Rethinking Afghanistan - Brave New Films
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Rethinking Afghanistan

By Jack Neworth at Santa Monica Daily Press

Last week I debated writing about serious local, state, national and international world issues, but frankly they were too depressing. Take California for instance (before the state goes in a big garage sale). Since Arnold has been Governator, we’ve slowly gone bankrupt. Actually, not so slowly.

Given that I couldn’t solve any world problems, I wrote about a possible Dodgers-Angels Freeway World Series. (I know, I’m just too deep.)

Today’s column will be the exact opposite. I’m not going to elaborate but for the first time in 47 years the Dodgers and Angels are in their respective league championships. Both swept playoff opponents that had previously tormented them (to quote Jackie Gleason, “How sweet it is!”).

But last week also marked the eighth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. This means that we’ve spent 50 percent more time there than in all of WWI and WWII combined! According to Pentagon figures, in the last three months 136 GI’s died and 771 were injured. And conditions appear more unstable now than ever.

Seemingly the reaction in the U.S. to this inglorious anniversary was a collective yawn. But not so for filmmaker Robert Greenwald, whose powerful documentary “Rethink Afghanistan” is free online. (After viewing it, I couldn’t bring myself to write about baseball this week.)

Eight years ago I was in favor of the invasion. Having provided al-Qaida a stronghold, clearly we had to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan and capture Osama Bin Laden in the process.

On Nov. 12, 2001, we apparently had Bin Laden surrounded at Tora Bora. But, for some inexplicable reason, Bush and Co. delegated his capture to Afghani warlords. Predictably they were promptly bribed by Bin Laden, allowing him to escape into Pakistan. How convenient.

Then, in 2003, instead of securing Afghanistan, once and for all, we pretty much dropped everything and invaded Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Then, after first threatening Bin Laden with “wanted dead or alive,” Bush would soon be saying, “I really don’t think about him that much anymore.” (Bush certainly had a unique way with words, like “Mission Accomplished.”)

Today I no longer believe in the Afghan war. And neither does archconservative George Will (also an avid baseball fan). On Sept. 1, Will’s column in the Washington Post was entitled, “Time to Get Out of Afghanistan.”

Will makes the comparison between Afghanistan and Vietnam and there are undeniable similarities. In Vietnam, the “Gulf of Tonkin” incident was the motivation to escalate from 16,000 “advisors” to 536,000 troops.

But there was one slight problem. The Gulf of Tonkin, a supposed attack on U.S. warships by North Vietnam, never happened. At best it was incompetence (misinterpreting radar signals) and at worst, a blatant manipulation of the intelligence. The same could be said for invading Iraq. The motivating force was WMDs, which were also non-existent.

In both wars we invaded a culture whose history we didn’t bother to understand. It’s not clear, in either instance, that the majority of the people even want us there. (Would we if it were reversed?) It’s very difficult to win the hearts and minds of people while bombing them.

Will points out that in Vietnam we were sold the idea that if we didn’t stop the spread of communism, that we’d lose the Cold War. Subsequently, 58,193 American GI’s died (24,488 under the age of 21), hundreds of thousands were wounded, and we spent $133 billion. And yet as Will notes, “Defeat in Vietnam didn’t make a particle of difference in the outcome of the Cold War.”

Any day now Nobel Peace Prize winner/President Barack Obama will decide about increasing our troop strength in the Afghan War. I’d say that’s somewhat ironic, a Peace Prize winner considering increasing a war effort.

I don’t envy Obama. People on the left and the right are unhappy with the Afghanistan situation. Not a good sign for any president, especially one desperately seeking a consensus. As conservative writer Arnaud de Borchgrave commented, “President Barack Obama is not Abraham Lincoln with a BlackBerry, but Lyndon Johnson with a war the country no longer supports.”

Sadly, to me, Iraq and Afghanistan have been excursions into madness. We are rebuilding these countries with new schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and spending trillions of dollars that we don’t have. Meanwhile at home, our bridges are collapsing and we can’t afford health insurance for our own citizens. It doesn’t make sense. Except, of course, for Halliburton and Blackwater.

Now that I’ve depressed everyone, I’ll end by wishing the best of luck, weather permitting, to the Dodgers against the Phillies, and the Angels against the Yankees. Apparently not solving world problems doesn’t stop me from picking my favorites for the World Series.