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Rethink Afghanistan While There’s Still Time
Posted by robertgreenwald on February 26th, 2009

Click here for more information about the Afghanistan war.

Many of you reading this worked diligently to support President Obama and his call for change. I’m sure you feel, as I do, an almost palpable air of excitement and pride right now in having a man of Obama’s intelligence and integrity in the White House. What I also find remarkable is Obama’s conviction that it is imperative for those who disagree with him to speak out, make their voices heard, and discuss ideas without attacking motivation or character.

President Obama just committed 17,000 more soldiers to fight the war in Afghanistan. For me and the Brave New Foundation team, this decision raises scores of questions that must be addressed about troops, costs, overall mission, and exit strategy. Historically, it has been Congress’ duty to ask these questions in the form of oversight hearings that challenge policymakers, examine military spending, and educate the public. I invite you to sign the petition urging Senator John Kerry and Representative Howard Berman to hold congressional oversight hearings at once.

The President has demonstrated his commitment to plurality of opinion and open debate on issues that impact our country most profoundly. In that spirit, I’m proud that Brave New Foundation will bring you Rethink Afghanistan, a new feature-length documentary I am directing in the tradition of Uncovered: The War on Iraq and Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. This documentary, which we will release in segments online, will foster the kind of discussion, debate and dissent Obama has called for, hopefully serving as a driving force to help make oversight hearings a reality.

Since the situation in Afghanistan is extraordinarily complex, Brave New Foundation’s goal is to create videos posing some of the necessary questions Congress should ask. Watch the extended version of part one in our documentary.

Without congressional oversight hearings, no one in Washington would have exposed corruption and mismanagement during the Civil War. No one would have caught the excessive military spending during World War II. And there would have been no national stage for a young John Kerry to throw down the gauntlet to Nixon over Vietnam.

Before Afghanistan escalates any further, I believe Congress must inform the public and ask critical questions. Here’s what you can do to get people thinking about the need for congressional oversight hearings:

1. Sign the petition urging Sen. Kerry and Rep. Berman to begin hearings immediately.

2. Send this trailer video to your friends and family and post it your Facebook page and please take a second to Digg it.

3. Watch the full-length version of the video.

We look forward to bringing you more videos that raise these pressing questions, to hearing your concerns regarding this war, and to collaborating with the bloggers who have been writing about these issues at Get Afghanistan Right.

Together, we can help Congress Rethink Afghanistan.

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to “Rethink Afghanistan While There’s Still Time”

  1. ellen sweets says:

    how quickly we forget: charlie wilson persuaded pakistan (and israel) to help us support afghans who wanted murderous russians out of afghanistan. the afghans did it. made history. kicked russian butt. but then we refused to help rebild the country, and militants rse up against us. so now the russians want to help us rout the taliban? are we nuts or just pretending to be?!

  2. Richard says:

    Before Obama I had not voted for 28 years. You see I moved away from Bethlehem Pa. at age 11 and have lived abroad ever since. But as a result of Barack’s message of hope my American patriotism has risen like the proverbial Phoenix, and as a result of my time abroad I happen to know some things about the current topic that I’d like to share with as many of my fellow Americans as I possibly can.

    The Hindu Kush (“Hindu Killers”) mountain range has sooner or later broken every foreign invader known to written history (anyone here read Michener’s Caravans? It’s all in the video anyway).

    War in this region is truly a bottomless pit. “Winning hearts and minds” is, as ever and everywhere, the only viable strategy. That’s impossible to achieve with even the slightest collateral damage to civilians.  

    The Soviets had 500,000 troops there. The British simply surrounded it and left it alone. In 2500 B.C. Persian emperor Daraius the Great’s army was slaughtered there. Alexander the Great was able to hold it only briefly. The people who live there and their ancestors have defended it successfully for approximately 10,000 years.

    The Taliban must be destroyed, their leaders punished, and their evil ideas forever eradicated from the human psyche — but with typical US military action in the region the new recruitment level will always outpace our ability to achieve such ends. Just as with al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah military responses play right into their hands.

    No more Iraqs. No more Vietnams.

    Peace,
    Richard

  3. R.Bailet says:

    Dr. Mr. Presedent and members of Congress,

    Please reconsider sending more combat troops to Afghanistan in favor of developing a more earnest dialogue with all pertinent parties. Let us rather assist them in improving thier infrastructure, schools, and hospitals. We can better serve peace in the vicinity with our support for the Afghani people to improve the quality of their lives, their economy, to overcome their dependence on poppy production, and with general safety concerns without compromising their values and beliefs. Let’s be quick to remember the USSR committed many more troops in Afghanistan than President Obama has proposed, and yet they FAILED to achieve their objectives. Can we benefit from the lessons of history? Let’s.

    I urge you to commit to peace through peaceful measures and facilitate the possibility of the United States being real change agents for Peace(Heroes).

  4. Jeff Morris-Saugerties, N.Y. says:

    President Obama and Secretary Of Defense Gates need to re think the entire strategy in Afghanistan. We have completed seven years in Afghanistan and are now in year eight. We need to re evaluate the objective of the mission, mission strategy, chances of success of the strategy…. I was amazed when top Military commanders in Afghanistan were recently asked “What’s The Eng Game Here?” Their answer was “We Don’t Have An End Game strategy.” Year eight, with NO end game strategy?

    Considering Afghanistan is twice the size of Iraq, with much of its terrain rugged and mountainous, does anybody really think 17,000 more combat troops is going to make a difference? It wont. But then we’ll further escalate troop levels. Ignoring he lesson of the old USSR and its disastrous occupation of Afghanistan. Ignoring the lesson of Viet Nam where troop escalation resulted in more death and injury to our soldiers, but made no difference in the outcome.

    Yes, Obama and Gates need to re think a lot of things. Afghanistan has all the makings of becoming Obama’s Viet Nam like quagmire. But there’s still time to avert an even bigger disaster. Troop escalation will prove to be not the answer for success in Afghanistan.

    Jeff Morris-Saugerties, N.Y.- DeJaVu57

  5. Scott Baker says:

    Ending the war in Afghanistan on our own terms

    The recent surge in poppy production has to be dealt with in new and novel ways that play to our strengths and not to the Taliban’s.

    As NATO contemplates a renewed attack on the embedded Taliban – a surge which has already cost hundreds of innocent Afghan lives as well as those of our own troops – it’s worth asking if there is not another way; another way to curb the Taliban influence that does not involve killing people.

    History is helpful. In the 1970s, Turkey was the largest supplier of heroin in the world. Then the United States got smart and started buying the poppy crop – we still do. The government sold it to U.S. pharmaceutical firms to make legitimate drugs – after all, there are no bad plants, only bad uses for plants. The drug cartel lost control of Turkey and today Turkey is one of our staunchest allies in the Middle East. We later tried a similar approach in India with good results.

    From the CIA world fact site we know that the GDP of Afghanistan in 2006 was something under $40 billion. Today, over half the GDP of Afghanistan is tied up in poppy production in some way, and is controlled by rogue warlords who channel profits directly to the Taliban – some $100 million a year. This is an extremely lucrative business and there is nothing even remotely comparable in that region of the world. Sixty percent of Taliban income comes directly from poppy production.

    On the other hand, growing food is either uneconomic for the average afghan farmer, or is outright forbidden – at the point of a gun – by the Taliban militia who control the rural regions.

    Instead of fighting the Afghan farmer, who is caught in an impossible position, we should buy the crop – all of it – from him. This would:
    A. End 60% of Taliban income immediately.
    B. Put us on the side of the Afghan farmer instead of making us just one of his several enemies. Hearts and minds…
    C. Put a serious dent in the heroin trade – a concern also for Russia and Europe, who blame us for the escalation of their drug problem.
    D. Allow us to influence the Afghanistan people by becoming their respectful partner instead of their bullying enemy (there is something extremely unseemly about a country of our size, might, and moral stature, going around burning fields and dropping bombs on subsistence farmers in a desperately poor country. Obama may recognize this intuitively, but mollifying words have to be backed up with concrete action).

    Eventually, we need to encourage Afghans to grow food instead of Poppy plants. We should pay a 10% premium over the market price for poppy, for food staples. By finally establishing a middle class of farmers, shopkeepers, and other distributors, supported by microloans, we would cut the Taliban off at the knees. And by supplying a profit motive, the new middle class would be encouraged to form militias or to finally build up the Afghan army to protect themselves against the Taliban – who, despite popular perception, are largely loathed by the average Afghan citizen. As President Obama has publicly stated, you build a Democracy from the bottom up, not from the top down. We have a chance to do this in a way that is cheaper, far less violent, and far more effective than the shoot and burn approach we’ve tried thus far.

    There are other answers to the Afghan situation, if people are willing to examine history and to break out of idealogical molds. We need to play to our strengths, not to the Taliban’s. In a game of attrition, history shows that those who try to forcefully bend Afghanistan to their will, eventually lose.

  6. Dick Schlimgen says:

    I have been a supporter of Brave New. I have not seen your materials on Afganistan yet. However, I believe that at this early time in administrative change we are very vulnerable to being seen as warm hearted, soft headed liberals. We need to be careful ant not leave ourselves too open too soon to world opinion as easy targets. I am fully in favor of following this strategy on the short term until we see better how things shape up. Iran and North Korea in particular are players just waiting to get on the world stage with nuclear power.

  7. Doug Johnson says:

    This is a time when our goals are caught in the crosswinds of time and environmental stress. The excessive need of some activists to deify the president and soak the sponge of treetop leadership may not be useful, regardless of the victorious Bush garbage dump. If you were on a baseball team where you were able to get a solid starter like Obama on the mound you still would have to do your job; getting on base, taking second on a ground out, stealing third if necessary and getting home on a suicide squeeze bunt if you did not get a long hit behind you. Brave New Foundation carries us to our inevitable goals of establishing an internet driven direct democracy in our country by whatever plays gets on the scoreboard.

    When we have a situation leading to the possibility of
    a prolonged five year Afghan War without sufficient strategic justification, we must beat time on the issue. Our European friends, as we, also prefer the applications of diplomacy, education and regional development. Excessive
    conflict just keeps polarizing and feeding recruits to our
    terrorist adversary. You know civilians are going to get
    whacked and some local or imported troops will go down to
    friendly fire. All of this carnage leads us backwards and
    we have possibilities of oil prices getting jacked again
    and budget cuts compromised.

    Appealing to a White House staffed with the likes of Rahm
    Emanuel and Leon Pinetta may not get it. Relying just
    on petitioning congress may not get it. Continuing to
    create a powerful umbrella fusion loop from our associated
    third parties and activist entities can be a timely
    power play. The Afghan deployment is such a bad plan that
    we almost have to consider a national half-strike or a
    mini-slowdown to focus millions on the issue. It is possible that the silent ones and less active citizens
    may not be suckered again into self-defeating use of
    excessive military force and war profiteering.

    While we still have time, be prepared to take the
    inning before the third out. All roads to the future must reach direct democracy and professional resolution of
    global conflict. Avoid depending on compromised treetop
    leadership when you are the leadership. Be strong!

  8. Holden Caulfield says:

    What ought to be of greater concern to Americans, generally speaking, is all the money Obama and his yes-men–Congress–have agreed to spend, most of which appears to be spending for spending’s sake. Yes, Afghanistan is concerning but, monetarily speaking, it’s the tip of the iceberg. The Democrat party has rubberstamped a spending bill that, just by its mammoth size, precluded almost everyone from even reading it! Money will be wasted, hand-over-fist, while programs championed by Obama in his campaign will go wanting.

    Instead of tackling education and healthcare, money is being thrown around to domestic car companies who continue making cars in which few are interested in buying and studying the effects of duck farts on elm trees and other such nonsense. Somebody is going to have to pay for all this and the top 2% (read: Those who EMPLOY Americans) can’t begin to pay for it all!

    Obama, Reid and Pelosi are big spending liberals with no checks or balances is sight. I’m not saying McCain was the answer…the GOP knew no Rebublican was going to win in ‘08 and he was the same sort of sacrificial lamb as was Dole in ‘96. If the Democrat party doesn’t find some intestinal fortitude–in a hurry–when it comes to “social programs,” which are predominantly pork projects, 2012 will find them all out on their asses! Alas, we’ll all find OURSELVES on our asses, as well…this just can’t go on!

  9. Tim Wallace says:

    While I completely agree that US policy in Afghanistan must be re-thought (ENDED, actually), I do not share your enthusiasm for “the dreams of the Obama administration” any more than I held any enthusiasm for the Bush administration.

    I, and many who share my views, are unable to sign on 100% with Brave New, precisely because so much is made of Obama and his agenda of continuing the and expanding the trend towards big-government despotism that has already been dominating Americans and plundering their wealth for decades.

    Americans need to not only rethink Afghanistan, they need to rethink their unquestioning support for any administration bent on continuing the bipartisan destruction of the American economy at home (including the present one), and the bipartisan agenda of empire abroad, which remains unchanged by the present administration — under the banner of “change” (go figure).

  10. Bird Dog says:

    So your objective is…oversight hearings? That’s the purpose of rethinkafghanistan.com? Seriously, what do you guys really want?

    As I recall, there was a counterinsurgency in Iraq that seemed to work pretty well.

  11. canadacares says:

    It has been disappointing for people everywhere that Obama has not really begun to institute any fundamental change in U.S. policies. His decision to virtually ignore the idea of a single payer national healthcare program in the U.S., and not even have it on the bargaining table is sad. ( http://www.democracynow.org/ )
    His unrelenting support for Israel, despite their breaking laws. His continuing negative and racist, yes racist, policies in Cuba and Haiti, are all indications that he is being controlled by big business interests. I'm just hoping that his environmental platform will work out. Very, very disappointing. Too bad Ralph Nader didn't have a shot. :)
    As far as Afghanistan is concerned, same old, the troops as individuals care about helping the people, but government policies are controlled by people who care more about having a government that will toe the line, and send wealth to the U.S., including the oil pipeline that is being created in Afghanistan. It's still, partly, about oil.

  12. canadacares says:

    It has been disappointing for people everywhere that Obama has not really begun to institute any fundamental change in U.S. policies. His decision to virtually ignore the idea of a single payer national healthcare program in the U.S., and not even have it on the bargaining table is sad. ( http://www.democracynow.org/ )
    His unrelenting support for Israel, despite their breaking laws. His continuing negative and racist, yes racist, policies in Cuba and Haiti, are all indications that he is being controlled by big business interests. I'm just hoping that his environmental platform will work out. Very, very disappointing. Too bad Ralph Nader didn't have a shot. :)
    As far as Afghanistan is concerned, same old, the troops as individuals care about helping the people, but government policies are controlled by people who care more about having a government that will toe the line, and send wealth to the U.S., including the oil pipeline that is being created in Afghanistan. It's still, partly, about oil.

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