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Writings by Buddy Bell

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The Borders We're Used to Guarding

…What would it be like to have friends from across borders? What questions might they pose to us? What excuses could possibly be acceptable for tolerating the policies that make their lives difficult?

Casa del Migrante

…then I walked around to look at the place and talk to the guests, the majority of whom were from Honduras, where there is currently serious political repression. About half of the guests are from Central America heading north and the other half are Mexican nationals deported from the United States…

…He said that if he could, he would have taken the time to fight his deportation case, but meanwhile he could not afford bail, and “the bills don’t wait.”

Eid “Sensations”

Afghan father and son displaced by war living on the outskirts of Kabul: Photo- Jerica ArentsAfghan father and son displaced by war living on the outskirts of Kabul: Photo- Jerica Arents

By Buddy Bell
October 30, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan

On October 24, two days before Eid, an opinion piece published in the elite US journal Foreign Policy extolled the fact that US forces are winning in Afghanistan, adding, “Why doesn’t the media notice?” In the article, the author suggests that Taliban forces are so decimated and demoralized that they have been resigned to orchestrating “sensational attacks to give the perception [their] narrative is winning out and to reassure [their] followers.”

Eid is traditionally a time to visit family and friends, and in Afghanistan it often extends into 5 or 6 days as millions of people relish this chance to reunite with folks who they care about. At the apartment of the Afghan Peace Volunteers where I am staying, we hosted many visitors over these days, including some kids from the tutoring class that usually meets at the APV apartment in the afternoons after the regular school day is done.

What Good Are They Bringing?

October 7, 2012

Buddy speaks about AfghanistanBuddy speaks about Afghanistan

When I was in Afghanistan with Kathy Kelly in June of this year, we met with a woman who, during the 90s, had seen her young daughter legally abducted, married, and within one year, killed by a Taliban official. Now if you’re saturated day in and day out with Western media, such as the Chicago Tribune, you might assume that this woman was happy the U.S. troops have come to rescue people like her from suffering the same experience. So I decided to ask her: what does she think about this idea that with the U.S. soldiers in the country, their presence is bringing some measure of security for Afghans, especially women? Her prompt response to me was: “What good are they [bringing]? They’re the ones killing the people!”

Backwards Intentions

I’ll always remember a scene from my second day in Afghanistan, when 16-year-old Abdulhai asked me a question, in English. “Is this your first time in a backward country?” I could see at the time that his comment was spoken from a place of genuine frustration with trash-infested rivers, crumbling buildings, dust-choked air, and the way masses of starving unemployed people are forced to live in tents or under bridges. Still, it is a sad fact that many of the young Afghans I met have a tendency to view themselves in this way: as a “tribal people” in the grasp of a “warrior culture.”

Those are some of the sound bites the media throws around to explain for us Afghanistan’s natural slant toward decline and ruin. In such a perfect storm, it is easy for the public to miss the real and concrete roles that invading armies and manipulated markets have played in this physical and human destruction.

“Buddy, Please Put Your Hood.”

June 7, 2012

Once I did put it on, Alireza motioned for me to push back some loose strands of hair still visible outside my hooded sweatshirt. Long-haired men, though a typical sight in some regions of Afghanistan, are apparently not very common in Kabul. Covered up to his satisfaction, I followed close behind as we made our second attempt to enter Kabul University through a second gate. We slipped handily past the guardpost, and made our way into the men’s dormitory.

Walk to the NATO Summit: Inside Agitators Stride Toward Peace

May 17, 2012

On what is now the 17th day of our walk from Madison to Chicago, the number 165 does not seem to encapsulate all the progress we have made. We are 17 days and 165 miles away from the day I drove into Madison, where news arrived that Air Force One had descended on pre-dawn Kabul for the forging of the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement.

When I spoke at the May Day rally later the same day, I denounced what all indications show to be Obama’s continuing-for-another-decade war in Afghanistan. Almost immediately a lone man in the dwindling crowd started shouting vulgar slurs at me, with a lack of decency that was amazing considering young kids were present.

Why Do We Protest the NATO Summit?

…Instead of pursuing a partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which would authorize the war up until the year 2024 or beyond, the powerful nations of the world should be meeting to discuss ending drone strikes immediately, pulling combat forces out Afghanistan, and ending their manipulation of Afghan democracy, which they do, in part, by propping up Hamid Karzai and the warlords in the National Assembly. Second, they must take responsibility for their past criminality by providing reparations…

Resilience a Bulldozer Cannot Destroy


Several brave families returned to Lis Lis to pick up the pieces of their lives in order to rebuild. When I arrived there, I saw that the bulldozer did not leave them with very much. Implosions of sticks, twine, and tin panels sat baking in twisted piles. “We also lost many animals,” said Luisa, who stood with her 4-year-old daughter in front of the littered patch of ground that used to be their home. “Chickens, dogs, cats, pigs—most of them were killed.”

Demolished HomeDemolished Home