Under Review: ‘Rethink Afghanistan’


At the close of this small college screening, a frustrated man stood up and said, “Let’s all pitch in a buck to buy a copy for Barack Obama.” Fifty bucks later, the organizer had enough to send it special delivery.

Why are we there? What do we have to gain? Who wants us there? When and how do we get out?

In 2003, 83 percent of the Afghans had a favorable view of the U.S. By 2009, the figure had slipped to 47 percent.

Many of the Afghans are now so miserable, hungry and dispossessed that they want to die.

“Rethink Afghanistan” is a compilation of interviews with people in the U.S. government and U.S. military establishment, in positions of power in the Arab and Indian political worlds and people from American think tanks. It captures statements from people who head up non-governmental agencies, political pundits, university professors, religious leaders and people from Afghanistan.

They speak out unanimously for an end to American military presence in Afghanistan. This includes John Kerry, who reminds the audience of similarities to an unwinnable war some years ago.

An old woman who lost all but four grandchildren from a town hit (collateral damage) by U.S. drones cries out from the rain in a muddy refugee camp that she hates her life and wants to die. A man, holding his 4-year-old daughter screams out with tears that he is looking to sell his daughter so that she can be fed. Both the old woman and the 4 year old are dead within six months.

While Americans are under the assumption that we are fighting a war against terrorism, General Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, remarks that “Al Qaeda is no longer operating in Afghanistan.”

Tariq Ali, historian and newspaper editor, states that the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan is the single most powerful force impacting the resurgence of the development of the oppressive Taliban throughout the region.

It is pointed out that in today’s dollars, it cost the U.S. $50,000 to support a soldier during one year of WWII. Today, it costs the US $775,000 to support a soldier in Afghanistan.

Military personnel lament the lack of oversight or accountability for sub-contracted work. While it costs $700 to create a well in Afghanistan, after the negotiations go through numerous hands, the U.S. is paying 10K.

“Rethink Afghanistan” is organized into segments representing U.S. Troops, Pakistani involvement, war costs, civilian casualties, the status of women, a CIA security report and solutions.

This is news at its crucial, most fundamental essence, produced by Brave New Foundation, a production company formed by Robert Greenwald to educate people using technical systems that allowed real-time viewing as this film was in process. All of the segments of this film can be accessed for free off the internet at:

The most stunning responses, replete with evidenced, narrative reports and statistics were the answers to the following questions:

Were women liberated in 2001 with the U.S. presence in Afghanistan?

Why is the Pakistani army allied with the Taliban and a part of the problem?

How does U.S. presence in the area benefit the surrounding nations?

What are the benefits for the U.S.?

The annual U.S. cost for this war is $36 billion.

In a land where there is 40 percent unemployment, the Taliban pays $8 a day for soldiers. One tenth of the current U.S. budget there would create 100 percent employment along with vocational training, bridge and infrastructure construction, teacher training, open schooling for all, and free medical coverage for everyone.
The Rand Corp. advises that intrusion provokes rebellion and that terrorism won’t be defeated by an invading occupation.

“Rethink Afghanistan” needs a little debate, perhaps some comments by contrarian Christopher Hitchens, who wrote in “Slate” on Sept.7, 2009: “But we don’t have the right to forget why we are in Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place: to make up for past crimes of both omission and commission and to help safeguard emergent systems of self-government that have the same deadly enemies as we do and to which, not quite incidentally, we gave our word.”

As a compromise, “Rethink Afghanistan” suggests that the U.S. re-delegate its financial commitment from aggression to positive constructivism. Perhaps like Brazil, the U.S. could redeploy the military as agents of social and economic enhancement, supporting economic and social development rather than tearing it down through the perpetuation of a war zone.

Perhaps cynics are simply in the process of ignoring or giving up the fight, acknowledging that the U.S. military industrial complex is embedded in world culture and war is its proverbial carrion sustenance. However, notables like Robert Greenwald are using their time, money and reputation standing up for truth and justice with a courage of conviction that defines and celebrates a noble human character.

Director: Robert Greenwald – Executive Director: Jim Miller – Producer: Jason Zaro – Associate Producer: Dallas Dunn, Jonathan Kim, and Kim Huynh – Researcher: Greg Wishnev – Editor: Phillip Cruess – Political Director: Leighton Woodhouse – VP Marketing & Distribution: Laura Beatty – Production Assistant: Monique Hairston
A film from Brave New Foundation
Theatrical Release: Oct. 2, 2009
DVD Release: 2009
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 75 minutes
Country: USA
Language: English
Web Site:

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8 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Disco #

    It sounds interesting.

  2. Bev #

    There is so much of interest packed into each segment that I’ve watched it online as well as at the screening. I thought women were better off with our presence, but it turns out Karzi is tremendously restrictive. The main point, however, is that women and their children are the first bits of collateral damage in a war zone. At least with the Taliban they had peace and order.

  3. CPF #

    Thanks for linking to the video!

    “suggests that the U.S. re-delegate its financial commitment from aggression to positive constructivism.”

    Or as conservatives call it, welfare. No matter how much sense it makes, it’s hard to get approval for that when half the country is anti-handout and the other half feel they don’t get enough positive constructivism to happen inside the US (with some overlap). It would be nice to see military train our troops to do something other than fight though.

  4. 4

    The Soviet Union attempted to rule Afghanistan and were driven out. Since that occupation, the Ugly American has risen out of the ashes. There were some positive accomplishments with the American presence. The brutal treatment of women by the Taliban has ceased, as pointed out earlier. The end of it all is simply put,as stated in the review, that the finest hour of men is to stoop to help our brothers, probably the most noble act of all. Woodstock taught that war is a deamon. Peace is desired, but often at a cost. Like all wars, we stand on the graves and ask why. With hope, we then ask why not?

  5. Lou Hevly #

    Good work. I enjoyed this well-written and well-thought out article very much. See also How to Save Afghanistan
    By RORY STEWART / KABUL Thursday, Jul. 17, 2008,8599,1823753,00.html

  6. Bev #


    I am familiar with Rory Stewart, a UK pol. He wrote Prince of the Marshes, his chronicle of serving as deputy governor in an Iraqi province.

    I read the article you referenced and agreed with every part of it. It makes me think that Obama just has us staying in Afghanistan because it is a source of employment.

    I just reviewed another film, “Restrepo,” which simply documents an expereince of a 15-man platoon in A. Another big mistake in a history of sad errors.

  7. Bev #
  8. Bev #

    Saturday, 11/20/10, 12:30

    Special screening:
    Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church
    12513 SE Mill Plain Blvd
    Vancouver, Washington 98684


    RSVP and Trailer:

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