A recent talk given at the annual Dublin Anarchist Bookfair, May 2012.
A recent talk given at the annual Dublin Anarchist Bookfair, May 2012.
In 1988, just a year before the end of the U.S.-Russian proxy war in Afghanistan, Sher Zaman Taizi, a well-renowned Pashto writer authored The Field, a short story that laconically summarizes the past four decades of war in Afghanistan:
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
‘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.
Dear Stakeholders in Afghanistan,
Forgive this letter.
We felt we could share with you our burdens without incurring your anger or pity.
Much has happened to the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers since we met with you for a wonderful hour in Kabul.
Like it is with 30 million other Afghans, our mounting challenges are ‘intolerable and untenable’, and in some instances, rather severe on our souls.
It is improbable that we will see any fruit in our lifetimes.Peace has become a broken ideal. It is a joke derided over tea.
We’re not being negative ; our endeavor to love means that we remain realistically positive, even if love seems to have broken.
But the world is being untrue in ignoring the perpetual breaking of Afghan mothers as peace is torn apart like a goat in the Powers buzkashi game ; the humanitarian statistics and our visual witness prove that this shattering is borne on the backs of the people.
The chiseled Herati-stone sculptured dove which we enthusiastically raised funds to purchase from an Afghan artist, sits silently at Bamiyan Peace Park, inviting visitors to dignity.
One its wings was recently broken off and taken away, as if to break us.
We are no longer shocked.
The energies of local and international communities have been twisted to destruction in Afghanistan for at least 3 decades.
Why is the media, and the political climate, so antagonistically and obstinately breaking peace?
How much time do we have left to change ourselves, in hope of changing a global predicament?
The people know that the strategy in Afghanistan is failing. They
are paying for it with their lives.
We wish there would be a study like the Global Commission on Drug
Policy, in which ex-Presidents and the ex-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declared clearly a failed ‘war against drugs’.
Like in Mexico where 40,000 Mexicans have died violently since 2007, Afghans need a Caravan of Solace to grieve together. So, in the past few days, we had telephone conversations with Julian LeBaron and Emilio Alvarez from Javier Sicilia’s people’s movement, to think together about how ‘poems die’, and how beautiful things are ignored, laughed at and then criminalized.
We are sorry that in the Commission’s report, Afghanistan, the top
producer of heroin and marijuana, is not mentioned. It is as if in
thinking about water, we ignore the oceans. It is as if Afghans do not exist.
But in it lies a practical way to live again. It’s found on Page 10 of the report, as its very first recommendation: “Break the taboo. Pursue an open debate……… Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately.”
After Kai Eide had resigned ( and we wish he had declared this BEFORE he left his post as Afghanistan’s UN Envoy ), he declared in a preface of a book he wrote, that he had increasingly disagreed with Washington’s strategy in Afghanistan, saying it put too much emphasis on military operations over civilian reconstruction efforts. ‘In my opinion it was a strategy being doomed to fail.’ He said U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry had also warned against an imbalance between military and civilian efforts. ‘But none of us gained support for our views,’ Eide wrote.
Afghans and internationals like myself have a shared responsibility to stop being subjects and slaves.
So, we will ask for a conversation.
Y Not converse? The Y Generation across the Middle East, Africa and Europe are already rising up in dignity, to listen and to be heard.
More important than it is for leaders to benefit from listening to and conversing with the people, people who are unconscionably dying by the day need to be affirmed as equal human beings. They need to see democracy being practiced.
The youth volunteers have experienced harassment for their peace
activism, but we realize we should not be defeated by this culture of impunity where the victims are cast as culprits, by the Afghan system of ‘justice’ funded and trained by a complicit world.
The Afghan authorities are stealing from the people while abusing them.
The US/NATO coalition wants a ‘victory’ that would match their
strategic national and client-state interests.
The ‘insurgents’ will naturally resist. For those who live here, it is their land and freedom. Other ‘simple folk’ are ‘ideologically or emotionally attracted to’ the fight like bees to nectar.
ALL these groups feel comfortable and justified in using violent
means. Everybody distrusts everybody. A thousand fatal schemes are
being hatched and changed daily. Hate reigns.
Unfortunately, the world is either unaware, mis-informed, too busy or just passively spectating.
It needs to stop.
Otherwise, a negotiated political settlement ( which the youngest
among us knows is NOT a settlement to benefit the people but to please the Powers ) will be reached, perhaps somewhat like the Treaty of Versailles, setting the stage for future mass conflicts, not inconceivably a regional World War III.
Otherwise, a US/Afghan strategic partnership agreement would be
‘successfully’ signed, nurturing the grounds for continued ‘terrorism’ throughout the average 43-year life span of the Afghan human being.
Faiz said in one of our ‘global days of listening’ telephone
conversations that he believed that a ‘peace movement’ has already
begun in the heart of every Afghan citizen, because the people are so fatigued by loss, and desire a reasonable life.
I wanted to tell Faiz that I was burdened by the poverty of human
empathy, that the peace movement he envisions may be buried before its birth because the world will stare as long as it itself is not acutely hurting, and because it’s hard to find human commitment.
We can’t even find a conversation.
I wanted to tell Faiz that we may have to hurt like the dove.
But I didn’t tell him.
He understands already.
We sincerely hope to visit with you again.