Recently, Director Robert Greenwald spoke about his trip to Kabul, Afghanistan at Brave New Studios. He showed clips from his trip and recounted some of his experiences, including his interviews with Afghan women’s rights advocates, and his impressions of how the international community has already begun to step up its humanitarian efforts while the U.S. continues to focus primarily on military operations.
This week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee. They will try to make a case for an additional $83 billion in supplemental war funding. All over the country, people are raising pressing questions about the war that must be answered before Congress votes on this supplemental bill. Watch some of the ones submitted to us that we sent to Congress, then call your Senators and urge them to ask Secretaries Gates and Clinton the imperative questions:
Why are taxpayers funding a prohibitively expensive war that will jeopardize economic recovery?
Why are we militarizing a political problem when more troops will only fuel anti-American sentiment?
Won’t escalation further destabilize an already precarious situation in Pakistan?
Call your Senator on the Appropriations Committee to make your voice heard. Tell them all of the critical questions that they should ask this Thursday. Use Rethink Afghanistan and be creative when expressing your questions about the war, but also please be polite on the phone so we can ensure your voice is heard! Then, let us know you made the call. If your Senator is not on the Appropriations Committee, contact Chairman Daniel Inouye.
Keep in mind this war funding bill will bring the running tab for Iraq and Afghanistan to nearly $1 trillion in upfront costs. It will create, as Tom Engelhardt wrote recently, “a vast financial hemorrhage, an economic sinkhole.” An email petition won’t do it, your voice must be heard — call now!
This Earth Day, we recalled the This Brave Nation episode with Majora Carter and Pete Seeger, in which Majora talked about how life in the South Bronx contributed to her relentless pursuit of a green economy. Majora spent part of the day on Barack Obama’s website, Organizing for America, chatting with people about sustainability and a national green-collar job agenda. These are topics to which Majora has dedicated herself as Executive Director of Sustainable South Bronx and President of The Majora Carter Group.
Watch Majora in conversation with legendary folk activist Pete Seeger, as they discuss how growing up in the Bronx helped shape Majora’s life. It’s hard to think of two individuals more passionate about taking action to change our world.
You can catch the entire conversation between Majora and Pete by getting the DVD of This Brave Nation. When you make a donation of $15, you will also be able to give an additional copy of this video series to a friend or loved one — absolutely FREE. In addition to Majora and Pete, you’ll see dynamic conversations between Carl Pope and Van Jones, Bonnie Raitt and Dolores Huerta, Anthony Romero and Ava Lowery, and Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein — some of the most celebrated progressive activists in our country today.
Everything we have all worked toward in our Rethink Afghanistan campaign — interviewing experts, airing debates, passing around parts of the documentary, and signing the petition for Congressional oversight hearings — is starting to pay off. Thanks to your efforts, we were able to bring Rick Reyes, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, to Congress’s attention.
Reyes, a former Corporal in the US Marines of unquestionable military experience and patriotism, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Reyes was powerful and truthful as he expressed serious discontent with the current mission in Afghanistan, telling Congress, “Sending more troops will not make the US safer, it will only build more opposition against us.” It is fitting then, that Reyes sat across from committee Chairman Senator John Kerry, considering yesterday marked the 38th anniversary of when Kerry sat before the same committee, electrifying the nation with his account of the Vietnam War.
Reyes’s testimony raises critical concerns that Congress must address before approving a massive supplemental war funding bill in the next few weeks. Let’s work to halt this war funding bill by calling our Representatives, and urging them not to vote for it until all the questions raised in these hearings have been answered. If you’re not sure who represents you, find out here.
We couldn’t have brought Reyes to Congress’s attention without you. Help us by making a donation of $20, $30, $50, or even $100 to this campaign today, so we can continue making your voices heard in Congress. Your support is paramount to continue the work we’re doing; clearly it’s having an impact! As Reyes told Congress, “I urge you on behalf of truth and patriotism to consider carefully and rethink Afghanistan. More troops, more occupation is not the answer.”
For too long, U.S. and NATO efforts in Afghanistan have been under-resourced and poorly coordinated. As a result, the United States’ early gains in the country have been reversed, and the Taliban and al-Qaeda have grown stronger and more lethal. Violence in the country has reached levels not seen since the initial invasion in 2001. In 2003, U.S. troops experienced fewer than 50 casualties; last year, that number had risen to 150. Attacks on U.S. and coalition forces have also grown more sophisticated, even in areas of the country where the Taliban is not thought to be strong. And while the military has had some success in eliminating high-level members of the insurgency, al-Qaeda continues to operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, posing a serious threat to U.S. national security.
President Obama’s decision to send 17,000 additional combat troops and 4,000 additional trainers for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, is a necessary first step to reversing the deteriorating security situation in the country. But while necessary, the troop increase proposed by President Obama is not sufficient to achieve sustainable security in Afghanistan.
The administration’s decision to increase the amount of civilian experts and diplomatic resources, and the adoption of a regional approach is also necessary to correct American policy in Afghanistan. In addition to increasing security in Afghanistan, new troop deployments will enable these other elements of US national power to be put to more effective use.
Just in case anyone had their doubts about whether progressive groups are serious about holding Blue Dogs, conservodems, and other center-right Democrats accountable for supporting Wall Street and conservative groups instead of supporting their own constituents, doubt no more. The following video is the first paid media campaign from a large progressive coalition designed to hold Democrats accountable on mortgage bankruptcy reform, otherwise known as “cramdown.”
It will run only on CNN, both in the daytime and during primetime. CNN was chosen because its appeals to news junkies and its viewers lean heavily Democratic (65%-26% according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports) and because MSNBC was not available in the area.
The ad will run over the next three weeks, starting today. By appearing over 250 times in one area, and over an extended period of time, local Democratic news junkies will see it often enough to remember it.
The ad placement cost $5,000, paid for by BlogPac. Such a low price was made possible by the new services offered by SaysMe TV.
As we mark Obama’s first 100 Days, there is much to celebrate–from repeal of the global gag rule to the passage of the stimulus and the Administration’s pledge to close Guantanamo. The budget, a smart blueprint to build a new economy, will demand that progressives mobilize to take on well-funded lobbies intent on obstructing real reform.
Yet, as I think about the most troubling aspects of these first 100 days, there are two areas which I fear could endanger the Obama Presidency: the bank bailouts and military escalation in Afghanistan.
Americans deserve a real national debate about the Administration’s plans in Afghanistan–its ends and means and exits–before undertaking such a major military commitment. That’s why Brave New Foundation’s work is so essential: with its new documentary Rethink Afghanistan and online debates such as the one CAP’s Lawrence Korb and I had last week, BNF is fostering the kind of discussion, debate and dissent that Obama has said he welcomes. BNF’s work–along with a network of bloggers, progressive leaders, magazines like The Nation, peace and justice groups–is launching much-needed Congressional hearings on vital areas such as the role and goals of the US military in Afghanistan, oversight of contractors, transparent budgeting and clear metrics to measure progress toward a defined exit strategy.
What’s key at this pivotal moment is increasing the pressure for constructive, smart, effective non-military solutions to stabilize Afghanistan–and strengthen Pakistan’s fragile democratic government. As I argued in the debate with Korb, I believe the more responsible and effective strategy moving forward is to take US-led military escalation off the table, begin to withdraw US troops and support a regional diplomatic solution, including common-sense counterterrorist and national security measures (extensive intelligence cooperation, expert police work, effective border control) and targeted development and reconstruction assistance.
We bring you Cost of War, part three of our Rethink Afghanistan documentary, which delves into the financial costs of this broadening war.
As we pay our tax bills, it seems an appropriate time to urge everyone to Rethink Afghanistan, a war that currently costs over $2 billion a month but hasn’t made us any safer. Everyone has a friend or relative who just lost a job. Do we really want to spend over $1 trillion on another war? Everyone knows someone who has lost their home. Do we really want spend our tax dollars on a war that could last a decade or more? The Obama administration has taken some smart steps to counter this economic crisis with its budget request. Do we really want to see that effort wasted by expanding military demands?
Watch Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and journalists, military and foreign policy experts, leading economists, and many more explain just how much the war in Afghanistan will cost us over how many years. View both the trailer and full segment of Cost of War, part three of the Rethink Afghanistan documentary.
Last week, we delivered a petition to Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Howard Berman, demanding oversight hearings. These hearings could raise the critical questions about costs and many other issues. Now, we want to know what questions you would ask in such hearings. Would you want to know how exactly the war is weakening the U.S. economy? What about whether more troops can solve Afghanistan’s problems or the escalating instability in Pakistan, subjects explored in parts one and two of this documentary?
Record your questions on your webcam and send them to us! Simple instructions for doing this can be found here. It’s easy!
Post your video to our Facebook page! Go to our Facebook page, click in the “Write something” box, and then click the video link.
We must urge Congress to raise key questions about this war at once. As FireDogLake blogger Siun recently wrote, “Once again we are planning a surge with no exit plan and a continued lack of concern for the most basic protection of the civilians in the land we claim to liberate.”
“Can more be done to create more of a coalition so that the U.S. isn’t burdened with bearing the cost in lives and treasure alone?”
“Since over half of the citizens of Afghanistan are female, shouldn’t we ask them what kind of help they want from us, if any?”
“What would happen if we pulled out military troops and replaced them with agricultural experts, economic development experts, Peace Corps volunteers, medical corps, and specialists to help in development of strong governmental structures and other “helpers” to help Afghans obtain an improved quality of life?”
“Why don’t we try diplomatic negotiation with all involved parties, including The Taliban FIRST?”
These are some of the questions we all should be asking right now about the war in Afghanistan. They are a sampling from over 460 viewer-submitted questions Brave New Foundation received for their upcoming series of three debates between Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress and The Nation‘s Katrina vanden Heuvel. Clearly, people are starting to see that regardless of whether you oppose the war in Afghanistan, substantive debates from experts on both sides of the issues would benefit everyone. That’s why Korb, who favors more troops and resources, will go head-to-head with vanden Heuvel, who calls for regional diplomacy and military withdrawal. They will debate whether military escalation is the best method to combat terrorism, and the effect more troops will have on an already unstable Pakistan; Korb and vanden Heuvel will agree upon a third topic chosen from the hundreds of submitted questions like the ones above.
Though this war continues to intensify, we still don’t know the answers to some of the most basic questions, which is why the ultimate goal of Rethink Afghanistan and debates like these is an educational one. Raising public awareness and fostering discussion will prompt Congress to hold substantive oversight hearings that bring in experts to explain policy and offer answers.
Rethinking Afghanistan requires vigorous, substantive debates about the critical issues involved in this war. It requires hearing from experts who don’t necessarily see eye to eye, but can discuss these issues in a constructive way that raises public awareness and compels Congress to address serious concerns. Two such experts are Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor-in-chief of The Nation, who thinks we need to withdraw our military altogether, and Lawrence Korb, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, who believes we should send more troops and resources. We’ll hear from both in a series of three upcoming debates on Afghanistan.
Ms. vanden Heuvel and Mr. Korb will debate whether more troops will effectively combat terrorism and how this war will impact Pakistan, but the third topic is completely up to you. What topic would you like discussed? Take part in these debates by submitting your ideas, and Ms. vanden Heuvel and Mr. Korb will pick the best one for our third debate. Should our debaters discuss the economic impact of continuing this war? Should they hash out U.S. interests in the region and whether they are best served by more troops? Remember, these debates will highlight questions Congress should address with oversight hearings.
Submit your debate topics by Tuesday, April 14, which Congress should ultimately use to inform the public and avoid repeating the mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then stay tuned as we bring you three riveting debates, which are long overdue.