Here are some of the e-mails from Minnesotans (beginning with my own) sent today, New Year's Day 2011, taking advantage of the "Dear Afghanistan" communication exchange opportunity organized by the Afghan Youth Voices of Peace. Given our ongoing war situation, some (like mine) probably commenced a little awkwardly but at least it's a start. (Please feel free, everyone else who participated, to publish your own "Dear Afghanistan" New Year's wish in the comments below. Hopefully some good ideas will come from today's exchange with the Afghan youth group which I can later share.)
Dear People of Afghanistan:
I don't know what to say or how to start. Some of us are so ashamed, so focused on and sorry for all the destruction our country has caused in the world. We keep trying to think of what we can do to change the situation but year after year, as we protest (see my attached photos), we've not been successful in changing the militaristic direction of the American empire. The problem is that we are in the minority of those who care. It's probably hard for you to understand how this could happen as the wars are so unjustified and so wrong.
But we no longer have real freedom here except the freedom to shop. As our "Father of the Constitution" James Madison warned so long ago: "No country can maintain its civil liberties in the midst of continual war." So those who dissent from official U.S. policies are losing their freedom to inform others and be informed. And this intimidates many from listening to their own consciences and speaking out.
As you might know, the people in other countries seem far away and of little significance to our daily lives in the U.S.
Since 9-11, we here in the U.S. have also been subject to nonstop, powerful propaganda that manipulates people's emotions. Our main media outlets have constantly pressed people's emotional buttons: fear, hate, greed, false pride and blind loyalty bringing out the worst in human nature. Also after the disastrous Vietnam War, our country's military industrial (war profiteer) complex realized it would be much easier to get the country to go to war and stay at war if there was no mandatory military service and if they told the American people they did not have to pay the trillions of dollars that it costs to wage war. As foolish as this sounds, most people here in the U.S. don't understand that they must eventually pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that their country is on the verge of going bankrupt and that they risk losing their social security and other benefits by waging these terrible wars. The "all volunteer" and US mercenary force that is sent to Iraq and Afghanistan is being paid relatively high amounts of money so they can hardly complain as that would be hypocritical for them to be taking this big money and at the same time criticizing their employer.
So I apologize for the fact that so many Americans don't seem to care as much as they should about the ongoing wars and war atrocities like illegal drone massacres and illegal use of torture that are being conducted in their names. But it's like past times in history when whole populations, i.e. the "good Germans", have become complicit and it's due to an evil system rather than due to the American people themselves.
I'm so happy that Kathy Kelly, Mike Ferner, Ann Wright and others were able to spend time in your country and get to know you as well as set up this opportunity for more of us to communicate. If there were better lines of communication between the American and Afghan peoples, perhaps we could overcome the power of the politicians. Perhaps we could generate sufficient voices here in the U.S. to actually make our politicians and military leaders listen to us as the mere civilian people being affected. Please give us any ideas that you may have as to what we can do or continue to do that might end the U.S. wars and foreign occupations and help people in your country.
Coleen Rowley and family (on behalf of the weekly peace vigils held in Eagan and Burnsville, Minnesota, these last several years)
The above photos were taken at the end of the "un-permitted" march we held in Minneapolis in December 2010 when Obama announced his escalation of the war on Afghanistan.
May the Dawn of 2011
Wash away your scars of pain and sorrow;
May it appear with the lasting hope,
For an enduring peace and better tomorrow.
May it bring on every sad and anguished face,
The flush of joy, mirth and cheer;
May it end the era of tyranny and injustice,
And really prove to all
'A Happy New Year'.
Muslim Peacemaker Teams
Dear People of Afghanistan,
I am sorry for the actions of my government.
As an American, I cannot imagine your reality and do not pretend to. I cannot imagine the suffering your country is enduring because of America's war. I cannot deny responsibility for the American government's actions in Afghanistan.
I can only say that I, along with many other but not enough Americans, are working hard to oppose those actions. I can only say that I am sorry for the destruction and suffering in Afghanistan wrought by the American empire. I can only say that I commit to changing America's war culture and war machine.
I can only say that I commit to peace.
Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project