Comments welcome from We, the People
. Join other OMNI members this Saturday 1pm at Joyce and Mall to protest the occupations.
OMNI NEWSLETTER ON AFGHANISTAN #1 (see Iraq Newsletters for more), February 4, 2009, WE, THE PEOPLE BUILDING A CULTURE OF PEACE, Of, By, and For the People. Compiled by Dick Bennett
ELEVEN REASONS FOR ENDING THE OCCUPATION OF AFGHANISTAN
By Dick Bennett
On the occasion of OMNI's February 7, 2009 Demonstration against the Invasions and Occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, an Appeal to President Obama to Leave Afghanistan .
We, the People, a nation of, by, and for the people—in the peace and justice movement for nonviolence, world peace, human rights, social and economic justice, stewardship of land and species, among many values. OMNI's numerous activities already demonstrate what can be done by resisting individuals banding together for change. We can truly say we have the potential power for change.
Yet we are thwarted by the enormous established power exercised to control information. The Corporate-Pentagon-Mainstream Media Complex with its influence over Congress, blunts the peace, justice, and ecology movement. The consequences are disastrous to millions of people. To promote the invasion of Afghanistan, President Bush and his officials invoked patriotic retribution not merely against bin Laden's Saudi Arabian bombers but against the Afghanistan nation. Every member of Congress except Barbara Lee, in a frenzy of revenge voted quickly to invade Afghanistan. The public trembled with righteous anger while its brain clamped shut, spurred on by the mainstream media beating the drums and gongs of war!
Eight years later we are still there. Below is the case for leaving.
But before commencing let it be clear that criticism of the invasion and occupation is not intended to impugn the sacrifice of the US soldiers who have bravely and ethically fought there. Criticism of the brutality, illegality, impracticality, and waste of the invasion and occupation does not detract from their courage. (Further comment will be found in Addenda.).
Note: Each item has received intense and elaborate attention in published essays and books and on the Internet.. My intent is to suggest in short space how extensive and rational is the opposition to the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Major sources are cited in text and given fully at the end.
1. The invasion and occupation violated international law. That is, the U.S.A. Congress approved and the President signed agreement to the U. N. Charter, an international treaty, which then became U. S. law. The Charter affirms seven principles: in the third the member nations agree to the settling of their disputes peacefully, and in the fourth they agree not to use force or the threat of force against other nations, except in self-defense. The object of the invasion, to inflict revenge upon the perpetrators of the 9/11 bombings of the World Trade buildings, was a criminal matter to be pursued through normal criminal channels. The U.S. was not attacked or threatened by attack by the government of Afghanistan. (U.N. Charter). (See Hornberner in Notes). One member of OMNI's Steering Committee wrote the following: "The OMNI Steering Committee agrees that war is not the answer either in Afghanistan or anywhere on the planet. We are against warmongering when we see it and where we see it not only in Obama but elsewhere. There are no justifications for war and no justifiable or good wars. Feel free to individualize your signs and specify a war of your choice on Feb 7. Blame and criticism are not the answers nor is lament and mourning. Negotiation and diplomacy based on respect for our differences and similarities as well as international law are the only answers in Afghanistan and elsewhere. --
2. Nor does the so-called "war on terrorism" justify the invasion and occupation. US leaders reflexively blame others for our own bombings, invasions, and occupations. Others are determined to destroy us. Fear-mongering is integral to recent US history. The communists, the drug lords, and now the terrorists are everywhere against us, and so we must have permanent war. Let us ask ourselves why we are in conflict all around the world. Is it because of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden? Surely not, for they are only symptoms of US policies, of jingoism, of desire to control energy resources, of militarism, of state terrorism, of the National Security State. We have two wars with no exits, one with a distant deadline and the other none. Why? Look at our foreign policies since WWII. Connect the dots between those policies and US domestic values, urges, and fears. Confront the contradictions that make our society dysfunctional. Not bin Laden, not the Taliban, not the "terrorists," not the over forty countries we have invaded or intervened into illegally during the last five decades have caused our perpetual state of war. (Blum). Then what? As so often is the case, objects of veneration escape critical examination. In our case it is the idea—or the abuse of the idea-- of "freedom." "Freedom" has so arrogantly deluded and entangled us globally to our disadvantage, that we have in the name of freedom sought to dominate the world. Now we have ended in bankruptcy. (Bacevich).
3. The illegal occupation of Afghanistan has led to the illegal bombings of Pakistan, despite its government's repeated protests against violations of its sovereignty that often kill civilians and undermine its own campaign against terrorists. The US has staged more than 30 missile strikes inside Pakistan since August 2008. "At leastd 263 people…have been killed in the strikes since last August." (Brummitt) The militants retaliate. For example, in Dec. 2008 near Peshawar, Pakistan, they killed a guard and torched 160 US vehicles, including 70 Humvees (costing about $100,000 each), on their way to Afghanistan for US forces. (Khan). Imagine Mexico firing rockets into the US to kill its enemies, which resulted in their enemies killing US police guarding equipment on the way to Mexico.
4 The invasion killed many civilians and the occupation continues killing them, some 6000 in 2008 alone, and some four million Afghans have been displaced since 2001. We properly opposed the invasion, for we saw the human suffering coming permitted by the violation of civilized treaties our best have struggled to establish (from Hague IV of 1899, the Convention Regarding the Laws and Customs of War on Land to the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its protocols protecting civilians in time of war). And we should continue to oppose the occupation on this basis, and other reasons, of defending noncombatants, innocents, namely, children, the elderly, the injured and ill, and noncombatant women On humane grounds alone the invasion should not have occurred and the occupation should not be continuing. (Grayling). But in addition, these killings and the refugees have incited violent opposition to the U.S. throughout Afghanistan and the world. President Karzai has repeatedly expressed concern over civilian deaths, and the forthcoming increase of 30,000 more troops caused him to demand that his government should be consulted about prior US operations and missions. (Grayling, Straziuso). Yet the Obama administration continues the Afghanistan policies of the Bush administration, with Vice-President Biden leading the way. (Abrashi, Wallsten) These considerations raise certain questions. . Can the US be excused from the treaties passed by Congress and signed by the President making terror and indiscriminate death a moral crime? We must ask further: Are there ever circumstances in which killing civilians in wartime is not a moral crime, and do those circumstances apply to the US war against Afghanistan? Are there ever circumstances that would justify or at least exonerate those who have done the killing and those who planned and ordered the killing
5. The excuse given by the Bush administration for the invasion, to punish the bombers, failed. The satisfy his own and the public's desire for revenge, the Bush administration aggressively pushed to achieve early, highly visible successes, without a long-term strategy in the "war on terror," except for the idea of "regime change." Bin Laden escaped and the Pentagon was left with the occupation of the nation of Afghanistan. (Smucker) The occupation has also failed. "Bush, Karzai Talk about Troubles in Afghanistan: Problems Include Worsening Security, S. Korean Hostages, Resurgent Taliban." ADG 8-6-07. "The Security Situations in Afghanistan over the past two years has definitely deteriorated,' Karzai said.
6. After the failure to capture bin Laden, the Bush Administration came up with another justification for the illegal invasion and occupation—the humanitarian defense of the women and children of Afghanistan from the brutal treatment women suffer from men. The flaws in this argument are plentiful. For example, many women in other nations, such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia, are beaten, sexually assaulted, or suffer compelled genital mutilation. Why have they not been invaded? No evidence has been presented that the safety of women has improved under the occupation, or would in Bangladesh if the US invaded that country. But a method for protecting Afghan women is available and is within the power of the people of the U.S. It is expressed by the U.N.'s Refugee Convention of 1951, signed by the U.S., which established guidelines for deciding who should be offered asylum. We can and should give haven to the Afghan victims of domestic violence who can prove serious abuse and their government is unable or unwilling to protect them. Britain and Canada already grant such asylum. (Kotlowitz) In 2008 Ms Chayes was living in Kandahar where she started and supervises a co-op to help Afghanis, especially women. She says that the US/Canadian military operations in support of the totally corrupt Afghan government are just creating more Taliban. (Moyers).
7. Children especially are victims of invasions and occupations. A study of wartime through the voices of children in Bosnia, Israel, Rwanda, and Northern Ireland tell of atrocities they have witnessed and losses they have suffered, and the traumas they have experienced that will last their lifetimes. And we learn how many have been killed: 15,000 in Bosnia, and the war lasted only three years, compared to the eight years of the Afghanistan war. The indifference to what is happening to the children, as the result of US rush to revenge, is reflected in the US failure to sign the CEDAW Rights of the Child Treaty. (Raymond)
8. Children especially but all Afghanis are endangered by "depleted uranium," which as chemical warfare is prohibited by Geneva conventions signed by the U.S. Dr. Miraki was one of the presenters at the "Stop-DU" conference, Saturday, 19 May 2007, attended by the Christian Peacemaker Team Depleted Uranium (DU) Delegation, who wrote this report, at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee. He gave a scathing condemnation of the U.S. bombing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Various reports indicate that some of the U.S. ordnance used in attempts to destroy the Taliban and Al Quaeda consisted of DU munitions. Tons of DU, from bunker buster bombs used on the caves in the eastern mountains and from rapid fire machine guns of A-10 Warthogs or Apache helicopters, have left the beautiful Afghan landscape littered with the graves of whole and extended families plus a radioactive nightmare for those left alive. The DU burns when fired from a weapon or exploded, leaving fine, radioactive waste everywhere the wind blows, and causing increased rates of cancers, childhood leukemia and other illnesses for the people who breathe it in. Dr. Miraki showed slides demonstrating the dramatically increased rates of birth defects - nauseating photos of Afghan newborns with swollen heads, red tumours where lips and eyes should be; frog-like babies with no brain; abdominal and head organs left outside the body; babies with one eye in the middle of the forehead; club hands and feet and more.
9. Instead of capturing the villainous al Qaida or bringing peace and protection to women and children, the US invasion and occupation have reversed Taliban successful reduction of opium. Afghanistan is now the main world source of opium. Afghanistan's foreign minister, for example, objected to a report in the Financial Times that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called Afghanistan a corrupt narco-state, but did admit the government was not in control of Helmand, the country's largest drug-producing province. ("Rangin") In fact, much of the country is outside the control of Karzai's government. What is the US doing to provide alternatives to Afghani farmers? The first military unit, from the Missouri National Guard, just returned from its "pioneering mission in Afghanistan." After seven years of occupation, this was the first effort by the military to help revive a farming sector in order to wean farmers off the illegal crop and to wheat and other legal crops, by building wells, enhancing soil, and improving marketing. Seven years of the occupation's devastation too late. ("Agribusiness").
10, But the drug wealth is not distributed. There is a widening gap between Afghanistan's rich and poor, which has created additional desperation, providing another reason for Afghanis to accept Taliban insurgents. And it's not only in the countryside. In the capital, Kabul, startling contrasts of wealth abound. Hungry children beg near the mansions of the elite enriched by foreign aid and contracts and official corruption. Hundreds of tattered men compete at dawn for 50-cent jobs hauling construction debris. Seven years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, "with rates of unemployment, illiteracy, infant mortality, and malnutrition on a par with the most impoverished nations in sub-Saharan Africa." This winter "threatens to be Afghanistan's most desperate in nearly two decades." (Constable). Seven years of war, minimal reconstruction and relief, Taliban attacks on supply routes, drought, and food prices rising, the people of Afghanistan need help. Thus the Pentagon's new report urging Obama to shift his strategy in Afghanistan from nation, "democracy" building to "targeting Taliban and Al Qaida sanctuaries in side Pakistan" (Burns and Jelinek).seems astonishingly disconnected from reality, since precious little building has taken place.
11, These conditions are related. They are compounded in their harm by the failure of US mainstream media to tell the full truth about the invasion and occupation, as Ed Herman and Marc Herold argue. Herman: "For years Herold has been documenting the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, and he has shown repeatedly that the Pentagon kills civilians on a large scale, often uses new barbaric weapons in areas where civilians are numerous, and regularly lies about it. They are using Afghanistan with especial ruthlessness and as a weapons experimental zone, because it is far away and out of media sight, so that they can get away with it. But the immorality involved here is staggering. If pictures like those shown here by Herold were available to the U.S. public this murderous policy would come to a screeching halt. But the [mainstream—DB] media protect the Pentagon. This recalls to my mind the fact that the Pentagon only used napalm in South Vietnam during the Vietnam war, not North Vietnam, although we were allegedly saving the south from aggression. The reason for this was that napalming the North would have led to global publicity of this ugly method of warfare—but in South Vietnam the US was an occupying power and had a puppet government, as in Afghanistan, and the media here kept quiet on this matter." See below for Herold's full essay.
Reinhold Niebuhr's concept of "concurrence" between national and international self-interest if peaceful policies are to be achieved among world nations applies to Afghanistan under US occupation. Nations satisfy their interests more easily when those interests are compatible with the interests of others. But what are Afghanistan's interests? What do the people want and need? In pursuit of bin Laden the US used all elements of its national power regardless of the people of Afghanistan. The consequences have been mass death and cruel suffering. (Alas, immediately following the announcement by Iran of its new satellite, President Obama announced the US "will use all elements of its national power" to protect the US from undefined danger.) Instead the US should treat the Taliban not as a monolithic, ideologically obsessed, evil gang, but positively, full of niches of opportunity for influence and change. We should ask: What are their legitimate concerns? How might we find rapprochement? Instead, we bombed, invaded, shot, occupied, bombed. Now, tit for tat, they shoot and bomb in endless killing.
Do we have alternatives? We can end the occupation that births and nourishes enemies. We can escalate our diplomacy, development aid, and international cooperation toward Afghanistan and the world. We can double the number of well-trained State Department personnel and strengthen civilian crisis prevention and response capabilities. We can create a Department of Peace. We can strengthen the US Agency for International Development and reassert civilian control over all foreign assistance. And we can rebuild US/UN relations, pay off the US debt to the UN, and increase support for UN prevention and peacebuilding efforts. .("The Responsibility"). These reforms would bring help to the world instead of armed threatening and invading. We can stop painting the world with a broad, too often black, brush. We can reduce the 900 military bases abroad, and bring these troops home too. We can stop trying to control the Middle East militarily. We can insist on an independent Palestinian state. The suffering people of the world—and all species—need these changes and more.
Abrashi, Fisnik. "Biden Vows Long-Term U.S. Support for Afghanistan." ADG (Jan. 11, 2009). (See Wallsten).
"Agribusiness Unit Returns from Afghanistan." TMN (Dec. 28, 2008).
Bacevich, Andrew. The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. Holt, 2008.
Brummitt, Chris. "Missile Strikes Leave 18 Dead in Pakistan" (AP; ADG 1-24-2009)
Burns, Robert and Pauline Jelinek. "Study: US Should Pare Goals." TMN (Feb. 4, 2009).
Constable, Pamela. "Widening Gap Between Afghanistan's Rich, Poor Stirs Discontent." ADG (Jan. 18, 2009).
Grayling, A.C. Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan. Walker, 2006.
Herold, Marc. ""The Bomb Drop was reported to have Good Effects' by the U.S. Air Force: Bombing a Village Market in Baghran, Helmand on August 2, 2007"
"The War on Afghanistan Was Wrong, Too" by Jacob G. Hornberger* (click for article)
Khan, Riaz. "Militants Burn U.S., NATO Vehicles." TMN (Dec. 8, 2008).
Kotlowitz, Alex. "Asylum for the World's Battered Women." The New York Times Magazine (Feb. 11, 2007), 32-35.
Lumley, Murray. CPTnet (Christian Peacekeeping Team) 29 May 2007
Johnson City, TN: "Depleted Uranium--the gift that keeps on giving" See at end for the full report.
Miraki, Dr. Mohammed Daud, Afghanistan: After Democracy, the Untold Story Through Photographic Images. "Congenital Deformities: the Gift That Keeps on Giving" is the title of a chapter in the book,
Moyers' Journal Interview of Sarah Chayes (2-22-08)
Niebuhr, Reinhold. World Crisis and American Responsibility.
"Rangin Dadfar Spanta." ADG 1-18-09, 1A.
Raymond, Alan and Susan. Children in War. 2000.
"The Responsibility to Prevent." Washington Newsletter (Jan. 2009), Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Smucker, Philip. Al Qaeda's Great Escape: The Military and the Media on Terror's Tail. 2004.
Straziuso, Jason. "Afghan Chief Prods U.S. on Plan for Added Forces." ADG (12-23-8).
Straziuso, Jason and Rahim Faiez. "Afghans Condemn US Raid." TMN (Jan. 26, 2009).
"USIP Afghanistan Projects Address Critical Needs," United States Institute of Peace, Peace Watch (Dec. 2008).
Vogt, Heidi. (AP). "Afghans Go Hungry." TMN (Nov. 28, 2008).
Wallsten, Peter. "Biden Predicts Higher Casualties." TMN (I failed to note the date, but it was very late Jan. or very early Feb.).
BRAVERY OF THE TROOPS AND MORALITY OF THEIR ACTIONS
But if the actions that required such courage amounted to complicity with leaders from President Bush on down in the commission of wrongs, particularly the killing of innocents, the courage with which they were carried out does not alter the fact that the killings were wrong. The excuse that the leader, the "commander in chief," has absolute authority and that subordinates must unhesitatingly and unquestioningly obey (the Fuhrerprinzip) was not acceptable even before the Nuremberg Trials. Nor does the public popularity of the invasion and the occupation transform wrong into right. Nor the belief by the troops that their cause was just, for that belief must be tested by law and morality, for a war must be both just and justly fought. (Grayling).
A peace organization committed to the values I listed in the introduction must then question whether the attack on Afghanistan—its men, women, and children—in order to apprehend a band of criminals was in whole or in part illegal and immoral. And we must pass judgment and take a stand, or be vulnerable to the accusation of insincerity or pusillanimity. Can the US be excused from adhering to its own laws and the laws of nations? Does the myth of US exceptionalism permit such double standards when judged by international law? (Perceiving ourselves as a peaceful people, we are deluded by the conviction that our international conflicts are not of our making.) (Bacevich ). I believe the case set forth below provides a negative answer to these questions, and in addition supports the moral and legal arguments with numerous other reasons why we must leave Afghanistan.
EFFECTS OF DEPLETED URANIUM, A CHEMICAL WARFARE
CPTnet (Christian Peacekeeping Team) 29 May 2007
JOHNSON CITY, TN: "Depleted Uranium--the gift that keeps on giving"
by Murray Lumley
"Congenital Deformities: the Gift That Keeps on Giving," is the title of a
chapter in Dr. Mohammed Daud Miraki's book, Afghanistan: After Democracy,
the Untold Story Through Photographic Images. [NOTE: I have not read this book, but am seeking it. DB]
Dr. Miraki was one of the presenters at the "Stop-DU" conference, Saturday,
19 May 2007, attended by the Christian Peacemaker Team Depleted Uranium (DU)
delegation at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee. Dr.
Miraki left Afghanistan with his family in 1982 during the Soviet
He gave a scathing condemnation of the U.S. bombing of innocent civilians in
Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. He told us that most
Afghans live in abject poverty after experiencing nearly thirty years of
war. "Afghan civilians are still dying from thousands of mines left by the
Soviet army," he said. Dr. Miraki has revisited Afghanistan several times
in a personal quest for the truth behind the U.S.'s stated goal of bringing
democracy to Afghanistan.
Various reports indicate that some of the U.S. ordnance used in attempts to
destroy the Taliban and Al Quaeda consisted of DU munitions. Tons of DU,
from bunker buster bombs used on the caves in the eastern mountains and from
rapid fire machine guns of A-10 Warthogs or Apache helicopters, have left
the beautiful Afghan landscape littered with the graves of whole and
extended families plus a radioactive nightmare for those left alive. The DU
burns when fired from a weapon or exploded, leaving fine, radioactive waste
everywhere the wind blows, and causing increased rates of cancers, childhood
leukemia and other illnesses for the people who breathe it in.
Dr. Miraki showed slides demonstrating the dramatically increased rates of
birth defects - nauseating photos of Afghan newborns with swollen heads, red
tumours where lips and eyes should be; frog-like babies with no brain;
abdominal and head organs left outside the body; babies with one eye in the
middle of the forehead; club hands and feet and more.
Dr. Miraki told us, "Tiny radioactive particles, inhaled by Afghan men and
women of child bearing age, have altered the DNA of their sperms and eggs."
Since DNA damage is inheritable, the increased incidence of birth defects
will pass on to future generations. He also said, "Since the radioactive
dust from DU has a half life of 4.5 billion years (the age of the Earth)
this means that Afghans (and others people living where DU has been used -
Iraq and the former Yugoslavia) will be suffering for an unforeseeable
U.S. and NATO veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who may have been exposed
to DU dust also return home with fear of having babies with birth defects.
Truly, the use of DU munitions is the gift of death - that keeps on giving.
As part of a civilization that would use such weapons on other people and
the Earth, I had an urge to put on sackcloth and ashes.
[Lumley, of Toronto, Ontario, was part of Christian Peacemaker Teams' 18-27
May delegation focusing on DU munitions. Other delegates are Russell Attoe
and Judy Leurquin (Madison, Wisconsin), Bill and Genie Durland (Colorado
Springs, Colorado), Ron Forthofer (Longmont, Colorado), Ron Friesen
(Loveland, Colorado), Anne Herman (El Paso, Texas), Kirsten Romaine Jones
(Toronto, Ontario), Cliff Kindy (N, North Manchester, Indiana), Jane MacKay
Wright (Providence Bay, Ontario), Wes Rehberg (Chattanooga, Tennessee),
Michael Smith (Gibson City, Illinois) and Dick and Gretchen Williams
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in
organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained
peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict. Originally a violence-reduction
initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonite, Church of the Brethren
and Quaker), CPT now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of
End of Afghanistan Newsletter 2-4-09