Invisible History Blog
We'll explore anomalies we discovered while researching the causes of the Soviet and American invasions of Afghanistan. We look forward to your comments. Paul & Liz.
Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire
Focuses on the AfPak strategy and the importance of the Durand Line, the border separating Pakistan from Afghanistan but referred to by the military and intelligence community as Zero line. The U.S. fought on the side of extremist-political Islam from Pakistan during the 1980s and against it from Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. It is therefore appropriate to think of the Durand/Zero line as the place where America’s intentions face themselves; the alpha and omega of nearly 60 years of American policy in Eurasia. The Durand line is visible on a map. Zero line is not.(Coming February, 2011) (read more)
"A serious, sobering study... illuminates a critical point of view rarely discussed by our media...results of this willful ignorance have been disastrous to our national well-being."
Read the document that reveals an invasion of Afghanistan by the Shah of Iran was being prepared years before the Soviets invaded. Read more...
A 19th century philosophy still in use by Washington that infuses a sense of divine mission into the politics of empire building. Read more...
We'll explore anomalies we discovered while researching the causes of the Soviet and American invasions of Afghanistan. We look forward to your comments. Paul & Liz.
“When Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925) reflected on the history of civilization, he envisioned a special role for Russia, because he considered Russia the country that could best embody the spirit of a new cultural epoch. In Russia, Anthroposophy developed beyond the mere study of an esoteric doctrine and its theory of knowledge. Anthroposophy sought to evaluate Russian and Soviet reality concretely, to interpret Russia’s historical development in the context of world history, and to become the basis of action for Russian cultural activities. Russian Anthroposophy is more than a variant of the Anthroposophical movement. Russia occupies a prominent place in the Anthroposophical conception of culture.
Steiner structured the history of civilzation in seven (post –Atlantean) periods: Indian, ancient Persia, Egyptian-Chaldean, Greek-Roman, Central European, Slavic, and American. According to his scheme, humanity at the end of the fifth ,the central European period-that is, at the threshold of the end of the fifth, the Central European period-that is, at the threshold of the sixth period, the Slavic period. The fifth post-Atlantean epoch began in the first half of the fifteenth century among the Germanic peoples. It manifested itself through an increase in individualism and through a growing interest in the sciences and technology. Around the year 3500, this era of perception was to be succeeded by the sixth epoch, the epic of the “Spirit Self” the characteristics of the Slavic people were to prevail: a sense of community, selflessness, patience, and the ability to accept a higher truth. These qualities constitute the basis for the ’seed’ of the world spirit incarnation in the Russian people, according to Steiner, the broad Russian masses already carried in them the seed of the coming civilization. Steiner used the image of ’seed’ repeatedly to describe the state of Russia’s development, the embryonic, nuclear state of the East as opposed to the ‘hypertrophy’ of the West. The spirit of the Russian people was ‘young and fresh in it’s hopes’ and ‘yet to confront it’s task.’ This task, to suffuse all aspects of life with new meaning, would be realized only in the course of history. Steiner called the Russian a child, in whose very soul one could find the questions that must be answered if humanity was to master the future. From the Russian character traits Steiner derived the capability of holistic thinking. In the Russian way of thinking, as he saw it, two opposing concepts can hold sway simultaneously so that rationality was mysticism and mysticism is rationality. ‘The Russian does not have the slightest understanding of what Westerners call ‘reasonableness.’ He is accessible to what we term ‘revelation. Basically, he will accept and integrate into the content of his soul anything he owns to a kind of revelation.”
In Soloviev’s ideas Steiner saw the seed of the philosophy of the ‘Spirit Self’ of the sixth epoch, for here the religious and philosophical worldviews merged. Soloviev’s philosophy spoke the language of religion, while his religion strove a philosophical worldview.” According to Steiner, this was where the superiority of the Russian philosophy over the aging Western philosophy lay: it transcended the limits of reason and it built a basis for a new holistic understanding. In order to develop the capacities and to fulfill its mission, Steiner said, the Russian people needed contact with the West; the ‘female East’ should be impregnated by the ‘male West.’ Intellectuality and technology, the achievement and problem of the fifth epoch of civilization, had led the life force to stagnate in Europe. Meanwhile this life force was at work in Russia, but was so lacking in form that it could fall into chaos. That was why Steiner felt that Russia depended on a Western awareness of form and consciousness. ‘To imagine that the East, at its present state, would develop on its own would be comparable to the foolish hope of a woman who wanted to have a child without a man. In the past, Eastern Europe had proved its receptiveness to the West. Steiner pointed to the reception of the Byzantine religion in Russia. Thus the Slavic peoples showed that they were also capable of absorbing higher truths- that is, the spirit of the sixth epoch.”
We made a documentary with economist John Kenneth Galbraith and Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) negotiator Paul Warnke on the eve of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Our timing with this issue made the Soviet invasion seem all too convenient. As we point out at the very end, it was President Carter who asked the Senate to hold back on ratification of SALT II following the invasion while having secretly authorized Brzezinski’s black project to lure the Soviets into Afghanistan in the first place. The Soviet invasion enabled the military/industrial/congressional complex to shift the political discussion permanently away from the civilian sector and towards the need for an unending military escalation of all sectors of the economy. It’s the basis of the false narrative of triumphalism our country is dying from today.
America’s Financial Armageddon and Afghanistan is an article we wrote that goes more deeply into the Cold War effects on today’s economy.
America’s Financial Armageddon and Afghanistan
by PAUL FITZGERALD and ELIZABETH GOULD
The U.S. economy grinds down to a finish, it becomes increasingly difficult to measure whether Washington understands the importance of how to deal realistically with the worsening crisis in Afghanistan. Left off the front pages during the recent obsession with the debt crisis, Afghanistan has lurched back onto the scene in ways that are reminiscent of the Soviet collapse of two decades ago. After ten years of war, it seems Washington not only continues to lack a comprehensive understanding of Afghanistan, but it lacks an understanding of its own role in creating both the economic and political catastrophe it now faces.
Even less understood is how the political decisions of the late 1970s are tied to the current simultaneous financial and foreign policy crisis. Nor is it understood how Washington and Wall Street set the stage for America’s financial downfall by using Afghanistan as an investment bank throughout the 1980s to renew the Cold War instead of reinvesting in America’s civilian economy.
Much like today, the America of 1979 faced a crossroads. Vietnam, two oil shocks, a disintegrating infrastructure, a beleaguered manufacturing base and the loss of strategic ally Iran had shown that America was a vulnerable colossus. Thirty five years of economic Cold War against the Soviet Union and China had produced a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons that were proving as useless as they were unusable. World War II had set the stage for the happy marriage of war production to business — pulling the U.S. out of the depression by doubling the Gross National Product in one year (1940). The Cold War ushered the financial benefits of the 1940s into the 1950s and 1960s. But these expenditures came at a massive expense to the civilian economy and not just in terms of tax dollars. Weapons development of the post World War II years lured America’s best and brightest away from the civilian economy and even the real world of guns, tanks and armies into a world detached from time, space and money. While Germany and Japan rebuilt their civilian industries free from defense spending, the U.S. moved into ever higher levels of technology, glorifying and expanding the influence of the defense industry into every fabric of American life.
Originally termed Military Keynesianism to describe the buildup of the German defense industry prior to World War II, America’s military Keynesianism of the Cold War was the unseen hand of government supporting the American economy, balancing the cyclical ups and downs of the market by providing 16 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 1950s and 9 percent in the 1960s. By 1963 defense spending accounted for 52 percent of all the research and development done in the United States. But by the mid-1970s, a stagnant American economy combined with the Arab oil embargo and inflation brought on by the Vietnam War exposed the weakness in the system. As German and Japanese manufacturers battered their American competition in the marketplace, the defense-heavy American economy faltered.
Born of necessity, diplomatic overtures to China and détente with the Soviets offered the first chance since World War II to get off the wartime treadmill. To that end, for most of the decade the U.S. and Soviet Union pursued Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.
Endorsed by President Nixon in 1972, it was hoped that the agreement signed by President Carter and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev would enable the United States to back away from weapons manufacturing and reinvest those resources in the civilian economy. But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed all that.
Our involvement in this story began in the summer of 1979 when we began production of a documentary we called Arms Race and the Economy: A Delicate Balance. During the next months numerous experts including economist John Kenneth Galbraith lent their experience to our understanding of the unseen damage that a massive new diversion of tax dollars and capital investment would represent to the civilian economy. The arms race wasn’t just about defending the United States. The arms race was also about jobs and money in a dark world of business, science, and politics ruled over by a self-described “priesthood” of experts. Galbraith insisted that accelerated defense spending and renewing the Cold War, which the neoconservative right was lobbying hard for at the time, would ultimately destroy the civilian economy. He was convinced that the Cold War had already helped rigidify the capitalist system by bureaucratizing a large part of production for non-productive uses. He saw American industry becoming more and more like the Soviet Union, ruled by a military-industrial-academic establishment immune from reality, living in a planned economy designed to suit its own needs at the expense of society.
Galbraith jokingly referred to his “First Law of Executive Talent” that he had formulated to describe the thinking of America’s military-industrial leadership. “It was that all great executives come to resemble intellectually the products they manufacture. Until you had done business with top officers of the steel industry, you didn’t really appreciate the intellectual qualities of a billet of steel.” So it was with the defense department. America’s militarized economy was already in essence a Soviet-style “planned economy,” to make it an even larger part of the economy would only lock the U.S. into the same dismal fate.
That fall, in Washington, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was one of the last holdouts of sanity in a rolling sea of hysterical accusations about American security. Was the Soviet Union really planning a sneak attack on the United States with nuclear weapons as the right wing claimed? Was SALT II really just a public relations scheme by Moscow to put the U.S. off its guard?
In hindsight we know that these claims were absurd. The Soviet Union was dying, driven to SALT by its weakness, not its strength. But when the Soviets crossed their southern border into Afghanistan that December of 1979 it played out on America’s TV screens like a World War II Hollywood B movie. Afghanistan was a far off South Asian country of no particular interest to the United States. A half dozen administrations had refused Afghan requests for military assistance. Eisenhower’s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’s callous and careless diplomacy drove Afghanistan towards Moscow in the mid 1950s and its politics followed close behind. A low priority remnant from Britain’s colonial empire, President Carter labeled the invasion, “the greatest threat to peace since the second World War.” But the script had already been written long before the Soviet’s crossed their southern border on December 27, 1979.
A trap had been set to give the Soviets their own Vietnam and the Soviets had taken the bait. But no one outside a handful of policy experts and Wall Street wizards were supposed to know that. Instead, a crop of neoconservative experts appeared on the scene claiming the Soviets were running out of oil and using Afghanistan as a staging ground for Middle East conquest.
By the time our program aired that winter, the argument was no longer whether our government should call a halt to the nuclear arms race and reinvest in the civilian economy. The U.S. had stepped into the mirror with the media echoing a return to 1947 style Cold War rhetoric, and the debate refocused not on whether, but on how much was to be spent to counter Soviet aggression.
In the planning stages for most of the decade, the new right’s military stimulus program regained for them a strategic hold over the economy, raising American investment in new weapons systems to a new high, while setting in motion a series of changes to the fundamental economic order endemic to the previous iteration of the Cold War.
As it had in the 1950s and 1960s, military spending once again drove the American economy, accounting for up to 6.2 percent of GDP by 1984. But where previous defense spending had been carefully balanced against America’s industrial output as a percentage of GNP, the so-called Reagan agenda or Reaganomics required massive borrowing to finance the military budget while reducing regulation and oversight of where it was spent. This change would transform American thinking about the economy, sending it into a star wars unreality and more importantly from a creditor to a debtor economy.
Always detached from the real economy, the Reagan budgets lifted the arms race and its Wall Street backers into the stratosphere, focusing the nation’s attention away from the depression era roads, bridges, dams, schools and industry that were in desperate need of attention. Instead, America became transfixed by the phantom of an ever present danger of Soviet troops in Afghanistan and a stock market driven by the military’s expansion.
Part I A Campaign Where the Lie Became the Truth and the Truth Became the Enemy of the State
A Campaign Where the Lie Became the Truth and the Truth Became the Enemy of the State
By Elizabeth Gould & Paul Fitzgerald
9/11. The number still rings in the mind as if chosen to act as a Pavlovian trigger: Outrage, anger, paranoia, retribution. A shadowy band of religious zealots fly not one, but two commercial airliners into the heart of America’s financial community while others deal a deadly blow to the Pentagon. It was a Hollywood movie, an act of war rivaling Pearl Harbor. Why did it happen? Who would do this to Americans, to America? How could a band of ragged terrorists plotting from a cave in faraway Afghanistan have accomplished such a complex task given the size and pervasiveness of the largest and most expensive military/intelligence apparatus in the history of the world? And even more curiously, why would Islamic radicals give the ideology-driven neoconservative administration of George W. Bush exactly the pretext they needed to launch a bloody invasion and further occupation of the Middle East?
According to the official narrative, 9/11 was an attack on everything American and in so doing changed everything about America. Like Kafkaesque characters who’d suddenly found themselves on the other side of a Cold War “Iron Curtain” mirror, Americans would now have to “watch what they say and watch what they do,” open up to questioning or face jail when prodded by squinty-eyed border guards and forsake any hope of privacy or dignity in a new world of electronic spies and full body scans. Former National Security Advisor, Admiral John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness program would be enacted and a preexisting “Patriot Act” would be signed into law to clamp down on dissent and real or imagined domestic terrorism.
Some careful observers like Anthony Lewis of the New York Times had already noticed the bizarre coup-like changes coming over Washington in the months leading up to the attack as the George W. Bush administration inaugurated radical shifts in domestic and foreign policy that seemed un-American and alien to anything that had gone before. But those concerns would soon be forgotten in the race for revenge.
9/11 would ultimately give President George W. Bush and his neoconservative advisors all the public approval they needed to transform America and invade Afghanistan and Iraq to cleanse the world of evil in an endless “war on terror.” In the end it would turn America’s reputation for racial and religious tolerance, military invincibility and economic dominance on its head.
Looking back on the carnage of the last ten years it’s easy to see how the psychology of 9/11 changed America. What’s not easy to see is how a long standing campaign of covert psychological warfare built up since the early days of World War II had made the slow destruction of American democracy and the ascension of rule by secrecy inevitable, long before the planes ever left the runway on 9/11:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” -Dr. Joseph Goebbels
As chief propagandist for the Nazi Party, Joseph Goebbels system of black propaganda not only helped Hitler’s rise to power but kept him there by utilizing near-hypnotic powers over the German people even after the consequences of his disastrous failures had become obvious.
To counter Goebbels’ propaganda theatre emanating from Nazi party headquarters at Munich’s Braunes Haus (Brown House), an organization named Freedom House was founded in New York City in 1941. Fronted by American celebrities and public luminaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt, the brains behind the outfit was Leo Cherne, the psychological warfare specialist/co-founder of the Research Institute of America (RIA), which would much later be labeled the “CIA for businessmen.”
If anyone was a match for Goebbels mastery of the black arts of psychological warfare it was Cherne. In 1938 Cherne had published a guide to industrial mobilization in Adjusting Your Business to War, prophetically forecasting the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and on September 1st of that year completed a 3000-page report titled, Industrial Mobilization Plans for World War II, the very day that German troops crossed into Poland.
That same year Cherne asked a young protégé named William J. Casey, the future director of the CIA, “How do you take a country like ours, stuck in depression, and convert it into an arsenal?” Their combined answer was the loose-leaf book called The War Coordinator. Cherne and Casey’s psychological warfare campaign would establish a narrative that didn’t just embrace freedom as its major theme, in their minds their ideas would actually become Freedom and through the use of propaganda would grow and harden over the decades into an impenetrable shield-like narrative of American triumphalism.
Cherne’s prophecies on war and business attained a near mystical quality and over the decades following World War II he would attract the most powerful and influential figures in American business and politics to his causes. A listing of Freedom House trustees on its 50th anniversary in 1991 includes people as diverse as Kenneth L. Adelman, Andrew Young, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Albert Shanker, Donald Rumsfeld and James Woolsey. It has since become an exclusive neoconservative bastion.
Freedom House’s narrative is no less than the narrative of the American century where, “It has fought on the side of freedom and against aggressors in struggles that can be evoked by simple words and phrases: the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, NATO, Hungarian Freedom Fighters, the Berlin Wall, the Prague Spring…” and of course Afghanistan.
We experienced Freedom House’s simple words and phrases and their dark influence on the major media in the spring of 1983 in a televised Nightline program following a trip to Afghanistan with Harvard Negotiation Project Director, Roger Fisher. We had brought Fisher to Afghanistan to explore the possibilities of a Soviet withdrawal of forces and discovered the Soviets were desperate to get out. But instead of expanding on Fisher’s efforts to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, host Ted Koppel undermined the very premise of the discussion by introducing a political officer of the Jamaat-i Islami, which Koppel described as “an anti-communist resistance group based in Pakistan. He is here in the United States under the auspices of two American organizations, concerned with democracy in Afghanistan, the Afghan Relief Committee and Freedom House.”
Had Koppel and Freedom House really been concerned about democracy in Afghanistan, their choice of the Jamaat-i Islami could not be viewed as anything but the darkest of black propaganda, an outright lie.
Originally founded by the Pakistani theologian Abul Ala Maudidi in 1941, the goal of the Jamaat-i Islami was more than just that of gaining political representation for radical Islamists. The Jamaat was to be an all-embracing, extremist Islamic Society, crafted through the strictest interpretation of Islamic law, as a replacement for a modern western-style democracy.
Through the help of the mainstream media during the 1980s the psychological war promoted by Freedom House and Ronald Reagan’s C.I.A. director William J. Casey held the Soviets in Afghanistan for an additional six years, destabilized Central Asia, encouraged the growth of the largest heroin operation in history and enabled the rise of the very Islamic extremists that allegedly planned and carried off the attacks on 9/11.
Ten years after 9/11 Afghanistan remains the center of a growing Islamic insurgency and the longest war in American history. The success of America’s seventy year old psychological warfare campaign, where the lie became the truth and the truth became the enemy of the state, has now so disorientated America’s institutional thinking that we have reached the moment when the state can no longer shield the American people from the consequences of that lie. Copyright © 2011 Gould & Fitzgerald All rights reserved
Part II Building the Afghan Narrative with Black Propaganda, the People, the Process & the Product
Part III A Clockwork Afghanistan
Part IV Willie Wonka and the Chocolate factory
Part I Mystical Covert Agendas
By Elizabeth Gould & Paul Fitzgerald
As the U.S. becomes more and more the kind of country it has traditionally opposed, the answer to where we are headed may lie more in the arcane traditions of a dim past than in a bright future.
“‘We’re the dark matter. We’re the force that orders the universe but can’t be seen,’ a strapping Navy SEAL, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in describing his unit.”
If anyone (correctly) thought that the war on terror and Washington’s response to it had taken on a fantastical otherworldly quality, this recent quote on the front page of the Washington Post seemed to confirm it.
Following 9/11 the elected government of the United States of America delivered the country to a whole department (of Homeland Security) dedicated to expanding the government’s fear of darkness into everybody’s life (remember the 2003 duct tape and plastic sheeting craze?) Now we also have a top secret military operation known as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that thinks it is the dark.
Begun as a modest hostage rescue team, JSOC has morphed into a veritable heart of darkness, with the power to murder at will and with immunity from American legal jurisdiction (which apparently still maintains that such assassinations are illegal).
Even within the military, JSOC operates as a “Stovepipe,” operation, meaning that it operates completely in the black, reports to no one and continues to employ rogue ex-CIA professionals such as indicted Iran Contra operative Dewey Clarridge. The Navy Seal Team that took out Osama bin Laden operated under JSOC. Retired military personnel refer to JSOC as “Murder, Incorporated” and the “most dangerous people on the face of the earth.”
But if JSOC’s reputation for secrecy, vengeance and death from above can’t be explained from within the context of traditional U.S. military operations or U.S. law, then what set of rules is it operating from? Or is it simply that the traditions of rationalism and law that most Americans took for granted about the United States are subject to deeper, religious, or perhaps even mystical rules, whose anachronistic logic has found a renewed acceptance in an irrational world of personal, private and holy war?
No one less than the legendary Cold Warrior, Time Magazine’s Henry Luce understood that his passion for defeating Communism constituted “a declaration of private war,” which, in citing the example of the privateer Sir Francis Drake made it not only “unlawful,” but “probably mad.” As the child of American missionaries, Luce was committed to the militant spread of Christian Capitalism while viewing its ultimate triumph over the world as an inevitable consequence of God’s will.
Known to its 19th century advocates as mystical imperialism, the term can be traced to both Britain and Russia’s 19th century efforts to establish dominion through a mix of imperialism and Christian zeal. The competition came to a dead stop in Afghanistan with the end of the Great Game in 1907. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 complicated matters by infusing a heavy dose of socialist realism. But with the advent of the Cold War and the mysterious and intoxicating god-like qualities inherent in nuclear weapons, a new iteration of mystical imperialism came into being.
America’s mystical Cold War warriors were far removed technologically from their 19th century counterparts whose Christian elite believed they were bringing rational western thinking to the “darker regions of the earth.”
The sole purpose of America’s mid 20th century defense intellectuals was to rationalize nuclear war scientifically. Their failure over time ultimately dragged an entire stratum of American scientific and political thought back into the irrational realm of medieval mysticism. A 1960s London Times Literary Supplement marveled at the new priesthood who moved as freely through the corridors of the Pentagon and the State Department as the Jesuits once had through the courts of Madrid and Vienna, centuries before. Tasked with defeating Communism they invented their own reality, accelerated the nuclear arms race, created the domino theory of Communist expansion and then escalated the war in Vietnam to counter it.
President Kennedy’s science advisor Jerome Wiesner eventually came to realize that the so called “missile gap” and the massive buildup of America’s nuclear arsenal in response to it was only a “mirror image” of America’s own intentions towards the Soviet Union and not the other way around. Yet instead of addressing the error, the U.S. slipped deeper into the Cold War mirror until its own identity began to take on the image of its “Other.”
By 1973 these thermonuclear Jesuits and their CIA counterparts were using the U.S., NATO, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia to shake the Soviet Union’s domination over Central Asia through a Christian/Islamic holy war in Afghanistan. In a rational world it might be assumed that this war was supposed to stop with the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. But instead of ending, America’s full blown splurge into personal and private holy war had caused the U.S. to slip into a crisis of identity.
Forced after seventy five years of anti-communism to finally define itself based on what it stood for and not what it stood against, the United States entered a house of mirrors in which it continues to wander. Stricken by the results of decades of economic and military excess, it finds its mission confused and its underlying philosophical grounding threatened.
What is America on the eve of 2012? Who are these Americans who revel in their dark powers? What have we become and how did we get that way?
Join us as we explore the little-analyzed facts and mystical covert agendas that the United States continues to press on with into the 21st century and what those agendas may mean to America’s new role as the dark force that orders the universe in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections.
Copyright © 2011 Gould & Fitzgerald All rights reserved
Published on Boiling Frogs Post
Part II Living the Fantasy
Part III Making the Irrational Rational
Part IV The Twilight Lords
The Afghan think tank we collaborate with, New World Strategies Coalition, has released an important policy brief. Pashtun Awakening: Defeat the Taliban by Changing the Narrative outlines a solution for the disintegrating situation in Afghanistan that can work for all the Afghan people. ======================================================================================= FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Afghanistan Policy Brief
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The New World Strategies Coalition, a think tank founded by native Afghans which creates nonmilitary solutions for Afghanistan, released its latest policy brief today entitled, Pashtun Awakening: Defeat the Taliban by Changing the Narrative.
The policy brief outlines a solution for resolving the situation in Afghanistan by exposing how Pakistan has systemically weakened Afghanistan’s sacred tribal structure via its Taliban proxy. Pakistan and the Taliban have conspired to keep the Pashtuns, the country’s largest ethnic group, in the dark ages in order to advance Islamabad’s age-old agenda of controlling Kabul, by replacing the Afghan ancient tribal code with the extremist ideology of the Taliban – a process we refer to as “de-Pashtunization.”
The objective of this brief is to provide U.S. policymakers with a snapshot of the ground truth in Afghanistan so they can make informed decisions on how to best address the de-Pashtunization of Afghan society. The key to setting the Afghans free is by setting the truth free, as the brief explains:
There is still hope if the Pashtuns can restore their sacred tribal structure and identify the Taliban movement for what it really is – a religious mafia concocted on white boards in Rawalpindi.
In order to accomplish this, NATO and ISAF should focus on unifying the Pashtuns through a grassroots information campaign – a path that will be much more effective than the military option:
If the crux of the problem is a lost narrative the solution is taking it back from the jihadists who hijacked it. This calls for identifying, confronting and defeating propaganda through public diplomacy counterstrikes and preemptive psychological tactics.
The Policy Brief can be downloaded by clicking here.
Gould and Fitzgerald’s books on Afghanistan, Invisible History and Crossing Zero, have won praise from the likes of Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone and Daniel Ellsberg. They were also the first Western journalists allowed back into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan during the early 1980s, when Paul discovered a story that wasn’t being reported in the mainstream press.
While conducting research for their books, Paul and Liz discovered a trove of esoteric history surrounding the West’s attraction to Afghanistan, dating back to the 1800s when the British set out to colonize the non-Christian world. During the lecture, Liz provided this brief explanation of an age-old esoteric ideology which continues to infect our current political and military leaders:
“Simply put, Mystical imperialism rationalizes the expansion of a nation’s authority, by conquest over other nations, by infusing a sense of the divine into the raw politics of empire building. Today’s practitioners of American Mystical Imperialism are a hardened core of ideological defense intellectuals and military officers who infuse their own esoteric and religious beliefs into Washington policymaking.”
Mystical imperialism can be traced back about 400 years to the British East India Company’s draconian pursuit of profits at any cost, as the Russians were demonized to protect the Raj’s interests in Central Asia and India. Somewhere along the line the British convinced themselves and the world that Russia was bent on controlling routes to the Persian Gulf – a neurosis that forced the British to do everything in its power to transform Afghanistan into a protective bulwark against Czarist Russia’s inevitable expansion.
This type of thinking was then embraced by the U.S. at the dawn of the Cold War. In the 1970s American policymakers and the media came to view the struggle in Afghanistan through a Manichean prism, and the Soviets were on the wrong side of this black and white world which saw the U.S. find common cause with violent Islamist fanatics, purportedly to ensure Afghanistan remained a Cold War “buffer zone.”
The blinding Cold War paradigm became like a religion, bemoaned by Senator William Fulbright as early as 1972: “Our ‘faith’ liberated us, like the believers of old, from the requirements of empirical thinking… Like medieval theologians, we had a philosophy that explained everything to us in advance, and everything that did not fit could be readily identified as a fraud or a lie or an illusion.”
Even when the U.S. had an opportunity to detangle itself from Afghanistan it resisted. In fact, the U.S. aimed to draw the Soviets into Afghanistan in what later became known as the “Bear Trap”, designed by Zbigniew Brzezinski to give communist Russia its own Vietnam War.
An underreported historical fact is how the U.S. began funding terrorists in Pakistan before the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Years later Brzezinski admitted as much and saw the rise of the Taliban as an acceptable side effect of the CIA’s shadowy program because, in his mind, it led to the fall of communism.
The U.S. also embraced the British tactic of empowering backward elements within Afghan society who seemed intent on keeping Afghanistan in the dark ages, including reactionaries who continually sabotaged Kabul’s attempts at modernization. In the 1920s King Amanullah brought on a period of rapid liberalization which included a democratic constitution, universal suffrage and civil rights. In 1922 U.S. envoy Cornelius Van Engert reported that the Afghans were not savage fanatics, but highly cultivated people in the midst of a major effort to modernize.
In fact, near the end of a 40-year era of peace, King Zahir Shah’s “experiment in democracy” was thwarted in the 1970s when the superpowers began using Afghanistan as a geopolitical chessboard. As a result of foreign meddling, Afghanistan regressed in terms of security, prosperity, human rights, education and culture over the past four decades at an unprecedented pace.
Flash forward to today’s “AfPak” policy, which is also void of reason and underpinned by an outdated mythology, as the U.S. continues to operate based on flawed assumptions left over from the British colonial era. And like its predecessors, the U.S. now finds itself mired in the “graveyard of empires.” And just like it did during the Afghan war against the Soviets, the U.S. continues to rely on its wayward ally Pakistan, who in turn continues to support virulently anti-American jihadists.
What makes Liz and Paul’s story especially compelling is the synchronicity that exists between their personal lives, their dreams and the historical drama as it unfolds in Central Asia. Their story is retold in the novel The Voice, in which they make esoteric connections between Templar Knights, the mujahideen and the CIA.
Underlying what appears to be irrational foreign policy is a twisted spirituality, an American exceptionalism and crusading impulse the U.S. inherited from its British forebears. Perhaps Gould and Fitzgerald were meant to serve a higher purpose themselves as they try to decode a mystery that has caused the people of Afghanistan endless suffering. Perhaps they were meant to “shed some light” on dark unseen forces swirling at the center of one of America’s biggest foreign policy catastrophes.
Afghanistan has always contained an esoteric element known to insiders. Now that “hidden” Afghan story is available to all who seek it. Our INN World Studio presentation of Afghanistan and Mystical Imperialism: An expose of the esoteric underpinnings of American foreign policy was filmed by Zev Deans & Jacqueline Castel and is available here. It will open the world to an Afghanistan most have never seen.
The Voice, the esoteric side of our Afghan experience as a novel
“Mysticism is just tomorrow’s science dreamed today.” Marshall McLuhan March 1969
by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
Ten years ago this fall we sat in the walled garden of a bullet-pocked Kabul villa on a brilliant sunlit afternoon, interviewing American reporters about what they thought the prospects were for a U.S. success in Afghanistan now that the “war” was over.
At that particular moment Afghans were open to American solutions and for the first time in decades, hopeful. Kabul was ruined but peaceful, but just below the surface was the unshakeable feeling that something was wrong. The young, thoughtful and concerned photo journalist Chris Hondros of Getty Images spoke of the fractured nature of Afghan society and doubted that the West could help the country overcome the deep divisions caused by twenty five years of war. He complained that his job had been made much tougher because an entire generation of Americans had never been informed of what they needed to know in order to comprehend why Afghanistan was so important. USA Today’s Berlin bureau chief Steve Komarow, who’d rotated back into Kabul after taking part in the brief American invasion, echoed the American confusion about what to do about a mission and a country no one seemed to really understand. “Nobody wants Afghanistan to revert to what it was, but on the other hand there’s a tension between that and being seen as a colonial power,” Komarow said. “The United States doesn’t want to own Afghanistan. It really wants the Afghans to work it out, however they want to work it out.”
Tension might still be the best of a slew of inadequate words to describe Washington’s schizophrenic relationship to Afghanistan. Tension between the Obama administration and a Republican Congress over the longest running war in American history and how to end it, tension between Washington and the government of Hamid Karzai, tension between President Obama and the wisdom of his own military commanders and tension over Pakistan’s perennial role as an alleged U.S. ally while continuing to use the Taliban as an advance guard for its military’s strategic ambitions in Central Asia. And tension between the reality of people’s lives and the invented reality of a war machine that has long lost any relevance to the real nature of American security.
U.S. objectives in Afghanistan from day one were never clear and in fact were mostly irreconcilable with the ground reality. American policymakers in the 1980s never thought through the consequences of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Peshawar seven Mujahideen groups, and in fact deferred to Pakistan’s ISI in halting any Afghan efforts at creating an exile nationalist government following the Soviet invasion. Pakistan’s strategy meshed perfectly with the extremist philosophy of the Saudi trained extremists who targeted Afghan nationalists and moderates along with Soviet soldiers and Afghan communists. For over two hundred years, Afghanistan’s identity had been centered on Pashtun nationalism. Annihilating Pashtun tribal leadership was key to Pakistan’s long term planning and beginning in the early 1970s ISI supported the rise of the Tajik Burhanuddin Rabbani’s Jamaat I Islami and the de-Pashtunized Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hesbe Islami, in order to replace it.
The anti-Soviet Jihad of the 1980s was a time in which the U.S., Pakistani and Saudi interests converged over Afghanistan but as U.S. attention waned following the end of the Cold War, the interests of these former partners began to diverge. The instability caused by that divergence was made apparent on 9/11, but instead of responding with workable solutions to complex ground realities inside Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East, the U.S. plowed ahead with a pre-cast ideological blueprint that was at once astonishingly inappropriate, profoundly unworkable and in the end self-defeating.
Did President George W. Bush’s neoconservative policymakers really expect to reconcile Afghanistan’s complex mix of tribes and ethnicities and heal the war’s wounds without the blessing of Afghanistan’s recognized Pashtun leader, King Zahir Shah? 75 percent of the delegates to the U.S. brokered Loya Jirga (tribal council) that created the new Afghan government petitioned to have the king nominated as head of state. Just weeks before being assassinated in 2001, Ahmed Shah Massoud had agreed to support the return of the king as the only way to establish a lasting peace. Did Washington really believe it could force brutal and corrupted warlords – men that Steve Komarow described as “charming killers” – onto a government as powerless as Hamid Karzai’s and expect them to establish a democracy? And did the Bush administration really believe it could blindly hand over responsibility and billions of dollars to Pakistan’s military establishment, march off to Iraq and then expect Pakistan to uphold America’s interests?
It is not hard to understand the growing sense of institutional desperation surrounding the latest events. Headlines that tell of U.S. soldiers urinating on Taliban corpses, Koran burnings, increasing incidents of Afghan soldiers attacking NATO and American trainers and the slaughter of Afghan men, women and children in their sleep, are evidence of disintegration, not a winning end game. But news reports that America’s own soldiers were ordered to disarm in the presence of their own Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta while on an official visit to Camp Leatherneck in Kandahar in mid-March indicate that Washington may not just be losing the war, but as in Vietnam, may also be losing the army that is fighting it.
Should this happen – and from reports on the morale of American troops who’ve been forced into repeated combat tours it appears that it is – the U.S. experience in Afghanistan may soon match the Soviet experience in Afghanistan and with a similar conclusion. For the last year the Pentagon has insisted that its strategy of handing off responsibility to a U.S./NATO funded Afghan National Army of 350,000 troops is going according to plan, that the U.S. intends to stay on only in an advisory capacity after 2014, and that all is well. Even if all was well, the idea that Afghanistan’s economy could ever provide the $6 billion annually necessary to support an army of that size is a complete fantasy as are mostly all the other assumptions underpinning such an army.
If, as Washington’s numerous critics of Afghan policy insist, Afghanistan can’t be expected to operate as a centralized European-style democracy, then why should anyone expect Afghanistan to produce a centralized European-style army? As the Soviets learned over their ten year occupation, Afghanistan’s decentralized tribal society doesn’t really do standing armies. According to the Center for Advanced Studies’ Chris Mason, the Afghan National Army really has something like 100,000 men on a good day and there are very few good days. More than 40 percent of what remains disappears every year, 75 percent is on drugs, and the rest is so riddled with Taliban infiltrators as to make the concept of an Afghan army meaningless. Add to that the fact that the U.S. has largely built an army of Northern Tajiks who use the U.S. to intimidate their traditional opponents, the Pashtuns and you have a formula for civil war when the U.S. leaves, with or without the Taliban.
Another critic of the official narrative is Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Davis. Reporting after a12 month second tour of Afghanistan which covered 9,000 miles and visits to troops in multiple provinces Davis maintains that there is virtually no reality backing the U.S. narrative. Davis wrote in the Armed Forces Journal in early February 2012, “In all of the places I visited, the tactical situation was bad to abysmal. If the events I have described – and many, more I could mention – had been in the first year of the war, or even the third of fourth, one might be willing to believe that Afghanistan was just a hard fight, and we should stick it out. Yet these incidents all happened in the 10th year of war.”
Afghanistan played a major role in the 1980s as a first step in curing the so called Vietnam syndrome in the United States. But the American decision to use Afghanistan to give the Russians their own Vietnam syndrome (instead of reassessing the Cold War assumptions that had produced the devastating Vietnam quagmire in the first place) was a double edged sword.
In a remarkably self-effacing 1972 New Yorker article titled “Reflections: In Thrall To Fear,” Senator J. William Fulbright traced the origins of the devastation caused by Vietnam to the intellectual corruption of the Cold War. But his shock was in realizing that the actual thinking behind the Cold War and the Truman Doctrine was not based on facts or logic or even the metrics of modern warfare, but on a medieval ideological methodology that in effect defied reason.
“Our leaders became liberated from the normal rules of evidence and inference when it came to dealing with Communism… The effect of the anti-Communist ideology was to spare us the task of taking cognizance of the specific facts of specific situations. Our ‘faith’ liberated us, like the believers of old, from the requirements of empirical thinking… Like medieval theologians, we had a philosophy that explained everything to us in advance, and everything that did not fit could be readily identified as a fraud or a lie or an illusion.”
The United States has had 90 years to formulate a working relationship with Afghanistan. It had numerous opportunities to help Afghanistan grow and modernize before Soviet Communism and Afghan nationalism made it a Cold War target, but it chose to defer to British and then Pakistani interests. Even after the Soviet defeat from which it benefited, the U.S. had the chance to intervene but chose instead to back away and leave its fate to others. On 9/11 Afghanistan’s fate became interlocked with America’s, but once again Washington chose a path which allowed Afghanistan to drift into chaos.
Senator Fulbright’s reflections are a tragic and largely forgotten commentary on the Cold War. But were he here today to witness the futile debates over policies that were always irreconcilable and the Vietnam-like quagmire they have caused in Afghanistan, he would be the first to recognize that the medieval theologians had been at it again, only this time around the fraud, the lie and the illusion had hardened into a permanent and perhaps terminal reality.
Copyright © 2012 Gould & Fitzgerald All rights reserved
Written: Nov 09 ‘11 on Epinions.com by vicfar
The 200-page book, just released, is a brilliant indictment of the insane US military occupation of Afghanistan. It also casts grave doubts on the rationale for continuing American interventionism and makes a strong case for retrenchment.
The book is very concise, and the obligatory historical introduction is kept to a minimum: it begins in 1577 with the earliest British colonial adventures in the region, and is especially critical of the disastrous policies following British retreat and the creation of seriously flawed borders.
But the Great Game of Central Asia has become recently important in view of the natural resources the region contains, and after WWII it has drawn the attention of the remaining superpowers. In a strategic effort to bring the USSR to its knees, the US and its secret services have engineered and built an extensive web of paramilitary groups, stoking religious fundamentalism and terrorism. The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other groups,- the authors remind us are all creature of the Cold War. Now the fundamentalist forces unleashed by the US are wreaking havoc across the whole territory, and threaten the spread of political chaos all the way from Iraq to India.
At the outset, the authors trace the rise of the Taliban movement. At the origin is the massive funding, recruiting and training by the CIA and the ISI, the Pakistani secret service, acting in concert against the USSR. The book then details the early years of the Bush involvement, when Iraq was the more prized target, and the recent Obama strategy toward counterinsurgency, with a modest troop surge, the extension of the war into Pakistan and the growing assassination program, which cannot but remind the reader of the bloody Operation Phoenix in Vietnam.
The case presented against the military strategies created by the Pentagon is overwhelming: the US could not control the country even with 500,000 troops (just as the Russians could not), and large sections of it are in the hands of tribal leaders, with whom the US is desperately trying to make a deal. Much of the focus is on the covert support of the Talibans by the ISI and by the Pakistan government, all of it through the massive injections of US funds into Pakistan. Indeed, the US taxpayer is financing its troops and also the resistance movements to US occupation.
Of course, the game Pakistan is playing is understood in Washington, hence the recent forays across the border and the assassination program. The US, however, still has no viable strategy, continues to fund Pakistan, which funds the Talibans as part of its own strategic games against India, and is negotiating with the worst terrorists, hoping for a strategic retreat. Needless to say, a coalition government composed of warlords and terrorists is unlikely to return Afghanistan to a peaceful existence, and especially to to the secular administration which, like in Iraq, existed before the CIA fanned the flames of Islamic radicalism.
The central part of the book (Obamas Vietnam) examines the parallels between the two military disasters and confirms that Americans are using again a failed strategy, consisting of bombing, systematic assassination and inability to understand the reality under which they operate. Later, the book examines the variety of factions the constitute the anti-American resistance and succeeds in impressing upon the reader two major facts: the resistance landscape is unbelievably complex, and the US military does not have a clue about it.
The US continues to believe that bringing death from the skies and targeted assassinations can lead to victory, without trying to understand the socio-political reality they are trying to influence and mold into a stable democracy. To what extent is this strategy dictated by powerful lobbies who stand to gain fortunes by selling Washington useless but lethal hi-tech gadgets? Does Washington really believe that the drone assassination program is a viable alternative in state-building to the establishment of civil authority and political justice? In what amounts to a transfer of funds from the US tax-payer (or the foreign lender) to the booming defense industry, the US military may have found the Holy Grail: an interminable war, in the style of Orwells 1984, complete with a disinformation campaign by the compliant, corporate press, and accompanied by conservative think tanks whose members enjoy the profits of the war machine, while claiming the US is trying to defend freedom and democracies, two values the US has squelched more than any other country in the world since the beginning of the Cold War.
The book ends with a set of sensible recommendations, like establishing ties with the population, understanding their customs and culture all recommendations sure to fall on deaf years. As an example, the authors cite a complaint by president Karzai about the US stepped-up counterinsurgency program consisting of bursting into peoples homes at night to arrest suspects. Karzai remarked that it generates hate against the US and, indirectly, Karzai himself, because it violates the sanctity of Afghan homes. General Petraeus responded, dismayed, that he was astonished and disappointed by the statement, which was making Karzais position untenable.
Finally, in its epilogue, the authors trace a line of continuity spanning from early post-WWII US interventions up to Obamas war regime today. In spite of the seemingly increased insanity of the war operations, the authors claim to see a logical sequence of events, framed in the lunatic language of American exceptionalism and a boundless inability to acknowledge global overstretch. In this perspective, the US is unable to change course, because it is controlled by a single doctrine and cannot readapt its myths and beliefs to a changing reality. America is destroying, throughout the world, what is claiming to protect.
Hence the suggestion that a complete retreat (very unlikely) would do more good than harm. This brutal but fair conclusion quotes an article in the leftist British newspaper The Guardian, which reminds its readers that the US cannot offer the world its model, because the model has failed:
The US…has nothing substantial to offer Afghanistan beyond feeding the gargantuan war machine they have unleashed. In the affluent West itself modernity is now about dismantling the welfare system, increasing inequality and subsidizing corporate profits this bankrupt version of modernity has little to offer to Afghans other than bikini waxes and Oprah imitators. In other words, if the US really must engage in nation building, it ought to start with the most bankrupt nation of them all: itself.
I found this short book highly informative, well structured and devastating in its conclusions. If you believe the substance of its claims, the world is in the hands of a group of mad men (Pentagon, White House, US secret services) who administer death and misery throughout a vast region, without a realistic objective and mired in a war without possible end. It is the stuff of nighmares. I hope the authors are wrong but I feel they are absolutely correct in their analysis.