Deja Vu All Over Again: A Glimpse of Afghanistan in 2010

Eleven years ago, I was nearing the end of my time as Director of Quaker House, the Friends peace project in Fayetteville NC, near Fort Bragg. Our newsletter for that summer devoted most of its front page to  Afghanistan, and the seemingly “invisible/forever” war there.

That war is no longer invisible, and at least the U.S. part in it is now ending, in a calamitous shambles, portending worse.

As we watch and listen in these days of disaster for those who depended on American promises of safety, perhaps this brief glimpse from a decade-plus past can be fodder for contemplation and calls for more action to help save those still crowded in the Kabul airport.

Quaker House Newsletter, 2010 – Summer

Mission Impossible:
Keeping Up With the Invisible War(s)

It’s not easy doing peace work in the United States today.

Recent polls indicate that Americans dislike the Afghanistan war – as many as 53-56 per cent oppose it in the latest surveys. Yet the same polls show that citizen attention to the wars is low, lagging far behind domestic concerns such as jobs, health care, government debt and fear of terror attacks inside the US.

From our vantage point, this public indifference has helped usher in the age of the invisible wars. That is to say, the wars have become largely invisible to the general public here.

This invisibility is fed in part by sheer weariness – the Afghan conflict is almost nine years old.

But it has also been carefully cultivated:

–Much of the killing is now done by unmanned drone flights, which we only hear about later, or not at all, and don’t see.

–More killing is done by covert units, working primarily under the uber-secretive, Ft. Bragg-based Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC], alongside what may be equal or even larger numbers of unaccountable “private” contractors.

–While the bulk of these covert attacks take place in Afghanistan, there are also targets in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and many other countries, which receive almost no attention. The previous administration declared that the “battlefield” in the “war on terror,” was the whole world; the targets could be anyone.  The current administration has shelved the “war on terror” meme, but retained the unlimited reach of its “righteous” violence.

–US casualties, while rising in Afghanistan, are still lower than at the height of the Iraq insurgency. Reports of these deaths are scattered across the nation, mainly in smaller, less visible communities.

–Media coverage of the war is limited and censored. The report in Rolling Stone that cost [JSOC commander] general Stanley McChrystal his job was a rare exception; and even that focused on talk among officers rather than firsthand reporting on the killing and destruction.

– The Guantanamo prison camp remains open, as does a “secret” black site facility in Afghanistan. There are persistent and credible reports that prisoner abuse has continued.

Amnesty International USA activists, holding a banner that says ‘Close Guantanamo, protest the 10th anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, in front of the White House, Washington DC, USA, 11 January 2012. UPDATE: In August 2021, it is still open.

– Military recruiting funds have been cut more than ten percent for 2010, while quotas are the same. That’s because the jobs crash pushed recruiting to a 36-year high in 2009. With no real relief in sight, the unemployment “stimulus” to enlistments will likely continue.

– Meanwhile, the overall budget for war is still growing, despite the economic crash.

You’ve seen this before, right? Or one like it. Same old same old . . .

– Organized antiwar actions are anemic, sparsely attended, and [mostly] off the media radar. . . .

–Civil liberties continue to erode. A US Supreme Court decision on June 21 upheld the “material support” provisions of the Patriot Act, permitting the government to prosecute groups advocating or training for nonviolence if their work involves designated “terrorist” groups. (But wait a minute: what groups need nonviolence training more than those which have used violence?)

That is, it could now be a crime for Quaker House to send a letter to Hamas in Gaza, urging them to cease their armed struggle and adopt nonviolence, and offering the resources on our website to that end. (Note to Homeland Security: we have sent no such letter.)

Former President Jimmy Carter said that this decision:

“actually threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence. The vague language of the law leaves us wondering if we will be prosecuted for our work to promote peace and freedom.”

We’re still working . . . . But no question: times are tough.

2 thoughts on “Deja Vu All Over Again: A Glimpse of Afghanistan in 2010”

  1. There is really nothing left to say. No poetry after Auschwitz, no more discussion. If our society is to be turned around it must be disobedience, civil or otherwise or we watch it burn to the ground—and soon. Glad I’m old. Our recent Quaker approach is a failure, but didn’t we all know that already, really?

    1. “…no more discussion. If our society is to be turned around it must be disobedience, civil or otherwise or we watch it burn to the ground—and soon.”

      That was the thinking (“disobedience, civil or otherwise”) of those who stormed the Capitol” on 1/6/21, wasn’t it?

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