Posts Tagged iraq

Mass Defense of Courage: Bradley On Our Minds

Protesting at Ft. Meade for Bradley ManningOn Monday, July 8, Bradley Manning’s defense began with what was surely one of the most intense and unusual openings in U.S. military or civilian court history.  Almost without introduction, the 39 minute version of Collateral Murder was played on five screens, while the military judge seemed to read along from the chilling transcript.  The more frequently viewed 17 minute version has the Apache helicopter attack on a group of Iraqis, including a cameraman and reporter working for Reuters.  But the prosecution, for unfathomable reasons, insisted that the longer version, which includes another horrific attack from the Apache on an apparently unarmed Iraqi.

There were tears in the full court room at all the appropriate points.  25 of Bradley’s supporters were allowed in the public seats at any one time, switching with 52 others who filled the overflow trailer.  We succeeded in having the largest turnout to date to support Bradley at trial, including many who were coming for the first time, 24 of us from New York.  The security detail counted and re-counted, short of badges, nervously herding the overflow.

The Collateral Murder footage was what made us support Bradley before we had any idea he existed.  On April 5, 2010, when Wikileaks first published the video which they named Collateral Murder, we knew it was a myth-breaker for those who still thought the U.S. was in Iraq to “save” lives and help people.  The Standard Operating Procedure of U.S. war-fighting in contested urban areas of occupation came through strongly enough visually.  Add in the callous, outrageous chatter of the gunners – which was what Bradley testified this past February caught his attention and horrified him — and you have crimes of war writ large.

This footage figures importantly in the U.S. case against Bradley, as they argue he intentionally released it and other material to Wikileaks, knowing it would get into the hands of “the enemy.”  But the defense presented testimony that the footage had already been in the public domain, was no longer classified, and that Bradley was not collaborating with Wikileaks, but rather leaked the material to them when other news organizations didn’t respond to his entreaties to publish the real story of the Iraq & Afghanistan occupations.

Protesting for Bradley Manning at his trialDetainee Assessment Briefs

Col. Morris Davis was brought by the defense to speak to another contention of the prosecution, that leaking the Guantanamo Detainee Assessment Briefs caused harm because “the enemy” could read them.  Davis, a military lawyer and law professor now at Howard, was put in charge of the whole military prosecution structure at Guantanamo in 2005, but quit in protest in 2007 because he said it would be impossible to promote just prosecutions.  He was the author of the Close Guantanamo petition on Change.org in May, which more than 200,000 people signed.  Ed Pilkington wrote in The Guardian:

Davis said he had also checked against information provided in newspaper articles, a docu-drama called The Road to Guantánamo and a book, The Guantánamo Files, that was published three years before the WikiLeaks disclosures. He said he had concluded that “if you watch the movie, read the book and the articles, you would know more about them than if you read the detainee assessment briefs”.

Davis testified that the DAB’s were almost useless to the prosecution, because they were so hastily and casually constructed.  We learned Tuesday that the five DAB’s picked out by the prosecution — although of course this was all kept secret in the courtroom — included Shaker Aamer.  Aamer is outrageously, still at Guantanamo after eleven years, although he was cleared for release by Bush in 2007, and again in 2010.  Three others were members of the Tipton 3, featured in the film The Road to Guantanamo, who got out years ago, and in our friend Andy Worthington’s book.  None of the erroneous and incomplete information gathered by US intelligence years ago could have any relevance now compared to actual journalism.

Wikileaks

The Justice Department has an ongoing grand jury investigation into Wikileaks and Julian Assange, and an active interest in the case against Manning, as a route to potential prosecution of Wikileaks.  There was testimony today by defense witness  Harvard professor Yochai Benkler who contends that Wikileaks is a legitimate news organization, thereby entitled to First Amendment protection, and not “the enemy” Manning is charged with aiding.

Kevin Gosztola noted,

What happens here will create precedent for pursuing future whistleblowers or leakers. Depending on how WikiLeaks ends up being cast in the ruling, it may become a factor in how the US government continues its investigation and potential indictment of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, WikiLeaks staffers or volunteers connected to WikiLeaks.

What’s Next?

The defense rested on July 10, after ten witnesses testified.  The court martial resumes at 3:00 pm Monday July 15, with more motion arguments, and an expected rebuttal from the prosecution.  There may be more from the defense before the Judge announces decisions on the 22 charges.  Then the trial moves to the sentencing phase, which will likely involve weeks more of arguments.

Stay tuned for another call-out for maximum support at the trial.

These reporters have been at the trial every day:

Kevin Gosztola

Alexa O’Brien

Nathan Fuller for Bradley Manning Support Network

Coverage from Associated Press and The New York Times has been occasional.

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The “American” War Isn’t Over for the Iraqi People

Iraqi school destroyedYes, I know it wasn’t all of the  countries of the Americas which made war on Iraq.  It was the United States of America, as Barack Obama is so fond of saying, dragging along with it the coalition of the bribed and coerced.  Just as it was for the Vietnamese people an American war, while we called it the Vietnam War, this one is known in Iraq as the American War.  We have to accept that.

It was the U.S. government that heaped crippling economic sanctions, and lots of missile strikes, on Iraq, through the 90′s, leading to the deaths of an estimated 500,000 children.  Using the 9/11 attack as an opportunity, George W. Bush, “Dick” Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest of the regime concocted their “yellow-cake uranium” and “secular Saddam Hussein befriending al Qaeda” stories, with the aim of rolling through Iraq toward Iran, strengthening U.S. control of the strategic Middle East.

The 2003 war, says Larry Everest, author of Oil Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda

was not waged to eliminate “terrorism,” destroy weapons of mass destruction, or liberate the Iraqi people.  Instead, it was an unjust war of aggression, conquest and greater empire.

We know this, but sometimes we forget that this war destroyed the infrastructure, cultural history and morale of an advanced, literate society with a long history, in the name of removing a despotic ruler the U.S. at one time supported heavily.

The American war on Iraq was our war to stop — had people living in this country responded as we should have, with sustained protest, making the prosecution of the war, and the legitimacy of the Bush regime itself, a fundamental question for tens of millions. Indeed, the mass protests denied Bush the coalition he wanted, and weakened the U.S. efforts globally so much that the war went very badly for the U.S. But at what a price for the people of Iraq!

Michael Otterman’s book Erasing Iraq: The Human Cost of Carnage, written with Robert Hill and Paul Wilson, is one of the few to look at what the U.S. did to Iraq. Otterman was interviewed in the Washington Report on the Middle East Affairs:

A study published in October 2006 by the prestigious medical journal Lancet provides the most reliable estimate to date. Their methodology, Otterman explained, “was the same the U.S. government uses to count the dead in conflict areas, including Kosovo.” The study’s findings were that approximately 655,000 excess Iraqi deaths had occurred, including both militants and civilians.

But much violence has occurred since then, Otterman noted, and by extrapolating the data through to the present, a rough estimate of one million deaths can be made.

Injured Iraqi children“When you combine this figure with the more than five million displaced since 2003,” he said, “you begin to get a sense of the deep, permanent level of destruction the United States has unleashed.”

Describing the level of trauma as “truly incalculable,” Otterman asked: “How do you quantify this human toll? The answer: Simply by reading and accessing the narratives of Iraqis that have lived through this very real sociocide. In Erasing Iraq, we quote dozens of refugees in Syria, Jordan, and Sweden, plus a slew of Iraqi bloggers who lived through the carnage in real time. These narratives exist in sharp contrast to the bland, misleading, or propagandistic accounts of war featured heavily in the mainstream news outlets. Only by engaging directly with Iraqi narratives can outsiders get a true sense of the human costs of war in Iraq.

See The Fallujah Project, which writes:

The U.S. occupation has had horrible effects on the Iraqi population, but Fallujah has suffered more than any other Iraqi city. Fallujah is to the Occupation of Iraq, what My Lai was to the Vietnam War, and what Hiroshima and Nagasaki were to World War II.

In the video below, which World Can’t Wait posted to YouTube in 2006, and which has been viewed more than 700,000 times since then, a scene much like that captured in the notorious Collateral Murder is seen from the gunsights of a US F-16, as a crowd of people in Fallujah is gunned down:

As we mark 10 years since the “shock and awe” beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a massive assemblage of war crimes carried out in our name, let’s fully look at what was done.

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Say It Louder than Ever: FREE Bradley Manning!

Bradley Manning

Drawing by Clark Stokeley (@WikiLeaksTruck)

I was sitting in a Brooklyn court room last week, listening to police testify for prosecution of freedom fighters who protest NYPD stop-and-frisk.  (Later that day charges were dropped by the judge).  At the same moment, Bradley Manning was giving a first public statement on releasing documents on U.S. war crimes, including what came to be called the “Collateral Murder” video, the U.S. diplomatic cables, material on indefinite detention in Guantanamo, and Afghan War Diaries and Iraq War Log.

Manning accepted responsibility for some of the charges the US government has made, opening himself to two years prison on each of ten counts.  What is most disturbing is the government’s intention to try him on June 1 for the remaining, more serious charges, and to ask for life in prison.

Monitoring my phone on breaks in the trial, we heard via Twitter that Bradley had tried the Washington Post, The New York Times, and Politico, before uploading the data to Wikileaks, with the  urgent intent of getting the public in the U.S. to engage in a debate about war policy, based on knowing what their government is doing.  Alexa O’Brien provided a transcript of the statement Bradley Manning made in military court last week, well worth reading through.

On Collateral Murder, he said of the U.S. military on the ground  and in the Apache helicopter in 2007:

Preparations to rally at Ft. Meade, Maryland, site of the trial are being made now. The Bradley Manning Support Committee reports on international support actions February 23, 2013.

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 is 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.

Leah Bolger, past president of Veterans for Peace told Revolution Newspaper about the video Collateral Murder:

What the video depicted was the truth of war. There were completely inhuman things—laughing about killing people, laughing about rolling over dead bodies with tanks. It was just abominable and reprehensible and sickening. When you watch it, it just makes you gasp to hear the language. But this is not an aberration. This is the truth of war. And that’s what we need to convey to people. What Bradley Manning did was a huge service to the world, to let people know the ugly, awful truth of war.

Request a Copy of Collateral Murder on DVD

Let us know you would like a copy of the Collateral Murder video on DVD (click here to see how to show the DVD out on the street). We are distributing these along with the Afghan War Diary documents released by Wikileaks.

I have no doubt the government will continue to pile on Bradley Manning with all the force they have.  That an Army private, so articulate, so clearly out for the benefit of humanity, as opposed to personal gain, could begin a mass public reaction that brought down reactionary governments in the Middle East, and expose the U.S. for its illegitimate use of military force the world over, is dangerous to them.  Much more dangerous, than say, CIA torture of thousands or the destruction of whole countries.

Virtually no one is being prosecuted for those crimes; yet, Bradley Manning faces life in prison for exposing them.

Glenn Greenwald, on Democracy Now, captured a lot of what the US is doing to this person of great moral conscience:

This is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overkill. The government has never been able to identify any substantial harm that has come from any of the leaks that Bradley Manning is accused of and now admits to being responsible for. Certainly nobody has died as a result of these leaks, even though the government originally said that WikiLeaks and the leaker has blood on their hands. Journalists investigated and found that there was no evidence for that. So, just the very idea that he should spend decades in prison, let alone be faced with life on parole, given what it is that he actually did and the consequences of it, is really remarkable.

But even more specifically, the theory that the government is proceeding on is one that’s really quite radical and menacing. That is, that although he never communicated with, quote-unquote, “the enemy,” which the government has said is al-Qaeda, although there’s no evidence that he intended in any way to benefit al-Qaeda—he could have sold this information, made a great deal of money, had he wanted to. All the evidence indicates that he did it for exactly the reason that he said, with the intent that he said, which was to spark reform and to bring attention to these abuse…

In the chat logs that were published over a year ago with the government informant who turned him in, he said very much the same thing while he thought he was speaking in complete confidence, to somebody who had promised him confidentiality, about what led him on this path, that he had become disillusioned first about the Iraq war when he discovered that people they were detaining weren’t really insurgents but were simply opponents of the Maliki government, and he brought it to his superiors, and they ignored him. He then looked at documents that showed extreme amounts of criminality and deceit and violence, that he could no longer in good conscience participate in concealing. It was really an act of conscience, pure conscience and heroism, that he did, knowing he was sacrificing his liberty.

The government has insulated its conduct from what are supposed to be the legitimate means of accountability and transparency—judicial proceedings, media coverage, FOIA requests—and has really erected this impenetrable wall of secrecy, using what are supposed to be the institutions designed to prevent that. That is what makes whistleblowing all the more imperative. It really is the only remaining avenue that we have to learn about what the government is doing

Speaking for thousands of us who have protested Manning’s trial, from signing petitions to civil disobedience, I think we can say with even more determination now, after hearing him,  “FREE Bradley Manning!”

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One Million + Dead & Displaced in Iraq for This?

I can’t tell you anymore than this: The Bush regime’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on lies, was illegitimate, unjust, and immoral from the start.  Barack Obama’s announcement yesterday that the “war is over” is wrong on so many levels.  For those on the ground, the millions in Iraq, and the one million US military sent there, it won’t end.

The wealthiest country and military in the world leaves behind billions of dollars worth of trashed equipment, and civil and physical society in shambles.

A young soldier, Bradley Manning, formerly stationed in Iraq, will begin a court martial Friday at Ft. Meade, because the U.S. military claims he released classified information about the war to Wikileaks.

But today, the New York Times reports that 400 pages of classified documents on the interrogation of U.S. Marines about the notorious massacre of civilians in Haditha, in 2006 were

discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.

Aftermath of U.S. Marine killing of civilians, Haditha, Iraq, 2006

Shaun Mullen, a columnist for The Moderate Voice comments

That the true story of the 2005 massacre of 20 Iraqi civilians, including an elderly man in a wheelchair and women and children, has finally come out because an Iraqi was using transcripts of secret interviews with the Marines involved to cook dinner is a fitting coda to a nearly nine-year war that officially ended today.

Says Leon Panetta, current Secretary of Defense for the Obama administration about the war on Iraq

“the cost was high — in blood and treasure of the United States, and also for the Iraqi people. But those lives have not been lost in vain — they gave birth to an independent, free and sovereign Iraq.”

Say what? from 7 of the 8 Iraq veterans CNN interviewed who were deployed to Iraq during the war.  Their one sentence pull-outs mirror everything I’ve heard over 8 years:

“I don’t think that the gravity of what we were doing ever really hit me.” Emily Trageser, Army

“We removed one corruption and replaced Saddam with officials who were just as murderous and evil.”  Nicholas Panzera, Army

“I lost everything.  My wife, my place to live, my friends, and the future I had once seen.”  Marc Loiselle, Army

“I have never felt more proud in my life to be a part of something.” Tyler, Army, who is currently in Iraq shutting down bases.

“Although we did depose a dictator, we ruined the country in the process.”  Eric Sofge, Army

“The principle excuse to invade Iraq to discover WMD was a non-starter from the get-go.”  Jeffrey Tracey, biological weapons inspector

“None of us could see a reason why we were still there.  And it just kept going on and on.” Jim Lewandowski, South Dakota National Guard

“I don’t know any soldiers that really have a positive view on any of it.”  Spencer Alexander, Army

It’s not over, people.  The U.S. is ready to send troops back to Iraq, and will keep thousands on the border of Kuwait.  The ceremony is only for public consumption.

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Iraq: The World Still Waiting for US Withdrawal

Despite the Obama administration’s announcement Friday that U.S. combat troops are finally leaving Iraq — giving rise to the popular perception that “Iraq war is over”–  I ask those who are celebrating to consider: where is the joy coming from?

It’s been ten years now since Donald Rumsfeld’s brain went “9/11 = attack Iraq,” apparently minutes after the WTC was hit by airliners.  From that moment, when the world’s largest military machine began planning it, through today, after over a million Iraqi deaths, this war and occupation has never been legitimate, just or moral!

Tens of millions of us who care about humanity protested to prevent the Bush regime from getting the coalition it sought to attack Iraq; much of the world was convinced the U.S. was not invading to “save” Iraqis but to advance its own imperial agenda.  Our actions did contribute to this loss of legitimacy as the United States military ran into deep geopolitical difficulties in the region (remember, Bush and Cheney planned to sweep through Iraq as a gateway to dominating the rest of the region, including Iran, a strategy that has, shall we say, not gone well.)

The Nobel Peace President, who promised an end to war on Iraq, isn’t exactly blazing a peace trail.  The Bush Regime set this time frame of “withdrawal” in 2011.

In fact the Obama administration, through the State Department, pursued very hard the plan to keep U.S. fighting forces in Iraq beyond this year.  It was the Maliki government, which in general has been very compliant to its U.S. funders, who balked at allowing U.S. military to stay because the terms demanded by Obama included immunity from local prosecution for the troops.

Think of that: The widest sustained, imperialist government sponsored, mass war crime, destroying a whole country, displacing 4.5 million from their homes, the turning of a secular society into a bloody sectarian battlefield, was to be justified and continued only on the basis of immunity from the victimized country!

Glenn Greenwald specifically attributes the Iraqi government stand to the revelation  of a cable

released by WikiLeaks in May, 2011, and, as McClatchy put it at the time, “provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.” The U.S. then lied and claimed the civilians were killed by the airstrike. Although this incident had been previously documented by the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the high-profile release of the cable by WikiLeaks generated substantial attention (and disgust) in Iraq, which made it politically unpalatable for the Iraqi government to grant the legal immunity the Obama administration was seeking. Indeed, it was widely reported at the time the cable was released that it made it much more difficult for Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain beyond the deadline under any conditions.

War crimes in 2003; war crimes never prosecuted at the hands of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and one can go on into the dozens, as War Criminals Watch does.

I am not celebrating!

More to come on the continued U.S. State Department presence of fighters; the black operations, and the hundreds of thousands of U.S. contractors staying in Iraq.

May 1, 2003 Bush announces "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq

Remember, George. W. Bush, the master of creating his own reality,  announced that it was over on May 1, 2003, in his famous “Mission Accomplished” speech, wearing his pseudo-airman’s costume:

“Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before.”

Any commander in chief of an illegitimate occupation should be very careful what he announces.

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Video from Freedom Plaza / Stop the Machine

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Long View of the Bush Regime: Replace “Dumb” with “Dangerous”

I credit The World Can’t Wait’s founding work to “drive out the Bush regime” in the summer of 2005 with helping to change public perception of George W. Bush from “dumb” to “dangerous.” As the former president will stand at the World Trade Center on Sunday memorializing those killed on 9/11/01, we should keep firmly in mind the truly massive crimes unleashed under the rubric of the “global war on terror.”

A million copies of the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime went hand to hand that summer, six years ago. Tens of thousands signed it, grabbed by this: “The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.”

November 2, 2005 Convergence to Drive Out the Bush Regime

November 2, 2005 Convergence to Drive Out the Bush Regime

On Thursday, November 2, 2005, on the year-anniversary of Bush’s 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.

It was the overwhelming intensity with which high school students at more than 200 schools left school and walked out, sometimes for miles, to join organized political protest that stunned everyone.  Bronx kids who had never left the borough somehow made it to Union Square, covered in “drive out Bush” stickers, to march down 14th Street and up to Times Square.

Even then, the middle school students remembered only Bush as president, and only war since 9/11. And now at 18 they’re in the military occupations, or on the streets with not much to do;  some relative few are entering college.

Many more crimes were carried out during the Bush years.  They did indeed set in place a war they predicted would last “generations.”  By 2008, when much of the world heard the name “George W. Bush” they thought “war criminal.”  And this began to happen in the United States as well.

We didn’t succeed at driving out the regime.  Many people who could or should have heeded the call for mass visible protest independent of the Democratic Party did not, and chose instead to confine their actions to voting for Democrats in 2006, and even more in 2008.

So now the United States has a president who not only won’t “look back” at the war crimes and torture carried out by the Bush era officials now gathering in New York City, but who presides over aggressive U.S. wars in six countries.

The mission of World Can’t Wait, post-Bush, is “stopping the crimes of our government.”  Nothing can be more timely, or required, of people living in the United States.

I ask you to:

Become a sustaining supporter of World Can’t Wait

Protest the Bush era war criminals wherever they are

Memorialize the victims of the U.S. “Global war on terror”

Take action on the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan

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Are the U.S. Wars on the Middle East wrong because they cost so much?

Woodstock International is a voice for upholding freedom and democracy through the written word. Communication and critical thinking are key components to knowledge and understanding. Critical thinking requires access to information. Corporate-owned newspapers ignore important news items … and much of the news is reported from a capitalist-oriented point of view. An alternative news source, Woodstock International intends to give greater coverage of news that reflects the reality  of our times.
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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.

Download PDF

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Caught in between; searching for alternatives to Empire & Fundamentalism

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.

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Listening to the Victims of U.S. Wars

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.

Stop These WarsThis 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.

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