Afghanistan House Party–Takoma Park Style

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I recently participated in my first Afghanistan House Party in Takoma Park, Maryland. Our group of 12 or so people screened the films Rethink Afghanistan and followed it up with a lengthy and intense debate about the films’ content, Obama and his admistration’s approach to this war, and possible mobilizations in response.
First of all, I was not surprised to see that the films’ content was largely appreciated–and unknown prior to the screening. This fact affirmed what I’ve long suspected–in the circles I run in, the people protesting and obstructing the Afghanistan War are a minority.

For the most part, people at our party seemed to tacitly approve of the Obama approach to Afghanistan: increased troops, escalation of violence, the continued replacement of local warlords in “democratic elections” and the furtherance of violence against men, women, children, civilians, “terrorists,” and anyone else who happens to live in or near a strategic point of violence near the Afghan/Pakistani border.

After the films, many expressed confusion as well as a bit of dissonance between what they felt to be true (Obama has to be better than Bush; the war has lessened the Taliban’s oppression of women; Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan-in 01 or any other time–justifies American military presence and violence in the US then and now) and what the films revealed to be a very different reality. The war has not brought significant freedoms to average Afghanis–women or otherwise. It has further undermined the development and rebuilding of a country that has been crippled by 30 years of nearly-continuous conflict–of which the US often seems to be a big partner.

Thus, a large portion of our conversation centered around issues of “soft power” vs. “hard power” or economic development (with strings, of course!) and American military engagement were pitted against one another (can you guess which President is thought to champion which?). However, there were some (myself the loudest) who argued that this is an unfair and unrealistic frame. These powers are not opposed; rather, they are symbiotic. Where one fails, the other accomplishes the goals..and vice versa. Regardless, a free, democratic, healthy Afghan or Pakistani homeland remains a dream.

Finally, we dwelled on what to do now. Given the average response to the films, I personally believe that the focus must, must, must include more educational outreach, such as these parties, film festivals, panels, and everyday conversations.

The oft-repeated myth that our country is “more liberal” than some make it out to be is hardly grounded in reality or good data. It’s a feeling repeated by people who often listen and hear from only people like them. We have no idea whether people are more or less liberal than a general consensus might argue–but we do know that too many so-called peace activities are excusing the use of drones, the indiscriminate detention and deaths of hundreds of thousands, the displacement of millions of refugees–all because it’s no longer Bush’s battle.
It’s the same game, folks. Some new players–a lot of the old still around–and we can’t afford to act like we won already. Who will come out on top is yet to be determined. But there’s nothing like good ol’ fashioned truth-telling to threaten the status quo.

A good first step is Rethinking Afghanistan. I’d encourage more to host their own parties soon.

This blog was written by Peace Action Montgomery member Nik Sushka in response to a local Takoma Park event. The opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of Peace Action or Peace Action Montgomery.

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