Which Is More Occupied, Crimea or Afghanistan?
July 28, 2018
David Swanson / David Swanson.org
Commentary: In 2014, the people of Crimea voted to re-join Russia. The vote followed a US-backed coup in Kiev, meaning that Crimea was voting to secede from an undemocratic government. The US has supported the secessions of Kosovo from Serbia, Slovakia from Czechoslovakia, and South Sudan from Sudan. One example of an occupation that Washington is not condemning, however, is the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan where an occupation force of 41,000 remains in place after 16 years.
Which Is More Occupied, Crimea or Afghanistan?
David Swanson / David Swanson.org
(July 24, 2018) -- According to Donald Trump, the one allied victor of World War II not still occupying Germany has made Germany its slave. But according to the great anti-Trump Resistance in the United States, the nation that openly bragged about installing Boris Yeltsin as president of Russia (the same Yeltsin who subsequently installed Vladimir Putin) has been Pearl-Harbor-attacked by the same Putin via a computer or Facebook or a cable channel or a remote control device implanted in Trump's hair or something -- the details are fuzzy.
But both teams can agree on the important thing -- which has achieved a growing, bi-partisan, academic and popular consensus in the United States during the past four years. It is this: the second biggest threat to peace on earth and to the global rule of law (right behind either Trump or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, depending on your affiliation) is the 2014 vote by the people of Crimea to re-join Russia.
Ain't agreement agreeable? Someone's laughing, Lord, kumbaya, Oh Lord, kumbaya!
Now, the vote by the people of Crimea to re-join Russia has another, more common name: The Seizure of Crimea. This infamous seizure is hard to grasp. It involved a grand total of zero casualties. The vote itself has never been re-done. In fact, to my knowledge, not a single believer in the Seizure of Crimea has ever advocated for re-doing the vote. Coincidentally, polling has repeatedly found the people of Crimea to be happy with their vote.
I've not seen any written or oral statement from Russia threatening war or violence in Crimea. If the threat was implicit, there remains the problem of being unable to find Crimeans who say they felt threatened. (Although I have seen reports of discrimination against Tartars during the past 4 years.) If the vote was influenced by the implicit threat, there remains the problem that polls consistently get the same result.
Of course, a US-backed coup had just occurred in Kiev, meaning that Crimea was voting to secede from a coup government. The United States had supported the secession of Kosovo from Serbia in the 1990s despite Serbian opposition. When Slovakia seceded from Czechoslovakia, the US did not urge any opposition.
The US government supports the right of South Sudan to have seceded from Sudan, although violence and chaos reigned. US politicians like Joe Biden and Jane Harman even proposed breaking Iraq up into pieces, as others have proposed for Syria.
But let's grant for the sake of argument that the Crimean vote was problematic, even horrendous, even criminal. There is no question that Russia had military forces in Crimea and sent in more, something I believe I can non-hypocritically oppose, since I'm not the US government and I advocate for the abolition of the US military. Even so, how does the "occupation" of Crimea rise to the level of greatest threat to peace on earth?
Compare it to a trillion dollars a year in US military spending, new missiles in Romania and Poland, massive bombing of Iraq and Syria, the destruction of Iraq and Libya, the endless war on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US-Saudi devastation of Yemen and the creation of famine and disease epidemics, or the explicit threats to attack Iran, not to mention world-leading weapons dealing to dictatorships around the globe by the good old US of A. I'm sure your average American would rather visit "liberated Mosul" than "annexed Crimea," but should we deal with facts or slogans?
Let's take one example of an occupation that the US government is not demanding a swift end to: the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Here's a letter that thousands of people have signed, addressed to Trump, and which you can sign too.
The US war in Afghanistan is well into its 17th 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 16 years after the accomplishment of their stated mission to overthrow the Taliban government.
During each of the past 16 years, our government in Washington has informed us that success was imminent. During each of the past 16 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 16 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 16 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, or the Afghan youth who the US is training are 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.
See list of signatories at end of this article.
I don't propose comparing the horrors of the so-called longest US war -- as if the wars on Native Americans aren't real -- with World War II or Iraq. I propose comparing them with the people of Crimea voting to make their little piece of land part of Russia again. Which is more barbaric, immoral, illegal, destructive, and traumatic?
Most countries polled in December 2013 by Gallup called the United States the greatest threat to peace in the world (Russia came in as the 12th greatest threat), and Pew found that viewpoint increased in 2017.
Some in the United States seem to share the world's view of the matter. "The Taliban had surrendered a few months before I arrived in Afghanistan in late 2002," Rory Fanning tells me, "but that wasn't good enough for our politicians back home and the generals giving the orders. Our job was to draw people back into the fight. I signed up to prevent another 9/11, but my two tours in Afghanistan made me realize that I was making the world less safe. We know now that a majority of the million or so people who have been killed since 9/11 have been innocent civilians, people with no stake in the game and no reason to fight until, often enough, the US military baited them into it by killing or injuring a family member who more often than not was an innocent bystander."
Eleanor Levine, active with Code Pink, says, "Afghanistan belongs to the Afghan people, not the USA and not NATO." She asks:
"How would you feel if Afghanistan occupied the USA? How would you feel if your towns and streets were patrolled by an occupying force? How would you feel if your schools, homes, stores, banks, agriculture and jobs, were controlled by Afghanistan?
"I am betting you cannot imagine this possibility. But try hard to imagine how it would feel. Try really hard to imagine it because it is the everyday experience of Afghans who want to live life as Afghans and raise their children as Afghans in their own country. Try to think, what have Afghan people done to the USA and NATO to deserve continuous interference and control from afar?"
Here's my proposal. The people of Afghanistan should hold a public referendum and vote immediately to become the 51st US state.
Not only would they then have made themselves seized, conquered, attacked, raped, and occupied in the bad, Russian senses of the terms. But if they sent along some photos of themselves in a note to the US Congress, they'd get US troops out of their country and achieve its total independence from the United States by the following afternoon.
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. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
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 U.S. 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, U.S. 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 U.S. 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
U.S. 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