Posts Tagged ‘Robert Greenwald’

“A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

“America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (.pdf), the U.S. spends around $700 billion per year on the military. That sum roughly doubled since 2001, and it accounts for about 43 percent of all military spending in the world in 2010. Yet, even in the context of an ongoing unemployment crisis and widespread opposition for the major war in which the U.S. is embroiled, the Pentagon had the audacity to drop a spending plan (.pdf) earlier this month that calls for a continued increase in military spending and to portray the massive levels of outlays on war made at the height of the Iraq War as “breaking faith” with the military. To paraphrase Dr. King, to use for violence these resources better spent rescuing the 50 percent of Americans now in or near poverty is demonic.

The giant named Militarism is nothing if not nimble: last year at this time, the Pentagon used the words of a friend of the King family to insinuate that, though King’s plain words decry all forms of violence and war, today’s wars are different and he would “understand” them. That’s almost as brazen as war industry giant Boeing’s attempt to capture the King mojo for their public relations efforts, donating to the fund for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial fund while making billions from the “business of burning human beings.” We need a new phrase–“King-washing,” maybe?–to describe the efforts of career militarists and war profiteers to grasp at the King mantle.

It is natural for people and organizations to want to associate with King. He was a true prophet in the best sense of the word, someone whose courage, dignity and clear moral vision burned so hot and bright that his after-image remains in our eyes long after he’s gone. But there is a deep, deep difference between trying to associate by emulation and association by manipulation.

Today is MLK Day. For many, it will be a day of service, and that’s certainly an incredibly powerful way to honor King’s memory. But equally powerful is the demand that we hear his message–his whole message, including his condemnation of war as a means to settle conflict–and use it as a genuine opportunity for reflection and action. This year it is especially critical that we do so, as the policy choices waiting in the wings in Washington, D.C. over the next few months so tragically resemble those made regarding the poverty programs of King’s day and the Vietnam War.

Please take a moment to share our latest video. Then, write to President Obama and tell him to honor Dr. King by repudiating the Pentagon’s bid to grow while other programs are cut. Tell him you want him to lead the revolution of values talked about by King–and that that revolution must start by shutting off the “demonic, destructive suction tube” at the Pentagon.

Join the War Costs campaign on Facebook, and follow Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe on Twitter.

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Sign our act.ly petition to tell the next journalists on Petraeus’ media tour to ask tough questions and expose his effort to extend the Afghanistan War.

General Petraeus is on a media tour to sell the idea that the U.S. military is “making progress” in Afghanistan, a well-worn message aimed at convincing elites to extend this brutal, futile war. So far, it looks like the mainstream media is buying it, hook, line, and sinker.

Petraeus kicked off his spin campaign this morning with an hour-long special on Meet the Press with David Gregory. The piece opened with a montage of Petraeus doing sit-ups, and later showed him jogging, with Gregory opining about him wearing out troops half his age. Gregory went out of his way to set up a "Petraeus saves the day" narrative, asking the general if the situation in Afghanistan reminds him of the "dark days" in Iraq just before Petraeus "succeeded" with the surge. Petraeus hammered home his one-word message relentlessly: progress. Gregory feigned tough skepticism, but betrayed his hero-worship with setups like, "Watch how savvy Petraeus is when he answers my tough question." Throughout, Gregory’s sheepish grin conveyed the sense that he wanted to hug Petraeus instead of critically probe his assertions.

As Petraeus battered viewers again and again with his "making progress" theme, Gregory failed to ask probing, skeptical questions. When Petraeus mentioned "oil spots," as if the stain spreading across Afghanistan were one of security, Gregory failed to press him on the huge increase in civilian deaths, the 87-percent spike in violence and the incredible explosion of IED attacks over the last several months. When he brought up the outrageous TIME Magazine cover showing a woman’s mutilated face, Gregory failed to mention the attack happened last year and that TIME Magazine’s cover grossly distorts the choices before the United States. When Petraeus denounced the Taliban’s recent killing of a pregnant woman, Gregory failed to press Petraeus on ISAF’s own killing of pregnant women earlier this year in which bullets were reportedly dug out of a screaming woman by special forces troops before she bled to death. Gregory didn’t do journalism today. He provided a platform for military spin.

Petraeus and Gregory jovially closed the interview by quoting Generals Grant and Sherman, with Petraeus saying he’s no politician. Don’t believe that for a second. The military wants to extend this war, and it sees American public opinion as an obstacle in getting what it wants. Petraeus admitted as much when he told Gregory that the point of his upcoming media appearances were scheduled in the hopes of showing "people in Washington" and the public that we’re making progress (Finish your drink!) and to shore up support for the failing war effort. This media blitz is about Petraeus shaping public opinion to affect the political environment for a future push to extend the war far beyond the bounds implied by Obama’s December 2009 West Point speech. In short, the military is turning its several-billion-dollar public relations apparatus on the American people, and the mainstream media is so far complicit. To quote one of my favorite bands, "There is a war going on for your mind."

If the media fail to ask hard questions, there’s a chance Petraeus could get what he wants: the freedom to extend an extremely unpopular war that’s not making us safer. We’ve got to push back, and we’ve got to do it now.

CBS’ Katie Couric is next in line to talk to Petraeus during his high-profile spin campaign, so we’re starting with her. Sign our act.ly petition to Couric and push her to ask tough questions about Petraeus’ claims of “progress” and his attempt to extend the Afghanistan War. If you’re not a Twitter user, don’t worry–there are instructions on how you can participate without it.

General Petraeus’ media blitz is just getting started. We’ve got to push our media–hard–to ask real questions and prevent easily disproved spin from polluting the debate. Petraeus wants to change public opinion, and he’s spending your money to sell you a brutal, futile war that’s not making us safer. If you’re tired of this kind of manipulation, join the tens of thousands of other people working to end this war with Rethink Afghanistan.

Plug into the Movement to End the War

Today, President Obama came to my town to give an invite-only speech at the University of Texas. Lacking an invite, I wondered what people with invites had to say about the Afghanistan War. Here’s what I found:

All the people who had tickets to the event who consented to be interviewed and who gave an opinion for or against are in this video, and their views are fairly represented. Of course, that’s not a surprise, given the levels of public disgust with this war, the higher levels of opposition among Democrats and the likely makeup of the invitee crowd.

Most Americans — 54 percent — think the U.S. should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Forty-one percent disagree.

There is a partisan divide on the issue: 73 percent of Democrats think the U.S. should set a timetable, while only 32 percent of Republicans say the U.S. should do so. Fifty-four percent of independents want a timetable.

What is surprising, though, is the “heads down, follow through” attitude on the part of our elected leaders.

Poll: Afghanistan War Hurting Obama’s Support at Home

Poll: Afghanistan War Deeply Unpopular, Dragging Down Presidential Approval

Afghan War Looms As Electoral Problem

Ever heard of a thing called an election?

The State of the Union talking points distributed by the White House this morning seem to indicate that the president will only briefly discuss Afghanistan tonight, but we are working hard to keep the spotlight on the Afghanistan war. Tonight, join us for a State of the Union watch party streamed live on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page.

Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook campaign around the State of the Union address is really heating up. We’ve already been the focus of two big write-ups on techPresident and Mashable. Here’s what techPresident had to say:

But chattering on Twitter, or live-blogging it, which more than 2000 sites and organizations are apparently promising to do!–is hardly the only or best way to use a live event for online organizing. See, for example, what “Rethink Afghanistan,” a project of the Brave New Foundation, is doing tonight around the State of the Union, via its staffer Derrick Crowe, writing on OpenLeft:

Note how Rethink Afghanistan is using multiple layers of engagement. Its strategists understand that people have many choices for watching SOTU–all equally good–but the opportunity to share the experience with other like-minded activists can add extra value to the experience. They’re also planning to add value to the speech video by adding a chyron with a running tally of the cost of the war throughout the speech, and with liveblogging by the group’s founder, Robert Greenwald. Finally, they’re hoping they can get their activists to generate some live feedback in a highly visible place, the White House’s Facebook page.

Check out the Mashable piece for a full description of what we’ve been up to over the past few days on Facebook and how it ties in to tonight’s event. Here’s a rundown of the agenda for tonight:

  • Rethink Afghanistan’s fan page will have a live stream of a part of Rethink Afghanistan (The Cost of War) prior to the speech at 8:30 p.m. Eastern / 5:30 p.m. Pacific.
  • Then, we’ll carry a live stream of the State of the Union address.
  • Brave New Foundation’s Robert Greenwald will be there for the conversation, and I’ll provide commentary and links to Afghanistan-related information.
  • After the speech, our whole mob will head over to the White House’s Facebook page to share our thoughts on his Afghanistan comments.

Please join us tonight starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern / 5:30 p.m. Pacific on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook fan page. Let’s keep the focus tonight on ending the war in Afghanistan. Hope to see you there.

The New York Times over the weekend reported that the anti-war movement is gearing up to challenge President Obama on Afghanistan:

A restive antiwar movement, largely dormant since the election of Barack Obama, is preparing a nationwide campaign this fall to challenge the administration’s policies on Afghanistan.

This is the best news I’ve read in months, and it couldn’t come at a better time. General McChrystal just submitted his strategic review to the Defense Department, and he’s expected to ask for as many as 20,000 more troops. That’s a recipe for increased casualties (both civilian and military), continued waste of national wealth and damage to our national security. These are just some of the effects of the war in Afghanistan documented in Rethink Afghanistan, which, by the way, the New York Times mentioned in their piece:

“Rethink Afghanistan,” …is being produced and released in segments by the political documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald. In six episodes so far, Mr. Greenwald has used interviews with academics, Afghans and former C.I.A. operatives to raise questions about civilian casualties, women’s rights, the cost of war and whether it has made the United States safer.

The episodes, some as short as two minutes, are circulated via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and blogs. Antiwar groups are also screening them with members of Congress.

I do have one quibble with the NYT’s characterization of the movement, however. Many of the groups mentioned have been consistent in their opposition to war, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican sat in the White House. While it’s true that many have been reluctant to publicly oppose President Obama, others have stood on street corners, badgered their representatives, held screenings of Rethink Afghanistan in their local communities, and worked against a massive public desire to sink into obliviousness now that George W. Bush is back in Texas. As Robert put it in the NYT piece, it’s been “lonely out there,” and the folks who’ve been out there from the beginning deserve a pat on the back for helping to swing public opinion against this war.

That’s not to say that there aren’t people working to kill the energy of the nascent movement to end the war in Afghanistan. Even some who were with us on Iraq are trying to stop the turning of the tide:

“People do not want to take on the administration,” said Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org. “Generating the kind of money that would be required to challenge the president’s policies just isn’t going to happen.”

…Others, like VoteVets.org, support the American military presence in Afghanistan, calling it crucial to fighting terrorism.

Hide and watch, Mr. Soltz.