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The Truth in Afghanistan

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A Washington Post report details misleading public information over the course of the war in Afghanistan, San Diego has a stark racial gap when it comes to arrests and drug prosecutions, and the new religious themed Legacy International Center opens in Mission Valley.

Speaker 1: 00:05 Deception in bell up the U S mission in Afghanistan after 18 years, thousands of lives and $1 trillion. What leaders and fighters really say about America's longest war from arrest to prosecution, major disparities when it comes to justice and race in San Diego, and divine inspiration for San Diego's latest tourist attraction, the new Bible theme resort opening this weekend in mission Valley. I'm Mark Sauer. The KPBS round table starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:40 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:45 welcome to our discussion of the week stop stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS round table today. KPBS military Porter, Steve Walsh. Laurie Weisberger covers tourism and marketing with the San Diego union Tribune, NBC seven San Diego investigative producer, Dorian Hardgrove and Lindsey weekly watchdog reporter with the union Tribune. Well, the big news today of course, is the historic vote by the house judiciary committee to impeach president Donald Trump. We're leaving that coverage to NPR and PPS. Excuse me, with the full house considering the matter next week. First up for us following a three year court battle. The Washington post this week published a series of devastating stories about what's really gone on and America's longest war. The confidential trove of documents show top defense department leaders and commanders in the field misled the nation about the war in Afghanistan over the past 18 years. Quote, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable. Now Steve, these stories, they shock the conscience. I don't know how much news there is really there, but what are some of the main points revealed in this Washington post series?

Speaker 3: 01:58 Well that's right. This feels kind of like a one stop shop of all the things we've learned about the Afghan war over the last 18 years. I don't think anybody thought it was going well up into this point. Anything that goes on for 18 years is going a little slowly, if nothing else. So, you know, the things we, we that really were hit home here is there was no real clear strategy by either the, uh, Obama administration or the Bush administration or even the Trump administration for that matter. We would push the Taliban out of a certain regions and then they would come right back then we tried to attack the drug trade or the drug trade is, is now thriving. The Bush administration missed a real opportunity early on, about six months into the war, we kicked out Al-Qaida, which is why we started the war in the first place. We started hunting around for who was the real enemy here. We decided it was the Taliban because they had helped. Um, they had helped Al Qaeda and unfortunately the telethon was indigenous to Afghanistan and we were left with basically an insurgent war from there on out.

Speaker 1: 02:59 And uh, as the post says in the opening, their, their, their whole series here didn't understand the culture, didn't understand the history, you know, the language of course was an issue. Didn't realize what kind of a political system they had all of these things going in, which was reminiscent of course Vietnam AraC I mean the same criticisms of the U S in, in the, uh, adventures misadventures there.

Speaker 3: 03:21 Well that's true. I mean, the only pushback you'll get from the Pentagon on this is the whole notion that this was all complete lying here. They said these scenarios had come out, but um, it's very clear. Um, it's at one point it was called a self-licking ice cream cone. I loved that line and it was a great line. It's basically we poured all of this money into the country to stop corruption and we ended up creating even more corruption every time we wanted to change strategy, which Obama did want to change strategy to have a surge and then get out, uh, you needed to go back to Congress and say that you were making progress. So you had to keep telling him that there had been some progress on the ground and the cycle just perpetuated itself.

Speaker 1: 04:00 And then it became kind of the forgotten war. We didn't hear about it much in 2016 or even in 2018 congressional elections. And until this came up this week, it's not on the radar.

Speaker 3: 04:10 When Mark Esper, the secretary of defense, when he, uh, testified in his hearings before Congress, nobody even asked him a question about how things were going in Afghanistan. Right? Laurie, obviously you were about to say this, but you know, it's been much like into the Pentagon papers then how we were lying to about Vietnam. And even though as you point out, maybe it doesn't come as a surprise that things weren't going well going well. But on the other hand, we were led to believe that we weren't. So how do we ever believe in our military people in the future? Wait, I mean, it's like a spouse has been on, how do I ever trust you again? Right now, that is the question here, because clearly throughout, almost from the very beginning, we knew we had no clear mission in Afghanistan. The question has always been, how do you extricate yourself without the, without Al-Qaida returning and there may never really be a solution to them. Russians go through this. I mean, it was nothing. Afghanistan was supposed to be there. Vietnam, well, apparently our Vietnam was really Afghanistan

Speaker 1: 05:11 and yeah, we had a 10 year last lesson from the Russians just before we decided to do this. Now Steve, many local families connection to someone served in the war. Um, of course, obviously a military town. This is a, had a direct impact and a toll here in San Diego.

Speaker 3: 05:25 Oh, I, he always comes to mind. The, uh, the dark horse, uh, battalion, uh, back in 2010, you had 25 Marines from camp Pendleton killed and how Mont province, uh, another 200 were wounded. Three dozen people lost limbs to them. It's never going to be a forgotten war.

Speaker 1: 05:45 Absolutely. And uh, the U S invaded and tried to occupy Afghanistan course following the nine 11 attacks here. And as you said, the original mission, then the mission changed the mission creep. You've got in Rumsfeld, original secretary of defense in this, in the George W. Bush administration saying, you know, I'm blind here. Who is the enemy? What's going on? I mean, this is the secretary of defense. Indeed, the secretary of defense,

Speaker 3: 06:09 um, who seemed, I mean at one point the, the Bush administration were working with people that in hindsight, according to, um, some of these interviews turned out to be worse than the Taliban there. Um, there were talk that some of these leaders had their committed murder mayhem. At one point, the bank of Kabul nearly went bankrupt under the weight of $1 billion worth of, uh, of fraudulent loans. Many of them tied to the Afghan government themselves and people didn't empower.

Speaker 1: 06:38 Now we've got a bite here from Donald Trump. He says he's only going to fight Wars to win. Let's hear what he says it at a rally. They said, when I was elected, we'll be in a ward the first day, right? Do you remember that? Now? But

Speaker 4: 06:50 when we do, and if we do, and I hope we never do, we will win. We're going to fight to win. We only fight to win

Speaker 5: 07:00 [inaudible].

Speaker 4: 07:00 But if we are forced, we will avenge the enemy with overwhelming power and we will win. Like

Speaker 1: 07:08 [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 07:08 days we won and we went where we sort of played for ties. But we don't play for ties anymore. We don't do the tie thing anymore. Is that okay with you folks?

Speaker 1: 07:21 Yeah. Well three years here and uh, you know, Ty is at best we're playing.

Speaker 3: 07:25 Yeah, that would be the best case scenario. Still have 12,000 troops in Iraq in Afghanistan right now. And we are trying to negotiate once again with the Taliban.

Speaker 1: 07:33 Well, I highly, highly recommend this Washington post series on the failures in Afghanistan. I do want to move on to another military topic though. The budget passed this week, a $738 billion, uh, bill, uh, moving on to the Senate, it points a high points of that one.

Speaker 3: 07:47 Well, it's only they've reached an agreement between the house and Senate. Uh, this was important. You've got a deadline coming up next Friday to avoid a budget shutdown. Uh, it looks like the Senate will probably end up voting on this, uh, Monday night, maybe Tuesday. Some of the key points in this, um, space force will be in there. It's going to be a separate branch within the, uh, within the air force. Re, you remember when president Trump came here, it was the first time we announced the notion of space force. Uh, one thing it doesn't have in there is it does not put back the $5 billion taken for the wall. It also in the end, does not, uh, have language on it telling the president that he cannot remove more money in the [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 08:26 future and 12 weeks for federal leave for federal workers, I should say ending federal leave to not matter when Republicans are happy. Right.

Speaker 3: 08:36 And a 3.1% pay raise. Uh, which is, is well bought off. Again, I think it's, uh, under the Trump administration we've spent an additional 130 billion.

Speaker 1: 08:46 And before we leave this a topic, another military story, a you've updated regarding, sorry, state of some of the military housing.

Speaker 3: 08:52 Yeah. One thing that is included in this is attempt to get a handle on problems with military housing. They're going to have a, a, in this included a tenant's bill of rights. They're also going to give a more authority to commanders to actually have oversight of these contracts and private military housing. Something that, that's really vexed them in the last year and a half while they tried to get their hands on this.

Speaker 1: 09:12 All right. A lot of stuff to look forward to and on that beat, which is always, always happening. Certainly in San Diego, we're going to move on. Advocates in minority communities in San Diego and many other cities have long complained that law enforcement officers treat people of color, especially blacks differently than whites. And for the second time in three years, a study here as concluded has concluded just that. Now, Lindsay, tell us about this latest study. Who conducted it and what did they find?

Speaker 6: 09:36 Yeah, so it was commissioned by the ACLU here and it was conducted by campaign zero, which is a group that, um, is really championing, um, the, uh, elimination of unnecessary use of force by police officers. Um, and essentially what it found sort of boiled down deeply is that blacks are, uh, arrested, searched and suffer force more often than their white neighbors by both the San Diego police department and the San Diego Sheriff's department. There was also some additional findings, um, that weren't, um, so much about racial disparity. For example, uh, members of the LGBTQ community as well as, um, people who have disabilities were more likely to be searched by both departments as well. Um, so,

Speaker 1: 10:22 and this follows a similar, uh, findings from a study what just three years ago I think in that involved San Diego state university?

Speaker 6: 10:29 Correct. So the senior Eagle police department was the focus of that studies. The Sheriff's departments not included, but what they did is, uh, the study was a different, a different set of data. So, uh, they were looking at just traffic stops, whereas this most recent study was looking at basically any contact between police departments and the Sheriff's department. Um, but what it determined was that, uh, while it was not more likely for, uh, blacks to be stopped by police, it was more likely for them to be, uh, searched. Once that stopped, it occurred.

Speaker 1: 11:04 And, uh, you've, um, uh, interviewed a lot of policing experts here you say it's tricky to parse out racial bias here from the data involving, it's a tough thing to study.

Speaker 6: 11:15 It is. I mean, I think that a kind of beneficially, we have like lots of more data that looks at this issue. Everybody is very focused on pulling out a numbers that can kind of, uh, that can say in a definitive way what many people, especially in San Diego have been saying for a long time, what they feel has been happening to them for years. That disparity is called a caused by racial bias. Um, and I think that people felt like, okay, if we can find numbers that say that it will be easier to kind of propel this conversation to, uh, motivate departments to create change. Um, but it's hard sometimes, right? There is, there are a lot of other things that kind eat these numbers.

Speaker 7: 11:54 In reading your story, it talks about maybe it's more the targets of the, of the study, but they talk about, well, it really, the methodology wasn't quite right. It wasn't really fair. Um, but I'm wondering number one is a really any right methodology that anybody, that everybody's going to have consensus on in second. Um, is there enough here that will persuade law enforcement to make changes or they think, no, it's just not

Speaker 8: 12:18 a reaction. The police and the sheriff in San Diego.

Speaker 6: 12:20 Yeah. So, okay. So for the first one, yeah. Essentially what the argument of this particular data scientist who actually is helping the state of California kind of go through rebut data. So she's familiar with it, but essentially what she was saying was when you use population as a kind of a benchmark to look at this sort of disparity, you're essentially piling all kinds of sources of structural inequities on one source, right. On police department. And we know, I think most of us understand that there are a lot of systems that have built in structural inequities that are separate from the police department. That being said, um, there are some, there are some, uh, statistical ways that people kind of try and cut down on that to really hone in on bias. Um, this study was not particularly persuasive, um, to our two biggest law enforcement agencies. Um, I think, I think they didn't, uh, I, I don't think that they, they read it and said, okay, we need to create change right now. Uh, that being said, both departments have already asked for outside agencies to take a look at this very same information. And I think it will be very interesting to see what those results show because if they're very similar, then I think that the department is going to be forced to take a hard look at that.

Speaker 8: 13:30 I was always ordering as far as other, you know, similar size cities. I mean I thought San Diego was always relatively low. When you look at, you know, other large cities in, in this disparity. I mean the disparities there when you think bias problem. Yeah. And I think, you know, that's the unfortunate thing that we all have to say is yes, we all admit there's disparity, but it seems like in other large cities it's actually higher. Um, I don't know if you look into that or saw any of that. Are you talking about the part of the study that talked about use of force or not? Not necessarily. Just this study, but what other cities have in terms of what the stops are versus tricky to measure that amongst it?

Speaker 6: 14:04 Yeah. Well, I mean I think that we can all agree here that like disparity is not something that anybody is arguing about anymore. Right? We all recognize that disparity exists. And so I think right now the big focus is how do you drill down into this, into these numbers to identify racial bias and do that in a way that sparks actual conversation and real change. I think that that's what people are really hopeful.

Speaker 8: 14:26 Dory, I wanted to get onto to your story. NBC seven investigated the data regarding drug prosecutions locally. What did your reporting find? So we looked at misdemeanor drug prosecutions by the city attorney's office. They handle all misdemeanors and found that uh, blacks are five times more likely to get prosecuted for minor drug and fractions, then whites and Hispanics. Um, I thought it was interesting because like w what Lindsey was saying as far as the and stops and searches and everything else, I think, you know, you're dealing with a lot of, a lot of factors, whether it's socioeconomic factors, a lot of factors go into that and why that is unfortunately why that is. But then when you take it to the next step of prosecutions, I think it looks into really these people now entered the system and now, and for a lot of, a lot of, you know, people, a lot of minorities they're in.

Speaker 8: 15:15 And this is, you know, and this is one of the reasons. So that's why we wanted to look at that number and, and see the, I didn't know what the disparity was going to be when I, when we got the numbers back. And I mean, you know, five times is a, is a rather large number. And you mentioned comparing it to other cities. This kinda does mirror what's happening in big cities. It, it does. And, uh, we spoke to a district attorney in San Francisco or former district attorney who's running in LA now. And, uh, he said the same. He was like, yeah, those numbers sound about right. And you know, when you hear that, it's kind of a wow, that's so, that sounds right. You know? So I guess it's a good thing that San Diego is in some sort of a nominally, but it's Steve.

Speaker 8: 15:51 And my question would be, let's assume we accept the numbers and at this point you would imagine we'd be getting closer and closer to accepting the numbers. So what's the solution if they did accept the numbers, what do you do about it? Well, so, uh, this, this, this former district attorney in San Francisco that we talked to, he implemented this thing called blind prosecutions, where prosecutors do not get names. They don't get pictures at first, right. That even the neighborhood, like if it's a Chinatown or something, they wouldn't know where it was. And that's just to get out any kind of implicit bias that might be there. I think, you know, speaking to him, I think more of it is, it's a sign to the community saying, Hey, we're gonna do whatever we can. Obviously they're not going to say, yes, prosecutors are racist or biased. That's not necessarily the case. However, if you remove that just as a sign in the show, maybe it is something to build trust and get people behind it. Right. Even if you just think, you know, the community thinks that you're bias, that's going to impact on how effective you're going to be.

Speaker 6: 16:52 And if that is effective though doesn't that show that there may be is implicit bias at play? I mean I think though, I mean police departments over the last couple of years have definitely invested fairly heavily in implicit bias training and I do think that that helps. But I also think that we have to kind of look at these policies and procedures that we can put in place or stopping practices altogether because we know that people are have implicit bias and you know, if you can avoid that by not giving them the option in the first place.

Speaker 8: 17:19 And it certainly trying to hire more black officers and well, and it was interesting to hearing from that former district attorney and the candidate now in LA is cause he said he got major pushback from district attorney's offices throughout the country saying, you know, Hey, you were essentially throwing us under the bus now and yeah. And, and you know, he says, well Hey, it doesn't matter. This is a sign that's shows we're willing to go at this, you know, in a as fair as we can. Well we're gonna move on but it's a terrific one to follow up on is great reporting. Very interesting stuff. Well, driving along

Speaker 1: 17:50 I ate in mission Valley these days it's hard to miss the gleaming new complex just West of the highway one 63 interchange. The sign reads legacy center and it's a long PLA planned, very expensive legacy project for a televangelist, a Bible themed resort. And Laura, you got a tour before the grand opening. Give us the overview here, kind of describe what you saw.

Speaker 7: 18:12 So this is a pretty large side. It's an 18 acre site. And if you are, as you say, driving up the freeway, it's a very impressive looking, very modernist kind of architecture with mostly glass and stone that came straight from a Cory outside of Jerusalem, but it's like complex of buildings and it's um, in part the relocation of more Sarillo. This televangelists his world evangelism headquarters there. It's got 126 room resort hotel. It's got a conference facility and it's got a number of religious themed attractions. The parking garage fountains, the catacombs replicates a replica of the Western wall, um, and then this big interactive. So I haven't seen the technology yet. It wasn't in place yet, but this big interactive world globe where you will be able to have touchscreens in pull up, um, as visitors to the center pull up different parts of the world, learn about them. Um, there'll be museum like exhibits of, um, artifacts that more Sarillo has, um, collected over the years, old Bibles and Torres and et cetera.

Speaker 1: 19:16 So not like the creationism place up in El Cahone Santi where can write a dinosaur?

Speaker 7: 19:22 Yeah, no, no, no, no, no. When I did leave out, one big thing was that there's a motion theater when the motion see like four D movie theaters, like think about soaring over California at California venture. Well they have some ties to that sort of thing and it's, it's um, it's going to be, um, journey through the Bible and uh, a sort of soaring over Israel too. There's two productions they're gonna have and the fountains are pretty. And then fountains that you've ever seen. The fountains at the Bellagio dancing waters with the Ori API's. Yeah. So yeah. Not quite as many fountains, but that similar kind of look and feel.

Speaker 1: 19:56 No. Is this designed to be a, a, a destination in itself? A kind of Pentecostal theme park?

Speaker 7: 20:02 I think it is. I think it was in part, they don't like the word thing park, but it, it, it, these attractions make it feel like a theme park. But it's also a place where he can bring ministers, um, from around the world that he trains and they can come for conferences and weddings and bar mitzvahs. I can't believe they've already booked a bat mitzvah. Yeah. Well that's interesting. Don't find Christian thing.

Speaker 1: 20:26 Why here in San Diego is kind of an expensive place. If it seemed like you could do this more cheaply elsewhere if you wanted.

Speaker 7: 20:32 Right. Well, I mean I think it helps that more Cyrillic headquarters, um, are based in San Diego. They were off of arrow road, so there they relocated here so that, that's a big part of it. Even though he travels the world, he is from here. But they do, um, they do feel that no matter what the politics are in San Diego, that people will come and they, they're hoping that people don't just have to be, you know, um, evangelistic type Christians to come. We want to see it as a tourist destination. Yeah. I think in part, in part, yes. Yeah. Oh, I was just, I mean, do they feel confident that this is going to attract enough people to be?

Speaker 1: 21:08 Yeah. How have other ones, a similar type things around the country done?

Speaker 7: 21:12 So there's three main ones around the country. Two are in Kentucky, in Kentucky. One is, um, uh, it's, it's like a real life. Noah's Ark. It kind of be like Noah's Ark and then there's one in Orlando. Um, so there's three. I think they're doing okay. One's in years past, haven't done so well. Um, Jim Baker's, um, heritage USA lasted about 10, 10 years, but I think those are doing okay. Whether it works in San Diego, I don't know. I think there's going to be a lot of curiosity.

Speaker 1: 21:41 Yeah. You think somewhere in the Bible belt, maybe it's good to Steve.

Speaker 7: 21:44 Yeah. I mean, I, you know, I don't know if it's going to be, Hey, let's take the kids to see Roland and go over to the international center. I don't know. And so it's not a huge hotel. It's 126 rooms. It's luxury hotel. They have a restaurant. You're going to have a steak house in the restaurant. Then there's going to be more casual restaurant near the fountains that they're calling the fountains. So they're hoping people will come, go the fountains. They're going, Oh, they're going to have an outdoor, indoor, outdoor retail market, kind of like the middle Eastern markets that you may or may not be familiar with. And they're going to have vendors from around the world so people can come shop. They don't have to pay to go see the exhibits. They can just go shop

Speaker 1: 22:21 100 per two with your camel if you're going to be shopping. So tell us about the man behind it all a Marcella, he claims the vision for legacy center came straight from God, right?

Speaker 7: 22:31 Well, he, yeah, exactly. It's, it's been a dream of his, he says forever. He's in his late eighties. He wants to leave a legacy. As I said, he, they don't, they again also don't like the label televangelists but he has used video and television over the years to spread his message. But he also, he's a world traveler. Like he said, he trains, um, ministers throughout the world and then they in turn pass on his teaching. So he's, he does have this ministry, but it's not like a church. He has, I mean, it's go when you can see videos of him preaching,

Speaker 1: 23:05 no other denominations to Jews, Muslims, atheists, heaven forbid, uh, they welcomed their, everybody, uh, they expect non-religious people to use the restaurant, the hotel, the spa. [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 23:18 um, I could see non-religious people using it. Um, but I, you know, that's a big question. The question is really out will all nonreligious people come that maybe there's enough religious people to fuel it? They, um, they collected donations. They did this debt free, so they raised money to do this so that they're not in debt. I don't know how much came from there. I was saying how much came from their ministry,

Speaker 1: 23:40 they got the money, uh, CV. Did you get a chance to talk him? Does he feel welcome in San Diego? Like this is the sort of place that

Speaker 7: 23:49 I did talk to him. Um, I was, um, in years past they never, there was always a reason why they wouldn't let me talk to him. I did talk to him this time and there was some criticism from the LGBT community.

Speaker 1: 24:00 Yeah. I wanted to ask you about that. Not everybody's crazy about this project.

Speaker 7: 24:03 Yeah. Because they felt that in his past he has been known to advocate for gay conversion therapy. Um, I don't know that he advocates for that now. So when I talked to him, I did bring that up. That was one of the things I brought up and he said, I don't know what I can say basically to mollify these, these people. But I, I as you know, we just said, everybody's welcome. So he, he harbors no animosity toward anybody. Um, I don't think the council was real. It was a close vote on the council, but they, they, I shouldn't say it was a close one. There were only two nays but there were other council members who, um, raised some issues but knew that, you know, it met all the land use codes and they couldn't vote again.

Speaker 1: 24:43 All right. A few seconds left. One is it officially opened a customer's, you can't really go there right now.

Speaker 7: 24:48 So there's a big over the top Christmas tree lighting ceremony, um, this coming weekend and then the following weekend, and you can go in the public Plaza, you can see the fountains. This one restaurant will be open, but not till February. Will all the bells and whistles with all this cool technology be.

Speaker 1: 25:03 Yeah. So if you want to go to the restaurant or stay at the, at the hotel or spa or anything else there, the hotel opens in February. Okay. So we'll be looking for that. And we should say it's a right smack. I mean the is right there in mission Valley across from the old town of country in Riverwalk golf course. It's right in. I'm going to tell sir

Speaker 7: 25:18 town and country is getting a huge overhead.

Speaker 1: 25:20 Yeah, that's where a lot of building going on right there. Well, construction workers are happy in the unions. Well it does. We are about out of time. Now. That wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS round table and I'd like to thank my guests, Steve Walsh of KPBS news, Lauria Weisberg of the San Diego union Tribune, Dorian Hardgrove of NBC seven San Diego, and Lindsey Winkler of the union Tribune. And a reminder, all the stories we discussed today available on our website. KPBS dot. O R. G I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today on the round table.

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KPBS Roundtable

Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.