Resisting Endless War in Afghanistan – Monday, October 5th

As I reflect on Afghanistan, it’s incredible to realize that the first nonviolent action in Washington D.C. resisting this war, organized by myself and a few colleagues, was nearly eight years ago, on January 20, 2002. Think about it – children who were only  ten years old when the planes struck the World Trade Towers and Pentagon on 9/11 are now being suited up to fight in Afghanistan.

When will this madness end?

When will we ever hear a clear or valid mission for our troops, or learn the true number of Afghani civilians being killed, or see the pictures of the ongoing death and destruction on our TV screens? When will someone in charge remember why Afghanistan is called “the graveyard of empires,” and acknowledge that our military occupation has no more chance of succeeding than did those of the Soviet Union, Britain or Genghis Khan?

It’s only getting worse. This year has already become the deadliest for U.S. troops in our eight years there, and it’s only the end of September. President Obama’s newly appointed commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, has arrived in Washington to urgently request more troops be sent –  as the military always requests when a war isn’t going well.

For his part, the president is now said the be “re-evaluating” the strategy in Afghanistan, with no deadline set for  a decision on more troops. And yet, as the relentlessly pro-war Washington Post editorial page reminds us, it was only this past March 27 when Mr. Obama set forth what he called “a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan” that “marks the conclusion of a careful policy review,” and sent thousands more troops there as a result.

So do we need a new strategy every six months? Or could the President’s reticence have something to do with the fact that the American public suddenly seems awakened from its slumber, with a majority now opposing our open-ended occupation of Afghanistan?

And it’s more than just Afghanistan, of course, as Mr. Obama is spreading this war into neighboring Pakistan more and more everyday through the illegal and immoral use of unmanned Predator drones – cowardly attacks that, according to Congressional testimony by David Kilcullen, former adviser to General Petraeus, kill about  50 bystanders and/or innocent victims for each targeted “extremist.” Yet drone attacks have increased under the Obama Administration, and incredibly enough they plan to increase them still more, even as newspapers report a (wholly predictable) increase in anti-American sentiment sweeping Pakistan.

As the late, great author and humorist Molly Ivins once noted, it’s hard to convince people that you’re killing them for their own good.

It seemed only fitting that, in the middle of all this, I had the privilege to see The Actors’ Gang production of The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, Daniel Berrigan’s play about the burning of draft files in 1968, a nonviolent direct action which helped spark the anti-Vietnam war movement. It was immensely powerful to hear the testimonies of the nine activists (and remarkable to realize how much they were allowed to say in court) –  to hear their personal encounters with American militarism around the world, from South and Central America to Vietnam, that compelled them to act.

It also seemed somehow dated, even quaint. It is difficult for a contemporary audience, so numbed by daily sanitized reports of bombings, violence and war, to comprehend how anyone could be so moved as to risk imprisonment (which they all received) in an attempt to call attention to a moral outrage being perpetrated by their own government. Too many Americans today have come to accept the belief that they are powerless to effect anything important. That’s our loss – and humanity’s.

Because the opinion of a large number of Americans, even a majority, is important, but it’s not enough to stop a war. When Henry David Thoreau observed that “dissent without resistance is consent,” he might as well have been talking about public opinion polls. Majorities telling their opinions to pollsters means nothing. Physical actions, including nonviolent resistance, do mean something, as we can see in every successful social change movement in our nation’s history.

Those who want to act against endless war in Afghanistan and Pakistan have an ideal opportunity this coming Monday, October 5th, the eve of the war’s eighth anniversary. On that day a coalition of national groups, including the War Resisters League, Witness Against Torture, Veterans for Peace, Peace Action, Voice for Creative Nonviolence and my old friends and colleagues at the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, are organizing a direct nonviolent action at the White House, accompanied by local actions around the country.

The action is in opposition to eight years of a brutal and senseless war we are inflicting upon the Afghani (and now Pakistani) people, to our government’s continued occupation of Iraq, its continued use of indefinite detention (at Guantanamo and now Bagram prison in Afghanistan), and its unwillingness to seek accountability for torture.

For more information on the rally, march and nonviolent direct action, go to

Moral outrages and government crimes begun under the Bush Administration are now being continued by the Obama Administration, and our collective opinions will not be enough to stop them. Action, including nonviolent direct action, is required. It is time to start showing President Obama that we mean business, and bring these wars to an end – before yet another generation of children is sacrificed on their bloody altar. Join us on October 5th.

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Gordon Clark is the former national director of Peace Action (1996 – 2001), the nation’s largest grassroots peace organization, and founder and former coordinator of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, formerly the Iraq Pledge of Resistance (2002-2007).

One Response to “Resisting Endless War in Afghanistan – Monday, October 5th”

  1. Simon Owens Says:

    There’s actually a peace advocacy group that is marking the 8th anniversary of the Afghanistan war by flooding the White House’s Facebook fan page over the next few days.

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