq? What is the effect on those societies? When, if ever, will the U.S. leave? Presenters Larry Everest, author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, and Raed Jarrar, who blogs at RaedintheMiddle, and was born in Baghdad, will take your questions.
Over the last few years, people have looked around at the movement for social justice and said, often, “Where are the youth?” This past week, in NYC they have been out on the streets, crackling with frustration, outrage, energy, and some hope and joy at just standing against what they can’t bear to be a part of.
Monday through Thursday evenings last week in NYC, they turned out for rallies, vigils, and marches at Union Square, Columbia University, NYU, in Harlem, and down to Wall Street, against the “legal lynching” of Troy Davis.
Beginning last Saturday, hundreds of mostly young people, including students, have been occupying Zuccotti Park (Broadway & Liberty) as part of the Occupy Wall Street action.
Though they don’t have an organization, or a set of demands, they are organizing themselves into a structured effort to wake up the population to the vast disparity between wealth and poverty, saying that they speak for the “99%” who have no power in the society. People are arriving to join in from around the U.S., and from around the globe.
Today, hundreds of mostly young people marched from lower Broadway to Union Square as part of Occupy Wall Street. It was a loud, energetic, even boisterous, but peaceful crowd chanting “we are the 99% — and so are you!” and “join us!”
Thousands of shoppers in SOHO and tourists and New Yorkers were snapping photos and waving thumbs up. Cab drivers were honking in rhythm with the drummers. Troy Davis was present via signs, as people refused to resign ourselves to his execution.
After we made it to Union Square with only about 6 arrests, the NYPD pulled out the orange plastic nets and pepper spray, and arrested upwards of 80 people, for nothing but being in the street, and in some cases, on the sidewalk. They staged a mass arrest reminiscent of the police state atmosphere they created in 2004 at the Republican National Convention where George W. was crowned again. It appears from video that people with cameras were specifically targeted for arrest, as they were in 2004.
The New York Times blog reports
Protest organizers estimated that about 85 people had been arrested and that about five were struck with pepper spray. Among those was Chelsea Elliott, 25, who said that she was sprayed after shouting “Why are you doing that?” as an officer arrested a protester at East 12th Street.
“I was on the ground sobbing and couldn’t breathe,” she said. The ongoing protests, against a financial system that participants say favors the rich and powerful over ordinary citizens, started last Saturday, and were coordinated by a New York group called the General Assembly.
The mass arrests are outrageous! You can see more here, including live feed from Zuccotti Park, where people are feeding themselves and the homeless, playing music, talking to tourists, and working to free their arrested friends, with the help of the National Lawyers Guild.
As of this evening, up to 100 people remain in police custody.
The occupation of Wall Street will soon be joined by an occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. on October 6.
In 10 days, it will be 10 years since the Bush regime began its bombing and invasion of Afghanistan; an illegitimate, unjust, immoral targeting of one of the poorest countries on earth.
Sign up to be part of World Can’t Wait’s dramatic visual antiwar presence at the Thursday, October 6 encampment October2011.org at Freedom Plaza, Washington DC. See more at TenYearsandCounting and worldcantwait.net.
It’s difficult to pick out the most disturbing feature of the Obama administration’s expanding use of unmanned drones in its continuing war on “terror” in at least 5 countries. Would it be that the pilots, sitting in Texas or Nebraska, “watch” targets across the world for hours or days, and then go home for dinner with the kids? That their slang term for human beings they’ve hit is “squirter?” That the C.I.A. minders of one of the U.S. drone programs claim “no” civilians are killed? Or that there’s no oversight, no budget limit, no one in the upper levels of government who is even disturbed by this inhumanity?
I’d go for all of the above, and together, they are only one reason I’m calling you to protest on October 6, and in the days after, at the outrage of 10 years of aggressive war and occupation of Afghanistan by the United States. See World Can’t Wait protest plans, October2011.org, and 10 Years and Counting.
In Washington, D.C. on Thursday, October 6, we will have replica Predator drones on Freedom Plaza. We’ll be talking to the public about how they’re used, and we’ve got the facts to fuel outrage. Last month, the New York Times reported on a drone attack in Pakistan, and raised questions:
On May 6, a Central Intelligence Agency drone fired a volley of missiles at a pickup truck carrying nine militants and bomb materials through a desolate stretch of Pakistan near the Afghan border. It killed all the militants — a clean strike with no civilian casualties, extending what is now a yearlong perfect record of avoiding collateral deaths.
Or so goes the United States government’s version of the attack, from an American official briefed on the classified C.I.A. program. Here is another version, from a new report compiled by British and Pakistani journalists: The missiles hit a religious school, an adjoining restaurant and a house, killing 18 people — 12 militants, but also 6 civilians, known locally as Samad, Jamshed, Daraz, Iqbal, Noor Nawaz and Yousaf.
The Telegraph U.K. reported that at least 168 children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan since start of campaign, although all concerned know how difficult it is to count the victims of the secret drone campaign.
In the first seven months of the year, 51 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed at least 443 people, according to a report by Conflict Monitoring Center. The report showed that the two deadliest months were June and July, when 117 and 73 people were killed respectively. One of the deadliest attacks was carried out on July 11 and 12, when four air strikes killed 63 people, the report said. Controversy has surrounded the drone strikes as local residents and officials have blamed them for killing innocent civilians and motivating young men to join the Taliban. Details about the alleged militants are usually not provided, and the U.S. government does not comment on the strikes. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 2,292 people had been killed by US missiles, including as many as 775 civilians.
Clive Stafford Smith, an attorney for Guantanamo prisoners, wrote more on the children and civilians killed by U.S.drones:
The CIA claims that there has been not one “non-combatant” killed in the past year. This claim always seemed to be biased advocacy rather than honest fact. Indeed, the Guardian recently published some of the pictures we have obtained of the aftermath of drone strikes. There were photos of a child called Naeem Ullah killed in Datta Khel and two kids in Piranho, both within the timeframe of the CIA’s dubious declaration.
Smith raises a challenge that “every time we read news of the latest drone strike in Pakistan, we need an honest assessment of the civilian casualties – and of whether we feel comfortable with an unaccountable spy agency carrying out killings on a military scale (the CIA’s strikes now outweigh the firepower used in the opening round of the Kosovo war).”
All of this, done in our name, must be stopped by people acting in this country who know that American lives are not more important than the lives of other people, and that this outrageous war is fundamentally against humanity’s interest.
In the summer of 2005, people were starting to come out of their 6 month long depression over the outcome of the 2004 election. It was somewhat of a struggle to get people to stop blaming Bush voters, and grasp and grapple with the depravity of the Bush program, and the fact that two aggressive wars had been launched on the basis of lies.
Some of us already working to end the wars, torture, and in many other causes wrangled with the problem that, “fighting against each outrage and winning on important fronts — from immigrants rights to defending the right to due process, to defending abortion, evolution, against discrimination or to defend critical thinking on campus — is invaluable to making real change in a world that desperately needs it. But we are fighting each and every one of these battles on losing ground – ground that is rapidly disappearing under our feet.”
The future is unwritten…
A better outcome for the world required a mass movement of people united in acting to drive George Bush, “Dick” Cheney, and their illegitimate regime from office, and repudiating and reversing the program which had become to be identified with them, especially after 9/11/01. That movement needed to act independently and stop looking for a savior from the Democratic Party. It needed a spirit, call, and direction, which World Can’t Wait supplied in the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.
The Call was quickly distributed hand to hand in about a million copies nationwide starting that summer, and published in several full page newspaper ads in The New York Times, many local papers, and USA Today, with 40,000 people ultimately signing it. While it aggravated some, the points outlined in it captured what was coming down from the heights of power in a belligerent way, and moved many to act:
YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.
YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.
YOUR GOVERNMENT suppresses the science that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.
YOUR GOVERNMENT enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.
Over Labor Day weekend in 2005, as the waters of Katrina were covering New Orleans, 250 people gathered in New York City to found The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime. Sunsara Taylor and I chaired the discussions. We took time out to march, with about 150 more joining us, around midtown, demanding, “rescue, not repression!” for New Orleans, which set a basic approach of immediate response to government action – or inaction.
Don’t Go to Work! Walk Out of School!
It was a bold call, and thousands followed it. On Thursday, November 2, 2005, on the year-anniversary of Bush’s re-election, tens of thousands marched around the U.S., inaugurating the effort to drive out Bush and Cheney, and reverse and repudiate the Bush program. Older people heeded a message from Gore Vidal to:
“join together in a popular movement dedicated to ending pre-emptive wars and restoring the nation to its traditional tax base which repaired levees, educated the citizenry and at regular intervals repaired the wall that Thomas Jefferson wisely put in place to separate church from state.”
Howard Zinn issued a call to students. High school students at more than 200 schools across the country left school and walked out, sometimes for miles, to join organized political protest in unprecedented ways. Protests took place in more than 60 cities, and involved at least 40 college campuses, in addition to the high schools. The outpourings of people all over the country had many faces. Local office holders came out and spoke at New York, Chicago and San Francisco rallies with mothers of soldiers who died in Iraq. Prominent public intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities gave their support to this effort to actually drive out the Bush regime.
In San Francisco, Latino day laborers joined with thousands at the Civic Center as Cindy Sheehan, California State Senator Carol Midgden, and others spoke from the stage. Statements of support came from artists and figures such as Jane Fonda, Harold Pinter and Gore Vidal, who signed on to the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.
In the dead of winter, as 2006 broke, and Bush gave his State of the Union address, people gathered in 68 cities to “drown out” the lies with street protests – then traveled to Washington, DC to protest in cold rain February 4, 2006, demanding Bush step down. The Bush Crimes Commission held hearings with testimony from people like former Brigadier General Janis Karpinsky and former UK ambassador Craig Murray on the crimes that the Bush regime was actively carrying out. In October of 2006 more than 200 cities across the country held mass protests of thousands. With heart and courage, thousands of us came together to make a powerful and precious political statement against a truly dangerous and repressive government. More on driving out a regime.
Next week: stopping torture as a key expression of the Bush program – spreading a culture of resistance through the Declare It Now: Wear Orange campaign and wearing orange jumpsuits.
The world still can’t wait for people in this country to take responsibility and STOP the crimes of your government. World Can’t Wait, and its projects War Criminals Watch, Fire John Yoo, and We Are Not Your Soldiers, deserve and need your support. Become a sustaining supporter here.
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The World Can’t Wait flier, “U.S. Wars on the Middle East: Wrong Because They Cost So Much? Or are they Just Wrong, Immoral, Unjust, and against Humanity’s interests?” written by Debra Sweet, was included as an article in this edition of this independent publication.
Reading the news, I think about how those of us working toward a more just world need to understand the complex factors shaping the world as it actually is. The “Arab spring” brought so many millions to political life, bringing hope and the sense of new possibilities.
At the same time, I’m reading about how the future of the Yemeni people is being decided by the United States government, after they aided Saleh in these months of brutal repression, and as they negotiate a successor to Saleh who will meet their requirements. I read of the demands of women and youth in Egypt, pushed aside as the Muslim Brotherhood moves to solidify its power through strengthening Islam in Egyptian law, thereby undermining the great ambitions of those who rose up in Egypt. I read, infuriated, that Barack Obama ordered the use of unmanned drones by the U.S. in Libya, to attack Qaddafi forces “burrowed into urban areas” with “less threat of collateral damage.” Oh, like in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
This is a world crying out for fundamental change! To get a deeper understanding of the reality we confront in working for that change, World Can’t Wait and The Platypus Affiliated Society are sponsoring An Urgent Exchange: U.S. Empire, Islamic Fundamentalism Both Deadly – Is There Another Way? this Wednesday, April 27 at 6:30pm at Tishman Auditorium at The New School in New York City. We are bringing together New York University professor and poet Sinan Antoon, Iraqi visual artist Wafaa Bilal, Laura Lee Schmidt of Platypus, Revolution writer Sunsara Taylor, and Gregory Wilpert from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation to engage in this very timely question:
“If you are troubled about the state and direction of the world…if you are repelled by both the arrogant assertion of empire by the government and leaders of the U.S. and the fanatical backwardness of Islamic fundamentalism, what should you be doing?”
I am very much looking forward to this exchange, as a beginning, and opening, of this very crucial question,which we fun into all the time. This is a real question and problem in our work to stop U.S. support for the illegitimate, unjust, immoral occupations which most of the anti-war movement avoids, or does not even recognize. As I invited the speakers, I told them:
We sense there’s a lid on response to these crimes from people within the U.S. who don’t want the U.S. endangering the world, but who see the growth of oppressive Islamic fundamentalism, and fear strengthening it.
World Can’t Wait has a mission of stopping the crimes of our own government, to be sure, the greatest of which is its brutal destruction of whole countries where a majority practice Islam, and the targeting, imprisonment and political repression of Muslims here in the US. However, in the U.S. there are many people who don’t like what their government is doing around the world but are at least partially swayed, silenced and paralyzed by the argument that if the US is not in [Iraq] [Afghanistan] [Libya] [Yemen] [and the list grows] the people, especially the women, will have it somehow “worse” than under U.S. occupation.
Fundamentalist Islam is not the only challenge to U.S. empire, but political Islam is currently the main organizational and ideological challenge to U.S. empire and military domination. I talked with Malalai Joya recently, who says the Afghan people have 3 enemies oppressing them: 1) U.S. occupation; 2) Taliban; 3) fundamentalist warlords. She refers to the United States as the “godfather of Islamic fundamentalism in the region” and argues that the occupiers should “get lost” so that the Afghan people can deal with domestic oppressors, while pointing out that Afghan women are in a worse situation since the U.S. occupation began.
Our intention in organizing such an exchange is to hear from people who DO think there is a “good solution” for those caught between brutal foreign occupation and Islamic government. Our approach is not to throw up our hands, saying “there is no good solution,” but rather to seek solutions that would be in the interests of humanity. Hearing those ideas will in turn stimulate people to see beyond a simple polarity of U.S. empire or Islamic government, both of which currently reinforce each other.
A World Can’t Wait supporter wrote me with the concern that:
“The nature of the topic is extremely dangerous to discourse in this country. Wait until Fox News gets ahold of this! I can see it now ‘pick between a US occupation or Alqaeda.’ THAT’S what this meeting implies to the public!”
The point of this exchange is that people should not have to make that choice. If we are serious about providing space for people in the world to find alternatives, if we want to send the strongest possible message to the rest of the world that there are people in the U.S. who don’t support U.S. occupations, and want to see people find another way to set up society than a theocratic regimes, then keeping discussion at the pitifully low level it is at is much more dangerous than not having it.
We will be filming and audio taping the exchange. I believe it will strengthen our determination to oppose U.S. empire, and give us ways to talk to people, many of whom think that the U.S. is a force for good in the world through its military.
I find a number of perplexing contrasts between the US war from 1961 to 1975 (to the Vietnamese people it was the “American” war, and to us the “Vietnam war”) and the wars the U.S. is fighting now in the Middle East.
One is the quality of news coverage. Starting in the mid 1960s, though there was much less news coverage, you could reliably get some coverage of the war. Even though L.B.J. saw “light at the end of the tunnel” and Nixon could lie well too, reporters on U.S. networks often said enough that you could learn to read between the lines. The images of Vietnamese civilians’ suffering and of American casualties were seared into our consciousness. 45 years later, with constant “news” generated, you can find hardly any mention of the most extensive occupation carried out since 1945 – the American war against Iraq.
Another paradox: it was incredibly difficult to communicate with the Vietnamese peoples’ resistance then. I remember a women’s conference in Toronto in the early 70s where women from Vietnam came to speak. Friends drove across this country to get there. It was extremely difficult to get into North Vietnam; not because their government didn’t want visitors from the anti-war movement, but because of travel restrictions on this side. Jane Fonda did it famously… and some people still want to kill her for it. Joe Urgo – who will be marching with us Saturday at the White House – was the first Vietnam war veteran to get there on a peace mission. But they were exceptional. It was difficult for us to get to know people our government was killing.
This time around, quiet as it’s kept by major media, there are visits to Afghanistan and Iraq by peace groups. It’s quite possible, with an internet connection, to “meet” the victims of the war. For example, Voices for Creative Non-Violence has the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers project “Live Without Wars.” Over New Year’s weekend, they had a Global Listening Project where one could Skype or call in to speak with the volunteers… something we could never do in 1968.
The paradox is that people living in this country are now more ignorant, all the way around, of what this country is doing in its wars.
Two women I know have been listening to the people in Afghanistan. What they say applies to the U.S. wars on Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia as well.
Kate Kirwin may be making her first visit to Afghanistan this week. She recently spoke to a Afghan friend there, a conversation which prompted her to write An Open Letter to Obama:
Our phone connection was not clear, but I thought I heard him say something akin to: I never thought I would hear myself say that the Afghan people need hope now more than they need peace. What I know I did hear him say clearly shortly thereafter was: “The people have nothing to lose now. They are being killed anyway.”
Kate, an international human rights attorney, finished her message to Obama with:
Your only possible contribution to peace in Afghanistan can be to get out of the way of the only people capable of creating peace there. Simply get out of the way, for peace will never come. choices can never be made… while you murder and maim, while you occupy, destroy and desecrate a people whose hope you have stolen.
The other woman is a Westerner who has lived in Afghanistan for 8 years, trying to represent a different face to the Afghan people than the military. She writes to me about the change in her thinking as the occupation has escalated. She no longer thinks that U.S. forces can do good there.
Afghans are an incredibly hospitable nation, you have to really make an effort to make them hate you enough to wish to kill you. In most other countries, all our sanctimonious throats would have been slit already a long time ago, unless our governments had managed to evacuate us beforehand.
Their ‘hearts and minds’ originally were open to us. Of course since then, our armies have done absolutely everything under the sun to destroy that positive attitude by systematically intimidating the innocent civilian population and labeling all Muslims as ‘terrorists’, while on the whole, we could learn a lot from most of them in the way of forgiveness and willingness to reconcile.
But for that it takes two (at least) while our side evidently lacks true commitment. Numerous Afghans of course have also plenty killing to account for, particularly during the civil war, but that can never ever justify our compounding that tragedy by continuously deepening local rifts instead of helping to mend them.
One of the most frequently asked questions we in World Can’t Wait get asked is, “but if the U.S. pulls its troops out of [Iraq] [Afghanistan] won’t things just get worse?” My correspondent has grappled with this, and concludes:
With what is going on now in the way of escalation, cover-ups and doing absolutely everything to stop this country from recovering while instead plunging it deeper and deeper into tragic turmoil, I now have come to the point where I truly think that the quicker those military ‘stabilizers’ leave, the better. A new civil war seems rather inevitable, but as the ‘average Afghan’ is thoroughly fed-up with war and aspires to peace and quiet more than anything else, there might be hope that the conflict would be mitigated by that.
The longer our armies and politicians are allowed to increasingly (was that still possible?) fuel latent conflicts, the more divided the population will be and therefore the more cruel a next war. As for the announcement of the US staying on beyond 2014, that is no surprise at all. They have been building dozens of military bases all along the Iranian and Pakistani borders – and probably not only there -, and from what I hear, they are very solidly built to last several decades, not temporary quickies.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced last week that the U.S. isn’t setting a date to leave Afghanistan, not even in 2014, the last “pull-out” date thrown out to us by President Obama. While troops have been moved from Iraq to Afghanistan, there are still 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, 17 permanent bases, and the largest US Embassy on the globe. They aren’t leaving, and won’t leave unless the people in this country act as if they must.
We are protesting 8 years of U.S. war this weekend in 40 U.S. cities. Find out more.
On March 2, the U.S. military announced 22 more charges against Bradley Manning, the accused Army Private imprisoned in solitary confinement since May 2010. One of the new charges, “aiding the enemy,” is potentially punishable with death. This a most outrageous development, echoing the months of right-wingers screaming for his death. View the charges. Word comes that Brad is now held naked overnight, and forced to stand at attention that way.
The system holding him is nakedly unjust!
The charges themselves expose the extent to which the U.S. military is spread across the world is involved in actions with names like “Operation Hammer,” detailed in tens of thousands of reports stored in the internet. I am not the first to point out the irony that the Obama administration offered praise — growing fainter by the day — to those protesting in streets in Egypt and Tunisia with outrage fueled by the very revelations Manning faces death for exposing.
These new charges only increase our anger at the treatment of Bradley Manning, as it grows clearer by the day how much blood is on the hands of those who accuse him. The very same day charges were being signed, March 1, nine children were killed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As a high school student asked me yesterday, “why did they shoot and kill children?” An apology was quickly issued by General David Petraeus, no doubt to quell protest in Afghanistan. But these killings are part of a systematic pattern. The Collateral Murder footage, which the Army specifically indicts Manning for leaking, “12 JUL 07 CZ ENGAGEMENT ZONE 30 GC Anyone.avi” is in reality, an indictment of U.S. rules of engagement and war-fighting.
Kathy Kelly, who goes to Afghanistan, wrote in Incalculable:
Families rely on their children to collect fuel for heat during the harsh winters and for cooking year round. Young laborers, wanting to help their families survive, mean no harm to the United States. They’re not surging at us, or anywhere: they’re not insurgents. They’re not doing anything to threaten us. They are children, and children anywhere are like children everywhere: they’re children like our own.
An 11-min. German documentary, just translated to English, captures both the horror of Collateral Murder, and the injustice done towards Manning, through interviews with a friend of Manning, and anti-war activist and former CIA briefer Ray McGovern. Ethan McCord, who can be seen in the leaked video rescuing children wounded by the 2007 Apache helicopter operation, talks about that day, and his support of Manning.
It’s important to recognize the escalation represented by these new charges against Manning. Glenn Greenwald in Bradley Manning Could Face Death compares Manning to Daniel Ellsberg, 40 years ago. Greenwald was interviewed on Democracy Now March 3:
The charge of aiding the enemy is really quite disturbing, because what that requires is passing information or disseminating intelligence to, quote-unquote, “the enemy.” And although the charging document doesn’t say who the enemy is here, it’s only two possibilities, both of which are disturbing. Either, number one, they mean WikiLeaks, which is accused of giving intelligence to or classified information to, which would mean the government now formally declares WikiLeaks to be, quote-unquote, “the enemy,” or, number two, and more likely, what it means is that by disseminating this information to WikiLeaks and other news organizations that ultimately published it, it enabled the Taliban and al-Qaeda to read this information and to access it, which would basically mean that any kind of leak now of classified information to newspapers, where your intent is not to aid the Taliban or help them but to expose wrongdoing, is now considered a capital offense and considered aiding and abetting the enemy, in that sense. And that’s an amazingly broad and expansive definition of what that offense would be…
it’s now been 10 months where, despite being convicted of absolutely nothing, he’s been held in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement under the most repressive conditions, not being allowed to exercise in his cell. The one hour a day when he’s allowed out, he walks around shackled in a room by himself and is immediately returned to his cell when it stops. Although the commander of the brig was recently fired and replaced, those conditions have not changed. So they’ve gone on for 10 months. They’re likely to go on for many more months, because the court-martial proceeding is not likely to take place for at least another six months or so, while these proceedings work themselves out. And certainly, someone held under those conditions for that long is going to be seriously psychologically and physically deteriorated, perhaps irreparably so.
Democracy Now also reported newly abusive treatment of Manning:
New information has come to light about the prison conditions of accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning, who is being held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. According to his lawyer, Manning was stripped of all his clothes on Wednesday and then forced to remain naked in his cell for seven hours. Manning’s clothes were returned only after he was forced to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection. Manning’s attorney described the treatment as inexcusable and an embarrassment to the military justice system. The incident occurred just hours after the military filed 22 additional charges against Manning for having allegedly illegally downloaded hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military and U.S. Department of State documents that were then publicly released by WikiLeaks. One of the new charges, “aiding the enemy,” could carry a death sentence.
All of this argues for a large and determined protest on Sunday March 20, outside the brig at Quantico, VA where Manning is imprisoned. Join us! From Courage to Resist:
Rally at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia to support accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Army Pfc. Bradley Manning on March 20th! Supporters will gather for a 2pm rally at the town of Triangle (map: intersection of Main St. and Route 1), then march to the gates of the Quantico Marine Corps Base. Bradley has been held at the Quantico brig in solitary-like conditions for six months. We stand for truth, government transparency, and an end to our occupation wars… we stand with Bradley! Event endorsed by the Bradley Manning Support Network, Veterans for Peace, Courage to Resist, CodePink, and many others. Buses from Washington DC have been chartered for this event (departing Union Station at 12:30pm)–reserve your seats today for only $10 RT. The day before, on Saturday, March 19th, in Washington DC, we will be joining the noon rally at Lafayette Park and march on the White House to “Resist the War Machine!”