More to come ..... There is so much to process and write about it's rather overwhelming. I would urge everyone to check out the Code Pink DronesWatch website for ongoing reports, photos and videos of our activities.
Proud to be an American
Submitted by lmastrangelo on Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:15pm.
In this age of hyperbole, words like "awesome" and "amazing" have lost their significance. But those are the words that come to mind when I think about the events of the past week, in particular the caravan for peace and the reception given our Code Pink delegation.
For quite a while now, I have been reluctant to say "I am an American" or to speak about "my government." I've felt no pride, only shame. But here in Pakistan I have been at times overwhelmed by emotion prompted by the outpouring of support and welcome we have received from the Pakistan people. I felt a long-forgotten pride in being an American -- one of the Americans bringing to the Pakistanis a message of hope, of solidarity, of apology, of promise.
In the morning of October 6, we joined a caravan estimated 5,000 vehicles covering 14 km -- we were told there was not a vehicle for hire in all of Isalambad and that the previous night some of the drivers wanted to pull out because of the element of danger. We had received a message from the U.S. Embassy that they had received a credible warning of an attack on the march/rally, and Medea Benjamin had received an email from Liberty Security, offering their protective services.
Any consideration of not joining the march was dispatched in no time and we began to wend our way to Waziristan. It was slow going. The trip of 4-5 hours took 13 hours. All manner of vehicles made the journey, most hosting the flag of Imran Khan's party, the PTI (Movement for Justice). Our two buses bore posters of children killed by drone strikes, sending a somber message of opposition to drone attacks. People of the villages lined the route, flashing peace signs and thumbs up, waving flags, tossing rose petals in front of our buses, shouting welcome and peace. It was an incredibly moving experience, especially when people realized we were the Americans and their eyes opened wide and they became even more animated.
Journalists (Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, AP, local media) hopped on and off the buses, interviewing members of the delegation. As buses would stop during traffic jams, we would be interviewed and questioned by people lining the streets. It was a raucous and at times overwhelming trip, but gratifying. Occasionally we were told to close our curtains and windows when we went through a fundamentalist village where we could possibly encounter hostility. But none such developed. The women delegates donned scarves to cover our hair as we entered the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), culturally conservative regions of Pakistan. We were the first foreigners to enter this area in almost a dozen years -- an historic first -- as the government of Pakistan does not allow non-residents to enter FATA. I'll go into the reasons in another report-back.
We finally arrived at our host's compound, Aram Farm, not far from Waziristan, a little after midnight. Yet there were hundreds of Pakistanis to welcome us. A phalanx of men escorted us through the hordes of humanity into the center of the compound where we were served dinner. It wasn't until 3am that we finally were bedded, to be awakened at 6am for breakfast and an early rally with Imran Khan. I can't begin to convey the feelings we experienced when we walked to the tent and onto the stage to deafening chants of "Welcome, Welcome, Welcome." As we held Code Pink signs in opposition to drone attacks, and photos of children killed by drones, Medea Benjamin gave a powerful message of apology for the death and devastation the United States rains upon the people of Waziristan, accompanied by a promise to work unrelentingly to change U.S. policy. Medea is an incredible speaker and once again she delivered!