Forty years since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

A genocidal war that lead to the creation of Al Qaeda

This month marks the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, which led to a brutal neocolonialist war and the creation of Al Qaeda.

The Soviets invaded Afghanistan on December 24 1979 in defence of a fledgling satellite regime in Kabul. After the 1978 pro-Soviet coup, a disastrous land reform programme and secular modernisation measures drew mass opposition from the traditional Muslim countryside. The ensuing decade of repression spelt the death and disappearance of 50-100,000 people. Villagers would often be massacred outright, while 000s more were tortured and executed by the communist regime1.

On July 3 1979, US President Jimmy Carter authorised the CIA to provide $500,000 to the Mujahideen (as the armed resistance to the regime was known). Though the intelligence consensus was that Moscow would not intervene even if the regime collapsed, national security advisor Zbniew Brzezinski advised Carter that in his estimation this fund “was going to induce a Soviet military intervention”2. Sure enough, six months after Carter’s decision, the Soviets invaded.

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Brzezinski (left) and President Carter (right)

The next ten years spelt genocide for the Afghan people: the Red Army and its proxies subjected entire provinces to depopulation programmes. In 1987, a Fallujah-type campaign in Kandahar reduced the city’s population by 87.5%. Indiscriminate bombing of the population, including the use of chemical weapons, was designed to neutralise and isolate popular support for the resistance3. By the war’s end, 1-2 million Afghan civilians had perished.

Operation Cyclone

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President Reagan with Mujahideen leaders in the White House

The biggest covert operation since the Second World War, the CIA’s Operation Cyclone armed, trained and funded the Mujahideen with the assistance of the Gulf states and the British and Pakistani intelligence services4. At the border with Pakistan, to whose pursuit of nuclear weapons the White House turned a blind eye, Brzezinski rallied the Mujahideen: “…your cause is right”, he told them, “and God is on your side”. A similar performance was given by Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, while Carter’s successor Ronald Reagan personally welcomed Mujahideen leaders to the White House for a photo-op. They were, he said, “the moral equivalents of our founding fathers”.

The most enduring Cyclone myth is that, like many a later foe of the United States, Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was directly supported by the CIA. In fact Cyclone only involved the 250,000-odd Mujahideen, not the 2000-odd non-Afghan volunteers, known as the Afghan Arabs, from across the Muslim world4.

Nonetheless, had the Russians not invaded, there’d have been no Afghan Arabs, and hence no bin Laden. And Carter’s fund, to quote Brzezinski, “knowingly increased the probability that they (Russians) would invade (Afghanistan)”2.

Blowback’

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Lower Manhattan on September 11 2001

When asked in 1997 if he regretted the blowback of global jihadism from Carter’s original 0.5m dollar fund for the Mujahideen, Brzezinski replied: “Regret what? That…was a great idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets into the Afghan trap, and you want me to regret it?…What’s more important to world history: a few stirred up Moslems, or the collapse of communism?”2. Three years later, Al Qaeda struck the twin towers.

The Afghan people have since endured another brutal foreign occupation, this time by the Western imperialists. And like so many former invaders of the ‘graveyard of empires’, the combined might of the world’s most powerful armies have yet to subdue this proud nation.

Citations

1. UN Conflict Mapping Report 1978-2005 as cited by https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/death-list-published-families-of-disappeared-end-a-30-year-wait-for-news/

2. Bruce Riedel; William Blum

3.

4. See Steve Coll, “Ghost Wars”; 911myths.com; for Britain’s role, see Mark Curtis, “Secret Affairs”

Thirtieth Anniversary of the US Invasion of Panama

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the US invasion of Panama. Costing 000s of lives, it was a flagrant act of criminal aggression that signalled Washington’s ‘unipolar moment’.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 signified the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaving the United States as the world’s sole superpower. Meanwhile, President Bush I was known as a wimp on foreign policy. Washington needed to put the world on notice, and massage Bush I’s ego. An easy target, Panama was defenceless and already occupied by eighteen US bases.

The official bogeyman was Manuel Noriega, who had upset Washington recently by losing enthusiasm over assisting Washington’s Contra war. But his crimes, most of them committed while on Bush I’s (while CIA director) payroll, became the official pretext. Meanwhile limited control of the strategic Panama Canal was to be transferred to Panama in 1990. In 2000, it would be completely under Panamanian control. Washington would have none of this.

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Then CIA Director George H.W. Bush with employee Manuel Noriega

“Provocations against the Panamanian people by United States military troops were very frequent in Panama,” said Sabrina Virgo, National Labor Organizer, who was in Panama before the invasion. She said the provocations were intended “to create an international incident (to justify invading)“1.

Apocalypse Now

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Panama’s 9/11: the destruction of El Chorrillo

Beginning at dawn, the initial twelve hours of the invasion saw the equivalent of one major bomb blast every two minutes. According to eyewitnesses, neighbourhoods packed with women and children were deliberately attacked. 2-5000 innocent civilians, many of them deliberately shot and bombed by America’s brave marines, would perish.

“The North Americans began burning down El Chorillo at about 6:30 in the morning”, recounted an eyewitness.  “..They would burn a house, and then move to another and begin the process all over again. They burned from one street to the next. They coordinated the burning through walkie-talkies”1.

“People were crushed by tanks”, writes Matt Peppe, “captured Panamanians were executed on the street, and bodies were piled together and burned. Survivors were reportedly hired to fill mass graves for $6 per body“.

Rogue State

The United Nations General Assembly voted 75 to 20 with 40 abstentions, condemning Washington’s act of aggression. The U.S., Britain and France vetoed the resolution. The Organisation of American States (OAS) followed suite, with only the US voting against, decrying the rest of the world’s “narrow concern over ‘nonintervention’”.

A diplomat told the Los Angeles Times that he was “100% certain” of Noriega’s location, “but when I called, SouthCom (the U.S. Southern military command) said it had other priorities”. The razing of El Chorillo ensued.

The majority of Americans were enraptured by President Bush’s invasion. True, the horrific “collateral damage” was never shown on their TV screens, but then such carnage is easily inferable when you send 20,000 troops into a tiny urban country. The US had just committed the supreme crime for which the Nazis were hanged at Nuremberg, and US citizens – like the Good Germans who backed Hitler – were fine with it.

  1. The Panama Deception (Youtube); Central Americans Human Rights Commission investigation http://www.skepticfiles.org/socialis/pan_hr.htm

The Long War on Central America

The story behind America’s immigration issues today

…150 Contras attacked two villages in the southern province of Rio San Juan with 88-mm mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, killing six children and six adults and injuring 30 others. Even cooperatives of religious pacifists who refused to bear arms were destroyed… In El Salvador too, the army attacks cooperatives, killing, raping and abducting members[1].

These were the killing fields of Central America. Throughout the 1980s, the Reagan administration armed, trained and funded terrorist death squads worthy of ISIS:

Many top Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan army officers were trained at the School of the Americas in Panama, and then after 1984, Fort Benning in Georgia… The 15,000-men contra army – employing kidnapping, torture, rape and murder – targeted health clinics, schools, agricultural cooperatives, bridges and power stations (i.e. State Department-authorised ‘soft targets’[1]).

…Similar atrocities occurred in neighbouring El Salvador, where US-trained troops stabbed, decapitated, raped and machine-gunned 767 civilians in the village of El Mozote in late 1981, including 358 children under age thirteen. Congress ended up funding almost $6 billion to this tiny country, making it the largest recipient of US foreign aid per capita in the world. Wealthy landlords were running the right-wing death squads and murdered thousands of suspected leftists. The death toll from the war reached 70,000[2].

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The contras: America’s terrorists

In 1988, an Amnesty report accused Reagan’s El Salvadoran death squads of “killing and mutilating victims in the most macabre way…[bodies] mutilated, decapitated, dismembered, strangled or showing marks of torture…or rape”. Women were publicly hung from trees by their hair, their breasts cut off and faces painted red.

Two years earlier, the US had dismissed a World Court ruling against its “unlawful use of force” against Nicaragua, quickly vetoing a pair of subsequent UN resolutions to the same effect and providing an extra $100m in military aid to the contras in 1987[1].

Of the 20-30,000 civilians who ultimately perished in the Nicaraguan conflict, the contras were responsible for the vast majority[2]. Among the victims were six Jesuit intellectuals and archbishop Oscar Romero, “the voice of the voiceless” whose radical liberation theology favoured the empowerment of the poor: a threat to US finance capital.

The US war on Central America began long before Reagan. In 1823, the Monroe Doctrine asserting America’s divine right to singularly control the hemisphere. The first to challenge this was Augusto Sandino’s poorly-armed guerrilla insurgency against the US invasion of Nicaragua, launched in 1912 to defend its conservative puppet Adolfo Diaz against a Liberal revolt, secure US monopoly over canal construction and open the country up to international banking[3].

Sandino favoured the unification of all of Central America. “Nicaragua shall not be the patrimony of Imperialists”, he proudly declared. “I will fight for my cause as long as my heart beats”.

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Anastasio Somoza (left) and Augusto Sandino (right)

The outbreak of the Great Depression forced the US to withdraw its troops from Nicaragua in 1933 but, the following year, head of the US-commanded National Guard Anastasio Somoza ordered Sandino’s assassination and seized power in an eventual coup d’état.

For the next 44 years, Somoza ran a mafia-like dynasty that controlled whole swathes of industry and almost half the country’s arable land. Somoza’s opponents were often dumped alive into a live volcano from his US-supplied helicopters. The Carter administration sponsored a $65m IMF loan for Somoza even as he bombed his own people[3].

A month before his overthrow by the 1979 Sandinista revolution, a member of his National Guard shot dead American reporter Bill Stuart live on camera, cementing US antiwar opposition that forced Reagan to resort to clandestine terror: Somoza’s national guard regrouped in neighbouring Honduras with CIA funds, arms and training before launching a ferocious campaign to undermine the revolution’s remarkable social reforms.

During the 1980s, the Reagan administration also armed, trained and funded the Guatemalan army as it conducted a brutal genocide of some 100,000 indigenous Mayan peasants. The general responsible, finally sentenced in the Hague a few years ago, was welcomed to the White House by fellow born-again evangelical Reagan, who called him “a man of great personal integrity”[2]. According to documents seen by the late investigative reporter Robert Parry, Washington had full knowledge of the subsequent native Indian genocide, yet continued to give him aid[4].

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In 1989, Reagan’s successor and former CIA chief George Bush Sr. launched an invasion of Panama to secure US control of the strategic Panama Canal, indiscriminately killing thousands of civilians[5] and leading to the capture and sentencing of one of his ex-employees, Manuel Noriega, for crimes mostly committed while on the CIA payroll[1].

Washington’s long war on Central America continues today in different forms. In 1994, the Clinton administration passed NAFTA, a profit bonanza for US corporations and Wall Street while a disaster for Mexican agriculture unable to withstand the competition. Earlier that year, Clinton had the border militarized via Operation Gatekeeper, clearly anticipating – notes Chomsky – the exodus from Mexico that NAFTA would generate[1].

In 2009, the Obama administration engineered a coup against the elected government of Honduras. Since then, US “anti-drug” operations constitute an occupying force echoing previous US occupations of the island: the victims of a helicopter attack on a boat of Mothers Day celebrants included two pregnant women, one of them a single mother of six, and apparently no traffickers. Such helicopters are piloted by Guatemalan mercenaries on the US payroll.

Criminal violence related to the drug war in Central America is skyrocketing. Homicides are way up. There is massive deforestation, driven in many places by the demand for biofuels; intensified corporate mining, including open-pit mining, is poisoning water supplies. Political repression is likewise on the rise, in places like Honduras’s Aguán Valley and in Guatemala’s Polochic Valley. The old Cold War alliance between death squads and a landed class seems to be back in operation, albeit updated: “death squads” are now legal security companies, often staffed with veterans from global hot spots, including former paramilitaries from Colombia, while landlords now receive funding from international development agencies to convert their fields into biofuel plantations to supply the United States with its energy needs[1].

Today’s atrocious policy at the US-Mexico border is the latest chapter in this long war on Central Americans and Mexicans. Mexican protesters called Obama the “deporter-in-chief”: he warehoused and deported 2.7 million, more than any US president before him. Under Obama, they were systematically beaten, tortured and raped by CBF agents. In one case, hungry babies were deprived of milk, while others vomited from repeatedly receiving contaminated meat and milk[6].

His successor Donald Trump has accelerated this savage policy, including the now suspended (due to public outrage) family separation policy that violated the US-ratified Genocide Convention.

US-NATO wars this century helped create the conditions of “Europe’s” refugee/migrant crisis. Reagan, Clinton and Obama’s policies have had a similar contribution to the flight of Central Americans and Mexicans to North America.

Trump’s proposed wall epitomises the mentality of imperial self-entitlement that discards history and refuses to acknowledge responsibility. Such an attitude of blind arrogance brought down the Roman empire. History does not bode well for Donald Trump’s campaign slogan!

  1. Chomsky.info
  2. Oliver Stone, The Untold History of the United States (PBS Mini Series)
  3. Nicaragua (freely viewable at johnpilger.com)
  4. consortiumnews.com
  5. The Panama Deception
  6. ACLU report 05/18

Top Five Enemies Created by US ‘Blowback’

1. Pol Pot
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During the Vietnam War, the US dropped a conservative 0.5m tonnage of bombs on Cambodia. Killing an estimated 50,000-150,000 mostly innocent civilians, the indiscriminate bombing – requested by the Cambodian government – created a tide of anti-American/government hatred upon which Pol Pot’s horrific Khymer Rouge rose to power, leading to the horrific genocide of 1.7m people (21% of the population)[1].

Following this holocaust, the Carter Administration arranged an annual $100m in Chinese military aid for the Khymer Rouge, whose guerrilla allies received tens of millions in direct US money during the 1980s[1].

2. Ayatollah Khomeini
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In 1953, an MI6-CIA coup ousted the democratically elected president of Iran, Mohamed Mossadeq, in response to his popular nationalization of Iranian oil. He was replaced by the Shah of Iran, who restored the monopoly of Anglo-American Oil Company (now British Petroleum) over the Iranian economy. The brutal dictator was finally toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini, formerly on the CIA payroll during the 1953 coup[2].

3. Saddam Hussein
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Iraq’s Saddam Hussein received diplomatic and military support from the US and other Western countries for his brutal war against post-revolutionary Iran, which cost 1m Iraqi and Iranian lives.

Private American, British and German firms sold Saddam various biochemical components that would end up contributing to his WMD buildup, including its brutal deployment against the town of Halabja in which 25,000 Kurdish civilians were gassed to death[2].

The Reagan Administration sought to deflect attention by erroneously blaming the Iranians for the vicious massacre[2].

4. Osama bin Laden
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In July 1979, the US authorised a $0.5b fund for the Afghan Mujahideen, an Islamist rebellion against the then communist regime in Afghanistan. President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zbniew Brzezinski saw this as an opportunity to “give the Soviets their own Vietnam”, informing Carter that “in my opinion, this was likely to induce a Soviet military intervention”. But with the rest of the US intelligence community rejecting this view, Carter proceeded with the fund for the Afghan Mujahideen[2].

The following December, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, provoking a flood of foreign Muslim volunteers including Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden*. When the US deployed 0.5m troops to Saudi Arabia (Islam’s holy land) during the 1991 Gulf War, bin Laden perceived a new ‘crusade against Islam’ and turned his guns on the West[3].

Two other major recruiting tools for bin Laden was US support for the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine, as well as the 0.5m Iraqi children who died from US-British economic sanctions[3].

In 1998, Brzezinski insisted that Europe’s “liberation from communism” was more important to history than “a few stirred up Moslems”[2]. Three years later, on September 11 2001, some of bin Laden’s “stirred up Moslems” brought down New York’s World Trade Center, killing 2996 people and ushering in a perpetual ‘War on Terror’ abroad and assault on democracy at home.

5. ISIS
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In late 2002, in response to the pending US invasion of Iraq, Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi infiltrated the lawless north and founded AQI[3]. Later renaming itself ISI, it morphed into ISIS after extending its activities to neighbouring Syria as part of a Western-sponsored ‘jihad’.

By 2014, ISIS had overrun Western-backed “moderate” factions in the Syrian civil war and seized much of their US-supplied weaponry[4], as well as purchasing weaponry from the US-armed Free Syrian Army[5].

*A common myth is that he was a CIA asset. This is due to the false equivocation of the Muslim volunteers with the indigenous Afghan Mujahideen. The CIA armed and trained the latter but not the former. See 911myths.com

1. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/04/khmer-rouge-cambodian-genocide-united-states/
2. Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States
3. Peter Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know, Chapter 12: How al Qaeda Took Root in Iraq and the Story of Abu Musab al Zarqawi
4. http://www.conflictarm.com, Evidence from a 20-month investigation in Iraq and Syria
5. https://www.rt.com/news/322996-islamic-state-journalist-todenhofer/