"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Afghanistan; Can You Say O C C U P A T I O N?


The American people seem to be obsessed with the word WAR. It (and the language associated with it) infuses our national dialogue. We have the official wars on drugs, poverty and terror; and of course we have had the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Besides the obsessive-compulsive nature of such behavior (a psychologist's dream), I hate to burst the people's bubble, but the so-called wars in Iraq and Afghanistan really aren't wars at all. Of course the U.S. engaged in acts of war when invading these nations. But after the dust settled and Saddam and the Taliban were unseated, the U.S. quickly became an occupying power.

Yes! These are O C C U P A T I O N S in the classic sense of the word. And if one believes the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, the definition of occupation, "Invasion, conquest, and control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces" sums it up. An occupation is an occupation, no matter how a nation attempts to package it, even if these nations seem to have their own governments. And now the U.S. is preparing to ramp up the occupation of Afghanistan, all in the name of an endless War on Terror (the Energizer Bunny doesn't have anything on this baby).

If you didn't contact the President and Congress in response to my previous post, a large number of organizations have since called on people to resist escalation in Afghanistan, and call for a commitment to diplomacy and addressing the needs of afghans, including health care, education, security and rights of women. Pick one of the following organizations to contact our leaders in Washington, D.C. Raise your voice for policy that will bring real peace to the region and help eliminate the need for war, especially a useless and counterproductive War on Terror.

Friends Committee on National Legislation (to write your members of Congress)

CREDO Mobile (to write to Defense Secretary Gates)

Also check out Afghanistan 101 at CodePink.

Lastly - Here is the text of a letter to President Obama, courtesy of Voters For Peace.

Letter to President Obama
I read with disappointment your announcement of a 50% increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It comes just after an announcement that there was a 40% increase in civilian deaths in Afghanistan last year. More troops will lead to more civilian deaths and lead to more hatred of America. This is a counterproductive strategy that will escalate into a quagmire.And, with Pakistan on the border and the acknowledgment that the U.S. government is attacking al Qaeda and the Taliban, and killing civilians, from Pakistan the U.S. is risking becoming engaged in a civil war in that country. Military escalation is once again leading to a dangerous and counterproductive quagmire that could undermine your presidency.I am pleased that your administration is reviewing the strategy and goals of Afghanistan. This is an opportunity for a major shift in policy to more effective alternatives. It is past time to emphasize diplomacy, education and economic development to bring Afghanis and Pakistanis to America's side. The focus on al Qaeda should be built on regional security agreements as well as targeted forces that can bring their leaders to justice - a public trial so the world can see the full story. The Taliban is a political force in the region that must be acknowledged and brought into negotiations. Military attacks are making them stronger, not weaker.Since the U.S. spends half its discretionary spending on the military and more on military marching bands than on diplomacy it is not surprising that the tool the United States uses is military force. But, it is a counterproductive tool. It is time to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and build up more effective approaches. The reliance on military force shows that a paradigm shift is needed in U.S. foreign policy, away from militarism and domination to cooperation, multilateralism and diplomacy.Diplomacy and foreign aid will also be less expensive than the military option - which is the most expensive and least effective alternative. We cannot afford the Iraq and Afghan wars. It is time to end both, bring all troops and private security contractors' home and focus those resources on rebuilding the U.S. economy.

There IS a non-military option, and it IS the better (and more sane) one. We just need to convince those who control the purse strings to channel the money to non-military (real) solutions.



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