The Obama administration has announced the imminent release of a December Review that will evaluate the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. The military has yet to disclose what the specific categories for evaluation will be. Yet many people in Afghanistan might wish that hunger along with their anger over attacks against civilians could top the list.

In Afghanistan, a nation where 850 children die every day, about a quarter of the population goes hungry. The UN says that 7.4 million Afghans live with hunger and fear of starvation, while millions more rely on food help, and one in five children die before the age of five.

“Do you think we like to live this way?” an Afghan man asked me, last October, as he led us toward a primitive tent encampment on the outskirts of Kabul. “Do you see how we live? The cold and the rain are coming. How will we protect our children?” He flicked his forefinger on a weather-beaten blanket covering a tent. The blanket immediately ripped.

Standing next to him was a man who quietly handed me three crumpled photos, never lifting his eyes from the ground. The spokesperson identified the man as his cousin. The first picture showed his cousin’s ruined home. A U.S. aerial bombardment had destroyed the dwelling. The next pictures were of two bloodied children.

“All of his children were killed,” the spokesperson said. “All his family, his wife, his five children, by an attack from the air.”

He went on to explain that they had been goat herders in the San Gin province of Afghanistan. They were happy with their lives, selling yoghurt and fattening their animals. A Taliban fighter had come to their village at night. The U.S. apparently wanted to kill this fighter, but instead they destroyed his cousin’s family. “

We couldn’t stay there,” the spokesperson said, pointing to a picture of the debris that was once his cousin’s home. “We were afraid we might be hit again, so all of us left. We are four families.”

Inside one of the tents, a young mother welcomed me to sit down on the only available cushion. It appeared that they slept on the ground. The families share one pot over a fire pit, and a few utensils. They also have access to a water pump. Near their area is a tent where they join for prayers, and also one that is used for classes. One man begged us to tell the authorities that they have no medicines in the camp and that many of the children are ill.

Days earlier, in far more comfortable setting, students at the Bamiyan University, located in the central, mountainous province of Bamiyan, had prodded us to comprehend their anger. In a straw poll, several dozen were unanimous in stating that they want the U.S. to leave their country. Several insisted that most U.S. people don’t understand or care about the impact of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan.

An engineering student held up a copy of the Time Magazine cover which showed a young Afghan woman whose nose was horribly mutilated, allegedly as punishment for defying men in her family. Time Magazine’s accompanying headline announced that the story would explain why U.S. troops must remain in Afghanistan. “Do Americans care more about noses than fingers?” the student asked. “Who will cover the stories about fingers that are cut off?!”

I felt embarrassed not to know what he was talking about. Several weeks later, I read a New York Times article about a trial taking place at an army base in Washington State. The article shed light on the student’s question. A U.S. Staff Sergeant from the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was charged with leading a conspiracy to randomly target and kill unarmed Afghan civilians. He and four other soldiers faced murder charges. The staff sergeant is alleged to have planted evidence to cover up the murders and to have carved fingers off corpses to keep as war souvenirs.

Although the U.S. military forbids soldiers to mutilate corpses and go on killing sprees that target civilians, the U.S. occupying forces in Afghanistan have bragged, in recent weeks, about increased capacities to kill with ever more invulnerable weapons. A company of 16 Abrams tanks was recently delivered to Afghanistan. “We’ve taken the gloves off,” said an unnamed U.S. military official, “and it has had huge impact.” (Washington Post, November 19, 2010) The 68-ton tanks fire high explosive, white phosphorus and anti-personnel shells that can destroy a house a mile away. Each tank costs 4.3 million dollars and uses 3 gallons of jet fuel per mile.

The Pentagon is also sending 12,500 XM25 Individual Air Burst Weapons to Afghanistan, one to each infantry squad and Special Forces team in Afghanistan. The XM25 gun can fire a projectile that will travel the length of eight football fields. “When fired, the projectile is designed to explode directly above a target,” says the Army Times, “raining shrapnel down on an enemy crouched behind cover.”

In a report to the November 2010 NATO conference held in Lisbon, 29 aid groups working in Afghanistan warned that the increases in air attacks, the use of night raids, and the destruction of civilian property contributes to “rapidly deteriorating” security for most Afghans and a rise in civilian casualties. People who flee from U.S. attacks face food insecurity, loss of income, lack of health care, and homelessness. The aid groups’ report is entitled “Nowhere to Turn.” Increasingly, Afghans living in war zones have nowhere to hide.

Commenting on impoverishment and displacement caused by military offensives, a Pakistani op-ed recently compared hunger and anger to two live wires. When the wires touch, they create an incandescent and uncontrollable flash.

It’s hard to imagine the extent of explosive popular rage that would result if the shoe were on the other foot, if U.S. people were subject to aerial bombing, night raids, destruction of civilian homes, displacement and starvation.. In reality, the live wires of hunger and anger could exist in our lives too; we could be angry, very angry, about this war, angry enough to make it a political issue. But if our hunger were for an end to the war, if our hunger even signaled a desire to rethink and repent our murderous policies, if we honestly sought forgiveness from Afghan civilians who’ve borne the brunt of our war of choice, then perhaps an uncontrollable and incandescent flash of fairness and peace could govern our future.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( From December 11 – January 2, she will be part of a Voices delegation in Afghanistan, meeting with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. To join them in a 12/19/2010 global skype call, write to

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project