Posted by CODEPINK Staff
It's been so swamped here at the CODEPINK House in DC, with the Senate passing yesterday the $92 billion war supplemental bill, that I did not have a chance to write yesterday on Afghanistan. But I'm full of fire and penned this letter to Pres. Obama. Enjoy!
To: Pres. Barack Obama
From: Blaine C.
Dear Mr. President,
Mr. Obama, I'm disappointed. You energized my whole generation, often seen as a generation of slackers who can't be bothered to come out from behind their computers. But this time they did come out. They were motivated by your freshness, a message of hope and change and a promise for something different after eight years of embarrassment and shame at what America had come to stand for.
You took office, and America believed in you. Millions from all over the country cheered at your inauguration ceremony, braving the cold in DC, and had faith in your messages of peace, of truth and honesty and accountability, of respect for the American pillars of liberty and justice for ALL. Many applauded your steps to close Guantanamo, only to be shocked and disheartened by your recent decisions to hide evidence of torture and abuse, and your talk of indefinite detention. Where is the justice in holding someone without charge or trial? How does that represent our nation's ideals?
You told us that you would focus on getting our troops out of Iraq and led us to believe that you were a President who believed in peace, who favored diplomacy over aggressive occupation and endless war. And yet, since then, every day has been like a new slap in the face to all of us who believed in you. Extending the timeline in Iraq. Threatening sanctions on Iran before even attempting diplomatic talks. And now, the worst of all, you've committed us to all-out war in Afghanistan, sending 17,000 more of our young men and women to the battlefield to occupy a country and fight an enemy known for its ability to wear down and slowly kill off much larger armies.
During our time in Afghanistan, opium poppy production has skyrocketed. We've negotiated with warlords and druglords, essentially paying them to take over villages, in the hopes that we can buy their loyalty and support, never thinking of the effects on the Afghan people of leaving their villages under warlord control. The occupation of Afghanistan, and subsequent continued bombing and attacks, have destroyed Afghan public services and created situations of extreme poverty, leaving the country and its people exposed and an easy target for takeover by local militant extremist groups. Much of the humanitarian aid never reaches the Afghan people, as 20 to 40 percent is taken out of the country by American contractors and corporate fees, and the majority of the remaining amount is distributed to warlords and corrupt officials.
We hide behind the excuse that we must stay in Afghanistan to protect Afghan women, yet the very government we're supporting has removed female members from Parliament for speaking out against warlords, instituted a constitution where women have have no redress in the face of domestic violence, and continues to punish those who speak up for Afghan women while letting those associated with rape walk free. As we continue our occupation of Afghanistan -- which inevitably leads to the killing of civilian that are now seemingly accepted as a justifiable bi-product of war -- we are feeding the flames of extremist ideology and reinforcing the image of America as an aggressor. The longer our military stays in Afghanistan, the more we will see an increase in numbers in extremist groups whose leaders have learned to use patriotism (and the need to force the US out) as a banner to recruit members.And, for those who have become so hardened, so accustomed to war, or so brainwashed by propaganda that says thinking about or caring about the people on the other side makes you "soft" or unpatriotic, let's look at the effects on the US. Our economy is a disaster, yet Congress just approved $91 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan alone, not to mention the towering defense budget. In just 2009 alone, only five months in so far, we have already lost 56 of our servicewomen and men, bringing that total to 686 US lives lost, and 1151 total military deaths amongst US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. How many more of our young women and men will we have to sacrifice before we realize that "there is no military solution"?
President Obama, I believed in you. You promised hope and change, diplomacy and a commitment to human rights, not continued sacrifice of our servicewomen and men, not continued occupation and endless war. The Afghan people don't need to be bombed anymore, to have their villages destroyed and their country left in the hands of a corrupt government of warlords. We are not "safer" because of our occupation of Afghanistan; if anything, our destruction of that country and accidental killing of civilians has increased anti-American sentiment. If we want to see positive change in Afghanistan -- if we want to assist in stabilizing the country and promoting women's rights -- we should be focusing on supporting Afghan-led efforts to rebuild services, with local labor rather than the money going to American contractors, and addressing basic human needs of the Afghan people -- education, healthcare, women's rights, clean water, security -- by providing development assistance through Afghan NGOs.
We should be meeting with all the players to discuss solutions instead of relying on bombs to do the talking. It's not too late. There are still some us who, while sadly disappointed, still trust that somewhere inside you is the man who we campaigned with, and for; and we still harbor the hope that you will have the courage to stand up and say that enough is enough, that we will not continue to make the same mistakes over and over while hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are killed. War and occupation are not working. It's time to try something new. Bring the troops home, end the occupation, let's try diplomacy and assistance to the Afghan people instead. Give us a reason to believe that we weren't just fooled by your pretty words during the campaign. Give us a reason to believe in you again.
Blaine (and America)