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Rolla Peace News

November 9, 2021
Dear Friends:
Editor's note: Thursday, November 11 is Armistice Day — in remembrance of the day in 1918 that the guns were silenced on the Western front. World War I was supposed to be The War to End All Wars — a war so horrible that humanity would never ever fight another.

It was not to be. Humanity has fought many more wars since then — each one more horrible than the previous one.

Today, to even suggest that a world without war is possible, is a truly radical idea. Now, we celebrate Remembrance Day (a day to remember those who died in war) or Veterans Day (a day to remember those who served in militaries.) No more do we celebrate a day to end even a single war, much less a day to end all wars.

I have a modest proposal: that henceforth we celebrate Sanity Day on August 31, the day the United States ended the 20-year-long War Against Afghanistan, a war that never should have been started. With all the days we spend glorifying War and those who fight them, shouldn't we celebrate the end of at least one horrible war?


In celebration of Armistice Day: Today we have an article by Arthur Dorland containing letters written by German troops on the Western front in World War I.

Art is a Veteran of the Vietnam War and served as chair of the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project.

On a personal note: I've had the honor of serving with Art on the Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project for almost two decades.


Please consider writing for our newsletter. It's always very exciting to be able to publish submissions from our readers.


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In this newsletter is:

3. THE MISFIT MATHEMATICIAN (Tom's column, http://tomsager.org)
          On the Taliban and Women's Rights



This week, due to Armistice Day falling on a Thursday, (and again on Thanksgiving week) we move our weekly vigil to Friday. We vigil for peace in front of the Rolla Post Office, THIS FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, FROM NOON TO 1:00 PM. The temperature is predicted to be in the 40s. Please join us this Friday in saying NO MORE WAR AGAINST ANYONE. If you do not feel comfortable standing with us in front of the Post Office, please consider driving by and showing your support for our message by honking your horn and flashing a peace sign.

The following week we return to Thursday vigils on November 18. Thanksgiving week we will vigil on Friday, November 26.

Note 1: Since there are so few of us, generally 2 or 3, no need to cancel; but let's maintain social distancing.

Note 2: In case of inclement weather, vigils may be canceled or terminated early.


Written in 2018 for “The Veteran,”
a publication of “Vietnam Veterans Against the War”
by Arthur Dorland,
US Navy enlisted clerk 1964-1967
Naval Support Activity Saigon 1966-1967
Chair, Veterans for Peace Iraq Water Project 2000-2020

[The] publication, The Veteran, has engaged my attention the past several years I’ve been a VVAW member. I have read its many reviews of current books on war and warfare, including one describing a volume composed by an acquaintance of mine, Frank C. Nelson. Blind Nation, reviewed last issue by John Ketwig, documents the insidious development of an American cultural and political mindset that, escaping all notice, treacherously vacuumed this country into the Vietnam war.

But I would like to draw attention to a book long out of print and fading sadly beyond the reach of memory. This November we mark the centennial of a day that closed out the bloody record of one of the most appalling events of European history. German Students’ War Letters*, published in 1929, is a beautifully humane and moving entry in that record. The tattered, disintegrating copy I read was only available at the reference section of my city library, so I sat down at a table there for a couple of days and laboriously copied into a wide-lined notebook excerpts of these letters I wished to take home. Technology be damned, this is the way we did when we were young students ourselves, gathering material for college term papers. How liberating the experience, and I recommend it to others. I have, for a few short days at least, reversed the engine of time. I have disembalmed the past.

The letters, comprising 206 pieces by 92 writers, are gathered and translated from a larger contemporaneous collection published in Germany, that collection itself culled from some twenty thousand submissions sent in by still grieving German families. The young soldier authors wrote only for themselves and for loved ones, never foreseeing wider circulation. They were all students, many of Theology and Philosophy, and they all died in the war. Furthermore, they believed, or wanted to believe, that their sacrifice meant something. They gave their lives for Kaiser and Fatherland.

We are universally conditioned to despise the enemy, even an enemy of long ago. And here this old, neglected, worn book creates its own victory, not unintentional: try to read some of these pieces without swallowing hard; try to picture the Terrible Hun composing such touching letters by the light of a miserable candle in a trench under shellfire, the soldier himself swallowing hard and choking up.
“Sept 24, 1914

“My dear, good, precious Mother, I certainly believe and hope that I shall come back from the war, but just in case I do not I am going to write you a farewell letter. I want you to know that if I am killed, I give my life gladly and willingly. My life has been so beautiful that I could not wish that anything in it had been different. And it’s having been so beautiful was thanks above all to you, my dear, good, best of Mothers. And for all your love, for all that you have done for me, for everything, everything, I want to thank you and thank you. . .

“Why should I have volunteered for the war? Of course it was not for any enthusiasm for war in general, not because I thought it would be a fine thing to kill a great many people or otherwise distinguish myself. On the contrary, I think that war is a very, very evil thing. . .But now that it has been declared, I think it is a matter of course that one should find oneself so much a member of the nation that one must unite one’s fate as closely as possible with that of the whole. . .For what counts is always the readiness to make a sacrifice, not the object for which the sacrifice is made.

“This war seems to me, from all that I have heard, to be something so horrible, inhuman, mad, obsolete, and in every way depraving, that I have firmly resolved, if I do come back, to do everything in my power to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. . .”

Franz Blumenthal, Student of Law, killed on the Western Front December 18, 1914

You can picture the stricken Mother, this letter engraved on her heart, all the promise swept away. With trembling hands she smooths the dress tunic that has been sent back with Franz’s personal effects. It is Christmas. That uniform will never need laundering again.

Many German soldiers composed last letters to their families and entrusted them to a faithful comrade in case of their death, Otto Heinebach, Student of Philosophy, wrote the following on the eve of his mortal wound at Verdun, February 19, 1916:
“Farewell. You have known all the others who have been dear to me and you will say goodbye to them for me. And so, in my imagination, I extinguish the lamp of my existence on the eve of this terrible battle. I cut myself out of the circle of which I have formed a beloved part. The gap which I leave must be closed, the human chain must be unbroken. I, who once formed a small link in it, bless it for all eternity. And till your last days, remember me, I beg you, with tender love. Honor my memory without gilding it, and cherish me in your loving, faithful hearts.”
What is the sum and balance of all this loss? Like all soldiers sacrificed then and since, these young men lost their lives, their futures, their budding, carefully nurtured promise. The families, thousands upon thousands, lost what all such victims of war lose, and for which there is no compensation. More than half of all soldiers killed in WWI were never identified nor given proper burial. Loved ones beyond counting had not so much as a place to come to and lay flowers. Reading these letters a century later, we may be faintly disconcerted by the unmistakable strain of patriotic nationalism threading beneath and throughout. Yet it is hard to believe that any of these literate young men, taken so soon, would have been the sort to welcome the violent, vicious regime that entered at stage right a few brief years after. Sad to say, but maybe it is as well that they did not live to see that.

          *German Students’ War Letters, translated and arranged by A.F. Wedd, Methuen & Co., London, 1929

3. THE MISFIT MATHEMATICIAN (Tom's column, http://tomsager.org)

On the Taliban and Women's Rights

It's rare when one finds a topic on which all the major left-leaning and right-leaning news outlets agree. Here's one such topic: The Taliban and Women's Rights. All main-stream media outlets agree: The Taliban denies women basic Human Rights. Unlike the main-stream media, some feminist commentators, like Nandini Archer and Ann Jones, recognize the terrible record the US occupation of Afghanistan holds on human rights issues, but still, as far as the Taliban goes, they agree; The Taliban denies women basic Human Rights.

Well, I might as well just jump on the bandwagon myself. So here goes:

I think Afghan women should have the Right to work as influencers like Gabby Petito.

I think Afghan women should have the Right to work as cinematographers like Halyna Hutchins.

I think Afghan women should have the Right to work as masseuses like Delaina Ashley Yaun and Suncha Kim

I think Afghan women should have the Right to walk unaccompanied in the Park like Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard.

I think Afghan women should have the Right to attend music concerts like the thousands who attended the 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival.

And I think Afghan women should have the Right to play Afghanistan's national sport, buzkashi. (For those of you who are only familiar with sissy western sports like bull riding and US-style football, there is a brief description of buzkashi in Appendix 1 below.)

But, lets not get carried away, folks. I do think Afghan women should be denied the Right to an abortion like the Polish woman known to us only as Izabela.


Sorry about all the satire, folks; but let's get serious now.

The United States and friends made a God-awful mess in Afghanistan. Now, after being ignominiously defeated on the battlefield, they purport to dictate to those who defeated them how they must behave. Isn't that strange? Typically the victors get to dictate behavior to the vanquished, but not here.

Here in the West where there is so much violence, much of it directed at women, isn't it strange that we should focus on women's Rights half way around the world? Why not clean up our own mess at home, instead?

Afghanistan emerged from the 20-year-long US occupation as one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Now, the United States and friends hold billions of dollars of Afghan money abroad, which they refuse to return. After ensuring that Afghanistan's economy was beholden to “foreign aid,” western organizations that have previously given to Afghanistan, deny money to the Taliban government. Afghan women abroad are asking foreign holders of Afghan money to return it to Afghanistan. Still, they refuse. (See Appendix 2 below for a statement from a dear friend who is helping settle Afghan refugees in Canada.)

In spite of continuing attacks on civilians, terrorism seems to be far less prevalent now than it was under the US occupation.

Recently, ISIS-K attacked a hospital killing 20. Four of the five perpetrators died in the attack; the fifth was wounded and captured.

In 2015, the United States bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, totally destroying the hospital and killing more than twice the number that died in the ISIS-K hospital attack. The perpetrators of the attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital, although certainly known, have never been brought to justice.

I can't help wondering where this ISIS-K organization comes from. I only started hearing about them recently. Indeed, ISIS-K appears to be at least partially made up of former members of the despised and defeated occupation government.

Here is an article from Voice of America on the murder of a women's Rights activist and three other women. Suspects have been captured by the Taliban and are being brought to justice. Strange that those in the West who are demanding immediate Rights for women in Afghanistan, never mention how dangerous this would be for the women.

Incidentally, this is the hallmark of CIA destabilization programs: Create economic hardship through theft, sanctions and other similar techniques while supporting and encouraging criminals to create social chaos. (This has been well documented by historians such as Stephen Kinzer, who wrote about the CIA's first post WWII coup in Iran — a coup from which we still reckon with the blowback today.)

Nevertheless, in little more than two short months, the Taliban has made some astonishing progress. When US troops left, only 1.1% of Afghans were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Now, that figure stands at 7.1%.

After 20 years of US occupation, Afghanistan remains one of only two countries in the world where polio is endemic. The Taliban has reached an agreement with the United Nations, to vaccinate every child in Afghanistan against polio.

And in some locations, girls are returning to school.

If I may venture an opinion, I suspect that the Taliban will eventually succeed in creating a stable society in Afghanistan, no matter how hard “warmongerers and imperialists” work to destabilize the country. Of course, here in the West, where we have done so much violence to Afghan society, we may not like the result, which is unlikely to look like a standard Western kleptocracy. But we would have only ourselves to blame for that. We had many chances. We blew every one of them.


Appendix 1: A note on buzkashi

Buzkashi is played on horseback with a decapitated, disemboweled goat. The idea is to snag the goat (which other players are also trying to do) and deposit the goat in a circle (while others players are trying to take the goat away from you), all on horseback. Buzkashi champion, Najibullah, owes a cracked skull, broken thumbs, twisted legs, split lips and many broken teeth to the game of buzkashi. Najibullah remarks, “Buzkashi is a really dangerous game; but I still feel great and I'm not afraid.”

After watching this buzkashi video you may understand how the Afghans defeated the Great American Empire in the 21st Century; the Soviet Empire in the 20th Century; the British Empire in the 19th Century and many other empires before that.

Afghanistan is not called the Graveyard of Empires for nothing. We would be far better off with the Afghans as friends than as enemies.


Appendix 2: Statement from aid worker
helping to resettle Afghan refugees in Canada

“I am working these days with a team to help newcomer families from Afghanistan. We are doing our best. The government of Canada is making a great contribution to help them.

“The families here said that the more help is needed inside Afghanistan to help poor families have food. The American government kept [billions] of dollars with it, and refuse to give it back to the Afghani government. Workers are starving as they have no salaries since five months.

“Human rights organisations in the US should stand together and make pressure on the US government to release the money. Civilian are suffering because of the stupid political leaders as usual!

“How can we stop that?”

And further:
“People now are stuck in the middle, if you want to help orphans and widows in Afghanistan to have food, somebody from the US government will accuse you, you are helping Taliban government. How come?

“I remembered now the sanction against Iraq after 1990 war. Five thousand kids died [each month] from lack of [clean water and] nutrition. And [Madeleine] Albright said it is worth it! Remember that answer?

“Now the same story repeated in Afghanistan. US government wants to punish Taliban. The victims are the poor hungry civilian. How can we stop this ugly scenario?

“We are tired, and we can't stand silent, we should work to stop this silliness!”

My response: I wish I knew how. Anyone out in readerland have any ideas? Send them in.

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