Category Archives: Afghanistan

Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air

Iqbal Khyber and Badshah Khan bring a breath of fresh air

Grade 12 Afghan student Jamila Omary asked, “Do you have any plans to arm yourselves, because of the threats and dangers you have faced?”

Iqbal Khyber answered, “No. Though it is easy to buy weapons today, arming ourselves will worsen the war. Weapons will make us less secure.”

What a breath of fresh air in the stench of war-as-usual!

Iqbal and his fellow People’s Peace Movement (PPM) representative, Badshah Khan, had an unusual and delightfully different conversation with the young Afghan participants of the ‘Youth on the Road to Peace Conference’ on the 26th of September 2018, organized by the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) in Kabul.

“Many governments and corporations have a thriving weapons business. I feel that this is dangerous because as they seek greater profits, they are threatening not just Afghanistan, but the whole world. We human beings may soon destroy ourselves,” Iqbal Khyber had said to me afterwards.

We acquiesce to continued international arms sales because we are comfortable in our pet beliefs and fixed ideas about defeating ‘terrorists’ through superior warfare. Just as we preserve our fossil-fuel habits despite our awareness of climate science, we ignore U.S. congressionally-mandated evidence that the ‘war against terrorism’ has, in fact, increased terrorist attacks five-fold.

The majority of us are not the ones being killed, so we casually get used to wars festering in other places. But the smoke of war is catching up on all of us, making us sick at two minutes to midnight, as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have warned. Eventually the business of war can stifle and kill all of us, just as Iqbal fears.

It is remarkable that amidst war’s unforgiving flames, Iqbal and Badshah wish to douse the inaccurate and unimaginative beliefs about the Afghan war.

They want fellow Afghans and the people of the world to consider nonviolence as a pragmatic solution, and they are ‘walking their talk’ beautifully.

So that we can consciously open our shut ears, Iqbal, Badshah and five other ordinary Afghan folk initiated the PPM as the Helmand Peace Convoy, walking more than 700 km from their unrestful home province of Helmand to Kabul. They were so passionately thirsty about delivering their message of peace that they walked in the fasting month of Ramadan, under the blazing summer sun.

They met the Conference participants after they had returned to Kabul from their barefoot convoy to several Northern Afghan provinces.

Nurturing honest conversations and different mindsets

I got dizzy thinking about these Afghan youth standing before the militants and the strongest militaries of the world that are ‘congregated’ in Afghanistan, and saying, “We don’t want your weapons and your armies. We want peace.”

Iqbal continued his story, “Near the province of Samangan, we were told that the Taliban had laid an ambush, intending to hurt us. I discussed this with Badshah Khan and another core member of the PPM. We didn’t tell the other members as we didn’t want them to be un-necessarily afraid. The three of us decided to press on. In fact, we decided to go right to the ‘headquarters’ of the Taliban in that area.”

Iqbal and his friends set up camp in Taliban territory, and though their ‘microphones were taken away”, no one harmed them physically.

The faces of the youth in the discussion room were drawn with both tension and excitement. They were hopeful, but they also had doubts.

Mohammad Jamil, a university student, was even suspicious of fellow Afghans living in Helmand Province, “Do the people of Helmand really want peace? What is the war in Helmand about?”

Iqbal replied, “The people are all tired of war. They want it to end. This is an economic war. In Helmand, minerals are extracted, and opium is traded.”

Ending the war in Afghanistan without armies and weapons may seem overwhelming. Unsure about the PPM achieving favorable outcomes, Mah Gul asked, “What are your future plans and actions?”

“We wish to go to mosques, and have conversations with the people at the mosques,” Iqbal stated.

Members of the PPM are showing that instead of using bullets and bombs, every individual and society can choose other ways to build peace. They suggest that peace has been elusive so far because we have largely presumed that war was necessary, and only chosen military strategies.

We have all been smoking the cigarette of war, despite the evidence on its cancer-causing nature. What we should do is to quit smoking. Quit the human behavior of war!

Support Nonviolent Afghans

What can each of us do to support the People’s Peace Movement and Afghan Peace Volunteers ( APVs ), instead of continuing an ineffective and unkind Trumpian non-strategy of ‘killing people’?

We can work through our doubts by having honest conversations with them by writing to the People’s Peace Movement ( PPM )  or moc.dlrow2liamnull@eerfredrob

We can sign “The People’s Agreement to Abolish War” or World Beyond War’s Peace Declaration.

Just as more and more of us are steering away from fossil fuels, we can look for and divest from war-making jobs, businesses and policies.

War is not inevitable. It is an obsolete, repetitive choice. Everywhere, each of us can emulate these new-generation Afghans by ushering in breaths of fresh air!

Charting a Jagged Course through the Apocalypse

If something cannot go on forever, it will stop

— Economist Herbert Stein

Those who live in the reaches of the Arctic Circle tend to convey the same humbling lesson: Mother Nature calls the shots and survival depends upon preparing for her mood swings. It’s an adage that will take on increasing relevance as history unfolds because disaster has been baked into our future. Decades ago a whole series of events was set into motion and it may be too late to break their momentum. Civilization will be tested as large swathes of the globe become uninhabitable. While it might be tempting to seek refuge in the form of denial or nihilism, doing so won’t prevent what’s coming down the pike.

It’s Much Worse than You Think   

The indicators are hard to miss. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached levels not seen for nearly a million years. Roughly half of India’s population (which tips the scales at over a billion) currently faces extreme water scarcity and within two decades India’s demand for water will likely rise to twice the available supply. Moreover, by the end of the century scientists assess that population centers across the Middle East will confront “temperature levels that are intolerable to humans.” Which is a polite way of describing a death trap. One that will probably snap shut even if emissions are somehow kept within internationally agreed upon levels.

At some point our system’s requirement for infinite economic growth will hit the limits of a finite planet. As the ensuing collision transpires there will be widespread famine, mass migration, and disease. Thus setting the stage for military conflict on a global scale. People rarely go gently into the night when their backs are thrust against a wall. For instance, it wouldn’t necessarily be surprising if Pakistan and India end up in a nuclear war over water rights to the Indus river system.

This kind of regional clash can spread like a contagion, dragging larger actors into the fray. Daniel Ellsberg, who briefed the Kennedy administration on President Eisenhower’s nuclear war plans, believes that it’s a miracle there hasn’t already been a nuclear war. Given the veritable litany of close calls, he asks “Could we survive another 70 or 100 years without nuclear winter?” To which Ellsberg responds “It’s unlikely.” Other high-ranking Pentagon insiders share Ellsberg’s assessment. Former Defense Secretary William Perry claims that “The likelihood today of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than during the Cold War.”

According to one official who studied the topic at length, economically crippling the United States would only take something in the ballpark of a half dozen sub-megaton nuclear devices detonated in strategically vital cities. The core subset of such targets includes financial hubs (e.g. New York, Chicago, and San Francisco), ports (e.g. Los Angeles, Savannah) and cities with internal waterway access (e.g. Toronto). A strike of this nature is well within the reach of current nuclear powers.

Hope as a Form of Procrastination

Most Americans shrug and quietly hope that experts like Ellsberg and Perry are wrong. But hope can sometimes make things worse. By postponing a much needed reality check. What if it’s too late? What if, as Ellsberg warns, we’ve dramatically underestimated the likelihood of nuclear war? What if civilization is about to perform an epic face-plant, leaving only feudal vestiges of the economy and infrastructure?

Enter John Mosby, the nom de plume of a Special Forces alumnus who has cultivated a keen interest in the decline of empires. Mosby’s insights about survival are drawn from a combination of academic research, piles of military documents, and his own first-hand participation in what he mordantly labels as “nation-building” operations. Mosby is an army veteran who has seen with his own eyes what happens in a country when the state ceases to function.

We’re All Rick Grimes Now 

The future that Mosby envisions isn’t for the faint of heart. In the aftermath of a collapse he expects that the United States would give way to “historically typical failed-state neo-tribalism.” Afghanistan is a textbook example. A destination that the Department of Justice refers to as “largely lawless, weak, and dysfunctional.” In other words, hungry country where groups of farmers struggle to eke out a living amidst mafia-style networks and despotic warlords.

In a setting like this it’s only natural that communities would band together for their common defense. Evolution has programmed us to do so. This, according to Mosby, will be vital for survival. As a lone individual you’ll succumb to the environment. Presumably starve to death or perhaps get run over by a pack of marauders. Only as a member of a larger community do you stand a chance. When the going gets tough, the tough posse up.

This emphasis on social collaboration is noteworthy because it contrasts sharply against the stereotype of the lone survivalist. Crouched down in a basement with their freeze-dried food and ammunition. In fact, Mosby predicts that the billionaire crowd is unlikely to survive over the long run despite their high-end designer bunkers. Mosby concedes that “to some degree, the patrician classes CAN buy their way out of some trouble.” However, once society has been steamrolled by calamity, Mosby asserts that “the masses of people will start looking for leadership, towards people who can offer them security in the form of food and protection.”

The oligarchs, with their self-justifying philosophy of radical individualism, are unlikely to acquire this degree of trust. Because it’s not something you can buy. Mosby says that “It is about being the person who puts the tribe before himself.” He concludes “the super-rich probably don’t have that ability.” The financial strip mining of the middle class that followed the events of 2008 stands in testimony.

The bad news is that tribalism is hardly a utopia. Mosby observes that it will be characterized by “continuous endemic violence” and that — given the state of modern armaments — it will result in “catastrophic losses to all parties involved.” Again, Afghanistan comes to mind. Where the typical life expectancy is approximately 50 years. A place so hazardous that it has garnered a reputation as the graveyard of empires.

Or consider Great Britain after the Romans finally lost their grip in 410 A.D. With the Romans gone the island quickly passed into a dark age where it was relentlessly invaded by northern tribes. Wave after wave of conquering Angles, Saxons, and Vikings. Life was uncertain. Death was everywhere. Something as basic as red meat was a luxury that few could afford. The aftermath of a nuclear exchange will almost certainly result in comparable instability and deprivation. Suffice it to say, in the wake of such a catastrophe there will be a sizable contingent of survivors who’ll wish that they’d simply perished at ground zero.

Out of the Ashes

In spite of the gloomy desolation of the post-apocalypse, there’s still a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. History will not end. Yes, it’s true, civilizations fall. But after a rocky transition period new ones emerge from their remains. And as centuries pass fiefdoms unite and fledgling nations are born. While the Romans left England to fend for itself, the turmoil of Britain’s lost years gradually gave way to the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. The rule of monarchs, which persisted for millennia, was supplanted by rule of law.

In due time established ideologies like socialism and capitalism will be abandoned for doctrines that produce better results. Technology will continue to progress and yield ever more fearsome weapons. Confronted with near term extinction the human species will be obliged to learn from its mistakes and evolve beyond destructive tendencies. Otherwise Mother Nature will relegate the human race to Darwin’s wastebasket and dutifully move on with new experiments.

Doctrines of Impunity: John Bolton and the ICC

The Trump administration’s national security advisor John Bolton has never been a fan of international law, a concept he has found, at best, rubbery.  Any institution supposedly guided by its spirit was bound to draw the ire of both his temper and temperament.  Before members of the Federalist Society on Monday, Bolton took to the pulpit with a fury reserved for the unreflective patriot certain that his country, right or wrong, was above such matters.  “The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”

The wicked body, in this instance, is the International Criminal Court, established by the Rome Statute to try instances of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, a “court of last resort” backed by 123 nations.

The instigation for such concern on Bolton’s part came from the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who requested that the court investigate the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan from 2003 by forces including elements of the US military and intelligence services.  In doing so, she was moving the frame of reference beyond a continent that has featured all too readily in the court’s prosecutions: Africa.

Bolton was quick off the mark after the announcement in 2017, with a blistering observation in the Wall Street Journal:

The Trump administration should not respond to Ms. Bensouda in any way that acknowledges the ICC’s legitimacy.  Even merely contesting its jurisdiction risks drawing the US deeper into the quicksand.

Bolton has been consistent with such tirades.  In 2000, he contemplated the issue of whether there was such a thing as “law” in the matter of international affairs. His sustained attack in Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems remains salient to a parochial understanding of how such rules work.  For Bolton, the central defining issue was one of liberty: how such “law” might “affect individuals in the exercise of their individual freedom”.  Prior to the Second World War, international law was essentially a matter of nation states rather than individuals and groups.

Bolton wishes it remained there, a courtly, distant matter separate from the populace.  But “the logic of today’s international law proponents drives them toward more pervasive international command-and-control structures that will deeply affect the domestic policies and constitutions of all nations.”  Such law lacked notions of “popular sovereignty or public accountability through reasonably democratic popular controls over creation, interpretation, and enforcement of laws”.  It lacked clear sources and a mechanism to determine its change.  In short, and here, reflective of the sum of all his grievances against international law, such juridical phenomena were not of the US order of things, specifically the “United States Constitution and its system of government, exemplifying the kind of legal system acceptable to a free person.”

His address to the Federalist Society recapitulates his critique: the “supranational” and “unchecked” conspiracy of the ICC advanced by “‘global governance’ advocates” inimical to the Founders’ vision.  “Any day now, the ICC may announce the start of a formal investigation against these American patriots, who voluntarily signed on to go into harm’s way to protect our nation, our homes, and our families in the wake of the 9/11 attacks…. An unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”

The efforts of the ICC was to be frustrated at every turn.  No assistance would be provided to its functions and its pursuits. “And, certainly, we will not join the ICC.  We will let the ICC die on its own.  After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

Bolton keeps interesting company in having such views.  The refusal by the US to ratify the ICC’s founding document in 2002 was joined by Israel, Saudi Arabia and China, fearing its “unacceptable consequences for our national sovereignty”.  Bolton subsequently led efforts as Under Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration to broker some hundred bilateral deals preventing countries from surrendering US nationals to the ICC.  These remain, by his own admission, a proud achievement.

The ICC has had its fair share of bad press.  It groans under a bureaucracy that has led to accusations of justice delayed being justice denied.  It has conspicuously failed to deter the perpetration of atrocities in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar.  Its Africa-focus has also caused more than a flutter of dissent from states on that continent.  Early last year, the African Union passed a non-binding resolution for member states to withdraw from the court, or at the very least seek reforming it.  South Africa confirmed its desire to remove itself from the jurisdictional reach of the ICC, a decision that continues to shadow law makers.

Bolton’s resentment, in short, has fuel to fire.  President Donald Trump sees any international pact untouched by his influence to be deficient and contrary to the values of the imperium.  But the ICC still has legs, however plodding, and such efforts to despoil their function will not necessarily cripple, let alone kill it.

In contrast to Bolton’s view is another stream of US legal thought that sees international law and its enforcement as indispensable to peace.  That view is unduly rosy, and held, at times, disingenuously. But for the US Chief Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson, delivering his opening address in November 1945 to the judges of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, such a body, far from being abstract, incoherent and spineless, supplied the animating legitimacy for an international court.

What fouled international law’s decent nest were those wars of imperialism waged during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, leaving the impression “that all wars are to be regarded as legitimate wars.”  Jackson’s point was that no one, not even the leaders of the United States, could always remain unaccountable, anathema to Bolton’s idea of impunity outside the US constitution.

Canada’s NDP and the World’s Downtrodden

The NDP hierarchy’s response to noted war hawk John McCain’s death is shameful. Even worse, it reflects a general hostility towards the victims of Western imperialism.

After the U.S. Senator died over the weekend federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted:

John McCain had the courage not to stoop to divisive politics. He showed us that we can disagree in a way that creates dialogue and discussion, not fear and division. Rest In peace.

Rachel Notley also praised a US politician who never met a war he didn’t like. “As @BarackObama wrote today”, the leader of Alberta’s NDP Government noted, “all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means.” In a follow-up tweet Notley called McCain “a true public servant.”

Even purportedly progressive Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili praised McCain on Twitter, saying “sad to hear of the passing of Sen. John McCain – a principled man who served his country with honour in difficult times.” (Meili at least had the sense to delete his tweet.)

Anyone who has any doubt about celebrating McCain should watch Rania Khalek’s video and, as Ben Saucier noted in a succinct rejoinder to Singh:

McCain heavily promoted the lies that led to the Iraq war. He championed the NATO bombing of Libya. He supported and armed the jihadists destroying Syria. He played a role in bringing neo-Nazis to power in Ukraine and backed Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen. He was no hero.

But, praising a man who rose to public attention by dropping bombs on civilian targets (a war crime) in North Vietnam is only part of the leadership’s whitewash of Western militarism. At the end of last month Singh published a statement on Korean War Veterans Day “honouring the brave veterans of the Canadian army who fought valiantly during the Korean War, so that today, South Koreans can live in peace and prosperity.”

It’s absurd to imply the 1950–53 Korean War was designed to secure “peace and prosperity” for South Koreans. About 27,000 Canadian troops and numerous warships expanded and internationalized a civil war that left as many as four million dead. They fought in support of Syngman Rhee’s brutal regime, which had killed tens of thousands in what Canadian diplomats in Washington described, in an internal cable to External Affairs at the time, as “a fair amount of repression by the Military Government of left-wing groups.” The understated diplomats added, “liberal social legislation had been definitely resisted.”

At the end of World War II the Soviets occupied the northern part of Korea, which borders Russia. US troops controlled the southern part of the country. According to Noam Chomsky:

When US forces entered Korea in 1945, they dispersed the local popular government, consisting primarily of antifascists who resisted the Japanese, and inaugurated a brutal repression, using Japanese fascist police and Koreans who had collaborated with them during the Japanese occupation. About 100,000 people were murdered in South Korea prior to what we call the Korean War, including 30-40,000 killed during the suppression of a peasant revolt in one small region, Cheju Island.

Singh’s Korean War Veterans Day statement concluded with a flourish of martial patriotism.

On this Korean War Veterans Day, let us also remember our current military personnel, and their families, who continue to fight every day to ensure that the values of peace, freedom, and democracy are defended around the world.

Were 385 Canadians sent to Sudan in 1884 to defend “peace, freedom, and democracy” or to beat back indigenous forces seeking to wrest control of Khartoum from famed English General Charles Gordon? Or how about the 7,000 Canadians who fought in southern Africa between 1899 and 1902? Was that war about advancing Cecil Rhodes’ mining interests and strengthening Britain’s position in the region or “peace, freedom and democracy”?

World War I had no clear and compelling purpose other than rivalry between up-and-coming Germany and the lead imperial powers of the day, Britain and France. And 20,000 Iraqi troops and tens of thousands of civilians were killed during the 1990–91 Gulf War to deepen the US foothold in the region.

The 18 Canadian fighter jets that participated in NATO’s illegal bombing of Serbia in 1999 didn’t bring “peace, freedom, and democracy” there. Nor did the 40,000 Canadians who fought in Afghanistan, which remains wracked by violence. Seven years after Canada participated in NATO’s war in Libya that country remains divided into various warring factions and hundreds of militias operate in the country of six million. (Canadian “peacekeepers” also helped overthrow Jean Bertrand Aristide’s elected government in Haiti and Congolese independence leader Patricia Lumumba.)

Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II. But, the historical record shows that Nazi expansionism’s threat to British interests, not opposition to fascism or anti-Semitism, led Ottawa to join WWII. (Only two years before the war Prime Minister Mackenzie King visited Hitler and in his diary King repeatedly expressed sympathy towards the Nazis.) As Jack Granatstein and Desmond Morton explain, “Canada went to war in September 1939 for the same reason as in 1914: because Britain went to war.”

Somebody should buy Jagmeet Singh a T-shirt that says: “I pissed on the world’s downtrodden to ingratiate myself with the mainstream establishment but all I got was this lousy shirt.”

Catholic Support for War: Another Child Abuse Scandal

On August 14, 2018 a report from a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania identified 300 Catholic priests across the state who had sexually abused more than 1,000 children. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades,” the grand jury wrote in one of the broadest inquiries into church sex abuse in U.S. history. Five days earlier, on August 9, in northern Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a school bus with a missile made by Lockheed Martin and supplied to the Saudis by the U.S. government, and 44 children were killed. Just as the horror of abuse of children by priests goes beyond the scope of the report from Pennsylvania, the children traumatized and killed by the U.S. military and its proxies globally number far more than those 44. Only one of these events sparked a crisis and soul-searching both in and out of the Catholic Church, but they both should have.

Some Catholic activists for peace and justice have long lived in a state of crisis with our church and have recognized the scandal of “men of God” who bless and cover for the abuse and murder of innocents through war, economic injustice and institutional racism.

“Over and over again in history the Church has become so corrupt it just cries out to heaven for vengeance,” Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement said in a 1970 interview. “The crisis is something terrific,” she said then, before the problem of sexual abuse of the young was well known. This crisis, she said, was “a result of the corruption in the institutional Church, through money and through their acceptance of the lousy, rotten system.”

A radical even before she became a Catholic in 1927 (“I have said, sometimes flippantly, that the mass of bourgeois smug Christians who denied Christ in His poor made me turn to the Communists, and it was the Communists and working with them that made me turn to God…”) Dorothy never had the “honeymoon” of blind love enjoyed by many new converts and was always conscious of the Church’s flaws and failings. “I was just as much against capitalism and imperialism as ever, and here I was going over to the opposition, because of course the Church was lined up with property, with the wealthy, with the state, with capitalism, with all the forces of reaction,” she wrote in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. “This I had been taught to think and this I still think to a great extent.”

Even as a new convert, Dorothy deplored “the scandal of businesslike priests, of collective wealth, the lack of a sense of responsibility for the poor, the worker, the Negro, the Mexican, the Filipino, and even the oppression of these, and the consenting to the oppression of them by our industrialist-capitalist order – these made me feel often that priests were more like Cain than Abel.  ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ they seemed to say in respect to the social order…  There was plenty of charity but too little justice. ‘The worst enemies would be those of our own household,’ Christ had warned us.”

While the use of the word “scandal” to describe the Catholic Church is new and painful for many contemporary Catholics, it was constituent to Dorothy Day’s vocabulary: “I loved the Church for Christ made visible, not for itself, because it was so often a scandal to me,” she said. More than once she applied Jesus’ caution that our enemies are “of our own household” to priests and bishops. She confessed that it was these “enemies,” not the Viet Cong, not even the industrial war profiteers and generals, that she found the hardest to love and to forgive as Jesus bade her.

In a 1967 column entitled “In Peace Is My Bitterness Most Bitter” Dorothy wrote about Cardinal Spellman and his support for the war in Vietnam: “But what words are those he spoke — going against even the Pope, calling for victory, total victory? Words are as strong and powerful as bombs, as napalm.” “I can sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and wrestle for that peace in the bitterness of my soul, a bitterness which many Catholics throughout the world feel, and I can find many things in Scripture to console me, to change my heart from hatred to love of enemy.”

In 2002, after growing awareness of clerical abuse of children and twenty two years after Dorothy Day’s death, the priest/activist Father John Dear decried the scandal of the Church’s support of the war in Afghanistan: “Last November, nearly all the U.S. Catholic bishops voted to bless and support the bombing and mass murder of the people of Afghanistan. We know that some 4000 civilians were killed during the first two months of that U.S. war. Hundreds of children were killed by the United States, and the Catholic bishops condoned their murder.” John Dear stated what should be obvious: “Talk about child abuse! The Church cannot condemn child abuse by pedophiles and yet bless the government’s murder of children in its wars, if it wants to be consistent and faithful to Christ.”

Many Catholics are now struggling with the question, “how can I remain in this abusive Church?” In her meditation on Cardinal Spellman, Dorothy Day asked “as to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.” Dorothy often quoted theologian Romano Guardini, who said “the Church is the Cross on which Christ is always crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful Church. One must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church.”

Long time peacemaker and resister, Father Daniel Berrigan once said “I don’t know a more irreligious attitude, one more utterly bankrupt of any human content, than one which permits children to be destroyed.” In a situation like the present, satisfaction with the Church and its institutions is unnatural, sinful, even, and to view the suffering of children without scandal is inhuman. For too long, the Church has abetted the abuse, exploitation and murder of children. I pray that the rising outrage in the Church over the exploitation of children, and the resolve to protect them, will encompass also the children who are victims of war.

There is a Burning Need to Rekindle Anti-militarist Political Movements in Canada

Are soldiers more valuable to society than teachers? Are they more essential than the people who drive buses or clean up our waste? Are their jobs that much more dangerous than firefighters, or psychiatric nurses or loggers? Is what they do more honourable than parenting, caring for elders, providing essential social services or reporting the news?

These questions arose when reading that British Columbia is currently holding a six-week public consultation on whether former RCMP members should be permitted access to special veterans license plates. The opposition has complained the consultation is only taking place online while some military veterans have threatened to return their special license if the RCMP are allowed to join their exclusive club. “I am very, very proud to be given that particular plate,” said Lt.-Col. Archie Steacy of the B.C. Veterans Commemorative Association, which is leading opposition to the change. “Having served in the armed forces for a period of 38 years I feel really good when I am driving my car and people stop me to say thank you.”

Granted a monopoly over the poppy symbol nearly a century ago, the Royal Canadian Legion allows provincial governments to use their trademark poppy on licence plates to signify the driver is a veteran. Much to the chagrin of some military veterans, the Legion’s definition of a ‘veteran’ now includes former RCMP.

In the mid-2000s every province adopted a special veterans licence plate. Generally Canadian Forces (CF) members, RCMP officers who served under CF command and anyone who served in a NATO Alliance force are eligible.

But special license plates are only one of the many initiatives that reinforce the military’s special cultural standing. On August 18 MiWay (Mississauga) transit offered military veterans a free ride to attend the Warriors’ Day Parade at the Canadian National Exhibition. In December Sherbrooke, Quebec, joined a long list of cities that offer free parking to veterans. In another automotive- centred militarist promotion, a Ford dealership in Kingston, Ontario, offered a special discount package to former or current soldiers. Its January release stated, “whether you’re a local weather presenter, a plumber or play drums in a weekend cover band, your way of life is possible, in part, due to the brave sacrifice of the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

But for men with guns an evil force would prevent you from drumming? Is that really what this is about?

Prioritizing soldiers above reporters, poets, janitors etc., the government set up a program  in 2014 to allow foreign nationals who join the CF to get their citizenship fast tracked. A number of initiatives also benefit students of military families and help soldiers access civilian work. The Canada Company Military Employment Transition Program assists CF members, Reservists and Veterans in obtaining non-military employment. It offers companies/institutions the status of Designated Military Friendly Employer and National Employer Support Awards. Taking this a step further, Barrick Gold hired a Director of Veteran Sourcing and Placement to oversee a Veterans Recruitment Program. According to program Director Joel Watson, “veterans self-select to put service before self, which says much about their individual character, drive and willingness to work together in teams.”

But no special recruitment program for single mothers?

Underlying all these initiatives is the notion that soldiers (or the military in general) have a unique social value, more than teaching assistants, plumbers, daycare workers, hairdressers and single mothers. Or, if danger is the primary criteria, how about those who build houses or feed us?

Over the past half-century tens of times more Canadian construction workers have been killed on the job than soldiers. While 158 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014, there were 843 agriculture -related fatalities in Canada between 2003 and 2012.

Does the CF do more to enable people to “play drums” than those growing our food? Is the “local weather presenter” more indebted to soldiers than those who build homes? Should the “plumber” be more grateful to troops than teachers?

The problem with glorifying soldiers is that veterans’ organizations generally use their cultural standing to uphold militarism and reactionary politics. Politicians justify weapons purchases by claiming we need to give the troops the best equipment possible and then demand the public “support the troops” they’ve deployed abroad.

Is this really the best we can be?

There is a burning need to rekindle anti-militarist political movements in this country. Next month’s World Beyond War  conference in Toronto offers a good opportunity to start.

The Anti-President

Raids by U.S. commandos in Afghanistan. (I could be talking about 2001 or 2018.)

A U.S. drone strike in Yemen. (I could be talking about 2002 or 2018.)

Missions by Green Berets in Iraq. (I could be talking about 2003 or 2018.)
— Nick Turse, Chronicles Magazine, July 2018

The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.
— Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 1967

The U.S. is now a endless machine for war profiteering and endless war itself. Simultaneously a hyper Imperialist machine directed toward global hegemony. Domestically it is a McCarthyesque empire of propaganda and censorship and mass incarceration. On both fronts it is a machine for channelling money directly to the ruling class.

The U.S. has 900 military bases around the world. Everything is contracted out. Where once soldiers and marines built their own barracks and peeled their own potatoes, the new military is one in which construction, maintenance, and operations are handed over to private companies, many of whom have as their sole reason for existence, to service the US war machine.

…U.S. bases overseas have become a major mechanism of U.S. global power in the post-Second World War era. Alongside postwar economic and political tools like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the United Nations, the collection of extraterritorial bases—like colonies for the European empires before it—became a major mechanism for “maintaining [U.S.] political and economic hegemony,” advancing corporate economic and political interests, protecting trade routes, and allowing control and influence over territory vastly disproportionate to the land bases actually occupy. Without a collection of colonies, the United States has used its bases, as well as periodic displays of military might, to keep wayward nations within the rules of an economic and political system favorable to itself.
— David Vine, Monthly Review, 2014

Many of these bases are as large as small cities. Camp Liberty in Iraq has concrete sidewalks, traffic signals, spas and cinemas as well as coffee shops and Burger Kings. Generals and Admirals employ private jets, and siphon off taxpayer money for vacations at luxury resorts and shopping trips for their wives and family. The bookeeping has been described as functionally fictive. The vast amounts of monies misplaced or unaccounted for is in the trillion of dollars. Everything….from shower heads to gym equipment, to electrical cable is from private firms that usually have spent small fortunes lobbying Pentagon officials or even state department higher ups to *win* these contracts. So ponder that a moment: TRILLIONS of dollars. When anyone asks why *we* are still in Afghanistan after 17 years, this is but one of the answers.

As the FOB2012 conference neared its end, I asked another conference attendee (who asked that I not use his name) if during his wartime deployments in Iraq he had seen the problem Major Elliott had described of a base with private security guards protecting privately contracted cooks, who were cooking for the same private security guards, who were protecting the privately contracted cooks. “A lot,” he replied. It’s the “self-licking ice cream cone”—by which he meant a self-perpetuating system with no purpose or function except to keep itself going.
— David Vine, Monthly Review, 2014

The U.S. has accepted that they are now fighting generational wars. There are children born in just the special-op fronts, the hot spots that Special Operations forces fight in, who are now of fighting age. Teenagers who have never not known American occupation. From Iraq to Afghanistan, to Somalia, to Libya, to Yemen, to Philippines and Niger and Syria there are conflicts that the U.S. seems intent on keeping active. The idea of solution is now forgotten.

And watching Donald Trump and his traveling insult party it struck me that only such clearly intentional behavior and statements could make a ghoulish war criminal like John Brennan attractive to the American public. And then something began to nag at me.

While Trump is seeking to develop a framework for authoritarian rule—including the cultivation of far-right and fascistic forces based on anti-immigrant chauvinism—there is not an ounce of democratic content in the campaign of his critics within the state and political establishment. In the name of opposing Trump—and the supposed Russian plot that sustains him—they are developing their own arguments for dictatorship.
— Joseph Kishore, WSWS, August 18, 2018

Brennan has, besides suggesting intensifying foreign theatres of operation, now openly outlined a plan for Orwellian thought control at home, and wholesale censorship of dissent.

More from Joseph Kishore…

This is the significance of Brennan’s column, “President Trump’s claims of no collusion are hogwash,” published in the print edition of the New York Times on Friday. The pages of the Times were turned over to Brennan by James Bennet, the newspaper’s highly-connected editorial page editor, brother of right-wing Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and son of Douglas Bennet, a former top State Department official with CIA connections. { } More than Russia, the targets of Brennan’s attack are domestic organizations and individuals. He writes: “Electoral politics in Western democracies present an especially inviting target, as a variety of politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers are readily manipulated, wittingly and unwittingly, or even bought outright by Russian intelligence operatives.” Who are these “politicians, political parties, media outlets, think tanks and influencers?” The answer is: Anyone who does not accept uncritically the narrative of the intelligence agencies and the military, including the lies used to justify war in Syria and aggression against Russia.

The liberal class in the U.S. is now embracing with laudatory accolades the most malign sadistic authoritarians possible. Men like Brennan, James Comey, Robert Mueller, and nary a peep from them about the confirmation of serial torturer and all around liar Gina Haspel. With Vietnam there were massive protests against the war. Today there are none. Nobody cares in the U.S. They do not care it is year 17 in the occupation of Afghanistan, or that in Yemen there is such human suffering that statistics are an insult to even mention. Shoot a school bus in Yemen? Unfortunate but hardly headline news. Google and Facebook are now in the process of widespread censoring of dissenting voices. How dare anyone criticize the ogre John McCain. That is *hate speech*. Hollywood continues to avoid ANY criticism EVER of the U.S. military or domestic police forces. In fact, they continue to produce one jingoistic narrative after another in which service in the armed forces is uniformly expressed as a noble choice, a honorable patriotic sacrifice. Hollywood is, in fact, creating (and has done for two decades at least) a indelible mythology of fascistic martial love.

But that is really the core of what is nagging at me.

The curious exaggerated response in the U.S. to the Trump presidency is understood, partly, by the failure of previous conflicts and even by 9/11, to produce a sense of national regeneration in the usually willing masses. No amount of revisionist history about Vietnam or Korea produced a real national sense of military purpose. Grenada and Somalia just didn’t, frankly, kill enough people. This is a Puritan nation that has never left its roots in blood atonement. Organized corporate owned sports provides only a limited refuge from the crushing economic reality. Not many are fortunate enough to feel pride in what they do. And deep down nobody really believes the lies. They may work overtime and very hard to do so, but I don’t believe they do. But hating Trump has now become, at least in part, a new mythology for America. For the educated classes anyway, Trump is now the anti-president.

…one of the syndromes that people working with Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD was something called John Wayne Syndrome where the young men had internalized the John Wayne model of heroism and one of their problems was they felt they had failed somehow to live up to that model.

And that’s the psychology we’re talking about here. You internalize a model of heroic behavior from the media that purvey the myths that shape your society. And there’s a whole spectrum of responses you might have in relation to that internalized model.

You might not do anything yourself. You might simply consent that the government or somebody act on your behalf, you don’t make the war yourself, but you consent that somebody make the war for you, kill the bad guy for you.
— Richard Slotkin, Interview, Truthout 2013

I remember Slotkin (whose trilogy on the American West is essential reading) pointing out that the first significant shift in consciousness for America was …“1890, the moment when the landed frontier of the United States was officially declared ‘closed’, the moment when ‘frontier’ became primarily a term of ideological rather than geographical location.” And that is when Americans began to codify this idea of violence and conquest as acts of purification and nobility. One must cross into *Indian territory*, or for many, just into Mexico — for these symbols and tropes of white supremacism represent a metaphoric shadow world that must be overcome in order to be reborn as a proud white American. The U.S. has fought no wars that could be sold as heroic without inordinate amounts of propaganda and indoctrination in a sort of kitsch patriotism. I think of the Chris Kyle memorial event at the Cowboys Stadium where fifty thousand people showed up. But it is likely that 99% of the wars in human history also needed propaganda. Just, perhaps, not quite at the level we see today.

But such observations must be understood against a backdrop of an eroded education system, a society of screen and anti-depressive addictions. There is no way to grasp the mental illness in play today. For the anti Trump hysteria, and that is what it is, comes out of a kind of backhanded schadenfreude. The disfigured mental state of America has arrived at some kind of critical mass. (As an aside vis a vis Lacan, in his one actual public speaking appearance -Catholic University of Louvain, mid 70s- he opened his lecture by asking the audience “can you bear the life that you have”?

Today, the sense of misery in the U.S. is acute and operative in about three different registers. There is the exponential spike in homelessness and poverty, and that is obvious. But there is another register of psychic torment and depression that blankets life on a day to day basis. And it is a sense of this absolute counterfeit existence — coupled to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and inadequacy that is causing widespread depression and driving more and more desperate narratives of American privilege. And no wonder, I mean look at the most powerful men in the country; Trump, the Koch Brothers, Mike “Domionist” Pompeo, John fucking Bolton…I mean JOHN BOLTON for christ sake, and Brennan, the Clintons and their posse, and Jeff Bezos and Zuck, not to mention Pierre Omidyar, and these are just off the top of my head. Not a single person in that list is not reprehensible. Then the DC think tanks. And there is no way to overestimate the influence of these institutions; The Brookings Institute, CATO, Council on Foreign Relations, RAND Corporation, Heritage Foundation, Center for American Progress, Center for Strategic and International Studies – the list goes on. These places advice the State Department and Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, Unified Commands of the Marines and Navy, not to mention congress and the Attorney General, and the Executive Branch. As I glanced at the bios of the leadership at CSIS I came across this in a bio…..”…held the Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy”. These people live in an alternate universe. They are Martians. But they are very powerful. That is the reality we live in.

So no wonder misery is endemic. And I guess the question begged here is how did the most powerful nation on earth (though defining powerful is perhaps useful) arrive in the hands of people who think the Brzezinski chair in Global Suffering is something to aspire to?

But this sense of the counterfeit is in no small measure the result of the lost counter culture, and alternative press. Again during Vietnam there were important writers protesting and speaking everywhere. Papers like the East Village Other, the L.A. Free Press. Berkeley Barb, et al had importance. People were rejecting the idea of ruling class privilege. They also understood the ruling class were the real criminals. Today Google would just erase them. Now we get Rachel Maddow, Fox News and Jordan Peterson. Where once Robert Bly and Alan Ginsburg gave readings to protest the war, in trips they paid for themselves across the entire country. Today were have celebrity war pimps like Angelina Jolie and George Clooney.

We have a 1950s throwback cracker as AG. If a movie is made of these years it’s too bad Strother Martin has passed on because he was born to play Jeff Sessions. But I digress. (And George Kennedy as Mike Pompeo?). I gotta stop.

I was reading Paul Goodman recently. Whatever place in the annals of American letters that Goodman may finally rest, there is a serious shortage of that kind of wisdom out there today. And Goodman was remarkably prescient as well as wise.

I keep resorting to the metaphor school-monks, the administrators, professors, academic sociologists and licensees with diplomas who have proliferated into an invested intellectual class worse than anything since the time of Henry VIII. Yet I am convinced – as they got their grants and buildings and State laws that give them sole competence — that the monks are sincere in their bland faith in the school. The schools provide the best preparation for everybody for a complicated world, are the logical haven for unemployed youth, can equalize opportunity for the underprivileged, administer research in all fields, and be the indispensable mentor for creativity, business-practice, social work, mental hygiene, genuine literacy — name it, and there are credits for it leading to a degree. The schools offer very little evidence of their unique ability to perform any of these things — there is plenty of evidence to the contrary — but they do not need to offer evidence, since nobody opposes them or proposes alternatives.
— Paul Goodman, Compulsory Miseducation

Over fifty years ago William Burroughs, a contemporary of Goodman, was asked what he thought of contemporary America:

At the official level a nightmare. Difficult to believe that people in positions of power who form the foreign and domestic policies of America could be so stupid and so basically ill-intentioned.

So what we are seeing today is not new. What is new is this phenomenon of the anti-president. All the things that were not really believed in by themselves become valuable, even sacrosanct symbols of an imaginary Good America.

I was told by a teacher recently that her high school students are hugely reluctant to volunteer answers in class. Later she asked one why. The student said everyone was afraid of being made fun of on social media later that night. Best to keep quiet and invisible. This does not portend well for the future of the West. Burroughs added a bit later (in the under-read The Job) about the term nightmare. He said it’s less a nightmare than a non dream. For the ruling class, dreams must be eradicated. The masses cannot be allowed dreams.

Only today, I think, there is — either by accident or design — a manufactured dream. The dream of stopping the anti-president. The obvious contradictions are brushed aside. After all, this is mythology. I remember Robert Bly noting that when a society confuses the mythic with the real, it is a sign of terminal sickness in that society. Witch burning is an example. Of course, there were historical and economic determinants involved in both the wave of European witch hunts in the 16th century (see Sylvia Federici) and those in Salem. But nonetheless the populace believed in witches. They believed the Church propaganda. Today, the hatred of Trump is so exaggerated that only a deep conviction in something bigger than just politics has to be involved. Hating Trump has become a secret handshake among liberals. A part of spiritual self improvement, right alongside Yoga classes and TM.

Of course, Trump is horrid. And somewhere in him, or somewhere in the story of how he got elected, he knows this or at least suspected it. I was put here to be who I am and ergo, I was put here to be hated. He plays to it. He insults the queen for cryin’ out loud. What a cad!

There is another aspect to this, though. One that has to do with how the U.S. government and the ruling elite are expressing their own hysteria. A quick survey here, then.

Mike Pompeo is another example of the foulness that holds power in the U.S. Pompeo has helped form something called the Iran Action Group. What this is, and Pompeo and Mattis openly state this, is an organization devoted to orchestrating a coup d’etat in Iran. They want to overthrow a sovereign government by any means necessary. If this seems a contradiction given the hand wringing and howls of indignation about Russian collusion in OUR elections; well, it is. It’s a breathtaking contradiction. But such is the hubris and arrogance of the U.S. government. What, you might well ask, has Iran done to us? The answer is nothing. Oh rather, it has offended those who stride the corridors of power in the U.S. by not doing what it was told.

Look at the official list of American enemies. Iran, China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, and the DPRK. What do they have in common? They are independent. They have refused all those World Bank and IMF overtures to drain profit from the country. They don’t accept U.S. bases in their country. And they refuse to allow western Capital to buy up their resources. The horror!!!

So, the US government, and in particular Pompeo’s CIA, will form committees and pay for studies (from the aforementioned think tanks) to figure out how to kill the leaders (like Gaddafi, and Lumumba) of these recalcitrant nations, or exile them or TRY to kill them. But most of all, to get rid of them and replace them with compliant client governments. For the only acceptable form of foreign government is a vassal state. All those leaders who have defied US diktats, have suffered endless persecution. Why were Chavez and Milosevic demonized? What did they do? Why was the former Yugoslavia bombed, broken up, and its president illegally kidnapped and stuck in a prison? And then handed over to an ad hoc tribunal for a show trial meant to demonstrate how good and gracious is the U.S. (and its European clients) but they couldn’t even get that right. So they dropped the trial from their TV line up. And Milosevic died in jail. Chavez and Milosevic and Castro and Gaddafi et al — were not threats to world peace. They were not tyrants.

I have said before, if the US targets you, then you deserve to be defended. Full stop. Only the most privileged of leftists make distinctions about whatever they don’t like and get mealy mouthed and start using racist terms like “thug”. Or call independent states “regimes” just like Mad Dog Mattis does.

You know that cognitive dissonance must be rampant when the two biggest U.S. allies are Saudi Arabia and Israel. I mean, the Saudis are set, as I write this, to publicly behead a woman’s right activist (and her husband). For….*protesting*. This is our ally. We sell them billions in weapons. We train them. We visit them and they visit us. Or Israel. I mean Israel is an official apartheid state now where politicians openly call Arabs “dogs” and “vermin”.

The Iran Action Group is illegal by all and any international legal conventions. No matter.

I want to add, again, Pompeo is another Christian extremist in this administration and one with a deep hatred of Islam. Back in 2015

…Pompeo, then a Congressman, attacked Barack Obama, who, according to him, took the side of the “Islamic East” in its conflict with the “Christian West”. “Every time there has been a conflict between the Christian West and the Islamic East, the data points all point to a single direction.
— Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, 2017

Pompeo’s Islamaphobia is shared by Pence and, really, the entire Trump cabinet. But this is the standard sensibility of the contemporary evangelical community. And why that is so hard for people to recognize is beyond me. But I want to get back to the state of consciousness in the U.S.today. To the new mythology…or pseudo mythology anyway.

A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that at one point last year, 74% of adults in the UK were so stressed that they felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. One-third were suicidal and 16% had self-injured at some point in their lives. These figures were much higher among young people.

In the United States, death rates are rising steadily, especially for middle-aged white men and women, due to “desperation,” which includes deaths from drug and alcohol addiction as well as suicides and many car accidents. An pidemic of distress seems to be affecting some of the richest nations in the world.
— Manuel E. Yepe, Counterpunch, August 2018

When Richard Nixon switched his Vietnam policy from winning the war to “rescuing” US POWs, he was consciously reclaiming another American myth which was the basis of the Puritans’ earliest literature: the captivity narrative. This pointed the way for the revisionist Rambo histories of Vietnam, whose betrayal scenarios blamed loss on dissenters at home. What was Ronald Reagan, asks Slotkin, if not America’s last attempt to reclaim the beliefs American myths told Americans should bind society together, even when they were known to be untrue.
— Michael Carlson, Irresistible Targets, 2008

These two things, then. Epidemic levels of extreme anxiety and depression, and the system’s doubling down on the mythology of individualism and the frontier; but a doubling down that has meant an ever more distilled nativist zealotry. Those who went to Chris Kyle’s memorial are the NASCAR flyover state true believers, but now liberal America is, as I say, buying in. For them, there seems no alternative. For the liberal, the educated classes in America, the status quo is sacred. And they would rather have any version of Brave New World, than to contemplate actual radical change. You know where the most rabid bulging eye, popping veins, hatred of communism can be found? In white liberal America. And it was Malcolm X. who said “The white liberal is the worst enemy to America, and the worst enemy to the black man.” It is the new fall collection for American Exceptionalism.

The liberal educated white American is now shoehorning some contradictory ideological threads into this new belief system. Trump is a fascist they say (true, but he isn’t the first) and stopping Trump eclipses all other concerns (like Obama’s bloody policies, or Bill Clinton’s, or Bush’s etc, etc). And this sense of purposeful hating of Trump is a bit like the new frontier. One must cross into the land (or underworld…or maybe high rise…I don’t know) of Trump evilness to come out the other side, reborn, redeemed. Trump is a kind of prismatic reincarnation of Reagan, I think. Those who hated Reagan and those who loved Reagan are on the same side regards Trump. And again, it is clear there are elements in the system, the so called deep state if you like, that want Trump gone. Right? That is the common wisdom out there. And there is truth in that perspective I think. I think. But it’s not the whole truth. For Trump serves the interests of even those who seem to want him gone. Why are we to believe this CIA and NSA and Pentagon cabal hate Trump and want him impeached? Why? What is he doing to hurt them? It seems to me he is carrying out policy that serves their interests. The ruling class is always united in the end. His statements are only that. I mean the guy *tweets* for Christ sake. A compulsive tweeter, in fact. He is probably not much in charge of anything, I suspect. He doesn’t know the names of countries, or their histories. He is a typically ignorant American.

But domestically, that is where the real story is unfolding. That’s all Americans care about anyway. They have no idea where Yemen is, or Syria. They have no idea where Vietnam is, for that matter. They DO-NOT-CARE. But Trump’s pandering to white racists and all the Christian evangelicals, and, of course, Jeff Sessions; those things do have a Trump imprint. And it’s ugly. And that ugliness was always there. I mean, literally always there. Since Salem, in fact. Since the first slave ship landed in Virginia. Remember the civil rights fight? Remember there were race riots early in the 20th century in at least a dozen cities. It’s not new. Trump didn’t invent it. But he has allowed it to surface again. And it is in this Manichaean melodrama of the NEW Exceptionalism meets the old racism that the surreal and hallucinatory story of American madness is playing out. The United States is sinking under the weight of its contradictions, ideologically, and it’s also materially crumbling. And it is economically propped up in part by those trillions of dollars associated with the defense industry. With those 900 bases. And with an expanding NATO. I mean if NATO gets much bigger there wont be many places for NATO to attack. And that’s a sobering thought. The homeless encampments around every city in America are the legacy of so called American Century. That is the end of the line for Western capital and rugged individualism. The postscript to Manifest Destiny is a nation of absolute misery, over medicated, and trying hard to NOT see the misery around them. To not see their neighbors have moved….to the nearest homeless encampment. Not see that yet more record days of heat have arrived. Not see that everything is poisoned and wrapped in plastic anyway. Of polluted lakes and scorched earth. A nation of narcissism and despair in equal measures. But at least they can hate Trump together. In that sense the Anti-President is a gift.

In Afghanistan, Our Need to Rethink the Institution of War

It’s frustrating that whereas all human beings wish to live meaningful lives, we seem helpless in the face of a few individuals waging wars and exploiting our world.

But we can each do something about this insensible status quo, as ordinary folk of the People’s Peace Movement ( PPM) show us by taking one barefoot-step at a time, traveling to the Northern areas of Afghanistan to persuade fellow Afghans, whether they’re with ‘insurgent groups’ or with the U.S./NATO/Afghan forces, to stop fighting.

The People’s Peace Movement (PPM) walking barefoot to the Northern provinces of Afghanistan, led by a blind member of their group, Zindani (Photo taken from PPM’s Facebook Page)

Their action of walking without shoes suggest to us that, for us to survive today’s militarized and profit-driven norms, we have to live each day differently, and with clarity and compassion.

We’ve been thinking that we need armies to stop ‘terrorists’, but armies don’t stop ‘terrorists’. Instead, they give ‘terrorists’ reason to keep fighting.

We need to think anew.

Moreover, the roots of ‘terrorism’ lie within ourselves. We are our own source of wars.

Iqbal Khyber, a representative of PPM, told the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) about how violence has taken root in all of us. “A blind member of our group, Zindani (a name he gave himself after he was blinded by a Taliban-planted roadside bomb, meaning ‘imprisoned’ ) had so much pain in him that one evening when we were camped outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, he pleaded with me, ‘Can I throw a pebble at the fence?’ ”

“I advised Zindani, ‘No, we need to end the anger inside us.’” Iqbal continued.

Zindani is rightfully angry because he has been hurt by all sides of the Afghan conflict, like all civilians in all wars. His father literally disappeared from his life when he was just seven, as a bomb from a U.S. airstrike in Helmand left ‘a crater so large that no trace of his father and uncle could be found’. Years later, another bomb, this time a Taliban device, killed his sister and blinded him. He not only lost his sight, but he also lost the chance to marry the teenage love of his life.

The crowd at the PPM’s meeting in Kabul on the 9th of August 2018. Zindani is determined to end war (Photo by Dr Hakim)

At a large gathering in Kabul, Zindani sat in front of a crowd of Afghans who were shouting, “We want peace! Enough war! ” He had a brown turban wrapped over his head and eyes, and a Borderfree blue scarf of the Afghan Peace Volunteers draped around his neck.

Zindani is determined to end war (Photo by Dr. Hakim)

He was quiet.

But his stand was clear. He had already walked more than 700 km from Helmand to Kabul, and he was ready to persist.

He couldn’t see the crowd before him, but he could hear them, and understand their intense desire to end the war.

What makes us think that ordinary people like Zindani, or we ourselves, cannot end ‘terrorism’ and wars through nonviolent methods? Misinformation has infected us with doubts.

One way to work through those doubts is to emulate Zindani, members of the PPM and the APVs: relate person-to-person, ask, “How can we live better?”, listen, love.

And to take courage in not doubting love when we encounter it.

“I was suspicious of their intentions. Politicians and leaders have misused the people so much we can no longer trust one another. But, when I met and conversed with these people from Helmand, I knew we could work together,” Masuma testified to the other Volunteers who had gathered on another occasion to hear from four members of the Movement.

How about fear? How do we deal with legitimate fears?

The Volunteers were grappling with multiple concerns before they went to the big meeting organized by the PPM, held just next to Ghazi Stadium, where the Taliban used to execute people publicly.

Surely, Zindani, with his past trauma of losing eight family members to war, has been afraid all through his dark journey. Fear is an emotion we can work with, like our experience of fear even in love, like Zindani did in creating two poetic lines for his teenage girl-friend:

I am too scared to even drink water
It may fade my beloved’s name on my heart.

Love triumphs over fear.

“We’ll go together, come what may,” Khalid, an Afghan Peace Volunteer who is a university undergraduate, had said. At the large gathering, Khalid was so ‘fired up’ that he overcame his usual shyness for 30 seconds on stage, delivering two lines of a Pashto poem which meant:

Whatever you destroy,
don’t destroy my thoughts and my mind.

The young want an end to war (Photo by Dr Hakim)

 

The old want an end to war (Photo by Dr Hakim)

 

The APVs, the PPM and the people want an end to war (Photo by Dr Hakim)

That’s how we can overcome fear, and end the obsolete human institution of war.

We can love.

We can think anew.

We can turn up together.

In Afghanistan, Our Need to Rethink the Institution of War

It’s frustrating that whereas all human beings wish to live meaningful lives, we seem helpless in the face of a few individuals waging wars and exploiting our world.

But we can each do something about this insensible status quo, as ordinary folk of the People’s Peace Movement ( PPM) show us by taking one barefoot-step at a time, traveling to the Northern areas of Afghanistan to persuade fellow Afghans, whether they’re with ‘insurgent groups’ or with the U.S./NATO/Afghan forces, to stop fighting.

The People’s Peace Movement (PPM) walking barefoot to the Northern provinces of Afghanistan, led by a blind member of their group, Zindani (Photo taken from PPM’s Facebook Page)

Their action of walking without shoes suggest to us that, for us to survive today’s militarized and profit-driven norms, we have to live each day differently, and with clarity and compassion.

We’ve been thinking that we need armies to stop ‘terrorists’, but armies don’t stop ‘terrorists’. Instead, they give ‘terrorists’ reason to keep fighting.

We need to think anew.

Moreover, the roots of ‘terrorism’ lie within ourselves. We are our own source of wars.

Iqbal Khyber, a representative of PPM, told the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs) about how violence has taken root in all of us. “A blind member of our group, Zindani (a name he gave himself after he was blinded by a Taliban-planted roadside bomb, meaning ‘imprisoned’ ) had so much pain in him that one evening when we were camped outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, he pleaded with me, ‘Can I throw a pebble at the fence?’ ”

“I advised Zindani, ‘No, we need to end the anger inside us.’” Iqbal continued.

Zindani is rightfully angry because he has been hurt by all sides of the Afghan conflict, like all civilians in all wars. His father literally disappeared from his life when he was just seven, as a bomb from a U.S. airstrike in Helmand left ‘a crater so large that no trace of his father and uncle could be found’. Years later, another bomb, this time a Taliban device, killed his sister and blinded him. He not only lost his sight, but he also lost the chance to marry the teenage love of his life.

The crowd at the PPM’s meeting in Kabul on the 9th of August 2018. Zindani is determined to end war (Photo by Dr Hakim)

At a large gathering in Kabul, Zindani sat in front of a crowd of Afghans who were shouting, “We want peace! Enough war! ” He had a brown turban wrapped over his head and eyes, and a Borderfree blue scarf of the Afghan Peace Volunteers draped around his neck.

Zindani is determined to end war (Photo by Dr. Hakim)

He was quiet.

But his stand was clear. He had already walked more than 700 km from Helmand to Kabul, and he was ready to persist.

He couldn’t see the crowd before him, but he could hear them, and understand their intense desire to end the war.

What makes us think that ordinary people like Zindani, or we ourselves, cannot end ‘terrorism’ and wars through nonviolent methods? Misinformation has infected us with doubts.

One way to work through those doubts is to emulate Zindani, members of the PPM and the APVs: relate person-to-person, ask, “How can we live better?”, listen, love.

And to take courage in not doubting love when we encounter it.

“I was suspicious of their intentions. Politicians and leaders have misused the people so much we can no longer trust one another. But, when I met and conversed with these people from Helmand, I knew we could work together,” Masuma testified to the other Volunteers who had gathered on another occasion to hear from four members of the Movement.

How about fear? How do we deal with legitimate fears?

The Volunteers were grappling with multiple concerns before they went to the big meeting organized by the PPM, held just next to Ghazi Stadium, where the Taliban used to execute people publicly.

Surely, Zindani, with his past trauma of losing eight family members to war, has been afraid all through his dark journey. Fear is an emotion we can work with, like our experience of fear even in love, like Zindani did in creating two poetic lines for his teenage girl-friend:

I am too scared to even drink water
It may fade my beloved’s name on my heart.

Love triumphs over fear.

“We’ll go together, come what may,” Khalid, an Afghan Peace Volunteer who is a university undergraduate, had said. At the large gathering, Khalid was so ‘fired up’ that he overcame his usual shyness for 30 seconds on stage, delivering two lines of a Pashto poem which meant:

Whatever you destroy,
don’t destroy my thoughts and my mind.

The young want an end to war (Photo by Dr Hakim)

 

The old want an end to war (Photo by Dr Hakim)

 

The APVs, the PPM and the people want an end to war (Photo by Dr Hakim)

That’s how we can overcome fear, and end the obsolete human institution of war.

We can love.

We can think anew.

We can turn up together.

Marching for Peace: From Helmand to Hiroshima

I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese “Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers” who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism.  While we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe.  The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.

The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: “Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don’t die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy.”

The Japanese peace walkers marched to specifically halt the construction of a U.S. airfield and port with an ammunition depot in Henoko, Okinawa, which will be accomplished by landfilling Oura Bay, a habitat for the dugong and unique coral hundreds of years old, but many more lives are endangered. Kamoshita Shonin, a peace walk organizer who lives in Okinawa, says:

People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.

Sadly, the two unconnected marches shared one tragic cause as motivation.

Recent U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan include the deliberate targeting of civilian wedding parties and funerals, incarceration without trial and torture in Bagram prison camp, the bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz, the dropping of the ‘Mother of all bombs’ in Nangarhar, illegal transportation of Afghans to secret black site prisons, Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the extensive use of armed drones. Elsewhere the U.S. has completely destabilised the Middle East and Central Asia, according to The Physicians for Social Responsibility, in a report released in 2015, stated that the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone killed close to 2 million, and that the figure was closer to 4 million when tallying up the deaths of civilians caused by the U.S. in other countries, such as Syria and Yemen.

The Japanese group intend to offer prayers of peace this Monday at Hiroshima ground zero, 73 years to the day after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city, instantly evaporating 140,000 lives, arguably one of the worst ‘single event’ war crimes committed in human history. Three days later the U.S. hit Nagasaki instantly killing 70,000. Four months after the bombing the total death toll had reached 280,000 as injuries and the impact of radiation doubled the number of fatalities.

Today Okinawa, long a target for discrimination by Japanese authorities, accommodates 33 U.S. military bases, occupying 20% of the land, housing some 30,000 plus U.S. Marines who carry out dangerous training exercises ranging from rope hangs suspended out of Osprey helicopters (often over built-up residential areas), to jungle trainings which run straight through villages, arrogantly using people’s gardens and farms as mock conflict zones. Of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, many to most would have trained on Okinawa, and even flown out directly from the Japanese Island to U.S. bases such as Bagram.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan the walkers, who call themselves the ‘People’s Peace Movement’, are following up their heroic ordeal with protests outside various foreign embassies in Kabul.  This week they are outside the Iranian Embassy demanding an end to Iranian interference in Afghan matters and their equipping armed militant groups in the country. It is lost on no-one in the region that the U.S., which cites such Iranian interference as its pretext for building up towards a U.S.-Iran war, is an incomparably more serious supplier of deadly arms and destabilizing force to the region. They have staged sit-in protests outside the U.S., Russian, Pakistani and U.K. embassies, as well as the U.N. offices in Kabul.

The head of their impromptu movement, Mohammad Iqbal Khyber, says the group have formed a committee comprised of elders and religious scholars. The assignment of the committee is to travel from Kabul to Taliban-controlled areas to negotiate peace.

The U.S. have yet to describe its long term or exit strategy for Afghanistan. Last December Vice President Mike Pence addressed U.S. troops in Bagram: “I say with confidence, because of all of you and all those that have gone before and our allies and partners, I believe victory is closer than ever before.”

But time spent walking doesn’t bring your destination closer when you don’t have a map.  More recently U.K. ambassador for Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay, while speaking on how to resolve conflict in Afghanistan said: “I don’t have the answer.”  There never was a military answer for Afghanistan.  Seventeen years of ‘coming closer to victory’ in eliminating a developing nation’s domestic resistance is what is called “defeat,” but the longer the war goes on, the greater the defeat for Afghanistan’s people.

Historically the U.K. has been closely wedded to the U.S. in their ‘special relationship’, sinking British lives and money into every conflict the U.S. has initiated. This means the U.K. was complicit in dropping 2,911 weapons on Afghanistan in the first 6 months of 2018, and in President Trump’s greater-than-fourfold average increase on the number of bombs dropped daily by his warlike predecessors. Last month Prime Minister Theresa May increased the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan to more than 1,000, the biggest U.K. military commitment to Afghanistan since David Cameron withdrew all combat troops four years ago.

Unbelievably, current headlines read that after 17 years of fighting, the U.S. and Afghan Government are considering collaboration with the extremist Taliban in order to defeat ISKP, the local ‘franchise’ of Daesh.

Meanwhile UNAMA has released its mid-year assessment of the harm done to civilians. It found that more civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when UNAMA started systematic monitoring. This was despite the Eid ul-Fitr ceasefire, which all parties to the conflict, apart from ISKP, honoured.

Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict. An average of nineteen civilians, including five children, were injured every day.

This October Afghanistan will enter its 18th year of war with the U.S. and supporting NATO countries. Those young people now signing up to fight on all sides were in nappies when 9/11 took place. As the ‘war on terror’ generation comes of age, their status quo is perpetual war, a complete brainwashing that war is inevitable, which was the exact intention of warring decision makers who have become exceedingly rich of the spoils of war.

Optimistically there is also a generation who are saying “no more war, we want our lives back”, perhaps the silver lining of the Trump cloud is that people are finally starting to wake up and see the complete lack of wisdom behind the U.S. and its hostile foreign and domestic policies, while the people follow in the steps of non-violent peace makers such as Abdul Ghafoor Khan, the change is marching from the bottom up.

Okinawa to Hiroshima Peace Walk (Photo by Maya Evans)