"Why Are We in Afghanistan?" Debuts at US Labor Against the War Conference

I just returned from the US Labor Against the War Assembly in Chicago, December 4-6. There were lots of high points, including the fact that oil workers from the U.S. got together with the heads of the oil unions in Iraq and Venezuela.

But for me the most exciting part was the release of a new 28-minute DVD entitled "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" I admit to being biased, as I participated in the early drafts of the DVD, but I think it will be a great tool for educating and mobilizing union members to oppose the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Education about the facts and the costs of the war was the number one item in USLAW’s Plan of Action; the hope is to show it at union meetings at all levels. There’s also a ten-minute version.

We have our work cut out for us. Many people who opposed the Iraq war are torn about the war in Afghanistan. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was and is a haven for Al Qaeda cells. "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" helps to answer these doubts.

It cites the Rand Corporation, a respected think tank with close ties to the American military and intelligence services. The Rand Corporation says there is no battlefield solution to terrorism; it says the way to minimize terrorism is by choking off the finances and using legal means to bring terrorists to justice. The DVD notes that one of the main recruitment arguments that the Taliban uses is that the U.S. is killing civilians in Afghanistan.



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"Why Are We in Afghanistan?" also documents how much money these wars cost: the U.S. military budget eats up close to 50 percent of the discretionary budget, taking away money from schools, housing, health insurance, and other pressing needs.

The DVD also puts the current U.S. involvement in historical perspective, showing other military interventions undertaken to support the interests of big business. Nothing in the military budget reverses the trend of wages for U.S. workers, which have been falling for more than 35 years. If Iraq was about oil, as former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan admitted, and if democracy had nothing to do with our invasion of Vietnam, and if Afghanistan is in a key strategic location for access to natural gas supplies in central Asia, then why should we believe that an escalated war in Afghanistan is of any benefit to U.S. workers?

The DVD was written by Michael Zweig, a faculty union activist and professor of economics. Cartoons are by Mike Konopacki. Order one by mailing a check payable to "SUNY Stony Brook-IFR 910321" to the Center for Study of Working Class Life, Dept. of Economics, SUNY, Stony Brook, NY 11974-4384. Copies are $9.95 plus $3 shipping and handling for the first copy and $1 for additional copies.

John Braxton is co-president of American Federation of Teachers Local 2026 at the Community College of Philadelphia. He represented the Philadelphia AFL-CIO at the USLAW conference.