CW, May. 09, 2012 National Catholic Reporter
With opinion polls showing high disapproval of the
Afghanistan and in the wake of the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago,
President Barack Obama's trip last week to
demonstrate to the American people and its allies that the war in
night, signaled a continuation of
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
civilians died from another U.S./NATO airstrike in the Badghis
This Friday marks two months since the massacre in
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 
by several Afghan lawmakers concluded that other
This is not the first massacre of Afghan civilians by
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
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
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 , 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
us. We have seen countless incidents of American and NATO forces
killing innocent people like birds."
several of these shameful acts of violence, these apologies ring
hollow to the victims' families as long as the killing and ruthless
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
Panetta is reported to have said  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
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
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
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
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
have died, committed suicide or who have been physically wounded and
mentally scarred for life.
When President Obama was in
President Hamid Karzai and signed "The Strategic Partnership
Agreement," pledging a withdrawal of
The time is now, not in 2014 and beyond, to end the slaughter in
Art Laffin is a member of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community in Washington, D.C.
Copyright © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company