Monday, September 14, 2009

Bill Moyers: The Pitbull Strikes Again

Lord knows what we will do when Bill Moyers retires. Moyers is one of the few progressive journalists left who does his homework and tackles complicated issues thoroughly, along with Amy Goodman and Tom Robbins (New York issues). The following is a link to his interview with McClatchy's Penatagon correspondent, Nancy Youssef, who has done several stints in Afghanistan:
Moyers interviews Nancy Youssef

The interview is remarkable for a number of reasons. First, Moyers has clearly reached the point where he finds no distinction between Vietnam and Afghanistan. Youssef tries to push back on this meme, but is consistently overmatched. I love this exchange:

Yeah, the good news is that the United States is committed to it. The good news is that the world thinks that this is a priority. The good news is that there's now a renewed effort and that the best minds are on this and trying to come up with a solution. And that--

BILL MOYERS: The best and the brightest?

Youssef is an interesting interviewee; in contrast to the usual Moyers guest, who plays along with his story line, Youssef seems torn between the horrific news she brings back from the ground, and a creeping loyalty to the U.S military operation. Observe this rambling, which could have come from a Pentagon press release:

NANCY YOUSSEF: But, you know, we talk about Afghanistan as an eight year war. But the truth is it's been eight separate individual years of war... Because we've never gone after this in a real way. There was a strategy 2001 to 2003. And then we tried something else 2003 to 2005. And then it escalated and we tried something else. So, I think if we-- to me, I think what General McChrystal's really saying is if we're going to do, let's do it. Let's really do it. And I think that's the disparity that from the military perspective they'll tell you we haven't really been given the chance, because we were too busy in Iraq. So it's a true argument. It's a fair argument.

I'm sorry, but eight years of war is eight years of war. As Moyers points out, that is longer than our commitment to World War I and World War II combined. That constitutes "a chance". The fact that multiple military strategies have failed is hardly a ringing endorsement to try a new one.

In any case, I'm riding Youssef a little too hard. The interview is worth watching or listening to because of a number of astute observations she makes about conditions on the ground. Youssef agrees that the war in Afghanistan, as well as the war in Iraq, have been too sanitized, leaving the public misinformed and apathetic to the hardships soldiers are facing on a daily basis.

Youssef also breaks down a major problem in our reconstruction efforts. She claims that because 101,000 NATO troops simply cannot protect more than a third of the countryside, if that, there is little incentive to build hospitals and schools- you know, the good stuff we should be doing abroad, because Taliban forces quickly take them over for their own purposes or blow them up. Brutal times...

You can download the interview by going to Bill Moyers' podcast directory on iTunes, or go to the PBS host page:

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