Today I spoke with friends in Kabul, members of Afghan Peace Volunteers, a group of young people who engage in peace building projects. They make headscarves for mothers, sew and market blankets for rural families in winter, Their videos, which are consistently quite charming, can bee seen at http://ourjourneytosmile.com. These young people from war torn Afghanistan are healing themselves by exploring the possibilities of living in peace and meeting others with love rather than demands. The Afghan Peace Volunteers are wonderful. They are boys and girls, some have barely reached adolescence and others are grown now, who share food in a land of hunger, who play in a land of sorrow, who make little gardens in a devastated city and wish us to join them when they fly kites not drones.
APV want to know ‘Why not love?’ I put that question on an antiwar poster once, and people were stunned. They couldn’t process the question. APV pass out blue scarves that represent living in a world without borders. When I see a blue scarf, I remember John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
On the call, I was asked what people are doing about the terrible situation in Gaza. I explained that there are many demonstrations and people writing to politicians and doing whatever they can to get our government to reign in Israel and stop the slaughter. After some discussion on the other side, Hakim, APV mentor and translator asked me if I know how many children die due the still burning war in Afghanistan. I didn’t know. He said that 40 children die every week in Afghanistan directly as a result of violence associated with the war. That doesn’t count, he said, those who die of war related causes like sickness and malnutrition. He said that the number of civilian casualties caused by the U.S. war in Afghanistan has actually been increasing over the last two or three years. As I listened to Hakim’s quiet voice, the absence of protest was thundering in my ears.
During my last trial in January, I deliberately focused on the disastrous effects of the war in Afghanistan, and of drone strikes there, which are rarely reported in any media, mainstream or otherwise. It just happened however, that last year there was an outcry over the brutality of U.S. Special Ops forces in an area where (not surprisingly) there are frequent drone strikes, not unlike the ones in the Pakistani Tribal lands. Most people aren’t aware of this activity most of the time.
The war in Afghanistan is too old at 13, and too firmly framed in the mainstream press to elicit much interest from people in general. Carmen Trotta, a Catholic worker from Brooklyn was in Kabul with APV when I called in today. Hakim asked him to describe what he has seen there since he came. I know Carmen from one of the trials I covered at Hancock. His group was acquitted, a rare event in DeWitt Town Court. Here is what he said today about wonderful post-war Kabul this moning:
Carmen was very impressed by mountains as he flew into Kabul. As a native New Yorker he probably has never seen any thing quite like them. He said that Kabul is “not a very sightly city”. “You can see that ‘the city itself is unhealthy”, he said.. He said there is a lot of traffic but the roads are terrible. Carmen noted that the streets are crowded but people on the street seemed to have nothing to do. They are just loitering. He saw many people sitting in wheelbarrows and assumed they might be hoping to find work. He told a story about the terrible roads and dense traffic. He said that there are gutters in the middle of the road, as wide as 12″ in some cases. A taxi he was riding in got a rear wheel caught in the gutter while trying to turn. They were stuck n the middle of the road with traffic flooding around. Luckily, the passengers and the driver together were able to lift the car and move the wheel out of the ditch so they could complete their journey.
I am currently trying to arrange a series of talks about Iraq and Syria for early August, and a few more in the fall. It is difficult, to say the least. The news cycle moved from the Syrian election (dismissed by the U.S. government, but I was there and Assad enjoys widespread support among the people because he represents a united Syria with a government that attempts to meet the needs of the people) to the crisis in Iraq triggered by ISIS sudden conquest of several cities in north-western Iraq, a subject I want to bring in to my talks as the situation in Iraq is closely tied to the war on Syria.
I went to Syria in early June as an Election Observer. though casualty counts are regularly released, there seems to be little interest in the Christians and Alawites and other minorities massacred and driven from their neighborhoods and villages by the insurgents. My friend Sarah in Iraq is publishing pictures of the refugees there on her Facebook page. Of course those are the ones who still have their heads and haven’t been killed by ISIS or angry Sunnis or Shia or whomever is targeting civilians as the war goes on there. Word is that all the Christians have been expelled from Mosul one way or another.
And now we are in Gaza watching in horror as Israel commits massacre after massacre of innocent civilians while our own government continues to support their (Israel’s but not the Palestinians’) right to ‘self defense’. The good news is that nations around the world are openly protesting, along with the people of this nation. Mainstream Civil Society organizations are rebelling in horror. The Palestinians are demanding that the gates from Gaza to the world be open. This does not seem like an unreasonable demand.
There was the search for the Malaysian plane lost over the ocean earlier this year and now a Malaysian passenger plane has been shot down in Ukraine killing almost 300 people. But we haven’t heard about the Ukraine;s new west-friendly government’s assault on civilians in the east which is killing people daily, slaughtering them in their homes and schools and places of business kind of like, well, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. No. That’s a war on ‘separatists’ and ‘terrorists’. The stories never end. The lens just moves on. And 40 children per week die of war in Afghanistan, 20 per day in Gaza and who knows how many eastern Ukrainian kids and Syrian and Iraqi children die every day in the endless imperialist wars, and the number is several times more if you count the ones who die of hunger and cold and lack of medical care.
Meanwhile I have been attending a trial a week lately for protesters who have been arrested at Hancock Base for civil resistance actions against the drones. The juries have been merciless, standing for ‘law and order’ in defense of a heavily guarded military base surrounded by a 10′ fence with barbed wire against nonviolent protesters who criticize their work, killing people in Afghanistan. We don’t hear much about drone strikes lately either, but according to Metadata, an iPhone app that tracks drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, 36 people were killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan in the last 2 weeks, and 30 more in June. The Pakistani government had launched a brutal attack on the areas in the Tribal region where Taliban are known to live, but despite displacing the majority of the population, it didn’t meet U.S. objectives so the decided to return to their usual means.
The U.S. mainstream news jumps from the peak of one wave to the next, following a series of crises that revolves around the globe. What I clearly saw as today’s conversation unfolded is that the alternative news sources tend to do the same. . . and I often follow. We jump from stone to stone around the circumference of the problem instead of standing in the middle of the circle and looking around at the global picture. We are chasing fires, but not addressing the central cause. We need to see events as they are, but it distracts us from cutting the source.
Some would have you believe that there is no global cause. It’s the Sunnis vs. the Shia here and there. It’s the chaotic Pakistani government that can’t control the Taliban. It’s the ‘monster’ Assad and it’s Hamas. It’s the Russians. It’s the people fighting for freedom and justice. It’s oil here and Israel there. It’s weapons of mass destruction and it’s takfiri riding around in pick up trucks cutting off people’s heads. Israel needs to protect itself. The Palestinians need their own state. We should do something. We should stay out of it. We divided the Middle East incorrectly after the first world war so we should try again. The new division will come naturally if we just let ‘them’ fight it out. We need to rearrange the Middle East to our liking. And then the causes and solutions begin to mix a little around the edges and swirl at our feet, colorful and slippery like an oil slick on the surface of a roiled a mud puddle during a flood.
What can we do better? How can we end these atrocities? I don’t have any answers today. One thing is clear, though. At the center of all is U.S. Imperialism and drive for world dominance. People don’t like to hear that, but until we address it, nothing will change.