Our politicians have lied and misled, our journalists have failed, but they remain 'our' journalists, 'our' politicians, 'our' laws, 'our' army, and 'our' planes. So what do we do?
Stop the War Coalition
7 October 2011
It begins with a simple question. For ten years now, we have lived the 'War on Terror'. We have seen our planes annihilate innocent people, our army invade and conquer, and our laws bent into tools to silence and oppress. Words like “rendition” and “collateral” have become familiar; “peace” and “justice” alien.
Our politicians have lied and misled, and our journalists have failed. Yet they remain our journalists, our politicians, our laws, our army, and our planes. We are faced, then, with this simple question: what will we do?
In Afghanistan, millions of people will rise this morning to a living hell. They have endured decades of civil war, disease, starvation, and invasion.
Three million of their brothers, sisters and friends have fled, and hundreds of thousands are displaced. Ten years ago today, one of the most savage bombing campaigns in modern history began on their villages and towns. By December 2001, over 3,000 were dead. The body count has since risen to many times that.
For ten years now, we have occupied a country where one in five children die before they reach five years old, and one in eight women die while pregnant or in childbirth. Life expectancy in Afghanistan is just 45 – the lowest on earth – and an overwhelming majority do not have access to clean drinking water. The occupation has been brutal. Across Afghanistan, the Coalition runs torture prisons from 'The Hangar' in Bagram, to the 'Salt Pit' and 'Dark Prison' near Kabul.
Yet, in the darkest of places there are lights. In a country ravaged by war and military occupation – a country where women face the most extreme oppression – Malalai Joya stood at Loya Jirga in 2003, and condemned the “warlords responsible for our country's situation”. The Warlords who have ravaged Afghanistan (many of whom were allied with the Coalition), she said, “should be prosecuted” and “will not be forgiven by history”. For this she was banished.
Faced, as we are today, with the responsibility to end killing and cruelty, Ms. Joya chose to speak, and to stand. Across the Arab world we have seen millions make the same choice. In Egypt's Tahrir Square, Bahrain's Pearl Square, and Yemen's Change Square, despite the danger, we have watched men and women stand and speak for freedom and justice. What is difficult for them, is easy for us.
We, who have power and privilege that they cannot but dream of, also have responsibility. In standing and speaking against the terrors of the earth, we announce our determination to build a better world. We announce that we will no longer support governments for whom 'targeted killings', torture and 'pre-emptive war' supplant peace and diplomacy.
If we are to build a world of justice and peace, the journey will not end in demonstration alone. We must enshrine conditions in law that make direct electoral mandate obligatory for acts of war; without them the crimes of the last decade will be repeated. But such steps require first that we, like Malalai Joya, stand and speak.
It is in public demonstration that the answer to the question 'what will we do?' lies. For in standing and speaking we announce that we are, as Tennyson said, “that strength which in old days/ moved earth and heaven”, we are “one equal temper of heroic hearts... strong in will/ to strive, to seek, to find, but not to yield.”
We will be there.
Anti-War Mass Assembly Afghanistan 10 Years On Trafalgar Square London 8 October Sign the pledge...