Monday, September 12, 2011

A Poem Worth Reading

A Moment of Silence

Emmanuel Ortiz

Before I begin this poem, I’d like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence in honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.
I would also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence for all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, for the victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the U.S., and throughout the world.
And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence… for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of U.S.-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence… for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result
of a 12-year U.S. embargo against the country.
…And now, the drums of war beat again.
Before I begin this poem, two months of silence… for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa, where “homeland security” made them aliens in their own country
Nine months of silence… for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin, and the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence… for the millions of dead in Viet Nam —a people, not a war—for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
Two months of silence… for the decades of dead in Colombia, whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.
Before I begin this poem,
Seven days of silence… for El Salvador
A day of silence… for Nicaragua
Five days of silence… for the Guatemaltecos
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence… for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas…
1,933 miles of silence… for every desperate body
That burns in the desert sun
Drowned in swollen rivers at the pearly gates to the Empire’s underbelly,
A gaping wound sutured shut by razor wire and corrugated steel.
25 years of silence… for the millions of Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.
For those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees
In the south… the north… the east… the west…
There will be no dna testing or dental records to identify their remains.
100 years of silence… for the hundreds of millions of indigenous people
From this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness…
From somewhere within the pillars of power
You open your mouths to invoke a moment of our silence
And we are all left speechless,
Our tongues snatched from our mouths,
Our eyes stapled shut.
A moment of silence,
And the poets are laid to rest,
The drums disintegrate into dust.
Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence…
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.
Not like it always has been.
…Because this is not a 9-1-1 poem
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem…
This is a 1492 poem.
This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then
This is a September 11th 1973 poem for Chile.
This is a September 12th 1977 poem for Steven Biko in South Africa.
This is a September 13th 1971 poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York.
This is a September 14th 1992 poem for the people of Somalia.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground amidst the ashes of amnesia.
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told,
The 110 stories that history uprooted from its textbooks
The 110 stories that that cnn, bbc, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.
This is not a peace poem,
Not a poem for forgiveness.
This is a justice poem,
A poem for never forgetting.
This is a poem to remind us
That all that glitters
Might just be broken glass.
And still you want a moment of silence for the dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves,
The lost languages,
The uprooted trees and histories,
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children…
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.
So if you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines, the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights
Delete the e-mails and instant messages
Derail the trains, ground the planes.
If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
of Taco Bell
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses
and the Playboys.
If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July,
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale,
The next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful brown people have gathered.
You want a moment of silence
Then take it
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
Take it all.
But don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.
And we,
We will keep right on singing
For our dead.

Emmanuel Ortiz is a third-generation Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish-American community organizer and spoken word poet. He is the author of a chapbook of poems, The Word Is a Machete (self-published, 2003), and coeditor of Under What Bandera?: Anti-War Ofrendas from Minnesota y Califas (Calaca Press, 2004). He is a founding member of Palabristas: Latin@ Word Slingers, a collective of Latin@ poets in Minnesota. Emmanuel has lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Oakland, California; and the Arizona/Mexico border. He currently lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the “buckle of the Bible Belt,” with his two dogs, Nogi and Cuca. In his spare time, he enjoys guacamole, soccer, and naps.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Peace Activists in Afghanistan

These posts are the first three days of a trip to Afghanistan.

Here in Wisconsin where I live, we get very little news about either of the wars our government wages across the globe. I was taken by the lack of any real news about our latest war in Libya. I guess the Obama administration takes it one step further than George W. Bush, and that is to totally hide what the government is doing instead of just cloaking it as goodwill.

Being active in the important business of the day for peace, I get many e-mails from various outlets. One in particular is a daily log of a peace activist that is traveling right now in Afghanistan on a mission of peace. His name is Steve Clemens.

I know Steve, I have met him a few times over the years. Last time we hung out together was the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul in 2008. Steve is a regular participant at a weekly action in Eden Paririe for Alliant Technoligies, the old Honeywell Corporation that manufactures deadly depleted uranium weapons and ammunitions.

I think very highly of the character and resolve of Steve's works and will post his daily reports from his peaceful visit to Afghanistan here on these pages.

Day 1

By Steve Clemens

Three Powerful Perspectives on Afghanistan by Steve Clemens. March 18, 2011

I couldn’t afford to give in to jet lag after my arrival in Afghanistan this morning after 3 flights and layovers totaling 40 hours before reaching my floor space in a Kabul office of a small nonprofit human rights organization formed by some very dedicated Afghan women eight months ago. I did nap for about an hour before Hakim showed us a new five minute video he had just created from yesterday’s historic peace walk through the streets of Kabul.

It was a group of more than 20 international nonviolent peace activists and at least a dozen Afghan counterparts that crowded into the 12’ x 16’ office room and overflowed into the adjoining space. After a few minutes for introductions and several more for logistics and a look at the proposed schedule for our week here, Hakim, the mentor, translator, and prime mover of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV) begins to share about yesterday’s historic event.

About 40 Afghan young people, primarily in their teens and early 20s donned bright blue scarfs and carried banners as the inter-ethnic group marched from the Iranian Embassy to the Embassy for the United Nations in the busy area of central Baghdad. [I’ll hopefully be able to post the video of the walk after I return to the US.] Hakim shows us the video before explaining that “ ‘Peace’ is a dirty word to Afghans”. President Obama won the ‘Peace Prize’ in 2009, the same political leader who has increased the level of foreign military occupiers (both uniformed armed forces as well as ‘contractors’ and other mercenaries under the pay and control of the Pentagon or US State Department). “Peace” is the term used (or more accurately, abused) by everyone to excuse or justify anything. Many, many Afghans have been killed in the name of “peace”.

“We have had non-stop occupation and war; Afghans can’t trust each other because of decades of war”, Hakim tells us. We get a lot of ‘lip-service’ to the causes of peace by others – but then they ‘don’t show up’, he continues. “How do we restore hope; how do we begin to build up trust?” He observes there is not a culture of questioning here in Afghanistan (at least out loud, not in public). “War mongers have misused the word of peace” – to the point there is no trust. It is left to us, foreigners, who must encourage Afghans to find their own voice, this trained Public Health medical doctor from Singapore tells us. He started working in public health with refugees first in Pakistan and then accompanied them back to the Bamiyan area of central Afghanistan 8 years ago when he decided his role to encourage and nurture the ideals of the local young people was more pressing and in line with his deep commitment to Gandhian nonviolence then his medical practice.

“It is easy for politicians to talk about peace – but nothing is working here. Violence is a failing strategy. Every family here has someone who has been killed [in these wars]” – if not in the immediate family, then certainly in the extended one. There is no clear plan by any leader that is nonviolent he laments but goes on to say that there are only two leaders that these young people trust: Malalia Joya, an out-spoken woman activist, and Dr. Ramazon Barshardost, a humanist Member of Parliament who states categorically “It is wrong to kill” but is readily dismissed by many of his compatriots as “the mad (crazy) one.” Joya tells these young people, “If you truly walk this path [of peace and nonviolence], you will be killed one day.” We are told that the US government has just refused to give her a visa to come to the US for a planned speaking trip that was to begin next week.

Three years ago at a college in Bamiyan, Hakim led a 3 month workshop with students and their conclusion was “Peace is not possible in Afghanistan” – so, what do we do? He helped organize an effort to get an inter-ethnic group to live together for a semester and 16 students did. However controversy arose near the end of the time and Hakim started receiving death threats. He spoke to the “authorities”, he traveled from village to village, meeting people and listening. A group of boys coalesced and he helped supervise them in building a peace park in Bamiyan. The boys did a 7 day vigil to try to deliver a peace message to Obama. They recently sent gifts of some things they made to Pashtun people in Kandahar. A gift from some Hazaras and other ethnic tribes to Pashtuns stunned the recipients. “I can’t believe that there can be such love” was one of the responses Hakim heard. [Please go to the AYPV website to learn more about them.]

Zahra Mobtaker, an amazingly strong, 23 year old Afghan woman who spoke out during the peace march shared with us next. As the director of Open Society, a nonprofit working to empower Afghans –“helping ordinary people overcome their fears to give voice to their experiences”, she is focusing on human rights and democracy. She said they quickly found themselves very much alone. They sponsored a festival to help their fellow citizens overcome their fear and speak the truth. She has displayed photos of victims of the wars in gatherings to facilitate conversation about the reality of today’s Afghanistan.

This tiny (25 members) but bold non-profit has helped form a singing group with the intention of bringing a message of peace through song– especially to the many illiterate in the rural villages. They support their work primarily through their own personal funds – recognizing that their “aims might be sidetracked” by outside donors. This is often the reality of many NGOs here in Afghanistan – especially those getting the predominance of their funds from US AID, the UN, or other funding mechanisms tied to governmental agencies or large bureaucracies. (Note: this Open Society has no connection to the George Soros organizations which also take the Open Society moniker.) This group just operates in Kabul and Afghanistan. Open Society has also used film-making as a vehicle for peace and change. “The Night of the Cartoon-makers” used cartoons drawn on walls of public places, including mosques, as an educational tool. They were pleased that many of the cartoons have been “protected” by the people from defacement- a sign of the growing empowerment the group strives for.

They are also using web blogs ( and yesterday’s march was their first public partnership/ joint venture with the AYPV. “Thank you for coming to this exceptionally frightening country”, she told us. We felt her warmth and welcome and we are so grateful for her courage and eloquence.

Our heads and our hearts were already full before the country director from an [unnamed] NGO (non-Governmental Organization) dropped in to meet with us. He was pleasantly surprised to discover one of the international peace delegates he was to address included a Maryknoll priest who he had worked with in Cambodia many years before! The speaker had just joined this work in Afghanistan two months ago and is responsible for their program in 3 of Afghanistan’s northern provinces, Bamiyan, Herat, and Ghor. This organization has a long history in this country and focuses on 4 main program areas: an agriculture-based program in Herat which primarily works with girls and women developing sustainable methods; community-based education with a focus on girls; watershed management featuring gravity-flow spring management and work to prevent run-off and erosion; and emergency work with an aim to transition to sustainable development. This last program entails road construction and road snow clearance, especially the mountain passes which are cleared by shovel under a cash-for-work plan. One critical pass on the national highway between Herat- Bamiyan – Kabul must be cleared in a timely fashion to allow any traffic to flow, getting supplies to remote areas.

This NGO maintains a strict policy and reputation for not proselytizing and they don’t use any armed guards. Their director talked with dismay about the almost complete failure of the US/NATO military forces and privatized “contractors” (he said we call them ‘Beltway Bandits’ referring to the corruption in Washington, DC) to rebuild needed infrastructure. He said the saying among NGOs is “where progress begins, the Taliban ends”, referring to the on-going struggle against forces of fear and repression. However, what this group has observed is with every contract with US AID (Agency for International Development, the “foreign aid” arm of the US State Department), funds are siphoned off in kick-back style payments, even in the written agreement itself. He recommended we read Descent Into Chaos by Hamad Rashad about this practice and lamented that he sees a “perfect storm of US AID, “contractors”, and local corruption” as a spiral leading to frustration, despair, and a culture of corruption which infects most things happening in Afghanistan.

A lot to think about on my first day in the war zone.

Steve Clemens

A video of a Peace March posted by Steve in between Day 1 and Day 2:

Hakim and the AYPV and Open Society's Peach March in Kabul this week mentioned in my blog

Day 2

By Steve Clemens

Day Two in the War Zone: Planting Trees, Burning Candles by Steve Clemens. March 19, 2011

In the morning we walked in groups of five for about 30-45 minutes through our area of Kabul en route to our morning activity. I awoke at 4 AM to use the bathroom and when the call to prayer was broadcast from the nearby mosque about 40 minutes later, I knew it was time to get up because the dogs on the street also joined the chorus. The city is fairly dirty (what does one expect in one of the poorest countries in the world which is at war with the world’s largest military machines?) and the traffic has no street lights or road striping so the cars switch invisible lanes as the pedestrians dodge and move between them.

Vendors crowd the sidewalk selling fruit, live chickens, freshly butchered meat, nuts, beans, and a multitude of other items. We travel in groups of 4 or 5 – always escorted by one of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. I know I shouldn’t have favorites - they are all so wonderful and helpful – but I can’t help but respond most to 13 year-old Gholami, the youngest and smallest of the 8 who have joined us for several days. We walk in small groups so we blend in a little more than if we all walk together. About half of the International Peace Delegation is staying at a hotel, others of us are sleeping on the floor in the office building of a non-profit organization that has joined with AYPV in inviting us. After walking down two main streets, we branch off into what seems to be a side street which more resembles an alley with an open sewer/gutter on one side. As cars or trucks pass us they blow their horns so we can step aside.

Vans come by with other delegates from the hotel and we are offered rides but Simon and I prefer to walk with several of the boys, enjoying the sunshine and “fresh air”. Actually, the air is often quite polluted with fumes from older, untuned vehicles. We walk purposefully and deliberately so as to not draw undue attention, despite our pale complexions. (Simon, from Australia, is fairer-skinned than me.) Since most of the others arrived before us, we missed part of the presentation at the private school which was our destination.

Lena, the teacher who addressed our group at the school, was a young woman who described the school and answered our questions. We had “one cup of tea” (we could have had more if we wished – even 3 Cups of Tea) but were told what Afghanistan needs is not more money to build schools but rather to have teachers properly trained. Having school buildings does no good without trained teachers. And teachers have to be paid a wage they can live with. The public school teachers are not paid enough and often have class sizes of 50-70 students – an impossible situation to help students learn at the grade school level. This private school had 20-25 students per class and it appeared to me at the recess time that the predominance was girls at this school.

When asked about whether the US military is needed for security, both the school’s principal and the teacher quickly said they wanted the US troops to leave. Lena added that “we need to make peace by ourselves” – it is not something that can be imposed from the outside. She continued, “Instead of waging war [here], the US could concentrate on education instead”, using the incredible amounts of money to train teachers.

The AYPV had picked this school for the tree-planting opportunity as a way to symbolically celebrate the New Year which would begin two days hence on the first day of Spring. Afghans are about to begin Year 1390 – their calendar, like that it many other Muslim-dominated nations, is dated from the time of their Prophet Mohammad. Students at the school drew or painted pictures of trees as an art project to celebrate the tree-planting event in their schoolyard.

Before we moved to the schoolyard to plant the trees, Hakim and the AYPV boys recited a poem they wrote the night before, “We Need a Different Tree” – a moving statement of choosing peace over war. It lamented how “power and privilege oppress the people – it is perfected in war. … Why would an Afghan mother want a tree that kills? … War is not a tree we want to plant – so, if we wish to live without war, we need to plant a different tree.” Then 55 trees, almond, poplar, plum, apricot, and apple, were placed in the already-dug holes provided. A local man pruned them after they were planted and watered. As we finished, the children were let out of the classrooms for recess/exercise and they were enamored at the visitors to their school; some loved posing for photos, other avoided our cameras.

The school principal announced that the garden/schoolyard would be re-named “The Friendship Garden.”

The van ride back to our office space –like all rides in the Kabul traffic – was another adventure. Just when you think the driver will hit a bike rider or pedestrian, scrape an on-coming car or one that you are passing, the brakes are applied or the steering wheel turned to prevent the accident. Any insurance agency would have to be crazy to cover someone for collision –although I don’t seem much beyond very close calls. It makes rush hour in the Twin Cities look positively relaxing.

Next on the day’s list (after a light lunch) was to drive to the Emergency Medical Hospital for civilian war casualties operated by an Italian NGO to donate our blood. (Ironically, I was told in Minneapolis before I left that I will not be able to donate platelets for a full year if I travel to Afghanistan due to threat of malaria – even though the threat doesn’t arrive until May, long after I’ve left.) My group had some difficulty getting a taxi to the hospital so we missed most of the tour and discovered that they only needed O negative blood that day. Two of us met that requirement but Kathy, who was one of the two, was asked to wait a couple of weeks since she gave at that hospital only several weeks before. She will donate again before she returns to Chicago in a couple of weeks.

Returning to the office, we had a convoy of 5 huge armored tan vehicles of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) pass us. Even though there were no US markings, it is clear to everyone who is in sight that these behemoths are the dinosaurs of the crumbling American empire – unfortunately still very deadly in its decline.

Later in the afternoon, we walked to the 3rd Eye Photojournalism Center, the host organization for the candlelight vigil in remembrance of the victims of war. A stunning gallery of wonderful photos taken from all over Afghanistan graced the walls of the four rooms and a table with candles encircling a banner reading “For the War’s Victims” in both English and Dari. After a few moving talks and the reading of the names of the 7 boys who were killed earlier this month in one of the northern provinces, the AYPV boys lit candles and passed them to all of us and we observed 2 minutes of silence in memory of all of war’s victims. Many of us felt tears welling up knowing that two of the boys present had lost their father to the Taliban several years ago. I am amazed at their courage and commitment.

At dinner afterward, I had a great conversation with Zahra, yesterday’s moving speaker from the Open Society, deeply moved by this 23 year old women who refuses to wear the veil except when she is outdoors. She has many questions for me – why I came here, what do I think about Afghanistan, what other Americans think about the war, … . I’m sure we will have several more conversations before our week’s end.

Having gotten up before dawn, I was very grateful for the air mattress and sleeping bag at 9 PM. I am so grateful for so many friends who have supported me/us on this pilgrimage/journey for peace.

Steve Clemens

Day 3

Day 3 in the War Zone: Creating Peace Via Skype
Day 3: Creating Peace Via Skype by Steve Clemens. March 20, 2011

We were told to expect the AYPV boys at our office lodgings at 4:30 AM because the Global Day of Listening was scheduled to begin by 5:30. They arrived a little late because they had been on the phone to others around the world since 10 PM last night. The plan for today was to continue the conversations over Skype connections on the internet. We rented a local internet café for the day but it wasn’t schedued to open until 8 AM so the conversation across the ocean(s) began with just telephone conversations.

Scott Shaeffer-Duffy from a Catholic Worker Community in Massachusetts helped begin the dialog as his wife, son, and daughter all joined in to talk with Hakim and the youth seated around our table in our office /“hotel”. We had a few technical glitches but everyone was engaged despite the long night and the early morning. Different members of the International Peace Delegation were asked to send greetings to their friends at home as part of the listening project. I signed up for 7 AM and actually joined the conversation at 7:30, sending greetings to the peace community in the Twin Cities where it was 10 PM on the day before. The young people asked me to tell them about groups I was part of in Minnesota so I described our weekly Wednesday vigil at Alliant Techsystems (ATK).

The connection is relevant for our friends in Afghanistan since this Minnesota-based war profiteer has made landmines and cluster munitions, two of the scourges of war which continue to plague civilians long after the conflict ended in certain regions of the country. I also mentioned the new weapon used by the US Army in Afghanistan, a combat gun that “shoots around corners”. Hakim asked if this was the XM-25 and I said that was - its new name and it’s “roll-out” was happening now in Afghanistan.

Abdulai asked me about whether I was hopeful about change coming after vigiling for so many years at ATK. This 15 year old boy is wise beyond his years. He had previously said that he feels tired of trying but said we need patience – and, if it doesn’t happen in his lifetime, the struggle is still worth it. I told him I shared his sentiment: if ATK doesn’t end it’s production and sale of indiscriminate weapons, it is still important for my own integrity to continue our protest at the corporate entrance because I have to act on my values. Even if change doesn’t come to ATK, change does come in my life and my heart.

The boys were very engaged in the conversation even though they had been doing this conversation across the table and around the world via cell phone and Skype for more than 9 hours before I sat down with them. After our conversation lasting 30 minutes, the whole group of us took a ½ hour break to move down to the internet café to continue the conversations around the world over Skype.

They talked with Sami Rasouli in Iraq (about his and other Iraqis experience with the US war machine) and Media Benjamin and Ann Wright in Washington, DC before both of them left for a trip to Quantico to protest the inhumane treatment of whistle-blower Bradley Manning. They talked with people in Australia, a guy in Laos (who told the boys of the legacy of unexploded bombs from the Indochina War), someone in Poland, and many other groups from the US. I listened to their conversations but also used the time to send a few emails to my friends and family to reassure them I was safe while engaged in this important work of peacemaking.

Patrick suggested we use part of the afternoon to go shopping with our new friends Zahra and Asif (to help translate/negotiate and to show us where to go). As if to show that even shopping in Afghanistan can be an adventure, our van driver was stopped by the police for driving the wrong way on a certain street since the other street was closed. (There were no signs indicating it was one way.) Patrick and I sat quietly in the van as both Zahra and Asif got out to engage the police as more and more surrounded our vehicle. While the other two negotiated, our driver was instructed to turn around in an impossibly small space. Driving conditions are a complete nightmare without the police stopping you.

After about 15-20 minutes, our two defenders came back to the van and said, “We’ll walk from here.” As we got to the sidewalk, Zahra assured us the driver wasn’t in serious trouble. She told me later that the policeman wanted a cash bribe. She told him she was a journalist and if he demanded money, she would print his name to expose his corruption in her newspaper. He withdrew his request. For a country where women have been marginalized, it is so refreshing to see a determined feminist here. She was no slouch in negotiating a fair price for the rug Patrick bought but she hesitated and was puzzled when I told her I wanted to buy a scarf for my wife. Here is a woman who is determined to be “unveiled” whenever possible, why would her new friend want his wife to cover her head? I laughed and told her Christine would only be wearing it around her neck! Besides, she’s the breadwinner in our family – while I’m out trapesing around the world in search of peace and justice.

After we returned, she shared her concerns with a couple of us about our safety here in Afghanistan. (I hadn’t known she had just received threats a week ago and I’m sure that added to her caution for us. She was concerned about the security of the area where the hotel some of the other delegates were staying at – noting that the main entrance was neither guarded nor locked. Anyone could walk into the building. She also expressed concern about a group of us traveling to Panjshir, a province north of Kabul, past Baghram Air Base and site of the notorious prison where the US had detained so many earlier in the war. Apparently they’ve just built a new detention center a few hundred yards away so they can claim not to being holding people in that shameful place.

After returning to re-join the young peace volunteer and their indefatigable mentor, Hakim, for several more hours, most of we westerners left to go to bed at 10 PM, leaving Kathy Kelly and a few others to finish the international dialog at midnight – 26 hours after they started! As is the custom this week, we walk back to our home-base in small groups, always accompanied by one of the Afghan youth. And here I thought that some of my work was to accompany them! They are such a blessing and inspiration to us.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Some Truths About Muslims, Christians and Jews

Here is a wonderful article researched and written by a blog friend. She calls herself Mauigirl. Have a Look HERE

This article is written with factual information, backed up with references, and not just another liberal opinion about Muslims and the Islamic threat worldwide.

I urge you to enlighten yourselves.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Losing in Afghanistan

I have been neglecting this blog. Not because I don't care about Peace any longer, but the action that was started in Ashland over 4 years ago has ended and I don't live there anymore. I moved away and the people stopped standing for Peace.
Not much I could do about that situation. I live in another part of the state now and I haven't started a similar action here where I live, yet.

Currently, I'm about to start a support group to help returning Veterans readjust to life away from a war zone. A tall order, bnut I am glad to attempt to do something.

I came across this Huffington Post article and decided to post it. Make up your own mind, but the bottom line for me is there is still war being waged by our government and it needs to stop now, no matter which party is in office. I am sad that the changes that seemed to have been promised from the Obama administration about ending the war(s) didn't happen and sound like they won't happen very soon.

Might have to start that Standing for Peace vigil here in River Falls, WI after all. Anyone interested in joining me in spirit or otherwise?

Let me know if you are. In the meantime, read this, then write letters everyday to the President, your Senators and Congress representatives. Tell them you want the wars to end immediately.

Peace to all.

Losing in Afghanistan

By Marjorie Cohn

Huffington Post

July 6, 2010

Here is the article from the Huffington Postblog.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted 215-210 for $33 billion

to fund Barack Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan. But there was

considerable opposition to giving the President a blank check. One

hundred sixty-two House members supported an amendment that would have

tied the funding to a withdrawal timetable. One hundred members voted

for another amendment that would have rejected the $33 billion for the

30,000 new troops already on their way to Afghanistan; that amendment

would have required that the money be spent to redeploy our troops out

of Afghanistan. Democrats voting for the second amendment included

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and nine Republicans. Both amendments

failed to pass.

The new appropriation is in addition to the $130 billion Congress has

already approved for Iraq and Afghanistan this year. And the 2010

Pentagon budget is $693 billion, more than all other discretionary

spending programs combined.

Our economic crisis is directly tied to the cost of the war. We are in

desperate need of money for education and health care. The $1 million

per year it costs to maintain a single soldier in Afghanistan could

pay for 20 green jobs.

Not only is the war bankrupting us, it has come at a tragic cost in

lives. June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In

addition to the 1,149 American soldiers killed in Afghanistan, untold

numbers of Afghan civilians have died from the war - untold because

the Defense Department refuses to maintain statistics of anyone except

U.S. personnel. After all, Donald Rumsfeld quipped in 2005, “death has

a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war.”

There are other “depressing” aspects of this war as well. As Gen.

Stanley McChrystal reported just days before he got the axe, there is

a “resilient and growing insurgency” with high levels of violence and

corruption within the Karzai government. McChrystal’s remarks were

considered “off message” by the White House, which was also irked by

the general’s criticisms of Obama officials in a Rolling Stone

article. McChrystal believes that you can’t kill your way out of

Afghanistan. “The Russians killed 1 million Afghans and that didn’t


He and his successor, Gen. David Petraeus, likely disagree on the need

to prevent civilian casualties (known as “Civ Cas”). McChrystal

instituted some of the most stringent rules of engagement the U.S.

military has had in a war zone: “Patrol only in areas that you are

reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with

lethal force.” Commanders cannot fire on buildings or other places if

they have reason to believe civilians might be present unless their

own forces are in imminent danger of being overrun. And they must end

engagements and withdraw rather than risk harming noncombatants.

McChrystal knows that for every innocent person you kill, you create

new enemies; he calls it “insurgent math.” According to the Los

Angeles Times, McChrystal “was credited with bringing about a

substantial drop in the proportion of civilian casualties suffered at

the hands of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and its

Afghan allies.”

While testifying in Congress before he was confirmed to take

McChrystal’s place, Petraeus told senators that some U.S. soldiers had

complained about the former’s rules of engagement aimed at preventing

civilian casualties.

According to the Rolling Stone article, Obama capitulated to

McChrystal’s insistence that more troops were needed in Afghanistan.

In his December 1 speech at West Point, the article says, “the

president laid out all the reasons why fighting the war in Afghanistan

is a bad idea: It’s expensive; we’re in an economic crisis; a

decade-long commitment would sap American power; Al Qaeda has shifted

its base of operations to Pakistan. Then,” the article continued,

“without ever using the words ‘victory’ or ‘win,’ Obama announced that

he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, almost as

many as McChrystal had requested.”

Both Obama and Petraeus no longer speak of “victory” over the Taliban;

they both hold open the possibility of settlement with the Taliban.

Indeed, Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, chief of operations for McChrystal,

told Rolling Stone, “It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a

win or taste like a win.”

The majority of Americans now oppose the war in Afghanistan. Fareed

Zakaria had some harsh words for the war on his CNN show, saying that

“the whole enterprise in Afghanistan feels disproportionate, a very

expensive solution to what is turning out to be a small but real

problem.” Noting that CIA director Leon Panetta admitted that the

number of Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan may be 50 to 100, Zakaria

asked, “why are we fighting a major war” there? “Last month alone

there were more than 100 NATO troops killed in Afghanistan,” he said.

“That’s more than one allied death for each living Al Qaeda member in

the country in just one month.” Citing estimates that the war will

cost more than $100 billion in 2010 alone, Zakaria observed, “That’s a

billion dollars for every member of Al Qaeda thought to be living in

Afghanistan in one year.” He queried, “Why are we investing so much

time, energy, and effort when Al Qaeda is so weak?” And Zakaria

responded to the argument that we should continue fighting the Taliban

because they are allied with Al Qaeda by saying, “this would be like

fighting Italy in World War II after Hitler’s regime had collapsed and

Berlin was in flames just because Italy had been allied with Germany.”

There is also division in the Republican ranks over the war.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele made some gutsy

comments about the war in Afghanistan, saying it is not winnable and

calling it a “war of Obama’s choosing.” (Even though George W. Bush

first invaded Afghanistan, Obama made the escalation of U.S.

involvement a centerpiece of his campaign.) Steele said that if Obama

is “such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know,

that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in

Afghanistan? Everyone who has tried, over 1,000 years of history, has

failed.” Interestingly, Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain

slammed Steele and jumped to Obama’s defense. Rep. Ron Paul, however,

agreed with Steele, saying, “Michael Steele has it right, and

Republicans should stick by him.”

Obama will likely persist with his failed war. He appears to be

stumbling along the same path that Lyndon Johnson followed. Johnson

lost his vision for a “Great Society” when he became convinced that

his legacy depended on winning the Vietnam War. It appears that Obama

has similarly lost his way.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is

immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy

secretary general of the International Association of Democratic

Lawyers. She is co-author (with Kathleen Gilberd) of Rules of

Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent.


Marjorie Cohn

Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Posted: July 6, 2010 07:58 PM

Again, I offer Peace.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Watch This Video

This video exposes some not commonly heard truths about what is really happening in Gaza and how Palestinians are persecuted. Spread the truth around.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Veterans For Peace National Leaders Arrested in Protest

Call and write your elected officials. Tell them you want an end to war.

This e-mail sent to me as I am a member of Veterans For Peace.

Date: Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 10:44 AM

Dear Colleagues,

VFP President Mike Ferner, Vice President Leah Bolger, and Treasurer
Ken Mayers were all arrested in front of the White House today while
standing vigil over three mock coffins draped with US, Afgan, and Iraq
flags. Other VFP members arrested included Mike Hearington, Jim
Goodnow, Tarak Kauf, Tom Palombo and Louis Wolf. VFP Executive
Director Michael McPhearson, along with Colonel Ann Wright and members
of the capital area VFP chapters also supported the protest. The VFP
members were among 65 arrestees who included Kathy Kelly, Liz
McAlister, and Cindy Sheehan among others. All those arrested were
taken to the National Park Police Headquarters, booked, and released.
They now have 14 days in which to reappear at the National Park Police
Headquarters either to pay their $100 fines or to obtain a court date.

Along with Veterans for Peace, a broad range of affinity groups, such
as the Atlantic Life Community, Witness Against Torture, Veterans for
Peace, World Can’t Wait, and Activist Response Team had members
arrested. Other groups fully endorsing the action and participating
were Peace Action, Code Pink, the War Resisters’ League, and Student
Peace Action Network.

The protest called for withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan,
ending the illegal bombing with US drones, including neighboring
Pakistan, and the closing of the Bagram prison and ending indefinite
detention and torture. We called for an end to these wars and
occupations, including that of Iraq, so that our resources can be used
for life-sustaining actions including the funding and the rebuilding
of Afghanistan’s and Iraq’s infrastructure and medical assistance to
Afghans and Iraqis, in addition to poverty reduction programs in the
United States and world wide. We continue to call for accountability
for those who have committed war crimes.

Kenneth Mayers
Veterans for Peace - Santa Fe
Wage Peace!

Monday, September 28, 2009

We're Still at War

I was thinking lately about whether or not Obama promised an end to the war. I know he said that he would stay in Afghanistan and try to weed out the Al Queda and Taliban. He used the same word, "win", when speaking about Afghanistan. But I remember different talk about Iraq. A withdrawal, and a quick one. Neither seems to be happening.

I did come across an article this last week that sounds interesting, and if true, might be a sign that this administration is thinking about taking a different approach in Afghanistan. You can read about this remarkable train of thought HERE.

The disappointment of so many that voted for Obama, as they saw him as an end to the war(s), is real. Personally, I'm waiting for someone to tell me what "winning" is in any war, let alone these wars we are involved with now. Do you win when all are killed? When all surrender? When their "side" puts down their arms?

Write to your elected officials in House and Senate today. Call their offices. Write and call the White House and tell them you want an end to being at war. Fax them with a letter. Do it every day.

Write the White House:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Or Call:

Phone Numbers

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461


Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121

To get a hold of your Congress Representative and Senate, go HERE.

Think on this: It might more important to be pro peace than anti war.

Peace to all.