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Pulitzer Prize winner to discuss Afghan war

SARASOTA — A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist will speak locally this week on the Afghanistan war and what it means for the United States.

Forum Truth for a Change is bringing Mark Thompson, national security reporter for Time magazine and deputy of the news magazine’s Washington Bureau, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Holley Hall in the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, 709 N. Tamiami Trail. Irene Bandy-Hedden, chair of the “citizen-organized group,” said Thompson was chosen because organizers wanted someone to speak about Afghanistan and Iraq who understood the issues.

“He is the Time magazine expert and has written a lot on the wars,” Bandy-Hedden said. “Fortunately, we have someone on our board who worked with him and could ask him to come.”

Thompson joined Time in 1994 after reporting from Washington, D.C., since 1979 on national security issues and the Pentagon.

He has traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq over the years and has reported on the two wars and the consequences for the United States.

While a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Thompson and the paper won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for public service for his articles on design flaws in helicopters purchased by the U.S. Defense Department.

The title of Thompson’s talk is “Graveyard of Empires: Will the U.S. be Next?”

In a telephone interview from his Maryland home just outside Washington, Thompson said he will speak on President Barack Obama’s decision to reinforce the troops in Afghanistan.

He said the surge of about 30,000 troops was a tough choice for the president because of domestic sentiment.

“People want to see things in a black-and-white perspective, but it’s a gray area,” Thompson said.

He said he planned to discuss the pluses and minuses of sending in more troops.

People who Thompson has spoken to think there is a 50-50 chance of success in Afghanistan.

“You can’t shoot your way to a military victory in Afghanistan,” he said. “But now you’re getting into nation building, which is becoming more of a part of the military’s job.”

Bandy-Hedden said having speakers such as Thompson was the mission of Forum Truth, which was established in 2003 and has grown to more than 500 members.

“The most important thing is trying to keep our citizenry informed on the issues of the day,” she said, “and hope many of their questions get answered.”

Holmes Beach resident and Forum Truth board member James McCartney worked with Thompson for eight years at the Knight-Ridder Washington Bureau.

“I’ve known him for a long time and I’ve read his articles in Time,” McCartney said. “So when I saw him on the PBS Newshour, it popped in my mind to ask him to speak.”

Tickets to Forum Truth, which has a speaker every month during the season, are $20 for members, $25 for nonmembers. Future speakers include Hendrick Smith, Cynthia Tucker and Linda Greenhouse.

For more information on the series, call (941) 349-8350 or visit the Web site at