The great game of smashing countries

Women at university in Afghanistan - 1970s
Women at university in Afghanistan – 1970s

The great game of smashing countries

by John Pilger

[The present chaotic situation in Afghanistan just goes to demonstrate two crucial aspects of modern society; the hypocrisy and outright lies spouted by western politicians and their meek and complaint (in the main) media and the remarkably short memories of the population in general who suck up such baseless ‘information’ in a totally uncritical manner. When it comes to the population this is probably due to the fact that the majority of people have no concept of history. What happens today is dependent upon what happened yesterday – not last year or even decades ago.

Due to this short memory span the politicians (of all colours) are able to use/abuse the ignorance and gullibility of the population in an attempt to maintain the high moral ground. ‘Forgetting’ that they were the ones who created the problem in the first place, i.e., fundamentalist head-bangers, they pose as those who had created a ‘modern’ society in Afghanistan rather than the ones that had spend 20 years and an unimaginable amount of money to dominate the country – in the process destroying its society and people – even in the last couple of days in the country murdering children in a ‘targetted’ drone attack.

In Britain the enthusiasm that Labour politicians jump into the debate just goes to show how redundant social-democracy has always been in the country. With such imperialist ambitions and thinking they will never be able to offer a real alternative to the blatant capitalist suck-holing of the present ruling Tories. Instead of hanging their heads in shame – as they were the party/government that took Britain into the latest Afghan debacle – they still maintain that the decision was correct in the first place – and will, no doubt, take the same approach when the next chapter in the efforts to maintain US hegemony is opened.

The peoples of those imperialist countries who continually (even though they have ‘lost’ those wars in which they have had direct involvement) support their ruling class in such ‘adventures’ should look to the words of VI Lenin, if they have any hope for their own future;

‘Let us consider the position of an oppressor nation. Can a nation be free if it oppresses other nations? It cannot.’ (The right of nations to self-determination, p23.)

Below is an article by a anti-war, Australian journalist. which sets out the the case against current hypocrisy.]

This version was first published on the CounterPunch website on 25th August 2021.

The great game of smashing countries

As a tsunami of crocodile tears engulfs Western politicians, history is suppressed. More than a generation ago, Afghanistan won its freedom, which the United States, Britain and their ‘allies’ destroyed.

In 1978, a liberation movement led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) overthrew the dictatorship of Mohammad Dawd, the cousin of King Zahir Shar. It was an immensely popular revolution that took the British and Americans by surprise.

Foreign journalists in Kabul, reported the New York Times, were surprised to find that ‘nearly every Afghan they interviewed said [they were] delighted with the coup’. The Wall Street Journal reported that ‘150,000 persons … marched to honour the new flag …the participants appeared genuinely enthusiastic.’

The Washington Post reported that ‘Afghan loyalty to the government can scarcely be questioned’. Secular, modernist and, to a considerable degree, socialist, the government declared a programme of visionary reforms that included equal rights for women and minorities. Political prisoners were freed and police files publicly burned.

Under the monarchy, life expectancy was thirty-five; one in three children died in infancy. Ninety per cent of the population was illiterate. The new government introduced free medical care. A mass literacy campaign was launched.

For women, the gains had no precedent; by the late 1980s, half the university students were women, and women made up 40 per cent of Afghanistan’s doctors, 70 per cent of its teachers and 30 per cent of its civil servants.

So radical were the changes that they remain vivid in the memories of those who benefited. Saira Noorani, a female surgeon who fled Afghanistan in 2001, recalled:

Every girl could go to high school and university. We could go where we wanted and wear what we liked … We used to go to cafes and the cinema to see the latest Indian films on a Friday … it all started to go wrong when the mujahedin started winning … these were the people the West supported.

For the United States, the problem with the PDPA government was that it was supported by the Soviet Union. Yet it was never the ‘puppet’ derided in the West, neither was the coup against the monarchy ‘Soviet backed’, as the American and British press claimed at the time.

President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, later wrote in his memoirs: ‘We had no evidence of any Soviet complicity in the coup.’

In the same administration was Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s National Security Adviser, a Polish émigré and fanatical anti-communist and moral extremist whose enduring influence on American presidents expired only with his death in 2017.

On 3 July 1979, unknown to the American people and Congress, Carter authorised a $500 million ‘covert action’ programme to overthrow Afghanistan’s first secular, progressive government. This was code-named by the CIA Operation Cyclone.

The $500 million bought, bribed and armed a group of tribal and religious zealots known as the mujahedin. In his semi-official history, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward wrote that the CIA spent $70 million on bribes alone. He describes a meeting between a CIA agent known as ‘Gary’ and a warlord called Amniat-Melli:

Gary placed a bundle of cash on the table: $500,000 in one-foot stacks of $100 bills. He believed it would be more impressive than the usual $200,000, the best way to say we’re here, we’re serious, here’s money, we know you need it … Gary would soon ask CIA headquarters for and receive $10 million in cash.

Recruited from all over the Muslim world, America’s secret army was trained in camps in Pakistan run by Pakistani intelligence, the CIA and Britain’s MI6. Others were recruited at an Islamic College in Brooklyn, New York – within sight of the doomed Twin Towers. One of the recruits was a Saudi engineer called Osama bin Laden.

The aim was to spread Islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia and destabilise and eventually destroy the Soviet Union.

In August, 1979, the US Embassy in Kabul reported that ‘the United States’ larger interests … would be served by the demise of the PDPA government, despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.’

Read again the words above I have italicised. It is not often that such cynical intent is spelt out as clearly. The US was saying that a genuinely progressive Afghan government and the rights of Afghan women could go to hell.

Six months later, the Soviets made their fatal move into Afghanistan in response to the American-created jihadist threat on their doorstep. Armed with CIA-supplied Stinger missiles and celebrated as ‘freedom fighters’ by Margaret Thatcher, the mujahedin eventually drove the Red Army out of Afghanistan.

Calling themselves the Northern Alliance, the mujahedin were dominated by war lords who controlled the heroin trade and terrorised rural women. The Taliban were an ultra-puritanical faction, whose mullahs wore black and punished banditry, rape and murder but banished women from public life.

In the 1980s, I made contact with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, known as RAWA, which had tried to alert the world to the suffering of Afghan women. During the Taliban time they concealed cameras beneath their burqas to film evidence of atrocities, and did the same to expose the brutality of the Western-backed mujahedin. ‘Marina’ of RAWA told me, ‘We took the videotape to all the main media groups, but they didn’t want to know ….’

In1996, the enlightened PDPA government was overrun. The Prime Minister, Mohammad Najibullah, had gone to the United Nations to appeal to for help. On his return, he was hanged from a street light.

‘I confess that [countries] are pieces on a chessboard,’ said Lord Curzon in 1898, ‘upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world.’

The Viceroy of India was referring in particular to Afghanistan. A century later, Prime Minister Tony Blair used slightly different words.

‘This is a moment to seize,’ he said following 9/11. ‘The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us.’

On Afghanistan, he added this: ‘We will not walk away [but ensure] some way out of the poverty that is your miserable existence.’

Blair echoed his mentor, President George W. Bush, who spoke to the victims of his bombs from the Oval Office: ‘The oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America. As we strike military targets, we will also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering … ‘

Almost every word was false. Their declarations of concern were cruel illusions for an imperial savagery ‘we’ in the West rarely recognise as such.

In 2001, Afghanistan was stricken and depended on emergency relief convoys from Pakistan. As the journalist Jonathan Steele reported, the invasion indirectly caused the deaths of some 20,000 people as supplies to drought victims stopped and people fled their homes.

Eighteen months later, I found unexploded American cluster bombs in the rubble of Kabul which were often mistaken for yellow relief packages dropped from the air. They blew the limbs off foraging, hungry children.

In the village of Bibi Maru, I watched a woman called Orifa kneel at the graves of her husband, Gul Ahmed, a carpet weaver, and seven other members of her family, including six children, and two children who were killed next door.

An American F-16 aircraft had come out of a clear blue sky and dropped a Mk82 500-pound bomb on Orifa’s mud, stone and straw house. Orifa was away at the time. When she returned, she gathered the body parts.

Months later, a group of Americans came from Kabul and gave her an envelope with fifteen notes: a total of 15 dollars. ‘Two dollars for each of my family killed,’ she said.

The invasion of Afghanistan was a fraud. In the wake of 9/11, the Taliban sought to distant themselves from Osama bin Laden. They were, in many respects, an American client with which the administration of Bill Clinton had done a series of secret deals to allow the building of a $3 billion natural gas pipeline by a US oil company consortium.

In high secrecy, Taliban leaders had been invited to the US and entertained by the CEO of the Unocal company in his Texas mansion and by the CIA at its headquarters in Virginia. One of the deal-makers was Dick Cheney, later George W. Bush’s Vice-President.

In 2010, I was in Washington and arranged to interview the mastermind of Afghanistan’s modern era of suffering, Zbigniew Brzezinski. I quoted to him his autobiography in which he admitted that his grand scheme for drawing the Soviets into Afghanistan had created ‘a few stirred up Muslims’.

‘Do you have any regrets?’ I asked.

‘Regrets! Regrets! What regrets?’

When we watch the current scenes of panic at Kabul airport, and listen to journalists and generals in distant TV studios bewailing the withdrawal of ‘our protection’, isn’t it time to heed the truth of the past so that all this suffering never happens again?

John Pilger can be reached through his website:

[To accompany this article we provide a link to an RT broadcast of 24th August 2021 which looks at the history of Wikileaks and Julian Assange in the ‘whistle-blowing’ of the activities of the US (and NATO – including British) forces murder of the Afghani people when they entered the country 20 years ago, supposedly to ‘save’ them from the Taliban. War under capitalism and imperialism exists merely to make money for the military-industrial complex and any arguments about the ‘morality’ of such incursions are merely there to con both the working class who are the ‘boots on the ground’ and who, in their respective countries, allow their Governments to shovel vast amounts of public funds into the bank accounts of the major transnational players.

Here are a couple of interesting links that address the logistics, i.e., sheer criminal waste of money, involved in the Afghanistan ‘adventure’. Afghanistan: Black Hawks and Humvees – military kit now with the Taliban gives an idea of the sheer scale of the war materiel that the American (and, to a lesser extent those of the other interventionist nations) people are paying for to keep the transnational companies shareholders in the lap of luxury to which they have become accustomed. In the War on Terror, the only winner is the arms trade further develops that point

Continuing to bang the RT drum the most recent edition of Going Underground contained interviews which looked at the machinations of the NATO countries, and its hangers-on, to re-write the history of US involvement in Afghanistan and the debacle of its end.

Although a bit of an annoying rant this piece from RT, Afghanistan was a giant money laundering scheme also makes some pertinent points.]

Cuba – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise

La Revolucion soy yo

La Revolucion soy yo

Cuba – Hell, Purgatory and Paradise

[This article was first published (in Spanish) on the El Cohete website on July 18th 2021. The English version reproduced here was published on the Portside website on July 29th 2021.

Although this blog doesn’t see the Cuban Revolution in the same way as many romantic socialists we do accept that, within the confines of social-democracy, the people of the island have achieved a number of advances that have always been under attack by the imperialist behemoth to their north.

To take an independent stance against the capitalist ‘norm’ will always have consequences – especially in the United States’ ‘backyard’. We only have to look at what happened (or is still happening) to countries such as Chile, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Whatever the problems that might arise following the desire for independence it should never be forgotten that the costs, in the long term, of falling under the dominance of the US will lead to untold misery for the vast majority of the Cuban population.

All Marxist-Leninists support the right of countries to self-determination – especially when the country is being threatened by the murderous Imperialist United States of America.

This article (written by a Catholic priest, no less) should serve as a reminder that all actions, especially capitulation, will have consequences and there are no examples where kowtowing to imperialist pressure has benefited workers and peasants in Central and South America.]

Cuba: Hell, Purgatory and Paradise

by Frei Betto

Few ignore my solidarity with the Cuban Revolution. For 40 years I have frequently visited the island for work commitments and invitations to events. For a long period, I mediated the resumption of dialogue between the Catholic bishops and the Cuban government, as described in my books Fidel y la Religion (Fontanar/Companhia das Letras) and Paradise Lost, Trips to the Socialist World (Rocco).

Currently, under contract with FAO, I advise the Cuban government on the implementation of the Food Sovereignty and Nutrition Education Plan.

I know in detail Cuban daily life, including the difficulties faced by the population, the challenges to the Revolution, the criticisms of the country’s intellectuals and artists. I visited prisons, I spoke with opponents of the Revolution, I lived with Cuban priests and laity opposed to socialism.

When they tell me, a Brazilian, that there is no democracy in Cuba, I descend from the abstraction of words to reality.

How many photos or news have been or are seen of Cubans in misery, beggars scattered on the sidewalks, children abandoned in the streets, families under the viaducts? Something similar to the cracolândia , the militias, the long lines of patients who wait years to be treated in a hospital?

I warn friends:

  • If you are rich in Brazil and you go to live in Cuba, you will know hell. You will not be able to change cars every year, buy designer clothes, travel frequently on vacation abroad. And, above all, he will not be able to exploit the work of others, keep his employees in ignorance, be ‘proud’ of María, his cook for 20 years, and who denies access to his own home, to schooling and the health plan.
  • If you are middle class, get ready to experience purgatory. Although Cuba is no longer a state company, the bureaucracy persists, you have to be patient in the queues of the markets, many products available this month may not be found next month due to the inconsistency of imports.
  • However, if you are salaried, poor, homeless or landless, get ready to meet paradise. The Revolution will guarantee your three fundamental human rights: food, health and education, as well as housing and work. You may have a huge appetite for not eating what you like, but you will never go hungry. His family will have schooling and health care, including complex surgeries, totally free, as a duty of the State and the right of the citizen.

There is nothing more prostituted than language. The famous democracy born in Greece has its merits, but it is good to remember that, at that time, Athens had 20,000 inhabitants who lived off the labor of 400,000 slaves … What would one of those thousands of servants answer if asked about the virtues of the democracy?

I do not wish for the future of Cuba the present of Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras or even Puerto Rico, an American colony that was denied independence. Nor do I want Cuba to invade the United States and occupy a coastal area of California, such as Guantánamo, which has been transformed into a torture center and an illegal prison for suspected terrorists.

Democracy, in my concept, means the ‘Our Father’ – the authority legitimized by the popular will – and the ‘Our Bread’ – the sharing of the fruits of nature and human labor. The electoral rotation does not make, nor does it ensure a democracy. Brazil and India, considered democracies, are flagrant examples of misery, poverty, exclusion, oppression and suffering.

Only those who knew the reality of Cuba before 1959 know why Fidel had so much popular support to bring the Revolution to victory.

The country was known by the nickname ‘Caribbean brothel’. The mafia dominated banks and tourism (there are several movies about this). The main neighborhood of Havana, still called Vedado, has this name because blacks were not allowed to circulate there… The
United States was never satisfied with having lost Cuba subjected to its ambitions. Therefore, shortly after the victory of the Sierra Maestra guerrillas, they tried to invade the island with mercenary troops. They were defeated in April 1961. The following year, President Kennedy decreed the blockade of Cuba, which continues to this day.

Cuba is an island with few resources. It is forced to import more than 60 percent of the country’s essential products. With the tightening of the blockade promoted by Trump (243 new measures and, for now, not withdrawn by Biden), and the pandemic, which has zeroed out one of the country’s main sources of resources, tourism, the internal situation has worsened .

The Cubans had to tighten their belts. Then, the discontent with the Revolution, who gravitate in the orbit of the ‘American dream’, promoted the protests of Sunday, July 11 with the ‘solidarity’ help of the CIA, whose boss has just made a tour of the continent, worried about the results of the elections in Peru and Chile.

The one who best explains the current situation in Cuba is its president, Díaz-Canel:

‘The financial, economic, commercial and energy persecution has begun. They (the White House) want an internal social outbreak to be provoked in Cuba to ask for ‘humanitarian missions’ that translate into invasions and military interference. We have been honest, we have been transparent, we have been clear, and at all times we have explained to our people the complexities of today. I remember that more than a year and a half ago, when the second half of 2019 began, we had to explain that we were in a difficult situation. The United States began to intensify a series of restrictive measures, tightening of the blockade, financial persecution against the energy sector, with the aim of strangling our economy. This would cause the desired massive social outbreak, to be able to request a ‘humanitarian’ intervention,

‘This situation continued, then came the 243 measures (by Trump, to tighten the blockade) that we all know, and finally it was decided to include Cuba on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. All these restrictions led the country to immediately cut off various sources of foreign exchange income, such as tourism, Cuban-American travel to our country, and remittances. A plan was formed to discredit the Cuban medical brigades and the solidarity collaborations of Cuba, which received an important part of foreign exchange for this collaboration.

‘All this has generated a situation of shortage in the country, mainly of food, medicine, raw materials and supplies to be able to develop our economic and productive processes that, at the same time, contribute to exports. Two important elements are removed: the ability to export and the ability to invest resources. We also have limitations on fuel and spare parts, and all this has caused a level of dissatisfaction, added to accumulated problems that we have been able to solve and that came from the Special Period (1990-1995, when the Soviet Union collapsed, with a serious reflection on the Cuban economy). Along with a fierce smear media campaign, as part of the unconventional war, which tries to fracture the unity between the party, the State and the people;

‘The example of the Cuban Revolution has bothered the United States a lot for 60 years. They applied an unjust, criminal and cruel blockade, now intensified in the pandemic. Blockade and restrictive actions that they have never carried out against any other country, not even against those they consider their main enemies. Therefore, it has been a perverse policy against a small island that only aspires to defend its independence, its sovereignty and to build its society with self-determination, according to the principles that more than 86 percent of the population has supported.

‘In the midst of these conditions, the pandemic arises, a pandemic that has affected not only Cuba, but the entire world, including the United States. It affected rich countries, and it must be said that in the face of this pandemic, neither the United States nor these rich countries had all the capacity to face its effects. The poor were harmed, because there are no public policies aimed at the people, and there are indicators in relation to the confrontation of the pandemic with worse results than those of Cuba in many cases. Infection and mortality rates per million inhabitants are notably higher in the United States than in Cuba (the United States has recorded 1,724 deaths per million, while Cuba is at 47 deaths per million). As the United States entrenches itself in vaccine nationalism,

‘Without the possibility of successfully invading Cuba, the United States persists in a rigid blockade. After the fall of the USSR, which provided the island with ways to circumvent the blockade, the United States tried to increase its control over the Caribbean country. Starting in 1992, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to end this blockade. The Cuban government reported that between April 2019 and March 2020, Cuba lost $ 5 billion in potential trade due to the blockade; in the last nearly six decades, it lost the equivalent of $ 144 billion. Now, the United States government has deepened sanctions against shipping companies that carry oil to the island.’

It is this fragility that opens a flank to the manifestations of discontent, without the government having put tanks and troops in the streets. The resistance of the Cuban people, fueled by examples like Martí, Che Guevara and Fidel, has proven to be invincible. And we must, all of us who fight for a more just world, stand in solidarity with them.

[Frei Betto is a Dominican friar, liberation theologian, journalist and Brazilian writer.

His roles as a revolutionary Christian, popular educator, social movement articulator, and journalist/writer provide insight into the political and religious history not only of Brazil, but of Cuba and former socialist countries of Eastern Europe. His lifepath is one of engagement with the revolutionary struggle against the Brazilian military dictatorship in favor of social transformation. His arrest in 1969 for coordinating the safe departure of political militants from Brazil, and his concern to eliminate hunger and suffering from the poorer classes, were strong credentials as he promoted dialogue between political bodies, the religious establishment and the population at large.

Strongly influenced by the propositions of Liberation Theology, a defining thread of its activities was to seek an understanding, an accommodation, between Christianity and socialism. Friar Betto maintained close relations with former Brazilian President Lula da Silva and Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolutionary government, and wrote about how the internal dynamics of the Cuban religious universe could be applied to other countries and to different political circumstances. His writings on socialist countries, especially Paradise Lost, are aimed at promoting understanding on several levels: between the Church and the communists; between the military and politicians; between religious leaders and the people.]

Translation by Internationalist 360°