New DMZ America Podcast! Inside the Minds of Two Political Cartoonists

 
 

It’s a full plate of debate and discussion between political cartoonists Scott Stantis (on the Right) and Ted Rall (on the Left) as they confront the closing days of America’s chaotic pullout from Afghanistan, the rise of an Afghan terrorist group that makes the Taliban look warm and fuzzy, and the issue of what to do (or not to) when a cartoon deadline looms. Plus: school is back in session and we still can’t decide what to do about COVID: mask mandates, vaccine mandates or nothing at all.

DMZ America Podcast #6: Alzheimer’s, Afghanistan and Biden

Scott Stantis and I are aghast at the obvious failing cognitive abilities of America’s chief executive and Commander-In-Chief as he fends off media queries about American incompetence in the face of the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. What can or, more to the point, should be done about our befuddled commander-in-chief? Riffing off personal experience, Scott and I have a few ideas on this latest edition of the DMZ America Podcast. Please listen and share!

 

What Will the Taliban Do? It’s Up to Us.

           How will the Taliban govern Afghanistan? It may be up to us.

The U.S. is out, but what the Biden Administration and its Western allies do in the weeks and months ahead will have a big influence on whether the Central Asian country reverts to the insular medieval barbarism of the 1990s or modernizes in order to conform to major international norms.

            The Taliban is far from monolithic. They have common values: adherence to sharia law, resistance to foreign interference, the traditional Pashtun tribal code of pashtunwali. How those general values manifest as specific policies and laws will be subject to interpretation through the movement’s fluid internal politics.

Divided along regional and tribal lines, an alliance between anti-imperialist Afghan nationalists motivated to protect the country’s sovereignty and Islamic fundamentalists, and partly composed of former Ghani regime soldiers and policemen who defected under pressure, the Taliban is a highly decentralized movement whose desperate leadership could tilt it toward the hardliners, or more liberal and modern thinkers.

Right now, the Taliban are saying the right things and sending positive signals about keeping girls’ schools open, allowing women to work, and amnesty for Afghans who worked for NATO occupation force. Clearly the order has gone out from the Taliban shura to their fighters to behave correctly. Images from a Taliban press conference reveal that the presidential palace has not been vandalized or looted. In a signal that this is not your father’s Taliban, high-ranking Taliban official Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad sat for an interview with a female television journalist whose face was uncovered. Former president Hamid Karzai is safe despite having remained in Kabul. While Western news media made much of the Taliban firing their guns outside the airport, firing over people’s heads was clearly an attempt at crowd control.

Americans would not have voted for the Taliban to govern Afghanistan. But we don’t get a vote. For the foreseeable future, what seemed inevitable to anyone who was paying attention over the last 20 years is now a fait accompli. The question now is: which Taliban will we and, far more importantly, the people of Afghanistan be dealing with?

The Taliban who are allowing French, British and other nations’ troops to travel inside the capital in order to escort their citizens to the airport for evacuation—who even risked their own lives to evacuate Indian embassy staff—and who have left unmolested old Afghan government posters of ousted president Ashraf Ghani and iconic Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, a sworn enemy of the Taliban assassinated by Al Qaeda?

Or the thugs who tortured and assassinated nine members of the Hazara minority and have threatened to subject women to forced marriage?

The U.S. and its Western allies face a choice. We can exert pressure through de facto economic sanctions, as the Biden Administration has done by freezing the Afghan government’s $9 billion in assets and cutting off half a billion in IMF funding, and via airstrikes, another option the president is keeping on the table. Alternatively, we can offer economic aid and diplomatic recognition. Or we can tailor a middle path that ties rewards to our perception of the new government’s behavior.

Pouring on the pressure would be a tragic mistake. It will strengthen the hand of the most radical Taliban hardliners at the expense of relative moderates who want Afghanistan to look and feel more like Pakistan: undeniably Islamic in character but connected by trade and communications to the outside world. You don’t want your adversary to feel as though it has nothing left to lose—so give them something they want to keep.

Let’s be mindful of how the blunders of American policymakers in response to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran needlessly radicalized a revolutionary government.

Had President Jimmy Carter not admitted the deposed Shah to the U.S. for medical treatment, radical college students would not have seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran or taken 52 staffers as hostages. Supreme Leader and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, by temperament a moderate who opposed hotheaded tactics, was forced to side with the student radicals during the hostage crisis or risk being pushed aside by his own uprising. After the embassy was taken over, there was too much national pride at stake for either party to back down. The U.S. and the new Iranian government dug in their heels, leading to decades of misunderstanding and antagonism.

While a total absence of pressure would be politically unpalatable and unrealistic given the Taliban’s 1990s track record, U.S. policymakers should deploy a light touch with Taliban-governed Afghanistan. Playing the tough guy will strengthen the hand of hardliners who don’t want girls to be educated or women to fully participate in society, and prefer to return to the bad old days of stonings and demolishing cultural treasures. Right now, the relatively liberal wing of the Taliban is in charge. Let’s try to keep it that way.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Now available to order. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

New podcast! Please listen and share

Just dropped the brand-new edition of the DMZ podcast with Scott Stantis and I.

Today we are talking about the collapse of Afghanistan, and how it affects the Biden Administration as the President’s poll numbers continue to slide into the toilet. What’s the outlook for the midterm elections and the next presidential cycle? I continue to talk about my own experiences traveling in Afghanistan and Scott makes a strong case for voting third party.

 

Special Podcast: Afghanistan and What Comes Next under the Taliban

I have traveled repeatedly to Afghanistan and throughout Central Asia, written several books about Afghanistan and surrounding countries and been completely immersed and obsessed with the war and the country for the last 20 years. I discuss these experiences and my thoughts about the collapse of the U.S.-backed puppet government and what comes next in today’s special edition of the DMZ America podcast. Please listen and share generously if you support this effort.

 

Celebrate the Heroes Who Warned Us That Afghanistan Would Be a Disaster

Desperation at Kabul airport as Afghans try to flee - YouTube

            Thousands of dead Americans, tens of thousands of dead Afghans, $2 trillion down the toilet, a Taliban victory that leaves America’s international reputation in shambles. This disaster didn’t happen by itself. Political and military leaders, aided and abetted by the news media, are responsible and should be held accountable. Voters let themselves be led by the nose—and they should take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror because what they did and didn’t do caused many people to die.

            Antiwar heroes deserve recognition and respect for telling us not to go into Afghanistan and, after we did, to get out despite being marginalized and ridiculed. They were lonely. Despite widespread reports of casualties among Afghan civilians and the glaring fact that the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11, 88% of Americans—Democrats and Republicans alike—supported George W. Bush’s war three weeks after U.S. bombs began raining down on Kabul.

            Let’s celebrate the good guys.

            During the fall of 2001 tens of thousands of demonstrators marched against the war in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and other U.S. cities. The marchers were too few and too peaceful to move the needle. But the judgment of history is now final: the tiny minority who opposed invading Afghanistan were morally right and correctly skeptical about the outcome. If you know any of these true American heroes, thank them for their service and buy them a drink.

            While nationalist nimrods drove around with their cars idiotically festooned by American flags, intelligent and ethical individuals spoke out for what was right. “Under the [U.N.] charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the [U.N.] Security Council approves,” said Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild. “Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men —15 from Saudi Arabia — did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the U.S. or another U.N. member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is illegal.”

            All 98 senators present, including Bernie Sanders, voted to bomb the hell out of Afghanistan and install the puppet regime whose corruption led to the Taliban takeover. In the House of Representatives, the vote was 420 to 1. There was only one sane, only one correct voice in opposition in the entire Congress: Barbara Lee of California. “As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, as we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore,” she implored.

            “For her lone stance,” Glenn Greenwald wrote in 2016, “[Representative] Lee was deluged with rancid insults and death threats to the point where she needed around-the-clock bodyguards. She was vilified as ‘anti-American’ by numerous outlets including the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Times editorialized on September 18 that ‘Ms. Lee is a long-practicing supporter of America’s enemies — from Fidel Castro on down’ and that ‘while most of the left-wing Democrats spent the week praising President Bush and trying to sound as moderate as possible, Barbara Lee continued to sail under her true colors.’ Since then, she has been repeatedly rejected in her bids to join the House Democratic leadership, typically losing to candidates close to Wall Street and in support of militarism.” Two years later, pro-war Democrats denied her yet another post, as chairperson of their House caucus, to punish her for voting against the Afghan war.

            Every congressman and senator who voted for this stupid Afghanistan war is a fool who should resign at once.

            Americans who supported this stupid Afghanistan war should refrain from voting ever again.

            Media outlets that editorialized in favor of this stupid Afghanistan war deserve to go out of business.

            American history has been defined by war, mostly illegal and unjustified on the part of the United States government. That history will continue unless we recognize, elevate and employ the voices of people who speak out against stupid wars before they start.

 (Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Now available to order. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

Stop Listening to the Pro-War Idiots Who Got Afghanistan Wrong

Vol ,06 Issue 32 by Diana James - issuu

           You’re going to read a lot of Afghan War postmortems in the coming days. Some have already been published.

            Don’t listen to anyone who was ever in favor of occupying Afghanistan. They were wrong for thinking that the United States could have won. They were stupid to think that invading Afghanistan would prevent another 9/11, a horror for which the Taliban had zero responsibility. Afghan War supporters were immoral for supporting the bombing of civilians that were so routine that blowing up wedding parties became a joke, for backing the invasion of a sovereign state that never posed a threat to us, and for justifying the violent imposition of a corrupt puppet regime. Anyone who ever believed that going into Afghanistan was a good idea is too stupid to deserve a job in journalism, academia or military command.

            Don’t listen to anyone who criticizes President Joe Biden for sticking to his promise to withdraw U.S. forces. We were always going to lose. The Taliban were always going to win. Biden and his team recognized reality. Accepting reality is a rare trait among our foolish leadership caste, one that should be praised.

            Don’t listen to anyone who cries over the fate of Afghan women under Taliban rule. If they had really cared about gender equality on the other side of the planet, they would have criticized the soon-to-be-overthrown puppet government in Kabul for tolerating honor killings, child marriage, systemic rape and even stonings throughout their benighted 20-year rule under U.S. subjugation. They were silent and therefore complicit. Afghan women never stopped suffering; American liberals simply stopped caring.

            It’s unfortunate that political punditry isn’t subject to the same performance standards as other fields in which a writer issues prognostications. A financial consultant who recommends that her clients buy a stock that loses value is likely to find herself out of work. A meteorologist whose incorrect weather predictions lead to a lot of rained-out picnics and weddings will probably suffer lower ratings and eventual dismissal. A film critic who raves about bad movies won’t be taken seriously.

            Politics, particularly when it comes to international affairs, is different. Newspaper columnists and cable-news talking heads never get ghosted, much less fired, for being wrong about war. From David Brooks to Thomas Friedman to Max Boot to William Kristol, helping to talk the American public into disastrous foreign adventures in places like Afghanistan and Iraq results in zero accountability. To the contrary, these elite idiots keep getting invited back to share their stupidity in high-profile television appearances and lucrative book deals. Unlike the stupid stockbroker and the incompetent weatherman and the movie reviewer with poor taste, the implications of their incompetent prognostications are staggering, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.

            In a nation where one of the major national religions is militarism, this is a feature rather than a bug. Right or wrong about the outcome, it always pays to be pro-war. If you are a pacifist or skeptical about wars of choice in general, or merely anticipate problems with a particular military incursion, it doesn’t matter if you are 100% correct 100% of the time—you will be blackballed, ridiculed, disappeared. Whether you watch CNN or MSNBC or Fox News, you will never see a guest unreservedly opposed to a war.

            The editorialists aren’t just on the editorial page. One major “tell” to reveal biased, pro-war and therefore worthless news coverage is when a supposedly objective reporter inserts loaded adjectives into what is supposed to be unbiased coverage of a foreign conflict where the United States has an interest. As the Taliban continue to sweep across Afghanistan, seizing control of one city after another, allegedly impartial journalists express dismay at the “deteriorating security situation” and the “bleak future” of that country. It’s OK to be against the Taliban, even to support the ridiculously corrupt puppet regime in Kabul, but why can’t they tell us what’s going on and keep their opinions to themselves?

            For whatever it’s worth, I was one of the few American journalists and commentators who went to Afghanistan and traveled unembedded and independently of the American military. I was one of the few who told you in cartoons and essays and books from the beginning, and repeatedly throughout the last two decades, that the war against the people of Afghanistan was stupid, immoral and unwinnable.

It wasn’t worth much.

For my efforts I was ruthlessly and consistently censored, even by so-called “progressive” media outlets for whom Afghanistan was, in the immortally wrong words of President Obama, the good war. It was frustrating to know that I could have doubled my income by coming out as pro-war.

More importantly, a lot of people died because the voices of people like me were stifled. Because the American people were denied the truth about what we did in Afghanistan, we fought and killed and died for nothing.

            Antiwar voices are still marginalized. Countless more will be killed.

 (Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.” Now available to order. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

New Podcast Episode is Up

Gone Cuomo Gone, Debt-Crazed Dems and Afganistan Re-Talibanized! Conservative cartoonist Scott Stantis and I talk about today’s news and lots else in Episode 3 of the DMZ America podcast. We are working to improve sound quality and making progress but it’s a process. Please listen and comment and share, or it will all be for nothing!

 

Episode 2 of my Podcast with Scott Stantis: Eviction moratorium, violent crime and (ugh) Kamala Harris

In the second episode of my “DMZ America” podcast co-starring with Scott Stantis, we gave the left versus right treatment to the issue of the eviction moratorium, Vice President Kamala Harris and a lot more.

If you want this to become an ongoing thing, please send feedback to let us know what we are doing right and what is not going so well, and make sure you share and like on social media.

Thanks!

 

 

Scott and Ted’s Excellent New Podcast

As you may or may not know, one of my very best friends is Scott Stantis, the conservative-leaning cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune. We talk almost every day about current events, politics, the state of the world today, personal stuff, whatever. He’s an amazing guy with diametrically opposed politics from mine.
 
Even though we have often had spirited debates and discussions, we always manage to keep things civil and we never call each other names or get angry at each other over our disagreements. Because of that, we have often thought that it would be good for us to do a radio show or a podcast together at some point. Now we’re doing it.
 
Here’s the very first episode of what I guess you might call the “soft launch” of “DMZ America with Ted Rall and Scott Stantis.” The name DMZ was Scott’s idea; think of it as us meeting in a demilitarized zone in order to hash out differences.
Currently we’re planning to do it about twice a week.
 
Recording quality on the first go around was a little rough, particularly on my end because I don’t think I was close enough to the mic. So bear with us. It’s going to get better. If you like what you hear, please share it! This will live or die based on its circulation.
 
 

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