FDL Movie Night: Rethink Afghanistan
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Robert Greenwald described his latest film, Rethink Afghanistan, as a way to ask “fundamental core questions:”
“The argument we make in the film is that there are a lot of unanswered questions about the war: How many troops? What’s the cost in lives and treasure?” says Greenwald. “In the film, we try to ask these fundamental core questions. It’s not just 10,000 troops there, or 12,000 there, it’s why troops at all?” He added, “Those are the questions we need to ask, and those are the questions you need to ask in a democracy.”
While the Journal got it right, the New York Times reviewer apparently wants no truck with either such questions – or with a film that reminds us that:
Military engagements, it seems, are messy and claim innocent lives.
In fact, she was upset that the film did not allow time for an opposing view – yet, as Greenwald shows us throughout Rethink Afghanistan, the messiness and loss of innocent lives is precisely at the core of this (or any) war and is the central reason we need to look more closely and ask our own questions about our government’s decision to continue into a 9th year in Afghanistan.
But the film also does much more.
Rethink Afghanistan combines footage from Greenwald’s own trip to Afghanistan earlier this year with interviews with key experts like Robert Grenier, former CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, former CIA operative Robert Baer, Graham Fuller, the former CIA station chief in Kabul, Anand Gopal, the Afghanistan correspondent of The Wall Street Journal and Steve Coll, author of the Pulitzer winning book on Al Qaeda, Ghost Wars.
Such expertise provides us with important insights, insights lacking in the spotty coverage of this war in the standard media which rarely strays beyond the usual footage of American soldiers to ask the question why they are there and if it is the “right war” after all.
Yet Rethink Afghanistan is not simply a platform for various experts, it is so much more because the film introduces us to Afghan voices. So often our policy debates completely leave out the views, the worries and the concerns of those most impacted by our actions. Rethink Afghanistan includes them throughout – and these voices are so important for us to hear.
From the refugee who tells us:
If the Talib comes and fires a bullet, Americans will come and they kill the whole village.
To the Afghan women activists who describe our alliance with the misogynist Northern Alliance and our support for Karzai’s misogynist cabinet, to the voice of Fatana Gailani, founder of the Afghanistan Women Council who starkly reminds us that:
The United States government has not sent one delegation to go and talk with the Afghan people, what the Afghan people want and especially what the Afghan women want.”
These are voices we have not heard in the debate over our war and occupation, voices which should be at the center of any discussion of what we will do next. Rethink Afghanistan finally allows us to listen and learn.
Robert and the Brave New Films team are not just providing a new forum for these voices, they are also creating a new model of filmmaking with Rethink Afghanistan. By producing the film in stages and releasing it online, they have made their work immediately available to us all in time to inform the debate not merely document it after the fact – and they have used the film as the centerpiece of a campaign to raise the questions and concerns we all must face about Afghanistan.
They also invited viewers along the way to contribute to help the people profiled in the film, raising $15,000 in aid which has already made its way to families living in the refugee camps the film profiles.
And now they are asking us all to participate in the education of our communities. Rethink Afghanistan does such a good job of raising the critical issues and encouraging discussions that it really must be shared and viewed with friends and neighbors. You can order a copy here to do your part to help shape this essential debate.