We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the launch of President Obama’s escalated military campaign in Afghanistan, so we here at Brave New Foundation decided we’d mark the occasion with a new Rethink Afghanistan video that will convey the reasons why it’s time to end the war. We put out a call to our supporters to share their photo and the reasons why they think it’s time for the war to end on our “Because It’s Time” wall. Almost 1,000 people responded, and the community created a fantastic collage of images and personal statements to take a strong public stand for peace.
In the coming weeks, we’ll use the best comments left on the site to create a new video that sends a strong message to Washington, D.C. that it’s time to end the war.
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”).
The press is getting it wrong regarding the president’s announcement of the newest of his escalations in Afghanistan, which said:
I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home…Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.
We now have resourced, properly, this strategy. It’s not going to be an open-ended commitment of infinite resources…Just because we needed to ramp up from the greatly under-resourced levels that we had, doesn’t automatically mean that if this strategy doesn’t work that what’s needed is even more troops.
The way out of Afghanistan for the U.S. begins by refusing to add more troops. Despite any number of headlines to the contrary, this is not an exit strategy nor a withdrawal timeline. It is, at best, an intention, and one which is undermined by adding 30,000 troops. Here’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a hearing today:
After several back-and-forth exchanges, Gates concedes that there will be a “thorough review” in December 2010 and that if the strategy is not working, “we will take a long look” at the July 2011 date. This seems an important concession, and McCain declares that is this is the case.
…Graham then bores in hard on the July, 2011 date. He asks if the president has locked himself into that date, and Gates and Mullen try hard to say that as commander in chief, Obama obviously retains all options to change his mind. But, Gates argues, the date Obama offered Tuesday night as the starting point for withdrawing troops is a “clear statement of strong intent.”
Gates only got to this point in the hearing after getting kicked around like a soccer ball between senators who got him to first say the withdrawal starting in 2011 would not be tied to conditions on the ground, and then got him to retract and revise that statement.
If the president has an exit strategy, he didn’t tell you about it last night. He painted a picture of intentions after telling you he was sending 30,000 more troops to kill and die in Afghanistan. And you know what they say about the road to Hell.
I wrote this last night after I learned that the President had already given the orders to implement a second escalation. It’s a little more personal than I usually get in items for wide distribution, but after tonight’s announcement by the president, I thought I’d go ahead and share it with you. –DC
The orders have been given. All that’s left is to give the speech before a bunch of strapping young cadets and install the procurator Augusti. Thirty-six thousand more troopsThirty thousand more troops, $1 million a piece, per year. More IEDs in response. More bombs. More night searches. More economic damage. Hope. Change.
We’ve seen planes in the windows of buildings crumbled in
We’ve seen flames send the chills through London
And we’ve sent planes to kill them
But some of them were children
And still we crumbling the building
–Flobots, “Stand Up”
This evening, the Austin Peace and Justice Center organized a vigil to mourn the escalation outside of the offices of Senator John Cornyn. I decided to attend the vigil, even though I’d have to be late because of work. I drove down to 6th and Lavaca. I didn’t have a sign, but if they had candles, I’d gladly join in. No luck. When I drove past, I saw between a half-dozen and a dozen participants, some in costume, most with signs, but no candles. At most, I could stand there with them and hope not to be mistaken for a pedestrian waiting for a light. Maybe it was a cop-out, but I decided I could do more here at my kitchen table on my laptop to voice my opposition to the war than by standing without a sign on a street corner.
From Lavaca, I turned right on 7th to make my way to I-35, which would take me home. As I rounded the corner, a flock of black birds swooped and circled above. This is that strange time of the migratory birds in Austin, when thousands upon thousands of dark, screeching shapes fill the air, swarm the telephone poles, perch on the the power lines. I’ve never lived anywhere that was such a gathering place for this many birds in the fall. Tonight at dusk they were particularly agitated, diving and jerking in mad formations, the air thick with them. They thinned enough as I drove toward I-35 that I could pay more attention to my surroundings. That’s when I saw the intersection of 7th and Neches.
The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, ARCH, sits on that street corner. Tonight, the homeless were as thick as the birds, crowding all the way around the block. The sound of the crowd’s chatter temporarily blocked that of the birds as I drove by with my window cracked. Some talked, some shouted, some sang, all while they waited for help to get through a chilly, rainy night. One million dollars per troop, per year, I thought. Guns or butter.
This time they wont be tears of joy.
The hope, belief and passion that Obama inspired,
The dreams for the future,
The visions of change.
All that will be become a memory as Obama embraces and escalates a war.
A war that will do nothing to protect our security,
A war that will result in th death of thousands of Americans and Afghans,
A war that will spend billons.
A war that will eat up resources that should be going to jobs, homes, schools, health care.
A war that will hurt rather then help the people of Afghanistan.
A war that will hurt our moral standing and strategic goals.
A very sad day.
Different kind of tears.
Join us in the work ahead to hold our elected officials accountable.
Join us in spreading the films that tell the story with Afghan voices.
Join us in spreading the films that tell the story with Afghan vets.
Join us in spreading the films that tell the story with the CIA.
Whatever our hopes and beliefs and dreams for and with Obama, we cant remain on the sidelines anymore.
General McChrystal’s “new strategy” has been leaked to press in what looks to me like a continued effort to box in the President on troop increases. Here’s the core of the document:
The New Strategy: Focus on the Population
…To accomplish the mission and defeat the insurgency we also require a properly resourced strategy built on four main pillars:
Improve effectiveness through greater partnering with ANSF. We will increase the size and accelerate the growth of the ANSF, with a radically improved partnership at every level, to improve effectiveness and prepare them to take the lead in security operations.
Prioritize responsive and accountable governance. We must assist in improving governance at all levels through both formal and traditional mechanisms.
Gain the initiative. Our first imperative, in a series of operational stages, is to gain the initiative and reverse the insurgency’s momentum.
Focus resources. We will prioritize available resources to those critical areas where vulnerable populations are most threatened.
The first two pillars seem to have been written while someone was smoking hashish. Let’s take them one at a time.
When the people of an occupied country want foreign troops out while the people of the occupying country want their troops to come home, and the troops remain, something is wrong. Both the American people and the Afghan people want a troop decrease in Afghanistan. Yet the President is reviewing a strategic assessment prepared by General Stanley McChrystal widely portrayed as a prelude to a request for an escalation. Should the president approve such a request, he’d be saying, in effect, that to protect democracy in America and to build it in Afghanistan, we must trample it.
Bob Woodward’s piece for the WaPo, in which he recounts national security advisor Jim Jones telling military leaders that any further calls for more troops in Afghanistan would occasion a “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment” from Obama, has both COINdinistas and contraCOINers discussing prioritization of the (still benchmarkless) strategy’s confusing components in Afghanistan.
Marine general Lawrence Nicholson is quoted by Woodward as having a mission of “Protect the populace by, with and through the ANSF,” where “killing the enemy is secondary.” By contrast, Obama back in his March Af/Pak stratergy speech said that “These soldiers and Marines will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan Security Forces and to go after insurgents along the border.” Pretty much everyone agrees that there aren’t enough troops on the ground – whether they be U.S., allied or local Afghan forces – to cover all the bases; to both secure population centers in a COIN “clear, hold and build” operation and to go after the insurgency in its own rural and border territory. Something has to give – and it looks like it will be the latter.