[News] Catastrophe in Afghanistan: U.S. Wrecks Another Country Thinking It’s Playing the ‘Great Game’

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Sat Aug 28 12:42:23 EDT 2021


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*Catastrophe in Afghanistan: U.S. Wrecks Another Country Thinking It’s 
Playing the ‘Great Game’* 
<https://go.ind.media/e/546932/ng-its-playing-the-great-game-/l45c55/897860730?h=FpB2OHuAmIY9uX_4FgReN4JkG3rG5yxykQHSNNpidOg> 

*By John Pilger*

As a tsunami of crocodile tears engulfs Western politicians, history is 
suppressed. More than a generation ago, Afghanistan won its freedom, 
which the United States, Britain and their “allies” destroyed.

In 1978, a liberation movement led by the People’s Democratic Party of 
Afghanistan (PDPA) overthrew the dictatorship of Mohammad Daoud, the 
cousin of King Zahir Shar. It was an immensely popular revolution that 
took the British and Americans by surprise.

Foreign journalists in Kabul, reported the /New York Times/, were 
surprised to find that “nearly every Afghan they interviewed said [they 
were] delighted with the coup.” The /Wall Street Journal/ reported that 
“150,000 persons… marched to honor the new flag… the participants 
appeared genuinely enthusiastic.”

The /Washington Post/ reported that “Afghan loyalty to the government 
can scarcely be questioned.” Secular, modernist and, to a considerable 
degree, socialist, the government declared a program of visionary 
reforms that included equal rights for women and minorities. Political 
prisoners were freed and police files publicly burned.

Under the monarchy, life expectancy was 35; one in three children died 
in infancy. Ninety percent of the population was illiterate. The new 
government introduced free medical care. A mass literacy campaign was 
launched.

For women, the gains had no precedent; by the late 1980s, half the 
university students were women, and women made up 40 percent of 
Afghanistan’s doctors, 70 percent of its teachers and 30 percent of its 
civil servants.

So radical were the changes that they remain vivid in the memories of 
those who benefited. Saira Noorani, a female surgeon who fled 
Afghanistan in 2001, recalled:

    “Every girl could go to high school and university. We could go
    where we wanted and wear what we liked… We used to go to cafes and
    the cinema to see the latest Indian films on a Friday… it all
    started to go wrong when the mujahedin started winning… these were
    the people the West supported.”

For the United States, the problem with the PDPA government was that it 
was supported by the Soviet Union. Yet it was never the “puppet” derided 
in the West, neither was the coup against the monarchy “Soviet backed,” 
as the American and British press claimed at the time.

President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, later wrote in 
his memoirs: “We had no evidence of any Soviet complicity in the coup.”

In the same administration was Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s national 
security adviser, a Polish émigré and fanatical anti-communist and moral 
extremist whose enduring influence on American presidents expired only 
with his death in 2017.

On July 3, 1979, unknown to the American people and Congress, Carter 
authorized a $500 million “covert action” program to overthrow 
Afghanistan’s first secular, progressive government. This was code-named 
by the CIA Operation Cyclone.

The $500 million bought, bribed and armed a group of tribal and 
religious zealots known as the mujahedin. In his semi-official history, 
/Washington Post/ reporter Bob Woodward wrote that the CIA spent $70 
million on bribes alone. He describes a meeting between a CIA agent 
known as “Gary” and a warlord called Amniat-Melli:

    “Gary placed a bundle of cash on the table: $500,000 in one-foot
    stacks of $100 bills. He believed it would be more impressive than
    the usual $200,000, the best way to say we’re here, we’re serious,
    here’s money, we know you need it… Gary would soon ask CIA
    headquarters for and receive $10 million in cash.”

Recruited from all over the Muslim world, America’s secret army was 
trained in camps in Pakistan run by Pakistani intelligence, the CIA and 
Britain’s MI6. Others were recruited at an Islamic college in Brooklyn, 
New York—within sight of the doomed Twin Towers. One of the recruits was 
a Saudi engineer called Osama bin Laden.

The aim was to spread Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and 
destabilize and eventually destroy the Soviet Union.

In August 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul reported that “the United 
States’ larger interests… would be served by the demise of the PDPA 
government, /despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social 
and economic reforms in Afghanistan/.”

Read again the words above I have italicized. It is not often that such 
cynical intent is spelled out as clearly. The United States was saying 
that a genuinely progressive Afghan government and the rights of Afghan 
women could go to hell.

Six months later, the Soviets made their fatal move into Afghanistan in 
response to the American-created jihadist threat on their doorstep. 
Armed with CIA-supplied Stinger missiles and celebrated as “freedom 
fighters” by Margaret Thatcher, the mujahedin eventually drove the Red 
Army out of Afghanistan.

Calling themselves the Northern Alliance, the mujahedin were dominated 
by warlords who controlled the heroin trade and terrorized rural women. 
The Taliban were an ultra-puritanical faction, whose mullahs wore black 
and punished banditry, rape and murder but banished women from public life.

In the 1980s, I made contact with the Revolutionary Association of the 
Women of Afghanistan, known as RAWA, which had tried to alert the world 
to the suffering of Afghan women. During the Taliban time they concealed 
cameras beneath their burqas to film evidence of atrocities, and did the 
same to expose the brutality of the Western-backed mujahedin. “Marina” 
of RAWA told me, “We took the videotape to all the main media groups, 
but they didn’t want to know. …”

In 1996, the enlightened PDPA government was overrun. The president, 
Mohammad Najibullah, had gone to the United Nations to appeal for help. 
On his return, he was hanged from a streetlight.

“I confess that [countries] are pieces on a chessboard,” said Lord 
Curzon in 1898, “upon which is being played out a great game for the 
domination of the world.”

The viceroy of India was referring in particular to Afghanistan. A 
century later, Prime Minister Tony Blair used slightly different words.

“This is a moment to seize,” he said following 9/11. “The kaleidoscope 
has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. 
Before they do, let us reorder this world around us.”

On Afghanistan, he added this: “We will not walk away [but ensure] some 
way out of the poverty that is your miserable existence.”

Blair echoed his mentor, President George W. Bush, who spoke to the 
victims of his bombs from the Oval Office: “The oppressed people of 
Afghanistan will know the generosity of America. … As we strike military 
targets, we will also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving 
and suffering…”

Almost every word was false. Their declarations of concern were cruel 
illusions for an imperial savagery “we” in the West rarely recognize as 
such.

In 2001, Afghanistan was stricken and depended on emergency relief 
convoys from Pakistan. As the journalist Jonathan Steele reported, the 
invasion indirectly caused the deaths of some 20,000 people as supplies 
to drought victims stopped and people fled their homes.

Eighteen months later, I found unexploded American cluster bombs in the 
rubble of Kabul which were often mistaken for yellow relief packages 
dropped from the air. They blew the limbs off foraging, hungry children.

In the village of Bibi Maru, I watched a woman called Orifa kneel at the 
graves of her husband, Gul Ahmed, a carpet weaver, and seven other 
members of her family, including six children, and two children who were 
killed next door.

An American F-16 aircraft had come out of a clear blue sky and dropped 
an Mk 82 500-pound bomb on Orifa’s mud, stone and straw house. Orifa was 
away at the time. When she returned, she gathered the body parts.

Months later, a group of Americans came from Kabul and gave her an 
envelope with 15 notes: a total of $15. “Two dollars for each of my 
family killed,” she said.

The invasion of Afghanistan was a fraud. In the wake of 9/11, the 
Taliban sought to distance themselves from Osama bin Laden. They were, 
in many respects, an American client with which the administration of 
Bill Clinton had done a series of secret deals to allow the building of 
a $3 billion natural gas pipeline by a U.S. oil company consortium.

In high secrecy, Taliban leaders had been invited to the United States 
and entertained by the CEO of the Unocal company in his Texas mansion 
and by the CIA at its headquarters in Virginia. One of the deal-makers 
was Dick Cheney, later George W. Bush’s vice president.

In 2010, I was in Washington and arranged to interview the mastermind of 
Afghanistan’s modern era of suffering, Zbigniew Brzezinski. I quoted to 
him his autobiography in which he admitted that his grand scheme for 
drawing the Soviets into Afghanistan had created “a few stirred-up Muslims.”

“Do you have any regrets?” I asked.

“Regrets! Regrets! What regrets?”

When we watch the current scenes of panic at Kabul’s main international 
airport, and listen to journalists and generals in distant TV studios 
bewailing the withdrawal of “our protection,” isn’t it time to heed the 
truth of the past so that all this suffering never happens again?

/*John Pilger* is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker, and author. 
Read his full biography on his website here 
<https://go.ind.media/e/546932/2943ah2u/l45c57/897860730?h=FpB2OHuAmIY9uX_4FgReN4JkG3rG5yxykQHSNNpidOg>, 
and follow him on Twitter: @JohnPilger 
<https://go.ind.media/e/546932/JohnPilger/l45c59/897860730?h=FpB2OHuAmIY9uX_4FgReN4JkG3rG5yxykQHSNNpidOg>./

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