Day: August 31, 2011

Priorities, priorities, priorities….

I have good friends a few miles north of here in Vermont who will be reeling from Hurricane Irene for months. One of my favorite places, Wilmington — just south of Mount Snow ski resort — was completely flooded and Route 9, the major road to the town (and all East-West travel in southern Vermont) will be out for weeks. It’s going to be a long haul getting back.

Despite the devastation, we now hear that House Republicans are holding FEMA hostage by demanding the $3.6 billion in emergency storm relief has to be offset by cuts in other programs.

So where should we cut? National Priorities Project has this handy list of spending priorities. I bet we could find some money in there.

But, for my money, I think Vermont taxpayers should take a look at this tool to figure out which trade-offs work for them. Turns out they will be paying more than $750 million this year to support the Pentagon’s budget. In the past decade, they’ve paid more than $2.2 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including nearly $250 million this year alone. Those would be the same wars that the Wartime Contracting Commission just announced lost as much as $60 billion “due to lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and corruption.” I bet some of that could be spent at home helping them rebuild….



Last night PBS’ POV program aired the Danish documentary film “Armadillo” (filmed 2009; released 2010) about a Danish-British Forward Operating Base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Although much of the documentary portrays standard tropes and follows a time honored narrative arc from a long line of war films, Janus Metz‘s work sparked debate in Europe because it appeared to depict Danish soldiers “liquidating” wounded Taliban fighters and piling up the bodies to take trophy photos. Thus, as the director notes, the film challenges the notion of soldiers as heroes while also showing the ways in which the experience of combat perverts the psychological state of the soldiers.

More subtly and perhaps more subversively, the film allows Afghan civilians, who are caught in the conflict between ISAF and the Taliban, to speak for themselves. Children beg for food, but they also heckle the soldiers for killing their livestock and wounding their family members and they bluntly tell the soldiers to just go home. Village elders seek compensation for destruction to their property and livelihood by ISAF forces while also trying to keep the somewhat oblivious soldiers off of their crops. There is even a wonderfully absurd encounter at a madrassa where the Danish troops try to secure support and information from the teacher at the madrassa by telling him that with his cooperation they will be able to build schools for children in the village — as if a madrassa were not a school. ¬†The arguments of the soldiers about creating security if only the villagers would collaborate with the ISAF troops are calmly defeated through knowing smiles and gestures explaining what the Taliban will do to collaborators… The hopeless and confused nature of the conflict where violence begets more violence becomes startlingly apparent in these brief interactions.

If you did not get a chance to see this film, the full length version is available at PBS POV.


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