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Afghan Election: Pick Your Poison

6:07 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

No human being wants to be ruled by their people’s murderers. Forgiveness through restorative justice may be possible, but being ruled by murderers is asking for too much.

Yet, that seems to be the Hobson’s choice behind the Afghan presidential election, which is into its run-off between Dr. Abdullah / Mohaqiq’s team and Dr. Ashraf Ghani / General Dostum’s team, neither team having won more than 50% of balloted votes in the first round.

Both teams have members who are warlords accused of human rights abuses, as reported by the New York Times, including Dr. Abdullah Abdullah’s running mate, Mohammed Mohaqiq, and General Dostum, who is Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s vice-presidential candidate.

General Dostum, allegedly on the CIA’s payroll in the past, apologized for his past war crimes when he registered as Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s vice-presidential candidate. One of those crimes is the Dasht-e-Leili massacre which occurred in the fall of 2001. New York Times and Newsweek investigations alleged that hundreds or even thousands of surrendering pro-Taliban prisoners died of thirst, hunger and gunshots when they were stuffed into shipping containers for transport to an Afghan prison.

Both presidential hopefuls in the run-off elections on June 14th have already vowed to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which President Obama mentioned in his surprise visit to Bagram Air Base in Kabul, not even bothering to visit President Karzai who declined to visit him at Bagram.

Article 7 of the Bilateral Security Agreement, states that, “Afghanistan hereby authorizes United States forces to control entry to agreed facilities and areas that have been provided for United States forces’ exclusive use…” and also that “Afghanistan shall provide all agreed facilities and areas without charge to United States forces.”

Article 13 includes this: “Afghanistan … agrees that the United States shall have the exclusive right to exercise jurisdiction over such persons in respect of any criminal or civil offenses committed in the territory of Afghanistan.”

It is understandable that President Karzai isn’t willing to sign the agreement. It may leave a disastrous legacy.

I asked an activist who has been working in Afghanistan for ten years what he thought about the run-off in Afghanistan’s elections. “Many Afghans, and people all over the world, are getting more and more cynical about elections,” he told me. “And they should be, because how did our psyche become conditioned to accept that by electing corrupt, selfish, proud, wealthy and violent elites every four or five years, our ordinary lives will be changed? Our planet is exasperatingly unequal and militarized. To place in power the ones who continue this status quo is bizarre.”

Bizarre, yet disturbingly familiar.

Everybody’s Got Afghanistan Wrong

8:17 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

This goes deeper than the usual war lies.

Afghanistan

We weren’t told that most of the people who would die in Afghanistan, many more than died on 911, not only didn’t support 911 but never heard of it.

We’ve had plenty of those. We weren’t told the Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to a neutral nation to stand trial. We weren’t told the Taliban was a reluctant tolerator of al Qaeda, and a completely distinct group. We weren’t told the 911 attacks had also been planned in Germany and Maryland and various other places not marked for bombing. We weren’t told that most of the people who would die in Afghanistan, many more than died on 911, not only didn’t support 911 but never heard of it. We weren’t told our government would kill large numbers of civilians, imprison people without trial, hang people by their feet and whip them until they were dead. We weren’t told how this illegal war would advance the acceptability of illegal wars or how it would make the United States hated in much of the world. We weren’t given the background of how the U.S. interfered in Afghanistan and provoked a Soviet invasion and armed resistance to the Soviets and left the people to the tender mercies of that armed resistance once the Soviets left. We weren’t told that Tony Blair wanted Afghanistan first before he’d get the UK to help destroy Iraq. We certainly weren’t told that bin Laden had been an ally of the U.S. government, that the 911 hijackers were mostly Saudi, or that there might be anything at all amiss with the government of Saudi Arabia. And nobody mentioned the trillions of dollars we’d waste or the civil liberties we’d have to lose at home or the severe damage that would be inflicted on the natural environment. Even birds don’t go to Afghanistan anymore.

OK. That’s all sort of par-for-the-course, war-marketing bullshit. People who pay attention know all of that. People who don’t want to know any of that are the last great hope of military recruiters everywhere. And don’t let the past tense fool you. The White House is trying to keep the occupation of Afghanistan going for TEN MORE YEARS (“and beyond”), and articles have been popping up this week about sending U.S. troops back into Iraq. But there’s something more.

I’ve just read an excellent new book by Anand Gopal called No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes. Gopal has spent years in Afghanistan, learned local languages, interviewed people in depth, researched their stories, and produced a true-crime book more gripping, as well as more accurate, than anything Truman Capote came up with. Gopal’s book is like a novel that interweaves the stories of a number of characters — stories that occasionally overlap. It’s the kind of book that makes me worry I’ll spoil it if I say too much about the fate of the characters, so I’ll be careful not to.

The characters include Americans, Afghans allied with the U.S. occupation, Afghans fighting the U.S. occupation, and men and women trying to survive — including by shifting their loyalties toward whichever party seems least likely in that moment to imprison or kill them. What we discover from this is not just that enemies, too, are human beings. We discover that the same human beings switch from one category to another quite easily. The blunder of the U.S. occupation’s de-Baathification policy in Iraq has been widely discussed. Throwing all the skilled and armed killers out of work turned out not to be the most brilliant move. But think about what motivated it: the idea that whoever had supported the evil regime was irredeemably evil (even though Ronald Reagan and Donald Rumsfeld had supported the evil regime too — OK, bad example, but you see what I mean). In Afghanistan the same cartoonish thinking, the same falling for one’s own propaganda, went on.

People in Afghanistan whose personal stories are recounted here sided with or against Pakistan, with or against the USSR, with or against the Taliban, with or against the U.S. and NATO, as the tides of fortune turned. Some tried to make a living at peaceful employment when that possibility seemed to open up, including early-on in the U.S. occupation. The Taliban was very swiftly destroyed in 2001 through a combination of overwhelming killing power and desertion. The U.S. then began hunting for anyone who had once been a member of the Taliban. But these included many of the people now leading the support of the U.S. regime — and many such allied leaders were killed and captured despite not having been Taliban as well, through sheer stupidity and corruption. We’ve often heard how dangling $5000 rewards in front of poor people produced false-accusations that landed their rivals in Bagram or Guantanamo. But Gopal’s book recounts how the removal of these often key figures devastated communities, and turned communities against the United States that had previously been inclined to support it. Add to this the vicious and insulting abuse of whole families, including women and children captured and harassed by U.S. troops, and the revival of the Taliban under the U.S. occupation begins to become clear. The lie we’ve been told to explain it is that the U.S. became distracted by Iraq. Gopal documents, however, that the Taliban revived precisely where U.S. troops were imposing a rule of violence and not where other internationals were negotiating compromises using, you know, words.

We find here a story of a bumbling oblivious and uncomprehending foreign occupation torturing and murdering a lot of its own strongest allies, shipping some of them off to Gitmo — even shipping to Gitmo young boys whose only offense had been being the sexual assault victims of U.S. allies. The danger in this type of narrative that dives deep into the crushing Kafkan horror of rule by brute ignorant force is that a reader will think: Let’s do the next war better. If occupations can’t work, let’s just blow shit up and leave. To which I respond: Yeah, how are things working out in Libya? The lesson for us to learn is not that wars are badly managed, but that human beings are not Good Guys or Bad Guys. And here’s the hard part: That includes Russians.

Want to do something useful for Afghanistan? Go here. Or here.
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Who’s Excited About Another Decade in Afghanistan?

6:25 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

With 196 nations in the world and U.S. troops already in at least 177 of them, there aren’t all that many available to make war against. Yet it looks like both Syria and Iran will be spared any major Western assault for the moment. Could this become a trend? Is peace on the horizon? Are celebrations of Nelson Mandela’s nonviolence sincere?

The glitch in this optimistic little photo-shopped storyline starts with an A and rhymes with Shmafghanistan.

The U.S. public has been telling pollsters we want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan “as soon as possible” for years now. We’re spending $10 million per hour, and $81 billion in the new annual budget, on an operation that many top officials and experts have said generates hostility toward our country. The chief cause of death for U.S. troops in this operation is suicide.

And now, at long last, we have an important (and usually quite corrupt) politician on our side, responding to public pressure and ready — after 12 years — to shut down Operation Enduring … and Enduring and Enduring.

Oddly, this politician’s name is not President Barack Obama.  When Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors. Now there are 47,000 troops these five years later.  Measured in financial cost, or death and destruction, Afghanistan is more President Obama’s war than President Bush’s. Now the White House is trying to keep troops in Afghanistan until “2024 and beyond.”

Sadly, the politician who has taken our side is not in Washington at all. There are a few Congress Members asking for a vote, but most of their colleagues are silent. When Congress faced the question of missiles into Syria, and the question was front-and-center on our televisions, the public spoke clearly.  Members of both parties, in both houses of Congress, said they heard from more people, more passionately, and more one-sidedly than ever before.

But on the question of another decade “and beyond” in Afghanistan, the question has not been presented to Congress or the public, and we haven’t yet found the strength to raise it ourselves. Yet someone has managed to place himself on our side, namely Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Like the Iraqi government before him, Karzai is refusing to agree to an ongoing occupation with U.S. forces immune from prosecution under Afghan laws. Before signing off on an ongoing military presence, Karzai says he would like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people’s doors at night.  He’d like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations. He’d like Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo. (Of the 17 still there, 4 have long since been cleared for release but not released; none has been convicted of any crime.) And he’d like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections.

Whatever we think of Karzai’s legacy — my own appraisal is unprintable — these are remarkably reasonable demands. And at least as far as U.S. public opinion goes, here at long last is a post-invasion ruler actually engaged in spreading democracy.

What about the Afghans? Should we “abandon” them? We told pollsters we wanted to send aid to Syria, not missiles. Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan — or to the entire world, for that matter, including our own country — would cost a fraction of what we spend on wars and war preparations (51.4% of the new federal budget), and could quite easily make us the most beloved nation on earth. I bet we’d favor that course of action if we were asked — or if we manage to both raise the question and answer it. Read the rest of this entry →

Paging Santa’s Puppet Repair: Pentagon on Line 1

1:06 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Vice Deputy Under Elf for Hearts and Minds: Good Afternoon, this is the Vice Deputy Under Elf for Hearts and Minds, how may I bring you joy?

Santa Claus

Even Santa has to answer to the US Government.

Anonymous Pentagon Official: Cut the crap, Nils, you know why I’m calling.

VDUEHM: You’ve got me confused with the big man, Chuck. I can’t see you even when you’re awake.

APO: We’re providing your sled with fighter jet escort in a $3 billion promotional video, Nils, and this is the 218th — count ‘em, Nils — the 218th defective puppet you’ve given us, under warranty, and your people — if I may call the little goblins “people” — are not helping.

VDUEHM: What is the name and serial number of the puppet?

APO: The hell you think his name is? Hamid Frickin Karzai, you third-rate bureaucratic … you can’t even see over a bureau, can you? You know what, Nils, if your big man had given us a reasonably small sack of coal instead of each and every puppet we’ve ever picked up on Christmas morning, we’d … we’d … well, we’d have had to think up an entirely different reason for our wars, that’s what!

VDUEHM: Please state the difficulty you are experiencing with the puppet.

APO: I don’t have all damn day here, Nils. You want the full list?  Let me put it to you this way. Remember that last puppet, Maliki, who you claimed was not under warranty …

VDUEHM: When you intentionally, maliciously, or negligently destroy the puppet’s primary or temporary nation or society, the warranty is voided in its entirety, as found in rule number …

APO: You can imagine where I might suggest you stick that rule book, Nils. Tell me this: who is your best customer in the entire world?

VDUEHM: The innocent child who wishes good only for others and experiences a depth of gratitude …

APO: Who’s your second best customer?

VDUEHM: We give presents, Chuck. Did you think you’d dialed Saudi Arabia? I can have someone connect you. Please hold …

APO: Hold on! Hold on! My god! Whose chestnuts do you have to roast to get some service around here?

VDUEHM: Please state the difficulty you are experiencing with the puppet.

APO: He’s refusing to sign on for 10 more years and beyond.

VDUEHM: Beyond what?

APO: Beyond the next 10 years.

VDUEHM: So, why don’t you just call it “indefinitely”? Why mention 10 years if you’re going to add “and beyond”?

APO: You wouldn’t understand marketing, Nils. You give stuff away, remember?

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10 More Years in Afghanistan

8:00 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

U.S. troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan

When Barack Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors. Now there are 47,000 troops these five years later.  Measured in financial cost, or death and destruction, Afghanistan is more President Obama’s war than President Bush’s.  Now the White House is trying to keep troops in Afghanistan until “2024 and beyond.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the deal. Here is his list of concerns. He’d like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people’s doors at night.  He’d like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations.  He’d like innocent Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo.  And he’d like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections.  Whatever we think of Karzai’s legacy — my own appraisal is unprintable — these are perfectly reasonable demands.

Iran and Pakistan oppose keeping nine major U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, some of them on the borders of their nations, until the end of time.  U.S. officials threaten war on Iran with great regularity, the new agreement notwithstanding.  U.S. missiles already  hit Pakistan in a steady stream.  These two nations’ concerns seem as reasonable as Karzai’s.

The U.S. public has been telling pollsters we want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan “as soon as possible” for years and years.  We’re spending $10 million per hour making ourselves less safe and more hated.  The chief cause of death for U.S. troops in this mad operation is suicide.

When the U.S. troops left Iraq, it remained a living hell, as Libya is now too.  But the disaster that Iraq is does not approach what it was during the occupation.  Much less has Iraq grown dramatically worse post-occupation, as we were warned for years by those advocating continued warfare.

Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan — or to the entire world, for that matter, including our own country — would cost a fraction of what we spend on wars and war preparations, and would make us the most beloved nation on earth.  I bet we’d favor that course if asked.  We were asked on Syria, and we told pollsters we favored aid, not missiles.

We stopped the missiles.  Congress members in both houses and parties said they heard from more people, more passionately, and more one-sidedly than ever before.  But we didn’t stop the guns that we opposed even more than the missiles in polls.  The CIA shipped the guns to the fighters without asking us or the Congress.  And Syrians didn’t get the aid that we favored.

We aren’t asked about the drone strikes.  We aren’t asked about most military operations.  And we aren’t being asked about Afghanistan.  Nor is Congress asserting its power to decide.  This state of affairs suggests that we haven’t learned our lesson from the Syrian Missile Crisis.  Fewer than one percent of us flooded Congress and the media with our voices, and we had a tremendous impact.  The lesson we should learn is that we can do that again and again with each new war proposal.

What if two percent of us called, emailed, visited, protested, rallied, spoke-out, educated, and non-violently resisted 10 more years in Afghanistan?  We’d have invented a new disease.  They’d replace the Vietnam Syndrome with the Afghanistan Syndrome.  Politicians would conclude that the U.S. public was just not going to stand for any more wars.  Only reluctantly would they try to sneak the next one past us.

Or we could sit back and keep quiet while a Nobel Peace Prize winner drags a war he’s “ending” out for another decade, establishing that there’s very little in the way of warmaking outrages that we won’t allow them to roll right over us. Read the rest of this entry →

Veterans to Stand Firm as Afghan War Enters Year 12

1:00 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Day 12 Occupy Wall Street September 28 2011 Shankbone 32

(Photo: David Shankbone/flickr)

Dedicated and disciplined nonviolent activists, and in particular military veterans, are being openly invited to join members of Veterans For Peace in a peaceful vigil in New York City that will as likely as not result in their wrongful arrest and prosecution.

The time will be 6 p.m. on October 7, 2012, as the United States and NATO complete the eleventh year of the current occupation of Afghanistan and launch the twelfth.  The crowd at the Republican National Convention cheered for complete immediate withdrawal, but the nominee’s plans don’t include it.  The crowds at rallies for President Obama’s reelection cheer for both the continuation of the war and its supposed status as “ending,” even though the timetable for that “ending” is longer than most past wars, and a massive occupation is supposed to remain after the occupation “ends.”  Veterans For Peace, an organization dedicated to the abolition of war, is hoping to inject a discordant note into this happy discourse — something that the ongoing reports of deaths just don’t seem to manage.

The place will be Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, 55 Water Street, New York City.  It was there that some of the same veterans gathering this October were arrested last May First.  The memorial is normally open around the clock, but on that day the New York Police Department decided to close it at 10 p.m. in order to evict the Occupy Movement’s nonviolent general assembly.  Eight members of the Veterans Peace Team and two members of Occupy Faith were arrested for refusing to leave.  Since that day, a small metal sign has been posted at the park stating that it closes at 10 p.m.  This October 7th, the veterans have a permit for sound equipment lasting until 10 p.m., but they intend to remain overnight.

Vietnam vet Paul Appell says, “War veterans, loved ones of the fallen, and certainly those living in war zones do not have the option of closing down their memories at 10 p.m. There is a good reason why suicide is an attractive option for many. It is truly the only sure way of ending the memories. For a memorial to shut down at some convenient time for the city is an insult to all those who do not have the luxury of shutting down their war memories at a specific time. I know that many want us war vets to go out of sight and not bother them, except when we are needed for some parade. Some of us are not going away at 10 p.m. or any other time. If they do not like it, maybe they should have thought of that before they sent us to war.

Tarak Kauff, U.S. Army, 1959-1962, and one of the organizers of VFP’s Veterans Peace Team, says, “We will be there standing together and getting arrested again if necessary for our right to remember the fallen, to oppose and ‘abolish war as an instrument of national policy’ and to affirm our right to do so in a public place of remembrance that has great meaning for all veterans.”

The plan is not for a mass demonstration.  In fact, many are explicitly not invited.  Non-veterans are enthusiastically welcome, including associate members of Veterans For Peace and anyone else dedicated to ending violence in the world.  But “diversity of tactics” is unapologetically rejected.  Anyone inclined toward violence, provocation, or threats, including violence to inanimate objects, is kindly asked on this day, to respect the Memorial, the veterans, and the commitment to nonviolence.  This event will involve hundreds of activists who intend to peacefully vigil all night, and who will not respond to police violence with any violence of their own.

Speakers at the vigil will oppose a single additional day of U.S. warmaking in Afghanistan.  Speakers will include Leah Bolger, Margaret Flowers, Glen Ford, Mike Hastie, Chris Hedges, George Packard, Donna Schaper, Kevin Zeese, and Michael Zweig. Dr. Cornel West has also been invited.  At 9:30 p.m. participants will lay flowers for the fallen.

The purpose of this action, which will succeed whether the police interfere or not, is well expressed by several vets planning to take part.  Mike Ferner, Navy Corpsman 1969-1973, and past president of Veterans For Peace, says, “I’m coming to NYC October 7th because I need to do more for myself and the world than just get angry at the misery and suffering.  Being with my comrades again and standing up for peace uplifts my spirit.”
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Peace Needs a Chance

5:30 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

By Hakim, RootsAction.org

Note:   Hakim is a mentor and friend of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.  He applied for a visa to enter the United States so that he could accompany Afghan Peace Volunteers Ali and Abdulhai as participants in the Caravan for Peace.  Support for Ali and Abdulhai as they prepare for an interview with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, seeking a Non-Immigrant Visa, can be shown by visiting Roots Action and signing a letter which describes the many reasons why Ali and Abdulhai will want to return to their families, school work, and community formation in Kabul following a ten day visit to the United States.

I am grateful that the U.S. officials at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore considered my visa re-application in the light of the surprising write-in campaign on my behalf, and have kindly granted me a U.S. visit visa.

Border officials living in today’s fearful world of refugees and asylum seekers fleeing from wars have a tough time.

I empathize with them and know that many do their administrative best to prevent visitors from over-staying in their countries, while being open to the genuine student, visitor or businessman.

The human race has a challenge.

How do we build face-to-face international relations for peace and justice while understanding immigration concerns?

I’ve been privileged to meet the Afghan Peace Volunteers and their families and to have been changed by their humanity. While impoverished and voiceless in the current global systems, they have shown me that with just a little encouragement, relationships within and outside of Afghanistan can be built.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers wanted so much to connect with other human voices that a growing number of peacemakers and I helped them to organize an international program called the ‘Global Days of Listening.’ In their hunger to find friends, these Afghan youth changed my life.

After losing his father to war, Abdulhai has been struggling to find forgiveness. He understands very logically that it’s better not to seek revenge in order not to risk losing his beloved mother or other family members in endless cycles of vengeance. “I can’t imagine losing my mum ; she’s my everything.”

At a peace and justice meeting in Kabul in 2011, Ali and Abdulhai, both 15 years old, had bravely stood up to describe their journey. Abdulhai said, “I don’t want to take revenge. It doesn’t solve the problem.” Ali added, “We Afghans say that ‘Blood cannot wash away blood.’”

Unfortunately, an Afghan elder at the meeting became furious, and angrily retorted, ”You are young and have no experience. How can you say what you said? What we must do is to bring all the perpetrators of crime to justice. We cannot forgive them.” Later, over a dinner meal, this elder approached me to ‘berate’ Ali and Abdulhai for ‘supporting the Taliban’ in ‘forgiving’ them. “Abdulhai lost his father in the war,” I suggested. “ How can a human being ‘support’ his father’s killers? He doesn’t support them. He wants to forgive them.”

I was shocked at the elder’s reply, “Then, I wish the Taliban had killed Abdulhai too! Don’t bring these kids to Kabul again.”

I’ve not only brought Abdulhai and Ali to many meetings in Kabul, they have also switched to schooling in Kabul so they can continue to build relationships with fellow Afghan youth (68% of the Afghan population is below 25 years of age ).

Abdulhai, Ali and me ( 2nd, 3rd and 4th from left ) with the APVs in Afghanistan

I also hope to accompany them to the U.S. for the Caravan for Peace tour, an opportunity to exchange and nurture their non-violent approach to the war against drugs and terrorism. This would greatly encourage them in the face of ‘condemnation’ from fellow Afghans. They have a potentially powerful role to build restorative justice in their own communities and country.

So, while I appreciate the challenges of daily decision making at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, I’m hoping that when Ali and Abdulhai go for their visa interviews on the 5th of August, they will be able to sense the same gratitude I recently felt towards the officials when I had re-applied for a visa to the United States after having been denied on two previous occasions.

1976 Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire has already written to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul with this request : “I urge the consular officials who will review the applications of Ali and Abdulhai to help manifest the potential already developed through Ali’s and Abdulhai’s peacemaking efforts by making it possible for them to communicate with audiences, media, youth groups and good friends, in the United States, for this brief and unrepeatable Peace Caravan in September 2012. The next step of the journey will be back in Kabul … I look forward to visiting the projects they have started which depend on their energies and skills.”

Peace needs a chance.

Ending the Mindset That Gets Us Into War

4:28 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

MAY 20, 2012, MILITARIZED CHICAGO — Next month in Baltimore they’re going to celebrate the War of 1812.  That’s what we do with wars.  We say they’re the last resort.  We say they’re hell.  We say they’re for the purpose of eliminating themselves: we fight wars for peace.  Although we never keep peace for wars.  We claim to wage only wars we have been forced into despite all possible effort to find a better way.  And then we celebrate the wars.  We keep the wars going for their own sake after all the excuses we used to get them started have expired.  The WMDs have not been found.  Osama bin Laden’s been killed.  Al Qaeda is gone from the country where we’re fighting it.  Nobody’s threatening Benghazi anymore.  But the wars must go on!  And then we’ll celebrate them.  And we’ll celebrate the old ones too, the ones that were fought here, the ones that were in their day not quite so heavily painted as last resorts or humanitarian missions.

Last year Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee persuaded Congress to create an Iraq-Afghanistan Wars holiday.  It’s on our calendars now along with Loyalty Day (formerly May Day), Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day), Memorial Day, Yellow Ribbon Day, Patriots Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Pearl Harbor Day, and of course September 11th, among many others.  Last week there was an Armed Forces Spouses Appreciation Day.  The military holiday calendar is like the Catholic saints’ days now: there’s something every day of the year.

But there’s no celebration of the times we avoided war. We claim to prefer peace to war, but we don’t make heroes of those presidents or Congresses who most avoided war.  In fact, we erase them.  Our history books jump from war to war as if nothing happened in between.  Nobody celebrates 1811, only 1812.  Even the peace movement doesn’t celebrate the past decade’s prevention, thus far, of a war on Iran.

Some might say that once an unavoidable war begins we have to celebrate the brave sacrifices of the soldiers and sailors.  Even if the war was a bad idea, we can’t blame those who participated in it.  They were too ignorant and obedient to do otherwise, but they were brave and loyal.  We weren’t in their shoes.  We had other means to pay for college.  So we are obliged to celebrate their moral failings.  We must value bravery and loyalty above intelligent independent thinking.  And, because they ignorantly and obediently supported the war, we must do so too — even if we honestly don’t.

As if there is not bravery, solidarity, and self-sacrifice to be celebrated in our history of nonviolent protest, labor struggles, women’s struggles, the environmentalist movement, and in resistance to war — in all the efforts that have improved and are improving our lives.  Freedom isn’t free, as the saying goes, but we don’t honor the work that actually achieves it. “War will exist,” President Kennedy privately wrote, “until the distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today.”  And here’s the hard part of that: the conscientious objector will not be honored and respected as long as the warrior is.  We have to choose. Read the rest of this entry →

“We Did Not Choose This War” and Other Hypocrisies

9:39 am in Uncategorized by David Swanson

By Leah Bolger and David Swanson

We did not choose this war.  This war came to us on 9/11.  We don’t go looking for a fight.  But when we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed, then we understand what we have to do.

Photo by the U.S. Army

These are the words that President Obama used on Tuesday to describe the Afghanistan war, but they would have been more appropriately said by any Afghan citizen.

Coming out of the mouth of the President of the United States, these words are nothing more than nationalistic propaganda — designed to justify an aggressive war of choice launched against a sovereign nation.  Somebody chose this war, and it certainly wasn’t the Afghan people — 92% of whom have never even heard of the events of 9/11.

The Afghan people have responded just as almost any would to an attack.  They have seen their “homeland violated” and their “fellow citizens killed,” and they are reacting in self-defense.  Because they are fighting back, we label them “insurgents” and call them the enemy. Then we label violence caused by the enemy “terrorism,” and somehow use this rhetoric to justify killing innocent people … collateral damage we call it.  This is a vicious cycle that cannot resolve itself, except by the removal of the occupying army.

What do you think the Afghan people call the violence that we impose on them?  How can we as Americans be so callous, so blinded by our own misplaced righteousness, that we can’t see that we are guilty of the very thing that we claim to be fighting?  Perhaps to some extent we do see it.  A majority of people in the United States tell pollsters they want the war ended.  We forget we’re a majority because nobody ever mentions us on television.

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Veteran Shakes Up War Debate on CNN

5:19 pm in Uncategorized by David Swanson

Scott Camil, a veteran of the second-longest U.S. war in history, that on Vietnam, radically changed a discussion of the longest war in U.S. history, that on Afghanistan, on CNN on Sunday.

CNN’s Don Lemon tried repeatedly to explain troops posing with body parts as an inscrutable result of war, without questioning the justification of that war.  Repeatedly, Lemon instructed viewers not to judge soldiers.

A guest to whom Lemon devoted a great deal of time, Dr. Terry Lyles, followed Lemon’s leads and was praised by Lemon as the best guest he’d heard from on the topic.  Lyles suggested the problem was one of public relations: “We need to do a better job,” he said, “you know, with them psychologically to help them understand that the world is watching.  Be careful about what you do and what you capture while what you’re doing every day is very difficult.”

Scott Camil took a different tack, saying: “Well no we don’t know what it’s like to be in combat unless you’ve been in combat, but I think the real question is: you’re nit picking when you’re talking about things like people posing with bodies.  The real question should be why are we at war in the first place? Why are we killing so many people in the first place? The concern over posing with someone that’s dead, it seems to me the fact that that person is dead and that we’re killing people is more important than what happens after they’re dead.”

Camil’s comment was so effective that the next panelist to speak shifted to his topic.  Holly Hughes remarked: “Scott hit the nail on the head because now we’ve opened a dialogue.  What are we talking about now?  Shouldn’t we be more upset that we’re out there killing people? . . . Maybe we need to assess why we’re there in the first place.”

Camil continued: “What I understand is what it’s like to be in a war zone and I understand the behavior in a war zone.  And I would say that, first of all, that war is really an institution made up of criminal behavior.  When we as civilians want to solve our problems, we’re not allowed to murder people and burn their houses down.  I don’t see why war is an acceptable means of conflict resolution.  And furthermore, the majority of people that die are innocent civilians.”

Some fundamental truths are rarely spoken on television.

Watch the video
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2012/04/22/nr-corpses-trophies.cnn

 

Scott Camil was honorably discharged with 13 medals including 2 purple hearts following 20 months voluntarily spent as a Marine in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967.  He testified at the Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971, and was a founding member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War Inc. He is an active member of Veterans For Peace and serves as the President of Chapter 014 in Gainesville, Florida.

Veterans for Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans’ organization calling for the abolishment of war.