Thursday, January 31, 2013

10 Things You Really Should Know About U.S. State Dept.

Ann Jones' article in Common Dreams on the endgame in Afghanistan mentions the militarization of the U.S. State Department presence in Afghanistan and so put me in mind of this official document, which I could not resist annotating. It's budget time in Washington, and the State Dept. wants Congress to know all the great things it does with your money. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

U.S. Gov't Sez: Earn Your Rights By Killing People

Imagine you were a parent who couldn't feed your daughter, who crossed into the U.S. illegally to find work and put food on the table. Your daughter was a little girl then, "undocumented" as they say, but no less of a person for it. Now she's almost finished high school -- one of your dreams for her. But many doors are closed because she lacks either a green card or citizenship.
Applicants wait in Langley Park, MD to apply for the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals program. (Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo)  source: ABC News
You can't afford to put her through college. Maybe it's a blessing that she can't get a federal student loan -- at least she may escape the debt servitude of her generation among the working class.

Employers will be able to exploit her because of her legal status (how convenient for them). 

She can't visit her grandparents or cousins back in the place you both came from because of the risk that she might not be able to return to you.

How might you feel about the news that she can now "earn" a path to citizenship by enlisting in the military?
Pvt. Marleni Cruzcarranza of Sterling, Va., receives a hug from best friend Lauren Sanchez after receiving her U.S. citizenship during a naturalization ceremony Thursday morning at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Pvt. Cruzcarranza, formerly a citizen of Honduras, will graduate from Marine Corps bootcamp today (01/04/2013). - Sarah Welliver /ASSOCIATED PRESS  source: TheState.Com

How would you feel knowing that signing up for the Army is your daughter's best bet as a reliable fast track option for "earning" citizenship?

Now, as an enlistee she could also be expected to actually fight in combat (Falguni Sheth's blog post examining this as "progress" for women" is not to be missed). Your daughter might be required to kill people in Afghanistan, Yemen (or wherever may be the war du jour) as part of the much vaunted "path to citizenship."

How might you feel about recruiting ads aimed at her, some designed to play on family loyalty? A marketing strategy that counts on the fact that she's probably low-income, that unemployment is high? The poverty draft is blowing like a gale wind force through families like yours, and it is now pushing the daughters even more than the sons. The daughters who earn less for the same work done by men. The daughters who have a lower net worth for a lifetime than any man of any class or race whatsoever.
The daughters of color who disproportionately enlist in these crappy economic times.

How might you feel about Democrats are bragging about what they are offering your daughter?
Nancy Pelosi tweet: "House Dems support President’s principles of comprehensive , promise of earned citizenship + keeping families together."

Rights are not earned, they are claimed. No government can bestow rights upon its people. Humans are born with them, whether or not they are able to realize this in their lifetime. The history of groups who were offered the chance to "earn" their rights in the past is not a particularly good one.

Africans and African American slaves were offered the chance to support combat troops for the North in the U.S. Civil War. They came home to lynching and the rise of the KKK, Jim Crow segregation laws, and voter suppression. Thanks, vets!

Japanese Americans who had been in the military still got put into illegal internment camps during WWII.

Native American veterans do no better economically or socially for having been in the military. In fact, they are more likely to end up addicted and/or homeless than the other members of their community. 

Actually, so are vets of any ethnic group. 

Apparently a right to quality health care if injured while on active duty is not one of the rights that can be earned -- although I'll bet you anything that's what recruiters told them was part of the package. "We'll take care of you AND your family if something happens to you," is what recruiters reportedly say. Ask the 900,000+ vets whose claims are backlogged at the VA right now if that claim turned out to be true.

And if you're one of the many who succumb to suicide while waiting to be helped with your PTSD or brain injury, your family gets nada.

In recent times, the Pentagon has shown its appreciation for families by having young mothers on active duty arrested, sometimes causing their children to be taken into protective services when the moms fail to report for duty due to childcare being unavailable. (Not like anybody in the patriarchal empire of the united bloody states thought there was ever any possibility of earning the right to universal high quality child care!)
Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, a 21-year-old Army cook, appears in fatigues in the photo held by her mother and viewed by her baby. The baby was taken from her when Alexis was arrested for not deploying.
Warm and fuzzy soft recruiting tactics aimed at high schoolers sure don't make it seem like the military would be such a mean boss. From the Jobs for Maine's Graduate program newsletter on a service learning project providing gifts to needy families over the holidays:
"We partnered with the Army National Guard in Skowhegan to facilitate wrapping the gifts and delivering them to the distribution sites."
Partnered is such a cozy verb, isn't it?

Militarization is the poison pill in every liberal offering these days.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Corporate Media Does Heavy Lifting For Perpetual War

The news that the Pentagon plans to send women into combat dominated two consecutive front pages of my local newspaper the Waterville Morning Sentinel. The Sentinel is one of a group of papers bought last year by the billionaire husband of Rep. Chellie Pingree, who "serves" on the House Armed Services Committee. The group includes the paper of record in our state capital (Kennebec Journal) and of Maine's largest city (Portland Press Herald).

Day #1, above the fold:

Day #2, above the fold, three related headlines:

As if lifted straight from a Pentagon press release, further along in this article are the rocks of unexamined assumption upon which empires are built -- and eventually run aground:

The necessities of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, propelled women into jobs as medics, military police and intelligence officers that were sometimes attached -- but not formally assigned -- to battalions. So while a woman couldn't be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured. 
And these conflicts, where battlefield lines are blurred and insurgents can lurk around every corner, have made it almost impossible to keep women clear of combat.

In the second story, the only veterans interviewed by the Sentinel's reporter were all in favor of the idea.

In the story that ran side by side with the one about veterans, the newspaper couldn't find one single college student who didn't think this was a good idea -- really?

The poverty draft is a big factor in the lives of young people in the areas served by these newspapers. Maine has the highest per capita deaths in Afghanistan of any state, because even kids that trained to be welders or dieticians are out of work, along with those that graduated from U Maine with 4.0 GPAs and cannot get a call back from chain restaurants where they put in job applications.

Lucinda Marshall writing in Common Dreams reported on how the poverty draft disproportionately affects women in Why Serving in Combat Does Not Serve Women (Or Anyone Else) Well:
The take away here should be that we need to take a good hard look at the ways in which we are failing these women in regard to job training and job availability in the civilian world because as it stands now, we are effectively asking the most disenfranchised among us to fight our wars, and this move only makes it more dangerous for them, regardless of rank and benefits. (Emphasis mine.)
Ms. Marshall was among the few journalists who connected the (rather obvious) dots between this story and the other leading story about women in combat these days: the epidemic of rape in the military.

It is also hugely ironic that Panetta’s announcement came the same day that Congress was holding yet another hearing on the intractable problem of sexual assault in the military.  The truth is that women are more likely to be attacked by other members of our military than by any enemy. The New York Times’ Gail Collins makes the unfortunate suggestion that having more women rise in the ranks might,
make things better because it will mean more women at the top of the military, and that, inevitably, will mean more attention to women’s issues.
Sexual assault in the military is not a woman’s issue.  It is an epidemic and a national disgrace that is a direct result of the misguided notion of militarism that posits that strength comes from asserting power over others.  (Emphasis the author's.)

And in fact the New York Times and the head of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff were marching to the same drummer on this one. As reported by Hayes Brown in ThinkProgress:
Instead of taking the stance of some commentators that adding women to combat units would diminish their effectiveness or “humiliate” the men serving alongside them, Dempsey rightly focused on the risk of assault that women in the armed services face. Approximately one in three military women have been sexually assaulted, about double the rate of those in civilian life.
With a compliant, corporate-controlled press in charge of the information provided to the vast majority of U.S. citizens, this relentless march to a fully militarized society isn't likely to end anytime soon.

Nor is it likely to end well.

Full report coming soon on the Feminist Values discussion I helped organize last Sunday in Augusta as the 19th Changing Maine Gathering. Suffice it to say for now that our collective attempt to sum up what we mean by feminist values in a sentence produced this gem: "Respect for the Earth, and for each other."
Bruce Gagnon at Portland No Tar Sands march Sat. Jan 26, 2013. Full story of the Pentagon's carbon footprint may be found in The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism by Barry Sanders.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cannon Fodder Knows No Gender In 21st Century Wars

Clay Bennett in Chattanooga Times Free Press
Big post-inaugural announcement by the war machine firmly in control of the purse strings in Congress, the signing pen in the White House, and the leashed judicial "check" function: women will be officially sent into combat. USA Today helped by reporting that the president is all for the idea.
"Today, by moving to open more military positions -- including ground combat units -- to women, our armed forces have taken another historic step toward harnessing the talents and skills of all our citizens," Obama said in a statement Thursday.
Not surprising, since turning mothers into cannon fodder is what passes for equality in the milItarized 21st century reality funded by you and me.

Recruiting ads aimed at women play on their sense of duty toward their families i.e. Be a good daughter and earn money by enlisting. This is in keeping with studies showing that women lie to protect other people, and embezzle to help other people. Also in keeping with twin facts: austerity wears a woman's face, and the poverty draft in the U.S. is in full swing.

Supporters of the plan are willfully ignorant of the fact that the biggest danger faced by women in every branch of the military rape and other violent assault by their "fellow" soldiers. This is well-documented in the film The Invisible War which is up for an Academy Award and is a must-see for anyone paying attention to rape culture.

The president is not paying attention to this culture in the slightest as he uses the bully pulpit to spew b.s. about female cannon fodder:
"Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love."
Right, I'm sure that his daughters will be first in line to sign up when they graduate high school.

Mother Jones reported yesterday that the U.S. "defense" secretary (always a male) sat straight faced while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (always a male) claimed sending women into combat was a policy actually designed to reduce the incidence of rape.
Having studied the issue of rampant sexual misconduct in the ranks, Gen. Martin Dempsey... noted that he has concluded that the phenomenon exists partly because women have been subordinated to men in military culture: "It's because we've had separate classes of military personnel." 
No more second class citizens, no more rape --- see how easy that was?

I have become somewhat obsessed with the play "Mother Courage" by Bertholt Brecht. It's an historical play set in a grim Europe theater of perpetual war. The title character makes a living off provisioning the army while trying to save each of her three children from it; in the end, the recruiters get one son, the war profiteers get another, and PTSD due to witnessing atrocities gets her daughter. Only the mother survives, sort of.

Turning the daughter into cannon fodder would only makes sense in a culture so sickened by violence that it calls for arming teachers and sending them to school ready to gun down intruders.

In the 21st Century, we are all Mother Courage -- living by the sword, and dying by the sword.

But women are rising up against the glorification of violence. The 21st century will see women striking, dancing, and overturning the structures that allow violent patriarchy to dominate the airwaves and colonize young minds.

Feminist values are on the side of life, not of dealing death.

Authentic feminist courage was on display yesterday in the blood soaked halls of the U.S. Senate as 19 year old college student and CODEPINK intern Lachelle Roddy called out to warmonger John Kerry:
 “We’re killing thousands of people in the Middle East who are not a threat to us. When is it going to be enough? When are enough people going to be killed? I’m tired of my friends in the Middle East not knowing if they’re going to live to see the next day!”
Here's what greeted her as she emerged from jail (yup, she was arrested for speaking out of turn -- because we are such a free country):

My sentiments, exactly.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

@BarackObama, Earn Your Nobel Peace Prize

CODEPINK in action on  Inauguration weekend in Wash DC. 

Inauguration postponed until Martin Luther King national holiday this year. I wonder why...

Meanwhile, the president droned on in Pakistan, Yemen, etc. You know "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here."
Cartoon by Ted Rall
All in the service of the oil and gas monster that will eat his children, and his children's children, alive. (I wanted to write today about the ongoing, shameful use of said children for political purposes, but it is so heart-rending to me that I cannot bring myself to do so.)

"Oil Monster" rendered by William Hessian and others in white duct tape.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Men, Don't Skirt The Issue. Speak Up, Support Women"

Love these rape protesters in India. Their clothing and signs respond to nonsense about skirts causing rape. The tactic is both effective communication and fun. Who wouldn't want to photograph this and share?

Comments on a facebook posting were awesome also.

One observed that their mothers and sisters wear skirts, but that does not make guys want to rape them.

Good point, but here's an even better one:

Here is how my culture wants young men of this age to look:

But the young men in skirts look genuinely more heroic, do they not? Not to mention more aesthetically pleasing. They look like real men, not pumped up steroid mannequins.

Leadership from young men will be the most important factor in changing rape culture. Thank goodness there are brave hearts to carry the work forward.

Here is another great communication on the subject, in two parts:

Culture Of Violence Consumes Its Own Young

Someone I just tried to friend on facebook (I hope he accepts) posted this treacly propaganda 

along with a correction:

I like the phrase "replaced their conscience with brand loyalty" as that is a good way to describe why people who were once vehemently anti-war under Bush continue to excuse the warmongering of the current occupant of the White House.

Included in the comments section were facts about children killed by the president via flying killer robots following weekly meetings with his advisers to go over the kill list:

2009-01-23: Aaz-ur-Rehman, 14, Pakistani
2009-02-14: Noor Syed, 8, Pakistani
2009-08-11: Ibad Ullah, teenager, Pakistani
2009-08-11: Mohammad Arif, teenager, Pakistani

2009-08-11: Abdul Qadeer, teenager, Pakistani
2009-08-11: Hazrat Ali, teenager, Pakistani
2009-08-21: Syed Wali Shah, 7, Pakistani
2009-08-21: Naeemullah,?, Pakistani
2009-08-21: Faizullah,?, Pakistani
2009-08-21: Rahima,?, Pakistani
2009-08-21: Shaista,?, Pakistani
2009-11-20: Sakeenullah, 15, Pakistani
2009-12-31: Zaenullah Khan, 17, Pakistani
2009-12-17: Nasser Mohammed Nasser, 6, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Arwa Mohammed Nasser, 4, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Fatima Mohammed Nasser, 2, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser, 9, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser, 7, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser, 5, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser, 4, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, 9, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, 4, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye, 3, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye, 1, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye, 6, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye, 4, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye, 15, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh, 3, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, 9, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, 4, Yemeni
2009-12-17: Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, 2, Yemeni
2010-01-03: Wajid Noor, 9, Pakistani
2010-01-08: Ayeesha, 3, Pakistani
2010-02-24: Naila, 10, Pakistani
2010-05-21: Fatima, ?, Pakistani
2010-05-21: Nisar, ?, Pakistani
2010-05-21: Naeem Khan, ?, Pakistani
2010-10-18: Naeem Ullah, 10, Pakistani
2011-06-15: Shahzada, ?, Pakistani
2011-10-14: Abdel-Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki, 16, American
2011-10-14: Ahmed Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki, 17, Yemeni
2011-10-31: Tariq Aziz, 16, Pakistani
2011-10-31: Waheed, ?, Pakistani
2012-08-21: Osama Haqqani, 13, Pakistani
2012-09-02: Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari, 13, Yemeni
2012-09-02: Daolah Nasser, 10, Yemeni
2012-09-02: AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout, 12, Yemeni

Obama is worse than any school shooter yet.
May his victims rest in peace.

And in more school shooting related news, my friend Bruce Gagnon had an excellent blog post about a hyper violent film series being made by teenagers in Maine who see themselves as future Navy officers. The fact that young men raised on violent video games make these films of imaginary murders didn't surprise me, but the news that Brunswick taxpayers are funding viewings on school time did.

Some kill for profit, some for prestige. Some pretend to kill in order to impress their friends. Some kills because they are black-and-white thinkers who believe in "good guys with guns" and have not had a chance to develop much of their critical thinking abilities -- what we naively thought education was about, in my youth.

Sometimes the false dichotomy model goes so far over the edge that it is downright hilarious. I'll leave you with this photo I took a couple of days ago of a church in my neck of the woods that routinely advertises gun safety classes on site. My husband has been calling it "The Church of the Concealed Carry" but even he cannot fully deconstruct this marquee message:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

#Afghanistan Is The Worst Place To Be A Woman -- Malalai Joya

'The Afghan People Are Fed Up': An Interview with Malalai Joya

Malalai Joya, 34, first gained international attention in 2003 when she spoke out publicly against the domination of warlords. She was at that time serving as an elected delegate to the Loya Jirga that was convened to ratify the Constitution of Afghanistan; in 2005 she became one of 68 women elected to the 249-seat National Assembly, or Wolesi Jirga, and was the youngest member of the Afghan parliament.Malalai Joya visits a girls school in Farah province in Afghanistan in 2007. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
In 2007 she again spoke out against former warlords and war criminals in the Afghan parliament and was thereupon suspended from the parliament. Since then she has survived many assassination attempts. She travels in Afghanistan with armed guards and has worked tirelessly on behalf of Afghan women and to end the occupation of her country.
She has received broad international recognition. In 2010, Time Magazine placed Malalai Joya on their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and Foreign Policy Magazine in listed her in its annual list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers.  In March, 2011, The Guardian listed her among "Top 100 women: activists and campaigners." Her most recent book is "Raising My Voice."
I first met Malalai in 2007 in Berlin, after she was invited to speak in the German Parliament (see, and we've met again during some of her further visits to Europe. This interview is based on our conversation during her most recent visit to Berlin and subsequent email correspondence between us.
The above text and following interview is by Elsa Rassbacha US journalist and filmmaker based in Berlin, Germany.
RASSBACH:  Last month in Paris representatives of the Taliban for the first time met with their former enemies of the Northern Alliance, the collection of militias that fought them in the 1990s and eventually helped the U.S. to oust the Taliban regime.  Now President Obama has invited Afghan President Hamid Karzai to meet with him in Washington on January 11th.
What do you make of this?
JOYA: To make the current puppet regime in Kabul more powerful, the U.S. and NATO have been trying to bring together three groups that emerged during three criminal periods of war in Afghanistan: the warlords, the Taliban, and some of those who served the hated Russian occupation. 
Both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance warlords are long-time allies of the West. These groups are criminal, dark-minded, and reactionary to the core. In their lust for power, they are ready to sacrifice national interests of Afghanistan to any foreign power.
The Taliban and the Northern Alliance warlords are responsible for much of the suffering of the Afghan people.  They are like a wolf and a vulture and can never be regarded part of a “solution” to Afghanistan’s tragedy. Our people want them prosecuted as traitors and war criminals. But the West wants to “unite” them and impose them on our nation. Joining this dirty mafia regime are some of the ex-Russian puppets, the Khalq and the Parcham, who tortured and killed countless innocent democratic-minded people. Such "unity" may serve the U.S./NATO interests in Afghanistan, but will lead to another reign of terror and brutalities upon our poor people.
As history shows, the U.S. has relied on criminals, dictators, human rights violators, and reactionary forces in many other countries of the world. Recently in Libya the U.S. and NATO supported fundamentalists who are worse than Qaddafi; in Syria they are supporting Al-Qaeda and other such dirty groups. So it is not surprising that they are once again working with the Taliban and with Hekmatyar and other criminals in my country.
It was the U.S. that brought the warlords into power in Kabul, and the U.S./NATO puppet Karzai is even more shameless than previous Afghan puppets of the British and the Russians. While the puppets of Russia and Britain negotiated behind closed doors, Karzai is publicly selling Afghanistan to a foreign master. The so-called strategic agreements like the Bilateral Security Agreement provide for long-term U.S./NATO military bases in Afghanistan. The U.S. wants to remain in Afghanistan because of its geopolitical location: to be able to control other Asian powers like Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China.
Karzai and Obama are working on an outline of an agreement for legalizing permanent military bases in Afghanistan. But as long as we have foreign military bases in our country, we have no independence.  And when we have no independence, we have nothing, and all talk of democracy, human rights and women's rights is a joke.  Afghanistan is the second most corrupt country in the world.  And Afghanistan is the worst place to be a woman, according to a recent international study.  They are looting our rich mineral deposit mines worth three trillion dollars, and they are raking in money from the drug trade.
For the U.S. government, the wellbeing of the Afghan people has no value at all.  The U.S. elites just want relative stability in order to continue the occupation and maintain military bases in Afghanistan without much trouble. If “stability” can be achieved by empowering the worst enemies of Afghan people, they are ready to do this. After all, the U.S. schemes to interfere with and control Afghanistan did not begin with 9/11. They go back for decades.
What means has the U.S. used to interfere with and control Afghanistan?
The warlords who were put into power in Kabul by the U.S. are extremist fundamentalists. In the 1980s, during the Cold War, they received much financing and support from the ISI (the Inter-Services Intelligence agency of Pakistan) and from the CIA to fight the Soviets. The warlords were known to be misogynists; for example, one of their leaders was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (founder of Hezb-e Islami), a fanatic who in the early 1970s ordered his followers to throw acid into the faces of Afghan women who refused to wear burkas in Kabul. 
The U.S. government supported and nourished these fundamentalists to kill democratic, leftist, secular and progressive people in Afghanistan.  Eight fundamentalist parties were created -- seven in Pakistan and an eighth in Iran -- and each of them wanted to be the one in power. After they ousted the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan, they conducted a brutal civil war among themselves in Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996.  Alone in Kabul the warlords killed more than 65,000 innocent people and turned the city into ashes.
In the 1990s, the CIA provided financing to the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban and encouraged Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to support the Taliban in their drive to power; in 1996, the Taliban defeated the warlords and ruled Afghanistan for five years. 
In 2001, after ousting the Taliban regime with the help of the warlords, the U.S. government announced that it had learned from past mistakes and would not empower Islamic fundamentalism again. But in reality they are still helping the brutal fundamentalists and imposing the old criminals and looters upon us. Islamic fundamentalism is once again the main tool in the hands of the U.S. to control Afghanistan, to suppress progressive and freedom-loving forces of my country, and to stop the emergence of a powerful democratic anti-occupation movement.
The power of media has been another effective way for the U.S. to mislead Afghans, especially the youth, to say "yes" to the occupation and to the continuing presence of foreign military bases in Afghanistan. Over the past eleven years, the U.S. has promoted media in Afghanistan and has spent large sums of money on propaganda and “soft war.” Almost all the major media outlets in the country are under U.S. control. A large majority of the Afghan people is illiterate, and we have no independent, progressive media to neutralize and counteract the pro-U.S. media.
The NGOs are another tool of the U.S. and other NATO countries in Afghanistan. Through financing NGOs, they buy the loyalty of some Afghans and use them as their puppets to advance their. agenda in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, there are many Afghans, especially intellectuals, who are paving the way for a continued U.S./NATO occupation.
There are many reports that the U.S. and NATO want to keep a significant "troop presence" in Afghanistan well after 2014. But if all the foreign troops were to leave, would there be civil war in Afghanistan?
There is already a civil war, a dangerous civil war. Whether the foreign troops stay or leave, war is going on.  The presence of foreign troops only makes our struggle for justice harder, because the occupiers empower reactionary warlords -- and now also empower Taliban, along with killers from the past Russian puppet regime.  At least if the foreign troops leave, one of the biggest evils will be gone.  Then we will face internal enemies.  If the occupation leaves, at least the Taliban will not get more powerful. If the troops honestly leave, the backbone of these terrorists will break.  They will become like orphans, because their godfather is the U.S., which was also the godfather of Al Qaida.  
We are fed up with the so-called helping hand of the U.S. and NATO that is used to justify occupation.  The mother and father of all these tragedies is the occupation itself and the U.S./NATO support of the killers of my people.  When the occupation leaves, these fundamentalists will get weak.  They have no roots in the heart of the people, and their backbone will break.  If the U.S. stops helping terrorists and killers, then they may not be in a position to wage a civil war and destroy Afghanistan like they did in 90’s.
So the first request of the people is: Leave Afghanistan and stop supporting our enemies.
Have you seen any improvements at all for the people under the U.S./NATO occupation, for example in the situation of women?
The situation of women in Afghanistan was used as an excuse for the U.S. and NATO to occupy our country.  But it is clear they were not fighting on behalf of women, because they have put into power the reactionary warlords who are sworn enemies of women.  If your family were bombed in a wedding party or your daughter raped by Taliban, what would be your reaction?  And you want to negotiate with them?
There is no question that some schools and universities have been built during the U.S./NATO occupation, and some money has been given to the Karzai regime for projects on behalf of women's and human rights.  Meanwhile, tens of thousands of civilians, most of them women and children, have been killed during these eleven years of occupation.  They even used white phosphorous; they even bombed wedding parties. 
In comparison to the dark period of the medieval-minded Taliban, today there is now a Ministry of Women, and 25% of the representatives in the parliament are women. But the female representatives have mainly a symbolic function, and little is done for ordinary women. In the larger cities like Kabul and Herat, women have some jobs and education, but in most of Afghanistan their lives are hell. The media don't write much about the many women who are raped or stoned to death in public.  Hundreds of schools have been closed, and even in Kabul women don't have security going to school; in many provinces acid is thrown in their faces. In most places killing a woman is still as easy as killing a bird.
Due to lack of justice and pressure on women, last year 2300 suicide cases were recorded among Afghan women, which has no parallel in our history.
These warlords are misogynists, just like the Taliban, and they don't want women's rights in Afghanistan; a few token fundamentalist ladies wearing beautiful clothes should not fool people.   And many of the women who have positions, who run NGOs, are corrupt and have received money from the occupation; they betray the truth and justify the U.S. occupation and are even ready to negotiate with the Taliban.  Through this, the situation of women will become more bloody and more of a disaster.
Under the U.S./NATO occupation, there is day by day a widening gap between rich and poor. A small percentage of drug-lords, warlords and corrupt officials have everything in their hands while a large majority of the people suffers from poverty and unemployment. Under the occupation, Afghanistan has become the biggest producer of opium and heroin in the world. With the efforts of the U.S. and NATO, Afghanistan has become the capital of the world drug Mafia and also now tops the list of the world's most corrupt countries (according to a recent study by Transparency International). All of the “achievements," if any, that can be attributed to the occupation are spoiled by these shameful epidemics that have had and will continue to have a long-run disastrous effect on the whole society.
Where do you place your hopes for the future of Afghanistan?
I tell people, don't just see two fronts like the Taliban vs. the occupation or the warlords vs. the occupation.  There is a third front of democratic-minded  intellectuals, activists, parties, organizations, groups, and individuals.  Focus on them.
The Afghan people are fed up.  Fundamentalism and occupation are no longer accepted among the common people because of the brutalities and savagery they have experienced over the past decade. There is more openness, now, to progressive and democratic organizations and ideas. With the passage of time, I hope for the emergence of a powerful justice-loving alternative in Afghanistan. The U.S. is the main obstacle towards the development of such democratic forces.
Some people are deceived by the anti-imperialist banner of the Taliban, and education is in fact the key to get rid of all of these miseries, all of this ignorance. I remember someone called me when I was in Kabul and said, "Oh my sister, I am in the mountains. I support you. I agree with you. You are against occupation. You are against these warlords.  I went to the Taliban to take my revenge against the warlords" -- and he told me a long story on the telephone.  I said, "Please come down from the mountains. Don't go with the Taliban. Going with one terrorist to take revenge on another terrorist makes no sense. They are deceiving you."  He said, "Yes, I agree with you, but there is no way for me."  And I discussed with him. This is part of the important role of democratic-minded activists. 
When women learn to read and write, many of them become extraordinary activists, and these brave women are running projects and organizations that are really working on behalf of women's and human rights, like RAWA, like OPAWC, like the Social Association of Afghan Justice Seekers, and a few others that I know who are also justice-seekers.  And now women are even coming onto the streets and demonstrating, wearing the burka, in resistance against the U.S. and NATO and also against the Islamic fundamentalists. This is a positive example and a source of hope. In the history of Afghanistan, we have never before seen this kind of activism by women. 
In different parts of Afghanistan there are small protests -- in Kabul, in Jalalabad, in Helmand Province and in Farah Province, and in many other places -- and for the first time women are joining these protests.  I hope that with time, there will be a broader movement in Afghanistan like in many of the Arab countries.  It will take time.  
As the great German writer Bertolt Brecht said, "Those who struggle may fail. Those who do not struggle have already failed."
If you were invited to speak to the U.S. and NATO officials, what would you say?
Stop this criminal war in my country as soon as possible. Your war, waged under a fake banner of human rights and democracy, is in fact a war against poor Afghan people. You are not only traitors to the Afghan people, but to your own people as well. You are stealing from the pockets of poor Americans and Europeans and wasting billions of dollars on killing and looting in order to safeguard only the interests of a very small, elite minority.  You have a massive war and propaganda machine to sell your lies. But the world's conscience, which includes a large number of U.S. antiwar veterans, is against you: you can’t overturn it by any means. So your war machinery is doomed to fail, and the toiling people of the world will win.