Funded! This project was successfully funded on April 5, 2010.

Update #17

Afghanistan Book Publication Schedule

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Just an update about the status of the Afghanistan book.
Hill& Wang, a subsidiary of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, is trying to decide whether to release the book in late 2012 or spring 2013. Their books are highly designed and very beautiful, which can lead to long lead times before publication. In addition, the coming 2012 presidential election has them considering the possibility of publishing a collection of my cartoons and prose about the Obama years next year, as an introduction to FSG, with the Afghanistan book following shortly on its heels.

As for the book itself, it is near completion on my end. I am finishing up a graphic novella-formatted history of the Afghanistan War from 2001 to present (a break from the usual "let's start with Alexander the Great and wind up with the Soviet withdrawal, plus Americans!" approach. And I have a bunch of edits to do to the prose. But the book is finished enough that, if I died today, FSG could put it out today.

After I finish the Afghanistan book (in a month or two), I will turn my attention to a political book, a follow-up to my Anti-American Manifesto that describes what kind of transition could and should follow the overthrow of the U.S. government—a topic which the rise of the Occupy movement has made more relevant.

Feel free to get or stay in touch, and thanks again for your support!

Ted


Update #16

Writing Away

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Hi! I wanted to let you know the status of the book project.

The "Afghan Notebook" book for Farrar, Straus & Giroux is moving along nicely. It's going to be a fairly long (about 350 pp.) collection of prose, photos and cartoons about the trip to Afghanistan, framing it as one more example of US foreign policy running amok. Why do we always get ourselves into these quagmires?

The title was always a working title. Now I'm leaning more toward "The Beginning of the End: The US War in Afghanistan in Words and Pictures" or somesuch. If you have a better idea, now would be the time to speak up.

I've written the prose. I owe the publisher captions for the photos and then a 30-page comix-format history of the war from 2001 to 2011. That should all be done within two months. We're looking at a pub date of Spring 2012, partly because it is felt that Afghanistan may be a topic of discussion during the presidential primaries.

In related news, I'm also considering doing a series of documentaries and books about revolutions in practice on the ground, beginning with the Naxalite movement in Nepal and the Niger Delta insurgency.


Update #15

Back

4 comments

As my friend and colleague Scott Stantis told me, "There were lots of surprises. That makes it a good trip."

Steven Cloud, Matt Bors and I are back home in the U.S. I was prolific, and editors advised me to build a delay into later blog entries for security reasons, so there are still some more Afghan Notebook cartoons in the pipeline. There will be 47 in all, ending roughly September 15th.

While memories are fresh I'm getting to work on compiling and adding to the book for Hill & Wang, part of Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. We're aiming for a Spring 2012 pub date, but that's sooner than you think…I need to finish the book within the next six months.

So—what did I find out?

Nothing beats seeing things for yourself, and this was no exception. First and foremost, I was shocked to learn that we were the first Americans the Afghans we saw had ever met. How was this possible? The U.S. has occupied this country for nine years. How could shopkeepers have never sold a Coke to a U.S. soldier? A journalist? An NGO worker? After a few weeks "in country," as they say, it became obvious that they were telling the truth. Journalists and soldiers travel in heavily-armed convoys, decked out in body armor. They zoom by, honking their horns and threatening to shoot anyone who doesn't get out of the way quickly enough. They don't walk the streets. They certainly don't hang out with Afghans. No wonder we don't know what's going on.

The infrastructure situation was better than reported. Roads have been paved, bridges rebuilt, cellphone service established more widely than in many places in the U.S. Still, it's not nearly enough, especially considering the billions that have been poured in over there. Corruption and incompetence are rampant.

The security situation is not as bad as people think. It's certainly not like 2001, when it was "Mad Max." Americans thought it was OK then, and worse now. Actually, it's the opposite. But it's still not safe. What has changed is that the Taliban roam unchallenged in rural areas. They effectively control 85 percent of the country, everything outside the big cities. But it's by choice. The U.S. has no presence in the vast majority of the country, and has no role in providing basic security. It sees Afghanistan as a military problem. Actually, it is a nation-building problem. Also, the quality of NGO workers and journalists is worse than in 2001. This generation of Afghan hands are cowards. Like everyone else, Afghans despise cowards.

Right now, Afghans are staring into the abyss. They know we're pulling out. The new generation of Taliban are infinitely more frightening than the old Islamist-but-honest variety. These are gangsters, kidnappers, rapists, Talibs in name only. Apres nous, la deluge.

I'll be posting private excerpts from the upcoming book to Kickstarter contributors exclusively.

P.S. My new book, "The Anti-American Manifesto," hits bookstores this week.


Update #14

First Afghan Blog Posted

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I am not in Afghanistan yet, but am drawing some introductory cartoon blogs to set the scene. The first one just went up at EurasiaNet.org. You can check there as well as at http://rall.com/rallblog for daily updates.


Update #13

Off to Afghanistan!

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The visas have been acquired: Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and even the much coveted Iranian visa. It was touch and go there for a while: we had to shell out over 3,000 euros to an Iranian fixer just to score the visa, which just got us the document today. And I leave Sunday.

Equipment has been purchased: sleep sacks, backpacks, water purification tablets, Starbucks individual instant coffees, antibiotics, antidiarrhea medications. Satellite equipment has been rented. Solar panels and batteries and video cameras--all the stuff you need to document such a trip and transmit the results.

Tickets have been purchased: New York to Mumbai, Mumbai to Dubai, Dubai to Dushanbe.

Total cost so far: $35,000 plus.

And now I'm leaving Sunday.

I'll start filing the cartoon blogs around August 10, and will enter Afghanistan from Tajikistan, toward Taloqan (which may or not be controlled by the Taliban when we arrive) on August 13. If you contributed, you'll get the blog via Stephanie McMillan, who is my stateside liaison for distribution.

That's the plan, anyway. I'm going with Matt Bors and Steven Cloud, fellow cartoonists and bon vivants.

Oh, and the beard. The beard is looking good, I think, but judge for yourself.

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