Category Archives: Letters

Regarding a US Senators’ Letter to the UN about Israel and Palestine

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A letter dated April 27, 2017, prepared by Senator Mario Rubio and Senator Christopher A. Coons and signed by 100 U.S. Senators, was addressed to Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary General. Two of the concerns stated were ‘the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias’ and ‘the anti-Israel boycott, sanctions, and divestment (BDS) movement’ (reference: ‘Washington Post’ – 100 Senators’ letter to United Nations Secretary General).  Below is copy of letter May 15, 2017, from Barbara Walker, addressed to the Senators and copied others:

Dear Sirs:

Respectfully, I write concerning the letter of April 27, 2017, by Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Christopher A. Coons signed by 100 members of the United States Senate, addressed to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, asking that he address perception of entrenched bias against Israel in the world body, particular reference made to, inter alia, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.  Whether I support the BDS movement or not is not relevant here.  A former United Nations staff member, now retired, I certainly am supportive of the work of UN bodies for improvement of world conditions.

Were it not for continuing violations of Palestinian human rights by the Government of Israel (an example, the taking of Palestinian land over time, for the building of homes for people from Israel), there would be no reason for the call for BDS.  Organized opposition to the Government of Israel’s violations of the Palestinians’ human rights in their own homeland is not an expression of bias against Israel.  Should the taking of Palestinian land, though against international law, be ignored by the world body?  Is recognition of and expression of opposition to long-standing unaddressed human rights violations to be considered discrimination or in this case an effort to have international law effected?

Would that the U.S. Senate, in addition to providing support for generous financial/military assistance to the Government of Israel, required that Israel observe international law with respect to the Palestinians’ homeland [West Bank, East Jerusalem, an Gaza] and human rights.  We (the U.S.) have a not observed but profound responsibility to the Palestinians, our having supported United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (November 1947), which included the plan for partition of British Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state (now Israel) and an Arab state (since June 1967 the occupied territories — West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza).  As is known and understandable, affected Palestinians were not happy about the loss of a major part of their ancestral homeland and they revolted.  [We Americans know about revolution (our own) to claim ‘a land of our own’;  the Palestinians — Christians, Jews, Moslems — were for centuries living in that land of their own; true, under the Ottoman and then League of Nations British Mandate rule; nevertheless, it was their homeland.]

That ’cause and effect’ operates is obvious. One observes that the Government of Israel, in effect, treats the whole of former British Mandate Palestine as if it were Israel, although it is not.  Palestinians’ human rights are violated in their homeland and they react.  The weight of past U.S.  positions vis a vis the Israeli and Palestinian parties is known.  There is ongoing worldwide support for efforts to end the ongoing violations of Palestinians’ human rights.  This support for application of international law — for ‘rule of law’ — is neither bias nor discrimination against Israel.

By what authority could the Government of Israel claim for the State of Israel part or all of any Palestinian homeland territory?  By what authority could any government, including the U.S. Government, allow the Government of Israel to claim for the State of Israel part or all of any Palestinian homeland territory [particular reference here to East Jerusalem]?

Relevant to the matter of U.S. foreign policy and humanitarian concerns as related to the Israel-Palestine conflict is Senator John McCain’s  ‘New York Times.’ Op-Ed, article of May 8, 2017, ‘We Must Support Human Rights’ — in it he refers to and discourages application of a certain counter-view to the strong statement of his title — article quoted in part as follows:

“In the real world as lived and experienced by real people, the demand for human rights and dignity, the longing for liberty and justice and opportunity, the hatred of oppression and corruption and cruelty is reality.  By denying this experience, we deny the aspirations of billions of people, and invite their enduring resentment.”

“… We have long believed moral concerns must be an essential part of our foreign policy, not a departure from it. …”

“To view foreign policy as simply transactional is more dangerous than its proponents realize. …”

Respectfully, this letters is submitted in consideration of perception of responses to Israel-Palestine conflict matters.  Attached concerning this subject are a copy of our letter dated April 21, 2017, addressed to Ambassador Haley and Ambassador Rosselli, and ‘Palestine — Some Considerations,’ prepared by the Granny Peace Brigade for the Hunter College Justice Fair, March 16, 2017.

Sincerely yours,
Barbara Walker
United Nations – Retired
[United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO)
Chief Civilian Personnel Officer – Jerusalem — 1990-1991]

Needed: An Honest Broker

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Reuters / Nayef Haslamoun
Reuters / Nayef Haslamoun

(Click on photos for larger images.)

In connection with the ongoing Kerry-Israel/Palestine Peace Talks the GPB decided we should seek advice on practical action we might take to encourage the U.S. Government to act as a truly honest broker in this so vital process.  Accordingly, I addressed a letter, below, to each of the following five whose concern with U.S. Middle East involvement has been evident, individual openings as indicated:

  • President Bill Clinton, William J. Clinton Foundation – referred to his statement “America Cannot Let Israel-Palestine Conflict Fester.”
  • Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) – referred to his concern with cause and effect in the Israel/Palestine conflict and to his discussions on high level on Middle East peace process.
  • Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) – referred to his discussion on the U.S. as broker in the Israel/Palestine peace process.
  • Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) – referred to his support of the petition “Tell Congress:  Don’t Attack Syria.”
  • Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA) – referred to his visit to Israel, West Bank, and Gaza, and to is views on efforts to move forward the peace process.

I write here expressing my own views and as a member of a peace-focused group, the Granny Peace Brigade.  I am seeking your suggestions/recommendations for any practical action you think we might pursue in urging our government to work as a true third party broker in the Kerry Israel-Palestine peace talks (not as a broker favoring the basic aims of one party).

UNRWA  -  A boy hangs on to what is left of his house after the 2008-09 Israeli military incursion into Gaza.
UNRWA – A boy hangs on to what is left of his house after the 2008-09 Israeli military incursion into Gaza.

How best to further the U.S. playing an impartial role (notwithstanding the 1975 letter from President Gerald Ford to Prime Minister Ytzhak Rabin which in effect made American diplomatic initiatives in future Middle East peace negotiations conditional on prior approval by Israel — reference, Rashid Khalidi, “Brokers of Deceit,” page 8) in the cause of fair negotiation and establishment of peace?

I should mention that the Granny Peace Brigade works independently and with other groups undertaking activities such as visiting members of Congress to lobby for the lessening of our military action and for increase in our use of diplomacy for conflict resolution, focusing public awareness on the need to channel government funds for development of our human resources and national infrastructure, organizing teach-ins on current matters.

UNWRA - An estimated 350 children were killed and thousands were injured during the 2008-09 Israeli military operation in Gaza.
UNWRA – An estimated 350 children were killed and thousands were injured during the 2008-09 Israeli military operation in Gaza.

A retired United Nations staff member, I worked in Africa and the Middle East for 18 years.  If I express here concern about matters that affect Palestinians negatively, it is because many know of the situation and events in Israel/Palestine principally from an Israeli point of view and many do not realize that it is ancestral home also to Palestinians.  Therefore, as I see it, settlements, including, of course, Hebron; East Jerusalem; the West Bank portion of the Jordan River Valley (and in this connection the recent reports of President Mahmoud Abbas’s indication that it is reasonable to allow Israelis to withdraw gradually from the Jordan Valley is noted); the wall built into portions of West Bank land all should be dealt with, real consideration being given to Palestinian needs and rights.  AN ETHNOCENTRIC APPROACH ON OUR PART MUST BE AVOIDED.  We (our government) must make a continuing conscientious effort in this regard.

UNWRA - Two children fill up bottles of water to take home.
UNWRA – Two children fill up bottles of water to take home.

A just resolution of the conflict for the people of Israel/Palestine is so long overdue.  I do thank you for any advice you may have.  It will be very much appreciated.

Very truly yours,
 – Barbara Walker

We’re Seeking a Meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

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A follow up action to our Drone activity in late September will be, we hope, a meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. We have written the letter below to him and hope that it will result in a meeting where we will press our case against weaponized and surveillance drones and present the petitions we collected during the last week of September [see “Grannies meet with United Nations officials”].

November 2013

Your Excellency Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary General,

The Granny Peace Brigade (GPB) is an anti-war group of older women, including several in their nineties. Since 2005, we have been working against the many facets of war.

We write to request a meeting with you at which we will present petitions against weaponized and surveillance drones. Some petitions were collected during a “street witness” and others are being collected on-line by Roots Action, another member of the No Drone Coalition. It is extremely urgent that the United Nations act to institute a worldwide ban against weaponized and surveillance drones.

Drones are the epitome of modern warfare, still horrific, but now cold and calculating, pretending all is clean while still blowing people to bits. As members of the No Drone Coalition, the GPB is aware of the rapid development and expanding application of drone technology. We are deeply concerned about the actual and potential global impact of these weapon and surveillance systems.

Over 650 people signed petitions during the first week of the General Assembly, September 23 – 28 when we held a “street witness.” Petition signers include many visitors from countries around the world. At each of the 16 witness sites, we distributed relevant information and engaged people in conversation concerning current and possible future applications of drone technology. To illustrate the fearsomeness of surveillance drones, a one-fifth scale MQ-9 Reaper drone replica was on display each day that week at three locations throughout Manhattan.

Considering the human rights violations inherent in the use of drones, we believe United Nations members, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should act to prohibit the use of both weaponized and surveillance drones worldwide. Drones that can kill violate International Law; result in inordinate civilian deaths and maiming; promote and enable assassination as an instrument of government policy; and provide an easy entrance into war. Surveillance drones, used for long term monitoring of individuals and groups, invade privacy, terrorize populations and are often followed up by murderous weaponized drones. Terror occurs because murder is expected, even when it doesn’t happen, and the threat results in violations of freedom of speech and of assembly.

Please take action(s) that will result in a worldwide Drone Ban Treaty that prohibits the use of weaponized and surveillance drones.

Respectfully submitted,

Granny Peace Brigade

cc: Angela Kane, Under-Secretary General, High Commissioner for Disarmament Affairs
Stephan Tafrov, Chair, Third Committee, Permanent Representative of Bulgaria

– Edith Cresmer and the Drone Committee
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Thank You President Correa

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September 2012

His Excellency Rafael Correa
President of the Republic of Ecuador
Ecuadorian Consulate General in New York
800 Second Avenue, Suite 600
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. President:

We members of the Granny Peace Brigade are writing to say: THANK YOU FOR OFFERING ASYLUM TO JULIAN ASSANGE.

Those eight words sound very simple but we wish them to convey a profound message.  They reflect our deep admiration and gratitude to you.  Your providing a safe haven for Mr. Assange is a political act of great courage and integrity.  It demonstrates a powerful solidarity in the service of Justice.

The Peace movement in the United States has been indebted to you in the past.  We applauded your withdrawal of Ecuadorians from training at the Fort Benning “School of the Americas.”  Your closing the U.S. military base in Manta was another bold action revealing your strength and commitment to Peace.  In that connection the Granny Peace Brigade convened a series of forums about shutting down U.S. bases on foreign soil and in November 2008 we were honored by the participation of your then Ambassador to the United Nations, Maria Fernanda Espinosa.  The Ambassador spoke of your firm refusal to renew the lease for the Manta base.  It was a powerful presentation and linked the Grannies with your work in the cause of Peace.

We attach for your further information a copy of the announcement for that November 2008 event as well as the mission statement of the Granny Peace Brigade. La lucha continua!

! Muchissimas Gracias, Presidente Correa !

–Las Abuelitas por la Paz son:

 

Ann, Barbara H, Barbara W, Beverly, Betty, Connie, Carol, Caroline, Corinne, Diane, Edith, Eva-Lee, Fran, Jenny, Joan, Judy, Lillian L, Lillian P, Marie, Marty, Molly, Nancy, Nydia, Patricia D, Patricia S, Phyllis, Roz, Susan G, Susan K, Vinie

– Nydia Leaf
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Letter to the OWS Peace Committee

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Hi Geoff,
Although we haven’t been to an Anti-War meeting since the first one, we feel the need to weigh in on the Iran issue. We have been somewhat involved with  OWS since the beginning, and support every aspect of its mission. So it is distressing to read the emails regarding the stance that OWS is considering in relation to the threats against Iran.

I am an American-born Iranian citizen  (member of the Granny Peace Brigade) married to a native Iranian for over 40 years. We go to Iran frequently. In fact we just returned last month and are making a return trip this month due to family illness. We have a huge family in Iran and so are involved with daily life and attitudes there. Iran, like all countries , has societal problems, and Iran is no exception. But as an American, for every human rights violation I read about in Iran, I think about the number of crimes in my own country, from Guantanamo  to our prison industrial system, to the increasing abuse of power by our government on human rights – invasions and murders, secret prisons around the world for “extraordinary rendition[sic]; domestically, the death penalty, HR 347, the Military Commissions Act, NDAA, Patriot Act,  torture, rapes and assassinations; and locally, as you know, the unending harassment and arrests of so many of us out on the street.

Iranians are more than capable of making changes in their own country. We cannot forget that Iran is one of the few countries that had a successful revolution to overthrow an American puppet regime. Because of this, it has been under attack and sanctions for over thirty years. In addition, some of the people who have written to you seem to think that everyone in Iran and abroad are against the current regime. This is not true. A majority of Iranian citizens , despite their suffering from high prices and hardship caused by the sanctions, are still supportive of the government. Whether we or anyone else in the US is in favor of a theocracy-and obviously most of us are not- this is strictly for Iranians living in Iran to decide. The opposition to sanctions and constant threats of war which are illegal under international law must be unconditional.

Human rights violations is an international issue–whether they occur in Iran, the US, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, or anywhere else. Yes, we must all oppose and work for change, beginning with our own government. But to isolate this issue regarding Iran gives the US an excuse to attempt to bully Iran into submission, to give up their rights in order to install another puppet regime and again steal their resources.

The last thing Iran needs is another CIA-orchestrated regime change like the one in 1953. The majority of Iranian people are very aware of the efforts of the US and its allies to destabilize and overthrow their government.  This is a time for us in the anti-war movement to stand with ALL the Iranian people against attack and sanctions, not just those with a particular agenda.

We really would like to be part of this most crucial conversation.

In solidarity,

– Ann and Ahmad Shirazi
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Reopen Shuhada Street in Hebron

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For 17 years by order of Israeli authorities, Shuhada Street in Hebron, West Bank, has been closed to Palestinians.  Below is my letter in this regard mailed to the Embassy of Israel to the United States.
February 22, 2012

The Honorable Michael Oren
Ambassador of Israel
Embassy of Israel
3514 International Drive N.W.
Washington, D.C.20008-3021

Excellency:

Respectfully I write to you concerning the Government of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, making particular reference to the closure of  Shuhada Street in Hebron and recommending its reopening.

The Government of Israel continues occupation of the West Bank and as the administering power has, along the sides of Shuhada Street, formerly a busy marketplace in this Palestinian City,  allowed settlements to develop and settlers to become privileged dwellers.  Palestinians are denied basic rights as residents.  In 1994 Shuhada Street was closed to Palestinians by the Israeli army after the killing of Palestinian worshipers by a settler. Thus the victims were punished!  The overall injustice to which Palestinian families, for many Hebron has been home for generations/centuries, have been subjected appears to be for the benefit of non-Palestinians simply because the non-Palestinians are Israelis.

It is appalling!  Palestinian-operated businesses have been closed; Palestinians may not leave their homes through a door that opens onto Shuhada Street — for a period passes were issued to allow use of doors opening onto Shuhada Street; there is military surveillance; Palestinians are forbidden to work or to drive on Shuhada Street. The settlers reign supreme in the home of Palestinians.  The humanity and the understandable and justifiable anger of Palestinian Arabs should be acknowledged.

Palestinian Mizrahi and Palestinian Arabs have lived together in these lands for centuries. As is known there have been documented conflicts in Hebron between Arabs and Jews.  Reference is made here to the 1929 massacre of Jews by Arabs.  Many Jews were saved by Arabs who took them into their homes.  In 1994 an Israeli settler attacked Moslem worshipers inside the Cave/Tomb of the Patriarchs — a place of worship both for Jews (Me’arat ha Machpela – Cave of the Double Tombs) and for Moslems (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahim – Sanctuary of Abraham [also] Ibrahim’s Mosque) — both people the “seed of Abraham” — both people  Semites.

Should not the plight of Palestinian Arabs be kept in mind by the Israeli occupiers?  Over the decades so many Palestinians have had to leave their homes, some of them ancestral homes.  Yes, there was a Holocaust but the Palestinians had no involvement in it — it was European.  The Palestinians did not turn away the St. Louis — It was the United States.  It is necessary for us to consider history forthrightly, to weigh culpability carefully, to assess ‘action and reaction’ accurately and with sensitivity/fairly.

The powerful combination of the Government of Israel and the Government of the United States makes it possible for the occupying power to act — while the world watches — often in disregard of rights and well-being of the people whose homeland it occupies.

I, Excellency, strongly believe it is within reason that all in life should have the right, among other rights, to —
sanctity of one’s of home and its property
one’s orchard/grove/farm
adequate access to homeland water supply
adequate access to energy sources and resources
leave and return home unimpeded
a childhood
learning
work
travel
freedom

Why should Palestinians be denied basic rights in their own homeland? Even the Balfour Declaration stated ‘… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’

Empathy for those perceived as ‘the other’ is needed.  Do we have sympathy for the people in both the town and the village dealt with here?  In her ‘New York Times’ op-ed article, December 28, 2011, ‘Honoring All Who Saved Jews,’ Eva Weisel described what happened in December 1942 when German troops occupied her hometown.  She was 13 years old.  I point out that a Palestinian of Eva Weisel’s generation also could describe an event no child — or adult — should have to experience.  In April 1948, the Arab village of Deir Yassin, in a part of Palestine which was to become part of Israel, was seized and occupied.  As I see it, if continuing physical and social carnage are ever to be understood as non-solutions in conflict resolution,  all of us will have to take to heart the plaintive utterance of Shylock  “…If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?….”

Excellency, it is my request to your Office that your Government be urged to act to restore the rights of Palestinians, and in this connection that you recommend the permanent reopening of Shuhada Street in Hebron.

Respectfully submitted,

– Barbara Walker 
(retired United Nations staff member)

 

for the Granny Peace Brigade
Photo: Eva-Lee Baird

AARP: ON THE WRONG SIDE – AGAIN

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Why is it that every time I come back to AARP, something else happens to make me regret my decision?
I recently received your Jan/Feb issue, with a cover so vile that I could not bring myself to have it in my house-I had to drop it in the garbage room of my building.
Why would you feature a proud warmonger and acknowledged war criminal, George Bush, in your magazine?

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It is telling and disappointing that AARP has never seen fit to give space to the thousands of elderly activists who have devoted their lives to preventing criminals like your cover boy from murdering millions more and more innocent people in the Middle East and around the world.

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Photo: Eva-Lee Baird

There are many many groups, such as  the Granny Peace Brigade grannypeacebrigade.org, whose members continue to be arrested and jailed in the quest for peace, despite their physical difficulties and advanced age.

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Photos: Eva-Lee Baird

Several of the women in my group are over 90:  amazing brave and fearless women like Marie Runyon, who lay on the floor of Congress with Dr. Benjamin Spock during the Viet Nam “War”; Molly Klopot, who was an active labor organizer and is still a leader of WILPF (Womens Int’l League for Peace and Freedom) despite back pain and blindness (she climbs hundreds of steps a day to and from the subway between Manhattan and her home in Coney Island); Lillian Lifflander, a former WAC in World War II and community organizer on the Lower East Side of New York City; Lillian Pollak, who published a book (The Sweetest Dream: Love, Lies and Assassination) at 93-she is now 95 and going strong in all weather, marching, demonstrating, fighting.

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Photo: Masahiro Hosoda

All these women, along with other equally impressive “younger” activists in their 70s and 80s, are still out on the street, risking arrest and abuse, to keep up the struggle for human rights and an end to the seemingly endless invasions, sanctions and threats perpetrated by the United States on other countries.

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Photo: Bud Korotzer

But no, you choose to put this hideous caricature of a human being on your cover, with a story inside that I assume attempts to portray him as a family man and good guy instead of the unconscionable heartless and mindless murderer that he is.

Shame on you.
Disgusted,
Ann Shirazi
New York City
for the Granny Peace Brigade

To Our Generous Supporters

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The Granny Peace Brigade is lucky to have so many supporters. We’ve always hoped that many of you agree with our values, even when you can’t always be with us in the streets or at our forums and counter-recruitment events. Now we know that lots of people are cheering us on because you have provided us with financial support.

As of this week, more than one hundred people have responded to our request for funds! We sent letters to around 400 people which means the rate of response is stellar – way above average for non-profit groups. Of course, we have a life sustaining goal – ending of war — so it stands to reason that others have supported us.

Gifts from new supporters numbered 19, or nearly 20% of the total, while the balance came from people who have supported us once, or twice, or more times over the last 5 years. The gifts came from as far as Hawaii. Besides New York, where 75% of our supporters live, residents of 12 other states [California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, Vermont and Virginia] were among our benefactors.

Our letter had encouraged everyone to give us an email address if you want to be kept informed about our activities and many of you did provide it. We also got notes of encouragement and advice, and expressions saying that the gift honors one of our members or someone else you know.  We appreciate all your wishes, and will try to live up to your faith in our efforts.  Most of all, of course, we wish for success in our primary goal – ending of war.

– Edith Cresmer
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Open letter to President Barak Obama Urging Cessation of U.S. Military Action in Afghanistan

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Dear Mr. President,

Strongly do I support your careful weighing of options for continuation of United States engagement in Afghanistan. I am, of course, appalled by the civilian deaths resulting from our ground and air military action. It is noted that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has himself acknowledged the counter-productive effects of civilian deaths resulting from military engagement. He described the killing of civilians as “one of our greatest strategic vulnerabilities” (‘New York Times,’ June 13, 2009). It is significant that  Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that senior officers must work to prevent the militarization of American foreign policy (‘New York Times,’ January 12, 2009). Former First Lady Laura Bush on her return from Afghanistan made the point on Meet the Press, November 30, 2008, that there were so many Afghan widows.

For humanitarian reasons and in our national interest I would urge the scheduling of military combat forces draw-down, establishment of a United Nations short-term security force mission, and re-direction of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan to the development of non-military programs for reconstruction and rehabilitation, in collaboration with the Government of Afghanistan.

In your speech last week at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, you told a military audience that you would only commit more forces to Afghanistan if it is vital to U.S. interests and receives public support and that “I will not risk your lives unless it is necessary to America’s vital interests” (‘Staten Island Advance,’ November 13, 2009). It is my understanding that the interests now considered vital are (a) rendering al-Qaeda unable to pursue its operations and (b) weakening the Taliban’s influence. In this regard I noted and quote the following [Cato (Institute) – “Recognizing the Limits of American Power in Afghanistan” by Doug Bandow; the article appeared in the ‘Huffington Post’ on October 31, 2009]:

“The critical issue is Washington’s objective. The U.S. long ago achieved its goal of displacing and weakening al-Qaeda (despite the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden) and ousting the Taliban government which gave the organization refuge. That success persists despite recent Taliban gains. National Security Adviser James Jones estimated fewer than 100 al-Qaeda members are operating in Afghanistan, and said they have “no bases, no ability to launch attacks on us or our allies.”

I was indeed pleased to learn that General Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, supports the assignment of civilian personnel to Afghanistan in fields such as agriculture, and that the State Department has attempted to accommodate his requests (‘New York Times,’ November 12, 2009). Certainly, expenditures for humanitarian aid, community development, and reconstruction should replace military expenditures for programs designed to meet needs identified by Afghan agencies and organizations. A relevant example of such a program was recently described (‘New York Times,’ November 13, 2009) – community participation in a Village Council in Jurm resulted in the village obtaining a grant which enabled local workers and an engineer to carry out a clean water development project – a small but important project.

Authorization for continuation and intensification of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan would, I believe,  severely lessen the potential for your administration’s success in drawing support for domestic programs and for your other foreign policy objectives.

I hope that revisions in U.S. policy with regard to Afghanistan would include, inter alia, the following:

– cessation of military action in Afghanistan and in Pakistan

– establishment of just system of reparations for civilian casualties and for local destruction

– removal of land mines

– withdrawal of military forces

– negotiations with all parties concerned (including the Taliban, as it is a significant part of the
citizenry and will not be ignored)

– provision of financial aid for programs identified by Afghan authorities/agencies/local councils,
to be executed by local workers and Afghan organizations to the extent possible;
if necessary, civilian personnel of other institutions/organizations to be identified by the Afghan authorities/agencies/local councils

– support for establishment of a United Nations short-term security force mission

In my end-the-war activities, I often meet people who have lost loved ones in this conflict and family members of posted military personnel who are struggling emotionally/financially. This is indicative of the dreadful vortex –

‘died as part of the Afghan war and related operations:
BROCHU, Jordan M., 20, Pfc., Army.
WALSHE, Tyler R., 21, Specialist Army.
WELCH, Jonathan D., 19, Specialist Army.’
This should be unacceptable to all.

Respectfully submitted,
– Barbara Walker
for the Granny Peace Brigade

Dear President Obama, Please Build Not Bomb Afghanistan

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Dear Mr. President:

I am of course aware of the various pressures exerted by lobbyists, including contractors, weapons manufacturers, foreign and domestic political partisans, on your Administration, toward the end of keeping the wars going on and if possible expanding them. However, it is significant that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that “senior officers must work to prevent the militarization of American foreign policy…” (‘New York Times,’ January 13, 2009). The ‘New York Times’ went on to say “The military is engaged in deep soul-searching over the proper role of the armed forces in foreign policy.” (I realize this has broad implications.) “The debate has been inspired by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq….” It could be noted that the list of ‘Names of the Dead’ at the end of the article were the names of three service members – all killed in Afghanistan. Is this to be our next Viet Nam? I mention the much mentioned Eisenhower warning about the military/industrial (and I understand he wanted to include ‘congressional’) complex. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was not fired; General MacArthur was!

Mr. President, why is there planning for the funneling of our military personnel from Iraq into Afghanistan? Originally it was said that we were in Afghanistan to look for Osama bin Laden. Well we know what happened then — we let him go. The Taliban? The Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States indicated on “Meet the Press,” November 30, 2008, that the Taliban must be dealt with — that it should be brought into talks, not for power sharing but for the purpose of working on solutions. Former First Lady Laura Bush on the same program said, regarding Afghanistan and its needs: “There are so many widows.” Afghanistan is not ‘the good war’ but unfortunately many are picking up ‘the good war’ chant.

Former Finnish President Martii Ahtisaari, who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, managed and oversaw, after Namibia’s long and bitter war with South Africa, the massive UN supervised operation which led to elections and the independence of that country. UN staff, international police and military personnel, contracted personnel  locally recruited translators/interpreters, clerical, administrative staff, and others, as required, were employed. The mission worked in collaboration with community leaders over the whole of that geographically large country to prepare for the elections. The situations and operational requirements in Namibia clearly were not as in Afghanistan but there are some common factors. One personnel matter that worked to the benefit of the operation in Namibia was that there were relatively few U.S. nationals assigned to the operation; therefore, there was not a large U.S. ‘footprint.’
Mr. President, consultation with President Ahtisaari could be useful. Please do not be led into continued military action in Afghanistan and another deadly debacle.

Mr. President, when during your campaign you spoke of our troops leaving Iraq and then you spoke of their deployment to Afghanistan, my heart and the heart of many sank! As you know, there are persons knowledgeable about Afghanistan — situation, history, societies, cultures, geography (e.g. Rory Stewart, Herbert Bix) — who have stressed, among other matters, need for economy, institution, infrastructure rebuilding, rather than U.S. military action.

Certainly there is awareness of the question how best can the skills of our service members now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and returning home en masse be applied, but continuing the waging of war to avoid developing a solution would not be moral or practical.

Mr. President, last evening, January 30th, on “Bill Moyers Journal,” Dr. Marilyn Young, Professor of History, New York University, cogently stated how terribly ill-advised is U.S. military action in Afghanistan — the mistaken application of military action there rather than the needed application of political action. I respectfully urge that you read the transcript of that segment of the program. My own great fear is that such military action, though you may be pressed by military proponents to take such action, will severely damage your Administration, in which so many have so much hope.

Sincerely yours,
– Barbara Walker
Granny Peace Brigade