The two women I heard speak today at a meeting of the coalition of Democratic clubs, Resolution Peace addressed the same urgent question.
Phyllis Bennis of Institute for Policy Studies reminded us of Obama's declaration during the primary:
She had a number of quite specific suggestions for the peace movement.
- Educating our own citizens is essential; peace activism has already moved most discussion away from "the good war" frame. This is not a time for calling street demonstrations; it is a time for digging in and raising understanding.
- We must demand an end to the military's temptation (unfortunately all too likely to come from General McChrystal given his background in "special operations") to use more and more fire power to overcome frustration. More air strikes, more drone killings, more civilian deaths will only make a bad situation worse.
- The U.S. and NATO occupation must end; foreign presence in Afghanistan should pass to the United Nations. In any case, the right balance is 80 percent civilian development aid; 20 percent security assistance. At present, Afghanistan is getting more like 97 percent war making and 3 percent development.
- We have to make Afghanistan feel real to people in the United States through such efforts as sister city projects and local peace resolutions.
- Above all, we need to remind people what war is costing in a time when the tanking economy is causing huge cuts in necessary local services.
Ghilzai was particularly critical of the role of U.S. and other aid agencies in the war torn country. Over and over, there have been big promises, foreign money gets allocated and then is mostly sucked up by foreign consultants and contractors, agencies neglect to consult or employ the intended Afghan recipients of projects, and far too often projects are then simply left uncompleted.
After 30 years of war, Ghilzai reports that the great Afghan fear is that, as when the USSR was forced out, the rest of the international community will once again abandon them. They don't want more air strikes and dead villagers, but they do want the powers that have fought over them to take some responsibility for helping them recover from the damage left by that long military conflict.