This Monday, January 17th, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s a day for us to celebrate one of the most important peacemaking heroes in our nation’s history, and an appropriate moment to reflect on the power of nonviolent social activism motivated by love and a sense of justice. For the millions of us who oppose the Afghanistan War (and yes, there are many, many millions of us in the U.S.), Dr. King points the way to the end of the Afghanistan War and beyond, to the onset of the Beloved Community.
Just don’t tell the Pentagon.
I was amazed and bewildered to find Pentagon officials and paid military propagandists scrabbling to claim Dr. King as a supporter for war-making. From the general counsel down to the writers at the American Forces Press Service, the military bureaucracy was humming with the asserting that if Dr. King were alive today, he’d “understand” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and would consider the activities that take place while fighting those wars akin to the actions of the Good Samaritan from the Christian gospel story. It was one of the most shameful attempts to cover these brutal, futile wars in humanitarian wallpaper I’ve seen in years.
Of course, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and the American Forces Press Service are wrong. As our new Rethink Afghanistan video shows, virtually every reason given by King in his “Time to Break the Silence” speech for opposing the Vietnam War would damn the Afghanistan War as well.
Here are just a few examples:
King decried the awful willingness of his country to spend $500,000 per each killed enemy soldier in Vietnam while so many Americans struggled in poverty. Yet last year, a conservative figure for the amount we spent per killed enemy fighter in Afghanistan was roughly $20 million.
King spoke of the “monumental dissent” that arose around the Vietnam War. “Polls reveal that almost 15 million Americans explicitly oppose the war in Vietnam,” he said. But today, 63 percent of Americans oppose the Afghanistan War, and when you do the math, that’s 196 million people, give or take the margin of error.
Dr. King also spoke of the “demonic, destructive suction tube” yanking resources and lives out of the fight to get Americans on their feet. That tube is still demonic and destructive: we’ve spent more than $360 billion on this war so far and it will cost us roughly $3 billion per week in the coming year. Add to that the 10,000 people, including about 500 U.S. troops and countless civilians who died last year alone, and you can see exactly what he’s talking about. The hope of our getting out of this abysmal economic vice is burning on the roadsides of Afghanistan every day we refuse to start bringing troops home.
No, it’s safe to say that Dr. King would not regard any conflict that killed 10,000 people in a year as a humanitarian exercise. Nor would he “understand” how a nation in the grip of an economic meltdown like this one could again throw lives and resources away for almost a decade. It’s safe to say that he would move beyond the “prophesying of smooth patriotism” and stand up to end this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.
A mine clearing line charge detonates on Route 611 in Sangin district, Helmand province, Afghanistan as U.S. Marines clear road for travel. (photo: DVIDSHUB, Dec. 4, 2010)
written by Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe
On Thursday, December 16, 2010, the White House will use its December review to try to spin the disastrous Afghanistan War plan by citing “progress” in the military campaign, but the available facts paint a picture of a war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.
Let’s take a look at just the very broad strokes of the information. After more than nine years and a full year of a massive escalation policy:
And yet, we are told we can expect a report touting security gains and “progress,” and that there’s virtually zero chance of any significant policy change from this review. It sort of begs the question: just what level of catastrophe in Afghanistan would signal that we need a change in direction?
The Obama Administration just unveiled a huge Defense Department budget for next year shaped by the Afghanistan war. War spending is exempt from the president’s proposed spending freeze, despite President Obama’s statement at West Point that, “we can’t simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.”
The Obama administration plans to unveil a defense budget on Monday that pours billions into drones, helicopters and special forces, reflecting a focus on fighting Islamist extremists rather than conventional armies.
The Pentagon’s spending priorities as well as its strategic vision — which is also due to be unveiled this week — are a product of the counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan that have severely stretched the military.
The proposed 2011 defense budget comes to more than 700 billion dollars, a modest two percent increase, and unlike last year avoids sweeping cuts to major weapons programs, according to Pentagon officials and draft documents.
President Barack Obama’s new budget, to be released Monday, forecasts two consecutive years of near $160 billion in war funding, far more than he hoped when elected and only modestly less than the last years of the Bush Administration.
In 2011 alone, the revised numbers are triple what the president included in his spending plan a year ago. And the strain shows itself in new deficit projections, already hobbled by lagging revenues due to the weak economy.
We can’t afford to keep spending huge amounts of blood and treasure on a war that’s causing massive human suffering and that’s not making us any safer.
Next Wednesday, President Obama will give his first State of the Union address. It’s a safe bet he’ll discuss the Afghanistan war. You probably recall that the President recently committed to start drawing down troops in Afghanistan in July 2011.
Setting a target date for the start of a withdrawal is a good step, but if we are going to make the president’s commitment into a reality, we need a concrete exit strategy.
In your State of the Union address on January 27, 2009, I want you to provide a concrete exit strategy for our troops in Afghanistan that begins no later than July 2011 and which completes a withdrawal of combat troops no later than July 1, 2012.
A concrete exit plan will lay the groundwork that will help make President Obama’s commitment to a draw-down a reality. Our country cannot afford to keep spending billions of dollars on a war that’s not making us safer. Staunching the flow of American blood and treasure into the Afghanistan war will be essential to the success of the Obama presidency and to getting our economy back on track. We need more than a date. We need a plan.
Please sign the petition today. If we get 10,000 signatures, we’ll deliver them to the White House on Monday. Your signature will help put us on a defined path to the end of the war in Afghanistan.
Afghan protesters were killed today when a tense protest erupted in response to rumors that foreign forces desecrated a copy of the Koran during a night raid in Afghanistan. Reports indicates that the protesters may have been goaded by local Taliban into throwing stones at foreign forces and their local allies. In response, pro-Kabul-government forces opened fire, killing eight.
The Afghanistan war is a breeding ground for corruption, and today McClatchy Newspapers reports that it’s not just the corrupt Afghan government that’s feeding at the trough. The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says about three-quarters of its active corruption investigations involved Westerners.
The U.S. agency overseeing the multibillion dollar Afghanistan reconstruction effort is investigating 38 criminal cases ranging from contract fraud to theft – most involving non-Afghans, officials said Tuesday…Just 10 of the criminal cases under the microscope involve Afghans only, while the rest involve U.S. and other foreigners, according to Raymond DiNunzio, the agency’s assistant inspector general for inspections.
Progressive journalist Robert Greenwald has produced strong documentaries about everything from big box stores (“Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price”) to the excesses of Fox News (“Outfoxed”).
Through his Brave New Productions company, Greenwald has created a new template for up-to-the-minute, ever-evolving non-fiction filmmaking that combines traditional edited material on DVD with links to brand new interviews on his website and Facebook.
Greenwald’s latest project, “Rethink Afghanistan,” is a sobering and timely look at the chaos in that country just as President Obama has committed tens of thousands of troops for what he says will be a strictly limited military action.
The documentary deals both with the continuing breakdown of order in Afghanistan and the fact that Obama may be setting the stage for his own political demise in a quagmire strikingly similar to the one in Vietnam that ended Lyndon Johnson’s presidency.
The U.S. populace is so caught up in its own economic chaos that it is has given Obama a pass on Afghanistan for the time being, the film asserts. When the huge financial and physical cost of the war begins to be felt, the public could turn on the president as quickly as it did on Johnson.
Progressives are so thrilled by Obama’s sophistication and intelligence that they seem to be looking the other way when it comes to Afghanistan. There is pretty strong evidence that things have gotten worse in the country with American involvement — suicide bombings were unknown before we arrived and they are now escalating.
Greenwald shows how U.S. policy in Afghanistan may be as misguided as our terrible venture in Iraq. Support for Muslim extremism is increasing around the world as a result of our military ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the latter country we seem to be lumping the Taliban (above) and al Qaeda together (even though they have little use for each other).
Apparently, our Iraq fatigue and euphoria over the end of the Bush II era have set the stage for another military/political disaster.
In “Rethink Afghanistan” Greenwald (below right with journalist Anand Gopal) has assembled an impressive array of intelligence experts, journalists and people in Afghanistan who point out that U.S. military occupation is destined to make things worse in an intensely nationalistic culture (one politician asks what we would do if a foreign army was stationed in the U.S. to “restore order”).
2009–a challenging year for us all. Thanks to your help and support, we were able to make a difference in the fight for social justice and take meaningful strides toward a more equal America for everyone.
With Rethink Afghanistan, we raised awareness about the realities of the war in Afghanistan and the need for new non-military solutions. Some 830,000 online views of Robert Greenwald’s documentary and over 100,000 petition signatures presented to Congress later, Brave New Films has become a major voice for the movement to question the Afghanistan war and our campaign has had an impact in the mainstream media and the national public discourse surrounding this war. Join us today as a Peacemaker as we step up our efforts and our demands to congress next year.
With Sick for Profit, we were able to expose the obscene profits of the healthcare industry’s worst villains: UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Wellpoint. These CEOs raked in millions of dollars while denying ordinary people necessary health care. The fight’s not over yet. We need to stand up for real healthcare reform and against the corporate greed of health insurers.
We also launched two exciting new series:
Brave New Conversations features progressive opinion leaders and celebrities talking about the most pressing topics of the day. Subscribe and find out what Amy Goodman, Shepard Fairey, Tom Hayden, Billy Bragg, and former Afghan prime minister (and bravest woman in Afghanistan) Malalai Joya had to say about art, music, and war. Slated for the coming year: Jane Fonda, Oliver Stone, Tim Robbins, Tom Morello, and Janeane Garofalo.
Hundreds of thousands nationwide viewed Senator Sanders Unfiltered in its first season and heard from the senate’s most progressive member on up-to-the-minute topics every week. Senator Sanders called out the ways the Fed coddled Wall Street, which enjoyed a flood of enormous bailouts while credit to consumers, ordinary homeowners, and small business owners continues to be a trickle.
We couldn’t have brought you these important stories without your help.
On Tuesday morning, your voice was heard in the United States House of Representatives.
Over 100,000 people signed the petition from Brave New Foundation, Credo Mobile and True Majority calling on Congress to vote against any bill to fund troop escalation in Afghanistan. Yesterday, Congressman Alan Grayson read the petition aloud from the House floor, asking his colleagues to vote NO.
Rep. Grayson’s action was a step forward in demonstrating to Congress our opposition to the war. But we’re far from achieving the groundswell we need to bring the war to an end. Let’s keep the momentum going.
The first step to ending the war is explaining to our friends and family why we need to bring the troops home now. We’ve created a new tool to allow you to send a video to your friends that matches to a specific concern about the war. Send a video to five of your friends today.