As I post this, it is the forteenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, the beginning of the disastrous war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the London Catholic Worker are planning vigils at local hospitals, saying ‘To bomb this site would be a war crime’.. ‘the same is true in Kunduz, Afghanistan’.
Last weekend started with a vigil called by Pax Christi opposite Downing Street since it was Ghandi’s birthday and International Day of Nonviolence. We prayed for victims of the wars in Syria, Yemen and the Middle East. We saw Boris Johnson, who took a leaflet, and a party of foreign military top brass, who didn’t. I thought while I was standing there in Whitehall, searching for that quiet space of silence and peace, watching the passersby, interns in blue suits running errands, clutching their ipad cases, why so many tourists? Of all the places in London, Whitehall is the most tedious enormous leg ache to be walk down. Lined in Portland stone, not all that well hidden is the pain, remembrance, protest, injustice we have either protested or approved or let slip .
The next day, feeling tentative because of total exhaustion, following the least favourite journey from London to Lincoln for the ‘Scones not Drones’ protest called by Drones Campaign Network during the Drones Week of Action. On the journey up a bit nervous this week as the EDL, easily confused with a well known French energy company, had announced they were going to stage a counter protest. Surely a counter protest is counterproductive, why does the RAF need supporting or protecting? It’s already there, protected by millions of pounds worth of taxpayers money not to mention arms manufacturers who are only too expert at selling us taxpayers another drone.
I arrived at Lincoln and found at the bus stop a friendly group of Quakers from Sheffield, and Maya from VCNV and we all got on the bus together to RAF Waddington.
Two of our friends were already on their way to speak to the EDL protest, which was kept well down the end by the gates, while we all sat by the layby, near the road. Kept well away by the police, they were very polite, but their posters and comments on FB and in the Lincolnite aren’t.
With good photo from Drone wars Chris Cole here
I indulged in several cheese scones and some chocolate cornflake crispies. The highlight of the afternoon, was the Skype call to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, the group I visited in Kabul. Some of the teenagers with us asked questions of the young people over there. I heard the voices, all the way from Afghanistan, I remembered why I was there, on a lay by outside an airforce base, made me grateful and privileged.
That very morning we had heard news of the US-led air strike on a MSF hospital in Kunduz.
Back in London, several times this week, thinking of Kunduz, I have had the same uncomfortable painful feeling I have when I walk past an old haunt, a place that reminds me of an old lover from long ago. I was wondering what this feeling is and concluded it must be guilt. Some memories, some places bring guilt.
It is our guilt. Being part of NATO, we are culpable. In the scrabbling about for reasons and excuses changing stories, that US airforce are getting up to, mix and match stories, at least they seem to recognise a crime.
We are part of NATO, so we should feel that guilty pang when we think of Kunduz. When we recognise the absolute horrifying brutality of bombing a hospital: the inhabitants are sick, wounded, ill and vulnerable, unable to run away. The doctors and nurses cannot leave their patients. It’s no good comparing ourselves to the Russians, or even the Taliban, as the Economist would have us do. It is a wrong that is also saying bombing defenceless civilians anywhere is cruel and brutal. In an urban area, the target is always going to be surrounded by civilians, and that means children, the elderly, the sick, the poor.
Recently Action on Armed Violence reported on a BMJ report from Syria. Women and children suffer more from bombing than from shooting. And they have suffered more than men.