THE FIERCE ENDURING LEGACY OF ANTI-AFGHANISTAN WAR PROTESTS
Photoessay by David Bacon, Rick Reinhard, Jim West, Meg Handler and Najib Joe Hakim
The Nation, 9/9/21
These photos from 20 years ago remind us that resistance to the war began even before the war itself.
The U.S. is finally bringing its troops home, after 20 years of imperial intervention. But they leave Afghanistan a deeply war-wounded country, its cities in ruins and hundreds of thousands of its people in graves.
Almost no one calls for the troops to stay, but media coverage often overlooks that the war was always unpopular. From the beginning thousands of people in U.S. cities went into the streets to call for it to stop.
Nevertheless, despite grassroots opposition, Congress was eager to go to war in 2001. East Bay Representative Barbara Lee was the only vote against authorizing it - Joint Resolution 64 - passed three days after the planes flew into the World Trade Center. Congress provided the justification and administrations, both Republican and Democratic, used it for two decades of invasions from Somalia to Syria and Iraq.
By October government attacks on U.S. Muslims had already begun, with illegal roundups and imprisonment in hastily organized "detention centers." Around the country demonstrations condemned the racist raids, while government repression legitimized a broad wave of anti-Muslim attacks.
The first marches followed Congress' vote by just two weeks, at the end of September. More followed after the U.S. started bombing Kabul at the beginning of its Afghan invasion.
People protesting the war in Afghanistan quickly linked it to U.S. mideast policy in general. Marchers opposed both the Afghan war and Israel's military offensive in the occupied territories during the second intifada, "Operation Shield Wall."
Protestors linked the Afghan war to social cost of the enormous military budget, while banners announced that "another world is possible" - an enduring theme during the following years of protests.
These photographs are evidence that opposing the Afghan war started as soon as the war did. Those protests may not have been as widespread as those opposing the war in Vietnam, but they played their part.
Yet wars and militarization are still with us. Some of the children brought to those first marches in their strollers are now young activists in their 20s. A whole generation grew up protesting this war.
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