Monday, June 20, 2011

Letter to President Obama: End the Afghanistan War now

June 20, 2011

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to you as one of your 2008 national convention delegates, but more importantly as a fellow father, to urge you to bring a rapid end to the war in Afghanistan.

Far too many young children and their families have already been killed in this war. Every child killed by misguided bombs, drone strikes or night raids is a heart-breaking tragedy. Afghani parents, after all, love their children just as I love my daughter, just as you love your daughters. Every child killed creates untold suffering, generates thousands of new enemies, fuels the cycle of violence and undermines the stated purposes of this war.

I was on a phone call yesterday, Father’s Day, with several Afghan teenagers who are part of an organization called the “Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.” They have lived with the terror of this war most of their lives, and have all been personally affected. One boy lost his only brother to the war. His lost his parents when he was younger, so the killing of his brother left him with no immediate family. More than anything, all the Afghan youth said they are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted by this war, and they want it to end now.

I circulated to other parents a petition asking you to end this war and to order an immediate end to the bombing campaign that regularly results in children and other innocent people being killed. One father, Jon Kurtz of MA, added these comments to the petition:

“I have worked with humanitarian organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I can personally attest to the negative impacts of the military strategy on the lives of ordinary Afghan children and families. What they seek and need is more stability. Unfortunately, the current US military strategy is undermining, rather than improving stability.”

Another father, James Seligman of California, has this to say:

“Killing children with missiles, drones, helicopters and bombs is terrorism. How many more were injured and crippled for life? It is now time to stop the murdering and start rebuilding and healing. It is the only humane thing to do and we are already long overdue.”

I worked hard for your election in 2008. My volunteer efforts contributed to my being elected as one of your national convention delegates. I was inspired by your opposition to the Iraq War, and by statements you made about peace on the campaign trail, including this pledge in a fall, 2007 foreign policy speech:

“I'm running for the presidency of the United States of America so that together we can do the hard work to seek a new dawn of peace and prosperity for our children, and for the children of the world.”

I used that line in an op-ed piece I wrote in favor of your candidacy, which was published just before the Iowa caucus in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. In my letter I said that your opposition to the Iraq War, and sentiments like the one quoted above “give this father hope and inspiration. Imagine the message you and other Iowans can send to the world on January 3rd by caucusing for a man of peace to replace the men of war, at last.”

Now, 2 ½ years into your Presidency, as I read story after story of the unending carnage and suffering inflicted upon the people of Afghanistan (and Pakistan, etc.) under your Administration, I am disheartened. I’m not the only one.

It’s clear that the people of our country, just like the people of Afghanistan, no longer support the war in Afghanistan. In addition to the enormous human toll, the cost of this war robs resources from needs at home at a time when we can least afford it. That is why the US Conference of Mayors today passed a resolution urging Congress to bring war dollars home to “meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy.” This is the first time such a resolution has been adopted by the Mayors since the Vietnam War.

Mr. President, we can’t afford the war in Afghanistan anymore, morally or financially. Please do everything in your power as President, Commander in Chief and as a Father to end the war and bring the troops home. That would be change we could truly believe in.


John Friedrich

South Lake Tahoe, CA

Monday, January 17, 2011

Living up to ALL children's expectations

Upon hearing the news that Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords had been shot, Speaker of the House John Boehner commented that “an attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place on our society.” By extension, the shooting rampage in Tucson was an attack on all of our grandmothers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children. Replace "public officials" with "people" in Boehner's statement, and imagine the implications for how we respond to gun policy, domestic violence or war.

The killing of 9 year old Christina Taylor Green was particularly tragic and heartbreaking. As a father of a 4 year old daughter, I can conceive of the depth of sorrow felt by Christina's parents and all who knew and loved her. Another father of daughters, President Barack Obama, was visibly moved by Christina's memory during his Tucson memorial service address. He spoke for the hearts of mothers, fathers, and grandparents when he said,

" In Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic, so full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example......I want America to be as good as she imagined it. We should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."

So what do our children expect and deserve? They certainly don't expect to be shot on Saturday morning at the mall, or to be a victim of violence in any other form. When we reflect on President Obama's statement on children's expectations, which children do we envision as "our children"? Our own, those in our extended families, our communities, our state, our country? What if we included in our considerations and circle of concern every child on the planet as equally deserving of love, care and protection?

On the same day that Christina was killed in Tucson, a child in Afghanistan was killed in a bombing raid. In the last decade, thousands upon thousands of children have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan by bombs and bullets paid for by you and me. Each of these children was also deserving of our love, and our good example. All of their parents and grandparents grieved as deeply as did Christina Taylor Greene's parents are grieving, as deeply as we would grieve if our own child were killed in an act of violence.

Imagine for a moment attending the memorial service for any one of the children killed in war, and hearing of that child's interests, hopes and dreams. Imagine trying to explain to the grieving family and friends that the child's death, while unfortunate, is in a way justified by the larger war effort. Unless we could accept the killing of our own children as "collateral damage" -- whether at the hands of a deranged gunman, terrorist or act of war -- then we couldn't possibly justify killing anyone else's child in the pursuit of other objectives. Yet this is exactly what we do when we turn a blind eye to the violence perpetrated in our names against children in war day after day, week after week. Dropping bombs that kill innocent people sends a very strong message that violence is an officially accepted -- often glorified -- means of resolving conflicts

In his Tucson speech, President Obama spoke of the process of reflection following the tragedy, of "making sure we align our values with our actions –- that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires"

What would be required of actions taken in our names if we chose to value the lives of all children as much as we do our own? Speaking against the Vietnam War one year to the day before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. said:

"A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.....We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals who pursued this self-defeating path of hate.....We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

The day after Christina Taylor Green was killed in Tucson, her mother was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "I think there is a lot of hatred going on, and it has to stop." Hate pulled the trigger in Tucson, and hate is felt by children and their families caught in the crossfire of war. Let one lesson of Tucson be that it is absolutely unacceptable for any child anywhere to be "collateral damage" caused by private or official, democratically sanctioned acts of hatred and violence.

The day we truly commit to creating a future worthy of ALL children on Earth, is the day that our actions will truly be aligned with our deepest values, the day everything changes.