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Asia Times BOOK REVIEW

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Behind the Afghan propaganda page  page 1 of 2 pages
Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

Reviewed by Anthony Fenton

Nearly 30 years after their first foray into the land-locked buffer state, married couple and journalist-historians Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould could not have chosen a more appropriate time to publish their comprehensive Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story.

Having taken a back seat to Iraq since the drumbeat for war began in the autumn of 2002, the ongoing escalation of the United States-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) counter-insurgency war and occupation have made “AfPak” the center of  sustained US media attention for the first time since “shock and awe” temporarily drove the Taliban underground in October 2001.

A chronically disinformed US public should leap at the chance to familiarize themselves with an honest overview of their country’s historically scandalous involvement in the region. 

Despite Afghanistan’s recent return to the spotlight, few among the public realize the full extent of the US’s historical meddling in Afghanistan. Sadly, many Americans will believe the version of events that were popularized by George Crile’s book-turned-Hollywood film, Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of how the Wildest man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times (New York: Grove Press, 2003).

Crile’s account presents an ahistorical blend of fact and fantasy as it romanticizes the largest covert operation in US history during the US-Pakistan-Saudi Arabian-financed and armed proxy war against the Soviet Union from 1979-1989. It is this collective propaganda-imbued blindspot that Fitzgerald and Gould attempt to reveal and counter. As Gould stated in an interview with Asia Times Online, Charlie Wilson’s War “is a complete flip flop of the reality”.

As such, one of the concerns that Gould and Fitzgerald are seeking to address is the problem that “there are still people in administration positions, in journalistic positions, in academic positions who still believe the fundamentals of Charlie Wilson’s War”. As Fitzgerald added, “every line cook and bottle washer in and around Washington is now an expert on Afghanistan”, reflecting a popular discourse that is “far detached from reality”.


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