NYC Press Conference–9 Years of Occupation and War in Afghanistan

NINE YEARS INTO AFGHAN WAR, U.S. VETERANS, COMMUNITY GROUPS, AND GLOBAL JUSTICE ACTIVISTS SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Photos available for reproduction at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/54613299@N03/sets/72157625115412508/

Listen to the Free Speech Radio News: Activists outline renewed strategy to end nine-year Afghan war

Washington Square News: Protesters rally against war in Afghanistan

Speakers included:

1. Prachi Patankar — South Asia Solidarity Initiative

2. Malalai Joya — elected to National Assembly of Afghanistan in 2005; the “bravest woman in Afghanistan”; chosen for the 2010 “TIME 100”  (audio statement recorded in Canada the day before)

3. David Wildman — United Methodist Church’s Board of Global Ministries; co-author of the book “Ending the U.S. War in Afghanistan

4. Kimber Heinz — National Organizing Coordinator of War Resisters League

5. Madiha Tahir – journalist reporting from Pakistan; South Asia Solidarity Initiative; Action for a Progressive Pakistan

6. Roger Wareham — Freedom Party of New York State

7. Fatima Hindi — Iraqi refugee organizer based in Chicago

8. Maritza Bravo — Vamos Unidos organizing Latino youth and street vendors

9. Fitzroy Searles — organizer with One Nation Working Together, which mobilized many tens of thousands to Washington DC on Oct 2.

10. Nasser Abdo — U.S. Army Private First Class, and Conscientious Objector [written statement]

11. Selena Coppa — Iraq Veterans Against the War

12. Charles Barron — City Council Member from Brooklyn; candidate for governor, Freedom Party of New York State

13. Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid — Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem

October 7, 2010, New York, NY —On Thursday morning on the ninth anniversary of the U.S.-NATO invasion of Afghanistan, a cross-section of veterans, community groups, and global justice organizations held a press conference in support of the united message that the ongoing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is bad for Afghan people of all genders, bad for U.S. soldiers, and bad for the people of the U.S.

Former Afghan parliamentarian Malalai Joya issued a statement about the Obama administration’s policy in Afghanistan, citing it as a major cause of the dire situation faced by Afghan women: “During Obama’s [time in] office the death toll increased by 24% as compared to the Bush administration. Their policies are a mirror image of each other. Democracy never comes by occupation forces…by cluster bombs or by white phosphorous. Under the banner of women’s rights, human rights, and democracy they occupied Afghanistan. Today’s situation of women is as catastrophic as it was under the domination of Taliban. Rape cases, acid attacks, killing of women is increasing rapidly.”

Members of the veterans organization Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) spoke on the day of the national launch of their Operation Recovery campaign, which calls for the right of current servicemembers who are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or other forms of trauma caused by past or current deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan to refuse future deployments. Published medical studies in 2008 and 2010 estimate that 20-50% of all service members deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan have likely suffered from PTSD. IVAW member and organizer Selena Coppa stated, “Veterans are sick and tired of the never-ending occupations. The U.S. military is strained. We are launching a new campaign defending our traumatized brothers and sisters’ right to heal without being deployed [for another tour].”

IVAW organizers also read a statement from current U.S. servicemember and Conscientious Objector Naser Abdo about Islamophobia in the U.S. that has followed the attacks on 9/11 and its connections to war from the perspective of a Muslim C.O.: “To a soldier, the association of terror and Islam serves the purpose of falsely justifying ones actions in combat by stripping Muslims of their humanity. The association of terror and Islam is what we now refer to as Islamaphobia…it is as if the US public is just recently following a trend that has been rampant in the military for years. Only when the military and America can disassociate Muslims with terror can we move onto a brighter future of the religious collaboration and dialogue that defines America and makes me proud to be an American.”

Madiha Tahir with Action for Progressive Pakistan and the South Asia Solidarity Initiative, spoke as a journalist about her recent trip to Pakistan: “What has gone unacknowledged in the war on what is referred to as ‘Af-Pak’ is that there is a war in Pakistan and that it is a separate war than the war going on in Afghanistan. This war goes unacknowledged here [in the U.S.] but there are very real human costs of it in Pakistan…If the concern of the U.S…is democracy in Pakistan, then it must work with the democratic forces in Pakistan—that means elected representatives and democracy movements.”

Maritza Bravo, with the youth project of Vamos Unidos, a Latino immigrant street vendors organization, spoke about the DREAM act, a proposed piece of legislation that would grant undocumented youth the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning, as a reinforcing the militarization of young people in the U.S. and the escalation of war abroad: “We, the Vamos Unidos youth, do not support the DREAM Act due to the military component. The DREAM Act is a de facto military draft, forcing undocumented youth to fight in unjust wars in exchange for the recognition as human beings, a Green Card.”

City Councilmember Charles Barron and Roger Wareham from the Freedom Party of NY State spoke to the effects of the war in the U.S. and to the value of social movements against war. Wareham stated that much of our resources at home “are being squandered in Afghanistan and Iraq, resources that need to be put back into this economy for the welfare of the majority of the population.” Councilmember Barron stated,”We are living in the richest city in the world yet we have the number one impoverished district in the country. Enough is enough–people need to rise up and say ‘no’ to war, ‘no’ to any forms of invading the privacy of anti-war activists by way of the FBI, [and ‘no’ to] any forms of that suppression of the right of people to rise up in dissent against an unjust and immoral war.”

Fitzroy Searles, youth and Brooklyn-area organizer for the October 2 One Nation Working Together rally in Washington D.C. also pointed to the costs of the war at home from his perspective as an organizer working closely with labor unions in the run-up to October 2: “We all want to see an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only do they cost us in human lives, but they also cost us in valuable resources that could be used here to improve our economy.”

David Wildman, Executive Secretary, Human Rights & Racial Justice, with the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries referred to the longer history of U.S. involvement in Afghan politics, linking it to military spending and the current U.S. presence in the country: “The U.S. will devote this year over 100 billion dollars [to Afghanistan]. Almost all of it will go to warfare.  The question that we need to ask today to public officials and the world is–what is that money doing to help the well-being of Afghans? Afghanistan has had thirty years of warfare and, sadly, the United States has contributed almost only weapons in that thirty years.”

Other speakers referred to the official end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq as of September 1, saying that there is still much suffering in Iraq due the past and current presence of U.S. forces. Kimber Heinz, National Organizing Coordinator of the War Resisters League said, “In preparation for next month’s elections, the Obama administration has been trying to turn over a number of new leaves– and to convince the American public that the Iraq war is over and the war in Afghanistan is winnable. Neither is the case…The Obama administration has continued to uphold the U.S. government project of global interventionism and endless war that was brought to a fever pitch during the Bush era.”

Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid, religious and spiritual leader of The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, NYC connected the ongoing organizing efforts against the war in Afghanistan to the outcry and demonstrations against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003: “The antiwar demonstrations that erupted globally before the Iraq war started was the greatest public demonstration of that type in human history. We knew how bad this was going to be.”

Iraqi refugee and Chicago-based organizer Fatima Hindi spoke about her experience as a refugee of U.S. war: “Since the US occupation of Iraq in 2003 the country has been devastated. Millions of refugees have been left without homes, mothers and fathers. I am one of those refugees.”

Many of the groups and individuals who spoke at the press conference gathered later that evening in NYC for a dinner and bridge-building event in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.

One response to “NYC Press Conference–9 Years of Occupation and War in Afghanistan

  1. Thank you very much to the organizers and participants of this event. We need to build solidarity and to draw attention to the fact that there is already a potential a ‘silent majority’ of Americans opposed to the war. Many, many are against the war, but cannot yet bring themselves to the point of speaking out. Each time an event like this occurs, it helps to awaken within the broader public the realization and admission that war is evil.

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