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Robert Greenwald and Reporter Michael Hastings Take on the Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War Machine

Hastings, in his hard-hitting new book, discusses "politically correct imperialism," why the military is obsessed with its legacy, and why we're stuck in post-9/11 thinking.

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RG: Well, when we began our work on Afghanistan, we did it at a time when the war was incredibly popular -- it was the right war – but a cursory look made it clear that the fundamentals made no sense. Iraq, you could argue -- obviously we were opposed to it – but you could argue they had weapons of mass destruction and therefore you should do something. It was a wrong but rational argument. In Afghanistan, I cannot find rational, logical arguments for doing what we're doing.

MH: In 2008, after my first trip to Afghanistan, I came back and did a story for GQ, and my editor said something -- and it's a line I've stolen from him – he said we're stuck in post-9/11 thinking. There was this whole period of time where you could be accused of pre-9/11 thinking, but what's happened is we're stuck in post-9/11 thinking. And these misconceptions that I think took hold quite early have become institutionalized. And institutionalized in a way that is meant to shut down debate.

Because you may say, well, we should get out of Afghanistan, and then the answer is, well, what about the terrorist safe havens? Grover Norquist actually made the argument that there's a reason why there's not a robust debate from the other side about Afghanistan – it's because they know how flimsy their argument is.

And we haven't even gotten to the fact that by being in these places – and with the trauma that we're inflicting on these societies while we're there – that's the way you create terrorists, it's not the way you defeat terrorists.

RG: Yes, well, with the exception of you and a few others we have allowed some of these folks to get away with outrageousness under the pretense that it's serious thinking. And I think the so-called liberal hawks have also done us an extraordinary disservice for which they have paid no public price. And you had a really good name for it -- "politically correct imperialism." And I just love that.

MH: It's really amazing to see. And the sort of liberal human-rights pro-war community, they only use these sort of human rights issues when it's to their advantage. The great argument is we can't leave Afghanistan because what about the Afghan women?

And the problem with that line of thinking is not that, oh, you know, I'm not concerned with the fate of Afghan women, it's that the U.S. government and the Pentagon is never going to be concerned with the fate of Afghan women. And the only reason these arguments are used is to put forth these sort of plans for constant war.

But I should rephrase that. It's not that they don't care, it's just not a priority. And all these human rights issues that get put out there as reasons to stay, are just, in my mind, again, it becomes a strange form of this politically correct imperialism. If the U.S. government were actually concerned about the fate of these native populations, then you clearly wouldn't want to invade them and raid their houses and detain tens of thousands of their citizens. Does anyone really think that we have any concern at all for the fate of Afghan women?

But again, that's taken as a serious argument. You know, people at the Council on Foreign Relations will argue strenuously that's why we have to be in Afghanistan.

RG: I want to move to a Colbert quote and talk about the Pentagon and the media. There's a great quote of his from the White House Correspondents dinner, whenever that was, 2006: “Let's review the rules, here's how it works. The President makes decisions, he's the decider. The press secretary announces the decisions, and you people of the press type these decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put them through a spell check and go home.”

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