What we want more than anything out of our investigative reporting is impact – we want it to make a difference. Two stories that defined our week here at The Nation reflect this in very different ways, and both speak to the complex debate that is emerging right now about America’s role in the Middle East.

The first story is the ongoing impact of Aram Roston’s expose in The Nation from November, 2009 How the U.S. Funds The Taliban. On Tuesday a congressional report, appropriately titled Warlord, Inc., confirmed what Roston revealed in The Nation: Taxpayer money to fuel U.S. supply lines is going to Afghan warlords – in some cases the Taliban. The Army has opened a criminal investigation into bribery related to U.S. supply routes in Afghanistan, and Congressman John Tierney, Chairman of the Congressional Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, called the situation "a protection racket that would make Tony Soprano proud.” Although the story didn’t get the attention of the McChrystal crisis, Roston’s reporting has sparked a high-level investigation into one of the most troubling parts of the conflict in Afghanistan: excessive corruption. Read Aram’s full update here.

The second story is one that we hope will help to win the freedom of a Nation contributor and his colleagues currently imprisoned in Iran. Last July, Shane Bauer and two other Americans were taken by Iranian forces on the Iran-Iraq border. Iran says he was trespassing, but a new investigation from The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute has found witnesses who say the hikers were arrested in Iraq, not Iran, by a rogue officer notorious for kidnapping. The story moved fast on Thursday: you can see The Nation’s Richard Kim on CNN here; Good Morning America, Democracy Now, Voice of America, the AP and The New York Times have all moved the story forward. The story is here; for the most personal view you should watch this clip from CNN, which features interviews with the mothers of the detained hikers.

We are hopeful that this new information could hasten the release of Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd.

Also this week …

What Now in Afghanistan?

I was on MSNBC’s The Ed Show on Wednesday, making the case that we should find a political solution in Afghanistan – not a military one. Video here. And The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill was on MSNBC’s The Keith Olbermann Show discussing General McChrystal’s ouster, and the continued use of Blackwater in the MIddle East. Video is here.

What Now for Labor?

The Nation’s Max Fraser was featured in this conversation from GRIT TV with Laura Flanders, discussing the future of SEIU and organized labor. It was part of The Nation on GRIT TV, which airs in full on Mondays and in segments throughout the week at TheNation.com. You can watch his conversation with Laura and Michael Whitney of Firedoglake.com here.

Top Tweeters

Three Nation contributors, myself included, made the cut on this list from AOL of the Top 25 Progressive Twitterers. Chris Hayes and Ari Melber are also "must-follows." See the whole list here.

Slideshow: A New Iraq, Tethered By Old Legacies …

As we consider our role in the Middle East, this moving slideshow from photographer Samer Muscati and Human Rights Watch, posted this week, reminds us how hard a conflict like the War in Iraq can be on the people who live through it. Muscati and a team from Human Rights Watch traveled Iraq in April to assess the human rights situation seven years after US and Coalition forces invaded the country. The images are surprising, and show a country in flux and turmoil, still rife with abuse but struggling to move forward. It’s a photo essay more than a slideshow, and we’re grateful to Human Rights Watch to have the opportunity to present it at TheNation.com. View this important feature here.
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Finally, a programming note: I’ll be on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS this Sunday at 10 AM & 1PM ET. (Check listings here.) The topic is the news of the week, and President Obama’s relationship with progressives and the left. Are progressives energized or dispirited? The eclectic panel includes Arianna Huffington, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and Ross Douthat of The New York Times. Tune in – we’ll have video Monday. Thanks for reading. As always please leave your comments below. You can follow me on Twitter too – I’m @KatrinaNation.