ctrp407 On the Front Lines with the German Military

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Thomas Wiegold was there in Somalia even before the German military arrived back in 1993. And he has been there ever since, reporting on what is a unique situation for both a country and its military. As the decades have passed, as an independent journalist Thomas has continued to both report about as well as look critically at the decisions that are made and how those decisions are carried out by a military that has quietly engaged in a significant number of international interventions over the past 20 years.

In this podcast I get the chance to sit down with Thomas at the Pressehaus in Berlin and to talk about his work, how he got started reporting about the military and where this work has taken him, both physically and mentally.  Besides a list of newspapers and magazines, you can also find his work on his blog, Augen Geradeaus (wordplay on the military command – EYES FRONT!), which is mostly in German with items for the English speakers as well.  Download, sync it, listen to the discussion, you’re sure to learn something new, just as I did.

ctrp366 Violence Against Women in the Military

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Photo via John LaskerAn alarming number of women are dying non-combat deaths in the US military.  When families try to find out why, they are prevented from getting that information.  The US military doesn’t want to explain the details of how and why many of their female soldiers have died. In some cases they won’t even release the bodies or body parts to grieving loved ones.

John Lasker is an investigative reporter based in the state of Ohio in the US.  He has been writing and researching this issue in an effort to get the details that have been kept from families and the issue of sexual violence against women in the military.

Beyond what John has been investigating, we also talk about how he publishes his articles. Namely his use of a new type of crowd funded journalism web portal, spot.us. We get into the familiar topics of the future of journalism, especially the critical investigative type that has almost vanished from traditional media publications.

Besides the links above to John’s work, he is also the author of the book Tech Noir,  available now as an ebook.

On Afghanistan Goals

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Recent guest Rory Stewart said some extremely interesting things on the Bill Moyers Journal. Speaking about the military goals in Afghanistan and how much of a failure, or more importantly, unachievable these goals have proven to be. That said he isn’t talking about all or nothing, not trying to give a simple answer to such a complex situation.

Obviously there’s no shortage of reporting on Afghanistan out there, and it might all seem the same at some point. But if you’re trying to understand what is happening and what has happened when it comes to the International Military forces in Afghanistan, Rory Stewart explains it in a clear and useful way.  Highly recommend viewing or listening.

To Save Itself

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Australia’s ABC Radio National (Background Briefing) recently featured one of those speeches that I consider a huge must-listen no matter who you are.  The topic: The US’s place in the world, empire, the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, education and the interconnectedness of all these concepts.  The speaker, retired US army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, considers himself a conservative and argues against the idea that Afghanistan’s future is so vitally important to the future of the United States.  The same goes, in his opinion, for Iraq which he gets into in order to dispel the idea that the invasion of Iraq can now, in any way, be considered a victory.

Among his great quotes that I think need to be repeated and revisited:
“If the United States today has a saving mission, it is to save itself. Speaking in the midst of another unnecessary war back in 1967, Martin Luther King got it exactly right when he said, ‘Come home, America.’ The prophet of that era who urged his countrymen to take on what he called ‘the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism’ he remains the prophet today that we ignore at our peril. That Barack Obama should fail to realise this qualifies as not only ironic but also inexplicable.”

“Now for those who despite this, still hanker to have a go at nation-building, why stop with Afghanistan? When not first fix, say, Mexico? In terms of its importance to the United States, our southern neighbour, a major supplier of oil, and drugs among other commodities deemed vital to the American way of life, certainly Mexico outranks Afghanistan by several orders of magnitude. And for those who purport to believe that moral considerations rather than self-interest should inform foreign policy, thereto Mexico qualifies for priority attention. Consider the theft of California. Or consider more recently how the American appetite for illicit drugs and our liberal gun laws, have corroded Mexican institutions and produced an epidemic of violence affecting ordinary Mexicans. We owe these people, big time. Yet any politician or pundit suggesting that the United States ought to commit 60,000 or so US troops backed by a generously funded, multi year effort with expectations of eliminating Mexican drug traffic and political corruption, would be laughed out of Washington. And rightly so.”

Those are only two of many statements that over the last few years it seems much of the public has stopped thinking about. Somewhere along the way the war in Afghanistan became “the good war” that even Obama himself, the king of change, doesn’t want to turn back from.  Also towards the end of the speech he talks about education and how little influence the readings and teaching is school that children receive seems to have on them when compared with the influence of all other sources in the course of their daily lives. The conclusion, like the rest of the speech, is highly recommended reading or listening.