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*)
Below is an article by Public Affairs Television senior writer Michael Winship.
The Wall and the Mosque: Divide and Unite
By Michael Winship
The current fight over the building of an Islamic study center near Ground Zero here in Manhattan is reminiscent of another battle nearly thirty years ago. Then, too, ignorance, rage and prejudice threatened to destroy the creation of something intended to help mend a grievous wound and foster understanding and reconciliation.
In May 1981, a jury of architects and sculptors announced the results of a nationwide competition to design a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Congress had authorized the setting aside of three acres of National Park Service land near the Lincoln Memorial. More than 1400 design submissions came in, so many they took up more than 35,000 square feet in a hangar at Andrews Air Force Base outside the capital. Each entry was numbered so that the identities of those submitting remained anonymous.
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?
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.
"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.
This week, the JOURNAL presented a shortened version of a new documentary film, THE GOOD SOLDIER, which explores how the experience of combat irrevocably changed the lives of four veterans of America’s various war efforts.
One of those featured, Jimmy Massey, who served in Iraq earlier this decade, described what it was like for him to return to the United States:
“You first come home and you immediately forget about everything. You go to McDonald’s and you go to all your favorite restaurants and you do all your favorite things and you’re having a great time, and you know… And then all of sudden you wake up one day and you’re like-- wait a minute. I’m not having a good time any more. I’m starting to think about this, and I’m starting to think about that, because all the newness has worn off. You’re home. I’m alive. I got my arms, I got my legs, I’m alive. But then the mind, the mind starts catching up with everything else. I found myself going through my gear, prepping like I’m getting ready to go to combat. I mean I even look for suicide bombers, you know, anything out of the ordinary. Once you’ve reached that level of your senses being that heightened, it’s hard to turn it off. It’s like being a caged tiger.”
What do you think? Have you or a loved one ever been in combat? What were your or their experiences of war?
In this week’s JOURNAL, McClatchy DC’s Pentagon correspondent, Nancy Youssef, gave Bill Moyers an update on the turbulent situation in Afghanistan, where American troops have been deployed for nearly eight years. She addressed the recent controversy over the Associated Press’ decision to publish a photograph of a Marine mortally wounded in Afghanistan, Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, over the protests of his family and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Bernard’s father had argued that publishing the photograph would cause additional pain to the family, while Gates suggested that the publication violated “common decency.”
Santiago Lyon, the AP’s director of photography, defended the decision to publish the picture, saying “We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is.”
Youssef expressed empathy for Lance Cpl. Bernard’s family and his comrades on the battlefield, but also emphasized that the public must be made aware of the violence of war.
“When that photo came out, I talked to a friend of mine who's a colonel in the Army. She served in Iraq, and many years ago she lost her daughter, who was a toddler at the time, to an illness. She could speak to it both as a soldier and as a parent. She was really angry about the photo and said, ‘No one has the right to tell me what my last memory of my child should be,’ and it really stayed with me... I think a lot of [soldiers] would be offended because it’s so personal. These are really guys that they were sitting next to the day before – it’s something to them that’s not for public consumption... But I'm conflicted, because as a journalist, and as someone who has to go out and see this war day in and day out, it's hard to say that these photos shouldn't be seen. In a way, I feel like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been sanitized... It's really hard. You can't lose your humanity in war, and I feel for that father. I can't imagine that image being foisted upon me of my son in that position. I just can't imagine. But sometimes I feel that we as a public need to be hit almost violently with the reality of war, and that's what that photo does.”
What do you think?
Do you agree with the Associated Press’ decision to publish the photograph of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard? Why or why not?
How should journalists balance their responsibility to present the violent reality of war with honoring the wishes of fallen soldiers’ families?
Click here to view photo essays about the reality of war.
In this week’s JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill about the role played by hi-tech weaponry and private military contractors in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Scahill argued that most American citizens have become so removed from the harsh realities of war that further conflicts are becoming increasingly likely:
“I think that this is sick, where you turn war essentially into a videogame that can be waged by people half a world away... It sanitizes war. It means that we increase the number of people that don’t have to see that war is hell on the ground, and it means that wars are gonna be easier in the future because it’s not as tough of a sell... The United States has created a new system for waging war where you no longer have to rely on your own citizens to sign up for the military and say ‘I believe in this war, so I’m willing to sign up and risk my life for it.’ You turn the entire world into your recruiting ground.”
What do you think?
Do you agree with Scahill that private military contractors and hi-tech weaponry will make it easier for Washington to wage war in the future? Why or why not?
If so, how can the true human, financial, and environmental costs of war be brought home to American citizens?
Citizen soldier Sergeant Beverley Curl, who has been with the National Guard for nearly twenty years, said:
“[The National Guard] paid for school. The Guard has been good to me. I mean, I’ve had no problem with the Guard and I tell my friends all the time ‘I totally believe that everybody should serve some time in the military’... I’m not gonna say ‘oh yes, I want to go, I want to go.’ I don’t want to go. I don’t want to leave my husband, my family...
We’re supposed to stay in Jersey. The regular army is to take care of things that happen worldwide. And I understand that the regular army is stressed and they’re pulled at the seams or whatever. But then what happens, God forbid, if something happens to New Jersey? You’ve taken most of the troops out of the state, so what happens then? So, no, I don’t think the guard should be there – simple, I don’t. I believe they should be in the state to do what they’re supposed to do for this state. But you gotta go, you gotta go.”
UPDATE: Alive in Baghdad: Iraqi Children Speak Out
UPDATE: Brian Conley, of Alive in Baghdad, has recently been detained by the Chinese authorities while reporting on pro-Tibet demonstrations in Beijing. Family members, who have not heard directly from Brian, believe that he has recently been sentenced to 10 days of detention for "upsetting public order".
This week on THE JOURNAL, NPR's Deborah Amos, just back from Damascus, explains:
I keep saying I cover Iraq - I just don't ever go there. But to do Lebanon, Jordan and Syria is essentially to cover Iraq, because the issues that are roiling Iraq are the same issues that now are playing out. Everything is hooked to everything else.
And according to a recent mid-year review by the International Organization for Migration:
Iraq is experiencing the worst human displacement of its history, with almost 2.2 million persons
displaced within its borders and an additional two million who have fled the country to the
surrounding region. This mass displacement is fast becoming a regional and ultimately
BODY OF WAR introduced viewers to Tomas Young, a young veteran who was paralyzed less than a week after arriving to fight in Iraq.
Today, Tomas Young is leaving his Kansas City hospital for a rehabilitation center in Chicago. While his speech and motor control of his hands and arms have been compromised, his family is hopeful that he will recover.
Correspondence is still welcome and his family will forward mail sent to him at:
112 NE 113th Street
Kansas City, MO 64155
A Note from Tomas Young --- What's Your Favorite Antiwar or Protest Music?
Veteran Tomas Young, the subject of the new documentary film BODY OF WAR, was paralyzed within a week of arriving in Iraq. He is now the co-executive producer of a new compilation of antiwar and protest songs, BODY OF WAR: SONGS THAT INSPIRED AN IRAQ WAR VETERAN, which Young calls his personal "soundtrack to Iraq." We thank Tomas Young for drafting a few words for THE MOYERS BLOG below.
Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Mr. Young are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.
Being an antiwar activist in this day and age is frustrating. You fight and fight and nothing gets done and, when you add the daily struggles I endure just to get out of bed and try to have a normal day, life can be a tiring experience both physically and mentally. Music has helped me find the motivation to not only get up and fight another day but to do it with determination no matter how the frustration may stack up against me. Whether it be a song that is written from the perspective of a soldier confused at being in a position he doesn’t want to be in but has no say in the matter (“Hero’s Song” by Brendan James or “Day After Tomorrow” by Tom Waits), or a song written to inspire a vitriolic anger at the state of the union and inspire the listener to action (“B.Y.O.B. by System of a Down or “The 4th Branch” by Immortal Technique), music like the songs I chose for the BODY OF WAR CD compilation inspired a particular emotion in me that made me want to act towards the goals of ending the war and bringing light to the need for better veterans’ health care. These things are bigger than all of us and need to be paid attention to, so I can only hope that music of any kind helps and inspires you as much as it has helped me.
We invite you to respond and share some of your own favorite anti-war or protest songs.
This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers explored the new documentary film BODY OF WAR with filmmakers Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. Donahue explained that the film, which follows disabled Iraq war veteran and anti-war activist Tomas Young, was intended to capture the brutal realities of war:
"My inspiration for this film was the naked child running from the napalm. Remember that Vietnam picture? I mean, terrified, this little girl is totally naked... See the pain. Don't sanitize the war. If you're gonna send young men and women to fight for this nation, tell the truth. That's one of the biggest reasons for the First Amendment, and we haven't been. And so I thought 'I will tell the story,' the real story of the harm in harm's way."
Photo Credit: Associated Press
How have you been impacted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Do you have a friend, family member, or loved one involved in the war effort?
Phil Donahue said a single photograph inspired him to want to make BODY OF WAR. How has the media coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan affected you?
Does today's media, as Donahue would say, "tell the truth?"
We'd like to thank Greg Mitchell, author of SO WRONG FOR SO LONG, for his comments below and for agreeing to answer your questions. His responses are in bold below.
Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Greg Mitchell are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.
From Greg Mitchell, author of SO WRONG FOR SO LONG:
So what do you feel about the latest revelations in Scott McClellan’s book and a new Senate report that the U.S. was led into war against Iraq based on false pretenses? McClellan flatly calls the administration’s case “propaganda” and accuses the media of being “complicit enablers.”
This week’s segment with Bill, which probes all of this, felt like a kind of “reunion” for me, even though I had never before met fellow guests Jonathan Landay and John Walcott. But I have been hailing their work for more than five years, going back to the “run-up” to the attack on Iraq in 2003. They were among the few to repeatedly, and accurately, probe the administration’s case for war in the most crucial period.
At the same time, I returned to the scene of my last sit-down with Bill, in April 2003, just days before the U.S. entered Baghdad. Even then, we were warning that this was only the beginning, not the end, of our stay in Iraq (less than a month later, President Bush delivered his “Mission Accomplished” speech). A transcript of that session with Bill and a lengthy tribute to his 2007 BUYING THE WAR program appear in my new book, SO WRONG FOR SO LONG: HOW THE PRESS, THE PUNDITS – AND THE PRESIDENT – FAILED ON IRAQ.
In this week's program, Landay and Walcott explore the evidence for war (or lack of) while I focus on the media sins of omission and commission. I have found appalling, if not surprising, the media’s general refusal to truly come to grips with their failures on Iraq, even after five years of war. Most in the media, in response to the McClellan charges, defended their pre-war work, which is stunning.
Actually, one of the best lines of this past week came from Stephen Colbert. He said that he couldn’t understand why McClellan was saying reporters were not doing their job in the run-up to the war. “What is McClellan complaining about?” Colbert asked. “They were doing HIS job!”
I am wondering what viewers think of all this – where the fault really lies for the U.S. getting “misled” into war, and if they think the policymakers, and the journalists, have learned any lessons.
Got a question for Greg Mitchell? Please post below.
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.
The following essay by Ronald J. Sider was originally posted on the blog on October 4, 2007. Since issuing this letter to the President urging for further Israel/Palestine negotiations, Evangelical leaders issued a new statement this week urging for a two-state solution to the conflict. We invite you to continue the conversation where it left off.
The religious right - whether Pat Robertson, James Dobson or Rev. Hagee of Christians United for Israel - simply do not represent the evangelical center.
Earlier this year, James Dobson and friends sent an open letter to the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) – the largest evangelical network in the U.S. representing 30 million evangelicals – urging them to discipline or fire their VP for Public Policy. Why? Because Rich Cizik was speaking out on global warming. Dobson insisted the NAE should focus on what Dobson called the great moral issues of our time – i.e., the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and sexual abstinence outside marriage (Hagee would have added uncritical support for Israel).
On this Veterans day, we invite you to take a look back at Bill Moyers' interview with author, Maxine Hong Kingston, originally broadcast on Memorial day of this year:
For the past 15 years, Kingston has been working with veterans - more than 500 soldiers from World War II, from Vietnam, and now, from Iraq - as well as other survivors of war to convert the horrors they experienced into the words and stories that Kingston believes will help them cope and survive. Read excerpts from the collection of writings by veterans and their families.
(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.
“Most important thing for the American people to know is that the great genius of the founding fathers, their revolutionary idea, with the chief mission of the state is to make you and them free to pursue their ambitions and faculties. Not to build empires, not to aggrandize government. That's the mission of the state, to make them free, chart their own destiny. And the burden is on the government to try to understand why that freedom has to be curtailed for a security purpose or otherwise.”
Photo: Robin Holland
Answer our poll question, then debate the topic below.
Four months since our original broadcast of Buying the War and more than four years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, has the media's coverage of the Iraq war changed?
As President Bush continues to declare that Iraq has become the main battleground in the war on terror, NEW YORK TIMES public editor Clark Hoyt recently wrote a column criticizing the coverage of his paper, that it has not delved far enough into the intricacies of the enemy in Iraq:
Why Bush and the military are emphasizing al Qaeda to the virtual exclusion of other sources of violence in Iraq is an important story. So is the question of how well their version of events squares with the facts of a murky and rapidly changing situation on the ground.
But these are stories you haven’t been reading in THE TIMES in recent weeks as the newspaper has slipped into a routine of quoting the president and the military uncritically about al Qaeda’s role in Iraq - and sometimes citing the group itself without attribution.
And in using the language of the administration, the newspaper has also failed at times to distinguish between al Qaeda, the group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, and al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an Iraqi group that didn’t even exist until after the American invasion.
Oliver North, who has made 8 trips to Iraq with FOX News, agrees that most media outlets are not reporting the Iraq war accurately, but in a different way:
For nearly two years, the potentates of the press have been slavishly following liberal dogma and telling us that the war in Iraq is all but lost; that the region will never embrace democracy and that young Americans serving there are dying needlessly. Even before the “troop surge” was underway, they were telling us that it wouldn’t work. And since the final contingent of 28,500 additional troops arrived in theater two months ago most members of the Fourth Estate have tried to convince us that it has failed. Some of them may even believe it, but that doesn’t make it true.
What do you think?
-Is the media sufficiently reporting the truth about the war on the ground?
-Where do you turn for the latest information and analysis about the Iraq War?
Want to read the original blog discussion that helped to merit this rebroadcast? Click here.
As the Bush administration promotes the idea that Al Qaeda is the enemy in Iraq, the Journal analyzes the facts on the ground to explore who the U.S. is really fighting. Also on the program, a report on the hidden spending provisions used by Congress known as earmarks—“pipelines of cash” added to legislation without any debate, public hearing or oversight—which are often used as payback for political contributions. As Congress works to put reforms in place, is it business as usual?
Check Your Local Listings here and we'll see you on the blog after the show.
We have yet another remarkable revelation of the mindset of Washington's ruling clique of neoconservative elites—the people who took us to war from the safety of their Beltway bunkers. Even as Iraq grows bloodier by the day, their passion of the week is to keep one of their own from going to jail.
It is well known that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby—once Vice President Cheney’s most trusted adviser—has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for perjury. Lying. Not a white lie, mind you. A killer lie. Scooter Libby deliberately poured poison into the drinking water of democracy by lying to federal investigators, for the purpose of obstructing justice.
Attempting to trash critics of the war, Libby and his pals in high places—including his boss Dick Cheney—outed a covert CIA agent. Libby then lied to cover their tracks. To throw investigators off the trail, he kicked sand in the eyes of truth. "Libby lied about nearly everything that mattered,” wrote the chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. The jury agreed and found him guilty on four felony counts. Judge Reggie B. Walton—a no-nonsense, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key type, appointed to the bench by none other than George W. Bush—called the evidence “overwhelming” and threw the book at Libby.
You would have thought their man had been ordered to Guantanamo, so intense was the reaction from his cheerleaders. They flooded the judge's chambers with letters of support for their comrade and took to the airwaves in a campaign to “free Scooter.”
Vice President Cheney issued a statement praising Libby as “a man…of personal integrity”—without even a hint of irony about their collusion to browbeat the CIA into mangling intelligence about Iraq in order to justify the invasion.
“A patriot, a dedicated public servant, a strong family man, and a tireless, honorable, selfless human being,” said Donald Rumsfeld—the very same Rumsfeld who had claimed to know the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction and who boasted of “bulletproof” evidence linking Saddam to 9/11. “A good person” and “decent man,” said the one-time Pentagon adviser Kenneth Adelman, who had predicted the war in Iraq would be a “cakewalk.” Paul Wolfowitz wrote a four-page letter to praise “the noblest spirit of selfless service” that he knew motivated his friend Scooter. Yes, that Paul Wolfowitz, who had claimed Iraqis would “greet us as liberators” and that Iraq would “finance its own reconstruction.” The same Paul Wolfowitz who had to resign recently as president of the World Bank for using his office to show favoritism to his girlfriend. Paul Wolfowitz turned character witness.
The praise kept coming: from Douglas Feith, who ran the Pentagon factory of disinformation that Cheney and Libby used to brainwash the press; from Richard Perle, as cocksure about Libby’s “honesty, integrity, fairness and balance” as he had been about the success of the war; and from William Kristol, who had primed the pump of the propaganda machine at THE WEEKLY STANDARD and has led the call for a Presidential pardon. “The case was such a farce, in my view,” he said. “I’m for pardon on the merits.”
One beltway insider reports that the entire community is grieving—“weighted down by the sheer, glaring unfairness” of Libby's sentence.
And there’s the rub.
None seem the least weighted down by the sheer, glaring unfairness of sentencing soldiers to repeated and longer tours of duty in a war induced by deception. It was left to the hawkish academic Fouad Ajami to state the matter baldly. In a piece published on the editorial page of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Ajami pleaded with Bush to pardon Libby. For believing “in the nobility of this war,” wrote Ajami, Scooter Libby had himself become a “casualty”—a fallen soldier the President dare not leave behind on the Beltway battlefield.
Not a word in the entire article about the real fallen soldiers. The honest-to-God dead, and dying, and wounded. Not a word about the chaos or the cost. Even as the calamity they created worsens, all they can muster is a cry for leniency for one of their own who lied to cover their tracks.
There are contrarian voices: “This is an open and shut case of perjury and obstruction of justice,” said Pat Buchanan. “The Republican Party stands for the idea that high officials should not be lying to special investigators.” From the former Governor of Virginia, James Gilmore, a staunch conservative, comes this verdict: “If the public believes there’s one law for a certain group of people in high places and another law for regular people, then you will destroy the law and destroy the system.”
So it may well be, as THE HARTFORD COURANT said editorially, that Mr Libby is “a nice guy, a loyal and devoted patriot…but none of that excuses perjury or obstruction of justice. If it did, truth wouldn’t matter much.”
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
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.
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
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.
Submit 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.
The other day, I received an email from another journalist, Greg Mitchell who runs the magazine EDITOR AND PUBLISHER. He forwarded me the tape of a conversation between my old boss, Lyndon Johnson, and the White House National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy. I'd never heard it before -- although it occurred while I was in the White House 43 years ago.
The year was 1964. The month was May. The President and Bundy were talking before the Gulf of Tonkin Resoluton, that LBJ later used as a green light to escalate, before the campaign against Barry Goldwater in which the President said, 'We seek no wider war,' and before the fatal escalation of troops a year later. When this conversation took place, there were, if memory serves me, sixteen- to twenty-thousand Americans in Vietnam, only we called them advisors. At the time, the war in Vietnam was only a small dark cloud on the very distant horizon. Here’s an excerpt from that conversation:
LBJ: I would tell you...the more that I stayed awake last night thinking of this...and the more that I think of it...I don't know what in the hell...we...looks like to me that we're getting into another Korea. It just worries the hell out of me. I don't see what we can ever hope to get out of there with...once we're committed... I believe that the Chinese communists are coming into it...I don't think we can fight them 10,000 miles away from home and ever get anyway on that area...I don't think that it's worth fighting for...and I don't think that we can get out...and it's just the biggest damn mess that i ever saw.
Bundy: It is an awful mess.
LBJ: And we just got to think about...I'm looking at this sergeant of mine this morning...got six little old kids over there...and he's getting out my things...and bringing me in my night reading and all that kind of stuff...and I just thought about ordering...ordering those kids in there...and what in the hell am I ordering them out there for? It's damn easy to get into a war, but it's...going to be harder to ever extricate yourself if you get in...
That was May 1964. Two hundred and sixty Americans had been killed in Vietnam by then. Eleven years and two presidents later, when U.S. forces pulled out, 58,209 Americans had died, and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese.
"My hope is that through art, through telling their stories, by having people hear what they went through, it changes them again," Kingston tells Bill Moyers. "There's the coming home from war, being broken, feeling losses, but then there is a wholeness that takes place if the person were able to write their story, to write their poem, to have people hear them and listen and understand. Then they are changed again."
For nearly 15 years Maxine Hong Kingston has led writing-and-meditation workshops for veterans and their families. This poem is one of the many works created by the veterans:
Poem for Têt
by Ted Sexauer, medic, 173rd Airborne
Lang Cô village, Viêt Nam
Lunar New Year, 31/1/1995
This is the poem
that will save my life
this the line that will cure me
this word, this, the word word the one