from the speech delivered by AWC member, Jess Sundin, at a Minneapolis protest on October 17, 2009.
Here we are, just past the 8-year mark for this U.S. war and occupation in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed by U.S. air strikes, bombs, and bullets, and the Afghani infrastructure has been devastated. Month after month, hospitals are ransacked, whole villages are destroyed. So far, 869 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan since the occupation began in 2001 – with over a quarter of those killed in the past ten months alone. There are 4000 U.S. wounded. And now we face the likely plans of Pres. Obama to expand the U.S. presence there, adding 40,000 more troops to the 67,000 already stationed in Afghanistan.
This is a difficult time for the anti-war movement. Many of the people who marched for peace with in Iraq, aren’t speaking out for Afghanistan. Watching the nightly news, you don’t see images of a country at war. In fact, just last month, the Pentagon has new policy prohibiting media from photographing US soldiers killed in combat. And people want to believe Obama, who they voted for in part because he encouraged their hopes for an end to war, they want to believe he is doing the right thing. But we know, and according to public opinion polls, most people realize he’s not doing the right thing. 57% of people – an all-time high – oppose the continuing war in Afghanistan.
Even so, the war is not at the top of most people’s minds. Instead, they are fighting life and death battles for their own families right here. People are losing their health care, their homes, their jobs, and barely a social safety net to fall back on. But that doesn’t mean our work is not important. There continues to be a place for an anti-war movement
Not only for Afghanistan, but for Iraq. And for countries where our government supports and funds the oppression of people just like you and me – Palestine, Colombia and Honduras. Here we are, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, millions of us are losing our jobs, housing and health care, and the U.S. government has billions to spend for war, occupation and repression. Every dollar spent on war abroad not only creates crises in those countries, but takes food out of the mouths of kids here in our neighborhoods too.
There’s another very direct link between war and economic crisis: The US military recently announced it’s met all of its annual recruiting goals for the first time in thirty-five years. The Pentagon said the nation’s economic crisis played a key role in boosting enlistments. Senior Pentagon official Curtis Gilroy said a ten percent increase in the national unemployment rate generally translates into a four to six percent improvement in recruiting goals. People shouldn’t have to fight an unjust war, to secure economic security for themselves and their families. Sadly, we know that everyone of these soldiers faces the very real risk of being killed in Afghanistan.
You don’t have to see the new Michael Moore movie to know something is wrong with this system. People know the government’s priorities are warped and inhumane. And while that might not drive thousands of people to join us for these marches, it will drive them to open their minds.
The anti-war movement has to continue the important work of exposing what’s really going on in Afghanistan, the real aims and the real effects of the war being waged in our names. We must speak out in solidarity with the besieged people of Afghanistan. We must continue protesting, and raising clear demands.
There will be no justice for the Afghan people while U.S. and NATO forces occupy their country. Only full U.S. and NATO withdraw will give the Afghan people self-determination, their right. It is the continued responsibility of activists in the US to demand an end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to insist that the hundreds billions of dollars being used to pay off the banks and wage war on peoples around the world be used for social needs at home, like education and healthcare.
Money for housing, not for war, hands off Afghanistan!