Saturday, April 16, 2011

Harper rally in Burnaby to be met by anti-war protesters

Conservative leader Stephen Harper is campaigning in the Lower Mainland today, and local anti-war activists say they will be there to greet him.

What: Anti-war protest outside Stephen Harper campaign rally
When: Saturday, April 16 · 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Where: 3030 Gilmore Diversion, off Canada Way just south of Hwy 1

With just over two weeks to go in the election campaign, Harper's visit is targeting key swing ridings like the one in Burnaby-Douglas.

"Burnaby has long been home to Members of Parliament who have had a strong tendency to oppose aggressive and expensive wars abroad -- it's the perfect place to greet Harper with an anti-war rally," said Derrick O'Keefe, StopWar Coalition and Canadian Peace Alliance co-chair, in reference to outgoing Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Bill Siksay and his predecessor Svend Robinson.

StopWar activists plan to carry placards and distribute flyers opposing the purchase of F-35 fighter jets, Canada's role in the NATO intervention in Libya, and the Harper government's extension of the war in Afghanistan. The protest follows an anti-war Day of Action coordinated by the Canadian Peace Alliance last Saturday, April 9, which saw protests held in ten Canadian cities and towns.

The protesters have received a helping hand from the 'Shit Harper Did' campaign, whose website has received over 3 million hits in just three days, and has become a social media sensation which could have a serious impact on the election campaign. The Facebook page posted a link to the StopWar rally, and this is generating extra interest in the last-minute rally.

"It's a hastily thrown together protest but we expect a sizable and spirited crowd," said O'Keefe. "Harper's people have been accused of keeping regular people out of his rallies, so we're inviting everyone to join our gathering instead," O'Keefe.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rally Against Harper: Say No to Billion$ on War and Fighter Jets

Harper's holding a "Rally for Canada" in Burnaby Sat... Let's show him we oppose his spending on war and occupation instead of on human needs.

Saturday, April 16 · 3:00pm - 5:00pm
Location: 3030 Gilmore Diversion, off Canada Way
Burnaby, British Columbia

Please spread the word and make plans to join us Saturday.


Links for further info

-Canadian Peace Alliance page:

-$30 Billion on fighter jets = election issue:

-"Kill Teams in Afghanistan: The Truth, by Malalai Joya:


Background on the war: Harper lied, Canadians and Afghans died

Time and time again, Stephen Harper assured the public that Canadian troops would withdraw from Afghanistan in 2011. Up to 1000 Canadian military staff will be staying until at least 2014...

The war in Afghanistan has reached new levels of brutality. Civilian casualties spiked in 2010 and the rate of killing is increasing each month. It's time for it to end. After almost ten years of occupation and a half a trillion dollars spent by NATO, Afghanistan still suffers from a lack of basic services and a corrupt NATO backed government.

The statistics are shocking. According to the Afghan Rights Monitor: “Almost everything related to the war surged in 2010: the combined numbers of Afghan and foreign forces surpassed 350,000; security incidents mounted to over 100 per week; more fighters from all warring side were killed; and the number of civilian people killed, wounded and displaced hit record levels.”

The NATO forces continue with air strikes that kill civilians such as during the 4 days of attacks on Ghazi Abad which started on February 16 and killed more than 60 civilians - 30 of which were children. In a single two week period between the 12th and 26th of February, 200 civilians were killed.

The Canadian deployment of another 1000 soldiers to act as trainers will only compound the problems faced by the Afghan people. Any support for the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai works against the aspirations of the Afghan people to live in a free and democratic society.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An Evening with Tom Hayden and Rodney Watson Jr.

An event taking place next week in Vancouver that StopWar is helping publicize, looking at anti-war movements from Vietnam to Iraq.

Big Dreams of Peace: An evening with special guest Tom Hayden

Wednesday, April 20, 7:30pm
First United Church, 320 East Hastings (at Gore)

Hosted and organized by Rodney Watson Jr., Iraq War veteran now war resister living in sanctuary at The First United Church

You are invited to hear Tom Hayden speak on peace building today and how he began his quest in the 60's. Hayden was a leader of Students of the Democratic Society (SDS) in the 1960s, and remains a peace and justice activist and writer today.

Tickets $20 or $30 (includes V.I.P meet and greet with Tom Hayden)

Tickets available for sale at People's Coop Bookstore, 1391 Commercial Dr, Ph: 604.253.6442

More Information:

-Check out this recent feature article in Vancouver Magazine on Rodney Watson Jr:

-Tom Hayden's Peace and Justice Resource Centre

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Monday for people, not for fighter jets

It's a simple sentiment that needs repeating during this ongoing federal election campaign. This article by StopWar recording secretary Kimball Cariou was published in

Last June, I wrote an article for the Georgia Straight in B.C. about the skyrocketing costs of purchasing new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets from U.S. munitions giant Lockheed Martin.

At the time, the news had just broken that the price tag had jumped from $3.8 billion for 80 F-35s when the deal was first proposed back in 2008, up to $9 billion for just 65 jets, plus another $7 billion on "ancillary costs" such as future parts and maintenance. The total price tag had more than quadrupled within just two years! Now we understand from Pentagon figures that the total cost of this purchase over a 30-year period is expected to hit $29 billion, a staggering sum for a country with serious social and economic problems.

Just three years ago, the individual jets were priced at $47.4 million each. Now the price for each jet, plus parts and maintenance, has jumped over $400 million, at a time when the Harper Conservatives are slashing social program spending.

And it gets worse. The original plan by the Conservatives was to replace the Canadian Forces' current fleet of CF-18 fighter jets. Since then, $2.6 billion has been spent to upgrade the CF-18s.

A Commons committee has investigated the purchase of the new fighters, including the price tag and whether Canada actually needs these weapons. Eyebrows were quickly raised over the news that there would be no other bids for the contract. Another controversy has focused on the fact that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a single-engine aircraft, unsuitable to patrol the Canadian Arctic. (The CF-18s have two engines, which many pilots consider an important safety feature.)

But the NATO war against Libya has raised even more serious issues over this massive boondoggle. With its payload of heavy armament, the F-35s are useful for only one purpose: to engage in modern warfare, bombing "enemy" nations.

A year ago, a survey conducted by Leger Marketing asked "With Canada's military role ending in Afghanistan next year, what should the focus be on the government's military spending?" Almost 60 per cent agreed with this answer: "Canada should take a peace dividend and cut back on military spending to focus on other more pressing social issues at home." Only 28 per cent of respondents wanted to "sustain or increase spending on the military because security in a post-9/11 world is of the highest priority".

Yet according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, "the Canada First Defence Strategy, unveiled by the Harper government in 2008, promises that Canada's military spending will continue to grow by an average of 0.6% in real terms (adjusted for inflation) and an average of 2.7% in nominal terms (not adjusted for inflation) per year from FY 2007-08 to 2027-28."

Total spending over the 20-year life of this plan would likely be in the $415-440 billion range (2009 dollars), or about $13,000 per Canadian, surely enough to cause us to rethink the quaint notion that this country's military spending is negligible.

Imagine what could be done with the $29 billion in savings by scrapping the F-35 deal! To give just a few examples, the public transportation systems of Canadian cities could be provided with 10,000 fuel-efficient new buses for just $5 billion.

We could restore the start-up cost of the cancelled national child-care program, for another $5 billion. To build 30,000 social housing units, at a cost of $200,000 each, would take another $6 billion -- an investment which would immediately save millions spent by provinces and municipalities on emergency services for homeless people.

The federal government could provide free post-secondary tuition for 50,000 students annually, for a total of about $8 billion over three decades. That would still leave another $5 billion for urgent needs such as providing clean drinking water to indigenous communities, or emergency aid to countries hit by natural disasters. These initiatives would create jobs, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce provincial government spending.

But Canada is governed today by a party which opposes these urgent priorities. The Harper Conservatives deny the environmental crisis, reject the concept of public childcare, and refuse to fund social housing.

In effect, Canada is ruled by a minority regime which places top priority on war making at the expense of the people. When we go to the polls on May 2, Canadians should send the message to all parties in Parliament that the shocking fighter jet purchase plan is a scandal and must be scrapped immediately.

Vancouver Rally: People Power, Not War!

On Saturday, April 9, StopWar Vancouver took part in a pan-Canadian Day of Action against the war in Afghanistan. At least ten Canadian cities and towns held events. In the United States this weekend featured anti-war rallies in New York City and San Francisco.

Here is the statement that StopWar distributed at the Vancouver rally.

People Power, Not War!

StopWar, Vancouver's broad-based anti-war coalition, is taking part in the cross-Canada day of action against the war in Afghanistan on April 9 with a rally and march starting from Library Square at 1 pm. We are demanding an end to the brutal and callous war in Afghanistan, cancellation of the proposed $29 billion purchase of F-35 fighter jets, and for solidarity with the peoples of the Arab world struggling for peace, democracy and social justice in their homelands.

The Canadian Peace Alliance and the Collectif Échec à la guerre (antiwar coalition in Montreal) issued the call for the April 9 day of action, to demand an end to the Afghanistan war and to bring Canadian troops home now. The majority of Canadians support this demand. They want governments to invest in health care, education and social housing, not more weapons of war. During the current federal election, these critical issues must be a key topic of debate and action.

The war in Afghanistan has reached new levels of brutality. Civilian casualties spiked in 2010 and the rate of killing is increasing. After almost ten years of occupation and a half a trillion dollars spent by NATO, Afghanistan still suffers from a lack of basic services and a corrupt NATO-backed government.

According to the Afghan Rights Monitor, "Almost everything related to the war surged in 2010: the combined numbers of Afghan and foreign forces surpassed 350,000; security incidents mounted to over 100 per week; more fighters from all warring side were killed; and the number of civilian people killed, wounded and displaced hit record levels."

The continued deployment of 1,000 Canadian soldiers in the guise of 'trainers' of the fledgling Afghan army and police will only compound the problems faced by the Afghan people. Canada's support for the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai works against the aspirations of the Afghan people to live in a free and democratic society. Self-determination for the Afghan people is the only solution to the current crisis.

In the words of former Afghan MP, Malalai Joya - "No nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears. "

Events in the Middle East and North Africa provide an inspiring example of people struggling to create a new society without intervention and against regimes supported by the big imperial powers. StopWar is absolutely opposed to the NATO bombing of Libya, which is a shocking violation of the UN Charter and an act of war against a sovereign country, under cover of a so-called "no fly zone". We condemn Canadian military involvement in Libya's internal civil conflict, which is the latest example of intervention to bolster imperialist control of energy resources in the region.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Canadian Peace Alliance: Most Afghans want NATO troops out of their country

Toronto - The most recent poll of Afghan attitudes towards NATO shows that a huge majority want NATO to leave their country. In fact, only 17 per cent want the West to stay after 2011.

“With violence increasing at alarming rates throughout the country and each new deployment of soldiers only making matters worse, these poll results are no surprise,” said Canadian Peace Alliance Co-Chair Chris Jones.

The poll, conducted in November by four major news agencies including the BBC, also showed a dramatic increase in the number of Afghans who think that attacks on foreign forces are justified, a four-fold increase compared to one year ago. This makes increasingly unlikely the notion asserted by Defence Minister Peter MacKay that Canada’s “training mission” after 2011 will take place in a “safe”, non-combat space in Afghanistan.

“The Afghan people have spoken and they are asking us to leave their country, and the Canadian people have spoken and they want the troops brought home,” said Derrick O’Keefe, Co-Chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance. “The questions is, who was Stephen Harper listening to when he decided to extend the Canadian troop deployment for another three years?”

One answer is U.S. Ambassador David Jacobsen who worked to broker the deal between the Conservatives and Liberals to extend the mission. It is also true that Canadian mining corporations have expressed interest in exploiting part of the nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral resources in the country. In short, the rich and powerful want Canadian troops to stay longer, against the wishes of the people in Afghanistan and in the NATO countries.

The Canadian Peace Alliance promises to continue its efforts to end the Canadian deployment to Afghanistan. “We have the backing of a clear majority of Canadians -- and this includes the involvement of increasing numbers of Afghan Canadians and military family members – as we carry on our push to bring the troops home,” said Jones.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Afghans don't trust Canadian forces

Canadian journalist Brian Hutchinson has reported from Afghanistan on a number of occasions since 2006. On returning recently to the country, he penned an interesting assessment of the situation on the ground:

The counterinsurgency is failing in the hinterland. Rural Afghans are still wary of foreign troops, even after almost nine years of intervention. ...

The situation is worst in rural Kandahar, where Canadian soldiers have operated since early 2006 and where they have never been made to feel welcome. Coalition soldiers no longer speak of winning local “hearts and minds.”

Kandaharis are in “self-survival mode,” a senior Canadian officer serving in Kandahar told me recently. “They’ve lived with war for 30 years,” the officer said. “They don’t trust anyone outside of their immediate family.” ...

[Disgraced former Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance's "model village" approach is the] most successful counterinsurgency measure introduced to Kandahar in the past four years.

Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much. Only one “model village” in Kandahar has seen any progress, in terms of stability and development. Deh-e-Bagh in Dand district, just south of Kandahar city, is not trouble-free, but it was peaceful enough this summer that Brig.-Gen. Vance could bring civilians there to walk about. We removed our body armour but we were not without armed escort.

Deh-e-Bagh is just one little village. It’s only a few kilometres removed from Afghanistan’s second largest city, which since July has been ringed by a network of walled vehicle checkpoints, manned by U.S. and Afghan soldiers.

The security ring looks impressive but inside Kandahar city, insurgents continue to target and kill government workers. “People do not look to ISAF forces as a source of protection and security, especially in the city itself,” says Peter Dimitroff, a former Canadian military officer who works as a civilian security advisor inside the provincial capital. ... (link)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Afghan protesters burn NATO base

Over the past several days, protests in Afghanistan reportedly stemming from threats to burn copies of the Koran in the US have met with armed police reactions which have resulted in injuries and at least four deaths. In the latest protest (Sept 15), Reuters reports that "thousands" of Afghans gathered in Kabul to denounce the United States and that such demonstrations are putting the upcoming Afghan elections in jeopardy.

Here I will look back on recent Afghan protests against the western-led occupation of that country, where it would appear that protesters' tactics have escalated. We saw last month that a spontaneous demonstration against American security contractors saw the crowd set fire to a couple of Dyncorp vehicles. One August protest went well beyond that, aiming to burn down a NATO base.

In late August, an incident in Afghanistan's northern province of Baghlan sparked a riot which targeted the Spanish-run NATO contingent there.

The trigger for the riot was an attack on Spanish troops by an apparent Afghan infiltrator. On August 25, an Afghan driver working for an Afghan police officer shot and killed three Spanish nationals (two police trainers and one Iranian-born translator). The attacker had been working for an Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) officer who was being trained by Spanish Civil Guard officers stationed in Qala-E Naw, the capital of Badghis province in Afghanistan's north. Reports emerged soon after that the Afghan attacker had relatives in the insurgency while Spain's El Pais noted that the same is true of most Afghans. However, some reports said the man had been picked up several times in the past on suspicion of being an insurgent. Others said he had even declared beforehand that he would attack the foreigners.

The attack is the latest in a spate of infiltration-style attacks on foreign forces in the country, so it is not so unusual. What distinguishes this attack is the riot which followed.

More from Reuters:

[According to Badghis governor Dilbar Jan Arman] at least 1,000 protesters tried to storm the base, which lies near the border with Turkmenistan.

Residents however said thousands of protesters had set fire to one part of the base.

One protester, who identified himself only as Abdullah, said there were also casualties among the protesters after troops inside the base fired on them. ... (link)
The Associated Press reports:
Afghans angry at the driver's death stormed the base in northwestern Badghis province with stones and set fire to at least one vehicle, underscoring the brewing resentment among many Afghans over the presence of foreigners on their soil and the problems in rapidly expanding Afghanistan's security forces. ...

When word of the shooting spread, several hundred angry men gathered outside the walls of the Spanish compound, shouting "Allahu Akbar," or God is Great, hurling stones and ripping down fences around the installation, Associated Press Television video showed. Gunshots rang out, although it was unclear who was firing.

Provincial health director Abdul Aziz Tariq said 25 people were wounded in the protest, most of them by bullets, with two in critical condition. Seven of those hospitalized were under 18 years old but their wounds were not life threatening, he said.

Police strung barbed wire in the streets to contain the crowd and restored order by mid-afternoon, said provincial government spokesman Sharafuddin Majidi. He said shots had been fired both from and toward the base, but NATO spokesman James P. Judge said there was no indication NATO soldiers had fired. ... (link)
Radio Free Europe:
[Radio Free Europe's] correspondent in the area, Sharafuddin Stanakzai, reported that angry demonstrators tried to storm the PRT compound after the initial shooting incident.

He said that demonstrators on the scene said they broke through the compound's outer perimeter and set fire to part of the base.

One witness told RFE/RL that Spanish troops fired on rioters who were storming the base, injuring several of them.

However, Saberi confirmed that hundreds of demonstrators later marched on the provincial government's headquarters in Qalay-e Naw -- smashing several windows of the building and forcing local authorities to call for the deployment of troops from the Afghan National Army and national police. ... (link)
Javed Hamim Kakar of Pajhwok Afghan News:
Following the incident, hundreds of angry people hurled stones at the ISAF office in Qala-i-Naw, the provincial capital, and smashed its windowpanes. The demonstrators tried to set the office on fire.

The protestors also torched two civilian houses in the city, [deputy governor] Abdul Ghani revealed, saying the demonstrators were prevented from marching towards the governor's office, police headquarters and the intelligence department.

The enraged men threw stones at the policemen, who had to fire into the air to disperse them. At least 21 protestors were wounded, the deputy governor said.

Without naming anyone, he alleged elements behind the demonstration wanted to damage government offices and private properties. ... (link)
Fences around the base were torn down and fires set. At least one truck was torched. NATO said it was monitoring the demonstration. ... (link)
You can see video of the protest following the shoot-out here. It shows male demonstrators young and old throwing paving stones and seems to include the sound of gun fire. In response to the Badghis incident and its aftermath, NATO helicopters moved 150 ANCOP officers to Qal-E Naw, the capital of Badghis.

A couple of earlier protests are of note as well:
US troops fire shots to disperse Afghan protesters
By Rahim Faiez

DATELINE: KABUL, Aug 24 (AP) - U.S. troops fired warning shots to disperse a protest in eastern Afghanistan over the arrest of a religious leader suspected of a rocket attack, NATO said Tuesday.

The alliance said no civilian injuries were reported from the protest Monday, but Gen. Faqir Ahmad, the deputy police chief of Parwan province, said one civilian was killed by shots fired from an unknown source.

NATO said about 300 people surrounded a patrol and attacked vehicles with rocks and iron bars outside the massive coalition air base at Bagram, in Parwan province.

"After several attempts to stop the attack and disperse the crowd, coalition troops received small-arms fire directed at them," NATO said in a news release. Coalition forces then fired the warning shots.

Gen. Ahmad said the only gunfire came from the coalition. He said the shots enraged the crowd, with some then using rocks and sticks to attack police and the head of the district government, Kabir Ahmad, who had tried to calm the situation. The deputy police chief said Ahmad and a police officer had serious but not life-threatening injuries.

The man arrested Monday by Afghan police was a religious teacher suspected of taking part in a rocket attack on a coalition patrol two weeks ago, Gen. Ahmad said. About 50 students from his religious school began the protest, which then attracted up to 2,000 villagers, he said. (link)
The unmistakable Orwellian character of the Afghan government's response to the Parwan protest is of particular interest:
BBC Worldwide Monitoring
Text of report by state-owned National Afghanistan TV on 23 August

[Presenter:] The announcement by the National Directorate of Security's press office on the demonstration by a number of the residents of Bagram District of Parwan Province dated 23 August 2010:

Our compatriots know that it is the National Directorate of Security's responsibility to ensure a peaceful and trusty atmosphere in the country, fight those who carry out terrorist activities that result in the killing of innocent people and tackle any threats against internal and external security in Afghanistan in line with penal law.

The vigilant personnel of the National Directorate of Security arrested Qari Mohammad Kazem son of Mohammad Taher, a resident of the Meyan Shakh area of Parwan Province, on 21 August 2010 on charges of carrying out terrorist activities in this province. He was the head of the Hazrat-e Belal seminary. He confessed to his crime as follows:

... [Mohammad Kazem, talking to camera:] My name is Mohammad Kazem son of Mohammad Taher, resident of the Meyan Shakh village of Parwan Province. I am the head of the Hazrat-e Belal seminary. Nur Agha had encouraged me to carry out such actions. ...

[Presenter] Earlier, Shah Mohammad was arrested in relation to this terrorist case. He also confessed to be a member of this terrorist network and wage terrorist attacks.

A limited number of individuals launched a demonstration aimed at abusing the pure sentiments of the residents of the Bagram District. This demonstration was aimed at releasing the arrested terrorists. This demonstration is against the enforced law and steps are taken to arrest the perpetrators and inciter of the move. (no link)
Thus, the Afghan government is declaring the protest described above as illegal and is apparently taking measures against such "inciters" who "abuse the pure sentiments of" Afghans.

Describing yet another protest, AFP reports from the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan's gateway to Pakistan:
Up to 600 residents blocked the main highway in protest on Wednesday [Aug 18], an AFP reporter on the scene said. They chanted "Death to Americans" and "Death to Karzai," referring to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. (link)
Finally, an August 16 protest against the construction of an Afghan military base turned ugly when US troops fired on the crowd:
In the east, meanwhile, protesters set upon U.S. troops outside of Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base in the country. A number of people were wounded as the demonstration in Pul-e-Sayad village turned into a riot, NATO said.

The crowd of 250 gathered around the American troops to protest the building of an Afghan army base on land owned by local villagers, said Abdullah Adil, an Interior Ministry official who works with NATO forces in the area.

A few villagers had first gone to the construction site in the morning to demand that work be stopped, and when it was not, they returned with more people, he said.

Protesters threw rocks at the troops as they escorted a contractor to the base, NATO said.

The rocks injured some service members and when they couldn't quell the riot, a soldier fired at the crowd in self-defense, NATO said. ...

One 12-year-old boy was shot, but his wounds were not life-threatening, Adil said.

Construction has now been halted pending more discussion with the villagers, he said. ... (link)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Secret 'kill team' killed civilians for sport

This past spring, revelations surfaced of war crimes committed by soldiers based out of Fort Hood in Washington State. Details have been somewhat sketchy until now. The Guardian's Chris McGreal reports from Washington on the latest revelations:

US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies'

SEPTEMBER 9 - Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.

According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army's criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to "toss a grenade at someone and kill them".

One soldier said he believed Gibbs was "feeling out the platoon".

Investigators said Gibbs, 25, hatched a plan with another soldier, Jeremy Morlock, 22, and other members of the unit to form a "kill team". While on patrol over the following months they allegedly killed at least three Afghan civilians. ...

The Army Times reported that a least one of the soldiers collected the fingers of the victims as souvenirs and that some of them posed for photographs with the bodies. ...

The killings came to light in May after the army began investigating a brutal assault on a soldier who told superiors that members of his unit were smoking hashish. The Army Times reported that members of the unit regularly smoked the drug on duty and sometimes stole it from civilians.

Two days [after the soldier reported the drug use,] members of his platoon, including Gibbs and Morlock, accused him of "snitching", gave him a beating and told him to keep his mouth shut. The soldier reported the beating and threats to his officers and then told investigators what he knew of the "kill team". ...

The charges will be considered by a military grand jury later this month which will decide if there is enough evidence for a court martial. Army investigators say Morlock has admitted his involvement in the killings and given details about the role of others including Gibbs. ... (link)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Afghan anti-war movement grows

Coverage of Afghanistan's burgeoning anti-war movement is sadly quite scarce, though we have seen in this space some of the more interesting reporting (see here for example). Lately, however, there have been developments which shed some interesting light on the (mostly) non-violent Afghan anti-war movement.

The Afghanistan Solidarity Party (ASP) has a platform dedicated to "women’s rights, democracy, and secular society, a disarming of the country, and freedom of the press," according to a spokesperson interviewed by Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls. Formed in 2004, the ASP has its roots in Maoist parties of the past, though it may be mentioned that Maoism in Afghanistan was often simply a label for anti-Soviet Marxists and socialists. In a manner typical of Afghan political parties, the ASP operates as a coalition of six parties and forms a part of a larger association of like-minded secular parties oriented toward democracy. It reports being active in most of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

The party's pursuit of a human rights-centered value system has earned it many members. The internationally respected former Afghan foreign minister Dadfar Spanta, once a member of Germany's Green Party, joined the ASP a while after its founding.

As well, the ASP has won the admiration of widely-known Afghan activist Malalai Joya. When asked by an Italian audience last year about what groups they could financially support, Joya recommended RAWA, the Afghan Women's Mission and the ASP.

Indeed the ASP has gained a wide variety of supporters. Canada's own liberal war-boosters the Canada-Afghan Solidarity Committee have helped raise money for them. CASC's Terry Glavin, a pro-war fanatic if there ever was one, wrote in 2008:

It's heartening to see the Afghanistan Solidarity Party making a comeback after key party leader and co-founder Lal Mohammad was beheaded by the Taliban three years ago. ...

These are precisely the kind of Afghans the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee wants Canadians to know more about, and to support, politically, morally and materially. (link)
At the time the ASP was involved in the kind of mobilizing that Western war advocates can easily get behind. The party headed up a large demo in Kabul that year in support of Pervez Kambakhsh, the student journalist who has since been freed from death row. The CASC, however, will no doubt be disappointed to hear that the ASP is now mobilizing against the US-led occupation of their country.

Here you can see a Youtube video of an ASP protest in Herat this past May condemning Iran's hanging of several Afghan nationals living in Iran. The video shows a woman lifting her burka to speak into a megaphone, some minor property damage inflicted upon the Iranian embassy as well as what appears to be tussling with police. Participants are evidently a fairly broad mixture of people from secular and religious walks of life.

The Herat protest was part of several which the ASP organized in various cities. You can see photos of those demos here. All of them featured rhetoric aimed at the United States as well as Iran, and ASP banners denouncing the American-led occupation were prominent.

On July 30, a significant event occurred on the streets of Kabul, near the American embassy. A DynCorp SUV was involved in a collision with a civilian vehicle, killing one and seriously injuring two more. Accounts differ as to what followed, as US officials deny that the security contractors opened fire on the gathering crowd. In any case, a spontaneous protest broke out among those present, resulting in rioting as two DynCorp vehicles, the first having been joined by another, were set on fire. While most reports say that demonstrators set them on fire, AFP has an interesting account:
It was unclear how the vehicles were set alight, as some security firms torch cars they are forced to abandon as a matter of policy, a security contractor in Kabul said, speaking on condition of anonymity. (link)
The DynCorp employees reported injuries from the rioting. Press photos show young Afghans joyously stomping on a burning American SUV as others wield clubs and throw rocks at the wreck.

The ASP soon organized a protest to harness the anti-occupation sentiment. On August 1, hundreds of Kabulis hit the streets behind ASP banners and placards of various anti-occupation themes, one of which featured the iconic media image of young protesters smashing a DynCorp truck. The photos from the demo appear to show young men using face coverings to hide their identities (see here and here in particular).

Here's the story in the Afghan press:
Kabul residents protest against foreign troops
By Abdul Qadir Siddiqui

KABUL, Aug 1 (Pajhwok) Hundreds of men and women protested against foreign troops on Sunday in Kabul and demanded their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The demonstration started at around 10am from Shah Do Shamshera area of Kabul toward Deh Aghanan square, where the protesters chanted "death to the invaders", "death to the countries which interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan" and "killers of Afghans should leave Afghanistan."

The demonstration follows the deaths on Friday of four civilians [later said to be one killed, several injured - DM] whose car apparently pulled out in front of an armoured vehicle belonging to an American Embassy contractor and was crushed. The accident drew large crowds who threw stones and set the contractors vehicles on fire.

The protesters also chanted slogans against Pakistan and Iran, two other countries they accuse of interfering in Afghanistans affairs.

They condemned the acts of US and its alliance in Afghanistan, said chairman of Afghanistan Solidarity Party, Daud Razmak, who led the demonstration. ... (link)
And the Washington Post has more on the August 1 protest:
"Many times NATO troops and these cars have killed our innocent people. They never care whether we are Afghans or animals," said Samia, 26, an activist from Kabul who took part in the demonstration.

Samia, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, said that she did not want the Taliban to return to power in Afghanistan but that NATO has only aggravated the situation over the past decade and fed a parasitic and dependent Afghan government.

"We want NATO troops and American troops to leave Afghanistan. Even with their huge army, they couldn't do anything in the past 10 years. And in the future, they won't be able to do anything." (link)