WASHINGTON -- Fueled by days of protests in the nation's capital, including marches on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Occupy DC and "Stop the Machine" movements have planned a weekend of events across the city. Friday night, some of the protesters gathered at church near Dupont Circle to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Sponsored by a long list of anti-war organizations like Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out, the "War Voices" panel at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church prominently featured Afghans sharing their experiences since the American invasion.
Suraia Sahar and Fatima Mojaddidy of Afghans for Peace emotionally recounted the failings of the U.S.-led war effort. Mojaddidy broke into tears as moderator Phyllis Bennis described the deaths of Afghan children who had died picking up American cluster bombs that resembled packages of air-dropped food aid.
Offering an American perspective were Pat Alviso of Military Families Speak Out and Afghanistan veteran Brock McIntosh, who served with the Indiana Army National Guard. McIntosh, seeking status as a conscientious objector, spoke about the routine but difficult moral choices of the war. "They're rare in the real world, but in war these moral dilemmas happen every day and we can't avoid them," he said.
Alviso tearily recounted the trials of her son, a Marine master sergeant approaching his fifth deployment, who she said became disillusioned by what he had seen in Afghanistan. "He shared less and less after every deployment," she said.
"For the first time we're really bring together Afghanistan veterans and Afghanistan civilians on the same stage, and that's powerful in and of itself," said Geoff Willard, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and former combat engineer. Media liasion Michael McPhearson called Afghans for Peace "an important voice that needs to be heard."On Saturday, protesters, some of whom has been camping overnight in Freedom Plaza, are scheduled to participate in a series of workshops and committee meetings. At a noon rally at Freedom Plaza, political activist Ralph Nader will be a featured speaker.