Rethink Afghanistan (2009)
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Rethink Afghanistan, a public policy documentary -Film Review by Bev Questad Vietnam Redux At the close of this small college screening a frustrated man stood up and said, “Let’s all pitch in a buck to buy a copy for Barak Obama.” Fifty bucks later the organizer had enough to send it special delivery. Why are we there? What do we have to gain? Who wants us there? When and how do we get out? In 2003 83% of the Afghans had a favorable view of the US. By 2009 the figure had slipped to 47%. Many of the Afghans are now so miserable, hungry and dispossessed that they want to die. Rethink Afghanistan is a compilation of interviews with people in the US government and US military establishment, in positions of power in the Arab and Indian political worlds and people from American think tanks. It captures statements from people who head up non-governmental agencies, political pundits, university professors, religious leaders and people from Afghanistan. They speak out unanimously for an end to American military presence in Afghanistan. This includes John Kerry, who reminds the audience of similarities to an unwinnable war some years ago. An old woman who lost all but four grandchildren from a town hit (collateral damage) by US drones cries out from the rain in a muddy refugee camp that she hates her life and wants to die. A man, holding his 4-year old daughter screams out with tears that he is looking to sell his daughter so that she can be fed. Both the old woman and the four-year old are dead within 6 months. While Americans are under the assumption that we are fighting a war against terrorism, General Petraeus, Head of the US Central Command, remarks that “Al Qaeda is no longer operating in Afghanistan.” Tariq Ali, historian and newspaper editor, states that the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan is the single most powerful force impacting the resurgence of the development of the oppressive Taliban throughout the region. It is pointed out that in today’s dollars it cost the US 50k to support a soldier during one year of WWII. Today it costs the US $775,000 to support a soldier in Afghanistan. Military personnel lament the lack of oversight or accountability for sub-contracted work. While it costs $700 to create a well in Afghanistan, after the negotiations go through numerous hands the US is paying 10K. Rethink Afghanistan is organized into segments representing US Troops, Pakistani involvement, war costs, civilian casualties, the status of women, a CIA security report and solutions. This is news at its crucial, most fundamental essence, produced by Brave New Foundation, a production company formed by Robert Greenwald to educate people using technical systems that allowed real-time viewing as this film was in process. All of the segments of this film can be accessed for free off the internet at: http://rethinkafghanistan.com/videos.php that makes a difference.” The most stunning responses, replete with evidenced, narrative reports and statistics were the answers to the following questions: Were women liberated in 2001 with the US presence in Afghanistan? Why is the Pakistani army allied with the Taliban and a part of the problem? How does US presence in the area benefit the surrounding nations? What are the benefits for the US? The annual US cost for this war is 36 billion dollars. In a land where there is 40% unemployment, the Taliban pays $8 a day for soldiers. One tenth of the current US budget there would create 100% employment along with vocational training, bridge and infrastructure construction, teacher training, open schooling for all, and free medical coverage for everyone. The Rand Corp. advises that intrusion provokes rebellion and that terrorism won’t be defeated by an invading occupation. Rethink Afghanistan needs a little debate, perhaps some comments by contrarian Christopher Hitchens who wrote in Slate Sept.7, 2009, “But we don't have the right to forget why we are in Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place: to make up for past crimes of both omission and commission and to help safeguard emergent systems of self-government that have the same deadly enemies as we do and to which, not quite incidentally, we gave our word.” As a compromise, Rethink Afghanistan suggests that the US re-delegate its financial commitment from aggression to positive constructivism. Perhaps like Brazil, the US could redeploy the military as agents of social and economic enhancement, supporting economic and social development rather than tearing it down through the perpetuation of a war zone. Perhaps cynics are simply in the process of ignoring or giving up the fight, acknowledging that the US military industrial complex is embedded in world culture and war is its proverbial carrion sustenance. However, notables like Robert Greenwald are using their time, money and reputation standing up for truth and justice with a courage of conviction that defines and celebrates a noble human character. CREDITS Director: Robert Greenwald - Executive Director: Jim Miller - Producer: Jason Zaro - Associate Producer: Dallas Dunn, Jonathan Kim, and Kim Huynh - Researcher: Greg Wishnev - Editor: Phillip Cruess - Political Director: Leighton Woodhouse - VP Marketing & Distribution: Laura Beatty - Production Assistant: Monique Hairston A film from Brave New Foundation Theatrical Release: Oct. 2, 2009 Screenings: http://rethinkafghanistan.com/screenings/ DVD Release: 2009 MPAA: Not Rated Runtime: 75 minutes Country: USA Language: English Color Website: http://rethinkafghanistan.com
Shocking, scary, and gruesome at times but overall fascinatingly enlightening as it dives deep into the seemingly simple question of why the United States remains in Afghanistan. It sent me through a roller coaster of emotions, even one emotion I did not expect to have, hope. The film contains unique and sometimes disturbing footage from the streets of Afghanistan to its refugee camps but one can't deny the sincerity that overflows throughout. A must see.
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