WORKERS WORLD MOVIE REVIEW
‘Rethink Afghanistan,’ a tool for anti-war activists
Published Oct 12, 2009 10:41 PM
“Rethink Afghanistan,” a documentary directed by Robert
Greenwald, is available as a DVD or online in six parts at
rethinkafghanistan.com. It opened Oct. 1 in a limited number
of U.S. theaters.
Afghan toddlers made internal refugees by U.S. bombing raids standing
barefoot in cold mud, eventually to die from malnutrition and exposure; Afghan
women in political protest calling their fate worse now in war than under
Taliban rule; Afghan women keening over their lost children, brothers and
spouses; relatives, neighbors, homes and domestic animals blown apart. These
pictures bring the reality of war for the Afghan people home to U.S.
This compelling documentary’s strongest feature is that it allows the
Afghans to speak for themselves to an audience in the United States.
Afghanistan is a poor, mostly rural country. Today its intelligent and capable
spokespeople engaged in political struggle reflect Afghanistan’s
thousand-year tradition of refusing to bow to foreign rulers.
The movie also uses testimony from the heads of think tanks, former U.S.
officials, including ex-CIA operatives, spokespeople for nongovernmental
organizations, and a few honest reporters to expose the complete disconnect
among the U.S. government’s pretexts for occupying
Afghanistan—stopping “terrorism,” helping women’s
rights, helping Afghanistan develop—and the results of that
It makes these arguments just as the Obama administration’s debate over
Afghanistan policies is reaching a crossroads.
The Brave New Foundation and director Robert Greenwald (“Walmart: The
High Cost of Low Price,” “Outfoxed” and “Iraq for
Sale”) have made this documentary easily available to anyone opposing the
occupation or escalation of the war in Afghanistan. While “Rethink
Afghanistan” is unlikely to break into the country’s movie
complexes, its producers open every Internet door to encourage use of the movie
at low or no cost. Through YouTube, blogs, organized screenings of the DVDs,
followed by discussions, activists are free to take advantage of the movie.
Brave New Foundation urges spreading the facts and analysis shown in
“Rethink Afghanistan” to a broad sector of the population, who they
encourage to petition the Obama administration and Congress with enough force
to halt further escalation of—and perhaps to end—the assault on
The director makes listening to a succession of “talking heads”
more palatable by mixing them with images of Afghanistan and by cutting back
and forth to the different analysts and experts, so the movie has more the
appearance of a snappy question and answer session or even a debate than a
With a few exceptions like Pakistani Marxist Tarik Ali, those interviewed
started—or appeared to start—from the premise that the U.S. went
into Afghanistan with honest intentions—to eliminate al-Qaeda and remove
the Taliban from government with the objective of “stopping
terrorism,” even of “extending democracy” or “improving
Most then show how the U.S. occupation has operated against achieving any of
these goals, that the Taliban has nothing to do with al-Qaeda, and that the
invasion, occupation and expansion of the war is a tragic and fabulously costly
mistake that is leading to disaster for the Afghans, for the Obama
administration and for the people of the United States.
Since only a small portion of the U.S. population is consciously
anti-imperialist, this approach probably makes the documentary more accessible
to most viewers. On the other hand, anti-imperialists cannot count on the movie
to expose the following central truth: U.S. intervention in Afghanistan is
based on expanding U.S. imperialism’s geopolitical interests.
Anti-imperialist activists must themselves expose the role of U.S.-based giant
capitalist banks and multinational corporations on a world scale, along with
the narrower interests of the military-industrial complex that thrives on
Those with high-speed Internet access at home or at the library can see this
documentary for free in six parts. Individuals or organizations can buy the DVD
at a moderate price, and may use it to organize meetings and discussions.
Greenwald and the Brave New Foundation should be congratulated for making the
Those who understand the class basis of the war and the war drive of
imperialism will have to add their own analysis. They can expose the reality
that this disaster is not simply a tragic “mistake” but the
consequence of the capitalist drive for profits worldwide.
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