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Time to Stand Up

Posted by Derrick Crowe on December 1st, 2009

I wrote this last night after I learned that the President had already given the orders to implement a second escalation. It’s a little more personal than I usually get in items for wide distribution, but after tonight’s announcement by the president, I thought I’d go ahead and share it with you. –DC

The orders have been given. All that’s left is to give the speech before a bunch of strapping young cadets and install the procurator Augusti. Thirty-six thousand more troopsThirty thousand more troops, $1 million a piece, per year. More IEDs in response. More bombs. More night searches. More economic damage. Hope. Change.

We’ve seen planes in the windows of buildings crumbled in
We’ve seen flames send the chills through London
And we’ve sent planes to kill them
But some of them were children
And still we crumbling the building
–Flobots, “Stand Up”

This evening, the Austin Peace and Justice Center organized a vigil to mourn the escalation outside of the offices of Senator John Cornyn. I decided to attend the vigil, even though I’d have to be late because of work. I drove down to 6th and Lavaca. I didn’t have a sign, but if they had candles, I’d gladly join in. No luck. When I drove past, I saw between a half-dozen and a dozen participants, some in costume, most with signs, but no candles. At most, I could stand there with them and hope not to be mistaken for a pedestrian waiting for a light. Maybe it was a cop-out, but I decided I could do more here at my kitchen table on my laptop to voice my opposition to the war than by standing without a sign on a street corner.

From Lavaca, I turned right on 7th to make my way to I-35, which would take me home. As I rounded the corner, a flock of black birds swooped and circled above. This is that strange time of the migratory birds in Austin, when thousands upon thousands of dark, screeching shapes fill the air, swarm the telephone poles, perch on the the power lines. I’ve never lived anywhere that was such a gathering place for this many birds in the fall. Tonight at dusk they were particularly agitated, diving and jerking in mad formations, the air thick with them. They thinned enough as I drove toward I-35 that I could pay more attention to my surroundings. That’s when I saw the intersection of 7th and Neches.

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, ARCH, sits on that street corner. Tonight, the homeless were as thick as the birds, crowding all the way around the block. The sound of the crowd’s chatter temporarily blocked that of the birds as I drove by with my window cracked. Some talked, some shouted, some sang, all while they waited for help to get through a chilly, rainy night. One million dollars per troop, per year, I thought. Guns or butter.

Then, I thought, We’re all going to Hell for this.

We shall not be moved
Except by a child with no socks and shoes
If you’ve got more to give then you’ve got to prove
Put your hands up and I’ll copy you
–Flobots, “Stand Up”

I left D.C. when I could no longer tolerate the dissonance between my claim to be a Christian and the Democratic Party’s choice to call for escalation in Afghanistan over against Bush’s plans for continued war in Iraq. But what the fuck have I done in the year-and-a-half since to end this war? Written a few blog posts? Provided nonviolence training to a whole four people? Is that it?

Dark shapes wheeled and screeched in the sky overhead.

Underfunded but we still don’t understand
Under God but we kill like the son of Sam
But if you feel like I feel like about the son of man
We will overcome
–Flobots, “Stand Up”

We’ll hear a lot of the same blood-soaked concern for Afghans in the next 24 hours: how what we’re doing there is really for their own good, how we’ll protect the virtue of the Afghan women with our lances and horses drones and machine guns, how this is all really love for neighbor in the end. The truth is that the war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with love and compassion. Nothing. It has to do with fear: fear of terrorism and fear of death, fear of looking “weak on defense,” fear of losing face. I’ll be shocked if we don’t see footage of towers falling this week on the news. We’ll rationalize this fear response (relentlessly overstimulated by politicians and news corporations manipulating it for power and profit over the past 8 years) by covering it in the gold-leaf of just war theory and chivalry, but it remains an ugly overreaction to fear.

Islamic terrorism is not an existential threat to the United States. It never was. Islamic terrorism has managed to kill as many Americans in 40 years as car crashes kill every month in the United States. Car crashes spread out all over the place, though, don’t sell papers or advertising. You can’t get “the picture” for it. You can’t put an image of 3,500 car crashes on the front of the website or the paper or in the B-roll for your TV news story. But knock a couple of buildings down and put up pictures of big scary brown people in funny hats, and you’ve got yourself tens of millions of high-intensity fear responses that keep people coming back for more. Remind me to take a breath and count to ten next time I hear the “we can’t just leave!!!” line from someone who drove to work that day. I might need to regain control of myself.

President Obama declared himself a Christian before and after the campaign. He said the Sermon on the Mount was central to his faith.You don’t need six policy reviews and a circle of policy advisers to know what Jesus taught about violence. Jesus’ rejection of violence is as cut and dry as it comes in Scripture, what John L. MacKenzie calls “the clearest of teachings,” so clear, in fact, that if we cannot say that Jesus taught absolute nonviolence, then we can know nothing of him. But just for the record:

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” [Matthew 5:44]

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’” [Matthew 26:52]

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also…” [Luke 6:27]

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” [Luke 6:35]

Seems to me that, as the President once said, “folks haven’t been readin’ their Bibles, now.”

We shall not be moved
Except By a child with no socks and shoes
Except by a woman dying from a loss of food
Except by a freedom fighter bleeding on a cross for you
–Flobots, “Stand Up”

We are picking up speed on the slippery slope of escalation. During the campaign, President Obama led the public to believe that he would consider sending “two, maybe three” additional brigades to Afghanistan. That’s about 12,000 troops, or about 5,000 fewer than he ordered in his first escalation. For his second escalation, he’s sending roughly three times the total troop increase on which he campaigned. Gone are the “he said he was going to do it before we elected him” defenses. Please point me to the moment in the campaign where we were debating 50,000 more troops.

The way out of Afghanistan is not to go further in. The president’s decision to add more troops is a mistake that will result in deep costs which we cannot afford; increased U.S. casualties; and increased civilian casualties as our troop increase further raises the temperature in the conflict. Reports indicate he’ll discuss the “off ramps” in his speech. Contemplating an exit from Afghanistan is notable and necessary. However, “exit strategy” remains only rhetoric as long as our troop levels continue to rise in that country. The president should immediately begin a drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

It’s time for us to realize that the official processes for conveying dissent on this issue have failed.

So if you’ve got a dream and a lot to do
Put your hands up and I’ll copy you
–Flobots, “Stand Up”

It’s cold and it’s rainy, but it’s time to get off the computer and get out in the street. Here’s a prayer to help keep you warm:

One: Let us pray – You have learned how it is said
All: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy
One: But I say this to you who are listening
All: Love your enemies
One: Do good to those who hate you
All: Bless those who curse you
One: Be compassionate
All: Judge not
One: Do not condemn
All: Grant pardon
One: Because the amount you measure out
All: Is the amount you will be given back
One: Let everything you do
All: Be done in love
One: Blessed are the poor
All: For theirs is the kingdom of God
One: Blessed are they who mourn now
All: For they will be comforted
One: Blessed are the meek
All: For they will inherit the earth
One: Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice
All: For they will be satisfied
One: Blessed are the merciful
All: For they will be shown mercy
One: Blessed are the pure in heart
All: For they will see God
One: Blessed are the peacemakers
All: For they will be called the daughters and sons of God
One: Blessed are they who are persecuted because of righteousness
All: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

One: Deliver us, O God
All: Guide our feet in the ways of your peace.
One: In humility, we ask
All: Hear our prayer. Grant us peace.
One: In humility, we ask
All: Hear our prayer. Grant us peace.
One: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
All: Have mercy on us
One: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
All: Free us from the bondage of sin and death
One: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world
All: Hear our prayer. Grant us peace.

One: For the victims of war
All: Have mercy
One: Women, men and children
All: Have mercy
One: The maimed and the crippled
All: Have mercy
One: The abandoned and the homeless
All: Have mercy
One: The imprisoned and the tortured
All: Have mercy
One: The widowed and the orphaned
All: Have mercy
One: The bleeding and the dying
All: Have mercy
One: The weary and the desperate
All: Have mercy
One: The lost and the forsaken
All: Have mercy
One: For those fleeing in terror
All: Have mercy

One: For our scorched and blackened earth
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the scandal of billions wasted in war
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For our leaders who wage war in our name
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For our Caesars and our Herods
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For our generals and tacticians
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the men and women in battle
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the men and women training for war
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the scientists and researchers
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For the arms dealers and the merchants of death
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: For our taxes that fund the evil of war
All: Forgive us for we know not what we do
One: Deliver us, O God
All: Guide our feet into the ways of peace
One: In humility, we ask
All: Hear our prayer. Grant us peace.

One: From the arrogance of power
All: Deliver us
One: From the poverty of violence
All: Deliver us
One: From the tyranny of greed
All: Deliver us
One: From the ugliness of racism
All: Deliver us
One: From the politics of hypocrisy
All: Deliver us
One: From the hysteria of nationalism
All: Deliver us
One: From the cancer of hatred
All: Deliver us
One: From the seduction of wealth
All: Deliver us
One: From the addiction of control
All: Deliver us
One: From the avarice of imperialism
All: Deliver us
One: From the idolatry of national security
All: Deliver us
One: From the despair of fatalism
All: Deliver us
One: From the violence of apathy
All: Deliver us
One: From the filth of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the profanity of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the necessity of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the madness of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the blasphemy of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the brutality of war
All: Deliver us
One: From the demonic waste of war and of preparation for war
All: Deliver us
One: Deliver us, O God
All: Guide our feet into the ways of peace
One: In humility, we ask
All: Hear our prayer. Grant us peace.

One: Obedience to God comes before obedience to human authority
All: Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s
One: Let your will be done, not mine
All: With the help of God’s grace
One: Let us resist and confront evil everywhere we find it
All: With the help of God’s grace
One: With the waging of war
All: We will not comply
One: With all preparation and training for war
All: We will not comply
One: With the forces of fear
All: We will not comply
One: With the legalization of murder
All: We will not comply
One: With the legalization of genocide
All: We will not comply
One: With laws that betray human life
All: We will not comply
One: With the bombing of civilians
All: We will not comply
One: With the bombing of cities
All: We will not comply
One: With the violating of our earth
All: We will not comply
One: With the destruction of peoples
All: We will not comply
One: With the raping of women
All: We will not comply
One: With governments that are blind to the sanctity of life
All: We will not comply
One: With economic structures that impoverish and dehumanize
All: We will not comply
One: With the manipulation and control of public information
All: We will not comply
One: With economics that manufacture instruments of death
All: We will not comply
One: With economics that practice the use of instruments of death
All: We will not comply
One: With the perpetuation of violence
All: We will not comply
One: With structures that divide rich from poor
All: We will not comply
One: With the hypocrisy of political maneuvering
All: We will not comply

One: With the help of God’s grace
All: We will struggle for justice
One: With the compassion of Christ
All: We will stand for what is true
One: With God’s abiding kindness
All: We will love even our enemies
One: With the love of Christ
All: We will resist all evil
One: With God’s unending faithfulness
All: We will work to build the beloved community
One: With Christ’s passionate love
All: We will carry the cross
One: With God’s overwhelming goodness
All: We will walk as pilgrims of peace
One: With Christ’s fervent conviction
All: We will labour for truth
One: With God’s infinite mercy
All: We will live in solidarity with all people
One: In the end there are three things that last
All: Faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love
One: Let us abide in God’s love
All: Thanks be to God.
The Litany of Resistance

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Say no to escalation in Afghanistan by signing our CREDO petition at http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/saynotoescalation/. For each signature, CREDO will donate a dollar to support Crowe’s work. You can also join Brave New Foundation’s #NoWar candlelight vigil on Facebook and Twitter to show your opposition to the war. But make these your first steps as an activist to end this war, not your last.

Share this:

to “Time to Stand Up”

  1. June says:

    No Hope, No Change
    I believed in you Barack Obama, I campaigned for you, I funded you
    You have betrayed me
    More UnJust War
    More Death
    We will never be able to afford healthcare reform now
    The Democratic Party was united
    Now we are divided
    Our victory was brief
    You blew it

  2. brendagn says:

    you should have told bush to never start the war where were you then dont put this all on obama no i will not sign your petition.
    dont send me anymore emails bad mouthing or going against the president again i am a supporter

  3. stmclain says:

    Religion is the problem, not the solution. Prayers never helped anything.

  4. stmclain says:

    It's ridiculous to throw Obama under the bus for this. What do we, living high (relatively) in our posh society, know about what's happening in Afghanistan. Only what this website wants us to know in order to froward their agenda and get your donations. There is a job that needs to be done and we need the experts to do their job. I believe they are.

    How fickle is the 24/7 media numbed populous of the United States to abandon our President when he needs us the most? Obama was clear that this is not an escalation, but a support force to get us out. His decision has garnered support from NATO and many others in the world with pledges of aid. We need to stop politicizing everything and find real solutions to the real problems.

    The more you bitch about things you don't have a clue about on a blog, the less relevant your opinion becomes. Let's have more substance and less rhetorical nonsense. Obama must filter this noise and do what he knows needs to be done to get to the finish line in Afghanistan. This decision shows he has done so.

    I'm against all war, killing or harming of anyone or anything, now and in the future. That's why the situation in Afghanistan needs resolution, not abandonment.

  5. dcrowe says:

    Do me a favor. Instead of just asserting that this blog is filtering information and giving you a distorted picture and throwing up your hands and saying “what do we know,” why don't you do some research and write an informed alternative. The above comment is, as you put it, just “rhetorical nonsense.” Fill in some facts to back up your assertions, please.

  6. dcrowe says:

    That's an awfully large blanket you've got in your statement, there.

  7. dcrowe says:

    We all share the blame if we're in the 90 percent of Americans who supported the war in the first place. That, however, is no excuse to let continued bad decisions go unremarked. Bush is covered in guilt, and so are many of us. But so is Obama, too.

  8. ewak says:

    You believe the “experts” know what they're doing? You are going to defer your own moral responsibility to “experts”? Those of us who remember and were opposed to the Viet Nam war have heard all of this rhetoric before. We have heard the list of honorable intentions before. We all remember the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Do yourself a favor and become your own expert. Educate yourself on the motives of the “experts”.

    You can take whatever position you like, but please don't make the false argument that you oppose all wars while supporting this one. You can't have it both ways.

    A lot of us who sign this petition believe that it is the President that is abandoning us, not the other way around. Resolution does not have to mean more combat forces. The Afghan people are the ones that have been thrown under the bus by a long history of foreign “liberators”.

    Anything the government does is political. How citizens interact with and try to influence their government is politics. Your support of the President on this matter is political.

    Airing a contrary political opinion is not “bitching”. Some of us have spent a great deal of time and life energy attempting to become educated and responsible citizens I resent your attitude toward those who differ with your political opinion.

  9. ewak says:

    You believe the “experts” know what they're doing? You are going to defer your own moral responsibility to “experts”? Those of us who remember and were opposed to the Viet Nam war have heard all of this rhetoric before. We have heard the list of honorable intentions before. We all remember the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Do yourself a favor and become your own expert. Educate yourself on the motives of the “experts”.

    You can take whatever position you like, but please don't make the false argument that you oppose all wars while supporting this one. You can't have it both ways.

    A lot of us who sign this petition believe that it is the President that is abandoning us, not the other way around. Resolution does not have to mean more combat forces. The Afghan people are the ones that have been thrown under the bus by a long history of foreign “liberators”.

    Anything the government does is political. How citizens interact with and try to influence their government is politics. Your support of the President on this matter is political.

    Airing a contrary political opinion is not “bitching”. Some of us have spent a great deal of time and life energy attempting to become educated and responsible citizens I resent your attitude toward those who differ with your political opinion.

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