Americans are down to 35% supporting the war on Afghanistan. The trouble is that our government officials, media pundits, and newspaper editors are part of the 35% and feel no particular obligation to represent the rest of us. And they repeat the same nonsensical justifications for the war so often that we imagine they're 90% instead of the 35% they are or the 20% they should be pretty soon if current trends continue. And one of their main arguments is that the war is good for the people of Afghanistan.
But what do Afghans think? Here's a powerful statement followed by the polling data. And here's a way you can ask Afghans yourself what they think: join a live audio callhappening until 7 pm ET January 1st. Or just listen to the live stream.
I was just on the call. I listened as Afghans and Americans asked each other about their lives. When it was my turn, I asked these courageous young Afghans how Americans should reply when their countrymen and women claim that the war is good for Afghans. They told me to look at the statistics from the Ministry of Health on the effects of the war, the bombings, the raids. Afghanistan now has the third highest infant mortality and in the past year 3,000 Afghan women and girls suffering from depression committed suicide. The war has made things worse, they told me.
After nine years of billions of dollars in "aid," they said, that money has gone to silence people and to create a culture of dependence among the hungry, and yet poverty is up to 42% now. The International Committee of the Red Cross says that Afghanistan is the worst it's been in 30 years (about as long, I might add, as we've been helping them out). A report from 29 NGOs, they pointed out, called "Nowhere to Turn," found that there seems to be no end in sight to the night raids and arming of militias.
To the argument that the Taliban would be worse, they pointed out that the war is leading many to join and call themselves the Taliban in order to fight the foreigners and are thereby being radicalized. What's not being addressed, they said, are the roots of terrorism: poverty, hate, revenge, anger, and the lack of meaningful relationships between peoples.
They also pointed out that the United States is funding both sides of the war, funneling money to the Taliban through the Pakistani military and through payoffs for safe-passage and by funding warlords.
They asked me what I thought they should do, and I replied that it was not my place to tell Afghans not to resist violently, but that I thought nonviolent resistance would be very powerful and is always underestimated. They told me they were working on it and laid out a Gandhian vision for a transition to peace, reparations, and restorative justice. I found it very encouraging.
Mike Ferner of Veterans for Peace is participating in this 24-hour call-a-thon from Afghanistan, and he Emailed me: "As crazy as it sounds, I'm glad I'm here and I think doing it here added an element for the youth group. I never saw plain old moral support work so well to brighten faces and spirits. These guys are really something."
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.
With peace as our vision,
Connected all are we,
Let me walk with my family
In perfect harmony.