Afghanistan Needs Food, not Bombs: Send a Zucchini today to Canada's War Minister (no postage required--details below, including sample letter and address)

This notice includes:

1. FOOD CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN

2. CANADA SHOULD SEND FOOD, NOT BOMBS, TO AFGHANISTAN

3. WHY ZUCCHINIS, WHY NOW?

4. FEED THE AFGHAN PEOPLE, STOP SQUASHING THEIR HOPES FOR PEACE (includes address of War Minister Gordon O'Connor and sample letter)

5. SENLIS COUNCIL NEWS RELEASE ON HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN

 

1. FOOD CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN

This week, in a much under-reported story, the European-based Senlis Council released a report that stated children are starving in Afghanistan. Foreign military expenditures in that country outpace development and reconstruction spending by 900% (much as the Canadian military budget outpaces the housing budget by over 900%!)

Indeed, $82.5 billion (U.S. funds) have been spent on military operations in Afghanistan since 2002 compared with just $7.3 billion on development.

The report states that "five years after the 2001 US-led invasion, a humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty has gripped the south of the country and the US- and UK-led failed counter-narcotics and military policies are responsible...makeshift, unregistered refugee camps of starving children, civilians displaced by counter-narcotics eradication and bombing campaigns can be found on the doorstep of new US and UK multi-million dollar military camps." (see full Senlis press release below)

The United Nations World Food Programme has been forced to cancel plans to provide more than 2.5 million Afghans with urgent food aid. Unless these needs are met, this will have dire consequences for millions of Afghans.

 

2. CANADA SHOULD SEND FOOD, NOT BOMBS, TO AFGHANISTAN

We are most often told that the main reason the Canadian military is in Afghanistan is to help the Afghan people. Many Afghan people are starving. It is time to send massive amounts of food aid, not massive amounts of bullets and bombs.

 

3. WHY ZUCCHINIS, WHY NOW?

The Power of A Symbol

Politicians are often unable to grasp the meaning of words, and require symbols to help them out. We have seen in the past few years stunning examples of Homes not Bombs campaigns that have succeeded in employing the noble zucchini in the cause of peace. We have argued that successive war ministers' confused sexual desires to launch phallic-shaped missiles would be more safely directed if phallic-shaped zucchinis were sent instead.

Surely it can be no coincidence that:

1. Homes not Bombs repeatedly presented Peace Zucchinis to then War Minister Art Eggleton in an effort to get Canada out of star wars; his government rejected overt participation in the Bush space warfare scheme.

2. Homes not Bombs presented Peace Zucchinis to then War Minister John McCallum in late January, 2003, with the demand that Canada not join the war against Iraq. His government did not formally join that invasion, and McCallum enjoyed a good stir-fry.

3. Homes not Bombs spearheaded the campaign to send empty pens to then "Public Safety" Minister Anne McLellan, the idea being her desk would fill up with so many ink-less pens that when CSIS came knocking for her to sign a secret trial security certificate, she wouldn't be able to find a pen that actually worked. Needless to say, McLellan never signed a security certificate!

4. Homes not Bombs precursor Banana Republics United, a 1980s open conspiracy, played a major role in a campaign to send bananas to then-U.S. Ambassador Paul Robinson, who treated Canada much like said banana republic. Needless to say, he eventually split.

There is clearly a pattern here that cannot be ignored.

Perhaps the most famous example of a culinary symbol in the cause of peace is described by David Albert in People Power: Applying Non-violence Theory:

"In the mid 1950s, the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation, learning of famine in the Chinese mainland, launched a "Feed Thine Enemy" campaign. Members and friends mailed thousands of little bags of rice to the White House with a tag quoting the Bible, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him." As far as anyone knew for more than ten years, the campaign was an abject failure. The President did not acknowledge receipt of the bags publicly; certainly no rice was ever sent to China.

"What non-violent activists only learned a decade later was that the campaign played a significant, perhaps even determining role in preventing nuclear war. Twice while the campaign was on, President Eisenhower met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to consider US options in the conflict with China over two islands, Quemoy and Matsu. The generals twice recommended the use of nuclear weapons. President Eisenhower each time turned to his aide and asked how many little bags of rice had come in. When told they numbered in the tens of thousands, Eisenhower told the generals that as long as so many Americans were expressing active interest in having the US feed the Chinese, he certainly wasn't going to consider using nuclear weapons against them."

 

4. FEED THE AFGHAN PEOPLE, STOP SQUASHING THEIR HOPES FOR PEACE

So now it is time to make sure War Minister Gordon O'Connor gets the picture. Postage free, you can mail a zucchini and a note urging that O'Connor feed, not bomb, the people of Afghanistan (sample letter follows). Can you imagine the War Minister's office deluged with zucchinis? He can't help but charter a plane and start loading them personally!)

We would like to keep a running tally, so please email tasc@web.ca when you have lovingly wrapped your zucchini in an envelope and sent it postage-free to the following address:

Gordon O'Connor, MP, War Minister

157 East Block

House of Commons

Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. O'Connor,

Please forward the enclosed zucchini to the people of Afghanistan with the next plane headed that way. It would be far better to send this phallic symbol than the phallic symbols &endash; missiles and mortar rounds &endash; that you are currently sending.

As you must be aware, there is a humanitarian crisis, especially in the southern region of Afghanistan, where thousands of Canadian troops are deployed. That crisis is one of extreme poverty and hunger, and cannot be alleviated with guns, aerial bombardment, house raids, arbitrary detention, and mistreatment of detainees.

The respected Senlis Council recently noted that 900% more has been spent on the military build-up than on development in Afghanistan.

The United Nations World Food Programme has been forced to cancel plans to provide more than 2.5 million Afghans with urgent food aid. Unless these needs are met, this will have dire consequences for millions of Afghans.

I urge you to bring Canada's troops home and to seek dialogue and peaceful solutions to the crisis in Afghanistan. The billions you are spending to fight there would be far better spent on peaceful conflict resolution and meeting the pressing social needs of the Afghan people.

You often refer to those you are fighting as your enemy. While "enemy thinking" is an unacceptable world view that inevitably leads to violence, I remind you of the Biblical reference in Romans 12:20, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him."

The Afghan people are not our enemy. But they are hungry. It's time for food, not bombs.

Name

Address

 

5. SENLIS COUNCIL NEWS RELEASE

5 SEPTEMBER 2006

Five years after their removal from power: The Taliban are back

Taliban Frontline now cuts half-way through Afghanistan

US and UK led failed counter-narcotics policies are responsible

Humanitarian crisis hits southern Afghanistan - extreme poverty, drought and hundreds of thousands starving in south

LONDON - The Taliban have regained control over the southern half of Afghanistan and their frontline is advancing daily, warned The Senlis Council on the release of an evaluation report of the reconstruction of Afghanistan marking the five year anniversary of 9/11. The Report is based on extensive field research in the critical provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Herat and Nangarhar.

The Taliban frontline now cuts half-way through the country, encompassing all of the southern provinces. Senlis Afghanistan reports that five years after the 2001 US-led invasion, a humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty has gripped the south of the country and that the US and UK-led failed counter-narcotics and military policies are responsible. The subsequent rising levels of extreme poverty have created increasing support for the Taliban, who have responded to the needs of the local population.

Taliban's return to power is a direct consequence of the flawed approach that the US-led international community has taken in Afghanistan since 2001

"When you first came here we were so glad to see you. Now we have lived with you in our country for five years and we see you tell a lot of lies and make a lot of false promises," says a former Mujaheedin commander from Kandahar quoted in the Report.

The US-led nation-building efforts have failed because of ineffective and inflammatory military and counter narcotics policies. At the same time there has been a dramatic under-funding of aid and development programs.

"Huge amounts of money have been spent on large and costly military operations, but after five years southern Afghanistan is once more a battlefield for the control of the country," said Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of The Senlis Council. "At the same time Afghans are starving. The US has lost control in Afghanistan and has in many ways undercut the new democracy in Afghanistan. I think we can call that a failure, and one with dire consequences which should concern us all. The US policies in Afghanistan have re-created the safe-haven for terrorism that the 2001 invasion aimed to destroy."

Emergency Food Aid needed now: "Children are dying here"

Due to lack of funding from the international community the Afghan Government and the United Nation's World Food Programme are unable to address Afghanistan's hunger crisis. Despite appeals for aid funds, the US-led international community has continued to direct the majority of aid funds towards military and security operations.

"The United Nations World Food Programme has been forced to cancel plans to provide more than 2.5 million Afghans with urgent food aid," said Reinert. "Unless these needs are met, this will have dire consequences for millions of Afghans."

Hunger and the insurgency: Hunger Leads to Anger

"Five years after 9/11, Afghanistan is still one of the poorest countries in the world and there is a hunger crisis in the fragile Southern part of the country," said Reinert. "Remarkably this vital fact seems to have been overlooked in funding and prioritisation of the foreign policy, military, counter narcotics and reconstruction plans.

Relieving poverty, which should have been the main priority, has not received the attention it so desperately needed. Consequently the international community has lost the battle for the hearts and mind of the Afghan people.

The Report reveals that makeshift, unregistered refugee camps of starving children, civilians displaced by counter narcotics eradication and bombing campaigns can be found on the doorstep of new US and UK multi million dollar military camps.

"I took my child to the graveyard, my child died of hunger. There are children dying here," said a man in one of these camps in Kandahar Province.

"Hunger leads to anger," said Reinert. "Farmers who have had their poppy crop eradicated by the US and UK led eradication campaign now see their children facing starvation."

These camps also accommodate families who have left their home due to violence and fighting. Some are there because their homes have been destroyed by coalition forces' interventions in the 'war on terror' and the current heightened counter-insurgency operations.

A man in a camp in Lashkar Gah is quoted in the Report as saying, "After the bombing I moved to Lashkar Gah…I am afraid and terrified." There have been no official camps established to provide for civilians who left their villages due to US bombing campaigns.

Hunger has led to anger against the rich foreign community the Afghans see in their country. This and the crop eradication policies provide a perfect breeding ground for the Taliban propaganda against the foreign presence in Afghanistan.

US and UK-led failed counter-narcotics policies are responsible for the hunger crisis and the return of the Taliban

By triggering both anger and a hunger crisis in southern Afghanistan, US and UK-led counter-narcotics policies are directly responsible for the breakdown in security and the return of the Taliban.

"Forced poppy crop eradication is an anti-poor policy," said Reinert. "Poppy cultivation means survival for thousands of Afghans. By destroying entire communities' livelihoods, without any alternative plan for how the farmers would feed their families, the current eradication programmes are pushing farmers straight back into the arms of the Taliban."

A worker in Kandahar city is quoted as saying "In the villages, they had their crops destroyed, there is no water, no jobs, nothing to do - isn't it fair that they go and join the Taliban? Wouldn't you do the same thing?"

The Wrong priorities since 2001

"Prioritising the 'war on terror' over the 'war on poverty' has recreated the exact situation it was intended to remove in southern Afghanistan," said Reinert. "Right from 2001, the US-led international community's priorities for Afghanistan were not in line with those of the Afghan population. It is a classic military error: they did not properly identify the enemy."

An Afghan commander in Kandahar province is quoted as saying "The foreigners came here and said they would help the poor people and improve the economic situation, and they only spend money on their military operations. The poor people are poorer now than when the Taliban were the government. We don't trust them anymore. We would be fools to continue to believe their lies."

Military expenditure outpaces development and reconstruction spending by 900% - the wrong priority

82.5 billion USD has been spent on military operations in Afghanistan since 2002 compared to just 7.3 billion USD on development.

Focus on poverty relief and development could have created a solid foundation on which to re-build Afghanistan. Instead, the focus on "securing" Afghanistan with aggressive military tactics has led the Afghan population to mistrust the reasons for the large international military presence in their country.

The large numbers of civilian casualties and deaths have also fuelled resentment and mistrust of the international military presence.

"We have a saying about you now: Your blood is blood, our blood is just water to you," the Report notes a former Mujaheedin commander from Kandahar as saying.

There were 104 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the month of July alone.

Faced with the return of the Taliban, the US and the international community must immediately reassess entire approach in Afghanistan

"Emergency poverty relief must now be the top priority," said Reinert. "Only then can we talk of nation-building and reconstruction. A complete overhaul of the failed counter-narcotics strategies is urgently needed. We must try and win back the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. The Taliban are advancing north every day. This should concern us all."

Research for the Report was carried out throughout Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 2006 by Senlis Afghanistan teams of Afghan and international researchers.

BACK TO HOME PAGE