This weekend, tens of thousands are expected to converge on Chicago to protest against a summit of NATO leaders. Originally, the G8 was also going to meet in Chicago this week, but that gathering of heads of the world's most powerful governments was moved to Camp David.
The war in Afghanistan will be at the top of NATO's agenda, and it will be a focus of the mass demonstrations planned outside the summit. Prominent Afghan women's rights activist and former parliamentarian Malalai Joya adds her voice in support of the anti-war protests in Chicago.
Unfortunately, I will be unable to travel to attend the protests against NATO. But from here in Kabul, I can tell you that the whole world will indeed be watching Chicago this weekend.
The protesters remind us all that the government of the United States is not representative of the people of the United States. It's encouraging to see so many people willing to take action and stand up against this unjust and disastrous war.
Recently U.S. President Obama travelled to Kabul to meet Afghanistan's so-called President Hamid Karzai. Both leaders used this meeting to pretend that they are ending this war when they are really trying to continue it even longer.
Obama knows that the U.S. people are turning against the war, and both men know that the Afghan people are against this war and reject the foreign occupation of their country. So on one hand they claim the war will end in 2014, while on the other hand they say that U.S. troops will remain in some capacity until 2024.
When 2024 comes closer they will probably say they plan to remain in Afghanistan until 2034. The reality is that the U.S. and their NATO allies plan to dominate Afghanistan and the larger region militarily for the next generation. They need this for geostrategic reasons. They want to control the energy and mineral resources of our countries, and they want to maintain military superiority against China and other competitors.
No one can believe the words of Obama and others who say they are working for peace even while they continue to make war and to kill our people in bombings, night raids and now more and more drone attacks that kill civilians every week and sometimes every day in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.
This weekend's protests will likely face repression. But it's vital that people take to the streets to raise their voices. Here in Afghanistan, many peace and women's rights activists literally risk their lives to hold protests against the occupation and against the fundamentalist warlords.
I know Chicago is something like President Obama's "hometown," because he lived there many years and it was in the state of Illinois that he was first elected. My hometown is in Afghanistan's remote Farah Province. I was elected in 2005, when I was only 26 years old, to represent Farah in Afghanistan's Parliament. Because I spoke out and denounced the occupation, the warlords and the Taliban, I faced threats, assassination attempts -- and then they even kicked me out of Parliament in 2007.
Because I was banished, I was unable to stand in Parliament and condemn a NATO bombing in May 2009 that killed approximately 150 people in my province of Farah. Most of the victims of this massacre were women and children. I would like to ask Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, how they would feel if their own daughters were killed in this sort of senseless and brutal manner?
Because this is the reality of the war in Afghanistan. This is the reality of what NATO does all around the world, and if NATO is allowed to stay and continue the war in Afghanistan, they will be emboldened to wage more wars against more people - in the Middle East, in Africa and beyond.
We have many problems in Afghanistan -- fundamentalism, warlords, the Taliban -- but we will have a better chance to solve them if we have our self-determination, our freedom, our independence.
NATO's bombs will never bring democracy and justice to Afghanistan or any other country.
The voices of protest in the streets of Chicago will be seen and heard in Kabul, and in Farah, and eventually in every corner of Afghanistan. As we say here, the truth is like the sun, when it comes out nothing can block it.
I'm sorry I cannot be there physically in Chicago this weekend. But I, along with millions of other Afghans, am there in heart and in spirit. We stand in solidarity with the demand that NATO withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
And in the long-run, our desire for true justice and democracy will defeat all of NATO's guns and bombs.
Malalai Joya is a prominent Afghan women's rights activist and a former member of parliament. rabble.ca editor Derrick O'Keefe is the co-writer of her book, A Woman Among Warlords. In 2010, TIME named her one of 'the world's 100 most influential people,' but the prestigious magazine failed to mention her opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan.
I remember that Malalai Joya stood her ground when "no Longer pacific" Pacifica's Sonhali Kolhatkar, host of "Uprising", tried to force her into endorsing obomber's slaughter of 150,000 Libyans and the destruction of the country. Malalai wouldn't bit. She just said, "Everybody knows what this is really about!"
And now that the black-faced cracker has signed legislation curtailing free speech, he's set to close down the protest of his treacherous, torturing, thieving, lying, murdering policies.
Much repsect Malalalai!
Protesting NATO: What to Know About the Secret Service and H.R. 347
By Gabe Rottman, Washington Legislative Office at 12:58pm
The forthcoming summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, set for May 20 and 21 in Chicago, could be the first public test of H.R. 347, the recently passed law that expanded the ability of the Secret Service to suppress protests in or around certain restricted zones near individuals under its protection. We've written about H.R. 347 here and here.
NATO summits are interesting affairs. Unlike the periodic meetings of member nations, the summits are more stately and elaborate events, meant to introduce major policy changes or new members to the strategic alliance (among other things). This means lots of Very Important Persons, and lots of Very Controversial Issues. Both of these things mean lots of expected First Amendment activity.
As far as H.R. 347 goes, the NATO summit has been declared a "National Special Security Event" by the Department of Homeland Security. This puts the Secret Service in charge of the overall security plan. My understanding is that the FBI chips in with counterterrorism and counterintelligence assistance, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (another DHS agency) is in charge of emergency preparation. It also means massive security preparations and infrastructure—and lots of opportunities for the suppression of lawful protest.
The entire area around Chicago's McCormick Place—the main site for the summit—will be off-limits to unauthorized personnel, and I believe will qualify as a restricted zone under the federal law that was amended by H.R. 347. Additionally, the Secret Service plans to close parts of Lake Shore Drive and I-55 near the summit as well as other locations in the Loop.
For protesters, this means a couple of things. First, be aware of the types of conduct covered by the law amended by H.R. 347 (all of this stuff was actually illegal before the recent revamp, which is partially why the bill sailed under the radar). That is, you cannot:
(1) Enter or remain in one of these zones without "lawful authority";
(2) Engage in "disorderly or disruptive conduct" in or near one of these zones that "impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government activities or official functions" (but you must intend to impede or disrupt those activities or functions);
(3) Block or otherwise impede an entrance or exit to one of these zones (but you must again intend to disrupt government activities or official functions); or
(4) Engage in any act of physical violence against person or property in any restricted zone.
Second, note this is where the lowered intent standard in the law, which we explained here, could come into play. Previously, per the one case discussing the scope of the law amended by H.R. 347, there was a question about whether you had to affirmatively know your actions were unlawful under federal law before you could be convicted under the relevant federal statute. Under H.R. 347's amendments to that statute, I think it's safe to say that requirement is gone. All you need to know are the "facts underlying" the offense, meaning that you merely need to be aware you're engaged in the conduct described above in one of these zones, but not that it's illegal.
In practice, this could mean that protesters who inadvertently find themselves in one of these areas could be arrested and charged under H.R. 347. That said, the law also requires that the area be "posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted," meaning that it would have to be obvious based on signage, a cordon of police officers surrounding the area or some other means that the area is a federally restricted area. If not, it would arguably be difficult to form the required intent to commit the crime. That will not necessarily, however, stop the authorities from arresting you.
What will be particularly interesting (read: alarming) is if the Secret Service starts to use the law to get at protests that are physically removed from the event. For instance, if a lawful protest that is within earshot of the summit gets rowdy enough that it "disrupts" the "orderly conduct of Government business or official functions," does that trigger the statute? We just don't know. The Secret Service certainly has the ability and obligation to secure the individuals it protects, but it also must permit lawful protest to be seen and heard. It cannot use H.R. 347 to "sanitize" the summit.
In any event, the summit is slightly more than a week away and time will soon tell how "big a deal" the law is. As always, if you hear anything on H.R. 347, let us know, and you can also personally urge the Secret Service to respect the First Amendment here.