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Ask Christian Parenti...

Watch the videoSubmit your questions to journalist, Christian Parenti, who recently returned from his fourth trip to Afghanistan. Parenti is a regular contributor to THE NATION and has written several books, the latest being , THE FREEDOM: SHADOWS AND HALLUCINATIONS IN OCCUPIED IRAQ.

Many have called Afghanistan, "The Forgotten Frontline," so here's your chance to learn more about this important and complicated region:

  • Curious what life is like on the ground in Afghanistan?
  • Confused about any of the many terms mentioned in the interview?
  • How does the conflict in Afghanistan compare with the war in Iraq?

Submit your questions now as comments to this post and Mr. Parenti will answer as many as he can. We'll get you his answers next week.

Photo: Robin Holland


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Why, when speaking of Afghanistan does lame-stream news lie? The Taliban practically destroyed the drug trade and the US brought it back! Fact is, the military are standing guard over the poppy fields. Another thing, since the US is involved in an ILLEGAL war (invasion) of Iraq & Afghanistan why does the rhetoric keep repeating that the military is over there "defending" the US. My question, everyone's question should be, "defending" the US from what? The fact that 911 was a US/Israel engineered crime is now almost fully understood by even the most intellectually challenged, so, again, what are the military "defending"? Not only are the US/Israel in the process of annihilating the native people of Palestine, but they are now using the excuse of "Al-CIA-da" in Pakistan to bomb that country and provoke a Pakistan/India war.

I've heard US military talk about Pakistan as a "rogue" country! What is the US/Israel then? What? US/Israel have, and are, using DU weapons, not to mention DIME and white phosphorus, illegal weapons under international law (but then the US/Israel know no law) on shepherds and babies!!!

And lest we forget the US is the ONLY country to actually USE nuclear weapons, and on a country that was already on its knees! But to hear the US/Israel tell it, they have to protect themselves from all those big, bad, boogy men waiting to throw rocks at them. Ugh! The lies told by the US/Israel and their "media" are an abomination!

FALSE FLAGS have proved a reliable way to initiate wars (invasions) throughout history, but the US/Israel have used up their quota long ago. Who can forget WTC 7 clearly visible behind that female talking head's shoulder as she declared how the building had collapsed! The media was in on it, told to say this & that, and they did which makes them complicit.

The cat is out of the bag and the so-called media (and its masters) will be brought to justice for its crimes-- and that day can't come soon enough.

does the population of the members of a particular church affects miracle

Lonnie D Story neglects to tell you that he is writing (or has written) a book about Dustin Brim. Someone convinced Mrs Brim, who Audrey writes about, that DU caused his unexplained illness and death. It most certainly was someone in the anti-DU crusade and Ms Parente has really lost her objectivity when she went out of her way and attacked me on another website. She was on an e-mail list that I sent information to because I mistakenly thought that she really was an investigative reporter. Story is an author in search of a paycheck so he wants you to Google Dustin Brim. None of this has anything to do with Afghanistan. I was hoping that Christian Parenti would help me get a good report on the Mohammed Daud Miraki story and expose him as a fraud. That has not happened.

I suggest that readers do a google search on "Dustin Brim" and read what Daytona Beach News Journal Investigative Reporter Audrey Parente wrote. Her non-biased interviews are documented and her interview with Dr. Johnnye Lewis at UNM can be listened to. Also her interview with Congressman Mc. Dermott among many others on all sides of the issue.

This is to Shannon Rudolph as well as Mr Parenti - Ms Rudolph, you have been completely mislead about depleted uranium, I suspect by an individual in Chicago who continues to solicit donations, but whose non-profit organization was shut down by the State of Illinois. I invite you to contact me and learn more about DU. I am posting information that I obtain about leading members of the anti-DU crusade at the Yahoo Group DUStory. You need to join the group to access the files and links areas, but there are no restrictions on membership.


The "DU Horror" as you call it is really science fiction that keeps the leading members of the crusade well fed and well travelled on your dime!
Unlike them, this is basically a "hobby" for me - I am not paid by anyone, have no DVD to sell you, make no paid lectures and solicit no donations. All I ask is that people examine the basic science with someone who actually knows the basic science, not a charlatan who spreads bad science fiction around the world.

First of all I would like to say that I really enjoyed listening to your thoughtful commentary on the situation in Afghanistan.

As a Canadian, I have listened to my share of controversy over the NATO mission in this country. I listened with particular interest when you talked about why the average American (or Canadian I assume) stationed in the country seems unable to articulate the complexity of the problems faced by this country or perhaps why it will not succeed in being pushed towards democracy.

Would you agree that the cultural differences between us are a real roadblock to progress? As a woman I am torn between a certain "barbarian" view of the Afghan culture, particularly as it applies to women, and a multi-cultural perspective on the situation. I do believe that our politicians and our armed forces also share this view and approach the problem with a certain amount of arrogance.
Thank-you for giving me pause to think about this issue. I look forwarward to reading your books now that I have had the chance to hear your story.

Very helpful

Mr. Parenti,
Thank you for your wonderful report on Afghanistan.
My question to you is What is the main interest for Americans to be in Afghanistan after all this time? It is merely to counterbalance the Iranian rise or to have a political-militar base for the region?
Could your give me your views.
Thank you in advance

my kudos to bill moyer on the last programs content including "wall street"/the airline distortion of $ to CEO'S VS. The laborer's to the episcopalian church, conflict within; a moving interview including christian parenti's expetise IN an area that few people in the USA know THE HISTORY, OR CULTURE THAT IS THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD. About a territory that the greatest conqueror of the world,ALEXANDER THE GREAT SAID "THIS IS TOO RUGGED,rough territory he has ever encountered, keep moving. My question regards education, without this program, many of us would never hear the truth. AND WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS WITH REGARD TO HOW MANY PEOPLE WATCH PUBLIC TV VS MAINSTREAM MEDIA. THE MAJORITY AREN'T EVEN INFORMED. LETS TAKE A CULTURE WHERE NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, IF YOU INVADE THEIR HOME AND SEE THEIR WOMAN IT WILL CAUSE THE MEN TO PICK UP THEIR GUN. REMINNDS ME OF NATIVE AMERICANS WHO WERE VIOLATED BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED IN THE GREAT SPIRIT. EDUCATING THE MILITARY MAY NOT BE PHEASABLE WHEN IT COMES TO A WAR ON TERROR. WHO IS CREATING THE THE TERROR? THE ONES BEING INVADED OR THE ONE'S TRYING TO PRESERVE THEIR OWN CULTURE AND WAY OF LIFE AND RESPECT. M HEIDE

Mr Parenti,

You mentioned the problem of cultural conservatism as a factor in the Afghan population's dissatisfaction with US-NATO military presence, giving the example of US-NATO troops violating sexual relations norms while searching houses of the native population. I was wondering if this example could be generalized across the entire Afghan population or if it should be more narrowly affixed to the culture of ethnic Pushtuns, who share their ethnic background with the Taliban and who are known for their tribal code of honor. What ethnic background was in the possession of the people whom you cite in the examples of cultural insensitivity committed by the coalition troops?

Any answers from you would be greatly appreciated and would also help me understand more clearly the cultural diversity, or homogeneity, of the Afghan people.

Thank you for your good work in reporting from a part of the world of which most people know very little.

I am sorry first of all for the loss of your friend and another innocent Afghan in this war of aggression. I just wanted to ask you if you thought the drug war in Afghanistan is directly related to our drug war in the carribean, central and south america but mostly Columbia. I am a Coast Guard Veteran who was involved in Cocaine interdiction.

Mr. Parenti,

I admire your objective and articulate assessment of Afghanistan.

After five years, what is the role of U.S. and NATO forces there? Are they combating terrorists, opium growers, or the Taliban?

Is the military mission in Afghanistan as vague as it is in Iraq, only with less public scrutiny?


Afghanistan might thrive as that aforementioned 'capitalistic economy' [democratic] industrial state if those many Poppy Fields were cultivated for use as 'Ethanol' as opposed to Heroin, thus rendering Afghanistan as the regional source for the development of Ethanol as a fuel. Simply take the crop of Poppies away from the drug lords and refine them, market them as Ethanol opening up industry in the Afghan Region. Put the Taliban to work earning suitable incomes so they need not be driven to piracy, and terrorism, as a means to an end. It should not be a crime to be Taliban, put them to work, let them earn a decent living too!

Addendum: My reference to "stupid Euro-American anti-drug-in-any-form moralizations" was not to any opinions you might hold, but rather to the prevailing ethos in Europe and the U. S. that is antagonistic to a government's involvement in any activity that is proscribed by its internal laws and senses of proper moral order. I apologize for stating something in such a way that it might be misconstrued.

Thank you, and Bill Moyers, for your insights on Afghanistan. It seems clear that the annual opium harvest is a pivotal problem. Not only does most of the crop get channeled into illicit trade, but it also funds the Taliban's efforts to take the country back--into the Dark Ages. An obvious solution would be for the NATO governments to buy each year's crop at a price higher than the Taliban would pay and then warehouse it outside the country, destroy it, or otherwise dispose of it through legitimate means. Putting stupid Euro-American anti-drug-in-any-form moralizations aside, do you think that such a program could possibly be implemented in Afghanistan? What would be the internal barriers there?

As I learned of the interview with Mr. Parenti on a wonderful independent journalist's webiste (he's been covering Afghanistan for over 27 years now and has some superb video coverage on his website plus comments from Afghanis themselves 'from the inside'), I'll reciprocate by posting this other journalist's website. His name is Arthur Kent and he is at

It is my understanding that the Attorney General for Afghanistan, a Mr. Sabet, was used by the US to 'ok' Guantanamo to the world and he was once on "Voice of America". Sabet was also an ally of Hekmatyar, a terrorist on the US most wanted list of terrorists and friend of bin Laden. Sabet, after his stint with VOA was denied residency status in the US. BUT Canada gave him not only residency status (in 1999 in Montreal where his wife and family live today) but also granted him citizenship in 2001 - so, in effect, we have the Attorney General of Afghanistan being a Canadian citizen. As our Cdn forces are in Aghanistan with NATO and have been for over 5 years, I have been trying to get answers from my Cdn government as to why we would grant citizenship to such a dubious and corrupt and unstable person as this Sabet has the reputation of being. To date, I have received no answers from anyone in our 'new' government. Do you know about this and just why this has been kept so quiet?

I am one of those "optimistic State Department types" who will posted to Kabul this July (for two years). While I find it hard to find disagreement with the general conclusions of Mr. Parenti's analysis, I have to hope that the tacit support for the Taliban can be diminished by a more tangible economic benefit, especially for the Pashtun tribes in particular, coming from increased investment, jobs, development aid, etc. There was relative - an all important caveat -- peace and stability in Afghanistan prior to 1973. Not a western democracy, perhaps, but not the Taliban either. Like it or not, we seem to have committed ourselves to nation building vice destroying militarily the Taliban and the rest of the insurgency. This means, nonetheless, an increase and more aggressive employment of military assets in country. One of the reasons for limiting the conventional troop presence in Afghanistan was to limit any resemblence to December 1979. However, if a surge in Afghanistan were to take place, what is your view, Mr. Parenti, of what the general public reaction would be? Tacit acceptance like that afforded the Taliban? Outright popular armed opposition? Something in between?

You commentary tonight is consistent with a lot of other analysis such as Senlis Council and U Victoria Global Studies Institute reports. With this obvious setting ourselves up for long term failure, how can we get Karzai and Bush to realize that Afghan farmers are entitled to be treated at least the equals of Turkish and Thai farmers who are allowed to sell poppies for the legitimate pharmaceutical market. What has been done to educate the policy makers of Afghanistan that if we are to be using the name of democracy - we need to begin practicing it - and we need to find a way for a single crop buyer agency such as the Canadian Wheat Board to mentor the Afghans on establishing a rational service like this. What have you encountered that may put some of this kind of policy together?

I have long been an admirer of you and your father. truth and integrity are hard to come by in reporting today.
This may seem off the subject but I started following your work when I was working to stop the private prisons in New Mexico several years ago when my 21 year old grandson died as a result of havig been in a Wackenhut prison.
It was during this time that I learned about that company as well as KBR, Bechtel and MTC of Abu Ghraib repute.Now here these companies are again, as profiteers in Iraq.
Do you have any plan to investigate the prison situation there and to relate them to US prisons? I do not believe the US has any intentions of leaving !raq or Afghanistan and I fear the proliferation of private prisons both here and abroad and perhaps drawing attention to this would help prove the real intentions of the US in establishing its world empire.
Most people do NOT understand the implications of the proliferation of prisons and permanent US bases!
I know I am putting this badly but we need your help and Bill Moyer's too!!!

If the US had kept 100,000 troops in Afghanistan instead of 17,ooo would we have had a different result today?
Would it do any good to bring in more troops there now?

Thank you for your courage in both fact gathering and reporting. What does the "average" Afghani think of people like John Walker Lindh (the American Taliban)? He found Osama, why can't our undercover agents?

Thank you Mr. Parenti for that eye opening honest interview on Afghanistan and the "War on Terror". I have a question bout your thoughts on why we haven't found Bin Laden. I think your explanation is correct. I have never really thought of it that way. My question is, why were we able to capture Saddam Hussein? Did he not have the support of those around him to protect him as Bin Laden does. Is it because he was seen as a dictator to his people instead of a liberator, or defender against the West?
Thank you again for your interview I thoroughly enjoyed what I learned from it.

Thank you for the most lucid, thoughtful look at what is happening there I have ever heard. In your opinion, what is the best option at this point for the US? Ever considered running for office?

I have 4 questions for Christian Parenti. Thanks for this opportunity.

1.)Why does the U.S. media not discuss ALL the destabilizing forces in Afghanistan & Iraq, including the U.S.'s own interest in destabilizing both countries (including some US companies)?

2.)Why has there never been any effort to send a capable international police/intel force into Pakistan to capture bin Laden & Zawahiri in the past 6 years? [Pakistan should allow such operations.]

3.)Why does the U.S. care if Iran is developing nuclear technology when Pakistan already has nuclear weapons and at best can be said to permit al-Qaida's presence & impunity within their country?

4.)Will you please discuss this conflict of interest: conservative political parties claim to stop terrorism, but they benefit politically from the violence & fear of attacks. What is their interest then in preventing attacks? [the policies & actions of both terrorists & conservatives benefit each other - i.e. promoting adversaries]

Thanks again.

I am a reporter for the Orange County Register covering the city of Laguna Niguel. I attended a program with Malalai Joya, a young woman member of the Afghan Parliament, and have her notes, as well as comments from a professor at the University of California, Irvine which contradict her claims of murders and terrorism by the Taliban. The prof (don't have my notes with me) claims things are improving in Afghanistan for women and the drug lords and war lords are not as powerful as Malalai claims. My question: Do you know of Joya and what are your thoughts about her?

Your passing thoughts on Pakistan, during the program, seem to presume Musharraf is somehow misleading (if not duping) us about his country's commitment. As you said, he can publish something here pitched to us, while saying quite different things at home.

Isn't he, instead, engaged in a fiercely difficult balancing act, one that any Pakistani leader today would HAVE to pursue in order to (a) survive, and (b) preserve order in a positive (and helpful) way?

Not that it wouldn't be better to do all that and build stronger and more legitimate institutions (e.g., not pick fights with a Supreme Court justice)...

But you could cut him a little slack.

Assuming the status quo, what will Afghanistan be like in 5 years? I have inklings of something like the "Great Game" of the 19th century. Is this what we will find ourselves in?

In your interview, the introduction of western style capitalism to Afghanistan was mentioned. Could it be argued capitalism is thriving in Afghanistan? Specifically, drug money being driven into real estate was mentioned. This seems capitalistic, just not in a way we are willing to tolerate. Have we created an economic monster?

Thanks for bringing this part of the world to my door step.

First of all, I really enjoyed your segment. I thought you said a lot of extremely insightful stuff in relation to the failing state. This is the type of journalism (on the ground, real, yet big picture) that we don't normally don't see, but perhaps is the most important type of journalism. I couldn't agree more that culture is often left out of the long-term solution and discussion. This type of stuff is just not being said. Kudos. I have two questions:

1 What should Congress be doing about Afghanistan (both in the short-term and long-term)? As a policy-maker what legislation, policy prescriptions, and solutions would you suggest?

2 What one piece of information should the government AND the general public be reading, that would shed light on the current ground situation, culture and future outlook in Afghanistan? Similarly, what specific solutions can help bridge the gap between the government/public and what is REALLY happening (and the big problems) in Afghanistan?

Thanks so much.


Thanks for the reporting. I've been a fan of yours and your father for quite some time now.

I wanted to ask you if you got the sense-- as obscene or cynical as it might seem-- that in Afghanistan as in Iraq, the actual objective of the US prescence is not to pacify the region, but to promote instability? What better way to ensure the continuation into the foreseeable future of the War on Terror than to create more recruits for the cause?

If this is combined with typical intelligence shennanigans, such as "false flag" operations, then it would be easy to see why the U.S. military is conducting itself the way it seems to be.


It's hard to know what questions to ask; almost as if one needs to understand the answers first.

I'm Canadian and our military folk have been in-country for a few years now. Word coming back to us seems to be that the mission of "bringing democracy" to Afghanis seems to be sufficient motivation. I'm not convinced that anyone (or any country) can, in fact, do that. I think societal evolution happens on its own time. I wonder if, in your research, you have come across any non-fiction examples of such foreign "imperialist" (if I might use the non-pejorative dictionary definition) interventions have actually had the publicly-stated intended result (after some "reasonable" period of time has elapsed)? (Understanding, of course, that NATO is not the only imperialist influence in-country).

Perhaps the political geography of the region and what I, in my ignorance, understand to be a more-or-less constant stream of interlopers criss-crossing (and destabilizing) Afghanistan conspire against any sort of stable country, democratic or otherwise. Comments?

If you have read "Three Cups of Tea" (Greg Mortenson)... If one was to compare Mortenson's actions to the NATO actions in the area, have you an opinion as to which sort would most likely cause the local population (both men & women) to say, in several years time, that they are free to live as they wish and believe what they wish.

Is there an argument to be made that this adminsitration blundered in redirecting focus to Iraq and Saddam Hussein?

Would we--and Afghanistan--be better off today if we had stayed there, thoroughly dealt with the Taliban, supported a democratic change in government and rebuilt that country as a model for "freedom and democracy" the Middle East? Would such an endeavor have been possible?

I'm hearing reports on how Afghanistan is at its "50/50" point (or tipping point). How do you feel about this, and is Afghanistan starting to lean towards a certain way?

Thank you.
Have you been tested for depleted uranium poisoning? What the hell have we done? How will we ever fix the DU horror in the Middle East and in towns near training ranges across our own country?

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