If anything can be said about the week in media, it was that Americans put their priorities where their mouths are: gabbing on and on about the frivolous alongside the deeply serious. Today we explore how the issue of the Afghanistan war was forced to share screen, air, digital and print space with the bizarre story of the so-called “White House Party Crashers” and Tiger Woods, before “Rethink Afghanistan” director Robert Greenwald joins us to talk about something that, you know, actually matters.
First, the media sensations of the week: the White House Party Crashers and Tiger Woods. The Salahis face possible Congressional subpoena, hearings or even a “symposium” – whatever that might be. While security should be our main concern, what does it say about our culture that we are willing to go to such lengths to get attention for ourselves? At the very least, it’s surely a sign that DC has gone Hollywood (Kal Penn, anyone?) and the city will never be the same.
Then there’s the Tiger Woods controversy, with the golf pro basically coming out and saying he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation for the incident and that’s that. Yet pretty much everyone is shaking their heads saying: “It’s sweet that you think that, Tiger. You’re wrong.” Is it more wasted breath, considering that the public will inevitably forgive him? We’re suckers like that.
But Greenwald, founder of Brave New Films and director of numerous progressive documentaries, helps us address the issue of real weight: Afghanistan. What does one of the war’s fiercest critics have to say about President Obama’s new way forward in “the good war”? Greenwald and Brave New Films have lost a lot of support and funding for his criticism of Obama on this issue, and Greenwald brings up some very important points: How are we paying for this? (This war costs $1 million per American soldier per year.) Who is advising Obama on this, and how many Afghanis are at that table who weren’t on our payroll? Isn’t it nuts that progressives against the war are being joined by such right-wing conservatives like Glenn Beck on this issue? How can Brave New Films reach the young people online to encourage rethinking Afghanistan? Listen in to hear Greenwald’s well-informed argument for his point of view on the war.
BONUS: We also discuss Ari Melber’s latest in The Nation about how young people, despite being against many of Obama’s presidential policies – 66 percent of them are against escalating the war in Afghanistan, for example – still give him high popularity marks. When will the passionate desire to reconnect with him as they did during the campaign run out?
When the president insisted that the days of funding a war “with a blank check are over,” one woman scoffed, “Yeah, right.”
When the commander in chief suggested critics were wrong to compare the military effort in Afghanistan with the Vietnam War, several laughed out loud.
And when Barack Obama said the United States could not afford the cost of two wars, a woman muttered, “You got that right.”
Members of the antiwar advocacy group Military Families Speak Out had already made up their minds on the Afghanistan dilemma by the time President Obama outlined his plan for the 8-year-old war Tuesday.
Gathered around a television in a Long Beach home, members had plenty to say about the president’s plan to deploy thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan.
“It’s one thing to expect it, and another thing to actually hear it,” said Marselle Sloane, 57, whose niece is deployed in Iraq. “I’m just extremely disappointed,” she said, shaking her head.
Their emotional responses to the president’s comments — witnessed by about two dozen news reporters — underscored the sense of distrust and skepticism that some feel toward the government.
(The Nation) Tom Hayden, a former California state senator, is the author, most recently, of The Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama.
It’s time to strip the Obama sticker off my car.
Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan is the last in a string of disappointments. His flip-flopping acceptance of the military coup in Honduras has squandered the trust of Latin America. His Wall Street bailout leaves the poor, the unemployed, minorities, and college students on their own. And now comes the Afghanistan-Pakistan decision to escalate the stalemate, which risks his domestic agenda, his Democratic base, and possibly even his presidency.
The expediency of his decision was transparent. Satisfy the generals by sending 30,000 more troops. Satisfy the public and peace movement with a timeline for beginning withdrawals of those same troops, with no timeline for completing a withdrawal.
Obama’s timeline for the proposed Afghan military surge mirrors exactly the 18-month Petraeus timeline for the surge in Iraq.
We’ll see. To be clear: I’ll support Obama down the road against Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs or any of the pitchfork carriers for the pre-Obama era. But no bumper sticker until the withdrawal strategy is fully carried out.
But for now, the fight is on.
This is not like the previous conflict with Bush and Cheney, who were easy to ridicule. Now this orphan of a war has a persuasive advocate, a formidable debater who will be arguing for support from the liberal center–one who wants to win back his Democratic base.
The anti-war movement will have to solidify support from the two-thirds of Democratic voters who so far question this war. Continuing analysis from The Nation and Robert Greenwald’s videos have a major role to play. Public opinion will have to become a growing factor in the mind of Congress, where Rep. Jim McGovern’s resolution favoring an exit strategy has 100 co-sponsors and Rep. Barbara Lee’s tougher bill to prevent funding for escalation is now at 23.
Key political questions in the immediate future are whether Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, will oppose Afghanistan funding without a surtax is only bluffing, and whether Sen. Russ Feingold will step up with legislation for a withdrawal timetable.
While much of the debate about Afghanistan here in the States has been focused on how to adjust the U.S.’s war strategy, the latest video from the Rethink Afghanistan project takes a look at the other side of the equation by talking to Afghan citizens about their hopes for the future.
The general sentiment among the Afghans interviewed is that they want the fighting to end. “We wish there would be no more bloodshed in Afghanistan,” says one of the men featured in the video.
The Obama administration has promised to begin moving the 700 odd men held in the Bagram prison in Afghanistan into a new 60 million dollar facility by next month. But in a video released by Brave New Films, two men who were held in the notorious detention center ask how much of a difference this will make when its unclear why people were arrested in the first place. The two brothers Abdel and Noor Raqeeb, say they were held without formal charges, tortured, only to be released with an apology for being mistaken for Taliban spokesperson.
Abdel Raqeeb was released this August after being detained for 2 years and allegedly tortured. Upon his release he was told he had been mistaken for a Taliban spokesman. His brother Noor Raqeeb imprisoned for 10 days in 2007 was told he too had been picked up on the same mistaken assumption.
The Obama administration has promised to begin moving the 700 odd men held in the Bagram prison in Afghanistan into a new 60 million dollar facility by next month. But in a video released by Brave New Films today, two men who were held in the notorious detention center ask how much of a difference this will make when its unclear why people were arrested in the first place.
Abdel Raqeeb was released this August after being detained for 2 years and allegedly tortured. Upon his release he was told he had been mistaken for a Taliban spokesman. His brother Noor Raqeeb imprisoned for 10 days in 2007 was told he too had been picked up on the same mistaken assumption. The brothers were interviewed by filmmaker Anita Sreedhar last month.
By Ryan Grim at Huffington Post
Abdul Raqeeb, a former prisoner held for two years by US forces in Afghanistan, is speaking out against his brutalization at the hands of his captors.
The International Justice Network, in papers filed in an effort to free Raqeeb, charge that his “custodians have subjected him to acts of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and outrages upon his personal dignity.”
Raqeeb was released without explanation, on August 13, 2009, from a military prison in Bagram that continues to hold hundreds of Afghans without charges.
Now freed, Raqeeb recounted his experience in a new video interview with Brave New Foundation’s project Rethink Afghanistan.
Raqeeb, whose brother Noor was also taken but released after a much shorter period, is telling his story just as President Obama is reportedly preparing to announce an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, which polls show a majority of Americans believe is not worth fighting.
Obama is expected to announce his decision next week. Due to a scheduling conflict, he bumped his decision up on the calendar — the week after next, he is flying to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Price.
The Washington Post delicately described the contradiction as one of a series of “public relations challenges if they happened too close to the presentation of an expanded war effort.”
Obama, noted the paper, “likely wanted as many days as possible between the troops announcement and the date in mid-December when he is to travel to Oslo to accept his Nobel Peace Prize.”
Watch Raqeeb and his brother tell their story: