Why Are We in Afghanistan? Written and directed by Michael Zweig. Illustrated by Mike Konopacki. Edited by Trish Dalton. Produced by Trish Dalton, Michael Zweig, and the Center for Study of Working Class Life.
As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan, polls show that 63% of Americans now oppose this war. They recoil at the growing number of casualties and the colossal expense, and they see no hope for positive outcomes. Most, however, will tell you we went there in pursuit of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, and confusion reigns about why we are still there fighting the Taliban.
Why Are We in Afghanistan?, a short film written by Michael Zweig, illustrated by renowned political cartoonist Mike Konopacki, and produced by the Center for Working Class Life at Stony Brook University, is a terrific resource for teachers, unions, activist groups, and others looking for ways to talk with students and constituents about the many issues involved in our ongoing military engagement in and occupation of that beleaguered land.
The film provides facts and figures regarding the war’s costs and the resulting loss of resources for domestic jobs, infrastructure, and public services. It counters the premise that our continued presence in Afghanistan heightens our national security, and it shows how American strategic and corporate interests benefit, and Afghanis suffer, from the brutal occupation. The film also examines previous American military adventures in Vietnam, Chile, and other countries, illustrating our history of repeatedly acting against democratically elected governments without provocation, under political pressure from those who believe the U.S. has the right to intervene wherever our economic interests are best served. The clear message is that our failing mission in Afghanistan must be evaluated within this broad framework.
Most of these perspectives get appallingly little attention from the national media and are generally not part of our national discourse about the reasons for war or the economic impact the wars have on our own citizens. As public budgets shrink and public workers become the targeted scapegoats for our collective financial woes, we must educate the general public and mobilize them to demand change in our national priorities from endless war to true economic and global security.
Woven into the film are references to the mass movements throughout our history that have challenged and changed American foreign policy and brought an end to unpopular wars. The author highlights in pictures and narration the many organizations working to end our current wars, and calls on us all to involve ourselves in the critical work needed to exert the will of the people for a more peaceful world. This film is an excellent tool to help generate these needed conversations and actions, and it is being used extensively for that purpose in classrooms, union halls, and public meeting places across the country.
“Why Are We in Afghanistan?” runs 28 minutes; an abbreviated 11-minute version is also provided on the DVD. It is well paced, easily understood, appropriate for any audience, comprehensively researched and documented, and engagingly presented with excellent illustrations and graphics. A teacher’s guide and other resource materials are also available through the Center’s website www.whyareweinafghanistan.org, where you can watch or purchase the film and find updates of news and analysis concerning Afghanistan.
Kathy Black is Health & Safety Director, AFSCME District Council 47, President of the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), and co-convenor of U.S. Labor Against the War.