May 21, 2013 – Kabul–Since 2009, Voices for Creative Nonviolence has maintained a grim record we call the “The Afghan Atrocities Update” which gives the dates, locations, numbers and names of Afghan civilians killed by NATO forces. Even with details culled from news reports, these data can’t help but merge into one large statistic, something about terrible pain that’s worth caring about but that is happening very far away.
It’s one thing to chronicle sparse details about these U.S. led NATO attacks. It’s quite another to sit across from Afghan men as they try, having broken down in tears, to regain sufficient composure to finish telling us their stories. Last night, at a restaurant in Kabul, I and two friends from the Afghan Peace Volunteers met with five Pashtun men from Afghanistan’s northern and eastern provinces. The men had agreed to tell us about their experiences living in areas affected by regular drone attacks, aerial bombings and night raids. Each of them noted that they also fear Taliban threats and attacks. “What can we do,” they asked, “when both sides are targeting us?”
Clive Stafford Smith on the outrageous case of Shaker Aamer who has been detained for 12 years without charge and tortured systematically. Guantanamo, he argues, is in many ways worse than death row or Soviet gulags.
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a sociologist and editor of Pulsemedia.org, discusses the highly contested estimated number of Iraqi deaths due to the 2003 US invasion; why Iraq Body Count (the media’s go-to source) vastly under-reports casualties; how “excess death” statistical studies work; and how low-balling the costs of war – in terms of blood and treasure – distorts the public debate.
“Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own. Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or displace Palestinian families from their homes Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land” (President Barak Obama in Israel 2013).
Would that the President might take his own advice—“Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes”—he need only open his eyes beyond the wall that imprisons the Palestinians he speaks about: see how the wall blinds the Jews to the plight of the people they drove from their land, see the barren landscape on the other side rubble strewn, savaged by bulldozers and missiles, see the people caught in a maelstrom of poverty and deprivation, listen to the mothers and wives weep for their husbands and sons jailed without charge in Israel’s Gulag where escape comes by self-starvation as the only defense against indefinite torture and lives lost to family and friends, listen to the cries of the people of the world who have condemned this barbaric behavior only to run into the President’s own wall–the veto in the UN Security Council that effectively denies the justice he so righteously exalts, “Peace is also just.” How true and how easily it could be made a reality if he were to simply abstain during the vote that sought to bring this defiant state before the International Court of Justice finally after 64 years of impunity to the very justice this President mouths, as though saying it levitates him beyond criticism.