by: the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
August 9, 2011
‘The world doesn’t have to choose between the Taliban and the US government.
All the beauty of the world—literature, music, art—lies between these two fundamentalist poles.’
War Is Peace, by Arundhati Roy, October 18, 2001
We need clarity. The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers reject the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Declaration. We reject such declarations made by politicians who do not know us, nor care for us. We want the freedom to solve our own problems. In case you haven’t heard of the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Declaration, here is how it is being described in the international press.
We need to listen
‘The United States should maintain a long-term military presence in Afghanistan as a “tenant” on bases jointly occupied with Afghan forces, rather than on permanent U.S. bases, after its combat mission ends, according to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates……the administration is negotiating a strategic partnership agreement with the Kabul government for the longer term.’ – U.S. wants ‘joint bases’ in Afghanistan, Gates says, Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, 8th June 2011.
‘So this is a mutual document of interests,’ President Karzai, Press Briefing with Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Kabul, 5th June 2011.
‘The Iranian interior minister made a rushed visit to Kabul, followed shortly by the national security advisers of India and Russia. The Russians, though generally supportive of NATO’s role in Afghanistan, were alarmed at the prospect of a long-term Western presence. “The Russian side supports the development of Afghanistan by its own forces in all areas — security, economic, political — only by its own forces, especially after 2014,” said Stepan Anikeev, a political adviser at the Russian Embassy here. “How is transition possible with these bases?”’ Talks on U.S. Presence in Afghanistan after Pullout Unnerve Region, Rod Nordland, New York Times, 18th April 2011.
‘Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani…bluntly told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Americans had failed them both…Mr. Karzai should “forget about allowing a long-term U.S. military presence in his country…,” Mr. Gilani said. Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan’s president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan—and its Chinese ally.’ Karzai Told to Dump U.S., Matthew Rosenberg, Wall Street Journal, 27th April 2011.
‘The US has been bankrolling the effort with up to $100bn (£61bn) a year and is negotiating a new strategic partnership with President Hamid Karzai. “December  is not a campaign end date but a waypoint – a point at which the coalition security posture changes from one that is in the lead to one that is mentoring and advising, but is still here.” General James Bucknall, 2nd in command of International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).’ Nick Hopkins, The Guardian, 10th May 2011.
‘Because of deep concerns over militant groups in the region, (U.S. officials) want some kind of launching area … to go after individuals and training camps. They see few other basing options in the region. So, the U.S. government will push hard for this.’ Caroline Wadhams, a security expert at the Center for American Progress, 3rd June 2011.
‘The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit ( SCO, a mutual-security organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan ) adopted a statement calling for an “independent, neutral” Afghanistan (read: free of foreign occupation). Nurusultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, who hosted Karzai, put it on record, “It is possible that the SCO will assume responsibility for many issues in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2014.”’ Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar, a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service, Asia Times Online, 21st June 2011.
‘In a statement, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Party of Hezb-e-Islami described establishment of permanent US military bases in Afghanistan as an eternal occupation of the country. The statement said establishment of permanent US bases in Afghanistan would mean the war never ends.’ Tolo News Afghanistan, 19th July 2011.
What is described is the framework for Great Game 3.0, demonstrating the world’s militarized inability to resolve distrust and human conflict in a sensible manner, and the ineffectual silence of the international community and the United Nations.
We need to ask questions
Our leaders, the Afghan and American elite, don’t want us to be concerned about the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Declaration. They want us to be appropriately upset by news of suicide bombings and I.E.D.s, and sufficiently curious about the Taliban, the 2014 draw-down, and peace.
What’s more, the ‘debt crisis doom’ will not allow us to look at the big picture, which is the consistent abuse of the people’s interests by global governments determined to maintain the status quo of Power-and-Wealth-dictated inequalities. Yet, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers are committed to recovering their values. This is difficult because such values have been de-humanized, as we ourselves have become disconnected from other human beings and distracted by material OBJECTS. This happens to us and it happens more so to ordinary Americans who face even greater distractions and may not want to bother with this ‘agreement.’ After all, Americans have enough troubles of their own.
Or can we expect her citizens to break out of their cold, lonely bubbles? We need an urgent global debate about this. The US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Declaration will perpetuate ‘terrorism’ and bring it to everyone’s doorsteps. The ‘partnership’ will allow permanent joint US-Afghanistan military bases to launch and project hard power. The ‘extreme’ Taliban would conveniently ‘use’ these bases as a stand-alone reason for their ‘holy jihad.’ We cannot forget that one of Osama Bin Laden’s reasons for attacking the US on September 11th was the presence of US military bases in Saudi Arabia.
This Strategic Partnership Declaration would kill any chance for our madness to slow down and our violence to calm down. It will doom ordinary Americans and Afghans to permanent terrorism. Why can’t we quiet our nerves, look deep inside humanity, and begin healing? The reality is that Afghans are not only very angry but also tired, while US/NATO citizens are essentially unaware, so are neither concerned, nor angry.
We need options
As Arundhati Roy said, Afghans don’t have to choose between the Taliban and the US-Afghan Government…these two fundamentalist poles. Just like Americans don’t have to choose between ‘feeding’ the rich or ‘feeding’ the rich.We can choose normal, decent lives, based on respect for life, on valuing life.
We can connect our aspirations with those of human beings elsewhere:
‘When people decide to live, destiny shall obey, and one day … the slavery chains must be broken.’ Tunisian poet Abu Al-Qasem Al-Shabi (Schebbi)
‘Hurriya! Hurriya! Hurriya! - Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!’ Egyptian Tahrir Square protesters
‘We are not merchandise in the hands of politicians and bankers! We are not slaves!’ Spanish Indignados, Real Democracy Now
‘The world is no longer dignified enough for words… This is my last poem, I cannot write more poetry. Poetry no longer exists inside me. No more blood!’ Mexican poet Javier Sicilia and the Caravan of Solace
‘The people demand social justice. This is Egypt.’About 300,000 Israelis marching through the streets in central Tel Aviv
‘Tell the world not to send their money,’ says Abdulai, a 15 year old Afghan boy. ‘I don’t need their money. I need to live without wars.’
At a Press Briefing in Kabul on the 5th of June 2011, President Karzai addressed Robert Gates as ‘His Excellency’ and gave him a medal, which Gates self-proclaimed as ‘an award’ presented to him ‘on behalf of the Afghan people.’
If the Afghan public knew that Karzai had given Gates an award on their behalf, they may have fumed. But then, most rural Afghans don’t even know who Gates is. This proud and exceptional self-praise by the rich and powerful is ugly; the People of the world should expose and disempower this imposition of values. There ARE other options, especially since there ARE other deeper values.
We need an equal conversation
No Power today represents the people. Today, ordinary Afghans are denied the basic human dignities, living in a country that Save the Children said was the most dangerous place on earth for mothers, and that UNICEF said was the worst place on earth to be born in, and to be a child.
Moreover, the country that is pushing to sign this Strategic Partnership Declaration with Afghanistan, namely the US, has neither ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women nor the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
These indicate the ‘human regress’ which the Afghan government/Taliban/US/NATO have been responsible for. We mustn’t ‘just watch and do nothing’ about our glaring socio-economic inequalities; 20% of the earth’s population is hoarding more than 70% of the total income.
It is an unsustainable inhumanity. Why not listen, as human beings are capable of doing? Why not grieve? Why not have decent and equal conversations? Have we all become incapable of perceiving the ‘beauty of the world – literature, music, art…?’
For the sake of Abdulai and billions of ordinary people like him, why not join the rising masses across the Middle East & Africa, Europe, South & Central America and more, under the same blue sky, to end our slavery to the status quo values?
We need to at least have conversations about the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Declaration, before it is signed in betrayal of ordinary Americans, Afghans and global citizens.
We have little left to lose anyway.
The Powers have been laughing at us, right from the very beginning.
The US coalition was dropping 26,000 bombs on an already destroyed Afghanistan from October 2001 to March 2002, when these words were recorded: ‘By the second day of the air strikes, US pilots were returning to their bases without dropping their assigned payload of bombs. As one pilot put it, Afghanistan is “not a target-rich environment.” At a press briefing at the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, US defense secretary, was asked if America had run out of targets. “First we’re going to re-hit targets,” he said, “and second, we’re not running out of targets, Afghanistan is…” This was greeted with gales of laughter in the Briefing Room.’
Gandhi had said, ‘Our slavery is complete when we begin to hug it.’
When the Strategic Partnership is signed, peace groups will still be working hard to demand complete withdrawal. Unawares, the rest of the world will be repulsed by but still admiring how ‘intelligent’ politicians are ‘Mafia-ing’ the economic crisis. But, there will then be at least 5 permanent US military bases in Afghanistan, and ‘gales of laughter in the Briefing Room.’ Brutality Smeared in Peanut Butter, Arundhati Roy, The Guardian, October 23, 2001
Next the statesman will invent cheap lies, putting the blame on the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception…Mark Twain.