Declaration International Afghanistan Network October 16, 2009
Facilitated by the dedicated organizing of our German hosts, fifty-five leading peace movement figures representing networks, coalitions and research institutes from fifteen European, North American, and Middle Eastern nations gathered in Berlin to discuss developments in the catastrophic war being waged in Afghanistan, the Obama Administration’s calculations and strategies as it wages the war, to share information about what their movements are doing to secure the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces, and to explore ways to collaborate in order to augment the abilities of our movements to transform majority opposition to the war into the political forces needed to end it.
Addressing international concerns, the delegate from the United States reported that within the United States the recent announcement that President Obama has been named to receive the Nobel Peace Prize is widely regarded as undeserved, especially at a time when Obama, his ministers and advisors are recalibrating and threatening to escalate their war in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Obama, he reported, is a restorationist figure whose mandate from the elite forces he represents is, through the use of military, diplomacy and “soft” power to reconsolidate as much global power and influence as possible in the wake of the “war president” George W. Bush. He stressed in popular and elite U.S. opinion the Central Asian war is increasingly compared to the disastrous War in Vietnam, waged in partnership with war lords, the corrupt and inept Karzai government, and in alliance with Pakistan’s military dominated government. General McChrystal has presented President Obama with three options for troop increases, the largest being for more than 60,000 troops. The Obama administration is seriously divided over how to proceed. Obama is loosing support among Congressional Democrats, and with popular education, peaceful civil disobedient demonstrations, and lobbying, U.S. peace movement is building political pressure for the withdrawal of U.S. warriors from Central Asia.
Many brief reports about government policies and peace movement responses were given: It was recognized that as European forces are withdrawn from the war, it will be difficult for the U.S. to replace them. In violation of the Irish constitution, civilian Shannon airport is being used as a major transport hub for the war, with U.S. troops stationed there. The Turkish government is using the Obama model of promising change while waging a war opposed by the majority of Turks. In Italy, as in all countries represented, the peace movement cannot now bring millions of people into the streets to oppose this war; it will be challenging Armed Forces Day on November 4 with mobilizations in the country’s major cities. There is also widespread opposition to the U.S. military bases in Italy.
We were encouraged to challenge humanitarian organizations working in Afghanistan who are being controlled by U.S. military regulations and co-opted into serving its counter-insurgency war.
Germany is suffering from Obamania, even as popular opinion has been profoundly affected by bombing of innocent civilians on the order of German forces. Yet, as Dutch, Canadian Japanese, and possibly Italian forces are leaving Afghanistan, the new conservative government is considering increasing its forces there by more than 50%. Germany’s engagement in the war is not limited to sending troops. Many U.S. bases in the country are deeply involved in the war, as are important sectors of civil society from DHL and other contractors to people sent from unemployment lines to assist U.S. military training. President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Merkel are planning an International Afghanistan Conference on Afghanistan, which we should challenge with alternative actions. Within Germany the peace movement needs to press the Social Democrats and Greens to cease supporting the war. An important German peace movement initiative will be the holding of informal referenda at the end of the month to help make visible the majority’s opposition to the war.
There were serious exchanges about the immediate impacts of the war, as well as the increased militarization of Afghan society as the U.S. and NATO attempt to build a massive Afghan army and police forces, on Afghan women and the implications of military withdrawal for them. It was agreed that this needs to be addressed in greater depth, even as the prevailing view was that the peace movement must be clear that liberation, like democracy, cannot be delivered from the barrel of a gun, that we must demand troops out now, and provide support as we can to Afghan women struggling for their liberation.
In discussing joint initiatives and actions, we agreed to the following:
- To illuminate an important dimension of our nations’ involvement in the war and to provide a resource for popular opposition, movements in each country and others not represented at the conference will send information about how military bases in their countries are supporting the war to the International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, which will develop maps and other resources on its web site
- The need for an international peace movement web site focused on the Afghan/Central Asian war was recognized. It was agreed to explore collaboration with a Swedish peace organization that initiated such a web site for the Social Forum in Malmo, www.stopthewarinafghanistan.com, but which is now dormant. In addition to providing analysis and information about peace movement actions, it was agreed to engage Afghan organizations so that their proposals for peaceful solutions to the war can be shared widely via the web site.
- It was agreed to hold an alternative conference, opposing the U.S.-NATO war at the time of the Sarkozy/Merkel Afghanistan conference. A preparatory committee to organize the conference was created. The conference will involve war opponents from Afghanistan and will address difficult questions such as women and the war, as well as those which are self-evident.
- We agreed on the importance of holding an international day of action against the war. Due to the demands of mobilizing this spring for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, it was agreed that the Actions will be on the war’s anniversary October 8-10. It was further agreed that in response to a particular emergency, an international day of action can be organized via e-mail, and that there will be anti-war actions at the next NATO summit in Portugal.