by ralphlopez, Sun Oct 18, 2009 at 02:19:25 PM EDT
With no photographs or videocameras allowed due to strict security measures, RAWA representative "Soya" of one of the leading women's humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan told a Boston audience that even within a thousand feet of the presidential palace in Kabul, children are starving. This is the taboo topic for the media, because it reveals the big lie behind media coverage of the insurgency, the idea that it is based on anything but economic desperation. There is 40% unemployment, the Taliban pays $8 a day, and it's the only job in town. People hate the Taliban. They cut off heads and hands. But when your kids are starving you take what work is available.
Now that Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, we might reflect on who else has won that prize: George C. Marshall, author of the Marshall Plan which saved Europeans from starvation after World War II, and prevented some Western European nations from falling into the hands of communist militants and parties which were making rapid gains amid the economic chaos.
At large events "Soya" speaks behind sunglasses and a scarf up to her nose, to protect her identity. Both her parents were killed by the Taliban, as was her predecessor in her job, which is coordinator for this group which builds orphanages, wells, schools for girls, housing, and clinics across Afghanistan. She arguably could win the title of Bravest Woman in the World. All five-feet-one of her. She works where your enemies mean business when they tell you to stop, yet she continues the work because the children must be fed.
At an anti-war rally the next day Soya thanked some of the soldiers on the stage who are war resisters, refusing to deploy to Afghanistan, for "refusing to kill our children and our people." It was an amazing moment. I had the privilege of meeting her up close after her speech, out of disguise, and can report in passing that she is a stunningly beautiful woman.
The idea that it is impossible to get help to these people on the ground because of Afghan corruption is overblown and used as an excuse to ignore the problem, since if you solved the problem a large number of Taliban who fight for the wage would lay down their arms and stop fighting, which is not profitable for the military-industrial complex which Eisenhower warned about. Soya said don't give us bombs to eat, give us food and a way to rebuild. Robert Greenwald is circulating a petition calling for a civilian solution to stability. This is the film-maker who blew the lid off war profiteering in "Iraq for Sale."
There is a solution. Get money to the poorest people in a way which "tunnels" through the corruption, so that they don't have to depend on the Taliban for the $8 a day they pay for insurgent work, and they will turn on the Taliban themselves. The Taliban is hated by most of the population as it ruled only by fear, not any popular consent.
We identified one functional ministry of the Karzai government which has done the work of building more than 25,000 community development councils (CDCs) which work with the villages and the elders on work projects which benefit the communities, not corrupt contractors like Halliburton or Louis Berger Group, or corrupt Afghan warlords. Details are in our White Paper "Stabilizing Afghanistan Through a Cash-for-Work Initiative."
It was humbling and inspiring to be standing next to this tiny woman who faces sudden death in her country on a daily basis because she will not stop what she is doing. Her message to the American people was: No troop escalation. Troops out. Please don't bomb us, help us, the children are starving. For her speaking tour dates go HERE. With the support of many American women's organizations, she'll be in Los Angeles this Wednesday, and soon New York, San Francisco, and Providence.
"There is a low percentage of the total Taliban force who we would call ideologically driven. We refer to them as Tier 1 people who believe their ideology, that what they're doing is right. The vast majority of Taliban fighters are essentially economically disadvantaged young men." --Col. Tom Collins, PBS Frontline, April 2, 2007,
"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."-Major General Smedley Butler, USMC (double Medal of Honor) 1935
Starvation in Afghanistan
Watch new film "Afghan Marshall Plan: Winning With Jobs Not Guns" (26 minutes)