Thursday, August 23, 2012

Real News From Afghanistan, For Those With Ears To Hear It

Girls salvage spilled aid flour in Kabul last winter. Source: Andrea Bruce, NYT
Kathy Kelly came to Portland Maine and gave a talk August 20. She conveyed real news, anecdotal reporting from recent visits to Kabul where she and other members of Voices for Creative Nonviolence work with the Afghan Peace Volunteers.
Source: Andrea Bruce, NYT
Since we heard Kathy speak, my husband and I agree; we can't stop picturing a refugee camp in a cold climate, one with 10,000 people freezing in winter, and starving the year round, many of them ill. 
Source: Andrea Bruce, NYT
Most of these internally displaced people used to be agriculturalists but were driven off their land by by war or, in some cases, by drought because former irrigation systems were ruined by war. So, war. Many are dependent on international aid for their calories.

Fun times in the mess hall at Bagram Air Base. Source:
Across the street we picture the gigantic military base/embassy under construction; when completed, it will be even bigger than the behemoth base we indebted taxpayers built in Baghdad. It is a fortress with gates controlled by heavily armed men who allow only designated people and vehicles to enter. A steady stream of trucks passes through the gates carrying fuel, water, food, and just about everything else people would need to do the work of invading another country. Kathy says when she flies into Kabul her plane is full of private contractors, beefy ex-military men going to work for $120k a year, $80k of it tax exempt.
Source: "US contractors face murder charges" Al-Jazeera
All of this adds up to $2 billion per week. Kathy pays no taxes to the I.R.S. and hasn't for years.

In the camp across from Bagram, children starve to death. Their mothers tell Kathy they feel like they are going insane because of the constant worry that they can't feed their families. Female life expectancy has declined to 42 years since NATO came to town and stayed on.
Source: "Children killed by drone strikes"
A family invited Kathy to witness the injuries of their young daughter, lifting off the covers to show her damaged body, explained with one sinister word: "Drone." Kathy asked people, where do the drones comes from? "Nevada."

Now Kathy tells Afghan women that she knows, seamstresses in Kabul, that people in the U.S. think that NATO presence has improved women's rights. At this they have a hearty laugh. Their view is that Karzai's regime, backed by the military might of the U.S., has been able to get restrictive laws passed that even the Taleban was not able to push through. Laws making a woman subject to her husband pander to conservative elements whose support is needed to keep Karzai and cronies propped up.
Kathy told us there is only one road in and out of the country at the eastern end of Afghanistan when Pakistan shuts down border crossings over incursions by Afghan troops hunting militants in Pakistan's territory. Or drone strikes, of which there are about two a week these days under Obomber. This one road's decrepit tunnel through the mountain allows 12 hours of traffic eastbound, followed by 12 hours westbound. It can take up to 17 days for an farmer to get a truckload of produce from field to market. Sometimes the cargo molds or rots before the truck gets through.

Kathy theorizes that if people in the U.S. can believe that U.S. wars are humanitarian wars, then they will go along without resisting.

Under the influence of Fox News, her own mother insisted that people in Iraq ought to be grateful to Americans for liberating them from Saddam Hussein, whom they could have gotten rid of on their own, but didn't. Kathy had been many times to Baghdad, bringing back the truth of life choked by sanctions, bombarded by Shock and Awe. But her mother insisted, "They should thank us."

I suppose Kathy's explanation is as good as any for why 2/3 of us are against the war in Afghanistan, but very few of us raise our voices to protest -- I was going to say the U.S.'s longest war but Kathy says it's wrong to call it that. The first Gulf War + 13 years of sanctions + a "withdrawal" that left tens of thousands of troops and contractors behind in Iraq is really the longest.

War is not even an issue this election season. It's the economy, stupid. And by the way,

Kathy is a faith-based activist who cries out against the war on the poor everywhere, from the prison-industrial system of this country, to the oppression of Palestinians, to the starving, freezing and mangling of children in the way of our access to the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea.
Source: "Who runs the Madhouse?" by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Her theory about our citizens' confusion and indifference reminds me of the phrase attributed to Jesus of Nazareth before giving instruction to groups: "For those who have ears to hear..."
Source: "Pump down the volume? Re people who watch movies in restaurants, cafes"


Anonymous said...

You've done an excellent job of conveying Kathy's comments. I too shudder every time I think of refugees starving and freezing just across the road from the US military compound in Afghanistan!!

chrisrushlau said...

Stephen Walt said on the radio yesterday, recorded in Maine two weeks ago, that Israel lacks both the "bunker-buster" bombs and the big combat aircraft that can carry them to blow up this supposed centrifuge workshop buried under a mountain in Iran. Yet the news is full of fears for a war on Iran. What about the recent firing by President Morsi of Egypt of the defense minister, General Tantawi, who held that post for the last twenty years, and whose supreme council issued, a few months ago, right after the Presidential election, the "constitutional document" (as the news was calling it until Tantawi was ousted) that gave all power to that very same council?
What can we conclude? Israel is terrified of the new Egyptian government and is trying to distract attention from the fact that a democracy in Egyptian makes everyone wonder why there can't be a democracy in Israel/Palestine. This is not an abstract "why not?" but a real-life speculation, like, what will Morsi talk about with Ahmadinejad and Ban Kai Moon at the non-aligned conference in Tehran next month?
All eyes on Egypt and Israel, please.