While waiting to be processed
at the Anacostia Park Police Station, I was drawn to a mounted post-9/11,
Bush-era FBI reward poster. "The Cost of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance",
propagated the sign. The unrestrained madness is as prevalent today
as it was eight years ago: Obama is continuing Bush's war folly.
On October 5th,
2009, sixty-one anti-war activists were arrested in front of the White
House, calling on President Obama to end the war in Iraq, end the occupation
of Afghanistan, and end the drone bombings in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
We also called for 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 bearing the faces of Iraqi and Afghan war
victims. "Mourn the dead," the crowd chanted. "Heal the
wounded. End the wars."
Entering our ninth year of
occupation, numerous Americans oppose 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 empty political rhetoric
circulates endlessly through the halls of Congress, I try not to become
desensitized by daily news about deaths of U.S. soldiers and deaths
of militants. Other tragic stories tell about the torture and detention
of prisoners without due process in the expanding prison at the U.S.
base in Bagram. I hear about weapon proliferation and seemingly
endless war making, and I can't help but think of impoverished people,
vulnerable and voiceless, treated as though they are worth less than
the dust under our feet.
The cost of my freedom, I am
told, is eternal vigilance. I live in the richest country in the
world, the nation which monopolizes over a fourth of the earth's resources,
and am still imprisoned when exercising my so-called freedom of speech.
I'm to believe, instead, that our freedom depends on using the U.S.
military and contracted mercenaries as super-Vigilantes in Afghanistan's
impoverished provinces, targeting the loosely connected, oftentimes
illiterate and highly unskilled network of the Taliban.
U.S. military strategy commands
soldiers to enter villages, raid homes, take prisoners, maim, wound
and kill targeted "bad guys", possibly along with their families,
and destroy all opportunity for a collective livelihood and security
in Afghanistan. What's more, thousands of people are stranded
in IDP camps, homeless and barefoot and uncertain as to why the U.S.
ever invaded their land in the first place. Is this the price
of my freedom?
The U.S. has been at war in
Iraq and Afghanistan for over one third of my life, a time fraught with
unfulfilled promises to people in both of those lands. U.S. war
and occupation has shattered the hopes and dreams of millions. I believe,
deeply, that I am implicated in the crimes my country is committing
against our innocent sisters and brothers. My daily complicity only
reinforces Obama's - and before, Bush's - paradigm of occupation
and militarism. Both presidents have established patterns that
are culturally insensitive, increasingly expensive and massively destructive.
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
So I did the only thing I could.
Remembering the name and family
of a Guantanamodetainee cleared for release under the Bush
administration and still being indefinitely detained today, I secured
a chain around my wrist and then locked it 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.
We have the obligation to unchain ourselves from these unjust and immoral