Posts Tagged Robert Gates

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.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

US Response to Wikileaks: Diplomacy as Another Means of Warfare

Can  you imagine the conversation in the Obama administration since the cables have been released by Wikileaks.org?   Attorney General Eric Holder, who can’t find a reason to prosecute anyone for actual torture, says ominously, referring to the legal difficulties in possible U.S. prosecution of Julian Assange,

“To the extent there are gaps in our laws, we will move to close those gaps, which is not to say that anybody at this point, because of their citizenship or their residence, is not a target or a subject of an investigation.”

Wikileaks Release Evidence of War Crimes

Read/Sign Petition: In Support of Julian Assange

But Robert Gates, whose Pentagon has been threatening Wikileaks openly since the Afghan War Diaries release in July, said on November 30:

“I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought… Many governments — some governments — deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation…Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.’’

The refrain from the government goes: Wikileaks is guilty of terrible crimes which “endanger national security;” they have blood on their hands…but, for damage control purposes, it’s not such a big deal when what they revealed.  Yet pressure was placed on Amazon.com this week to remove Wikileaks from its servers.  The site is up now, after being removed from Amazon.com’s servers Wednesday December 1.

The Department of Justice no doubt exerted pressure on Interpol to put out a warrant for Julian Assange on sexual misconduct charges from a prosecutor in Sweden that have been off and on again.  Jennifer Robinson, one of Assange’s British attorneys, said the warrant from Sweden was highly unusual for the charges, and that Assange is not in hiding, but is taking care of his personal safety, given threats by people in power against him.  See more today on Democracy Now.

Glenn Greenwald, on Salon.com writes about the kinds of attacks on Assange and takes them on:

“The group demanding that Julian Assange be murdered without any charges, trial or due process.  There was Sarah Palin on on Twitter illiterately accusing WikiLeaks — a stateless group run by an Australian citizen — of “treason”; she thereafter took to her Facebook page to object that Julian Assange was “not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders” (she also lied by stating that he has “blood on his hands”:  a claim which even the Pentagon admits is untrue).  Townhall’s John Hawkins has a column this morning entitled ”5 Reasons The CIA Should Have Already Killed Julian Assange.”  That Assange should be treated as a “traitor” and murdered with no due process has been strongly suggested if not outright urged by the likes of Marc Thiessen, Seth Lipsky (with Jeffrey Goldberg posting Lipsky’s column and also illiterately accusing Assange of “treason”), Jonah Goldberg, Rep. Pete King, and, today, The Wall Street Journal.

Those who demand that the U.S. Government take people’s lives with no oversight or due process as though they’re advocating changes in tax policy or mid-level personnel moves — eradicate him!, they bellow from their seats in the Colosseum — are just morally deranged barbarians. There’s just no other accurate way to put it. These are usually the same people, of course, who brand themselves “pro-life” and Crusaders for the Sanctity of Human Life and/or who deride Islamic extremists for their disregard for human life.”

In addition to the New York Times and other US mainstream media who are spinning the story of the cables in support of US domination of other countries, there are journalists analyzing the content of the cable leaks from the standpoint of justice.  Scott Horton, on Democracy Now December 1, talked about what was revealed over the last years, when the U.S. strongly pressured Spain not to prosecute Bush regime officials over rendition and indefinite detention.  Democracy Now summarizes:

U.S. officials were especially alarmed when prosecutors in Spain and Germany began comparing notes on their investigations into CIA extraordinary rendition flights. U.S. officials said, quote,  ‘This co-ordination among independent investigators will complicate our efforts to manage this case at a discreet government-to-government level.’  The investigation in Germany was in regard to the CIA abduction and rendition of German citizen Khaled El-Masri. He was wrongly abducted and flown to Afghanistan, where he was held for months without charge. When it looked like 13 CIA agents might be charged in the case, the U.S. embassy in Berlin stepped in and, according to one leaked cable, threatened, quote, that ‘issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship.’

Gareth Porter dug into the disinformation U.S. diplomats put out on Iran in Russians Refuted U.S. Claim of Iranian Missile Threat to Europe. Glen Ford takes apart US policy towards Iran in American Racism on Display in WikiLeaks Iran Cable:

Jeremy Scahill, this morning on Democracy Now, spoke to the open lies of the United States, specifically the Obama administration, in denying that the U.S. has military operations going on now in Pakistan.  The cables show otherwise.  Democracy Now.  Scahill exposes the Pakistani government’s blatant lies to its own people, while the U.S. behind the scenes, orchestrates two drone programs in Pakistan, allegedly a sovereign country.

Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and Brad Manning – whose execution is now being demanded by Mike Huckabee — must be defended, as a really key part of our movement to end the wars and war crimes.   This is just the beginning, on both sides of this battle over truth and empire.

We — all of us– need to keep digging into those cables and exposing the real crimes they cover.

I signed this statement, New Evidence Demands End to Wars, and urge you to come out to The White House on Thursday, December 16.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments