by Rita Lasar
Dear President Obama,
Let’s get rid of the easy part first.
I voted for you joyfully.
Let’s get to the hard part now.
You are absolutely wrong about your policy in Afghanistan.
Let me tell you why.
My brother, Abraham Zelmanowitz, was on the 27th floor of the North Tower on September 11th, 2001. Although he could have easily escaped, he chose instead to stay with his friend and coworker Ed Bayea, a paraplegic in a wheelchair, who could not leave. My brother told all who passed them on their way down that he would wait with Ed until help came. They both died.
President Bush cited my brother when he spoke at the National Cathedral on the Friday following that day of horror. It was then that I knew this country would use my brother’s death to invade and bring death to Afghan civilians as innocent as my brother and I was appalled.
I was offered the opportunity to go to Afghanistan in Jan. 2002 and along with 3 other Americans who had lost a family member I went.
Here in the United States we were told that what we were doing there would liberate the Afghan women and offer them the rights to live their lives in accordance with western standards and that the strict laws the Taliban imposed on them would disappear.
When I arrived in Kabul, because our troops had routed the Taliban from that city, I found safe streets in which I could walk without fear. But I also found that women, if they did venture into the street, were universally clad in their burkas. I did not see one woman, not one, without a burka.
We spent 2 weeks there. We met with many families who had lost loved ones when our bombs hit the wrong targets. We visited a hospital, partially destroyed, where we saw young children who had mistaken cluster bombs for food packages, who were missing limbs. We visited orphanages full of children who no longer had parents. We went out of Kabul to tent cities full of families who could no longer live on their land because cluster bombs circled them.
We went to schools where children, both boys and girls, were beginning to be taught again in most distressing circumstances. We met with interim ambassador Ryan Crocker in the US embassy, just recently opened. Universally the people of Afghanistan were friendly, lovely people who welcomed us with “three cups of tea” immediately.
When we returned home we lobbied both for an Afghan victims fund and to tell our legislators what we had learned there. We told them that unless we started reconstructing the lives of these people immediately, there would be no way for them to earn a living but to start planting and trafficking in poppies. That unless we started a system that gave the Afghans, not foreign workers, the jobs in the reconstruction that needed to begin immediately. This is what the Afghans told us and it turns out of course, they were right.
We in the US government did not listen. We treated this war in the same way we had waged all our other wars. It was a zero sum game to us.
You spoke to Hamid Karzai yesterday. You told him I assume that the new Afghan Women’s Law is unacceptable.
If you are surprised that this law was passed, I am deeply disappointed in you.
I do not have a Harvard degree and am nowhere as intelligent as you are, but I am not surprised that it was passed.
Our actions for the past 7 years in that country insured that we would come to this point where in order to get the cooperation of the Taliban to start a dialog; just such a law would HAVE to be passed. Are you willing to dishonor the women of Afghanistan too?
What more can we do to these Afghan people?
Get us out of there now.
Originally published on Saturday, April 4, 2009 by CommonDreams.org