Speaking Truth to Power

Students in Lahore, Pakistan, protest against the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (K.M. Chaudary/AP Photo/October 29, 2009)

by Kathy Kelly

There’s a phrase originating with the peace activism of the American Quaker movement: “Speak Truth to Power.”  One can hardly speak more directly to power than addressing the Presidential Administration of the United States. This past October, students at Islamabad’s Islamic International University had a message for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  One student summed up many of her colleagues’ frustration. “We don’t need America,” she said. “Things were better before they came here.”

The students were mourning loss of life at their University where, a week earlier, two suicide bombers walked onto the campus wearing explosive devices and left seven students dead and dozens of others seriously injured. Since the spring of 2009, under pressure from U.S. leaders to “do more” to dislodge militant Taliban groups, the Pakistani government has been waging military offensives throughout the northwest of the country.  These bombing attacks have displaced millions and the Pakistani government has apparently given open permission for similar attacks by unmanned U.S. aerial drones.   Every week, Pakistani militant groups have launched a new retaliatory atrocity in Pakistan, killing hundreds more civilians in markets, schools, government buildings, mosques and sports facilities.  Who can blame the student who believed that her family and friends were better off before the U.S. began insisting that Pakistan cooperate with U.S. military goals in the region?

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