By: Camille Russell
On December 1, after three months of deliberation and 10 war councils, President Obama announced an escalation of 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan at a cost of $30 billion a year. It was regretful to watch President Obama shatter the hopes and dreams of the millions of Americans who elected him last year.
We need to end our occupations and bring our troops home. The longer we stay in Afghanistan and Iraq, the longer it will take to get our economy out of the recession and get it moving in the right direction. The cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is now approaching $1 trillion. Further escalation of the war in Afghanistan will result in more cuts in education, social services and desperately needed infrastructure.
The people of Afghanistan have suffered from 30 years of wars, hundreds of thousands have died and millions have been displaced. They are sick and tired of death and destruction. Only 10% of our expenditure in Afghanistan goes toward rebuilding and social services. We must do more.
Peace Fresno responded to President Obama’s plan by denouncing it in a press release to the media and by calling for a street protest on December 4. TV Channels 26, 30 and 47 and radio station KFCF 88.1 FM aired interviews with Camille Russell, the president of Peace Fresno, who reminded viewers and listeners that it is Congress that funds war and as citizens in a democracy we must pressure our representatives to withhold funding.
On December 5, 100 messages against the wars were written to local Congressional representatives at the Peace Fresno/Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) table by visitors to the Annual WILPF Peace Crafts Faire. The messages, written on 3×5 cards, were sorted by Congressional district and hand-delivered to the local offices of our three local Congressional representatives. Peace Fresno’s ongoing petition calling for an end to the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the drone attacks on Pakistan was also circulated at the crafts faire, and an additional 100 petition signatures were delivered along with the cards.
Unfortunately, President Obama continued his war rhetoric on December 10 with his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Although acknowledging the contributions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., to peace and nonviolence, he insisted that war is the answer in Afghanistan and that we can achieve lasting peace by waging war. He delivered a “Just War” speech instead of a “Just Peace” speech.
As the U.S. government must do more for the people of Afghanistan, we, the people of the United States, now know it is up to us to demand an end to the occupation and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Come to Peace Fresno’s Peace and Justice Festival: 9th Annual Rally in the Valley on March 21. It will be the largest convergence of peace activists in the Central Valley on the day that marks seven years of U.S. war in Iraq. We will join people all over the United States in calling for an end to war.
And we will celebrate the richness of life with friends, live music, informational tabling, food, an actor portraying Abbie Hoffman, muralists, vendors and our featured speaker, Kathy Kelly. Kelly is a remarkable woman who has dedicated her life to peace action and knows from personal experience the effects of U.S. militarism on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. She has visited Iraq 24 times since 1996. She also coordinates and participates in traditional political activism and direct action campaigns in the United States.
For more information about the Peace and Justice Festival, including registration for tabling organizations and vendors, visit www.peacefresno.org.
Camille Russell is a retired teacher, president of Peace Fresno and a member of the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee. Contact her at 559-276-2592 or firstname.lastname@example.org.