US, NATO main sponsors of Taliban, trade of narcotics in Afghanistan

Source

… from Press TV, Tehran

[ Editor’s Note: The US is showing itself on defense. One of the oldest PR tactics is always to accuse your opponent first of doing anything he can nail you with, as the majority of the public believes the initial accuser.

But the US is pushing a string here on the exploitation of the Afghan drug trade. We have reams of US involvement on that, including a former Bush cabinet Secretary that started a fake dry-cleaning chain of facilities in Afghanistan to import cleaning supplies for it, but which turned out to be the chemicals need to refine opium into heroin.

It was not too long after that even Predator drones were flying heroin out to Balkans bases with high security protection, part of the Bush massive “outsourcing” of security operations at the time. That money has been followed into black ops and a huge array of political campaigns ever since – virtually a heroin Santa Claus.

Zakharova could have been a surgeon, as she can fillet you while you are standing without you feeling a thingJim W. Dean ]

Afghans have been devouring invaders for a long time

– First published … July 15, 2018 –

Russia has accused the US military of being the chief sponsor of Taliban militants in Afghanistan, saying that during the active presence of US-led NATO forces in the country, the production and distribution of narcotics had drastically surged there.

The accusations were raised on Thursday by Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. She was responding to earlier US claims that Russia was collaborating with the Takfiri militants – what the official said was meant to mask America’s own “sponsorship of the Taliban” in Afghanistan.

Zakharova said Russian had limited contacts with the Taliban but said this was meant to ensure the safety of Russian citizens in the country and to support the stalled Afghan national conciliation process.

She said there was already evidence of US sponsorship of Taliban and emphasized that several probes conducted by special committees of the US Congress testified to that. Instances of this, Zakharova said, were reports that acknowledged certain portions of US weapons that had been reported “stolen” or fallen into “wrong hands” had in fact reached the Taliban.

The official recalled a 2016 report by then US defense secretary in which he had revealed that 1.5 million items of American weaponry had disappeared in Afghanistan and Iraq. Zakharova emphasized that armaments written off by the Pentagon as inventory losses could be used to equip “an entire army,” Moscow-based Sputnik International reported.

US sponsorship of terrorism in Afghanistan has also been underlined by the country’s previous president Hamid Karzai, who accused the US last November of collaborating with the Deash terror group in his country.

Accusing Washington of allowing Daesh to flourish inside Afghanistan, Karzai stated in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera news network:

“In my view under the full presence, surveillance, military, political, intelligence, Daesh has emerged, and for two years the Afghan people came, cried loud about their suffering, of violations. Nothing was done.”

Karzai further stressed that the administration of US President Donald Trump used Daesh terrorism as an excuse to drop the massive GBU-43 bomb – the largest non-nuclear bomb used by the US military — on Afghanistan in April 2017, pointing out that “the next day, Daesh takes the next district in Afghanistan.”

“That proves to us that there is a hand in it and that hand can be no one else but them [the US] in Afghanistan,” said the former Afghan president who originally rose to power with Washington’s blessings.

The Russian Foreign Ministry official also reiterated that constant US claims against Russia were meant to conceal Washington’s own political-military failures across Afghanistan.

Zakharova emphasized that during the massive invasion of Afghanistan by NATO and American forces under the pretense of ‘war on terror,’ the country had become a focal point for the production and distribution of narcotics while the threat of terrorism was never eliminated in the war-ravaged nation.

File photo of Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

 

A US-led military force invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as a response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist incidents in New York and Washington, vowing to oust the Taliban regime ruling over the country and bringing peace and stability to the nation.

The massive military occupation lasted until December 28, 2014, when the mostly Western military forces withdrew most of its troops and announced the conclusion of the combat mission.

In 2015, the US-led NATO initiated a new mission, code-named “Resolute Support,” which the announced objective of providing training assistance to Afghanistan’s security forces. Nevertheless, the still ongoing mission has failed to bring any sort of peace, security or stability to the Asian country.

This is while the Taliban and its newly-emerging terrorism rival, Daesh – which is gaining growing influence in Afghanistan with thousands of militant forces — continue to control more than half of Afghanistan’s territory, according to official figures.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman further blamed the unstable situation across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as a surge in international terrorism on “the NATO member states’ military gambles.”

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Consequence of U.S. occupation-‘Unprecedented’ surge in cheap, high-purity heroin expected from Afghanistan, UN warns

Source

Poppy fields in Helmand Province. In 2000 the ruling Taliban outlawed the cultivation of poppies. By June 2001 Afghanistan's drug production had all but ended. Western forces invaded the country in November and the drug trade was quickly re-established. Was this the REAL reason for the U.S. led invasion? Click to enlarge

Poppy fields in Helmand Province. Click to enlarge

Although the following Telegraph article doesn’t say as much, drugs were the real reason for the West’s “intervention” in Afghanistan
Over the past 17-years and despite the ongoing conflict drugs production has surged to record levels in Afghanistan.
In July 2000 it was reported that the Taliban had banned the cultivation of poppies for opiates, claiming it was “un-Islamic”. By May 2001 that ban had all but put an end the country’s drug trade. In one growing season alone the country’s drug production ground to a virtual halt.
Five months later New York was rocked by the World Trade Center attacks, however. Following Sept 11 it was reported that the alleged mastermind behind the attacks, bin Laden, was hiding somewhere in Afghanistan.
Weeks later a U.S. led invasion was underway and although bin Laden was never located in Afghanistan the country’s drugs trade was quickly restored.
Of course this is all now history but it is vital to understanding what has happened in Afghanistan. Bin Laden was not the reason for the U.S. led invasion. Like claims that he was the mastermind behind 9/11, that was just a smokescreen. The restoration of the country’s drugs trade was the real reason and that’s why the U.S. and its coalition allies are likely to remain in the country. Ed.

‘Unprecedented’ surge in cheap, high-purity heroin expected from Afghanistan, UN warns

Ben Farmer — Telegraph.co.uk May 23, 2018

An unprecedented surge of high quality and low-cost Afghan heroin is bound for the world’s streets after the country’s opium crop jumped two thirds to record levels, the United Nations has warned.

Afghanistan’s farmers grew more than 1,250 square miles of opium poppy last year, paving the way for potentially unseen levels of heroin production.

The bumper crop has the potential to make up to 900 tonnes of high purity, export quality heroin the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime said.

Afghan opium already provides more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin and 95 percent of that found on Britain’s streets.

The trade also finances militant groups such as the Taliban, forcing the UK to spend tens of millions in the past 15 years trying to destroy poppy crops.

But production in Helmand province alone, the capital of opium growing where Britain spent eight years trying to wean Afghans off the crop, has risen by 79 percent in a single year.

“With the record high of production in 2017, a wave of high quality, low-cost heroin is expected to reach consumer markets across the world,” the UN warned.

It said “unprecedented amounts of heroin” will reach drug users “with increased consumption and related harms as a likely consequence.”

Poor security and the Kabul government’s lack of control in swathes of the country were blamed for the burgeoning trade.

Opium now dwarfs all other sectors of the Afghan economy, despite a 17-year-long international aid campaign to try to rebuild the country after the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001.

The crop was worth up to £5bn, or nearly a third of the country’s entire GDP, while legal exports are worth only around seven percent. Many billions more are made further down the drugs pipeline, as it is smuggled across the Middle East into Europe.

Impoverished farmers are now increasingly reliant on the crop, and it is now the backbone of Afghan agriculture, making efforts to curb the trade harder.

The UN said: “The 2017 record levels of cultivation and production further show the dependency of Afghanistan’s rural economy on opium cultivation.”

Britain has scaled back in recent years on aid efforts designed to encourage farmers to grow crops other than opium, but the National Crime Agency works with Afghan police to try to catch traffickers or seize their wealth.

A Government spokesman said: “The UK supports the investigation and prosecution of narcotics trafficking and associated money laundering. However, this is only one strand of activity required to deliver a sustainable reduction in the opiate threat emanating from Afghanistan.”

Source

Before US Troops Protected Poppies In Afghanistan, There was No Opioid Epidemic in America

BEFORE US TROOPS PROTECTED POPPIES IN AFGHANISTAN, THERE WAS NO OPIOID EPIDEMIC IN AMERICA

By Rachel Blevins

Image result for troops opium

The Afghanistan War is the longest in United States history, and despite initial claims that the goal of the invasion was to keep Americans safe by destroying the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the result has been a massive increase in opium production that has fueled an on-going opioid crisis in the United States and ensnared more than 2.5 million Americans in heroin addiction.

As whistleblower and former FBI contractor Sibel Edmonds noted, before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, there were around 189,000 heroin users in the United States. By 2016, that figure increased to 4.5 million—an estimated 2.5 million heroin addicts and 2 million casual users.

The number of heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. also skyrocketed with a 533 percent increase from around 2,000 deaths in 2002 to more than 13,200 deaths in 2016. The is part of more than 64,000 deaths attributed to drug overdoses in 2016, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

If the United States’ goal was to eradicate the source of heroin in order to cut down on addiction and overdoses among Americans, then troops would be destroying opium fields with flamethrowers. Instead, the opposite is happening and U.S. troops have been caught guarding poppy fields. Under supervision from the U.S., Afghanistan is now responsible for producing 90 percent of the world’s opium supply.

As the U.S. warns that there is no end to the Afghanistan War in the foreseeable future, the country’s contribution to the world’s opium supply continues to increase. Coinciding with the completion of a massive troop surge, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics released a report claiming that the “area under opium poppy cultivation increased by 63% since 2016, reaching a new record high.”

The total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan was estimated at 328,000 hectares in 2017, a 63% increase or 127,000 hectares more compared to the previous year. This level of opium poppy cultivation is a new record high and exceeds the formerly highest value recorded in 2014 (224,000 hectares) by 104,000 hectares or 46%. Strong increases were observed in almost all major poppy cultivating provinces.

As a result of the increase in 2017, the report acknowledges, “The significant levels of opium poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will probably further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan. More high quality, low-cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, with increased consumption and related harms as a likely consequence.”

Many users who are currently addicted to heroin did not start with the drug. They were originally prescribed opioid painkillers, and when their prescriptions ran out they began looking for alternatives. A 2014 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association claimed that “there is now growing evidence that some prescription opioid abusers … graduate or shift to heroin, at least in part because it has become more accessible and far less expensive than prescription opioids.”

An analysis by the Centers for Disease Control noted that “heroin use has increased across the US among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels,” over the years and that individuals who are addicted to prescription painkillers are now 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.

The Afghanistan War will cost American taxpayers more than $45 billion in 2018 and while the U.S. continues to monopolize on the country’s opium production, it is having a direct effect on the millions of Americans who have found themselves in the snares of a deadly addiction—and while most are paying for it with their taxes, thousands are being for it with their lives.

Rachel Blevins is an independent journalist from Texas, who aspires to break the false left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives. Follow Rachel on FacebookTwitterYouTubeSteemit and Patreon. This article first appeared at The Free Thought Project.

Two articles, one from 2001 & from 2017, highlight the affect U.S. occupation has had on opium production

Figures reveal dire trend in Afghan opium production

CBS News — Nov 15, 2017

An Afghan farmer collects raw opium from poppies in Balkh province, Afghanistan. Heroin production in the country has increased significantly in recent years. Click to enlarge

An Afghan farmer collects raw opium from poppies in Balkh province, Afghanistan. Heroin production in the country has increased significantly in recent years. Click to enlarge

Afghanistan’s opium production has almost doubled this year compared to 2016, while areas that are under poppy cultivation rose by 63 percent, according to a new joint survey released Wednesday by the United Nations and the Afghan government.

The production increased by 87 percent and stands at a record level of 9,921 tons so far in 2017, compared to the 2016 levels of 5,291 tons.

Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said the area under opium poppy cultivation has also increased to a record 810,488 acres in 2017, up 63 percent compared with the 496,671 acres that cultivated the poppy in 2016.

 

At Heroin’s Source, Taliban Do What ‘Just Say No’ Could Not

Barry Bearak – New York Times May 24, 2001

This has been heroin’s great heartland, where the narcotic came to life as an opium resin taken from fragile buds of red and white poppies. Last year, 75 percent of the world’s opium crop was grown in Afghanistan, with the biggest yield sprouting from here in the fertile plains of the country’s south, sustained by the meander of the Helmand River.
But something astonishing has become evident with this spring’s harvest. Behind the narrow dikes of packed earth, the fields are empty of their most profitable plant. Poor farmers, scythes in hand, stoop among brown stems.
Mile after mile, there is only a dry stubble of wheat to cut from the lumpy soil.
Last July, the ruling Taliban banned the growing of poppies as a sin against the teachings of Islam. The edict was issued by Mullah Muhammad Omar, referred to as Amir-ul-Momineen, the supreme leader of the faithful.

Heroin Addiction in America Spearheaded by the US-led War on Afghanistan

Source

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky,

Trump’s Hypocritical Concern

.

Trump State of Union Address: 

…”In 2016, we lost 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses:  174 deaths per day.  Seven per hour.  We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge.

My Administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.  The struggle will be long and difficult — but, as Americans always do, we will prevail.” (Trump State of the Union, emphasis added)

Trump brings to the forefront the story of the Holets family of New Mexico:

“Ryan Holets is 27 years old, and an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department.  He is here tonight with his wife Rebecca.  Last year, Ryan was on duty when he saw a pregnant, homeless woman preparing to inject heroin.  When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep.  She told him she did not know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby.

In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him:  “You will do it — because you can.”  He took out a picture of his wife and their four kids.  Then, he went home to tell his wife Rebecca.  In an instant, she agreed to adopt.  The Holets named their new daughter Hope.

Ryan and Rebecca:  You embody the goodness of our Nation.  Thank you, and congratulations.” (Trump State of the Union, emphasis added)

Beautiful narrative. The Nation weeps, Ryan was interviewed on CNN. While he and his family take a courageous stance against heroin addiction, Trump sheds crocodile tears.

While Trump acknowledges that “there’s a drug epidemic the likes of which we have never seen in this country”, his national public health emergency plan fails to address the underlying causes. Getting “tougher on drug dealers and pushers” involved in the retail sale of heroin does not resolve the drug crisis.

The unspoken truth is that the surge in heroin addiction in America has been spearheaded by the US led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.

Afghanistan under US military occupation produces approximately 90% of the World’s illegal supply of opium which is used to produce heroin. The production of opium in Afghanistan registered a 49 fold increase since 2001. In 2017, the production of opium in Afghanistan under US military occupation reached 9000 metric tons.

The Taliban Opium Eradication Program

Barely acknowledged by the mainstream media, in 2000-2001 the Taliban government with the support of the United Nations (UNODC) –  implemented a successful ban on poppy cultivation. Opium production which is used to produce grade 4 heroin and its derivatives declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. The production of opium in 2001 was of the order of a meagre 185 tons.

It is worth noting that the UNODC congratulated the Taliban Government for its successful opium eradication program.

This year’s production [2001] is around 185 tons. This is down from the 3300 tons last year [2000], a decrease of over 94 per cent. Compared to the record harvest of 4700 tons two years ago, the decrease is well over 97 per cent.

Any decrease in illicit cultivation is welcomed, especially in cases like this when no displacement, locally or in other countries, took place to weaken the achievement”

(Remarks on behalf of UNODC Executive Director at the UN General Assembly, Oct 2001, http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/speech_2001-10-12_1.html )

The Taliban government had contributed to literally destabilizing the multibillion dollar Worldwide trade in heroin.

What motivated the US-led war on Afghanistan, which had been planned several months prior to the 9/11 attacks?

Did the US-NATO led War against Afghanistan serve to restore the illicit heroin trade?

Immediately following the invasion (October 7, 2001) and occupation of Afghanistan by US-NATO troops, the production of opium regained its historical levels. (a more than nine fold increase in 2002). Since 2001, according to UNODC, the production of opium has increased 49 fold, reaching 9000 metric tons in 2017. (See Figure 1 below)

Heroin Addiction in the US

There were 189,000 heroin users in the US in 2001, before the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan. By 2012-13, there were 3.8 million heroin users in the US according to a study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Extrapolating the 2012-2013 figures (see graph below), one can reasonably confirm that the number of heroin users today (including addicts and casual users) is well in excess of four million.

In 20o1, 1,779 Americans were killed as a result of heroin overdose. By 2016, the number of Americans killed as a result of heroin addiction shot up to 15,446. (see graph below)

“My Administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic” says Donald Trump.

My message to Donald Trump: Those lives would have been saved had the US and its NATO allies NOT invaded and occupied Afghanistan.  

National Institute of Drug Abuse

Since 2001, the use of heroin in the US has increased more than 20 times. 

Is there a correlation between heroin addiction in America and the dramatic increase in opium production which occurred in the immediate wake of the US-NATO October 2001 invasion?

Who is protecting opium exports out of Afghanistan?

Amply documented, the opium economy in Afghanistan was set up by the CIA in 1979.

As revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit  International (BCCI) scandals, CIA covert operations in support of the Afghan Mujahideen had been funded through the laundering of drug money.  “Dirty money” was recycled –through a number of banking institutions (in the Middle East) as well as through anonymous CIA shell companies–, into  “covert money,” used to finance various insurgent groups during the Soviet-Afghan war, and its aftermath. According to a 1991 Time Magazine report:

“Because the US wanted to supply the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan’, said a US intelligence officer. (“The Dirtiest Bank of All,” Time, July 29, 1991, p. 22. emphasis added)

Alfred McCoy’s study confirms that within two years of the onslaught of the CIA’s covert operation in Afghanistan in 1979,

“the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer, supplying 60 per cent of U.S. demand. In Pakistan, the heroin-addict population went from near zero in 1979  to 1.2 million by 1985, a much steeper rise than in any other nation.”

“CIA assets again controlled this heroin trade. As the Mujahideen guerrillas seized territory inside Afghanistan, they ordered peasants to plant opium as a revolutionary tax. Across the border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the protection of Pakistan Intelligence operated hundreds of heroin laboratories. During this decade of wide-open drug-dealing, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad failed to instigate major seizures or arrests. (Alfred McCoy, Drug Fallout: the CIA’s Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997).

Heroin: “Supply Creates its Own Demand”?

In 2001, resulting from the Taliban’s drug eradication program supported by the United Nations, production of opium had fallen to 183 metric tons.

While the number of heroin users in America has increased about 20 times (2001-2016), the cultivation and production of opium used to produce heroin increased 41 times (2001-2017): 8000 hectares in 2001 rising to 328,000 hectares in 2017.

In 2017, ironically coinciding with the influx of more US troops into Afghanistan, the areas under opium poppy cultivation according to UNODC increased by 83 percent in a single year, (see Figure 1 above)

While the supply-demand relationship is complex: the dramatic increase in the consumption of heroin would not have been possible without a concurrent increase in the production of opium from 183 metric tons in 2001 to an estimated 9000 metric tons in 2017 (a 49 fold  increase in relation to 2001).

It stands to reason that the increase in heroin usage could not have occurred without a corresponding surge in opium production.

Needless to say, the drug trade is a multibillion dollar operation which has been supported by successive US administrations. The unspoken truth is that US foreign policy is supporting this lucrative trade:

The heroin business is not  “filling the coffers of the Taliban” as claimed by US government and the international community: quite the opposite! The proceeds of this illegal trade are the source of wealth formation, largely reaped by powerful business/criminal interests within the Western countries. …

Decision-making in the US State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon is instrumental in supporting this highly profitable multibillion dollar trade, third in commodity value after oil and the arms trade.( Michel Chossudovsky,The Spoils of War, Afghanistan’s Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade, Global Research, May 2005)

The UNODC confirms in its 2017 Report that: “Only a small share of the revenues generated by the cultivation and trafficking of Afghan opiates reaches Afghan drug trafficking groups. Many more billions of dollars are made from trafficking opiates into major consumer markets, mainly in Europe and Asia.” The earnings generated by 9000 metric tons of opium are colossal, in the hundreds of billions. 9000 tons produces 900 tons of pure heroin.

These global proceeds accrue to business syndicates, intelligence agencies, organized crime, financial institutions, wholesalers, retailers, etc. involved directly or indirectly in the drug trade.  Moreover, a large share of global money laundering as estimated by the IMF is linked to the trade in narcotics.

Drug trafficking constitutes “the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade.”

Are US military planes being used to export opioids out of Afghanistan? US occupation forces have been instructed to turn a blind eye? According to Abby Martin,

“…there is no conclusive proof that the CIA is physically running opium out of Afghanistan. However, it’s hard to believe that a region under full US military occupation – with guard posts and surveillance drones monitoring the mountains of Tora Bora – aren’t able to track supply routes of opium exported from the country’s various poppy farms (you know, the ones the US military are guarding).”

In the words of researcher Timothy Alexander Guzman: “who owns the planes and the ships that transport 90% percent of the world’s heroin from Afghanistan to the rest of the world in the first place? It sure isn’t the Taliban”.

Trump’s interest in Afghanistan tied to heroin production

Source

The administration of US President Donald Trump is seeking to prolong the war in Afghanistan largely to restore the heroin industry and ultimately serve the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia, not the American people, according to a US intelligence and security specialist.

“What’s going on in Afghanistan very successfully under Trump and previous presidents is a production of heroin,” said Gordon Duff, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and senior editor at Veterans Today.

“It is running unabated and interest in Afghanistan is always tied to levels of heroin production. A settlement with the Taliban will bring an end to the narcotics production,” Duff told Press TV on Monday.

Trump “is similarly being driven, serving Israel on one end, serving his private business deals with Saudi Arabia tied to hotels and other places,” he added. “What’s not being done is the business of the United States…that’s not on Mr. Trump’s agenda.”

Trump has called for “decisive action” against the Taliban militant group by “all countries” in Afghanistan following yet another terror bombing in the country’s capital Kabul that killed more than 100 people.

“I condemn the despicable car bombing attack in Kabul today that has left scores of innocent civilians dead and hundreds injured,” Trump said in a statement released on Saturday. “This murderous attack renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners.”

“Now, all countries should take decisive action against the Taliban and the terrorist infrastructure that supports them,” he emphasized.

Afghanistan has been plunged into a brutal war since the US-led military invasion of the terror-ravaged nation in October 2001 under the pretext of “war on terrorism” and with the pledge of uprooting the Taliban and bringing peace and stability to the country.

Seventeen years on, however, terrorism continues to persist throughout Afghanistan, leaving thousands of innocent people killed, injured and displaced.

In a blatant U-turn from his campaign pledges to end the occupation, Trump said in September that his views had changed since entering the White House and that he would continue the military intervention “as long as we see determination and progress” in Afghanistan.

Hollywood’s Dangerous Afghan Illusion: “Charlie Wilson’s War”. Legacy of the late Robert Parry

Source

Robert Parry, editor and publisher of Consortiumnews.com, passed away on January 27th.

The Global Research team pays tribute to Robert Parry and his unwavering commitment to independent and honest journalism. His legacy will live.

On January 1st, I sent a short note to Robert Parry. Today our thoughts are with Robert Parry and his family. 

Robert Parry was a powerful voice, incisive in his analysis of complex foreign policy issues, with a longstanding commitment to peace and social justice.  

To consult  The Robert Parry Archive of articles posted on GR, click here. 

Below is Robert Parry’s incisive and timely April 2013 article on Hollywood’s slanted interpretation of the Soviet Afghan war.  The US supported “Freedom Fighters” were Al Qaeda. The Afghan Mujahideen were jihadist mercenaries recruited by the CIA. It was all for a good cause: destabilize a progressive secular government, occupy and destroy Afghanistan, undermine the Soviet Union.

“Reagan’s pet “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan as in Nicaragua were tainted by the drug trade as well as by well-documented cases of torture, rape and murder.”

Robert Parry’s Legacy is Truth in Media!  

At this juncture in our history during which independent media is threatened, Robert Parry lives in our hearts and minds. 

Michel Chossudovsky, January 29, 2018

**

A newly discovered document undercuts a key storyline of the anti-Soviet Afghan war of the 1980s – that it was “Charlie Wilson’s War.” A note inside Ronald Reagan’s White House targeted the Texas Democrat as someone “to bring into circle as discrete Hill connection,” Robert Parry reports.

Official Washington’s conventional wisdom about Afghanistan derives to a dangerous degree from a Hollywood movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which depicted the anti-Soviet war of the 1980s as a fight pitting good “freedom fighters” vs. evil “occupiers” and which blamed Afghanistan’s later descent into chaos on feckless U.S. politicians quitting as soon as Soviet troops left in 1989.

The Tom Hanks movie also pushed the theme that the war was really the pet project of a maverick Democratic congressman from Texas, Charlie Wilson, who fell in love with the Afghan mujahedeen after falling in love with a glamorous Texas oil woman, Joanne Herring, who was committed to their anti-communist cause.

However, “Charlie Wilson’s War” – like many Hollywood films – took extraordinary license with the facts, presenting many of the war’s core elements incorrectly. That in itself might not be a serious problem, except that key U.S. policymakers have cited these mythical “facts” as lessons to guide the current U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan.

The degree to which Ronald Reagan’s White House saw Wilson as more puppet than puppet-master is underscored by a newly discovered document at Reagan’s presidential library in Simi Valley, California. I found the document in the files of former CIA propaganda chief Walter Raymond Jr., who in the 1980s oversaw the selling of U.S. interventions in Central America and Afghanistan from his office at the National Security Council.

The handwritten note to Raymond appears to be initialed by then-National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane and instructs Raymond to recruit Wilson into the Reagan administration’s effort to drum up more Afghan war money for the fiscal 1985 budget. The note reads:

“Walt, Go see Charlie Wilson (D-TX). Seek to bring him into circle as discrete Hill connection. He can be very helpful in getting money. M.” (The notation may have used the wrong adjective, possibly intending ”discreet,” meaning circumspect and suggesting a secretive role, not “discrete,” meaning separate and distinct.)

Raymond appears to have followed up those instructions, as Wilson began to play a bigger and bigger role in unleashing the great Afghan spending spree of 1985 and as Raymond asserted himself behind the scenes on how the war should be sold to the American people.

Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was a slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carre spy novel, an intelligence officer who “easily fades into the woodwork,” according to one Raymond acquaintance. But his CIA career took a dramatic turn in 1982 when he was reassigned to the NSC.

At the time, the White House saw a need to step up its domestic propaganda operations in support of President Reagan’s desire to intervene more aggressively in Central America and Afghanistan. The American people – still stung by the agony of the Vietnam War – were not eager to engage in more foreign adventures.

So, Reagan’s team took aim at “kicking the Vietnam Syndrome” mostly by wildly exaggerating the Soviet threat. It became crucial to convince Americans that the Soviets were on the rise and on the march, though in reality the Soviets were on the decline and eager for accommodations with the West.

Yet, as deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly, put it, “the most critical special operations mission we have … is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to get us.”

The main focus of the administration’s domestic propaganda was on Central America where Reagan was arming right-wing military juntas engaged in anti-leftist extermination campaigns. Through the CIA, Reagan also was organizing a drug-tainted terrorist operation known as the Contras to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

To hide the ugly realities and to overcome popular opposition to the policies, Reagan granted CIA Director William Casey extraordinary leeway to engage in CIA-style propaganda and disinformation aimed at the American people, the sort of project normally reserved for hostile countries. To oversee the operation – while skirting legal bans on the CIA operating domestically – Casey moved Raymond from the CIA to the NSC staff.

Raymond formally resigned from the CIA in April 1983 so, he said, “there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of this.” But from the beginning, Raymond fretted about the legality of Casey’s involvement. Raymond confided in one memo that it was important “to get [Casey] out of the loop,” but Casey never backed off and Raymond continued to send progress reports to his old boss well into 1986.

It was “the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic interest in,” Raymond shrugged during a deposition given to congressional Iran-Contra investigators in 1987. Raymond offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently illegal interference in domestic politics “not so much in his CIA hat, but in his adviser to the president hat.”

Raymond also understood that the administration’s hand in the P.R. projects must stay hidden, because of other legal bans on executive-branch propaganda. “The work down within the administration has to, by definition, be at arms length,” Raymond noted in an Aug. 29, 1983, memo.

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after CIA covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. “They were trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion … using the tools of Walt Raymond’s trade craft which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation shop,” the official said.

From the NSC, Raymond organized inter-agency task forces to bombard the U.S. public with hyped-up propaganda about the Soviet threat in Central America and in Afghanistan. Raymond’s goal was to change the way Americans viewed these dangers, a process that the Reagan administration internally called “perception management.”

Scores of documents about this operation were released during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987, but Washington-based journalists never paid much attention to the evidence about how they had been manipulated by these propaganda tactics, which included rewarding cooperative reporters with government-sponsored “leaks” and punishing those who wouldn’t parrot the lies with whispering campaigns in the ears of their editors and bureau chiefs. [See Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Even after the Iran-Contra scandal was exposed in 1986 and Casey died of brain cancer in 1987, the Republicans fought to keep secret the remarkable story of this propaganda apparatus. As part of a deal to get three moderate Republican senators to join Democrats in signing the Iran-Contra report, Democratic leaders dropped a draft chapter on the CIA’s domestic propaganda role.

Thus, the American people were spared the chapter’s troubling conclusion: that a covert propaganda apparatus had existed, run by “one of the CIA’s most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by Bill Casey, to create and coordinate an inter-agency public-diplomacy mechanism [which] did what a covert CIA operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan administration’s policies.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Iran-Contra’s Lost Chapter.”]

Raping Russians

Hiding the unspeakable realities of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan was almost as high a priority as concealing the U.S.-backed slaughter in Central America. Reagan’s pet “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan as in Nicaragua were tainted by the drug trade as well as by well-documented cases of torture, rape and murder.

Yet, Raymond and his propagandists were always looking for new ways to “sell” the wars to the American people, leading to a clash with CIA officer Gust Avrakotos, who was overseeing the Afghan conflict and who had developed his own close ties to Rep. Charlie Wilson.

According to author George Crile, whose book Charlie Wilson’s War provided a loose framework for the movie of the same name, Avrakotos clashed with Raymond and other senior Reagan administration officials when they proposed unrealistic propaganda themes regarding Afghanistan.

One of Raymond’s ideas was to get some Russian soldiers to “defect” and then fly them from Afghanistan to Washington where they would renounce communism. The problem, as Avrakotos explained, was that the Afghan mujahedeen routinely tortured and then murdered any Soviet soldier who fell into their hands, except for a few who were kept around for anal rape.

“For Avrakotos, 1985 was a year of right-wing craziness,” Crile wrote. “A band of well-placed anti-Communist enthusiasts in the administration had come up with a plan they believed would bring down the Red Army, if the CIA would only be willing to implement it. The leading advocates of this plan included Richard Perle at the Pentagon. … [NSC aide] Oliver North also checked in briefly, but the man who set Avrakotos’s teeth on edge most was Walt Raymond, another NSC staffer who had spent twenty years with the CIA as a propagandist.

“Their idea was to encourage Soviet officers and soldiers to defect to the mujahideen. As Avrakotos derisively describes it, ‘The muj were supposed to set up loudspeakers in the mountains announcing such things as “Lay down your arms, there is a passage to the West and to freedom.”’ Once news of this program made its way through the Red Army, it was argued, there would be a flood of defectors. …

“Avrakotos thought North and Perle were ‘cuckoos of the Far Right,’ and he soon felt quite certain that Raymond, the man who seemed to be the intellectual ringleader, was truly detached from reality. ‘What Russian in his right mind would defect to those fuckers all armed to the teeth,’ Avrakotos said in frustration. ‘To begin with, anyone defecting to the Dushman would have to be a crook, a thief or someone who wanted to get cornholed every day, because nine out of ten prisoners were dead within twenty-four hours and they were always turned into concubines by the mujahideen. I felt so sorry for them I wanted to have them all shot.’

“The meeting [with Raymond’s team] went very badly indeed. Gust [Avrakotos] accused North and Perle of being idiots. … Avrakotos said to Walt Raymond, ‘You know, Walt, you’re just a fucking asshole, you’re irrelevant.’”

However, as Crile wrote, Avrakotos “greatly underestimated the political power and determination of the group, who went directly to [CIA Director] Bill Casey to angrily protest Avrakotos’s insulting manner. The director complained to [CIA operations official] Clair George, who responded by forbidding Avrakotos to attend any more interagency meetings without a CIA nanny present. …

“Avrakotos arrived for one of these White House sessions armed with five huge photographic blowups. … One of them showed two Russian sergeants being used as concubines. Another had a Russian hanging from the turret of a tank with a vital part of his anatomy removed. … ‘If you were a sane fucking Russian, would you defect to these people?’ he had demanded of Perle.

“But the issue wouldn’t go away. Perle, Raymond, and the others continued to insist that the Agency find and send back to the United States the many Russian defectors they seemed to believe, despite Avrakotos’s denials, the mujahideen were harboring. …

“It had been almost impossible to locate two prisoners, much less two defectors. The CIA found itself in the preposterous position of having to pony up $50,000 to bribe the Afghans to deliver two live ones. ‘These two guys were basket cases,’ says Avrakotos. ‘One had been fucked so many times he didn’t know what was going on.’”

Despite this knowledge about the true nature of the Afghan “freedom fighters,” the Reagan administration – and the “Charlie Wilson’s War” moviemakers – concealed from the American people the inhuman brutality of the jihadists who were receiving billions of dollars in U.S. and Saudi largesse. The movie depicted the Soviet soldiers as sadistic monsters and the mujahedeen as noble warriors, just as Ronald Reagan and Walter Raymond would have wanted. (Raymond died in 2003; Reagan in 2004; the movie appeared in 2007.)

But the Reagan administration did calculate correctly that Wilson from his key position on a House Appropriations defense subcommittee could open the spigot on funding for the Afghan muj.

Learning Wrong Lessons

While it’s not unusual for Hollywood to produce a Cold War propaganda film, what was different about “Charlie Wilson’s War” was how it was treated by Official Washington as something close to a documentary. That attitude was somewhat a tribute to the likeable Tom Hanks who portrayed the womanizing and hard-drinking Charlie Wilson.

Yet, perhaps the biggest danger in viewing the movie as truth was its treatment of why the anti-Soviet jihad led to Afghanistan becoming home to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorists in the 1990s. The movie pushed the myth that the United States abruptly abandoned Afghanistan as soon as the Soviet troops left on Feb. 15, 1989.

All across Official Washington, pundits and policymakers have embraced the lesson that the United States must not make that “mistake” again – and thus must leave behind a sizeable force of U.S. troops.

For instance, the New York Times’ lead editorial on May 1, 2012, criticized President Barack Obama for not explaining how he would prevent Afghanistan from imploding after the scheduled U.S. troop withdrawal in 2014, though the Times added that the plan’s “longer-term commitment [of aid] sends an important message to Afghans that Washington will not abandon them as it did after the Soviets were driven out.”

The abandonment myth also has been cited by senior Obama administration officials, including U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as they explained the rise of the Taliban in the mid-1990s and al-Qaeda’s use of Afghanistan for plotting the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

In late 2009, Defense Secretary Gates reprised this phony conventional wisdom, telling reporters: “We will not repeat the mistakes of 1989, when we abandoned the country only to see it descend into civil war and into Taliban hands.” However, that narrative was based on a faux reality drawn from a fictional movie.

Gates knew the real history. After all, in 1989, he was deputy national security adviser under President George H.W. Bush when the key decisions were made to continue covert U.S. aid to the mujahedeen, not cut it off.

The truth was that the end game in Afghanistan was messed up not because the United States cut the mujahedeen off but because Washington pressed for a clear-cut victory, rebuffing Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s proposals for a power-sharing arrangement. And we know that Gates knows this reality because he recounted it in his 1996 memoir, From the Shadows.

The Real History

Here’s what that history actually shows: In 1988, Gorbachev promised to remove Soviet troops from Afghanistan and sought a negotiated settlement. He hoped for a unity government that would include elements of Afghan President Najibullah’s Soviet-backed regime in Kabul and the CIA-backed Islamic fundamentalist rebels.

Gates, who in 1988 was deputy CIA director, opposed Gorbachev’s plan, disbelieving that the Soviets would really depart and insisting that – if they did – the CIA’s mujahedeen could quickly defeat Najibullah’s army.

Inside the Reagan administration, Gates’s judgment was opposed by State Department analysts who foresaw a drawn-out struggle. Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead and the department’s intelligence chief Morton Abramowitz warned that Najibullah’s army might hold on longer than the CIA expected.

But Gates prevailed in the policy debates, pushing the CIA’s faith in its mujahedeen clients and expecting a rapid Najibullah collapse if the Soviets left. In the memoir, Gates recalled briefing Secretary of State George Shultz and his senior aides on the CIA’s predictions prior to Shultz flying to Moscow in February 1988.

“I told them that most [CIA] analysts did not believe Najibullah’s government could last without active Soviet military support,” wrote Gates.

After the Soviets did withdraw in February 1989 – proving Gates wrong on that point – some U.S. officials felt Washington’s geostrategic aims had been achieved and a move toward peace was in order. There also was mounting concern about the Afghan mujahedeen, especially their tendencies toward brutality, heroin trafficking and fundamentalist religious practices.

However, the new administration of George H.W. Bush – with Gates moving from the CIA to the White House as deputy national security adviser – rebuffed Gorbachev and chose to continue U.S. covert support for the mujahedeen, aid which was being funneled primarily through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI.

At the time, I was a Newsweek national security correspondent and asked my CIA contacts why the U.S. government didn’t just collect its winnings from the Soviet withdrawal and agree to some kind of national-unity government in Kabul that could end the war and bring some stability to the country. One of the CIA hardliners responded to my question with disgust. “We want to see Najibullah strung up by a light pole,” he snarled.

Back in Afghanistan, Najibullah’s regime defied the CIA’s expectation of a rapid collapse, using Soviet weapons and advisers to beat back a mujahedeen offensive in 1990. As Najibullah hung on, the war, the violence and the disorder continued.

Gates finally recognized that his CIA analysis had been wrong. In his memoir, he wrote: “As it turned out, Whitehead and Abramowitz were right” in their warning that Najibullah’s regime might not fall quickly. Gates’s memoir also acknowledged that the U.S. government did not abandon Afghanistan immediately after the Soviet departure.

“Najibullah would remain in power for another three years [after the Soviet pull-out], as the United States and the USSR continued to aid their respective sides,” Gates wrote. Indeed, Moscow’s and Washington’s supplies continued to flow until several months after the Soviet Union collapsed in summer 1991, according to Gates.

Crile’s Account

And other U.S. assistance continued even longer, according to Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War. In the book, Crile described how Wilson kept the funding spigot open for the Afghan rebels not only after the Soviet departure in 1989 but even after the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.

Eventually, the mujahedeen did capture the strategic city of Khost, but turned it into a ghost town as civilians fled or faced the mujahedeen’s fundamentalist fury. Western aid workers found themselves “following the liberators in a desperate attempt to persuade them not to murder and pillage,” Crile wrote.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley began to wonder who were the worse bad guys, the Soviet-backed communists or the U.S.-supported mujahedeen.

“It was the leaders of the Afghan puppet government who were saying all the right things, even paying lip service to democratic change,” Crile reported. “The mujahideen, on the other hand, were committing unspeakable atrocities and couldn’t even put aside their bickering and murderous thoughts long enough to capture Kabul.”

In 1991, as the Soviet Union careened toward its final crackup, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved nothing for Afghanistan, Crile wrote. “But no one could just turn off Charlie Wilson’s war like that,” Crile noted. “For Charlie Wilson, there was something fundamentally wrong with his war ending then and there. He didn’t like the idea of the United States going out with a whimper.”

Wilson made an impassioned appeal to the House Intelligence Committee and carried the day. The committee first considered a $100 million annual appropriation, but Wilson got them to boost it to $200 million, which – with the Saudi matching funds – totaled $400 million, Crile reported.

“And so, as the mujahideen were poised for their thirteenth year of war, instead of being cut off, it turned out to be a banner year,” Crile wrote. “They found themselves with not only a $400 million budget but also with a cornucopia of new weaponry sources that opened up when the United States decided to send the Iraqi weapons captured during the Gulf War to the mujahideen.”

But even then the Afghan rebels needed an external event to prevail on the battlefield, the stunning disintegration of the Soviet Union in the latter half of 1991. Only then did Moscow cut off its aid to Najibullah. His government finally fell in 1992. But its collapse didn’t stop the war – or the mujahedeen infighting.

The capital of Kabul came under the control of a relatively moderate rebel force led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, an Islamist but not a fanatic. However, Massoud, a Tajik, was not favored by Pakistan’s ISI, which backed more extreme Pashtun elements of the mujahedeen.

Rival Afghan warlords battled with each other for another four years destroying much of Kabul. Finally, a disgusted Washington began to turn away. Crile reported that the Cross Border Humanitarian Aid Program, which was the only sustained U.S. program aimed at rebuilding Afghanistan, was cut off at the end of 1993, almost five years after the Soviets left.

Rise of the Taliban

While chaos continued to reign across Afghanistan, the ISI readied its own army of Islamic extremists drawn from Pashtun refugee camps inside Pakistan. This group, known as the Taliban, entered Afghanistan with the promise of restoring order.

The Taliban seized the capital of Kabul in September 1996, driving Massoud into a northward retreat. The ousted communist leader Najibullah, who had stayed in Kabul, sought shelter in the United Nations compound, but was captured. The Taliban tortured, castrated and killed him, his mutilated body hung from a light pole – just as the CIA hardliner had wished seven years earlier.

The triumphant Taliban imposed harsh Islamic law on Afghanistan. Their rule was especially cruel to women who had made gains toward equal rights under the communists, but were forced by the Taliban to live under highly restrictive rules, to cover themselves when in public, and to forgo schooling.

The Taliban also granted refuge to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, who had fought with the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets in the 1980s. Bin Laden then used Afghanistan as the base of operations for his terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, setting the stage for the next Afghan War in 2001.

So, the real history is quite different from the Hollywood version that Official Washington has absorbed as its short-hand understanding of the anti-Soviet Afghan war of the 1980s.

The newly discovered document about bringing Charlie Wilson into the White House “circle as discrete Hill connection” suggests that even the impression that it was “Charlie Wilson’s War” may have been more illusion than reality. Though Wilson surely became a true believer in the CIA’s largest covert action of the Cold War, Reagan’s White House team appears to have viewed him as a useful Democratic front man who would be “very helpful in getting money.”

Most significantly, the mythology – enshrined in the movie and embraced by the policymakers – obscured the key lessons of the 1980s: the dangerous futility of trying to impose a Western or military solution on Afghanistan as well as the need to explore negotiation and compromise even when dealing with unsavory foes. It wasn’t the mythical U.S. “abandonment” of Afghanistan in February 1989 that caused the devastation of the past two decades, but rather the uncompromising policies of the Reagan-Bush-41 administrations.

First, there was the ascendance of propaganda over truth. The U.S. government was well aware of the gross human rights crimes of the Afghan “muj” but still sold them as honorable “freedom fighters” to the American people. Second, there was the triumphalism of Gates and other war hawks, who insisted on rubbing Moscow’s nose in its Afghan defeat and thus blocked cooperation on a negotiated settlement which held out the promise of a less destructive outcome.

Those two factors – the deceit and the hubris – set the stage for the 9/11 attacks in 2001, a renewed Afghan War bogging down tens of thousands of U.S. troops, America’s disastrous detour into Iraq, and now a costly long-term U.S. commitment to Afghanistan that is expected to last at least until 2024. With a distorted account of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” Tom Hanks and Hollywood didn’t help.

[For a limited time, you can purchase Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush family for only $34. For details, click here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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