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Rebuild the Dream in the Streets

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Remarks at Take Back the Dream conference, October 3, 2011.

For videos of this speech and of remarks by Derrick Crowe and Jo Comerford click here: http://warisacrime.org/content/rebuild-dream-streets

Back around May or June a bunch of us announced plans for this coming Thursday, October 6th, to occupy Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., not for a march or a rally, and not for a day or a weekend, but to create a central space for an ongoing occupation from which we would engage in nonviolent resistance.

We were inspired by the Arab Spring and Wisconsin and working for a U.S. Autumn.  Now of course we are also inspired by the Occupation of Wall Street.  It's been wonderful to see more and more people and organizations compelled to join in that action, and to see militarism and plutocracy opposed together by a movement that refuses to be dumbed down into a sound bite.

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Over 150 organizations are part of the planning for Freedom Plaza at October2011.org and all are encouraged to join.  Wall Street's servants on K Street, in the Pentagon, and in our government may be feeling comfortably distant from Wall Street right about now.  But I don't see any reason to support protests of the wealth that corrupts our government and not protests of the government corrupted by that wealth.  Choosing to be corrupted is an active choice.  Corruption is not something imposed on helpless victims.

We chose October 6th because the Afghanistan War was due to begin its second decade.  Over 4,000 people have taken this pledge:

"I pledge that if any U.S. troops, contractors, or mercenaries remain in Afghanistan on Thursday, October 6, 2011, as that occupation goes into its 11th year, I will commit to being in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with others on that day with the intention of making it our Tahrir Square, Cairo, our Madison, Wisconsin, where we will NONVIOLENTLY resist the corporate machine to demand that our resources are invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. We can do this together. We will be the beginning ."

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I hope you'll go and pledge the same at October2011.org

It has been three years now since a Russian ambassador to Afghanistan said the United States had repeated all of the Soviet Union's mistakes in Afghanistan and had moved on to new ones.  Mistakes is a common euphemism for crimes and other words that we would be applying were ours the country violently occupied, were ours the bulk of the deaths and misery, were our doors being kicked in and our loved ones disappeared, were the missiles hitting our homes.

Every year, of course, as British Member of Parliament Rory Stewart recently pointed out, top western officials have claimed that whatever year it was would be the decisive one.  And each year it has not been.  This past week, the United Nations reported an increase in violence in Afghanistan of about 40 percent over last year.  NATO deemed that story inappropriate and announced its own findings the very next day.  It turns out that, if you believe violence isn't violence when it's committed by the United States and allies, then you can look at certain types of violence initiated purely by Afghans and identify a dramatic decrease of . . . wait for it . . . 2 percent.

But don't book that Afghan vacation just yet. 

Migratory birds have been avoiding Afghanistan for some years now. Afghans with higher educations have been leaving for decades.  War profiteers, and occupation profiteers, and so-called reconstruction profiteers seem to know their way out.  But imperial rulers, whether British or Soviet or U.S., Nobel Peace Prize winners or otherwise, seem utterly incapable of withdrawing other people's kids from Afghan wars until no other option remains. 

And why this inability to leave?  Why stay?  It's not to track down Osama bin Laden on the off chance he wasn't really given that proper Muslim sea burial.  It's not to find the number 8 regional leader in al Qaeda, and certainly not to oppose the Taliban which feeds off the occupation.  It may be for politics, but U.S. opinion polls could hardly scream "Get out!" more clearly. It is almost certainly for profits and pipelines and permanent bases.  A U.S. executive, er excuse me "job creator," told NPR this summer that if the occupation of Afghanistan were scaled back he really hoped there could be a big occupation of Libya.

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But there's apparently another reason why armed U.S. citizens and their foreign workers are still in Afghanistan, and it's not to keep us safe.  The 2006 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, among other studies, made clear that these wars make us less safe, not more.  Almost four years ago, at a conference in Washington, D.C., on al Qaeda, former State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin listed ways to reduce the threat of terrorism.  Afterwards, journalist Gareth Porter asked him whether ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should have been on his list.
"You're right," he answered.  And then he added, "But we can't do that."
"Why not," Porter asked.
"Because," he said, "we would have to tell the families of the soldiers who have died in those wars that their loved ones died in vain."

Since then, of course, a lot more people have died in vain.

This is what it comes to, and why nonviolent occupations of our own back in Der "Homeland" are required.  Our government has gone insane.  It is killing people purely because it has already killed people. 

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
 

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