“Overall, seven in 10 Democrats say the war has not been worth its costs, and fewer than one in five support an increase in troop levels.
“Nearly two-thirds of the most committed Democrats now feel “strongly” that the war was not worth fighting. Among moderate and conservative Democrats, a slim majority say the United States is losing in Afghanistan.”
“Nearly two-thirds of liberals stand against a troop increase, as do about six in 10 Democrats,” The Post added.
The election of Barack Obama brought hope for change in our war policy, but this was an illusion. Early in his presidency he negotiated the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraq over a 19-month period. However, this has now been extended to possibly 10 years; although this is slightly better than the 100 years suggested by John McCain.
Then came the comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in which he stated, “We have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to prevent their return to either country in the future …”
This column looks at the human costs of escalating the “war of terror” better known as the “war on terror” and offer suggestions for ways to get the voices of peace and sanity heard.
The BBC reported that in the first six months of 2009, the conflict in Afghanistan had resulted in 1,013 civilian casualties compared to only 818 in 2008 and only 684 in 2007. There has been a parallel rise in suicide bombing and roadside explosives, which usually result in many civilian deaths. There were no suicide bombings in Afghanistan before this “war of terror” began. The report says that from 2007 through 2009, insurgents were responsible for more deaths than the government-allied forces were, but two-thirds of the deaths caused by government-allied forces were from airstrikes. Recently, U.S. warplanes dropped bombs in a village in the western province of Farah that resulted in about 100 women, children and men turned into corpses and bits of human flesh by iron fragments. The Afghan survivors carted dozens of corpses in trucks from their village to the provincial capital to publicly denounce the carnage, shouting “Death to America!” U.S. forces have actually killed more civilian Afghans during 2009 than the Taliban has. Our military approach has backfired and has become a great recruiting tool for the Taliban.
By Chris Garofolo at Brattleboro Reformer
BRATTLEBORO — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has partnered with media pioneer Brave New Films to produce a weekly online series.
The “Senator Sanders Unfiltered” program will air once a week in five-minute segments featuring the Vermont Independent answering questions submitted by viewers nationwide via Twitter and Twitvid. Producers hope the show will provide an unprecedented look at the political and policy-making process on Capitol Hill while hearing the concerns from regular citizens.
“It is important that we as Americans have direct access to voices that are truthful, dauntless and unapologetic like that of Sen. Bernie Sanders. [This series] is going to provide that access,” said Robert Greenwald, producer and founder of Brave New Films. “Every week, he will talk about the issues that people are concerned about … and really be able to reach a large audience without any reservations or anything standing in the way.”
Sanders is the first senator in history to release a weekly online show addressing the concerns from everyday Americans. He said the move gives him another vehicle to publicize a more progressive perspective that is often overlooked in the national media.
“Frankly, I think that the media in general does not do a great job of keeping people informed about what’s going on in Washington (D.C.),” said Sanders. “I’m going to use this opportunity to provide a progressive analysis to the people of this country, and I feel good about it.”According to Sanders, there is a strong need for progressive voices in the mainstream to counter the right-wing voices and ideologies.
“Our nation is on the brink of tremendous change, with issues like health care reform, the environment and banking regulations. This series will provide alternative, progressive perspectives that are not being covered by the mainstream media, he said. “It just gives me, as a U.S. Senator, the opportunity to speak with people without a filter and respond to the questions they have.”
Greenwald said the Vermont senator has stayed in touch with his constituents throughout his political career using the latest technological advances. Sanders was one of the first to recognize how important the Internet would become for alternative news outlets and reaching out directly to Americans, he said.
“One of my jobs as an elected official is to do my best to explain to people why things are the way they are and what we can do to improve it,” said Sanders. “I think that’s part of what our job is about … not sitting in an office away from people.”
The first online episode (or Webisode) aired Monday, about a week after the site’s trailer appeared showing Sanders arguing against corporate greed and the high costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 41,000 viewers have checked out the initial episode.
“I think we’re off to a good start … it’s kind of an interesting experiment and we’ll see how it works,” said Sanders.
“The response to the first show was really overwhelming,” said Greenwald. The success should come as no surprise to Greenwald — Brave New Films’ online videos have reached more than 45 million viewers.
To watch the online series or to submit a question to the senator, interested residents can visit www.sandersunfiltered.com.
According to the Pentagon, the US will spend more on the war in Afghanistan next year than it will in Iraq — about $65 billion for Afghanistan versus $61 billion for Iraq. With no timetable set for withdrawal and the daunting task of building (not REbuilding) a country that is mostly in the Stone Age, largely illiterate, lacking in basic infrastructure like roads and electricity, and wrecked by 30 years of continuous war, military experts are predicting that the total budget for the war in Afghanistan will eventually cost more than the Iraq war.
So I thought it would be interesting to take another look at Charlie Wilson’s War, the true story of America’s clandestine war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the philandering Texas congressman who made it happen. But by radicalizing Afghans, arming and training the mujahideen (who would later become Al Qaeda), then abandoning the war-ravaged country as soon as the Soviets had been defeated, the US arguably sowed the seeds of 9/11 and the war we’re still fighting there today — with no end in sight.
Click the pic below to watch my ReThink Review of Charlie Wilson’s War (you’ll be redirected to YouTube due to copyright silliness).
To see me on Cenk Uygur’s XM/Air America show, The Young Turks, discussing Charlie Wilson’s War, the Soviet Afghan War, and why the US is still blowing our occupation of Afghanistan, click here.
If you want to learn why waging a war in Afghanistan is so much more difficult and expensive than it is in Iraq, I’d recommend checking out part three of Brave New Film’s ReThink Afghanistan series, The Cost of War. I worked on this series and conducted many of the interviews used in the videos. The whole series is definitely worth a watch if you want to learn why our continued occupation of Afghanistan is such a bad idea.
By Stephanie Condon at CBS News
The White House and other Democrats are increasingly taking aim at the insurance industry to promote health care reform, but one Democratic congressman reportedly says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went too far when she referred to the industry as “villains.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (D- Ky.) sent a letter earlier this month to the chief executive of the Louisville-based insurance company, calling Pelosi’s comments “inflammatory” and “misguided,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“They are the villains in this,” Pelosi said of the insurance industry in a July press conference. “They have been part of the problem in a major way.”
“Regrettably, with passions inflamed throughout the country, Speaker Pelosi recently made inflammatory statements that assailed the character of health insurers across the board. I unequivocally reject those misguided comments,” Yarmuth wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to Humana executive Michael McCallister, the Courier-Journal reports. “Not only do such overtures distract from a constructive debate, they are simply untrue. That certain insurers have engaged in unscrupulous practices cannot be denied, but to paint an entire industry with a single stroke is unfair.”
Yarmuth reportedly wrote the letter after Humana requested a discussion with Pelosi about her remarks. He said he was concerned about the impressions of the 7,000 Louisville workers employed by Humana.
The insurance industry has warned health care reform supporters that attacking them would be unproductive. The industry is seen as largely responsible for killing health care reform efforts in the 1990’s.
That has not kept President Obama, however, from assailing insurance companies that he said “reaped windfall profits from a broken system.” As doubts have grown about some of the more controversial parts of Mr. Obama’s plans, such as the government-sponsored insurance option, the president has increasingly focused on emphasizing the need for new regulations on the insurance industry.
Meanwhile, outside pro-reform activists are likwise hitting the insurance industry hard. Director Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films, for instance, have launched an online campaign called Sick for Profit that targets well-paid insurance executives.
Brave New Films’ Robert Greenwald joins us. As Congress breaks for recess and the health insurance industry prepares to blitz the American public with attack ads on health care reform, Brave New Films kicks off its new “Sick for Profit” online campaign at http://sickforprofit.com. The first video contrasts the lavish lifestyle and extravagant earnings of United Health Group’s (UHG) CEO with their policyholders, who suffer from severe medical conditions but have been denied proper medical care. According to Forbes magazine, United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley owns three-quarters of a billion dollars in UHG stock options, and his 2008 compensation was a whopping $3,241,042.00.
Robert Greenwald is a successful director in television and film with many nominations and awards under his belt. Around five years ago, he turned to political documentaries with his exposé on Fox News called Outfoxed; Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. That was only the beginning. Since Outfoxed, Greenwald and his team have made hundreds of short videos, as well as full-length films, that have reached millions of viewers worldwide.
Welcome to OpEdNews, Robert. In recent years, you’ve channeled your success in television and film into filmmaking with a more pointed political agenda. What was the impetus for this change?
I fell in love with documentaries as an art form and as an avenue for creating change. It became a natural path for me to focus on creating documentaries with a more political agenda, so I could have an active hand in effecting this change and helping to inform people.
How did you come up with the revolutionary idea of combining short films and the internet?
The internet is a great tool for democracy, with people spreading information and ideas to their peers quickly and easily. Putting short films on the internet is relatively inexpensive and viewers can watch it for free. Also, people have short attention spans when it comes to the internet, so making short films that were concise, engaging, and accessible seemed like a likely next step for us.
How much has Brave New Films grown since its inception?
It’s grown by leaps and bounds. We started with a small company of three people, and we’ve since developed into a fully staffed, mid-sized non-profit.
Where do you get your funding? What organizations do you work with to promote your progressive agenda? (Would you agree that it’s a progressive agenda?)
A good question! We get a lot of our funding through our “Producers Program.” We have a very large list of folks who sign up on an email list to receive updates, and they help fund a lot of our projects through small direct online contributions. We also work with different organizations, depending on the specific issue we’re tackling. Additionally, we do a lot of work with foundations. Funding is always a challenge and we spend lots of time working to fund raise for our work.
You’ve done hundreds of short films on a range of topics. Many of them fall within a few categories: corporate greed in all its guises, inappropriate political candidates, incumbents, or appointees, victims of public policy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now health care legislation. How do you decide on a subject?
We draw from many sources. First, our great staff, which is very much committed to issues of social justice, and contribute an endless amount of great ideas for important subjects to cover. Second, we draw from the issues currently being debated by the public and in Congress, issues that affect millions of people (like our current discussion on health care reform).
Finally, we are always focused on what is not being discussed, what is not being exposed. In regards to healthcare, we wanted to show the CEO profits specifically because it was not being talked about. This was the same goal we had with Fox News when we started, as well as McCain’s mansions.
In Sick for Profit, your latest initiative, you have teamed up withThe American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and Herndon Alliance. Who are they and what do they want?
Robert Greenwald’s newest production, Sick for Profit, takes a hard look at the need for health insurance reform. His website, and new video, titled “Sick for Profit”, includes first hand testimonials from patients denied treatment from insurance companies.
Sick for Profit also slams greedy CEO’s for living lavishly. According to the site, “Instead of helping policyholders attain the health security they need for their families, big insurance companies get rich by denying coverage to patients. Now they’re sending lobbyists to Washington, DC to twist the arms of lawmakers to oppose reform of the status quo. Why? Because the status quo pays.”
The testimonials in the Sick for Profit video include a young woman in need of intravenous nutrition. While she waited, made phone calls, and was told more paperwork was needed, she was ultimately denied life saving nutrition, because it was deemed “not medically necessary”. Most insurance companies have an appeal process, and the whole story may not be evident at first glance. Nevertheless, Greenwald is on a mission. You can watch the video below.
Robert Greenwald has produced other hard hitting documentaries, which recently include “Rethink Afghanistan.” His launch of Sick for Profit is an effort to bring focus to the need for health insurance reform.
Sick for Profit asks the question “Why are we putting money into the profits of insurance companies, rather than medicine”? You can donate money, follow on Twitter, and post to your Facebook profile. If you have a story to tell about your own tangle with an insurance company, Sick for Profit would like to hear it at http://www.sickforprofit.com.