Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Afghanistan's massacred innocents have names" by Art Laffin - Wash DC CW, May. 09, 2012 National Catholic Reporter

"Afghanistan's massacred innocents have names" by Art Laffin - Wash DC

CW, May. 09, 2012 National Catholic Reporter




With opinion polls showing high disapproval of the U.S. war in

Afghanistan and in the wake of the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago,

President Barack Obama's trip last week to Afghanistan was intended to

demonstrate to the American people and its allies that the war in

Afghanistan will soon end. Instead, Obama's visit, in the dark of

night, signaled a continuation of U.S. military involvement into the

future and more tragedy for the Afghan people.


The nightmare of unspeakable suffering for the Afghan people caused by

the war only seems to worsen with each passing day. On Friday, a

mother and her five children were killed by U.S./NATO strikes in the

Helmand province. And on Monday, it was reported that eight more

civilians died from another U.S./NATO airstrike in the Badghis



This Friday marks two months since the massacre in Kandahar province

of 17 civilians, including nine children. It was reported that three

women and nine children were killed in their sleep, and some of the

victims' bodies were burned beyond recognition.


According to the Pentagon, a single American soldier, Staff Sgt.

Robert Bales, was responsible for these deaths. However, a probe [1]

by several Afghan lawmakers concluded that other U.S. soldiers were

also involved.


This is not the first massacre of Afghan civilians by U.S. military

and NATO forces. There have been several others, mostly of children,

in the last year. When accounts of these massacres are reported in the

public media, the names of the victims are rarely, if ever, noted. The

U.S. military has gone to great lengths to prevent the American people

from seeing photos of the victims, hearing their names or reading

accounts of their lives. So long as this is the case, it makes it

easier for the public to acquiesce to such massacres.


If we don't know the names and can't see the faces of the dead, how

can we really care about them or their grieving families? They are, in

fact, practically invisible. But these victims are real people with

identities and histories.


Thanks to friends from Voices for Creative Nonviolence who have gone

to Afghanistan and have developed friendships with Afghan Youth for

Peace Volunteers, the names of victims in two massacres have been



Additional names appeared in a story in The New York Times, along with

the voice of a father, Abdul Zahid, whose children were killed in a

U.S./NATO airstrike a month earlier. In that story [2], Zahid

describes the area in which he lives and how he experienced the



"We don't have paved roads, school or a clinic in Gayawa. There's

almost one meter of snow here in our village and we send our children

to take care of the goats and sheep and feed them and collect firewood

from the trees nearby and bring it home so we can heat our homes."On

Feb. 8 when the bombing happened, the children had gone as usual to

the grazing area outside the village. They had just finished letting

the animals graze and had made a small fire to keep warm when they

were bombed, he said.


"Suddenly some airplanes came and dropped bombs on the children and

killed my son, my two nephews and some other children from our

village," said Mr. Zahid. "When we went there we saw the children in

pieces, some missing legs, some missing arms, only the heads and face

could be recognized, nothing else."


According to a former Afghan Parliamentarian, Malalai Joya, these

"images will come as a shock to many outside Afghanistan, but not to

us. We have seen countless incidents of American and NATO forces

killing innocent people like birds."


While U.S. military and political officials have offered apologies for

several of these shameful acts of violence, these apologies ring

hollow to the victims' families as long as the killing and ruthless

occupation continues.


And while amounts of up to $50,000 in compensation have been offered

to these families, no amount of money can ever compensate for the

death of a loved one. Meanwhile, the toll of civilian deaths continues

to rise, as it has for the fifth straight year -- from almost 2,800 in

2010 to more than 3,000 in 2011.


In response to the March 11 massacre, Secretary of Defense Leon

Panetta is reported to have said [3] in an interview: "War is hell.

These kind of events and incidences are going to take place. They've

taken place in any war. They're terrible events. This is not the first

of those events, and they probably won't be the last."


I agree with Panetta that "war is hell." But if he really believes

that is true, that the loss of life is so terrible and that similar

atrocities will probably occur in the future, why wouldn't he or other

officials who share the same belief urge the U.S. to immediately put

an end to these things?


Is it because of a moral blindness that causes us to betray God's law

to the point where war has become an addiction? Is it to protect and

ensure vital U.S. geopolitical and economic interests in the region,

like natural gas and almost $1 trillion in untapped mineral resources

that include iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals

such as lithium?


God commands us to love and not to kill. It is the responsibility of

all followers of Jesus to nonviolently resist any act of systemic and

personal violence, and to stand in solidarity with and care for the



If the U.S. war against Afghanistan is really to end, we have to see

the Afghan people as our brothers and sisters -- as if they were

literally members of our own families -- and know their names. The

United States must then beg forgiveness from the Afghan people, repent

for the sin of war-making, immediately end its immoral and illegal

occupation, and make reparations to the people of Afghanistan.


Washington-area peacemakers read the names of the March 11 victims at

a Lenten prayer service March 30 in front of the White House and

publicly repented for this unspeakable war crime. On Good Friday, 10

peacemakers and I were arrested at the Pentagon as we prayed in

silence around a cross and held signs that said "Put Away the Sword"

and "We Remember the Afghan Victims Massacred on March 11th: Mohamed

Dawood, Khudaydad, Payendo, Nazar Mohamed, Robeena, Shatarina, Zahra,

Nazia, Masooma, Farida, Palwasha, Nabia, Esmatullah, Essa Mohamed,

Faizullah, and Akhtar Mohamed."


At our trial May 18, I intend to solemnly remember these precious lives.


War is hell. It is hell for our grieving Afghan sisters and brothers

who live under occupation and face constant misery and death. And it

is hell for U.S. soldiers and their families, especially those who

have died, committed suicide or who have been physically wounded and

mentally scarred for life.


When President Obama was in Afghanistan on May 1, he met with Afghan

President Hamid Karzai and signed "The Strategic Partnership

Agreement," pledging a withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2014

and providing U.S. military training, support and other aid through



The time is now, not in 2014 and beyond, to end the slaughter in Afghanistan.


Art Laffin is a member of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community in Washington, D.C.


Copyright © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company


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