Deep state intellectual Zbigniew Brzezinski turns up everywhere but he is perhaps most known for his role in the founding of Operation Cyclone – NATO’s program to support the mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. The media coverage, both mainstream and alternative, has focused on misleading interpretations of what happened and when, much of which has been encouraged by Brzezinski himself. I examine this coverage and identify the key questions – when did the arming of the mujahideen begin: before or after the Soviet invasion at the end of 1979 and what role did Brzezinski play in that?
To answer this I go through several documents from both the American and British governments that prove that Brzezinski is lying when he says the arming of the mujahideen did not begin until after the invasion. I also show that he is lying when he says he wrote a memo to Carter describing Afghanistan as the Soviets’ Vietnam. Finally I show that The Real News were being misleading when they, at Brzezinski’s stimulation, reported that he played no role in the decision to arm the mujahideen with lethal weapons.
That was Zbigniew Brzezinski on the BBC show Newsnight towards the end of last year, talking about the report in the CIA’s kidnap and torture operations. Operations which are disguised by the euphemism of extraordinary rendition. But while Brzezinski is lying in that interview, or at least is playing a game of manipulation and deceit via his comments in that interview, it is not this topic that I want to talk about today. It’s something that was touched on right at the end of that interview – Brzezinksi’s role in funding the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Or more specifically, Brzezinski’s role in lying about when the NATO powers began arming, not just funding, the mujahideen in Afghanistan.
I imagine most of you already know this little bit of background but I’m going to say it anyway. Afghanistan in the 1970s was a place of serious political instability. In 1973 the King who had ruled relatively successfully for 40 years was overthrown. As much as I think monarchies are an outdated and stupid form of government, Afghanistan in the mid 20th century was not a bad place to live. Kabul was known as the ‘Paris of Central Asia’. But then the King’s cousin, Mohammed Daoud Khan deposed the monarchy in a coup in 1973 and declared himself president. Things started to go downhill. The President was a moderniser, and as always happens with reformist governments there is resistance and this develops into factionalism and rivalry.
So in 1978 there is a Communist revolution against Daoud Khan, el presidente he is no more, they kill him off Bolshevik style and take over the government. The problem is that the Communists did not have a clue how to run a government, and had little support in any part of the country except Kabul, the capital city. The rural areas which were tribal, ethnically diverse and mostly very religious did not trust a central government that was Communist.
They reached out to the Soviets for help, and received some though the Soviet internal documents show that their leadership considered that a Communist revolution in a deeply religious country where hardly anyone reads and so it’s much harder to indoctrinate them, was a revolution that was unlikely to stick. I’ll link up a collection of Soviet documents put together by the National Security Archive which demonstrate that they didn’t really want to commit military resources in support of a client government that was always going to fail.
Similarly, the US weren’t all that interested in Afghanistan at this point, it was only in 1979 that the political machinery even became aware that this country they didn’t have much to do with had temporarily gone Communist. That’s not to say that the intelligence services weren’t aware of what was going on, I’m sure they were, and even at this point were probably doing things to help stir up the rural religious peoples to begin turning them into a mujahideen, a fighting force. But the western political leadership did not seem to give a damn until well into 1979.
After about 18 months of reformist Communist government and a religiously motivated low-level rebellion against that, there was another coup this time within the Afghan communist party where the deputy Prime minister kills the president, el presidente he is no more, and we get yet another new government. So that’s three different coup d’etats in 6 years.
The problem for the new president was that the Americans had already begun funding the rebellion to help it grow and become more violent. On July 3rd Jimmy Carter had signed an order formalising American support to the mujahideen in Afghanistan. It had no doubt been going on to some extent before that, but this made it official. Note – this is at the exact same time at the Jerusalem Conference on International Terrorism was taking place.
However, according to the official US version they did not begin arming the mujahideen until after the Soviets invaded in December. And indeed, I do think the Soviet invasion took some people by surprise. That said there are British government files that show that refer to satellite photography of the Afghan border with the Soviet Union in the weeks leading up to the invasion that prove the Western powers knew about this ahead of time.
At this point in the story the alt media usually jumps in and starts waving around this notorious interview with Brzezinski that was published in Le Nouvel Observateur in January 1998. It quotes Brzezinski talking about ‘drawing the Russians into the Afghan Trap’ and implies that the CIA were arming the mujahideen before the Soviet invasion. I am sure you are all familiar with this article and the way the alt media usually interprets it.
The problem is that Brzezinski has subsequently denied this interpretation of his comments, not exactly saying he was misquoted but saying that he never agreed to that arrangement of his comments with those implications. And that may be true – journalists are pretty amoral from my limited experience of them, they aren’t that bothered about quoting people out of context.
Now, the news outlet where Brzezinski has most obviously denied the Nouvel Observateur version of events is The Real News, which is a left of centre Democrat supporting alt media outlet. I’ll play you the whole thing so you can be sure that I, at least, am not quoting Brzezinski out of context. I’ll also include the bit after that where the presenter of the Real News explains how they followed up on what Brzezinski told them to see if it was true, then we’ll come back and catch Brzezinski in this lie:
So that was The Real News trying to convince you that the Western powers were not supporting the mujahideen with weapons until after the Soviet invasion, and that Brzezinski wasn’t involved in arming the mujahideen anyway, that was all someone else.
In order to prove this is a lie we have to answer Brzezinski’s call and show some documents. So that’s what I’m going to do, because I like documents. They are usually a lot less ambiguous than people, at least in terms of being historical sources. Obviously documents cannot offer you the many other wonderful things people can but they are a fun way to catch someone like Brzezinski in a lie.
I will include for you two memos sent just after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, both marked not just Secret but also ‘outside the system’ which refers to a circle within a government circle. The first is from Marshall Brement, a National Security Council staffer, sent to Brzezinski. It outlines a ‘menu’ of options, a list of potential responses to the Soviet invasion. It is Brement’s memo which talks of giving the Soviets their own Vietnam. The second is Brzezinksi’s own memo to Carter which includes Brement’s memo as an attachment. So it wasn’t Brzezinski who actually came up with the line about Vietnam, though he tries to take credit for it because it sounds good.
For the much more important lie, that the Western powers were not arming the mujahideen before the invasion, to prove that we have to look at something I’ve never come across in any history of the Soviet-Afghan war. This is simply something I stumbled across in one of my many late night internet searches.
It is a record of a meeting of the Special Coordination Committee in mid December 1979 – before the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. Who were the Special Coordination Committee? They were the interagency group with political responsibility for US covert operations. They are the secret team that various authors have spoken about. If you look on the wikipedia page on Oversight of United States Covert Operations you’ll see some of the different names that this group has had under different administrations. Under Carter, it was called the Special Coordination Committee.
Who sat on this Committee? People from the White House, including Brzezinksi, from the National Security Council, the Treasury, department of Energy, Departments of State and Justice, and of course representatives from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. The documents shows that some of these participants only took part in some sections of the meetings of the Committee, they were presumably sent out of the room for the other discussions. So this is very high level stuff, the sort of thing you usually don’t find much evidence of.
And I found two different versions of a record of the meeting of this Committee prior to the Soviet Invasion. The first one I admit I cannot actually remember which website I found this on, because it was some years ago now. I know that won’t fill you with confidence but the second record, which is more extensive anyway, appears to confirm the first record’s authenticity, came via an unimpeachable source. When I was reading the book Ghost Wars by Steve Coll, which despite doing things like taking 9/11 at face value is still an excellent book, when I was reading that I went through all the footnotes to see where this information was coming from. I came across references to the Cold War International History Project, and a pair of e-books they’d put together with several hundred pages of documents from each side of the war – the Soviet side and the American side. So I looked up who the Cold War International History Project are, and they are run by the Woodrow Wilson Center, and these e-books were compiled for a 2002 conference called ‘Towards an International History of the War in Afghanistan’.
So on December 17th 1979 what was this Committee discussing? Among other things they spoke about Afghanistan, and the records show that they agreed on a strategy that included the following:
‘we will explore with the Pakistanis and British the possibility of improving the financing, arming and communications of the rebel forces to make it as expensive as possible for the Soviets to continue their efforts’
So even at this point, before the invasion, they were liaising with Pakistani and British intelligence to finance, arm and provide communications to the rebel forces, the mujahideen. There’s no ambiguity here. They do not say they will talk with the Pakistanis and British to begin arming the rebels, they say they will talk with them about improving the arming of the rebels. This means they were already involved in arming the rebels, by the time this meeting took place. So, Brzezinski is lying, and this is a document that proves it.
Also, when The Real News say that Brzezinski was not involved the arming of the mujahideen, at least not involved in the more lethal weapons, that was that nasty Republican Ronald Reagan, they are either lying or just wrong. For one thing, as if Reagan had a sodding clue what was going on, he gave over control of the intelligence services to his vice president George Bush. For another, Brzezinksi was part of these meetings of the Special Coordination Committee. And for another, he was a key member of a meeting in Paris in January 1980, just weeks after the Soviet Invasion.
At this meeting the US and UK were trying to drum up support for the covert operation. Files from the British government archives detail British Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong and Zbigniew Brzezinski meeting with German Foreign Minister Bernd Von Staden and French Secretary General Jacques Wahl. Armstrong and Brzezinski were trying to convince Wahl and Von Staden of the merits of supporting the mujahideen.
The British files include Armstrong’s own record of the meeting and on the cover memo he writes ‘ For obvious reasons, I am circulating it separately from the record of the rest of the discussion.’ Just like the ‘outside the system’ memos from the White House, this is another illustration that something more than the usual government processes was going on. These records, however implicitly, are signs of the deep state in operation.
At this Paris meeting one of the issues that came up was all the refugees fleeing Afghanistan and taking up residence on the Pakistan border. This raised, among other problems, the possibility of a border war, leading to regional instability. Brzezinski was all for keeping the refugee camps where they were, and even for arming them with surface-to-air missiles. Now, that didn’t happen at the time, but it shows that this idea of putting stinger missiles or other surface to air missile weapons into Afghanistan precedes the Reagan administration. That’s simply a fact. It also completely undermines the story told in the film Charlie Wilson’s War, and the book of the same name. In short, it’s all bullshit, and these are the documents proving that it is bullshit.
So that is how to catch someone like Brzezinski in a lie. I know this episode is a bit heavy, certainly very document heavy but if you want to play eenie meenie miny moe, catch Brzezinski by the toe then this is the way you have to do it. Because if you take his words from a media interview, then like in the very first clip I played you where he’s talking about torture, he can duck and dive and sell you a dummy and confuse you. But these documents are records of meetings that he participated in, and even records of things he said at those meetings. No wiggle room, no exceptions, he is simply lying about this.