Monday, October 6, 2014

in the dead of night

Backstory to today's situation of --

Afghanistan -- Iraq -- other middle east problems (ISIL etc.) -- war on terror.

A person can look at it, in two versions:

1)  in a nutshell (or outline), and
2)  with a more detailed, nuanced telling, written by a journalist who reported on it at the time.

1.  Nutshell
(from website, Institute For The Study Of War)
[They write it in sentences and paragraphs -- it helps me to see it more clearly when I put it up as a list]

__  In December 1979 [Cold War still on] the Soviet 40th Army invaded Afghanistan

__  They wanted to "prop up" the communist government in Afghanistan, against a growing insurgency

__  The U.S., at the time, had been making headway in the Middle East at Moscow's expense, successfully courting Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others.

__  The Soviet Union feared the loss of its communist proxy in Afghanistan.

__  Thus, over the course of the 1980s, the Soviet Union poured billions of dollars (US) into the war in Afghanistan, and at its peak, more than 100,000 Soviet soldiers were fighting in that country.

__  However, the Afghan resistance (the mujahideen) was heavily supported by a wide variety of international actors [or, informal allies], including the U.S., Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and Egypt.

__  In the end, the mujahideen prevailed and the Soviet Army was forced to withdraw from Afghanistan in February 1989.

__  Soviet empire collapsed.

__  1992 -- The different mujahideen factions could not agree on how to share power; Afghanistan quickly descended into a bloody civil war.

(We must get a highlighter to squeak colorfully across that last item, and make a big check-mark...We shouldn't have left it like that, the job wasn't done...)


[excerpt, Charlie Wilson's War, the book -- written by George Crile] ---------------- Now, with the Red Army sweeping into Afghanistan, [President Jimmy] Carter had to do a 180-degree turn to win Zia's approval to use Pakistan as a base of his operations....

Along with the first U.S. shipment, the Afghans soon began receiving arms and money from the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Saudis, and other Muslim nations.

That response might have sounded impressive in a news dispatch, but the reality on the ground was that a bizarre mix of unsophisticated weapons was being handed over to tribesmen in sandals with no formal military training.

No one in the CIA during those early months had any illusions about the mujahideen's impotence in the face of the Soviet Army.  The full might of the Communist empire had descended on this remote, primitive Third World country.

Giant Il-76 transport planes were landing in Kabul, the Afghan capital, one after the other, disgorging tens of thousands of combat troops.  Columns of tanks were moving in the cities, while MiG fighter jets and helicopter gunships filled the skies.

CIA men were trained to be clinical when making geopolitical judgments.  To them, there were more important things at stake than the fate of Afghanistan.  There were many reasons for giving weapons to the Afghans, even if none of them had anything to do with liberating the country:  it was a useful warning to the Soviets. ...

[[ got soviet problems, little buddies?  Here's a pea-shooter.  AND some squirt-guns!...]]

What was happening to the Afghans was tragic, of course, but if the truth were known, the CIA strategists saw a silver lining in the horrific accounts of the destruction of villages and the flood of refugees pouring across the border into Pakistan.

As long as these "freedom fighters," as Jimmy Carter had called them, continued to fight and the Soviets continued to murder and torture them, it was an unprecedented public relations bonanza for the U.S.

[[ communists making themselves look really bad.
really really really really bad ]]

Every account voluntarily played up the same theme:  men of courage, armed only with their faith and their love of freedom, being slaughtered by the full evil might of a Communist superpower.

It was at this moment of despair for the mujahideen, in the early summer of 1980, that Wilson ...began reading a story datelined from Kabul.

The article described hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the country as Soviet helicopter gunships leveled villages....What caught Wilson's attention, however, was the reporter's conclusion that the Afghan warriors were refusing to quit.

The article described how they were murdering Russians in the dead of night with knives and pistols, hitting them over the head with shovels and stones.  Against all odds, there was a growing rebellion underway against the Red Army.

{Charlie Wilson's War, by George Crile.  Grove Press.  2004.}


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