Charlie Wilson's Backfire

Let's separate the child-like fantasy world behind the U.S. support for the Mujihadeen's 1980's campaign from the true effect of Charlie Wilson's War.
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As the first journalists to enter Kabul in 1981 for CBS News following the expulsion of the Western media the previous year, we continue to be amazed at how the American disinformation campaign between Hollywood, Washington and Wall Street built around the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan lives on. We've seen this pattern from the media again and again. It was disturbing to read Ken Herman's December 18 interview, "Charlie Wilson pessimistic about future of Afghanistan" in the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN once again filled with CIA disinformation. The secret propaganda campaign was activated before the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to sell the American people on financing the coming Muslim holy war against the Soviet Union.

Let's separate the child-like fantasy world behind the U.S. support for the Mujihadeen's 1980's campaign from the true effect of Charlie Wilson's War.

FROM THE WILSON INTERVIEW: "the former East Texas congressman -- immortalized in a book and a movie about his exploits that helped the Afghans drive out the Soviet Union."

FACT: Covert funding for the mujahideen began long before the Soviet invasion. This covert aid was intended to lure the Soviets into the Afghan trap and hold them there, not drive them out, as claimed by Charlie Wilson. Both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Zbigniew Brzezinski - President Carter's national security adviser, have admitted in print (Gates, in his 1997 book, From the Shadows; Brzezinski, 1998 interview in Le Nouvel Observateur, that the U.S. had been secretly undermining its own diplomatic efforts in order to give the Soviets their own Vietnam in Afghanistan. The American press failed to report these revelations from high-ranking government officials as significant news, back then. More recently, Brzezinski's remarks were addressed in an interview with Samira Goetschel for her film, Our Own Private Bin Laden. She asked: "In your 1998 interview with the French Magazine Le Nouvel Observateur you said that you knowingly increased the probability of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan." Brzezinski responded: "The point very simply was this. We knew the Soviets were already conducting operations in Afghanistan. We knew there was opposition in Afghanistan to the progressive effort which had been made by the Soviets to take over. And we felt therefore it made a lot of sense to support those that were resisting. And we decided to do that. Of course this probably convinced the Soviets even more to do what they were planning to do..." FACT: As we document in our book, "Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story," the record contradicts Brzezinski's assumption that the Soviets would have invaded had it not been for his intentional provocation to lure the Soviet's into the "Afghan trap."

FACT: In 1983, under contract to ABC Nightline, we invited Roger Fisher, director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, to return with us to assess the chances of getting the Soviets to leave Afghanistan. The Kremlin's chief Afghan specialist told Roger, "Give us six months to save face and we'll leave the Afghans to solve their own problems." The Afghan government told us in 1981 that the Soviets would leave when the insurgency attacking from Pakistan and financed by the US and Saudis stopped. Our story was rejected as news by ABC World News Tonight. Then the Soviet request - as explained by Roger on Nightline - was framed in such a way by host Ted Koppel, that it dispelled any notion that there was a chance of a Soviet withdrawal. Neither congress nor the mainstream media followed up on the possibility.

FACT: Charlie Wilson prolonged Afghanistan's agony for another six years by getting congress to substantially increase funding to the insurgency attacking from Pakistan. Wilson's efforts provided a secure multibillion-dollar technological training base for Islamic terrorism, and set the stage for a privatized heroin industry of historic proportions. It's bad enough that a Hollywood film continues to project the propaganda campaign that kept Americans in the dark about America's role in helping terrorism grow in Afghanistan. It is unconscionable for any media to perpetuate the fantasy that Charlie Wilson or the congress wanted the Soviets out of Afghanistan.

FACT: America's mistake in Afghanistan was not "the endgame" problem depicted by "Charlie Wilson's War." The problem was in the conceptual framework created by America's Cold War policy makers in the first place that made Afghanistan the bleeding ground it remains to this day.

FACT: Charlie Wilson's War became the rallying cry for an arms buildup that would end public debate about American foreign policy on Afghanistan. The world was remade with the Soviet folly in Afghanistan, a Communist empire destroyed and the West's pre-eminence assured. But the price in human suffering in Afghanistan and the impact on our democratic freedoms has yet to be understood.

Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are authors of "Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story," published by City Lights. They can be reached at © Copyright 2009 Gould & Fitzgerald. All rights reserved

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