From Afghanistan to Bangor
by Christina Diebold, editor of Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine Newsletter. (This article was prepared for the newsletter.)
More than 50 people, some of whom traveled from Houlton and Deer Isle, crammed into the Peace & Justice Center on August 21 to hear peace activist Kathy Kelly tell about her experiences in Afghanistan. Kelly has been witnessing and reporting the effects of war by living with ordinary Iraqis and Afghans. She has made numerous trips to Afghanistan, staying a month at a time because of visa regulations, living in a home in Kabul with Afghan peace volunteers. Seamstresses come there to make clothing for sale, and children come for English classes and after-school activities.
“Women come to me and say, ‘I feel I’m going mad, because I can’t get bread for my children,’ “ Kelly related. With economic sanctions on Iran, the price of wheat has climbed 60%, she said.
On the other hand, the U.S. is spending $2 billion a week on its war in Afghanistan, or $1 million per year for each soldier there.
Where is the madness, she asked, when years of such a costly war have not improved the lives of Afghans but just the opposite, especially taking into account the civilians who have been maimed or killed by U.S. drone strikes.
Kelly noted that polls show 60-70% of Americans oppose continuing the war in Afghanistan, yet allow it to continue with a “strange passivity.” She has concluded that if Americans can be convinced that a U.S. war is “humanitarian” they will go along with it. But Kelly used maps to argue that the war, far from humanitarian, is being waged for geopolitical purposes and is likely to continue for many more years.
When a young man in the audience asked what can be done, she offered a number of suggestions: live and work in such a way as not to pay taxes; learn another language, such as Dari; spend a month in Kabul living with the people; go to the offices of congresspeople and urge them to support HR 270 calling for bringing U.S. troops home; constantly ask community leaders about the war – “make a nuisance of yourself”; listen to Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now and educate yourselves with weekly gatherings and book reading.
Kathy Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, www.vcnv.org.