DR. JOSEPH Gerson and Prof. Adil Najam assessed the crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan for an audience of activists who gathered for a United for Justice with Peace (UJP) strategy conference at the Friends meeting house in Cambridge, MA on June 13.
Gerson, director of programs and of the Peace and Economic Security Program for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)'s New England regional office, and author of Empire and the Bomb (Pluto Press, 2007), outlined AFSC's recommendations regarding the war in Afghanistan. Americans must press for an exit strategy, he said. "If you talk to members of Congress, what they'll tell you off the record is, 'There's no strategy, it's just in deeper,'" Gerson noted, "and we need to have an articulated exit strategy."
Gerson also called for a relatively speedy U.S. withdrawal and base closure, an end to missile strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), known as drones, and spoke critically of U.S. air attacks that have killed large numbers of Afghan civilians. He criticized the Obama administration's increased focus on counterinsurgency operations, and lauded the bill introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) to require Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to articulate to Congress an exit strategy for Afghanistan by December of this year.
Najam, professor of international relations and geography and the environment at Boston University, was a lead author for the reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.
"In the part of the world where I come from, all politics become international, which is a tragedy for democracy, because you have more influence on what happens in a village in Pakistan than the villager in Pakistan," Najam told some 50 peace and social justice activists.
Recalling Pakistan's February 2008 …