Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #678 Interview (#1) with Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

MP3 Side 1 | Side 2

Introduction: Accessing information from the vitally important recent (in 2009) book Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story, this interview with the book’s authors sets forth covert history of the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. (Subsequent interviews with the authors will present more information from this landmark book, bringing the Afghan tragedy up to date, through the Soviet withdrawal, the birth of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks and the ongoing U.S. military involvement in that nation.) NB: this description features text excerpts that illustrate the major points the authors make in this interview. The text is not transcribed from the interview.

Opening with a capsule history of Afghanistan in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the program notes the British empire’s attempts at bringing Afghanistan into its imperial fold, and failure to do so. A naval imperial power, Britain looked at the enormous landmass of the burgeoning Russian empire and saw its domination of the “earth island,” the land mass incorporating Europe, much of the Middle East and most of Asia. This land mass contains most of the world’s territory, most of its population and most of its natural resources. Control of this land mass yields world domination.

The British (and later others) saw control of Afghanistan as key to that domination. In addition, the British saw the possibility of a Russian-controlled Afghanistan as a possible threat to their Indian colony.

In order to geopolitically isolate Afghanistan–and by extension Russia–the British devised the Durand Line, which was to play a significant role in Eurasian politics from that point forward. Separating tribal groups into territories belonging to different nations, the Durand Line helped generate the troubled semi-autonomous tribal areas that have become an epicenter of Taliban and Al-Qaeda activity in the present.

Next, the authors tackle the period of time after World War II. Following the Second World War and with the Soviet Union now replacing Russia as the “global bogeyman” of the Earth Island, the United States assumed Britain’s geopolitical role in Afghanistan, working to block the U.S.S.R. by stifling Afghanistan’s attempts at reform and modernization. Interpreted by the U.S. as “communist” in nature, Afghan reform was opposed by U.S. Cold War strategic doctrine, obliging that nation to approach the Soviet Union for aid.

As the authors note, the U.S. view of Third World reform as subversive placed American Cold War policy in line with the values of the Islamic fundamentalist movement.

Next, Paul and Elizabeth set forth the ascension of “Team B” under George H.W. Bush’s tenure at the CIA–an event that set the stage for a U.S. trap designed to lure the Soviet Union into Afghanistan. Brought in by Bush to “reassess” Soviet intentions and capabilities, “Team B” fulfilled their mission of presenting a fantastically exaggerated picture of the USSR. The “Myth of the Ten Foot Tall Russian” disseminated by Team B  informed U.S. national security policy during the closing phase of the Cold War.

Following their discussion of Team B, the authors set forth Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s collaboration with the Chinese and Muslim Brotherhood into to deliberately lure the Soviets into invading Afghanistan. This invasion would appear to be the fulfillment of Team B’s analysis and played directly into the propaganda that would bring Ronald Reagan to power and, with it, the forces that would determine the closing phase of the Cold War.

Among the revelatory items in the book is disclosure of a Soviet intent to withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Discussing this diplomatic initiative, the authors note the ascension of former K.G.B. chief Yuri Andropov to the head of Soviet leadership. Attempting to stem the tide of deliberate silence and active disinformation surrounding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Elizabeth and Paul broke ranks and presented the truth. They discuss their efforts in this interview. Note that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was viewed by Team B and their associates as the first step in a Soviet military advance on the Middle East oil fields.

Program Highlights Include: Review of the elder George Bush’s role in drafting the disinformation about Soviet intentions in the Middle East (this was used by team B to justify policy); the role of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in the Ford White House (along with the elder Bush, who was CIA director at the time); the role of the narcotics traffic in the Afghan war, including complicity on the part of elements of the U.S. national security establishment. (Listeners interested in the authors’ work are encouraged to check out FTR #’s 680, 683, 685.)

1. Opening with a capsule history of Afghanistan in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the program notes the British empire’s attempts at bringing Afghanistan into its imperial fold, and failure to do so. A naval imperial power, Britain looked at the enormous landmass of the burgeoning Russian empire and saw its domination of the “earth island,” the land mass incorporating Europe, much of the Middle East and most of Asia. This land mass contains most of the world’s territory, most of its population and most of its natural resources. Control of this land mass yields world domination.

The British (and later others) saw control of Afghanistan as key to that domination. In addition, the British saw the possibility of a Russian-controlled Afghanistan as a possible threat to their Indian colony.

“. . . Described as the ‘World-Island’ by nineteenth-century British geographer [Halford] Mackinder, Russia’s geographic position at the center of the Eurasian land mass more than rivaled Britain’s as an island fortress. But unlike Britain, Russia’s island stood virtually impregnable–overflowing with resources and beyond the reach of Britain’s oceangoing armada.

‘Mackinder was struck by the ominous implication for an island kingdom whose imperial reach was based on sea power. In theory, the new mobility [of railroads] made Russia the master of an invincible interior fortress, which Mackinder called the World Island,’ Meyer and Brysac write. Mackinder foresaw Russia, as it emerged into the twentieth century, escaping its history–and with the advancement of railroads–expanding with ferocity toward India. The idea inspired an entire century of religious and geopolitical panic in the West. Between Mackinder, Nazi Germany’s geopolitician Karl Haushofer, and American cold warrior James Burnham, Russian dominance of Central Asia implanted an undying nightmare of an apocalyptic horde sweeping from the Russian steppe across Europe and into the Middle East. . . .”

Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould; City Lights Books [SC]; Copyright 2009 by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould; ISBN-13: 978-0-87286-494-8; p. 43.

2. In order to geopolitically isolate Afghanistan–and by extension Russia–the British devised the Durand Line, which was to play a significant role in Eurasian politics from that point forward.

“. . . Within the context of late-nineteenth-century colonial expansion, the creation of the Durand Line demarcating the borders of Afghanistan from Britain’s newly conquered territory across the Indus River appeared to be of no extraordinary importance. Yet no border division in the history of colonial conquest could match the ongoing consequences posed by the Durand Line. Created in 1893 by India’s foreign secretary, Sir Mortimer Durand, the 1,519-mile arbitrary border which partitioned ‘territories and peoples who, since time immemorial had been considered part of the Afghan homeland and nation’ from British India was received bitterly by Abdur Rahman Khan and remains contested to this day. Seized by British forces and thereafter dubbed the North-West Frontier Provinces of India, these indigenous Afghan territories would always remain lawless, beyond British control and a constant source of friction. A focus of East-West conflict during the Cold War, the territories would become an inspirational source of anti-Soviet pan-Islamic radicalism and subsequently the spawning ground of the radical Islamic human ‘database’ known as Al Qaeda.

Initially agreed to by Abdur Rahman Khan as a means for loosely demarcating areas of political responsibility on either side of the Hindu Kush, in practice the Durand Line would come to mark the western boundaries of the British empire and subsequently the emerging state of Pakistan. Intended by Britain as a step toward pacifying the Pashtun tribal areas and absorbing them, the artificial line that ignored topography, demography and even military strategy did exactly the opposite, laying the foundation for bloodshed even as it was being drawn. While inflaming Afghan nationalism, the cross-border conflict resulting from the arbitrary separation of tribes, families and resources would ignite tensions and rivalries that would give way to a constant state of low-intensity warfare, cross-border infiltration and political instability. . .”

Ibid.; pp. 50-51.

3. Following the Second World War and with the Soviet Union now replacing Russia as the “global bogeyman” of the Earth Island, the United States assumed Britain’s geopolitical role in Afghanistan, working to block the U.S.S.R. by stifling Afghanistan’s attempts at reform and modernization. Interpreted by the U.S. as “communist” in nature, Afghan reform was opposed by U.S. Cold War strategic doctrine, obliging that nation to approach the Soviet Union for aid.

“. . . Biased by Britain against Afghanistan’s stubborn independence from the outset, the negative American response to repeated Afghan pleas for military assistance was further complicated by the growing influence of a new Cold War mythology. That mythology, Manichean by design, intentionally viewed Third World post colonial nationalism in much the same light as Soviet communism and acted against it accordingly. Hemmed in, but sheltered by treaties and mutual agreements between Britain and Russia throughout the colonial era, Afghanistan’s independence-obsessed leadership viewed America’s new exclusive alignment with Pakistan with alarm. This simplistic American policy acted as a self-fulfilling prophecy–alienating many of the newly independent, post colonial republics like Afghanistan, branding them as enemies, denying them resources, and forcing them toward the Soviet sphere of influence. Summed up by Robert Dreyfuss in his Devil’s Game, the policy rejuvenated the worst elements of an old-world imperialism at just the moment when a fresh, modern American approach was expected by the developing world . . .”

Ibid.; pp. 82-83.

4. Viewing Third World reform as subversive placed American Cold War policy in line with the values of the Islamic fundamentalist movement.

“. . . ‘During the Cold War, from 1945 to 1991, the enemy was merely not the USSR. According to the Manichean rules of that era, the United States demonized leaders who did not wholeheartedly sign on to the American agenda or who might challenge Western and in particular, U.S. hegemony. Ideas and ideologies that could inspire such leaders were suspect: nationalism, humanism, secularism, socialism. But subversive ideas such as these were also the ones most feared by the nascent forces of Muslim fundamentalism. Throughout the region, the Islamic right fought pitched battles against the bearers of these notions, not only in the realm of intellectual life but in the streets. During the decades-long struggle against Arab nationalism–along with Persian, Turkish, and Indian nationalism–the United States found it politic to make common cause with the Islamic right. . . .”

Ibid.; p. 83.

5. Next, Paul and Liz set forth the ascension of “Team B” under George H.W. Bush’s tenure at the CIA. Brought in by Bush to “reassess” Soviet intentions and capabilities, “Team B” fulfilled their mission of presenting a fantastically exaggerated picture of the USSR. The “Myth of the Ten Foot Tall Russian” disseminated by Team B  informed U.S. national security policy during the closing phase of the Cold War.

“. . . Gerald Ford’s CIA director George H.W. Bush opened an outside door to a small, right-wing corps of like-minded defense intellectuals. . . Known as Team-B, [Albert] Wohlstetter’s hand-picked men brought to work in 1976 revived assumptions that were as old as the Soviet Union itself. It might even be said that the thinking of the group-mind represented by Team-B was so old-world and elitist as to predate the very existence of the Soviet Union. Led by an obscure Harvard Professor of Czarist Russian history named Richard Pipes and composed of a unique combination of ex-U.S. military men, retired cold warriors, neoconservatives, and right-wing ideologues, the members of Team-B . . . shared the conviction that detente and Strategic Arms Limitation Talks were nothing more than a Soviet scheme. That scheme was to bargain and talk America into a false sense of security while Soviet agents and proxies subverted American influence both political and military around the globe. . . . The Soviets were preparing for a ‘third world war’ and were nakedly expansionist, they claimed in their top secret 1976 report. . . .The assessment at the time was considered radical and, by many, intentionally misleading. [Team B member] Paul Nitze had done this sort of thing originally in NSC 68 . . . “

Ibid.; pp. 139-141.

6. Following their discussion of Team B, Liz and Paul set forth Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s collaboration with the Chinese and Muslim Brotherhood into to deliberately lure the Soviets into invading Afghanistan. This invasion would appear to be the fulfillment of Team B’s analysis and played directly into the propaganda that would bring Ronald Reagan to power and, with it, the forces that would determine the closing phase of the Cold War.

“. . . Ordering an increase in support for Muslim radicals in Pakistan following Herat, Brzezinski directed that U.S. aid be sent to the burgeoning Chinese-supplied, mujahideen training camps in order to ‘orchestrate and facilitate weapons purchases and related assistance,’ according to Harrison. In May of that year, in a fateful decision that still haunts the United States, the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, John Joseph Reagan, pledged American support to a known religious fanatic and heroin trafficker, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. . . .

Although Soviet efforts to avoid an invasion would continue throughout the spring and summer, events were signaling that a full-fledged campaign on the Soviets’ southern border had begun, a campaign that was, according to Brzezinski, intentionally designed to precipitate a Soviet Invasion. [Italics are Mr. Emory’s.] [Robert] Dreyfuss writes ‘In the Nouvel Observateur interview, Brzezinski admitted that his intention all along was to provoke a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan–even though, after the Soviet action occurred, U.S. officials expressed shock and surprise. ‘We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would,’ said Brzezinski.’ ”Now,’ he told President Carter in 1979, ‘we can give the USSR its Vietnam war.’. . .”

Ibid.; pp. 162-163.

7. Among the revelatory items in the book is disclosure of a Soviet intent to withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Discussing this diplomatic initiative, Liz and Paul note the ascension of former K.G.B. chief Yuri Andropov to the head of Soviet leadership.

Attempting to stem the tide of deliberate silence and active disinformation surrounding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the authors broke ranks and presented the truth. They discuss their efforts in this interview. Note that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was viewed by Team B and their associates as the first step in a Soviet military advance on the Middle East oil fields. This, in turn, was predicated on a report drawn up by the elder George Bush’s CIA. (This is discussed at length in, among other programs, FTR #214.

“. . . Predicated entirely on the mistaken assumption that the Soviets were running out of oil, as summed up in a secret 1977 CIA memo titled, ‘The Impending Soviet Oil Crisis,’ an apocalyptic Third World War fantasy was being dreamed into reality, and by 1981, the Reagan White House was getting ready to act on it. In 1986, KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky revealed that the Soviet Union had gone on an extraordinary intelligence alert in early 1981 and remained so until late in 1983, convinced that the United States was preparing a surprise nuclear attack to forestall a Soviet attack on the Middle East.

Having played a critical but unheralded, back-channel negotiating role in the Iran hostage release, Roger Fisher’s involvement at that critical moment in time-when Afghanistan threatened to cause the Cold War to escalate to nuclear war-wasn’t hard to fathom.

Following the death of the Soviet general secretary of the Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev, in the fall of 1982, his successor, former KGB chairman Yuri Andropov, opened the door to the possibility of a Soviet withdrawal. A hardened realist and former chief spy, Andropov grasped the widening implications of the Soviet stalemate in Afghanistan and moved quickly to cut his losses. Feared more in Reagan’s Washington and Thatcher’s London for his ability to actually lessen tensions than to aggravate them following his offer to reduce intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe, the powers-that-be driving the new Cold War viewed Andropov with the deepest suspicion.

[Former chief arms negotiator] Paul Warnke told us, ‘Look back sometime . . . at some of the articles when Andropov took over. They refer to him as ‘Scary Yuri’-you know, the product of the KGB, bad days are here again, that Chernienko was a slob but this guy’s a sneak. And there’s nothing to support that. He was put into the KGB because the civilians wanted to control the KGB and he was one of them.’

Landing with us in Kabul that spring of 1983, Roger Fisher’s ability to put both the Russians and the Afghans at ease was immediately apparent, and his revelations coming away from meetings at the sandbagged Soviet embassy with Soviet Afghan specialist Stanislav Gavrilov were no less than shocking. The Soviets wanted, out, Gavrilov informed Fisher in no uncertain terms. The Soviet soldiers were unprepared to fight in such a war and were losing their will as well as their belief in the Soviet system. Drugs, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria were exacting an enormous toll for a political outcome that was far less than clear. Should the Americans hold back their support for the rebels long enough to save face, Soviet troops could withdraw from the front lines, then, following a short hiatus, retreat across the Amu Darya River. ‘We make mistakes,’ Gavrilov admitted. ‘But we’re not stupid. We want to go home.’

Contracted to ABC News Nightline before we left the United States, we were greeted with blank stares by the Nightline staff upon our return. Held as a closely guarded secret by top management during our absence, our successful return with surprising news from the Afghan front was once again a cause for concern. By 1983, the mistaken and exaggerated Team-B assumptions of Soviet intentions had become so ingrained in the mainstream media that the very idea that they might be wrong was itself a controversial if not heretical point of view. The entire Reagan defense buildup rested on the erroneous assumption of a soviet drive to the Middle East. Word had filtered down through the standard and approved mouthpieces that Andropov was on a ‘charm offensive.’ Falling prey to Soviet propaganda was career suicide. What was to be done?

Rejected out of hand as a worthy news story by the staff of ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, we were granted one Thursday evening after midnight to tell our story and make the case for a negotiated Soviet withdrawal. Interviewed live by Ted Koppel alongside Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, Roger Fisher’s effort to explain the war’s deepening cost to the Soviets was taken politely but not seriously, with Bukovsky’s deadening delivery of the Team-B line coming down on Roger’s high-level, back-channel communication like a bludgeon. . . .”

Ibid.; pp. 187-189.

8. Foreshadowing a topic of discussion that will occupy considerable amounts of future interviews with the authors, the program highlighted the role of drug trafficking in the funding of the Afghan conflict and complicity of elements of U.S. intelligence in some of the heroin traffic.

“. . . Author and activist Rob Schultheis, who’d covered the mujahideen for Time magazine during the war against the Russians, continued to hold very strong opinions on how the Afghan heroin problem went global. ‘My theory is that a lot of the policy decisions that were made here that were so inexplicable were produced by corruption on a local level by CIA station chiefs and lower. I actually know some things about that. Somebody I know in Washington told me . . . ‘This all I’m going to say to you; the planes flew in full and they flew out full, that’s all I’m going to say.’ You know a lot of fortunes have been made in Langley. I think a lot of dirty things went on at that level and a lot of what’s happening today is being done by friends of those people covering for them at this point because they don’t want to see old Colonel Klutz or [whomever] going to prison. And I think stuff’s probably still going on because of that.’

Schultheis minced no words about CIA culpability for 9/11 and the hideous betrayal of both American and Afghan lives being covered up by the blanker secrecy imposed by the war on terror. ‘I worked for the agency briefly on my way out of college. My father was a lifer at the agency. Now I find them morally repulsive. The majority of them should be in prison who were in charge of the Afghan-Pakistani [operation]. They were getting paid a lot of money to make sure that wasn’t going to happen and they didn’t do anything. But there were a lot shady deals having to do with Arab money and drug money and weapons money and there were kickbacks, I’m sure. And I think a lot of the evils in the policy can be traced back to a lot of individual actors, because individual actors out here have a lot of power. I think [there are] people out hunting foxes in Leesburg on the backs of dead Afghans because Gulbuddin [Hekmatyar] and ISI kicked X amount to them. I’ll bet any amount of money on that because there’s no other reason for a lot of this. . . .”

Ibid.; pp. 259-260.


Discussion

2 comments for “FTR #678 Interview (#1) with Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould”

  1. did america let heroin into the country to help the taliban against the soviets duiring the cold war. I saw a ex CIA agent on australian news say that the cold war was more important issue and information and weapons was crucial so for that they would allow drug traffican and poppy feilds were able to flurish is this true and why cant the public know

    Posted by jonathan preis | May 29, 2010, 6:00 pm
  2. […] FTR #678 FTR #680 FTR #683 FTR #685 […]

    Posted by Afghanistan: Bzrezinski’s Grand Chessboard game and the continuation of the Anglo-Afghan War | Lys-d'Or | December 16, 2011, 2:40 pm

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