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Focusing on Afghanistan

A former Ralph Nader running mate and local photojournalist teamed up to talk to Capital District residents about the new American focus on the war in Afghanistan.

Madelyn Hoffman, executive director of New Jersey Peace Action, and Connie Frisbee Houde, a freelance photojournalist and Albany resident, spoke Saturday, June 13, at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany.

Their presentation, which included a Power Point slide show, titled Afghanistan: Understanding the Issues. What Can We Do? was presented by Women Against War.

Both speakers are against the increase of troops in Afghanistan proposed by President Barack Obama, and they are calling for the end of unmanned drones over the border into Pakistan, which Hoffman said kill numerous civilians and propagate hatred for Americans in the region.

"The situation in Afghanistan had begun to really deteriorate in 2005, and suicide bombings began to happen with frequency when it was rare before," Hoffman said. "I began talking about this to shift the public discussion and public debate that Afghanistan is the good war and the war we have to complete to, 'Why did we go in there in the first place?'"

Hoffman was in Afghanistan in 2005 as a member of a Global Exchange delegation, and she often speaks on U.S. foreign policy. She ran for New Jersey governor in 1997 on the Green Party ticket and was Ralph Nader's running mate in New Jersey in 1996. For 16 years she also directed a statewide environmental organization working with 200 citizens' groups on toxic chemical pollution.

Hoffman, who has spent years advocating for human rights issues, said she was shocked during her first trip to the country.

"I thought I understood what poverty was, but I did not until I traveled to Afghanistan," Hoffman said. "The basic level of cleanliness, even in the Kabul, which is the capital city, was unbelievable, and the standard of living got worse the more rural the area."

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