CODEPINK issued an alert on Thursday, December 3, about the President's West Point speech on Afghanistan and his failure to respond to the many voices calling for peace. We asked people to email the White House to voice their concerns.
The alert had been out for three minutes when the phone rang. My assistant Mark answered, then turned to me and said, "The White House is calling."
I picked up the phone, and discovered it was Jayne in the President's Office of Public Engagement. "How did you feel about the President's speech?" she asked thoughtfully.
I told her I was feeling horrible, that I disagreed with almost everything he said. I said he didn't have the courage to be in his own body as he delivered the words that would cause the deaths of so many and that if he were willing to couch his position in so many untruths then I couldn't believe anything he said -- even about why we were there. Really, we are going to send 100,000 troops, over 100,000 contractors and 100 billion dollars to deal with 100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan? It reminds me of an Afghan woman's tirade to me when I was there, "You want me to believe that the most powerful nation in the world is being held hostage by those skinny, lice covered, illiterate, dirty men in those craggy hills of this broken country?"
Jayne said, "I totally hear what you are saying." She indicated that the President has told them to stay open to all opinions and she understood I might feel that way. And then she came to the purpose of her call. "I want to keep our lines of communication open, but I can't do it if I can't work. I have an email from your list hitting my box every second and can't get any work done. Can you do something about that so our communication can be more productive? Can you send out another alert with a better address?"
I quickly looked at my computer to see how many emails had been sent out from our list and read the most recent:
You have failed the critical test of both a Commander-in-Chief, and of a man: In escalating our eight-year-long military effort to subdue or occupy Afghanistan you have demonstrated neither judgment and integrity nor courage. You have sentenced to death countless Afghans, Americans and others, on our side all duped over and over again by the cynical, high-powered sales pitch attached to our disastrous misadventures in the Middle East, a war which may well be fatal to the republic itself, all to save your political image. --Arthur Wagner
I was transfixed and couldn't help reading more and more of the heartfelt messages.
Obama. There's such a thing as being "too late," as MLK warned. Be now. Be courage. Be for us. Be not for corporate oil/gas/coal and defense machines. Be a father. Be for children, schools and universities. Be for parks and swimming pools. Be for jobs and living wages and food on the table. Be for roofs overhead and safe streets. Be for renewable energy and clean air. Be for fish and frogs, not poisoned by acid rain and pesticides. Be for children in dirt villages where U.S. tanks roam. Be for stopping cluster bombs. Be for returning Iraqi refugees to their homes. Be not for dominion. Be a peacemaker. --Sharon Rose
It was working! Impassioned CODEPINKers all over the globe were being heard inside the White House!
"There is nothing I can do," I told Jayne, "but maybe in your email program you could create a folder they all go to. I assume your system is that sophisticated." I kept reading the messages that continued to fly onto the web page.
We need this money at home. My husband has been unemployed for over a year and we'd have no health insurance except I have it through a job as a university professor, even though I'm retired and lost over a third of my retirement money in the last year. Still we are far better off than most of my fellow citizens. Take care of our own children, elderly, incapacitated, and the soldiers already wounded in these appalling wars--and don't get any other U.S. boys and girls hurt! --(Dr.) Sandra E. Drake
Jayne thanked me and says next time she will consult with us to make our communications work better.
Instead of sending 30,000 troops, how about sending 30,000 Peace Corps workers? That would employ some of our own, work on building up the Afghanistan infrastructure (helping create jobs, building schools and hospitals), and maybe the culture would move toward self-sufficiency and have less hatred of us. Fight hate and terrorism with love and constructive help! --Karen Snyder
I thanked her and said I hoped she would pass the passion of the CODEPINK members on to Obama.
Our war in the border regions is being fought by drone assassinations. A man at the control sits in front of a screen in Las Vegas, and fires when he has a certain shot. To a primitive mind (but not only to a primitive mind), this experiment on a country not our own has the trappings a video game played in hell. But the procedure was here embraced by the president in the antiseptic idiom of a practiced technocrat. He gave no sign of the effects of such killings by a foreign power out of reach in the sky. To assassinate one major operative, Baitullah Mehsud, as Jane Mayer showed in a recent article in the New Yorker, 16 strikes were necessary, over 14 months, killing a total of as many as 538 persons, of whom 200-300 were by-standers. The total number of Muslims killed by Americans in revenge for the attacks of September 11th now numbers more than a hundred thousand. Of those, few were members of Al Qaeda, and few harbored any intention, for good or ill, toward the United States before we crossed the ocean as an occupying power. --Brad Martin
There were more people protesting in the streets this week than we have seen in a long time: at least 80 communities rose up. I asked Jayne to thank the President for waking the sleeping giant and assured her that we will do all we can to make sure he does not get the money from Congress to escalate this senseless war.
Please do not send our children off to die. Would you ever do the same to yours? --Catron Booker
Jodie Evans is cofounder of CODEPINK and in October hand-delivered a petition to Obama from Afghan women against the surge. To read more of the letters to Obama and to send your own, click here.