‘Rethink Afghanistan’ Gives Alternative Insight to America’s Eight-Year Conflict

Daniel Choi

“Rethink Afghanistan” urges its viewers to give some thought to the War in Afghanistan.

After setting an exit strategy for the U.S. War in Iraq, President Obama finds himself confronting another challenge in Afghanistan. If Obama stays true to his word, he will continue the war and possibly deploy thousands of additional armed forces to the war-torn country. According to the film, this would not be the wisest move.

Director Robert Greenwald (“Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers,” 2006) presents the film in six parts: “More Troops + Afghanistan = Catastrophe,” “Pakistan: ‘The Most Dangerous Country’,” “The Cost of War,” “Civilian Casualties,” “Women of Afghanistan,” and “Security.”

Set up as a Q-and-A, the documentary asks intriguing questions and answers them right back through interviews and news segments. Through on-camera interviews professors, journalists and foreign correspondents give their insights on the war.

Even a member of Afghan parliament and a former general in the Russian Army voice their opinions. Greenwald edits snippets from news outlets, effectively giving the sense of mainstream evidence and support. The score creates a sense of urgency by humming in the background as the interviewees give their account on the war.

Part one examines the possible consequences of increasing military presence in Afghanistan. It argues that doing so will cost the lives of more Afghan civilians and American troops, destroy the country’s urban setting even further, and create more antagonism against the U.S. “More Troops + Afghanistan = Catastrophe” provides the general theme and tone of the documentary then leads into the following parts.

“Pakistan: ‘The Most Dangerous Country'” emphasizes the importance of Pakistan’s role in the fight against terrorism. It explains, through well-informed individuals, how an uncivil Afghanistan results in a destabilized Pakistan and vice versa. For the Taliban government, no border exists between the two countries.

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban has simply crossed into Pakistan, which may lead to fundamentalist groups such as al-Qaida getting their hands on nuclear weapons held by the Pakistani government. Anyone who believed a Taliban-less Afghanistan meant less of a threat to the U.S. is asked to think again.

The staggering amount of money paid by Americans to fund the war is the focus in “The Cost of War.” It costs more to place a troop in Afghanistan than it did in any other war, affecting America’s economy. The reasons range from high-cost supply routes to war profiteering by private contractors. Award winning authors and journalists, economists and soldiers explain this cause and effect. Frequently heard are the words billion and trillion, in plural form.

Having witnessed the war from afar, Americans do not realize the toll it has taken on the Afghan people. “Civilian Casualties” provides a front row seat. Greenwald visits Afghanistan to exclusively interview civilians that have been displaced from their homes. Many Afghanistanis live in tents surrounded by dirt with little to no water or food. A large majority lost a limb or two while seeing family and friends killed by air strikes. The anger and utter hopelessness expressed by the people urges you to view the war from a different perspective.

“Women in Afghanistan” depicts the life of Afghan women since the beginning of the war. According to reports by the mainstream media, the war liberated the women. It may seem so from the view of an outsider, but it could not be any cloudier. Prominent Afghan women help explain the conflicting views. Images of women burned by acid for exercising their rights grace the screen, surely to leave viewers squirming in their seats.

The last part of the film, “Security,” attempts to answer the question of whether or not the U.S. is safer now than before. The answer, provided by former CIA agents, is an overwhelming no. The agents and other experts reach an indirect consensus that deploying more troops does not equate to security.

“Rethink Afghanistan” will leave viewers scrambling to the Web with a bag of questions to Google. The problems with the film are few but crucial.

The fact that a former member of the Russian Army, who failed in the Soviet War in Afghanistan, contends that Afghanistan is impossible to occupy comes as no surprise. Interviews of high-ranking U.S. military officials, private contractors and Afghanistanis who have benefitted from the war are missing. Their views, pending they are rational, are as vital to rethinking Afghanistan.

Regardless, a majority of the expressed views remain objective and free of self-interest, except for the well-being of the Afghan people and Americans alike.

As a whole, the documentary does a good job of rethinking Afghanistan and asking Americans to do the same.

Visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/ to watch it online.

A special screening of “Rethink Afghanistan, sponsored by El Vaquero, will be held on Thursday, Oct. 15 at 11:30 a.m. in AD205. To reserve a seat, visit http://rethink.bravenewtheaters.com/screening/show/13141-glendale