“We’re here to protest NATO and call on all NATO representatives to end this inhumane, illegal, barbaric war against our home country and our people,” says Suraia Sahar, a member of Afghans for Peace, who marched alongside Afghan war veteran Graham Clumpner during the anti-NATO protest in Chicago.
“I feel honored standing next to this veteran, Graham, because they’re now, I believe, in my opinion, doing the right thing in speaking out against the occupation and war alongside us today.” Clumpner says, “I reject any affiliation with this war.”
AMY GOODMAN: Toshi Reagon, singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Train Is Bound for Glory,” recorded live in Chicago at a concert marking Woody Guthrie’s upcoming centennial. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
Today, we bring you a Memorial Day special, “Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars.” That was the cry of Iraq Veterans Against the War as they hurled their war medals towards the gates of the NATO summit.
Shortly before members of IVAW and women from Afghans for Peace led a protest march at the NATO summit in Chicago, I had a chance to conduct a joint interview with a member of each group.
SURAIA SAHAR: My name is Suraia Sahar. I’m representing Afghans for Peace. We’re a global Afghan-led peace movement speaking out against the occupation and war in Afghanistan. And we’re here to protest NATO and call on all NATO representatives to end this inhumane, illegal, barbaric war against our home country and our people.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re standing next to…?
GRAHAM CLUMPNER: I’m Graham Clumpner. I was a United States Army Ranger. I spent three years in the military and deployed to Afghanistan.
AMY GOODMAN: When were you in Afghanistan?
GRAHAM CLUMPNER: In 2005, 2006.
AMY GOODMAN: So how do you feel standing next to a soldier? Where were you in Afghanistan?
GRAHAM CLUMPNER: Asadabad in the Jalalabad area.
AMY GOODMAN: Where is your family from?
SURAIA SAHAR: My family is from, well, four different provinces: Laghman, Kabul, Logar, Badakhshan. I was born in Kabul. And I left Afghanistan in 1988 as a refugee from the Soviet war.
AMY GOODMAN: And here you’re standing next to a U.S. soldier.
SURAIA SAHAR: Absolutely. And I feel honored standing next to this veteran, Graham, because they’re now, I believe, in my opinion, doing what—doing the right thing in speaking out against the occupation and war alongside us today. And so, we will be marching with them at the rally, and we will be with them during the reconciliation event towards the end, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: As we speak here right near the NATO summit, Amnesty International is holding what they’re calling an alternative summit, but Madeleine Albright is addressing them. And they have these ads up now that basically congratulate NATO and talk about continue the progress with women in Afghanistan. What is your response to that?
SURAIA SAHAR: No, I think that that’s an absolute ridiculous joke. They are not there to liberate Afghanistan’s women. You cannot liberate women through occupation and through war, through violence, through bombs, through tanks, through weapons. That’s not how you do it. And it’s quite offensive to me, as an Afghan woman, standing here before you.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you do it?
SURAIA SAHAR: They need to be empowered. They need—we need to refocus our priorities on their basic human needs: education, healthcare. Well, education and healthcare would be the top two. And also we need to focus on reconciliation efforts and reparations, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: When did you sign up for the military?
GRAHAM CLUMPNER: I signed up after 9/11 in the summer of 2003.
AMY GOODMAN: And when did your views start changing about what you were doing in Afghanistan?
GRAHAM CLUMPNER: Well, it was during the deployment. I mean, we saw that what we were seeing on television when we’d sit in the chow hall about the war was much different from the reality on the ground. And we were taking casualties on a weekly basis, and we were seeing other units do the same. We could also see that when we entered a home, even if there wasn’t a terrorist there before, there was when we left. And we were radicalizing the entire population just by our presence.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing a medal. What is the medal for?
GRAHAM CLUMPNER: This is the Global War on Terrorism Medal. Anybody who serves post-9/11 in the United States military serves in the global war on an adjective.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you doing with it today?
GRAHAM CLUMPNER: I’m going to be turning it back in to the generals at NATO to demonstrate that I reject the medal, I reject what it means, and I reject any affiliation with this war.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
GRAHAM CLUMPNER: This war, it’s changed so many lives, and it’s changed my own, and it’s changed hers and so many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. And it’s not accomplishing the original goals. I joined because I wanted to help women. I wanted to be the patriarchal savior who came in and fixed the problems, and I didn’t understand that I was actually the one making the problems worse.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is the reconciliation that will happen today between U.S. military and Afghans for Peace?
SURAIA SAHAR: Go ahead.
GRAHAM CLUMPNER: Well, part of this whole process is starting the process of reconciliation, which means that we’re actually listening to each other, and we practice active listening, hearing where the other people are coming from. We have a long way to go to come together and for us to overcome a lot of the guilt and a lot of the shame that we as soldiers and veterans feel for what we participated in. And we want to start creating instead of destroying.
SURAIA SAHAR: And it’s the first time an Afghan-led peace movement is now working side by side with a veteran-led peace movement. And so, this is how—this is the beginning of something new, something better. So, reconciliation and peace.
AMY GOODMAN: Suraia Sahar of Afghans for Peace and Graham Clumpner, who served in Afghanistan, they were part of a reconciliation ceremony that concluded the march on the NATO summit. Graham Clumpner went on to throw his war medals at the NATO summit gate, along with more than 40 other veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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