With the U.S. commander in Afghanistan expected to ask President Obama to send more troops, peace groups are planning actions across the U.S. on Oct. 7, the eighth anniversary of the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
United For Peace and Justice, the national peace coalition, is urging grassroots peace and economic and social justice groups to gather in their cities and towns on Oct. 7 for “action, dialog, and reflection on the eight years of death and dying in Afghanistan.”
The events, UFPJ says, will raise the issues of “the costs, human and economic, of the occupation and war in Afghanistan and impact on the region.”
UFPJ, which was formed in 2002 as the Iraq war was looming, is calling on its 1,400 member groups to initiate local actions or educational events including teach-ins, vigils, rallies and delegations to congressional offices. Also suggested are phone call and letter-writing campaigns, house parties to raise money for Afghanistan relief or other aid to the Afghan people, and “creative actions to highlight the devastating effects of the drone air strikes” on civilians in the region.
President Obama was elected with hopes for diplomacy, not war, the coalition notes. With recent polls showing 54 percent of Americans believe the Afghanistan war is a mistake, “the peace movement is challenged to organize the hope for change into a movement to end the war in Afghanistan as one of the big steps towards addressing the crisis in our communities,” UFPJ says. “With every bomb dropped and every civilian and military death, we are no closer to helping the Afghan people and the region to grapple with their problems. In fact, the U.S. presence is the biggest obstacle to doing so.”
The Oct. 7 events are “aimed at galvanizing the grassroots” to blunt the expected Pentagon request for more troops, Judith LeBlanc, UFPJ national organizing coordinator, said. LeBlanc said there is a growing consensus “that there should not be an escalation, it has to end.” The question, she said, is “not only does it need to end, but how? It’s a complicated question — people have many questions about what will happen to the Afghan people, the women.” Therefore, teach-ins, house parties and similar events are important to “expose some of the myths, explain the costs of the U.S. military involvement, highlight the importance of political engagement to create a better international framework in the region, and bring pressure to bear on Congress to speak out.”
“We need an open congressional debate on what the U.S. goals are and what the timetable is to get our troops out,” she said.
More information is available at www.unitedforpeace.org.
Two days before the war’s anniversary, on Oct. 5, a coalition led by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance will hold a procession to the White House, deliver a petition calling for an end to the Afghanistan war, and hold a nonviolent direct action in Washington. The pacifist group, founded in 2002 as the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, says it is “committed to ending the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and trying to encourage our government to invest in human needs rather than death and destruction.”
The petition can be signed online at www.iraqpledge.org/nogoodwar.html. Along with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the petition asks the U.S. government to “fund vigorous international efforts at assisting Afghans with the rebuilding of their decimated infrastructure.” It appeals to President Obama to “close a tragic chapter in our nation’s history, restore its honor and improve our relationship with the global community.”
Peace Action, is calling for “out-of-Afghanistan” house parties. The group says, “Now is the time to tap into the political momentum for peace and educate the American public about the need to remove foreign forces from Afghanistan and increase international support of Afghan-led aid and development.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., have called on the administration to present an exit plan and timetable. McGovern has introduced a bill, HR 2404, that would require the defense secretary to present an exit strategy by the end of the year. The bill, HR 2404, has 95 copsonsors to date, including seven Republicans. Feingold is calling for a “flexible timetable” for withdrawal. A petition pressing the Senate to demand an exit strategy is online at www.justforeignpolicy.org.
suewebb @ pww.org