So President Obama did what he said he was going to do, escalate the war in Afghanistan. Not only last March, when he sent 24,000 troops, but yesterday when he made his slick announcement at West Point Military Academy in New York to send another 30,000 more starting immediately. This month, 9,000 marines are set to deploy to Helmund Province to "root out" the drug lords stronghold, and fight the Taliban "insurgents." Huh? Is this a "War on Terror" or a "War on Drugs" or are we nation building?
I'm confused, aren't you? Just last month we were saving the women in Afghanistan, and the month before that we were bringing democracy by aiding the Afghan people in their democratic election process. What a bunch of bunk. And it is being sold to us by the best "used car salesman" on the planet! A smooth operator, Obama is selling us right down the river, along with 100,000 more troops into Afghanistan, special operations forces, almost equal amount of mercenary contractors hired to kill, and don't forget the constant increase in drone bombings. Our troops are exhausted with more than multiple deployments, suffering from traumatic brain injuries, severe PTSD, and wounds so horrible that years ago a soldier would have died immediately.
But the speech he gave last night at West Point could have made you stop and wonder, if you didn't know better. Most Americans don't. They buy the rhetoric that "the United States does not occupy other countries"" or "the United States has helped suffering nations by rebuilding and sending aid." Were you scratching your head? Well, I was sitting outside the West Point gate, along with 300 other really angry protesters!
The evening started at the center of town in Highland Falls, NY, with a few speeches that ran the spectrum of opinions as to why we should not increase troop levels in Afghanistan. It went from we need money for education, jobs and healthcare, to we just can't afford more war, to "damn it, this is just plain wrong!" Killing people in another country is morally unacceptable and illegitimate. I declared myself one of the ungovernable and would no longer operate under the constraints of a government that does not represent me or the interests of humanity! There were about 300 people at the rally in front of a holiday tree laden gazebo, all holding a light of some kind, listening quietly to the speeches, applauding at the right moments. Some local press recorded the anti-war sentiments and then we marched in a quiet "candlelight vigil" style to the main gates of West Point, where the President was about to give his escalation speech.
How ironic that those people marching wanted "change" and here was Obama announcing in the exact location that Bush did that he would once again send more troops into the exact same war that he was elected to end. He claimed that he listened closely to all advisors, both military and civilian. Again I say "huh"? His White House advisor on Afghanistan resigned in protest to the escalation. Guess he didn't listen to him too closely. Many peace and justice organizations received phone calls from the White House asking for their input, which they gave. Guess he didn't listen to us real closely.
So we took our anger and passion to the front gate of West Point, quietly. I, along with 3 of my close activist friends, had decided that we were going to up the ante by creating conditions where we would be "ungovernable." We chained ourselves to the town sign directly outside the towering turrets of West Point, under the scrutiny of local law enforcement and military police. Those who were marching, started chanting "End this war!" and started to pass us and got even closer to the barricaded street.
We decided to unchain ourselves and move forward. We took to the front gate as close as we could facing off the military police, and sat down directly in front of them. We faced the crowd and chanted loudly "30,000 more, what the hell for!" The chants grew louder and louder, and the protesters started to get closer into the main gate, now directly in front of the police. Drums and a sax were playing a beat that was the background to the yelling.
People were inspired, energized and really angry. As we sat there, more and more came from the crowd to sit with us, facing out into the street, locking arms and smiling. It took me back to the days of the anti-war protests of the 70's when the movement took over and demanded to be heard. Young as well as old hit the street and kept up the protest. Local organizers were surprised by the action because it was unplanned and probably the most radical that has been seen at the gates of the academy in the quiet town of Highland Falls.
We sat there while Obama made his speech, knowing that he had just committed more soldiers to go fight, die and kill in the longest war yet. Everyone on that street knew what was happening inside the building directly in front of them and were completely and utterly disgusted yelling that Obama had disappointed them, had betrayed them, and he should beware of the "head of the snake" that was outside the building. That this "snake" had a body extending across the country that would not allow him to continue these wars at any cost. His "base" had left him!
After sitting there for almost one hour 6 of us decided to get up and walk over to the active entrance, the street where cars were entering the academy. We quickly made our way through the crowd, to the Thayer gate and sat down once again, now blocking any traffic intending on approaching. What started with 4 was now 6 people risking arrest. It happened so fast that the police couldn't catch us and the chief shook his head immediately. We kept yelling at the top of our voices "30,000 more, what the hell for!" and the crowd followed us. Of course we got the usual law enforcement lecture about "we let you stay in front of the other gate, why do you want to sit here?" But ignoring that, we changed our chant to "END THESE WARS!"
Six of us were ultimately arrested by 8:45 pm, when Obama had finished delivering his slimy speech with unmitigated gall to the world. Our action was impromptu, unplanned and became emotional when we literally vented our anger to the world! People stayed around the jail and remained energized until we had to finally part and go our separate ways.
Last night we learned a lesson, stand up, or sit down, for what is right, and everyone will begin to participate in the increased resistance!