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September 22, 2010

The JOURNAL's Emmy Nominees

Update: THE GOOD SOLDIER WON the Emmy Award! Three JOURNAL programs have been nominated for Emmy Awards: "LBJ's Path to War: A Tale of Two Quagmires," Bill Moyers' interview with writer and producer David Simon and the JOURNAL's presentation of the documentary THE GOOD SOLDIER. You can watch ""LBJ's Path to War" and the David Simon interview in their entirety online below. You can watch an excerpt from THE GOOD SOLDIER too.

And, if you're in New York City you can view THE GOOD SOLIDER at the Quad Cinema, from September 24 through September 30, (34 W. 13th St. (5th & 6th Aves.), 212-255-8800, Showtimes: 1:00, 2:40, 4:20, 6:00, 7:40*, 9:40*)

Continue reading "The JOURNAL's Emmy Nominees" »


April 16, 2010

How Much Is Your Community Spending on America's Wars?

At the Cost of War, a Web site sponsored by the National Priorities Project, you can find out how much money your community has spent - and continues to spend - on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tell us how much money your community has contributed to the wars.

Do you believe the wars are the best use of your tax dollars? If not, what do you think would have been a better use of your money?


April 9, 2010

Can the U.S. Military Achieve Victory in Afghanistan?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

In this week's JOURNAL, Bill Moyers sat down with historian, retired Colonel, and military expert Andrew Bacevich to discuss America's "long war" in Afghanistan, which is now in its ninth year.

On a recent trip to Afghanistan, President Obama said in a speech to U.S. troops that the war is a "vital mission" and that he is determined to achieve victory:

"Your services are absolutely necessary, absolutely essential to America's safety and security... If this region slides backwards, if the Taliban retakes this country and al Qaeda can operate with impunity, then more American lives will be at stake... You will be backed up by a clear mission and the right strategy to finish the job, to get the job done. And I am confident all of you are going to get the job done right here in Afghanistan... That's why I ordered more troops and civilians here into Afghanistan shortly after taking office. That's why we took a hard look and forged a new strategy and committed more resources in December... Our broad mission is clear: We are going to disrupt and dismantle, defeat and destroy al Qaeda and its extremist allies... There's going to be setbacks. We face a determined enemy. But we also know this: The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something. You don't quit, the American armed services does not quit, we keep at it, we persevere, and together with our partners we will prevail."

Bacevich suggested U.S. military leadership has largely given up on the hope of a traditional military victory and that armed nation-building in Afghanistan is not an appropriate task for our troops:

"One of the most interesting and perplexing things that's happened in the past three, four years is that in many respects, the officer corps itself has given up on the idea of military victory... they say that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, that we will not win a military victory, that the only solution to be gained - if there is one - is through bringing to success this project of armed nation-building. What makes that interesting to a military historian of my Vietnam generation is that the collective purpose of the officer corps after Vietnam, this humiliation that we had experienced, was to demonstrate that war works, that war could be purposeful, that out of collision on the battlefield would come decision [and] victory... The officer corps has, I think, unwittingly forfeited its claim to providing a unique and important service to American society. Why, if indeed the purpose of the exercise in Afghanistan is - to put it crudely - drag this country into the modern world, why put a four-star general in charge of that? Why not put a successful mayor of a big city? Why not put a legion of social reformers? Because the war in Afghanistan is not a war as the American military traditionally conceives of war."

What do you think?

  • Do you believe that U.S. troops can achieve military victory in Afghanistan? Why or why not?

  • What objectives in Afghanistan are attainable and how should the U.S. work to achieve them?


  • January 15, 2010

    Peace Through Education

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with humanitarian Greg Mortenson, best-selling author of THREE CUPS OF TEA and STONES INTO SCHOOLS, about his work promoting education and building schools in remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Mortenson said:

    "I really think that fighting terrorism is based in fear, but promoting peace is based in hope... Peace is about hope, it's about compassion, it's about love. It doesn't mean we just go around the world holding hands and drinking tea and having peace. But I really do believe that there's a lot of power behind love and compassion and respecting and listening to people. Obviously there are atrocities happening, and we witness and hear about them daily. One thing I noticed, having met some former Taliban, is even they as children grew up being indoctrinated. They grew up in violence. They grew up in war. They were taught to hate... One thing we do is hire former Taliban to teach in our schools... They've become now our greatest advocates for education. They're willing to go out into the most volatile areas and promote education."

    Other voices have emphasized that the Taliban still represent a dangerous threat to the region. Another humanitarian working in Afghanistan, Sarah Chayes, told Bill Moyers a year ago that she believes many troops are necessary to protect Afghan civilians and maintain stability. She said:

    "At this point the Taliban kind of military campaign plan is effective enough that you do need troops to prevent them from making military encroachments that are really dangerous. You also need troops to protect the population from the Taliban. There are people who don't like the Taliban but may kind of knuckle under to them because, on the one hand, the government isn't doing anything better for them. And the Taliban are going to kill them if they don't visibly divide themselves away from the government. So you need to be able to protect people from that kind of an intimidation campaign, and that takes troops."

    What do you think?

  • Do you believe Greg Mortenson's work building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan will contribute to achieving peace in that troubled region?

  • Do you think that missions like Mortenson's to promote education can affect other problems elsewhere in the world? Explain.


  • December 4, 2009

    Michael Winship: The Afghan Ambush

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    "The Afghan Ambush"
    By Michael Winship

    The decision has been made. The months of meetings and briefings are over. Tuesday night, the President made it official: 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. Along with Friday’s announcement of an additional 7,000 from our NATO allies, after all those weeks of debate and consultation, the result’s pretty much exactly what our commander over there, General Stanley McChrystal, asked for in the first place.

    As they used to say in the old war movies, we’re in it now, up to our necks. More than ever, this is Obama’s War. The mess he inherited from the previous administration is now his mess. And while many Republicans may don their helmets, rattle their empty rusty scabbards and shout that escalation is the only way to go, their temporary declarations of support are just that – temporary. Pats on the back are simply their way of finding the proper place to stick the knife.

    Last week's Gallup Poll showed that while 65 percent of Republicans support sending all the troops McChrystal wants, only 17 percent of Obama's own Democrats do; 57 percent want a troop reduction. In other words, ignoring the entreaties of a majority in his own party Obama is going to war cheered on by the opposition that will do everything in its power next fall to bring him and his fellow Democrats down.

    Continue reading "Michael Winship: The Afghan Ambush" »


    November 20, 2009

    A Tale of Two Quagmires

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers looked back some four decades to his experience as a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s administration. At the time, Johnson made a series of fateful decisions to escalate the war in Vietnam, where eventually over two million American military personnel would serve. Estimates indicate that nearly 60,000 U.S. troops – and more than a million Vietnamese – were killed during the course of the conflict.

    With an eye on President Obama’s deliberations on whether to deploy more U.S. troops in addition to the 68,000 already in Afghanistan, Moyers presented a montage of recorded conversations and his personal memories of President Lyndon Johnson’s decisions to escalate the war in Vietnam. He said:

    “Our country wonders this weekend what is on President Obama’s mind. He is apparently about to bring months of deliberation to a close and answer General Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan. When he finally announces how many, why, and at what cost, he will most likely have defined his presidency, for the consequences will be far-reaching and unpredictable. As I read and listen and wait with all of you for answers, I have been thinking about the mind of another President – Lyndon B. Johnson. I was 30 years old, a White House assistant, working on politics and domestic policy. I watched and listened as LBJ made his fateful decisions about Vietnam... Barack Obama is not Lyndon Johnson, Afghanistan is not Vietnam and this is now, not then. The situation is different. But listen – and you will hear echoes and refrains that resonate today.”

    The nation is divided about America’s mission in Afghanistan. In a new WASHINGTON POST – ABC News poll, 55% of respondents expressed confidence that President Obama will pick a strategy that will work, but 52% said that the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting given the costs versus the benefits.

    What do you think?

  • How does the history of the Vietnam War compare to the present situation in Afghanistan?

  • What decisions do you think Obama should make regarding Afghanistan? What do you think he's actually going to do? Explain.


  • November 5, 2009

    Bill Moyers Essay: Restoring Accountability for Washington's Wars

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    We invite you to respond in the space below.


    October 30, 2009

    WEB EXCLUSIVE: Glenn Greenwald

    Acclaimed blogger Glenn Greenwald, recipient of the Park Center for Independent Media Izzy Award, spoke with Bill Moyers this week for the special web-exclusive conversation below.
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    September 25, 2009

    Obama's Strategy for Afghanistan... and the Next Election

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, guest host Lynn Sherr talked with Rory Stewart, an expert on Afghanistan and director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, for his perspective on America’s lengthy war in that fractured country.

    In a recently leaked memo, the United States’ top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, recommended that the Obama administration send tens of thousands of troops – or, he wrote, the mission “will likely end in failure.” Facing increasing skepticism about the war from Congress and the general public, President Obama has so far delayed his decision on troop levels.

    Rory Stewart argued that our stated goals for Afghanistan – routing the Taliban, banishing al-Qaeda, and restoring a functioning government – are unrealistic. He believes that the United States should deploy a much smaller force devoted to stopping al-Qaeda from rebuilding a base in Afghanistan rather than risk provoking a public backlash against any presence there at all. Regardless of what President Obama may personally desire, however, Stewart said that political and electoral pressures will likely compel him to deploy more troops:

    “I think it's very irresponsible – if you care about Afghanistan – to increase troops much more, because I can see us going from engagement to isolation, from troop increases to total withdrawal. The path the President has started us on, I would predict, would mean that in five, six years time, everybody will simply get fed up with Afghanistan and abandon it entirely.... I think it would be a political catastrophe for the president to refuse to accede to a request from the man on the ground... He’s a civilian president... He’s under attack already from the right for being soft on national security... The General has provided his advice, and I would be extremely surprised if the President doesn’t come out in favor. In fact, my guess is that a lot of the talk about skepticism at the moment is an attempt to try to deal with opposition within his same party.”

    What do you think?

  • Should more U.S. troops be deployed in Afghanistan? Why or why not?

  • Do you agree with Stewart that sending in more troops will soon turn public opinion against any involvement in Afghanistan? Explain.

  • Do you think Obama would sustain major political damage if he chose not to send more troops into Afghanistan? If so, should he send troops if it helps him pursue the rest of his agenda?


  • September 11, 2009

    Michael Winship: Marine's Photo Reminds Us of War that Will Not End

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    "Marine's Photo Reminds Us of War that Will Not End"
    By Michael Winship

    There was a certain ironic and painful symmetry at work last month. As one iconic image of war was called into doubt, another was being created, a new photograph of combat’s grim reality that already has generated controversy and anger.

    When it was first published in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, Robert Capa’s photo was captioned “Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death.” Better known today as “The Falling Soldier,” the picture purportedly captures the gunning down of a Republican anarchist named Federico Borrell Garcia who was fighting against the forces of General Francisco Franco. Dressed in what look like civilian clothes, wearing a cartridge belt, he is thrown backwards in an almost balletic swoon, his rifle falling from his right hand.

    The picture quickly came to symbolize the merciless and random snuffing out of life in wartime – that murder committed in the name of God or country can strike unexpectedly, from a distance, like lightning from a cloudless sky.

    Continue reading "Michael Winship: Marine's Photo Reminds Us of War that Will Not End" »


    June 5, 2009

    POLL: Regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, Is Obama "Old Wine in a New Bottle?"

    In his conversation with Bill Moyers, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill was critical of President Obama’s use of private military contractors and his war policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “I think what we’re seeing, under President Barack Obama, is sort of old wine in a new bottle. Obama is sending one message to the world, but the reality on the ground, particularly when it comes to private military contractors, is that the status quo remains from the Bush era... There’s no question that Obama inherited an absolute mess from President Bush, but the reality is that Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan right now and is maintaining the occupation of Iraq... You have hundreds of people held without charges. You have people that are being denied access to the Red Cross in violation of international law. And you have an ongoing position by the Obama administration, formed under Bush, that these prisoners don't have a right to habeas corpus... The fact is that this man is governing over a policy that is killing a tremendous number of civilians.”

    We invite you to take our poll and share your thoughts in the space below.



    Michael Winship: The Privatization of Obama's War

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    ''The Privatization of Obama's War''
    By Michael Winship

    The sudden reappearance of former Vice President Dick Cheney over the last few months – seeming to emerge from his famous undisclosed location more frequently now than he ever did when he was in office – does not mean six more weeks of winter. But it does bring to mind that classic country and western song, “How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?”

    Or, maybe, “If You Won’t Leave Me, I’ll Find Someone Who Will.”

    In his self-appointed role as voice of the opposition, Mr. Cheney has been playing Nostradamus, gloomily predicting doom if the Obama White House continues to set aside Bush administration policy, setting the stage for recrimination and finger-pointing should there be another terrorist attack on America.

    Cheney’s grouchy legacy is the gift that keeps on giving. Just this week, THE WASHINGTON POST reported for the first time that while vice president, Cheney oversaw “at least” four of those briefings given to senior members of Congress about enhanced interrogation techniques; “part of a secretive and forceful defense he mounted throughout 2005 in an effort to maintain support for the harsh techniques used on detainees…

    “An official who witnessed one of Cheney’s briefing sessions with lawmakers said the vice president’s presence appeared to be calculated to give additional heft to the CIA’s case for maintaining the program.”

    And remember Halliburton, the international energy services company of which Cheney used to be the CEO? After the fall of Baghdad, Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR were the happy recipients of billions of dollars in outside contracts to take care of the military and rebuild Iraq’s petroleum industry. Waste, shoddy workmanship (like faulty wiring that caused fatal electric shocks) and corruption ran wild, Pentagon investigators allege, even as Vice President Cheney was still receiving deferred compensation and stock options.

    Continue reading "Michael Winship: The Privatization of Obama's War" »


    February 20, 2009

    Bill Moyers on Sending More Troops to Afghanistan

    Concluding this week's JOURNAL, Bill Moyers delivered the following commentary on President Barack Obama's decision to send nearly 50% more troops to Afghanistan.
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    For more JOURNAL coverage of the situation in Afghanistan, you may wish to explore Bill Moyers' recent conversations with former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes and experts Pierre Sprey and Marilyn B. Young.

    We invite you to respond in the space below.

    January 30, 2009

    Is a Military Strategy the Best Option in Afghanistan?

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    In the wake of the recent American missile attacks in Pakistan, this week’s JOURNAL explored U.S. bombing policies and how they affect U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and the region. Bill Moyers asked historian Marilyn B. Young and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey about the effectiveness of targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants when the casualties include civilians.

    Sprey said:

    “What happens on the ground is for every one of those impacts you get five or ten times as many recruits for the Taliban as you've eliminated. The people that we’re trying to convince to become adherents to our cause have become rigidly hostile to our cause in part because of bombing and in part because of other killing of civilians from ground forces. We’re dealing with a society that’s based on honor... They have to resist being invaded, occupied, bombed and killed. It’s a matter of honor, and they’re willing to die in unbelievable numbers to do that.”

    Young said:

    “The problem is [that] the focus remains a military solution to what all the other information I have says is a political problem. I don’t care how you slice the military tactic. So long as your notion is that you can actually deal with this in a military way, you’re just going to march deeper and deeper into what Pete Seeger called ‘The Big Muddy”... The point is, if you can’t figure out a political way to deal in Afghanistan then you can only compound the compound mess.”

    In contrast, former NPR journalist Sarah Chayes, who has lived and worked in Afghanistan for seven years, told Bill Moyers in December that more U.S. troops need to be deployed there.

    “At this point the Taliban kind of military campaign plan is effective enough that you do need troops to prevent them from making military encroachments that are really dangerous. You also need troops to protect the population from the Taliban. There are people who don't like the Taliban but may kind of knuckle under to them because, on the one hand, the government isn't doing anything better for them. And the Taliban are going to kill them if they don't visibly divide themselves away from the government. So you need to be able to protect people from that kind of an intimidation campaign, and that takes troops.”

    What do you think?

  • Should the U.S. continue to bomb and otherwise target suspected militants if civilians might be killed as well? Why or why not?

  • President Obama reportedly plans to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan without a timetable for withdrawal. Do you support increasing the American military presence there? Explain.

  • Marilyn B. Young calls for a “political way to deal in Afghanistan.” What political steps might the U.S. take to improve the situation?


  • December 19, 2008

    Guest Blogger: Sarah Chayes on Negotiating with the Taliban

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    There was one issue Bill and I did not have time to address in our interview today: the notion of negotiating with the Taliban.

    It has been startling to witness the parade of international policy-makers, not to mention members of the Afghan government, now opining that way out of that country's gut-wrenching situation is to cut a deal with those who are victimizing its population. For, make no mistake, no matter how this prospect may be packaged, "reconciliation" with Taliban, at the level at which exploration is now underway, will involve some kind of power-sharing.

    The proponents of this approach rest their case on a couple of fallacies. One is that "no insurgency has ever been defeated without negotiation" -- one of those assertions that takes on the force of truth by dint of repetition. It ignores all the diversity in texture and outcomes of insurrections down the years. Not to mention the question of whether what is happening in Afghanistan can really be called an insurgency.

    This is not just a matter of semantics. The second fallacy, which I have heard perpetuated even by some Kabul-based Afghans, is that the Pashtuns in the Afghan south generally favor the Taliban. I live in Kandahar, the former heartland of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. I have lived there since the week he was chased out. I can attest that the support for the Karzai regime and its international backers at that time, and for the next several years, was unanimous. Kandaharis suffered the worst punishment at the hands of the draconian Taliban regime, and were delighted by its demise, and filled with hope for the new chapter in their nation's history that opened in December 2001.

    Two things have happened since then. One is that the Pakistani military intelligence agency has been diligently reconstituting the Taliban which it first created in 1994. The injection of this newly reconstituted Taliban back into Afghanistan represents something closer to an invasion by proxy than it does an insurgency. And secondly, Afghans, including Pashtuns in the south, have been bitterly disappointed by the behavior of the Karzai government. The word "corruption" does not do justice to the scale of the phenomenon.

    Continue reading "Guest Blogger: Sarah Chayes on Negotiating with the Taliban" »


    Changing U.S. Policy for Afghanistan?

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with former NPR journalist Sarah Chayes, who has lived and worked in Afghanistan for seven years, about her experiences and thoughts on what course the United States should pursue there.

    Expanding on her WASHINGTON POST guest column that criticized the "appalling behavior" of U.S.-backed officials who are often drawn from repressive pre-Taliban regimes, Chayes said:

    “What we've really done is set up a monopoly on the exercise of power. It's the opposite of everything that we consider to be democracy -- we've allowed an abusive concentration of power in the hands of the executives, in particular, on a local level like the provincial governors and their acolytes. Because we've convinced ourselves and often we have to -- and by "we" I mean us and our NATO allies -- convince our own public opinion that this is a democratically elected representative government of Afghanistan in order to justify the sacrifices in money and troops and things like that. But the Afghans see it differently... They are all telling me, 'You brought these people back into Afghanistan. We had repudiated them in the early 1990s.. You brought them in and now you're backing them up, and you are making it impossible for us to make our voices heard and have any leverage on the behavior of these people.'”

    American troops have been fighting in Afghanistan for more than seven years since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. In an appeal to rethink U.S. policies there, journalist Eric Margolis suggested that Afghan history and culture undermine prospects of military victory and successful nation-building:

    “Everything that happens in Afghanistan is based on tribal politics. Taliban came from the heart of the Pashtun tribal grouping, the world's largest tribe which also accounts for up to 20% of Pakistan's population. Tribal and clan loyalties trump all political alliances... Today, U.S. and NATO forces are not fighting 'terrorists' in Afghanistan but a loose alliance of Pashtun warrior tribes whose resistance to foreign occupation is legendary. They are descendants of the same Pashtun mountain warriors who battled Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the British Empire and the Soviet Union. All these invaders were eventually defeated... In Afghanistan, we are not fighting "terrorists" but a medieval tribal people who just want to be left alone.”

    What do you think?

  • Can the United States and NATO change Afghanistan for the better? Why or why not?
  • Given Afghan history and culture, do you think a functioning modern government is possible there? Why? If not, what should be the goals of the next administration?


  • November 14, 2008

    Deborah Amos Asks: What is the Measure of Success in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    (Photos by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, guest host Deborah Amos spoke with journalist Elizabeth Rubin and author Fred Kaplan about policies the United States might pursue in Afghanistan and throughout the region, and how we can evaluate how much progress occurs.

    Amos asked:

    “When the Bush administration took on Afghanistan and then Iraq, there was this notion that we were involved in a democracy-building operation. And then there was talk even in the campaign about victory, that there would be a way that we would know that it was time to leave, that it was over. Those ideas have really lost currency. Is there a measure of success in these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?”

    Rubin said:

    “I think the measure of success is when they’re not in the news anymore, when they start to just become countries that are existing on their own... When there’s a certain kind of stability and a country is being built, it’s going to be a lot less newsworthy than when you have Afghans getting killed every day, Americans getting killed everyday... But you’re not going to have one day that’s going to signify the end.”

    What do you think?

  • Should the United States remain in Iraq and Afghanistan until they become democracies? If not, at what point of “success” should U.S. forces withdraw?
  • Should democratizing foreign countries be an objective of U.S. foreign policy? If so, how much of a priority should it be?
  • Are all nations capable of democratic governance? Why or why not?


  • April 1, 2008

    Bill Moyers Rewind: After The War (2002)

    In 2002, NOW WITH BILL MOYERS broadcast this report about aid workers in Afghanistan. From producer William Brangham, the story follows Dominic MacSorley and the aid organization CONCERN WORLDWIDE, also featured in this week's report about aid workers in the Congo.
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    We invite you to respond in the space below.

    February 22, 2008

    Policies for the "Forgotten War"

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Conversing with Bill Moyers on this week’s JOURNAL, former NPR journalist Sarah Chayes discussed many of the complex challenges on the ground in Afghanistan, including what she suggests is a fundamental contradiction in American strategy:

    “We’re paying a billion dollars a year to Pakistan, which is orchestrating the Taliban insurgency. So it’s actually U.S. taxpayer money that is paying for the insurgents, who are then killing – at the moment – Canadian troops... It’s been very clear to me, watching since 2002, that Pakistan has been buying us off by a well-timed delivery of an al-Qaeda operative, which has then caused us to look the other way about the Taliban... so this is why 99 % of the people in Kandahar believe that we are allied with the Taliban. Everybody thinks that America is allied with the Taliban.”

    What do you think?

  • Should the United States remain in Afghanistan? Why or why not?

  • If the U.S. should remain, what should our mission be? Counter-terrorism? Democratization? Nation-building?

  • How do you suggest reformulating U.S. policy and strategy to realistically pursue that mission?

    Note: We’d like to thank Sarah Chayes for adding to the discussion on the blog. Her responses are in bold below.


  • October 18, 2007

    Ask Jeremy Scahill...

    (Can't Play This Video? Click here for quicktime and windows media versions)

    Since the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians on September 16 by Blackwater contractors, which is currently under investigation by the FBI and the State Department, newspapers, talk shows and blogs have been buzzing with debate over the implications of a growing private sector "army" fighting alongside US Military officials in Iraq. Many believe these hired soldiers have not been properly held accountable for their mistakes.

    Founder and CEO of Blackwater, Erik Prince, recently made the rounds defending his company as a patriotic extension of the US Armed Forces, simply fulfilling the security demands of a military stretched thin.

    After watching Bill Moyers' interview with investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill , who has been covering Blackwater for more than three years, do questions still linger about this complicated issue?

    Who's funding these private security contractors? Who's giving them their day-to-day orders? Who supplies their equipment and transport vehicles? Under which rule of law are they held accountable? Here's your chance to ask the expert.

    Submit your questions to Scahill by commenting below. We will post his responses to select questions early next week.

    Photo: Robin Holland


    June 27, 2007

    Story Updates

    More Capitol Crimes...
    Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle sentenced J. Steven Griles to 10 months in prison for obstructing an investigation into the Jack Abramoff scandal. As you probably remember, Griles is the former energy lobbyist that became the Deputy Secretary of the Interior in 2001, until he resigned the post in 2004 to set up his own lobbing firm. From a recent WASHINGTON POST story:

    Griles asked Abramoff for favors for the women in his life, prosecutors said, and in exchange helped Abramoff's clients with their government business. One of Griles's girlfriends, Italia Federici, got $500,000 for her nonprofit from Abramoff's Indian tribes.

    "I concealed the nature and extent of my true relationship with Italia Federici," Griles confessed to the judge yesterday in a statement interrupted by stifled sobs. Choking out the words, a burly, red-faced Griles told Huvelle that "this has been the most difficult time in my life. My guilty plea has brought me great shame and embarrassment."

    Capitol Crimes, the recent Moyers report about Jack Abramoff and the dark side of American politics, can be viewed online in its entirety here. Also, for information about Griles and the revolving door, check out this story from NOW with Bill Moyers from May 30, 2003.

    Continue reading "Story Updates" »


    June 11, 2007

    Christian Parenti Answers Your Questions...

    We'd like to thank Christian Parenti for taking the time to respond so thoroughly to many of your important comments and inquiries.

    Click here for a glossary of many of the terms mentioned in these answers.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Mr. Parenti are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


    Photo: Robin Holland
    ------------------------------

    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?

    Posted by: Bruce from Houston | June 9, 2007 07:24 PM

    Bruce,
    The NATO mission is to stabilize Afghanistan. So they fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda and Hezb–e-Islami. After three years in Afghanistan, NATO got more serious about opium, mostly due to US domestic political pressure. The war is classic counterinsurgency: attacking the civilian base of the rebel population, kick in doors, look for weapons, search, arrest, infuriate all the men in the village while you do it. And later on the way back to base something goes bang under your Humvee. The Taliban have willing recruits but they also pay farmers to attack the NATO troops.

    I think it is all rather hopeless.
    CP

    ------------------------------

    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 crisscrossing (and destabilizing) Afghanistan conspire against any sort of stable country, democratic or otherwise. Comments?

    Posted by: Ken Pantton | June 8, 2007 08:34 PM

    Dear Ken,
    You raise very central questions. I suppose settler colonialism after long periods of blood shed and oppression for native population tend to yield democracy and development, but other than that (and I am not endorsing settler colonialism) I think empire building is an unhelpful thing that tends only to serve the elite population (not even the majority) of the imperial power and rarely ever “the native”, as the Anti-imperialist Frantz Fannon would have put it.

    In many ways, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan were all rather similar at one time but Turkey had Atatürk, and Iran had Reza Shah. Afghanistan had a weak monarchy that was never able to subdue its rural landlords, bandits and tribes; it was never able to build a modern centralized state. After 1949 there was another problem: irredentist conflict with Pakistan. The Durand line, a border drawn up the British in 1893, translated into huge territorial losses for Afghanistan. It’s been a low level war between the two states ever since. You can lay that template on top of this war just as easily as upon the anti-Soviet Jihad, though each conflict also has its unique feature there is always this issue of the Durand line separating Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    CP

    ------------------------------

    Continue reading "Christian Parenti Answers Your Questions..." »


    June 8, 2007

    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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