Today marks the beginning of the ninth year of war in Afghanistan. The ongoing conflict has claimed the lives of 804 Americans and an unaccounted number of civilians. Over 1,500 civilians have been killed since January of this year alone, the Chicago Tribune reported. Accounts of wedding receptions and schools being bombed are no longer as heart-breaking as they once were because of how commonplace they have become, with the United States’ increased war presence in Afghanistan and no end in sight.
The United States’ has 65,000 troops in Afghanistan with military requests for tens of thousands of more troops. NATO has 40,000 troops there, also. On Monday of this week, October 5, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs answered questions from reporters regarding the war in Afghanistan as over 500 people gathered outside the White House to protest the war. Gibbs was quoted as saying that pulling out of Afghanistan is “not something that had ever been entertained.” Furthermore, CBS reports the following:
The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama considers it “tremendously important” to listen to Congress about the flagging war in Afghanistan but will not base his decisions on the mood among lawmakers or eroding American public support for the war.
Had Obama stepped outside of the White House and beyond the black, wrought-iron fence that Witness Against Torture had chained themselves to and onto the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk where folks from groups like Veterans for Peace and the War Resisters’ League mourned the dead, he might reconsider making such comments.
The famous “postcard picture zone” has historically been one of the premier locations for Americans to exercise their right to free speech and right to petition their government for redress of grievances. Women won the right to vote from Suffragists showing up on the White House sidewalk. They were, of course, summarily arrested for their civil resistance.
So would be the small, yet determined coalition of peace groups calling for a new foreign policy that: “Mourns the Dead, Heals the Wounded, and Ends the Wars.” The coalition, organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, is the smoldering embers of what was once a raging, hot peace movement until the Obama presidency (as a supposed anti-war candidate) doused out the movement.
Yet when the U.S. Secret Service abused 23 nonviolent protesters and the U.S. Park Police arrested 61 people expressing their dissatisfaction with their government’s criminal activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo and the White House responds with blatant disregard for democratic process and public will, the reality of the Obama administration continuing the Bush legacy of imperial war and human rights abuses becomes more clear. These illegalities belong to Obama and his supporters now.
The question that remains unanswered though, is to what lengt the American peace movement is willing to suffer abuse, jail, and humiliation through its commitment to Gandhian nonviolence as it engages the most powerful, most violent government in the world to convert it to the way of peace? Hopefully Monday’s actions by these nonviolent resistance communities and organizations are the signs of a renewed commitment to ending the U.S.-sponsored violence and the beginning of a truly revolutionary peace movement.
Despite its inaccuracies and omissions, Aaron Sorkin’s new film does what Hollywood films never do: humanize the peace movement.
From marching in the streets to forming human walls of protection around protesters, veterans are playing a quiet but important role in demanding racial justice.
If we don’t have an unwavering commitment to healing as we mobilize this election season, we will always be in crisis.