US: Fearless Malalai Joya, supported by US War Vets, calls for an end to Afghanistan's occupation Print E-mail

October 28 2009


 

“A Woman Among Warlords”: Afghan Democracy Activist Malalai Joya Defies Threats to Challenge US Occupation, Local Warlords

To talk more about Afghanistan, we are joined by Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists. In 2005, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of warlords and their cronies in government. She has just written her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out. [includes rush transcript]

Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists. In 2005, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of warlords and their cronies in government. She has just published her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out, co-written by Derrick O’Keefe.

Related Links: List of Malalai Joya's Upcoming Speaking Events HERE

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Afghanistan, we’re joined here in our firehouse studio by Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists. In 2005, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of warlords and their cronies in government. She has just written her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out. It was written with Derrick O’Keefe.

I welcome you to Democracy Now!, Malalai. When you hear in all the US media “bloodiest month of the eight-year war,” of course they’re talking about US soldiers killed in Afghanistan. How does that make you feel? How do we know how many Afghans have died over these last eight years?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, first of all, thanks for this interview. And let me say in the beginning, on behalf of my people, condolences to those American mothers who lost their sons recently in Afghanistan and also these eight years, and other moms that belongs to these NATO countries, as their government unfortunately these eight years, they waste the blood of their soldiers in Afghanistan and their taxpayers’ monies by supporting these warlords, these drug lords and these terrorists who are like a photocopy of Taliban­means that mentally same, only physically has been changed after 9/11 and they come in power.

So, this eight years, about less than 2,000 Talib has been killed, more than 8,000 innocent civilians has been killed. That’s why, day by day, we believe that this is not war on terror, this is war on innocent civilians, as they even do massacre in Afghanistan, what they did on May, that­in Farah province, more than 150 civilians has been killed, most of them women and children. Even they used white phosphorus and cluster bomb. And also, 200 civilians on 9th of September in Kunduz province has been killed, again most of them women and children. You can see the website of Professor Marc Herold, this Democrat American man that­to know better about war crime in Afghanistan they impose on our people.

And at least today’s reporters in have to know that even by presence of thousands troops in Afghanistan, there is no security in Kabul. How­but around Afghanistan, while the government has no control, now my people are sandwiched between two powerful enemies: from the sky, occupation forces bombing and killing innocent civilians­as I said, these troops themselves are the victim of this wrong policy of their government; on the ground, Taliban and these warlords together continue to deliver fascism against our people.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the latest news, Malalai Joya, about the brother of Hamid Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the New York Times revealing today that Ahmed has been on the CIA payroll for much of the past eight years. Who is he?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, my people call him “Small Bush” in Kandahar province, this brother of Hamid Karzai. But he’s­this is not the first time that New York Times wrote. Recently also, I wrote that he’s a famous drug trafficker. And many others who have high posts in Karzai’s government, sometimes his ministers, expose each other that they­for persons who had high posts in Karzai government, they are drug traffickers. And the government says stop planting of opium, but the governor commanders of the same province is drug traffickers. This eight years, $36 billion the government of Afghanistan received, while they themselves give report. Most of this money went into pocket of warlords, drug lords, [inaudible] lords, these donors and officials themselves. And at least this example should be in of that right now. Even some important media is writing and sometimes exposing these drug lords and these warlords in Afghanistan, that right now I say that, for example, brother of Hamid Karzai is receiving millions of dollars through dirty business of opium.

And this was the main project of the CIA in Afghanistan, that under the banner of women rights, human rights, democracy, they occupied my country. They imposed these terrorists, blood and creed of the Taliban, on my people. And also they changed my country to the center of drug. Only [inaudible] have to know about the deep tragedy of Afghanistan and wrong policy of the US, that even UN gave report, that recent report of the UN. Right now­oh, my god, I think you also got this report. Anyway, that right now, as I said, that they changed Afghanistan to the center of drug. They received millions of dollars that has been looted. Situation of women is getting worse. And security, how much important­day by day, it’s worse for my people, especially for the women. And that’s why, because of all of these main reasons, we­day by day, we say this is the mockery of democracy and mockery of war on terror.

AMY GOODMAN: Does Ahmed Karzai have a relationship with Mullah Omar?

MALALAI JOYA: Sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: With Mullah Omar?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, these warlords, they have, of course­that, as I said, they are blood and creed of each other, they have links with each other, as now they are negotiating – are ready to negotiating with each other. Karzai himself called Taliban these dinosaurs’ brothers, as­during the election. And also, Abdullah Abdullah, this main candidate of the warlords during this so-called free election­

AMY GOODMAN: Who’s running for president against Karzai.

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, they­yeah, both of them. They betrayed a lot my people. And now they are running for the election, as my people, even they use this power, that the result of this election will be like the same donkey but with new saddle. Anyway, both of them call Taliban brothers, these terrorists. And both of them ready to do negotiate and invite Mullah Omar, this fascist man, to join the government. Both of them are puppets. And both of them, that they are busy with this dirty business of opium. And at least you know better about them. I think only this eight years is enough to know better about them.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the upcoming runoff election scheduled for November 7th. Earlier this week, the presidential contender, as you were talking about, Abdullah Abdullah, called for the dismissal of Azizullah Ludin, the chair of the Independent Electoral Commission. Ludin is a former Karzai adviser.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH: Dismissal, immediate dismissal, of Mr. Ludin from the Election Commission. He has left no credibility for the institution and, unfortunately, for he, himself, in order to be trusted by the people of Afghanistan as the head of an independent body.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Malalai Joya, to what Abdullah Abdullah is calling for, to his being removed from the Electoral Commission?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, this election is just a tragic drama, I think the most fraudulent and also ridiculous election in the world, as election under the shadow of gun, warlordism, drug lordism, awful corruption, and occupation forces has no legitimacy at all. As a famous saying, it’s not important who is voting, it’s important who’s counting. Even my people, before of the result of the election, they discussed among each other, people on the streets, that the winner will be picked out by White House, as now you see that one puppet can be replaced with another puppet. Now, between two puppet fighting because of the power, $250 million they spent for this election. They waste the money. And they want to more waste­to waste more money in Afghanistan.

And also, millions of people did not attend in the election, because they know that their word will be betrayed, same like in the past, and also their wishes has no role in this election. As I say, that both of them invite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and also Mullah Omar to join the government as a moderate. And both of them want more occupation forces in Afghanistan, which will bring more war and more conflict. So both of them betrayed a lot my people, especially women of my country.

To know better about Abdullah Abdullah, it’s in of that­he did civil war from ’92 to ’96. He and other brothers of him, like these other warlords who are right now in power, like Dostum, like Sayyaf, Rabbani, Qanooni, Ismail Khan, Mohaqiq, these dirty-minded elements, who accused as war criminal. And Karzai, he choose two cruel men, like Qasim Fahim and Karim Khalili, as vice president. Even Human Rights Watch said Karzai insulting the people of Afghanistan. But in spite national and international condemnation, he didn’t change the mind. But I am saying he’s betraying my people still more.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a very brave woman, Malalai Joya. I wanted to go to a clip of you saying essentially this years ago. You called­we’re going to go to the Enemies of Happiness. The film begins in December 2003 in a meeting of Afghanistan’s newly elected constitutional assembly, the Loya Jirga. A then-unknown twenty-four-year-old woman steps to the microphone to deliver a speech that will make international headlines and draw threats on her life.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] What are you saying?

MALALAI JOYA: [translated] We kids can’t get a word in. I would like to say a few words, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] Wait a minute. Stay in your seats. One sister says that she has traveled far. She insists that we haven’t given the kids enough speaking time. You have three minutes, please.

MALALAI JOYA: [translated] My name is Malalai Joya from the Farah province. With the permission of all those present and in respect of the martyrs who were killed, I would like to speak. I wish to criticize my compatriots in this room. Why would you allow criminals to be present at this Loya Jirga, warlords responsible for our country’s situation? Afghanistan is the center for national and international conflicts. They oppress women and have ruined our country. They should be prosecuted. They might be forgiven by the Afghan people, but not by history.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] Sit down! Sit down! The sister has crossed the line of what is considered common courtesy. She is banished from this assembly and cannot return. Send her out! Guards, throw her out! She doesn’t deserve to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Malalai Joya, who was standing up, what many have called “Afghanistan’s bravest woman.” Malalai Joya, in our firehouse studio, who has written her memoir called A Woman Among Warlords. Describe what you were thinking at that moment and how dangerous it was for you.

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, as my people was not sure that I will be alive until now, same my supporters around the world. But the reason that today I am alive, because of the strong support of these voiceless, suffer, poor people of my country. As two years before these warlords, drug lords, these criminals, they expelled me from the parliament, which was quite illegal act and anti-freedom of speech.

AMY GOODMAN: You were elected?

MALALAI JOYA: I were elected.

AMY GOODMAN: In…?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, in 2005, for the second time. People voted, and as I was very famous in Afghanistan and around the world, and if they do not allow me, as all the boxes was in the hands of this mafia, they’re cheating was clear for the world, not only for my people.

But few Democrats in the parliament, me and others, that in the beginning, as they made amnesty law that criminals forgive themselves, we raised our voice against this disgusting law, which gives impunity to criminals. As much as they can, they continue to their fascism. But despite we raised our voice, nobody listened the voice. And Karzai also signed this disgusting law. And one reason that they expelled me from parliament was that, because I never did compromise with them, even they beated inside of parliament, they threatened me to rape inside of parliament, and many threats like this.

AMY GOODMAN: They threatened to rape you in parliament?

MALALAI JOYA: Inside of the parliament. And also, all of these threats you can see on my websites. But now, after when they expelled me from parliament, now, as in Kabul, I’m changing safe house to safe houses. Even with burqa and bodyguard, it’s not safe. When you compare my life with the dark period of Taliban, these terrorists, as an activist, that I was underground activist, on that time, it was risky, but now, under the name of democracy and by presence of these thousands troops, it is, even with burqa and bodyguard, not safe. Many assassination attempts. And I am a person, on behalf of those Democrat and voiceless, innocent people of my country, in front of you. But many others like me, there is no security for them. They are underground activists now.

AMY GOODMAN: The big debate in the United States is this surge. Now the discussion is not how many troops will President Obama­how many more troops will he send to Afghanistan, or will he send more troops, but how many more. That’s what the debate has become. What is your thought? What should happen to the US soldiers now?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, that as I said, these troops are the victim of the wrong policy of their government. They send them for a bad cause: for war. They say war of Afghanistan is good war, war of Iraq is bad war, while war is war and impossible to bring democracy, women rights, human rights by war. And unfortunately, Obama’s policy and Obama’s message for my people is quite similar, like his foreign policy like Bush administration. He wants to surge more troops in Afghanistan, which will bring more conflict, more war.

Obama is going to decorate barbaric Taliban as a moderate, to give them a chance to bring them also in power, put soft name on these terrorists, while we have no moderate Talib. And also, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, they invite this fascist man to joint he government. This terrorist also come in power, situation will be more bloody. If really Obama honest for my people, at least they apologize to my people and first of all try to put to the court the criminal Bush to the ICC, and also many Bushes in my country that, this eight years, they changed Afghanistan to the safe haven for terrorism and center of drug.

AMY GOODMAN: But so often in this country, the argument is actually used that it’s the women of Afghanistan who benefit most from the US occupation and the war.

MALALAI JOYA: They’re betrayed more. Opposite. Quite opposite. The first casualty in my country is the truth. Still they betray the truth, especially mainstream medias, put dust on the eyes of the people around the world. As after 9/11 that they occupied Afghanistan, they say women for the first time do not wear burqa and they are free, while it’s a big lie. And today, most of women are wearing burqa because of security. I wear a burqa just to be alive, this disgusting burqa, which is symbol of oppression, I think. And it’s like a shroud for life body most of women are wearing to be alive. Rape cases, domestic violences and also [inaudible] on the face of the girls and killing of women increasing rapidly.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you fear for your life when you go home? And why do you return to Afghanistan, finally, Malalai?

MALALAI JOYA: Of course, I go, because we have lots of responsibility. Responsibility of Democrat men and women is a lot, as we believe no nation can donate liberation to another nation. And we are ready to build our country, if US and its allies let us a little bit breathe in peace. Now we’re between two powerful enemies, with the withdrawal of one enemy occupation forces as their government supporting warlords, and also now Taliban. They stop supporting them, then it’s much easier to fight one enemy instead of two.

If really Obama honest for my people, support the democratic-minded people of my country, we have a lot. But he not only support democratic-minded people of my country, he’s going to start war in Pakistan by drawing attack in the border area of Pakistan. And I think the survey that they did of civilian casualty, those people, innocent people, who has been killed, more has been killed in the Obama period than even criminal Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists. In 2005 she became the youngest person ever elected in the Afghan parliament. Her memoir is now out; it’s called A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out. It was written with Derrick O’Keefe.

Speaking of drones, when we come back from our break, we will talk about the situation of drones in Pakistan. Stay with us.

MALALAI JOYA: Thank you.
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 November 2 2009

Afghan War Vets Patrol Halls Of Congress To Stop Troop Escalation

By Raul Grijalva

A little more than two months ago, Brock McIntosh was fighting in Afghanistan, a member of the Army National Guard. This week, he's walking the halls of Congress, trying to end a war that began when he was 13 years old.

McIntosh, now 21, and four other vets are in Washington for something of a preemptive strike. A new pro-war group calling itself Vets For Freedom plans to begin lobbying Congress Thursday, pushing for an escalation. The anti-war vets hope to head them off.

But if their erstwhile comrades and now political opponents are "for freedom," that raises an unusual question. "What does that make us?" mocks Devon Read, 29, served for eight years and took part in the invasion of Iraq before leaving the Marine Corps in 2008. "Vets Against Freedom? Vets For Terrorism?"

Technically, they're with Veterans For Rethinking Afghanistan, having linked up with Brave New Films president Robert Greenwald, whose documentary project "Rethink Afghanistan" urges a drawdown of the American presence in that country.

As the vets wait outside the office of Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Jake Diliberto, 27, recounts tales from the first skirmish with Vets For Freedom earlier in the morning.

Diliberto went mano a mano on CNN with VFF rep Thomas Cotton. Cotton had a simple appeal to authority: He's for whatever General Stanley McChrystal wants -- and that's more troops.

Before they went on, says Diliberto, he could hear his opponent prepping himself. "He kept repeating, 'General Stanley McChrystal. General Stanley McChrystal. General Stanley McChrystal.' "

Backers of escalating the eight-year-old war present a variety of complex arguments, but at their heart is Cotton's mantra: "General Stanley McChrystal. General Stanley McChrystal. General Stanley McChrystal."
Story continues below ?

The troops were joined in Grijalva's office by Malalai Joya, an Afghan member of parliament who has been suspended for speaking out against the warlords who run the country. She is appealing her suspension and, in the meantime, promoting her new book, "A Woman Among Warlords." Joya, too, has a simple message: Go home, USA.

"It's much easier to fight against one enemy than two," Malalai Joya tells Grijalva, identifying the two current enemies as the Taliban on the one hand and the United States and the Afghan government it props up on the other.

The Afghan government, she says, is hopelessly corrupt; President Hamid Karzai is in league with powerful warlords and druglords, some of whom are his close relatives. His top opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, is himself a well-known warlord, she says. The election process is controlled by warlords for their benefit. The farce that was the previous election will not lead to a run-off because Abdullah doesn't believe it will be fair.

"It's not important who's voting. It's important who's counting," says Joya, adding that the canceled election matters little since both candidates are representatives of the warlord class. "They both call the Taliban brother."

Both President Obama and General McChrystal have said that the U.S. effort in Afghanistan cannot succeed without a governing partner that is seen as legitimate by the Afghan people. That's a tremendous problem for proponents of a troop escalation, since Karzai is seen as anything but that.

The problem for the war's opponents, however, is that it's hard to comprehend just how corrupt the Karzai regime is. Seeing it first hand persuaded the troops.

"The Taliban isn't their enemy," says Rick Reyes, who served with the Marine Infantry in Afghanistan. "The greatest enemy of the Afghan people is the Afghan government and the occupation forces."

McIntosh, who takes some time to get over his nerves in the congressman's office, tells Grijalva that the Afghan people appreciate the occupation army most for the medical services it provides. Afghan doctors, he says, were poorly trained, because the Taliban banned pictures in text books. The health care makes them dependent, he says, when what they need is training.

"They can do it on their own," he says. "They're fully capable human beings."

Grijalva nods, acknowledging the wisdom from the young man who just recently got the legal right to drink.

The kind of training Afghans don't need, the Marines say, is military. We've been training young men to fight in Afghanistan for decades, they note, and look where it's gotten us. An overwhelming number of men trained by the U.S. go on to fight for the Taliban instead, which was itself originally trained by the U.S., notes Reyes. "So if we train 400,000 soldiers and 200,000 go fight for the Taliban, what have we gained?"

"We don't expect anything good from you," Joya tells Grijalva. "Just stop doing wrong." As she brandishes photos of dead civilians, known warlords, and evidence of Karzai's corruption, her voice gradually rises. With a finger pointed squarely at the progressive congressman, she repeatedly indicts the occupation and those who allow it to continue.

"This is what your government has done," she fumes. "Silence of good people is worse than action of bad people."

Witnessing her rough treatment of Grivala, who agrees with her, it isn't hard to see how she has found herself out of favor among the warlords.

After the meeting, Grijalva says that Joya helped alter his perspective. "Sometimes in our urge to fix things, we just pile money on top of a [friendly] government," he says. But Joya had convinced him, he says, that the U.S. is "funding fundamentally the people who are unraveling the country."

Outside in the hall, the vets assess the meeting. "I don't think he needed a whole lot of convincing," offers Diliberto. Next up: Reps. John Tierney (D-Mass.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). "But we're not just meeting with progressives," assures Leighton Woodhouse, a Brave New Films aide escorting the men. Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), David Price (D-N.C.), Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) and Sylvestre Reyes (D-Texas) were also scheduled to receive the veterans.

One member had previously offered a "walk and talk" with the vets, but had since demoted them to a sit down meeting with the chief of staff.

He might not get off that easy. The vets are neither your typical lobbyist nor your standard anti-war protesters. Diliberto suggested they deal with that congressman in a way that would convey the gravity of their message.

"We should just go to his door," he suggests, 'and say, 'Look, motherfucker.'"

Diliberto will be on Larry King Live tonight on CNN, debating General Wesley Clark and one of the Vets for Freedom. Below, McIntosh and Reyes, who was tweeting from the halls Congress, talk about their experiences in the war. WATCH:

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 October 27 2009

Malalai Joya: 'A Woman Among Warlords'

Listen to the Story HERE

Three days after Malalai Joya was born in Afghanistan, the government was overthrown. In A Woman Among Warlords, Joya tells the story of her family's struggle against Islamic fundamentalists, warlords and foreign occupation.

Excerpt: 'A Woman Among Warlords'



Introduction

Dust in the Eyes of the World

I come from a land of tragedy called Afghanistan.

My life has taken some unusual turns, but in many ways my story is the story of a generation. For the thirty years I have been alive, my country has suffered from the constant scourge of war. Most Afghans my age and younger have only known bloodshed, displacement, and occupation. When I was a baby in my mother's arms, the Soviet Union invaded my country. When I was four years old, my family and I were forced to live as refugees in Iran and then Pakistan. Millions of Afghans were killed or exiled, like my family, during the battle-torn 1980s. When the Russians finally left and their puppet regime was overthrown, we faced a vicious civil war between fundamentalist warlords, followed by the rule of the depraved and medieval Taliban.

After the tragic day of September 11, 2001, many in Afghanistan thought that, with the ensuing overthrow of the Taliban, they might finally see some light, some justice and progress. But it was not to be. The Afghan people have been betrayed once again by those who are claiming to help them. More than seven years after the U.S. invasion, we are still faced with foreign occupation and a U.S.-backed government filled with warlords who are just like the Taliban. Instead of putting these ruthless murderers on trial for war crimes, the United States and its allies placed them in positions of power, where they continue to terrorize ordinary Afghans.

You may be shocked to hear this, because the truth about Afghanistan has been hidden behind a smoke screen of words and images carefully crafted by the United States and its NATO allies and repeated without question by the Western media.

You may have been led to believe that once the Taliban was driven from power, justice returned to my country. Afghan women like me, voting and running for office, have been held up as proof that the U.S. military has brought democracy and women's rights to Afghanistan.

But it is all a lie, dust in the eyes of the world.

I am the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament, but I have been banished from my seat and threatened with death because I speak the truth about the warlords and criminals in the puppet government of Hamid Karzai. I have already survived at least five assassination attempts and uncounted plots against me. Because of this, I am forced to live like a fugitive within my own country. A trusted uncle heads my detail of bodyguards, and we move to different houses almost every night to stay a step ahead of my enemies.

To hide my identity, I must travel under the cover of the heavy cloth burqa, which to me is a symbol of women's oppression, like a shroud for the living. Even during the dark days of the Taliban I could at least go outside under the burqa to teach girls in secret classes. But today I don't feel safe under my burqa, even with armed guards to escort me. My visitors are searched for weapons, and even the flowers at my wedding had to be checked for bombs. I cannot tell you my family's name, or the name of my husband, because it would place them in terrible danger. And for this reason, I have changed several other names in this book.

I call myself Joya ­ an alias I adopted during the time of the Taliban when I worked as an underground activist. The name Joya has great significance in my country. Sarwar Joya was an Afghan writer, poet, and constitutionalist who struggled against injustice during the early twentieth century. He spent nearly twenty-four years of his life in jails and was finally killed because he would not compromise his democratic principles.

I know that because I refuse to compromise my opposition to the warlords and fundamentalists or soften my speeches denouncing them, I, too, may join Joya on the long list Afghans who have died for freedom. But you cannot compromise the truth. And I am not afraid of an early death if it would advance the cause of justice. Even the grave cannot silence my voice, because there are others who would carry on after me.

The sad fact is that in Afghanistan, killing a woman is like killing a bird. The United States has tried to justify its occupation with rhetoric about "liberating" Afghan women, but we remain caged in our country, without access to justice and still ruled by women-hating criminals. Fundamentalists still preach that "a woman should be in her house or in the grave." In most places it is still not safe for a woman to appear in public uncovered, or to walk on the street without a male relative. Girls are still sold into marriage. Rape goes unpunished every day.

For both men and women in Afghanistan, our lives are short and often wracked by violence, loss, and anguish. The life expectancy here is less than forty-five years ­ an age that in the West is called "middle age." We live in desperate poverty. A staggering 70 percent of Afghans survive on less than two dollars per day. And it is estimated that more than half of Afghan men and 80 percent of women are illiterate. In the past few years, hundreds of women have committed self-immolation ­ literally burned themselves to death ­ to escape their miseries.

This is the history I have lived through, and this is the tragic situation today that I am working with many others to change. I am no better than any of my suffering people. Fate and history have made me in some ways a "voice of the voiceless," the many thousands and millions of Afghans who have endured decades of war and injustice.

For years, my supporters have urged me to write a book about my life. I have always resisted because I do not feel comfortable writing about myself. I feel that my story, on its own, is not important. But finally my friends persuaded me to go ahead with this book as a way to talk about the plight of the Afghan people from the perspective of a member of my country's war generation. I agreed to use my personal experiences as a way to tell the political history of Afghanistan, focusing on the past three decades of oppressive misrule. The story of the dangerous campaign I ran to represent the poor people of my province, the physical and verbal attacks I endured as a member of Parliament, and the devious, illegal plot to banish me from my elected post ­ all of it illuminates the corruption and injustice that prevents Afghanistan from becoming a true democracy. In this way it is not just my story, but the story of my struggling people.

Many books were written about Afghanistan after the 9/11 tragedy, but only a few of them offer a complete and realistic picture of the country's past. Most of them describe in depth the cruelties and injustices of the Taliban regime but usually ignore or try to hide one of the darkest periods of our history: the rule of the fundamentalist mujahideen between 1992 and 1996. I hope this book will draw attention to the atrocities committed by these warlords who now dominate the Karzai regime.

I also hope this book will correct the tremendous amount of misinformation being spread about Afghanistan. Afghans are sometimes represented in the media as a backward people, nothing more than terrorists, criminals, and henchmen. This false image is extremely dangerous for the future of both my country and the West. The truth is that Afghans are brave and freedom-loving people with a rich culture and a proud history. We are capable of defending our independence, governing ourselves, and determining our own future.

But Afghanistan has long been used as a deadly playground in the "Great Game" between superpowers, from the British Empire to the Soviet empire, and now the Americans and their allies. They have tried to rule Afghanistan by dividing it. They have given money and power to thugs and fundamentalists and warlords who have driven our people into terrible misery. We do not want to be misused and misrepresented to the world. We need security and a helping hand from friends around the world, but not this endless U.S.-led "war on terror," which is in fact a war against the Afghan people. The Afghan people are not terrorists; we are the victims of terrorism. Today the soil of Afghanistan is full of land mines, bullets, and bombs ­ when what we really need is an invasion of hospitals, clinics, and schools for boys and girls.

I was also reluctant to write this memoir because I'd always thought that books should first be written about the many democratic activists who have been martyred, the secret heroes and heroines of Afghanistan's history. I feel the same way about some of the awards that I have received from international human rights groups in recent years. The ones who came before me are more deserving. It is an honor to be recognized, but I only wish that all the love and support I have been shown could be given to the orphans and widows of Afghanistan. For me, the awards and honors belong to all my people, and each distinction I receive only adds to my sense of responsibility to our common struggle. For this reason, all of my earnings from this book will go toward supporting urgently needed humanitarian projects in Afghanistan aimed at changing lives for the better.

As I write these words, the situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse. And not just for women, but for all Afghans. We are caught between two enemies ­ the Taliban on one side and the U.S./ NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. And the dark-minded forces in our country are gaining power with every allied air strike that kills civilians, with every corrupt government official who grows fat on bribes and thievery, and with every criminal who escapes justice.

During his election campaign, the new president of the United States, Barack Obama, spoke of sending tens of thousands more foreign troops to Afghanistan, but he did not speak out against the twin plagues of corruption and warlordism that are destroying my country. I know that Obama's election has brought great hopes to peace-loving people in the United States. But for Afghans, Obama's military buildup will only bring more suffering and death to innocent civilians, while it may not even weaken the Taliban and al-Qaeda. I hope that the lessons in this book will reach President Obama and his policy makers in Washington, and warn them that the people of Afghanistan reject their brutal occupation and their support of the warlords and drug lords.

In Afghanistan, democratic-minded people have been struggling for human and women's rights for decades. Our history proves that these values cannot be imposed by foreign troops. As I never tire of telling my audiences, no nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears.

In Afghanistan, we have a saying that is very dear to my heart: The truth is like the sun: when it comes up nobody can block it out or hide it. I hope that this book and my story will, in a small way, help that sun to keep shining and inspire you, wherever you might be reading this, to work for peace, justice, and democracy.

From A Woman Among Warlords by Malalai Joya. Copyright 2009 by Malalai Joya. Excerpted by permission of the publisher.
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Investigative Voice  Baltimore ~ Wednesday, 04 November 2009

WAR WRATH ­ 'U.S. troops must leave,' Afghani politician tells Baltimore audience

Malalai Joya, center, sits with Khadija Bahar, left, whose sister was stabbed to death last May outside her family's home near Kabul. (I.V. Photo/Stephen Janis)


 

“A Woman Among Warlords”: Afghan Democracy Activist Malalai Joya Defies Threats to Challenge US Occupation, Local Warlords

To talk more about Afghanistan, we are joined by Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists. In 2005, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of warlords and their cronies in government. She has just written her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out. [includes rush transcript]

Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists. In 2005, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of warlords and their cronies in government. She has just published her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out, co-written by Derrick O’Keefe.

Related Links: List of Malalai Joya's Upcoming Speaking Events

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Afghanistan, we’re joined here in our firehouse studio by Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists. In 2005, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament. She was suspended in 2007 for her denunciation of warlords and their cronies in government. She has just written her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out. It was written with Derrick O’Keefe.

I welcome you to Democracy Now!, Malalai. When you hear in all the US media “bloodiest month of the eight-year war,” of course they’re talking about US soldiers killed in Afghanistan. How does that make you feel? How do we know how many Afghans have died over these last eight years?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, first of all, thanks for this interview. And let me say in the beginning, on behalf of my people, condolences to those American mothers who lost their sons recently in Afghanistan and also these eight years, and other moms that belongs to these NATO countries, as their government unfortunately these eight years, they waste the blood of their soldiers in Afghanistan and their taxpayers’ monies by supporting these warlords, these drug lords and these terrorists who are like a photocopy of Taliban­means that mentally same, only physically has been changed after 9/11 and they come in power.

So, this eight years, about less than 2,000 Talib has been killed, more than 8,000 innocent civilians has been killed. That’s why, day by day, we believe that this is not war on terror, this is war on innocent civilians, as they even do massacre in Afghanistan, what they did on May, that­in Farah province, more than 150 civilians has been killed, most of them women and children. Even they used white phosphorus and cluster bomb. And also, 200 civilians on 9th of September in Kunduz province has been killed, again most of them women and children. You can see the website of Professor Marc Herold, this Democrat American man that­to know better about war crime in Afghanistan they impose on our people.

And at least today’s reporters in have to know that even by presence of thousands troops in Afghanistan, there is no security in Kabul. How­but around Afghanistan, while the government has no control, now my people are sandwiched between two powerful enemies: from the sky, occupation forces bombing and killing innocent civilians­as I said, these troops themselves are the victim of this wrong policy of their government; on the ground, Taliban and these warlords together continue to deliver fascism against our people.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the latest news, Malalai Joya, about the brother of Hamid Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the New York Times revealing today that Ahmed has been on the CIA payroll for much of the past eight years. Who is he?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, my people call him “Small Bush” in Kandahar province, this brother of Hamid Karzai. But he’s­this is not the first time that New York Times wrote. Recently also, I wrote that he’s a famous drug trafficker. And many others who have high posts in Karzai’s government, sometimes his ministers, expose each other that they­for persons who had high posts in Karzai government, they are drug traffickers. And the government says stop planting of opium, but the governor commanders of the same province is drug traffickers. This eight years, $36 billion the government of Afghanistan received, while they themselves give report. Most of this money went into pocket of warlords, drug lords, [inaudible] lords, these donors and officials themselves. And at least this example should be in of that right now. Even some important media is writing and sometimes exposing these drug lords and these warlords in Afghanistan, that right now I say that, for example, brother of Hamid Karzai is receiving millions of dollars through dirty business of opium.

And this was the main project of the CIA in Afghanistan, that under the banner of women rights, human rights, democracy, they occupied my country. They imposed these terrorists, blood and creed of the Taliban, on my people. And also they changed my country to the center of drug. Only [inaudible] have to know about the deep tragedy of Afghanistan and wrong policy of the US, that even UN gave report, that recent report of the UN. Right now­oh, my god, I think you also got this report. Anyway, that right now, as I said, that they changed Afghanistan to the center of drug. They received millions of dollars that has been looted. Situation of women is getting worse. And security, how much important­day by day, it’s worse for my people, especially for the women. And that’s why, because of all of these main reasons, we­day by day, we say this is the mockery of democracy and mockery of war on terror.

AMY GOODMAN: Does Ahmed Karzai have a relationship with Mullah Omar?

MALALAI JOYA: Sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: With Mullah Omar?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, these warlords, they have, of course­that, as I said, they are blood and creed of each other, they have links with each other, as now they are negotiating – are ready to negotiating with each other. Karzai himself called Taliban these dinosaurs’ brothers, as­during the election. And also, Abdullah Abdullah, this main candidate of the warlords during this so-called free election­

AMY GOODMAN: Who’s running for president against Karzai.

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, they­yeah, both of them. They betrayed a lot my people. And now they are running for the election, as my people, even they use this power, that the result of this election will be like the same donkey but with new saddle. Anyway, both of them call Taliban brothers, these terrorists. And both of them ready to do negotiate and invite Mullah Omar, this fascist man, to join the government. Both of them are puppets. And both of them, that they are busy with this dirty business of opium. And at least you know better about them. I think only this eight years is enough to know better about them.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the upcoming runoff election scheduled for November 7th. Earlier this week, the presidential contender, as you were talking about, Abdullah Abdullah, called for the dismissal of Azizullah Ludin, the chair of the Independent Electoral Commission. Ludin is a former Karzai adviser.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH: Dismissal, immediate dismissal, of Mr. Ludin from the Election Commission. He has left no credibility for the institution and, unfortunately, for he, himself, in order to be trusted by the people of Afghanistan as the head of an independent body.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Malalai Joya, to what Abdullah Abdullah is calling for, to his being removed from the Electoral Commission?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, this election is just a tragic drama, I think the most fraudulent and also ridiculous election in the world, as election under the shadow of gun, warlordism, drug lordism, awful corruption, and occupation forces has no legitimacy at all. As a famous saying, it’s not important who is voting, it’s important who’s counting. Even my people, before of the result of the election, they discussed among each other, people on the streets, that the winner will be picked out by White House, as now you see that one puppet can be replaced with another puppet. Now, between two puppet fighting because of the power, $250 million they spent for this election. They waste the money. And they want to more waste­to waste more money in Afghanistan.

And also, millions of people did not attend in the election, because they know that their word will be betrayed, same like in the past, and also their wishes has no role in this election. As I say, that both of them invite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and also Mullah Omar to join the government as a moderate. And both of them want more occupation forces in Afghanistan, which will bring more war and more conflict. So both of them betrayed a lot my people, especially women of my country.

To know better about Abdullah Abdullah, it’s in of that­he did civil war from ’92 to ’96. He and other brothers of him, like these other warlords who are right now in power, like Dostum, like Sayyaf, Rabbani, Qanooni, Ismail Khan, Mohaqiq, these dirty-minded elements, who accused as war criminal. And Karzai, he choose two cruel men, like Qasim Fahim and Karim Khalili, as vice president. Even Human Rights Watch said Karzai insulting the people of Afghanistan. But in spite national and international condemnation, he didn’t change the mind. But I am saying he’s betraying my people still more.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a very brave woman, Malalai Joya. I wanted to go to a clip of you saying essentially this years ago. You called­we’re going to go to the Enemies of Happiness. The film begins in December 2003 in a meeting of Afghanistan’s newly elected constitutional assembly, the Loya Jirga. A then-unknown twenty-four-year-old woman steps to the microphone to deliver a speech that will make international headlines and draw threats on her life.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] What are you saying?

MALALAI JOYA: [translated] We kids can’t get a word in. I would like to say a few words, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] Wait a minute. Stay in your seats. One sister says that she has traveled far. She insists that we haven’t given the kids enough speaking time. You have three minutes, please.

MALALAI JOYA: [translated] My name is Malalai Joya from the Farah province. With the permission of all those present and in respect of the martyrs who were killed, I would like to speak. I wish to criticize my compatriots in this room. Why would you allow criminals to be present at this Loya Jirga, warlords responsible for our country’s situation? Afghanistan is the center for national and international conflicts. They oppress women and have ruined our country. They should be prosecuted. They might be forgiven by the Afghan people, but not by history.

CHAIRMAN: [translated] Sit down! Sit down! The sister has crossed the line of what is considered common courtesy. She is banished from this assembly and cannot return. Send her out! Guards, throw her out! She doesn’t deserve to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Malalai Joya, who was standing up, what many have called “Afghanistan’s bravest woman.” Malalai Joya, in our firehouse studio, who has written her memoir called A Woman Among Warlords. Describe what you were thinking at that moment and how dangerous it was for you.

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, as my people was not sure that I will be alive until now, same my supporters around the world. But the reason that today I am alive, because of the strong support of these voiceless, suffer, poor people of my country. As two years before these warlords, drug lords, these criminals, they expelled me from the parliament, which was quite illegal act and anti-freedom of speech.

AMY GOODMAN: You were elected?

MALALAI JOYA: I were elected.

AMY GOODMAN: In…?

MALALAI JOYA: Yeah, in 2005, for the second time. People voted, and as I was very famous in Afghanistan and around the world, and if they do not allow me, as all the boxes was in the hands of this mafia, they’re cheating was clear for the world, not only for my people.

But few Democrats in the parliament, me and others, that in the beginning, as they made amnesty law that criminals forgive themselves, we raised our voice against this disgusting law, which gives impunity to criminals. As much as they can, they continue to their fascism. But despite we raised our voice, nobody listened the voice. And Karzai also signed this disgusting law. And one reason that they expelled me from parliament was that, because I never did compromise with them, even they beated inside of parliament, they threatened me to rape inside of parliament, and many threats like this.

AMY GOODMAN: They threatened to rape you in parliament?

MALALAI JOYA: Inside of the parliament. And also, all of these threats you can see on my websites. But now, after when they expelled me from parliament, now, as in Kabul, I’m changing safe house to safe houses. Even with burqa and bodyguard, it’s not safe. When you compare my life with the dark period of Taliban, these terrorists, as an activist, that I was underground activist, on that time, it was risky, but now, under the name of democracy and by presence of these thousands troops, it is, even with burqa and bodyguard, not safe. Many assassination attempts. And I am a person, on behalf of those Democrat and voiceless, innocent people of my country, in front of you. But many others like me, there is no security for them. They are underground activists now.

AMY GOODMAN: The big debate in the United States is this surge. Now the discussion is not how many troops will President Obama­how many more troops will he send to Afghanistan, or will he send more troops, but how many more. That’s what the debate has become. What is your thought? What should happen to the US soldiers now?

MALALAI JOYA: You know, that as I said, these troops are the victim of the wrong policy of their government. They send them for a bad cause: for war. They say war of Afghanistan is good war, war of Iraq is bad war, while war is war and impossible to bring democracy, women rights, human rights by war. And unfortunately, Obama’s policy and Obama’s message for my people is quite similar, like his foreign policy like Bush administration. He wants to surge more troops in Afghanistan, which will bring more conflict, more war.

Obama is going to decorate barbaric Taliban as a moderate, to give them a chance to bring them also in power, put soft name on these terrorists, while we have no moderate Talib. And also, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, they invite this fascist man to joint he government. This terrorist also come in power, situation will be more bloody. If really Obama honest for my people, at least they apologize to my people and first of all try to put to the court the criminal Bush to the ICC, and also many Bushes in my country that, this eight years, they changed Afghanistan to the safe haven for terrorism and center of drug.

AMY GOODMAN: But so often in this country, the argument is actually used that it’s the women of Afghanistan who benefit most from the US occupation and the war.

MALALAI JOYA: They’re betrayed more. Opposite. Quite opposite. The first casualty in my country is the truth. Still they betray the truth, especially mainstream medias, put dust on the eyes of the people around the world. As after 9/11 that they occupied Afghanistan, they say women for the first time do not wear burqa and they are free, while it’s a big lie. And today, most of women are wearing burqa because of security. I wear a burqa just to be alive, this disgusting burqa, which is symbol of oppression, I think. And it’s like a shroud for life body most of women are wearing to be alive. Rape cases, domestic violences and also [inaudible] on the face of the girls and killing of women increasing rapidly.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you fear for your life when you go home? And why do you return to Afghanistan, finally, Malalai?

MALALAI JOYA: Of course, I go, because we have lots of responsibility. Responsibility of Democrat men and women is a lot, as we believe no nation can donate liberation to another nation. And we are ready to build our country, if US and its allies let us a little bit breathe in peace. Now we’re between two powerful enemies, with the withdrawal of one enemy occupation forces as their government supporting warlords, and also now Taliban. They stop supporting them, then it’s much easier to fight one enemy instead of two.

If really Obama honest for my people, support the democratic-minded people of my country, we have a lot. But he not only support democratic-minded people of my country, he’s going to start war in Pakistan by drawing attack in the border area of Pakistan. And I think the survey that they did of civilian casualty, those people, innocent people, who has been killed, more has been killed in the Obama period than even criminal Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists. In 2005 she became the youngest person ever elected in the Afghan parliament. Her memoir is now out; it’s called A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out. It was written with Derrick O’Keefe.

Speaking of drones, when we come back from our break, we will talk about the situation of drones in Pakistan. Stay with us.

MALALAI JOYA: Thank you.
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 November 2 2009

Afghan War Vets Patrol Halls Of Congress To Stop Troop Escalation

By Raul Grijalva

A little more than two months ago, Brock McIntosh was fighting in Afghanistan, a member of the Army National Guard. This week, he's walking the halls of Congress, trying to end a war that began when he was 13 years old.

McIntosh, now 21, and four other vets are in Washington for something of a preemptive strike. A new pro-war group calling itself Vets For Freedom plans to begin lobbying Congress Thursday, pushing for an escalation. The anti-war vets hope to head them off.

But if their erstwhile comrades and now political opponents are "for freedom," that raises an unusual question. "What does that make us?" mocks Devon Read, 29, served for eight years and took part in the invasion of Iraq before leaving the Marine Corps in 2008. "Vets Against Freedom? Vets For Terrorism?"

Technically, they're with Veterans For Rethinking Afghanistan, having linked up with Brave New Films president Robert Greenwald, whose documentary project "Rethink Afghanistan" urges a drawdown of the American presence in that country.

As the vets wait outside the office of Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Jake Diliberto, 27, recounts tales from the first skirmish with Vets For Freedom earlier in the morning.

Diliberto went mano a mano on CNN with VFF rep Thomas Cotton. Cotton had a simple appeal to authority: He's for whatever General Stanley McChrystal wants -- and that's more troops.

Before they went on, says Diliberto, he could hear his opponent prepping himself. "He kept repeating, 'General Stanley McChrystal. General Stanley McChrystal. General Stanley McChrystal.' "

Backers of escalating the eight-year-old war present a variety of complex arguments, but at their heart is Cotton's mantra: "General Stanley McChrystal. General Stanley McChrystal. General Stanley McChrystal."
Story continues below ?

The troops were joined in Grijalva's office by Malalai Joya, an Afghan member of parliament who has been suspended for speaking out against the warlords who run the country. She is appealing her suspension and, in the meantime, promoting her new book, "A Woman Among Warlords." Joya, too, has a simple message: Go home, USA.

"It's much easier to fight against one enemy than two," Malalai Joya tells Grijalva, identifying the two current enemies as the Taliban on the one hand and the United States and the Afghan government it props up on the other.

The Afghan government, she says, is hopelessly corrupt; President Hamid Karzai is in league with powerful warlords and druglords, some of whom are his close relatives. His top opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, is himself a well-known warlord, she says. The election process is controlled by warlords for their benefit. The farce that was the previous election will not lead to a run-off because Abdullah doesn't believe it will be fair.

"It's not important who's voting. It's important who's counting," says Joya, adding that the canceled election matters little since both candidates are representatives of the warlord class. "They both call the Taliban brother."

Both President Obama and General McChrystal have said that the U.S. effort in Afghanistan cannot succeed without a governing partner that is seen as legitimate by the Afghan people. That's a tremendous problem for proponents of a troop escalation, since Karzai is seen as anything but that.

The problem for the war's opponents, however, is that it's hard to comprehend just how corrupt the Karzai regime is. Seeing it first hand persuaded the troops.

"The Taliban isn't their enemy," says Rick Reyes, who served with the Marine Infantry in Afghanistan. "The greatest enemy of the Afghan people is the Afghan government and the occupation forces."

McIntosh, who takes some time to get over his nerves in the congressman's office, tells Grijalva that the Afghan people appreciate the occupation army most for the medical services it provides. Afghan doctors, he says, were poorly trained, because the Taliban banned pictures in text books. The health care makes them dependent, he says, when what they need is training.

"They can do it on their own," he says. "They're fully capable human beings."

Grijalva nods, acknowledging the wisdom from the young man who just recently got the legal right to drink.

The kind of training Afghans don't need, the Marines say, is military. We've been training young men to fight in Afghanistan for decades, they note, and look where it's gotten us. An overwhelming number of men trained by the U.S. go on to fight for the Taliban instead, which was itself originally trained by the U.S., notes Reyes. "So if we train 400,000 soldiers and 200,000 go fight for the Taliban, what have we gained?"

"We don't expect anything good from you," Joya tells Grijalva. "Just stop doing wrong." As she brandishes photos of dead civilians, known warlords, and evidence of Karzai's corruption, her voice gradually rises. With a finger pointed squarely at the progressive congressman, she repeatedly indicts the occupation and those who allow it to continue.

"This is what your government has done," she fumes. "Silence of good people is worse than action of bad people."

Witnessing her rough treatment of Grivala, who agrees with her, it isn't hard to see how she has found herself out of favor among the warlords.

After the meeting, Grijalva says that Joya helped alter his perspective. "Sometimes in our urge to fix things, we just pile money on top of a [friendly] government," he says. But Joya had convinced him, he says, that the U.S. is "funding fundamentally the people who are unraveling the country."

Outside in the hall, the vets assess the meeting. "I don't think he needed a whole lot of convincing," offers Diliberto. Next up: Reps. John Tierney (D-Mass.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). "But we're not just meeting with progressives," assures Leighton Woodhouse, a Brave New Films aide escorting the men. Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), David Price (D-N.C.), Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) and Sylvestre Reyes (D-Texas) were also scheduled to receive the veterans.

One member had previously offered a "walk and talk" with the vets, but had since demoted them to a sit down meeting with the chief of staff.

He might not get off that easy. The vets are neither your typical lobbyist nor your standard anti-war protesters. Diliberto suggested they deal with that congressman in a way that would convey the gravity of their message.

"We should just go to his door," he suggests, 'and say, 'Look, motherfucker.'"

Diliberto will be on Larry King Live tonight on CNN, debating General Wesley Clark and one of the Vets for Freedom. Below, McIntosh and Reyes, who was tweeting from the halls Congress, talk about their experiences in the war. WATCH:

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 October 27 2009

Malalai Joya: 'A Woman Among Warlords'

Listen to the Story HERE

Three days after Malalai Joya was born in Afghanistan, the government was overthrown. In A Woman Among Warlords, Joya tells the story of her family's struggle against Islamic fundamentalists, warlords and foreign occupation.

Excerpt: 'A Woman Among Warlords'



Introduction

Dust in the Eyes of the World

I come from a land of tragedy called Afghanistan.

My life has taken some unusual turns, but in many ways my story is the story of a generation. For the thirty years I have been alive, my country has suffered from the constant scourge of war. Most Afghans my age and younger have only known bloodshed, displacement, and occupation. When I was a baby in my mother's arms, the Soviet Union invaded my country. When I was four years old, my family and I were forced to live as refugees in Iran and then Pakistan. Millions of Afghans were killed or exiled, like my family, during the battle-torn 1980s. When the Russians finally left and their puppet regime was overthrown, we faced a vicious civil war between fundamentalist warlords, followed by the rule of the depraved and medieval Taliban.

After the tragic day of September 11, 2001, many in Afghanistan thought that, with the ensuing overthrow of the Taliban, they might finally see some light, some justice and progress. But it was not to be. The Afghan people have been betrayed once again by those who are claiming to help them. More than seven years after the U.S. invasion, we are still faced with foreign occupation and a U.S.-backed government filled with warlords who are just like the Taliban. Instead of putting these ruthless murderers on trial for war crimes, the United States and its allies placed them in positions of power, where they continue to terrorize ordinary Afghans.

You may be shocked to hear this, because the truth about Afghanistan has been hidden behind a smoke screen of words and images carefully crafted by the United States and its NATO allies and repeated without question by the Western media.

You may have been led to believe that once the Taliban was driven from power, justice returned to my country. Afghan women like me, voting and running for office, have been held up as proof that the U.S. military has brought democracy and women's rights to Afghanistan.

But it is all a lie, dust in the eyes of the world.

I am the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament, but I have been banished from my seat and threatened with death because I speak the truth about the warlords and criminals in the puppet government of Hamid Karzai. I have already survived at least five assassination attempts and uncounted plots against me. Because of this, I am forced to live like a fugitive within my own country. A trusted uncle heads my detail of bodyguards, and we move to different houses almost every night to stay a step ahead of my enemies.

To hide my identity, I must travel under the cover of the heavy cloth burqa, which to me is a symbol of women's oppression, like a shroud for the living. Even during the dark days of the Taliban I could at least go outside under the burqa to teach girls in secret classes. But today I don't feel safe under my burqa, even with armed guards to escort me. My visitors are searched for weapons, and even the flowers at my wedding had to be checked for bombs. I cannot tell you my family's name, or the name of my husband, because it would place them in terrible danger. And for this reason, I have changed several other names in this book.

I call myself Joya ­ an alias I adopted during the time of the Taliban when I worked as an underground activist. The name Joya has great significance in my country. Sarwar Joya was an Afghan writer, poet, and constitutionalist who struggled against injustice during the early twentieth century. He spent nearly twenty-four years of his life in jails and was finally killed because he would not compromise his democratic principles.

I know that because I refuse to compromise my opposition to the warlords and fundamentalists or soften my speeches denouncing them, I, too, may join Joya on the long list Afghans who have died for freedom. But you cannot compromise the truth. And I am not afraid of an early death if it would advance the cause of justice. Even the grave cannot silence my voice, because there are others who would carry on after me.

The sad fact is that in Afghanistan, killing a woman is like killing a bird. The United States has tried to justify its occupation with rhetoric about "liberating" Afghan women, but we remain caged in our country, without access to justice and still ruled by women-hating criminals. Fundamentalists still preach that "a woman should be in her house or in the grave." In most places it is still not safe for a woman to appear in public uncovered, or to walk on the street without a male relative. Girls are still sold into marriage. Rape goes unpunished every day.

For both men and women in Afghanistan, our lives are short and often wracked by violence, loss, and anguish. The life expectancy here is less than forty-five years ­ an age that in the West is called "middle age." We live in desperate poverty. A staggering 70 percent of Afghans survive on less than two dollars per day. And it is estimated that more than half of Afghan men and 80 percent of women are illiterate. In the past few years, hundreds of women have committed self-immolation ­ literally burned themselves to death ­ to escape their miseries.

This is the history I have lived through, and this is the tragic situation today that I am working with many others to change. I am no better than any of my suffering people. Fate and history have made me in some ways a "voice of the voiceless," the many thousands and millions of Afghans who have endured decades of war and injustice.

For years, my supporters have urged me to write a book about my life. I have always resisted because I do not feel comfortable writing about myself. I feel that my story, on its own, is not important. But finally my friends persuaded me to go ahead with this book as a way to talk about the plight of the Afghan people from the perspective of a member of my country's war generation. I agreed to use my personal experiences as a way to tell the political history of Afghanistan, focusing on the past three decades of oppressive misrule. The story of the dangerous campaign I ran to represent the poor people of my province, the physical and verbal attacks I endured as a member of Parliament, and the devious, illegal plot to banish me from my elected post ­ all of it illuminates the corruption and injustice that prevents Afghanistan from becoming a true democracy. In this way it is not just my story, but the story of my struggling people.

Many books were written about Afghanistan after the 9/11 tragedy, but only a few of them offer a complete and realistic picture of the country's past. Most of them describe in depth the cruelties and injustices of the Taliban regime but usually ignore or try to hide one of the darkest periods of our history: the rule of the fundamentalist mujahideen between 1992 and 1996. I hope this book will draw attention to the atrocities committed by these warlords who now dominate the Karzai regime.

I also hope this book will correct the tremendous amount of misinformation being spread about Afghanistan. Afghans are sometimes represented in the media as a backward people, nothing more than terrorists, criminals, and henchmen. This false image is extremely dangerous for the future of both my country and the West. The truth is that Afghans are brave and freedom-loving people with a rich culture and a proud history. We are capable of defending our independence, governing ourselves, and determining our own future.

But Afghanistan has long been used as a deadly playground in the "Great Game" between superpowers, from the British Empire to the Soviet empire, and now the Americans and their allies. They have tried to rule Afghanistan by dividing it. They have given money and power to thugs and fundamentalists and warlords who have driven our people into terrible misery. We do not want to be misused and misrepresented to the world. We need security and a helping hand from friends around the world, but not this endless U.S.-led "war on terror," which is in fact a war against the Afghan people. The Afghan people are not terrorists; we are the victims of terrorism. Today the soil of Afghanistan is full of land mines, bullets, and bombs ­ when what we really need is an invasion of hospitals, clinics, and schools for boys and girls.

I was also reluctant to write this memoir because I'd always thought that books should first be written about the many democratic activists who have been martyred, the secret heroes and heroines of Afghanistan's history. I feel the same way about some of the awards that I have received from international human rights groups in recent years. The ones who came before me are more deserving. It is an honor to be recognized, but I only wish that all the love and support I have been shown could be given to the orphans and widows of Afghanistan. For me, the awards and honors belong to all my people, and each distinction I receive only adds to my sense of responsibility to our common struggle. For this reason, all of my earnings from this book will go toward supporting urgently needed humanitarian projects in Afghanistan aimed at changing lives for the better.

As I write these words, the situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse. And not just for women, but for all Afghans. We are caught between two enemies ­ the Taliban on one side and the U.S./ NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. And the dark-minded forces in our country are gaining power with every allied air strike that kills civilians, with every corrupt government official who grows fat on bribes and thievery, and with every criminal who escapes justice.

During his election campaign, the new president of the United States, Barack Obama, spoke of sending tens of thousands more foreign troops to Afghanistan, but he did not speak out against the twin plagues of corruption and warlordism that are destroying my country. I know that Obama's election has brought great hopes to peace-loving people in the United States. But for Afghans, Obama's military buildup will only bring more suffering and death to innocent civilians, while it may not even weaken the Taliban and al-Qaeda. I hope that the lessons in this book will reach President Obama and his policy makers in Washington, and warn them that the people of Afghanistan reject their brutal occupation and their support of the warlords and drug lords.

In Afghanistan, democratic-minded people have been struggling for human and women's rights for decades. Our history proves that these values cannot be imposed by foreign troops. As I never tire of telling my audiences, no nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears.

In Afghanistan, we have a saying that is very dear to my heart: The truth is like the sun: when it comes up nobody can block it out or hide it. I hope that this book and my story will, in a small way, help that sun to keep shining and inspire you, wherever you might be reading this, to work for peace, justice, and democracy.

From A Woman Among Warlords by Malalai Joya. Copyright 2009 by Malalai Joya. Excerpted by permission of the publisher.
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Investigative Voice ~ Baltimore ~ Wednesday, 04 November 2009

WAR WRATH ­ 'U.S. troops must leave,' Afghani politician tells Baltimore audience

Malalai Joya, center, sits with Khadija Bahar, left, whose sister was stabbed to death last May outside her family's home near Kabul. (I.V. Photo/Stephen Janis)

By Alan Z. Forman and Stephen Janis

On the second floor of the newly refurbished offices of the Junior League in North Baltimore Tuesday, two Afghan women embraced.

Tears flowed down the cheeks of a recent immigrant, Khadija Bahar, whose sister was stabbed to death outside the family home just a mile from the nation’s capital in Kabul this past May.

But as she wept softly, her tears were brushed away by fellow countrywoman Malalai Joya, the celebrated member of the Afghan parliament who has been an outspoken critic of the American-led war in her country.

They whispered, embraced, Joya gently brushing back Bahar’s hair. “When I touch her I feel like I'm home,” Bahar explained later. “It has been very hard for me not to know what happened to my sister.”

The intimate and telling moment preceded Joya’s speech in front of a packed house.

She has been called “the bravest and most famous woman in Afghanistan,” and Tuesday night she told a standing-room-only crowd at the Junior League of Baltimore that America must “get out of Afghanistan now” because “democracy never comes by war... or cluster bomb.”

Joya, who is the youngest member of Afghanistan's National Assembly and an outspoken critic of the Taliban, Karzai regime (which rules her country), and U.S. involvement in Afghan affairs, told the packed gathering, “We don't expect anything good from you [America]; U.S. troops must leave.”

However, “we need your support, moral and financial,” she told the largely female audience.

Branding former President George W. Bush “a criminal,” Joya, who wore a political campaign-style button reading “U.S. OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW,” had harsh words for Barack Obama as well, terming his actions “similar to Bush” and condemning the president for what she charged was his allowing “terrorists to join the government” in Afghanistan, an apparent reference to the country's powerful NATO-backed mujahedeen warlords.

“Obama follows the policy of the criminal Bush,” she asserted.

Expressing fear for her life ­ there have been numerous assassination attempts requiring her, when at home, to be accompanied at all times by armed guards ­ Joya said she refused to be cowed by death threats and would continue to speak out no matter what the risk.

“You never can hide the truth and you never can make silent this voice,” she asserted, speaking indirectly to her antagonists in Afghanistan.

No bodyguards

She had no bodyguards or visible protection at the meeting in Baltimore.

Joya's life has been at risk since 2003, when, at age 25, she publicly condemned the corruption of the Afghan warlord-controlled government. Then in 2007 she was “suspended” from parliament for criticizing other members.

American troops in Afghanistan are fighting “not a war on terrorists,” she maintained, but a war on the “innocent, justice-loving people of my country” to prop up what she termed a “Mafia corrupt system” ruled by drug-dealers and murderers.

Still, she took time to express her “condolences to the families of U.S. soldiers,” apparently a reference to those killed and injured. (Joya's English is not of the level of a native speaker.)

Condemning the recent Afghan election as a “fraudulent process” having “no legitimacy at all,” she evoked laughter from the audience when she said, “The winner will be like riding the same donkey, but with a new saddle.

“It's not important who's voting; it's important who's counting.”

Afghans are a “democratic-minded, justice-loving people,” she declared, using rhetoric reminiscent of the former Soviet Union, which often referred to its citizens as the “freedom-loving people of the USSR.”

Attempting to stir the women in the audience to action, Joya charged the U.S. government with using women's rights as an excuse to impose American values, including our way of life and economic system, on Afghanistan, and called on the Junior League members and others in the audience to “oppose American policy toward Afghanistan” in all its ramifications.

A 'yes' or 'no' answer
She fielded questions following her talk but when asked by one audience member if, since she was “asking us to oppose all our government's policies regarding Afghanistan, are you also suggesting we should oppose our own economic system?” she launched into a diatribe against the Afghan warlords.

When the questioner persisted, muttering under his breath (though audible to those in the immediate vicinity), “It's a 'yes' or 'no' answer,” Joya deferred to a woman in her entourage who conferred with her in Pashto, causing the questioner, who was attending with several members of the Baltimore Chapter of the International Socialist Organization, to raise his voice and be cautioned by the moderator to remain calm.

The questioner, George Vath, 51, of Reisterstown, later told a reporter, “I knew she wasn't going to answer that. She knows that talking about socialism would alienate the people in this room,” so she dodged the question, he said, adding that he wants the United States out of Afghanistan as well, “but not for the same reasons she does.”

Another in the audience noted that Joya was “economically astute” enough to have copies of her book on sale following her talk, which many of the approximately 150 in attendance lined up to buy and have personally autographed by her.

The 240-page book, A Woman Among Warlords, published by Simon & Schuster and listed at $25 ($16.50 on Amazon.com; available on Kindle for $9.99), is subtitled: “The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice.”

Joya's dark side
The book's main title was used by PBS for a compelling 2007 television documentary originally titled “Enemies of Happiness,” which won a grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival that same year, chronicling Joya's final months of campaigning for Afghanistan's National Assembly in 2005, a seat she won at the age of 27.

Though certainly uplifting, the film reveals a dark side of the Afghan politician: After lecturing an unruly meeting of local candidates, pointing out that their bickering is getting them nowhere, one man grumbles that it's hypocritical of her to chastise others when her own bodyguards are tearing down rivals' posters and intimidating other candidates.

The Baltimore event was co-sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland and Mercy High School, a private, independent Catholic school on East Northern Parkway, as a joint effort to provide role models for young women, and was hosted by the Junior League at its headquarters. The organization of young Baltimore-area women promotes voluntarism, and strives to develop the potential of women and improve communities through trained volunteers.

A loose confederation/network of women volunteers not directly connected with Junior League or either of the meeting's co-sponsors, and which promotes solidarity with women's groups in Afghanistan, organized the event.

Joya is in the Baltimore-Washington area for four days of a month-long tour of the United States. She has been to New York; her next stop is California.