The CIA’s reactionary Afghani rebels

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Editor’s Note: The following article was first printed in the May 10, 1983 edition of Seattle’s University of Washington Daily newspaper. It casts a cold light on the methods employed by the U. S. government and bourgeois media to foster the myth of “Russian imperialism” in Afghanistan, and to bolster American imperialist influence thereby.

The author is a member of the UW community from Afghanistan who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of harassment by the U.S. government.

Beware. You have been lied to.

However harshly you may choose to judge the Soviet role in Afghanistan, and irrespective of your opinion of the Soviets in general, a simple fact cries for recognition — media coverage of the Afghan reality is largely engineered to fulfill existing cold war needs, not to enlighten and inform.

Consider the powerful imagery which permeates the consciousness of a vast majority of Americans. First, there are the romantic Afghan mujahideen who bare-fistedly challenge Soviet military might, dedicating their lives for freedom. Meanwhile an impotent Western world looks on with horror at the invasion of a sovereign country.

At the same time, a hospitable, humanitarian Pakistan generously opens its borders to fleeing Afghans at enormous cost to itself.

Wherein lie the distortions? What is not being told?

“Freedom” fighters. Consider the following. Aside from an occasional surreptitious allusion, a conspiracy of silence surrounds the charter of the mujahideen groups. What propels them to fight? What, in their perception, are the principle objections to the Soviet-supported Afghan communists?

Ask a mujahid why he fights. For Islam, he invariably replies. Islam, as interpreted to him by conservative village mullahs (clergy) and powerful feudal lords, is the centuries-old tribal way of life. When Afghan communists overthrew the Daud monarchy in 1978, they proceeded, albeit clumsily and ham-handedly, to reverse ancient and oppressive traditions. Feudal lords were dispossessed of land through land reform, the sale of brides was outlawed, and education for girls was made mandatory. Reversal of these reforms are among the principal demands of the mujahideen groups, whose conservative leadership has successfully posed these developments as an assault on Islam.

Paradoxically, it is the communists who have mid-wifed the infinitely retrogressive mujahideen movement.

Feudal lords and mullahs organized the murder of government sympathizers and the destruction of government facilities. In rural areas, suspected communists were killed and, on occasion, skinned alive. In blind retaliation, Kabul ordered blanket punishment. With Russian help, villages were bombed and crops destroyed. This senseless devastation mobilized mass anti-government feeling. As the violence escalated, the chance for emancipating Afghanistan slipped away. < ,p>The U.S. media, which regularly lynches Ayatollah Khomeini for his fanaticism, nevertheless maintains a deafening silence on the much more extreme goals of the mujahideen.

Raising the cost. When was the last time you read an honest analysis of the U.S. position on Afghanistan?

Public statements to the contrary, U.S. State Department officials are almost openly delighted to see the Russians in the Afghan quagmire and would be sorry to see them go. Position papers speak of “raising the cost of Soviet intervention” through the Pakistan-based, CIA-supplied mujahideen. In their cynical calculations, negotiated peace is the ultimate threat to an otherwise excellent situation in which the Soviets are losing men, material, and morale, as well as political prestige before the world of nations.

It should be no surprise that in spite of Russian offers for a negotiated withdrawal, the U.S. has not permitted Pakistan — which holds the key to any negotiated settlement — to enter into talks. All sides recognize the impossibility of a unilateral Soviet withdrawal. One consequence, as observed by a Kabul-based Western diplomat, would be the massacre of tens of thousands of city-dwellers by vengeful mujahideen. Although Kabul communists have alienated the countryside, they do enjoy a measure of support in the more secular-leaning urban population.

The Pakistan connection. Lest readers persist in the illusion that U.S. opposition to the Afghan government is on account of the latter’s undemocratic nature, let them consider the relation of the United States to its close ally, Pakistan.

In 1977, a ruthless military oligarchy in Pakistan, led by General Zia-ul-Haq, seized power and promptly hanged the popularly elected prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Upwards of 50,000 political prisoners currently languish in Pakistani jails. Political activity is banned, the constitution has been abrogated, the judicial system destroyed, and arrested persons are formally assumed guilty unless they can prove their innocence. The regime admits to hanging 1,200 “criminals” yearly. Amnesty International cites numerous cases wherein journalists, teachers, and students have been systematically tortured.

Among the most notable achievements of the junta has been the introduction of supposedly “Islamic” punishments — public floggings, amputation of hands for theft, and stoning unto death for adultery. Currently, the most visible opposition to the regime comes from Pakistani women, whose few and hard-won rights have been dispensed with.

But say what you will. For Washington, Pakistan is very much part of the “Free World.”

For Pakistani generals, whose genocide of the Bengali population in 1971 caused 10 million refugees to spill into India, the presence of Afghan refugees is an infinite blessing. Vast amounts of Western and Saudi aid have poured into the country, propping up a wholly corrupt and hated regime. Whereas all of the three military governments in Pakistan’s history have received U.S. backing — and there was no Russian “threat” then — the importance of Pakistan as a tool for harassing the Soviets gives the present regime a utility far in excess of its predecessors.

Piteous appeals by Pakistani generals for Afghan refugee relief aid contrast sharply with their total disinterest in the conditions of abysmal poverty in rural Pakistan. Indeed, it is remarkable that the Afghan refugee population in Pakistan, impoverished though it be, is substantially better off than the indigenous peasants of northern Pakistan in terms of access to food, clothing, and medical facilities.

Shared views. After being entertained with great pomp and ceremony in Washington last January, General Zia-ul-Haq returned home gloating with $3.2 billion dollars to spend, 40 F-16’s, and a bloated ego. In a nationwide broadcast, the General described his foreign tour as “success beyond expectations.” He did admit with some scorn that, “They talk a lot about human rights in the West,” but added, “My views were appreciated very much in the United States and Canada.”

U.S. leaders have always had a soft spot for the militarist champions of “democracy.”

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