We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama’s Eternal Vigilance?

By Jerica Arents

In the third monotonous hour of waiting to be processed at the Anacostia Park Police Station, my eyes fell on a post-9/11, Bush-era FBI reward poster mounted in front of me.

The Cost of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance, propagated the sign. The madness is as prevalent today as it was eight years ago: Obama is continuing Bush’s folly.

Entering our ninth year in Afghanistan, sixty-one anti-war activists were arrested in front of the White House Monday morning calling on President Obama for an end to the war in Iraq, an end to the escalation and occupation of Afghanistan, an end to the drone bombings in Pakistan, and a swift closure of Guantanamo and Bagram military prisons.

An estimated 500 protesters watched as some of us clad in orange jumpsuits and black hoods chained ourselves to the fence, while others carried coffins, participated in a die-in, and wore shrouds with the faces of Iraqi and Afghan war victims and shouted, “Mourn the dead, heal the wounded, end the wars.” Among the peace groups were Witness Against Torture, the War Resister’s League, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

It is no secret that Americans are in opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; 58% of the public is now against these U.S.-led wars, while legislators across the House and Senate, from Rep. Barbara Lee to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are calling Gen. McChrystal’s request for escalation in Afghanistan into question.

As mediocre bills to end war funding circulate endlessly through the white walls of Congress, I sit listening half-heartedly to the news on the reverberations of the day’s dead, the unbounded detention of innocent men, the infinite proliferation of weapons and warmaking, manufactured to take away the tiny, dirty hands and feet of the voiceless poor.

Eternal vigilance is the cost of my freedom, I am told. The richest country in the world with a monopoly on over a fourth of the earth’s resources, our freedom now is somehow guaranteed in playing the super-Vigilante of the impoverished country of Afghanistan, targeting the loosely connected, oftentimes illiterate and highly unskilled network of the Taliban.

Our strategy is to massacre and enter without looking back, destroying all opportunity for a collective livelihood and security, and leaving thousands of Afghans in IDP camps homeless and barefoot and uncertain of the U.S.’ interference in the first place.

We have spent over one third of my life in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrought with unfulfilled promises and millions of shattered lives. I believe deeply that I am implicated in the crimes my country is committing against our innocent sisters and brothers. My daily complicity is only reinforcing Obama’s – and before, Bush’s – paradigm of occupation and militarism, the culturally insensitive, ever-increasingly expensive and destructive ways of those in power.

Fifty one percent of my taxes (and yours) are spent on our country’s military machine. In Afghanistan, over 90 percent of the current administration’s spending is on military operations – leaving a miniscule amount to rebuild bombed schools, reconstruct neighborhoods of decimated houses, provide even excruciatingly low levels of medical care, or attend generally to the common stories of desperation.

So I did the only thing I could.

Remembering the name and family of a Guantanamo detainee cleared for release under the Bush administration and still being indefinitely detained today, I secured the chain that locked my wrist to the White House fence. Like those who have been held for eight long years, like the Pakistani women mourning their dead children after an unmanned aerial drone attack, like the Afghan villagers wanting desperately to return to their fields, I am locked to the actions the United States makes on my behalf. I’m hoping desperately our country’s ruthless vigilance isn’t predestined to be eternal.

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