Tuesday, February 16, 2010

You Can Send Your Own Journalist to Afghanistan!

America's most insightful journalist and guerrilla editorial cartoonist Ted Rall must return to Afghanistan to report to us what is happening on the ground in those places where reporters never venture. This blog has been a supporter of Rall's since Joe Papp discovered his work in the Pittsburgh City Paper, and we desperately want him to be able to return to South-Central Asia - hence this post. You see, whilst he has already arranged for publication of whatever work he produces as a result of the trip, Rall has not been able to secure funding - newspapers can't or won't pay to send him to a war zone. While we suggested he contact the Coca-Cola Company for corporate sponsorship, for now Rall is appealing directly to his readers for support.

It's been a long day already, and this blogger has a phone call to make about a Pinarello Prince, but Pappillon found time to make a contribution to the "Send Ted Rall to Afghanistan and Hope He Comes Back Alive and Able to Write About his Trip"-fund - and we ask you to do the same. In fact, all Pappillon readers who pony up at least $10 for Ted's Trip will be entered into a drawing for a prize to be determined at a later date (though a signed copy of a Rall book - or at least a digital PDF copy - would seem an appropriate offering). Once you've donated, contact us to confirm your entry into the drawing.

In the best traditions of Web 2.0, you can contribute to the STRTAAHHCBAAATWAHT Fund online. What's that? How can you help? 


Below you can read in Ted's own words just what the heck this project is about (and be sure to note the Disclaimer! Holy sh#t!): 

"In November 2001, The Village Voice and KFI Radio in Los Angeles sent me to Afghanistan to cover the U.S. invasion. The work I produced earned accolades from The Nation and The Washington Post, which called my work "the best journalism from Afghanistan by an American reporter." What I saw made me one of the earliest and most vocal opponents of the Afghanistan war. While Democrats called Afghanistan "the good war," I filed an essay from Afghanistan called "How We Lost the Afghan War." It was printed in December 2001.

Now I'd like to go back for an update, and to fill in the gaps by visiting parts of the country where US reporters never go. I have media outlets ready to publish my stories and a publisher for a book about this trip. But magazines and newspapers can't/won't cover travel costs. Because it costs tens of thousands of dollars to travel to a war zone, that's what I'm trying to raise here.

About To Afghanistan and Back and my 2001 trip:
In 2001 I was one of the only independent American reporters at the front lines in Kunduz and Takhar provinces. I was forced to flee after three weeks, when members of the media were targeted and systematically hunted down, robbed and murdered. Of the 45 members of my convoy, three were killed and several others seriously wounded.

As you'd expect, it was a harrowing experience. But it did make for a good story. I compiled the cartoons and columns I filed from the front with a new graphic novella to create the graphic travelogue "To Afghanistan and Back." It appeared in March 2002, becoming the first book of any kind to appear about the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, I published a follow-up, "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?", a collection of cartoons, photos and essays about and from the former Central Asian republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.

Despite the hazards, there is no substitute for traveling as an independent reporter. Journalists embedded with the military are insulated from local people and often find themselves writing favorably about the soldiers upon whom they depend for security and personal protection. And they can't go wherever they want. And staff writers for major newspapers and broadcast networks are subject to editing and self-censorship, more often than not downplaying incidents that make the United States look bad.

What I'll Do This Time:
Now that the war in Afghanistan is a hot topic in the American press, I would like to return--to see what has changed and how life is going for Afghans, especially those in the remote provinces in the southwest where Western reporters never venture. I would like to report on the situation in comic and essay form, and compile the results in a book that would be a follow-up to "To Afghanistan and Back." Unfortunately, there aren't any newspapers, magazines or radio stations willing or able to cover the extremely high cost of travel to, from and within the Afghanistan war zone. Among the expenses are internal transportation and housing, security, and bribes to corrupt local officials in order to move about unmolested. I am extremely stingy, but inflation prevails during wartime and many expenses are covered with US$100 notes.

My publisher NBM would be willing to publish the book, but not to cover the travel expenses required to get in and out of Afghanistan. Hopefully, that's where you come in.

I think this is an important project, both for Americans and Afghans. Americans need the unvarnished truth from "Obama's War" but they aren't getting it. The Afghan people need us, the people who pay the army that is occupying their land, to learn their story--what they need, what they don't, and what they want from us.

IN THE EVENT THAT I RECEIVE MORE THAN $25,000 IN BACKING: It would be amazing to get that much, but if backing exceeds $25,000 I will use all extra funds for additional travel within Afghanistan and the region, including Iran and the Central Asian republics. I would file additional reports and an additional travelogue book.

CONTACT: I would be happy to answer and all questions from potential backers. Please email me at ted@rall.com.

DISCLAIMER: Anyone who travels to Afghanistan independently cannot vouchsafe with 100 percent certainty that he or she will return alive or intact. In the event that I am injured or killed as a result of this project, there is a possibility that I would not be able to perform all the promised work."

Want to learn more about Ted Rall and his work? Well then, MAKE AN ONLINE DONATION TO THE  STRTAAHHCBAAATWAHT FUND!

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