Perhaps more than any other major corporate news outlet, The New York Times
played a central role in promoting the Bush administration's fraudulent
case for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The "reporting" of Judith
Miller and Michael Gordon basically served as a front-page fiction
laundering factory for Dick Cheney's fantasy of a "mushroom cloud"
threat from Saddam Hussein looming on the immediate horizon, topped off
with a celebratory slice of yellowcake. More recently, the paper's
propagandists, William Broad and David Sanger, have aimed their sights
on reporting dubious claims about Iran's nuclear program.
Readers of the Times, therefore, should take with a huge grain of weaponized salt the paper's "review" of Robert Greenwald's new documentary, Rethink Afghanistan. With no sense of the painful irony of writing such jibberish in the Times, reviewer Andy Webster declares that the film could "use balance, something in short supply here:"
At an almost breathless pace that leaves little room for
reflection, Mr. Greenwald presents a flurry of sights, voices and
figures, many of them compelling but all reflecting his point of view.
A historical summary is fleeting. What appears, again and again, are
terrifying images of children: dead, hideously maimed or, in one
instance, almost put up for sale by a frantic civilian in a refugee
camp. Military engagements, it seems, are messy and claim innocent
If it takes Greenwald's "point of view" to see the human costs of
the U.S. war in Afghanistan in the form of deformed, maimed and dead
civilians, then his film should be required viewing for anyone
purporting to support the war.
Anyone who has actually seen the
film knows that a string of former top intelligence officials, perhaps
most significant among them the former head of the CIA's
Counter-terrorism Center, Robert Grenier, are heard meticulously
deconstructing the dominant justifications for the continued U.S.
military presence in Afghanistan. What does Grenier know? Oh, he was
just the CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he was one of
the Agency's top officials planning the U.S. invasion. Grenier, along
with former CIA operative Robert Baer and other former intelligence
officials, rebut in detail the claim that the war in Afghanistan is
about fighting al Qaeda or making America safer, which Baer says
bluntly in the film is "just complete bullshit." The film also features
Graham Fuller, the former CIA station chief in Kabul. (Click here to watch this part of the film)
I guess the Times
would have been satisfied if the film did not also include extensive
analysis from Anand Gopal, the Afghanistan correspondent of that famed
leftist, anti-war rag, The Wall Street Journal. "Al Qaeda and
the Taliban are groups with completely distinct ideologies and goals,"
Gopal says in the film. The Taliban, he says, has as its central goal
"to kick out the Americans." Greenwald's film would presumably have
been more "objective" in the Times's eyes if it had included the analysis of, say, Steve Coll, whose definitive book on al Qaeda, Ghost Wars, won the Pulitzer. Oh, right, Coll is a major voice in Greenwald's film.
complains that the film "has no time to approach an opposing view with
sympathy or understanding for its concerns." First of all, that is just
plain false. What Greenwald does is divide the one-hour film into
cogent sections that address the most common arguments made in support
of the war in Afghanistan, namely national security, counter-terrorism
and women's rights. These are all familiar to anyone paying even a tiny
amount of attention. But more to the point, why should a documentary
calling on people to "rethink Afghanistan" be required to rehash or
offer "sympathy" to ideas or policies that are promoted endlessly on
major news programs, in corporate newspapers and by an endless string
of U.S. government and military officials?
does not present the perfect argument against the war in Afghanistan (I
certainly have had my own disagreements with Greenwald and with some of
the film's politics), but that is not what Greenwald and his team
intended to do. The title says it all: they want Americans to stop and
rethink support for a war that worsens by the day, costs billions of
dollars, causes the deaths of U.S. soldiers and countless Afghan
civilians and which, ultimately, will make the U.S. less safe.
snarkily declares that Rethink Afghanistan is "unlikely to win over new
supporters" to the anti-war or anti-escalation crowd. Quite the
contrary: there are 600 screenings of the film scheduled and
MoveOn.org, which has been very sluggish in coming around to
criticizing the Afghan war, has just teamed up with Greenwald to
promote the film. That in and of itself was no small accomplishment.
The timing of Rethink Afghanistan is very important and will serve a
utilitarian purpose for those people serious about the facts and not
manipulating them, as has been the case on the pages of a certain
newspaper we all know.
To watch the film, go to Brave New Film's Rethink Afghanistan website.