ACTION ALERT: A Letter to the Taliban and a Letter to Donald Trump
February 22, 2018
David Swanson / Let's Try Democracy & The Action Network
Advice to the Taliban: Research shows that nonviolent movements are more than twice as likely to succeed. "As long as you allow yourselves to be depicted as viciously violent, you will be a highly profitable advertisement for US weapons makers and US politicians." Advice to Trump: During each of the past 15 years, Washington has informed us that success was imminent. During each of the past 15 years, Afghanistan has continued its descent into poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and instability.
A Reply to the Taliban
David Swanson / Let's Try Democracy
(February 16, 2018) -- Dear Taliban,
Thank you for your letter to the American people.
As one person in the United States I cannot offer you a representative reply on behalf of all of us. Nor can I use polls to tell you what my fellow Americans think, because, as far as I know, polling companies haven't asked the US public about the war on your country in years.
Possible explanations for this include:
1. We have several other wars going on, and the blowback includes a lot of self-inflicted mass-shootings.
2. Too many wars at a time doesn't make the most desired packaging for advertisements.
3. Our previous president announced that your war was over.
4. Many here actually think it is over, which makes them useless for polling on the topic of ending it.
I do want to let you know that some of us saw your letter, that some news outlets reported on it, that people have asked me about it.
While I cannot speak for everyone here, I at the very least have not been paid to speak only for the weapons dealers or any other small group. And I can make some claim to speak for the thousands of people who have signed this petition asking President Trump to end US participation in the war.
According to recent news reports, Trump actually considered doing that. It's even possible that he had ending one of his many wars in mind when he came up with the idea for a big parade of weaponry -- something that more typically accompanies the ending of a war than merely the celebration of a narcissist. Yet, we're told that Trump's Secretary of so-called Defense warned him that unless more troops were sent to Afghanistan, someone might blow up a bomb in Time's Square in New York.
You may know that someone tried to do that eight years ago, for the purpose of persuading US troops to leave Afghanistan and other countries. It did not have the desired result.
If someone ever engages in a similar terrorist act, Trump would rather be responsible for having escalated militarism that could have contributed to the crime than for having de-escalated and made it less likely. This is because of how information is communicated, and what our culture views as manly and honorable.
Your letter contains a lot of important information. You are of course correct on the illegality of the US invasion. And the reasons you recount having heard the US provide were both false and irrelevant to the question of legality.
The same could be said of the reasons I remember hearing the US give, but they were not the same as the ones you heard. You heard this:
* "Establishing security by eliminating the so called terrorists inside Afghanistan.
*Restoring law and order by establishing a legal government.
There's a tale that when astronauts were training in the US desert for the trip to the Moon, a Native American found out what they were doing and asked them to memorize an important message in his own language to tell to the spirits in the Moon; but he wouldn't tell the astronauts what it meant. So the astronauts found someone to translate it for them, and it meant this: "Do not believe one word these people tell you. They are here to steal your land."
Luckily no one was there on the Moon to need the warning, so I offer it to you. Back over here, we were told and have been told for many years now that the US-led invasion of Afghanistan was for the purpose of punishing those responsible for, or responsible for assisting those responsible for, the crimes of September 11, 2001.
I understand that you were open to turning Osama Bin Laden over to a third country for trial. But, just as most Afghans have never heard of 9/11, most Americans have never heard of that offer. We live on different planets with different sets of known facts. We can, however, agree with your conclusion:
"No matter what title or justification is presented by your undiscerning authorities for the war in Afghanistan, the reality is that tens of thousands of helpless Afghans including women and children were martyred by your forces, hundreds of thousands were injured and thousands more were incarcerated in Guantanamo, Bagram and various other secret jails and treated in such a humiliating way that has not only brought shame upon humanity but is also a violation of all claims of American culture and civilization."
As I cannot speak for everyone, I cannot apologize for everyone. And I tried to prevent the war before it started. And I've tried to end it ever since. But I am sorry.
Now, I also must, respectfully, point out a few things missing from your letter. When I visited Kabul some years ago with a group of US peace activists meeting Afghan peace activists and numerous other Afghans from around your country, I spoke with quite a number of people who wanted two things:
1. No NATO occupation
2. No Taliban
They viewed you with such horror that some of them were almost of two-minds about the NATO occupation. It is safe to say, I think, that you do not speak for all of the people of Afghanistan. An agreement between you and the United States would be an agreement made without everyone in Afghanistan represented at the table.
That being said, it is clear that it would be better for Afghanistan, the world, and the United States for the US-led occupation to end immediately. But please allow me to offer some unsolicited advice on both how to make that happen and how to proceed after it happens.
First, keep writing letters. They will be heard.
Second, consider looking at the research done by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan showing that principally nonviolent movements are over twice as likely to succeed. Not only that, but those successes are far longer lasting. This is because nonviolent movements succeed by bringing in many more people. Doing that is also helpful for what comes after the occupation.
I'm well aware that I live in a country whose government attacked your country, and so I would generally be considered as lacking the privilege to tell you what to do. But I'm not telling you what to do. I'm telling you what works. You can do with it what you choose. But as long as you allow yourselves to be depicted as viciously violent, you will be a highly profitable advertisement for US weapons makers and US politicians.
If you build a nonviolent movement that demonstrates peacefully and multi-ethnically for US withdrawal, and if you make sure we see videos of that, you will be of absolutely no value to Lockheed Martin.
I really do understand how disgusting it is for someone from a country bombing you in the name of democracy to suggest that you try democracy. For what it's worth, I also suggest that the United States try democracy. I recommend nonviolence and democracy to everyone everywhere. I do not try to impose it on anyone.
I hope to hear back from you.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
ACTION ALERT: Letter to Donald Trump: End US War in Afghanistan
The Action Network
The US war in Afghanistan is well into its 16th year. In 2014 President Obama declared it over, but it will remain a political, financial, security, legal, and moral problem unless you actually end it.
The US military now has approximately 8,000 US troops in Afghanistan , plus 6,000 other NATO troops, 1,000 mercenaries, and another 26,000 contractors (of whom about 8,000 are from the United States). That's 41,000 people engaged in a foreign occupation of a country 15 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government.
During each of the past 15 years, our government in Washington has informed us that success was imminent. During each of the past 15 years, Afghanistan has continued its descent into poverty, violence, environmental degradation, and instability.
The withdrawal of US and NATO troops would send a signal to the world, and to the people of Afghanistan, that the time has come to try a different approach, something other than more troops and weaponry.
The ambassador from the US-brokered and funded Afghan Unity government has reportedly told you that maintaining US involvement in Afghanistan is "as urgent as it was on Sept. 11, 2001."
There's no reason to believe he won't tell you that for the next four years, even though John Kerry tells us "Afghanistan now has a well-trained armed force . . . meeting the challenge posed by the Taliban and other terrorists groups." But involvement need not take its current form.
The United States is spending $4 million an hour on planes, drones, bombs, guns, and over-priced contractors in a country that needs food and agricultural equipment, much of which could be provided by US businesses.
Thus far, the United States has spent an outrageous $783 billion with virtually nothing to show for it except the death of thousands of US soldiers , and the death, injury and displacement of millions of Afghans.
The Afghanistan War has been and will continue to be, as long as it lasts, a steady source of scandalous stories of fraud and waste. Even as an investment in the US economy, this war has been a bust.
But the war has had a substantial impact on our security: it has endangered us. Before Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up a car in Times Square, he had tried to join the war against the United States in Afghanistan.
In numerous other incidents, terrorists targeting the United States have stated their motives as including revenge for the US war in Afghanistan, along with other US wars in the region. There is no reason to imagine this will change.
In addition, Afghanistan is the one nation where the United States is engaged in major warfare with a country that is a member of the International Criminal Court. That body has now announced that it is investigating possible prosecutions for US crimes in Afghanistan.
Over the past 15 years, we have been treated to an almost routine repetition of scandals: hunting children from helicopters, blowing up hospitals with drones, urinating on corpses -- all fueling anti-US propaganda, all brutalizing and shaming the United States.
Ordering young American men and women into a kill-or-die mission that was accomplished 15 years ago is a lot to ask. Expecting them to believe in that mission is too much. That fact may help explain this one: the top killer of US troops in Afghanistan is suicide.
The second highest killer of American military is "green-on-blue" -- e.g., the Afghan youth the US is training turning their weapons on their trainers! You yourself recognized this, saying: "Let's get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghans we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA."
The withdrawal of US troops would also be good for the Afghan people, as the presence of foreign soldiers has been an obstacle to peace talks. The Afghans themselves have to determine their future, and will only be able to do so once there is an end to foreign intervention.
We urge you to turn the page on this catastrophic military intervention. Bring all US troops home from Afghanistan. Cease US airstrikes and instead, for a fraction of the cost, help the Afghans with food, shelter, and agricultural equipment.
Elliott Adams, Veterans For Peace
Deborah K. Andresen, Tackling Torture at the Top
Rita Archibald, Nonviolence Trainer
Judy Bello, Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars
Medea Benjamin, Code Pink
Barry Binks, Veterans for Peace Ch. 87, Occupy Beale
Toby Blome', Code Pink
Alison Bodine, Mobilization Against War and Occupation
Leah Bolger, World Beyond War
John Calder, Veterans for Peace Ch. 69
Kathleen Christison, Author, Veterans for Peace
Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney General
Helena Cobban, Just World Books
David Cobb, 2004 Green Party Presidential Nominee
Jeff Cohen, RootsAction.org
Gerry Condon,Veterans for Peace National Board of Directors
Mary Crosby, Roman Catholic Women Priests
James Eilers, Code Pink Auxiliary
Michael Eisenscher, US Labor Against the War
Melissa Crosby, Black Lives Matter
Nicolas J S Davies, author
Mary Dean, World Beyond War
Thomas Dickinson, Tackling Torture at the Top, Women Against Military Madness
Jennifer DiZio, UC Berkeley
Maria Eitz, Roman Catholic Women Priests
Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblower
Jodie Evans, Code Pink
Joseph J. Fahey, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Robert Fantina, World Beyond War
Bill Fletcher Jr., BlackCommentator.com
Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report
Bruce K. Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
Johan Galtung, Founder Trancend Interntional
Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition UK
The Rev. Dr. Diana C. Gibson, Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice
Michael Goldstein, The 99 Percent
Kevin Gosztola, Shadowproof.com
Will Griffin, The Peace Report
Patty Guerrero, Tackling Torture at the Top, Women Against Military Madness, Pax-Salon
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit
Amith Gupta, student, NYU School of Law
Bill Habedank, Veterans For Peace Ch. 115
Steve Harms, Peace Lutheran Church, Past-President Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
David Hartsough, Peaceworkers
Jan Hartsough, San Francisco Friends Meeting
Hayley Hathaway, Quaker Earthcare Witness
Dud Hendrick, Veterans for Peace
Adam Hochschild, author
Matthew Hoh, former director of Afghanistan Study Group
Martha Hubert, Code Pink San Francisco
Aaron Hughes, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Tony Jenkins, World Beyond War
Sonja Johnson, Women Against Military Madness
Kathy Kelly, Voices For Creative Nonviolence
Gary W. King, Tackling Torture at the Top, Women Against Military Madness
John Kiriakou, former Central Intelligence agency officer
Dennis Kucinich, former Member of United States Congress
Peter Kuznick, Professor of History, American University
Barry Ladendorf, Veterans For Peace President Board of Directors
Paul Leuenberger, Veterans for Peace
Dave Lindorff, This Can't Be Happening
Dave Logsdon, Veterans For Peace Ch. 27
Richard Lord, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice
Douglas Mackey, Global Days of Listening
Jody Mackey, New Traditions Fair Trade
Mike Madden, Veterans For Peace Ch. 27
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
Ben Manski, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution
Stephen Matchett, AVP Trainer, San Francisco Friends Meeting
Sherri Maurin, Campaign Nonviolence, Associate Veterans for Peace Ch. 69
Ken Mayers, Veterans for Peace
Ray McGovern, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Cynthia McKinney, former member of United States Congress
Stephen McNeil, American Friends Service Committee
Michael T. McPhearson, Veterans For Peace Executive Director
Tom Morman, Nonviolence Coalition San Jose
Nick Mottern, Knowdrones.com
Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, NIC
Michael Nagler, Metta Center for Nonviolence Founder and President
Carroll Nast, Veterans for Peace Ch. 122
Agneta Norberg, Swedish Peace Council
Cathe Norman, Veterans for Peace Associate
Tom Norman, Veterans for Peace Ch. 60
Todd E. Pierce, JA, MAJ, USA (Ret.)
Gareth Porter, journalist, author
Pancho Francisco Ramos-Stierle, Casa de Paz, Canticle Farm
John C. Reiger, Veterans For Peace
Denny Riley, Veterans For Peace Chapter 69
Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent and legal counsel
Mike Rufo, Musician
Judith Sandoval, Veterans for Peace Ch. 69
Bill Schwab, Americans for Justice
Julie Searle, Educator
Michael Shaughnessy, educator
Cindy Sheehan, peace activist
Eva Sivill, Casa de Paz, Canticle Farm
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Gar Smith, Environmentalists Against War
David Solnit, Global Organizer, Writer, Puppeteer
Norman Solomon, RootsAction.org
Melvin Starks, Unitarian Universalist Church
Jill Stein, 2016 Green Party presidential candidate
David Swanson, World Beyond War
Shelley Tannenbaum, Quaker Earthcare Witness
Brian Terrell, Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Tiffany Tool, Peaceworkers
Chip Tucker, Charlottesville Friends Meeting
Louie J. Vitale, OFM, Pace e Bene, Nevada Desert Experience
Zohreh Whitaker, Veterans for Peace, Peace Action
Phil Wilayto, the Virginia Defender
Ann Wright, retired US Army colonel
Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance
(organizations above for identification)
ALSO SIGNED BY:
Creating a Culture of Peace
Mobilization Against War and Occupation, Vancouver Canada
Veterans For Peace
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
World Beyond War
American For Peace
Baloch Rights Council
Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition
Burlington Green/Environment Hamilton
Citizens To Impeach Trump
Earth Rights Institute
Edinburgh Peace And Justice Centre
Fairbanks Peace Choir
Humanist Party Nyc
Intenational Organization For The Elimination Of All Forms Of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD)
Los Pueblos Hablan
Medical Mission Sisters
National Campaign For Nonviolent Resistance
National War Tax Coordinating Committee
New Traditions Fair Trade
Nipponzan Myohoji Temple Of Bainbridge Island
No Dal Molin - Vicenza - Italy
Nova Catholic Community
Pax Christi So. Cal.
Peaceworks, Kansas City
Resource Institute Of Social Education - RISE
St. Paul Eastside Neighbors For Peace
US Peace Council
Veterans For Peace, Chapter 3, Maine
Wasatch Coalition For Peace And Justice, Salt Lake City
Wi Bail Out The People Movement
Women Against Military Madness
Women Speak Out For Peace And Justice
ACTION: Sign the letter here.