Did the Soviet Union Fall Due to Afghan War?

Russian Troops Retreating from Afghanistan

Donald Trump Thinks So

Foreign policy wonks around the world were aghast at the version of the Afghan/Russian war spouted by Donald Trump as he answered reporters questions off the cuff during a cabinet meeting held the day after New Year’s break. Although the fact that Trump is a verbose ignoramus and compulsive liar with an unvarnished contempt for facts has now become conventional wisdom for those who know enough to recognize it, he somehow still manages to say things that astonish us. Given the fact that many Americans already believe that Devious Donald is a Russian puppet at the pinnacle of our government – some even call him “The Moscow Candidate” – it is astonishing that he could take the favorable positions he took regarding the motive and consequences of the 1979 Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Jimmy Carter, who was President at the time, thought it was such an outrageous act he canceled American participation in the Moscow Olympics! The US government didn’t take this severe action even during the NAZI Olympics Games in Berlin. This was no easy decision for Carter because he understood that he was dashing the hopes and dreams of young American athletes who had labored a life time for a chance at their moment of Olympic glory. Yet Donald J. Trump enthusiastically endorsed the Russian invasion, declaring it the just and wise thing to do. Dumb Donnie opined:

“Russia used to be the Soviet Union, Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia … the reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.”

Aside from revealing a deep ignorance of his subject, part of his statement sounds like it was written by a Russian intelligence officer tasked with conducting a disinformation campaign designed to obfuscate rather than clarify events. This passage would be considered a big victory for whoever was managing the disinformation campaign: “the reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.”

Here we have the President of the United States justifying the Russian Invasion of Afghanistan, a major triumph for Russian propaganda. It is almost a verbatim recitation of the new resolution that the Russians have crafted justifying their invasion of Afghanistan.  It is these kind of things that has alarmed some Americans to the point that they are openly calling for the US military to arrest Trump for treason! As crazy and alarming as it is, you can find an abundance of these calls in the comments below You Tube news videos that address Trump’s relationship with Russia!

Yet, given the absurdity of Trump’s claim that the Russia invasion was a response to the “terrorist” threat, it does not require a dramatist’s imagination to envision Putin laughing out loud. For it is obvious that Trump has no clue how the US government’s response to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan led to the 9/11 attack, in response to which his Republican predecessor launched a disastrous war of choice in Iraq and invaded Afghanistan; falling into the quagmire the Russians had left. These wars continue as I write, albeit on a reduced scale, and are now America’s longest wars. And at a price of four trillion dollars they are also the most costly! Yet the “terrorists” we are fighting were created by the American Central Intelligence Agency, including Osama bin Laden, who organized and directed the devastating 9/11 attack!

What Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer, understands well is that it was the USA who equipped the Taliban with the modern weapons they later used wreak havoc on US forces a few years after the Russian retreat from Afghanistan. There is even a major movie about it featuring Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson’s War, which details how the Texas Republican Congressman Charlie Wilson persuaded the US government to supply the Afghan Rebels with Stinger Missiles, a high tech shoulder held surface to air missile that can bring down a heavily armored attack helicopter. Although the claim that the introduction of this weapon was a game changer in the Russian/Afghan War is in dispute, there is no doubt they were deployed to great effect against American forces in the war against the Taliban after 9/11.

Why did the US do it, why did the American government go down a road that has cost this nation so much blood and treasure? It was a classic case of folly that should be a crime. In a Pulitzer Prize winning book, The March of Folly, historian Barbara Tuckman analyzes elites across time and place that pursued self-defeating policies, despite the fact that all the observable evidence suggested that it would lead to disaster. And she labeled this class of phenomenon “Folly!”

A careful examination of the facts, viewed in retrospect, leaves no doubt that the decision to arm and train the Afghan Jihadists who came from all over the Islamic world to answer the call to Jihad against the Russians, was a classic case of folly! They called themselves Mujaheddin, “Holy Warriors,” and the US government celebrated them as “heroes,” with little skepticism, and no public opposition from the American media. Instead the media were willing mouth pieces for the government’s point of view…which is what happens when objectivity is overwhelmed by the passions of patriotism.

Alas, US policymakers should have know better. After all, the experience of Iran offered compelling evidence of the dangers of intervening in the affairs of a Muslim nation and helping to overthrow a secular government that that the US disliked. In 1953 the CIA engineered a military coup that toppled Muhammad Mossedeh – the democratically elected Swiss educated liberal secular leader – because he wanted to nationalize Iran’s vast oil resources and demand a fair price from the US and British companies. This nefarious covert action set forces in motion that would radically change Iranian society.

In President Mossedeh’s place the Eisenhower Administration installed the arrogant, oppressive, autocrat Shah Reza Palevi, whose excesses led to the first Islamic Revolution in the modern world and put the Ayatollah’s in power.  And they declared America “The Great Satan!” All of our present troubles with Iran stemmed from this misbegotten decision to overthrow their secular elected government.

Having witnessed the myriad problems posed by a radical Islamic state, prudence dictated that we avoid empowering Muslim Fundamentalists elsewhere. It was easy to see as a white elephant in a crowd of pigs. So why did wise men rush in where fools feared to tread?

It is impossible to understand the folly of America’s decision to arm the Muslim fundamentalists in Afghanistan, unless we view it from the perspective of the Cold War – the term of art employed to describe the struggle for global dominance between the US and the Soviet Union short of direct military confrontation between these nuclear armed nations check mated by the MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – doctrine. Aside from psychological warfare designed to win the hearts and minds of the hundreds of millions in emerging Third World Nations, the US supported “proxy wars” against pro-Russian forces all over the globe.

Based on this strategic view of the relationship of forces in the world, it made perfect sense for the US government to promote a militant Islamic Jihad in Afghanistan so long as they were willing to kill Russians! It was a short sighted view; the definition of Folly. Had US policymakers viewed the Afghan struggle from the Jihadists point of view they would have known their efforts would eventually backfire, because it is clear in the theology which guides their actions that the Jihadists found American beliefs as odious as Russia’s.

To the Muslim Jihadists who eventually overthrew the Marxist pro-Russian government of President Mohammad Najibullah in 1991, two years after the departure of Russian forces, both democratic Christian American Capitalism and totalitarian atheistic Russia communism are abominations; the work of barbaric apostates contemptuous of Sharia Law, Allah’s divine plan for man. Their alliance with the US in the Holy War against Russia was based on the old Muslim adage: “The enemy of my enemy is a friend.”

Hence, when the Saudi government called upon the US to oust Sadam Hussein from Kuwait, and offered to provide a base for American operations on Saudi soil, Osama bin Laden, a leader of the “Afghan -Arab” contingent that answered the call to Jihad in Afghanistan, pleaded with them not to station swine eating liquor drinking American barbarians on the sacred soil of Arabia where Mecca and Medina – the holiest cities in the Islamic world – are located. He begged the king to support his veterans from the Afghan war that had played a decisive role in their “victory” over a European super power.

The king chose to rely on American armed forces instead, and when US forces put boots on the ground in Arabia both the Royal Family and the US became targets of the Jihadists; resulting in the 9/11 attack on the US homeland. Planned and ordered by the former CIA apprentice in terrorist tactics Osama bin Laden, who had returned to Afghanistan to build Al Qaeda, the spectacular terrorist assault was carried out by 15 Saudi citizens and four from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon. All counties that enjoyed good relations with the US. And, contrary to conventional wisdom on the subject, the Jihadists were not all from the poorer classes, some were quite well to do. Osama’s personal fortune was put at nearly 300 million dollars.

In retaliation George Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, and was also talked into invading Iraq by the neo-con clique of warmongers from the Project For a New American Century that “Dirty Dick “ Chaney had installed in the Bush National Security establishment.* The overthrow of Sadam Hussein, a secular military strongman, who had prevented the rise of a militant Muslim movement in Iraq, opened the floodgates for a host of Jihadists to enter Iraqi territory.

This development was a major factor in creating the conditions for Al Qaeda to operate on Iraqi territory and gave rise to ISIS, a new militant Jihadist formation. All of these developments have their roots in the American intervention on behalf of the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan. That is the lesson that is not being discussed in the hail of rhetoric being banded about regarding Trump’s musings on the causes and consequences of the Russian- Afghan War.

Of course Trump’s claims about the central role of that war in the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union stray even further from reality, and thus offer no useful insights. The remembrances of Robert Gates and Morton Abramowitz are far more valuable in helping us understand what actually happened. Although Gates is primarily known as the Secretary of Defense during the Administration of George W. Bush, and was held over by President Obama, he was a CIA officer in 1979.

Hence Gates was present at the meeting when the CIA decided to arm and train the Mujahideen. Gates recalls that their objective was “sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire.”  In other words, they hoped Afghanistan would become for Russia what Vietnam was for the USA, a historic blunder in which they would expend massive amounts of blood and treasure in a futile war.

However in an interview with the London Guardian Morton Abramowitz, who was the Director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence recalls: “In 1985, there was a real concern that the Mujahideen were losing, that they were sort of being diminished, falling apart. Losses were high and their impact on the soviets was not great.”

The first hand testimony of these principle players in the Afghan drama Trumps the fallacious fables of dumb devious Donald.
The reasons for the fall of the Russian Communist Party are complex- which is really what we are talking about- are far beyond the scope of this essay. Yet I feel compelled to address the issue since Trump was so emphatic in his views. The best way to sum up the problem that led to the collapse of the Communist experiment in Russia is to reiterate the views of the official Ideologist to soviet leader Andropov, who confessed in a PBS interview: “When reality contradicted our ideology, we dismissed reality.”

That’s why they were able to ignore flaws in the system that were baked in at the beginning. Things like the lack of economic incentives for excellence; the growing evidence that government bureaucrats cannot manage a large industrial economy efficiently, and the “dictatorship of the proletariat” had degenerated into the Dictatorship” of the Communist Party.

This critical flaw in the leadership model was noted by the seasoned revolutionary anarchist Emma Goldman, a Russian born naturalized American citizen who returned to Russia in January 1920, after the triumph of the communist led 1917 revolution that overthrew the Romanovs. A brilliant and careful student of revolutions, Emma was a sympathizer with the Russian revolution;  yet she would later write searing a book – “My Disillusionment  In Russia” –  richly detailing her disappointment at what she found:

“The Russian workers, like the peasants, also employed direct action.  They possessed themselves of the factories, organized their own shop committees, and were virtually in control of the economic life of Russia.  But soon they were stripped of their power and placed under the industrial yoke of the Bolshevik regime…Just because I am a revolutionist I refuse to side with the master class, which in Russia is called the Communist party.”

Yet upon reflection it is clear that the situation could not have been otherwise.  For despite the ideal of a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” the true proletariat does not possess the education or the leisure that’s required to read and comprehend the complex texts of Karl Marx; hence the great Russian “proletarian” revolution was led by de-classe intellectuals like Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.

Alas the “workers paradise” became something of a nightmare when the need for internal peace and economic stability became the paramount objectives of the Communist Party, who considered any independent workers organizations to be counter-revolutionaries because the party represented the interests of revolutionary workers. And when attempts to criticize these arrangements resulted in harassment, prison and even death, the seeds of the system’s eventual destruction were sown…it was just a matter of time. When compared to these unresolved issues Afghanistan was a sideshow.

Dumb Donald Holding Forth on the Afghan War

****************

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
1/10/2019

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: