Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 11: 1981-1987

On March 29, 2010, the Associated Press reported that “a senior military official” in Washington “who was not authorized to speak publicly on the operation” said that “NATO forces in June will make a long-planned assault on the Taliban’s spiritual home in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar;” and that “military officials say they expect `several thousand’" of the 30,000 extra troops that Barack Obama recently ordered to Afghanistan “to be sent to Kandahar.” But long before the Republican Bush II Administration ordered Pentagon ground troops to begin the endless war in Afghanistan in late 2001, the Republican Reagan Administration was involving the U.S. government even more deeply in the internal political affairs of Afghanistan.

The CIA’s SOVMAT program of arming anti-feminist Afghan guerrillas, for example, continued to operate after the Democratic Carter Administration was replaced by the Reagan Administration and William Casey (a former Capital Cities Communications media conglomerate board member who also then owned over $3 million worth of stock in companies like Exxon, DuPont, Standard Oil of Indiana and Mobil-Superior Oil) became the new CIA director in 1981. As Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan : A Modern History observed:

“Bill Casey’s CIA procurers scoured the globe in search of Soviet-style weapons. Egypt, which had large stockpiles of automatic weapons, land mines, grenade launchers and anti-aircraft missiles delivered by the Soviets was the first source…Other sources were Israel, which had a supply of Soviet-made weapons—captured during the Six-Day War and from Syrian troops and Palestinians in London—and China. Using Pakistan ’s Inter-Service Intelligence [ISI] as a go-between, the CIA contracted with the Chinese government to manufacture rocket launchers, AK47s and heavy machine guns in return for hard currency and new equipment. China became a major source of supply. As the requirements grew, the CIA arranged for copies of Soviet weapons to be manufactured in factories in Cairo and in the US , where one leading firm was given a classified contract to upgrade SAM-7-anti-aircraft missiles…”

The CIA’s covert military intervention in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and early 1980s represented “the biggest single CIA covert operation anywhere in the world,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. The money the U.S. government’s CIA secretly spent on giving weapons and military aid-- via its Pakistani ISI middle-men--to the Afghan Mujahideen guerrillas grew from $30 million to $280 million-per-year between 1981 and 1985. In addition, Reagan Administration CIA Director Casey also persuaded “Arab governments to contribute to a reserve fund that could be kept secret from Congress and the State Department” during the early 1980s, according to the same book. As a result, in late 1981 the repressive Saudi Arabian monarchical regime “began to match the CIA dollar for dollar in the financing of purchases of weapons for the Afghan resistance,” “funneled more than half a billion dollars to CIA accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands,” and made “substantial direct contributions of cash and weapons to its own favorites among the Mujahideen parties” in Afghanistan.

The Bank of Credit and Commerce International [BCCI] in Geneva was the financial institution secretly used by the CIA and the Saudi government in the 1980s to manage the special “Afghan War” accounts--from which the CIA and Saudi government payments were made to the various arms dealers who supplied the weapons needed for the CIA’s covert military intervention in Afghanistan. By 1989, around $13 billion had been spent by the U.S. and Saudi governments on subsidizing the CIA and ISI’s Mujahideen militias in Afghanistan ; and around 50 percent of U.S. government-supplied weapons had been distributed to Hekmatyar’s extremely anti-feminist Hizb-I Islami guerrilla group.

Ironically, one of the strongest proponents for the escalation of the Republican Reagan Administration’s escalation of Casey’s covert war in Afghanistan in the early 1980s was a Democrat: a now-deceased Democratic Congressional representative from Texas named Charles Wilson. As John Cooley’s Unholy Wars recalled:

“The single U.S. Congressman who emerged as CIA Director William Casey’s champion Congressional ally, especially for appropriating money was Democratic Representative Charles Wilson of Texas, one of the most colorful figures of the Afghan jihad…Always ready to promote the interests of the Texas defense contractors who supported him, he got seats on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee…

“Wilson made 14 separate trips to South Asia …In 1982, he began intensive work in secret hearings of the Senate Appropriations Committee to inject more and more money into the Afghan enterprise. On one trip in 1983 he crossed into Afghanistan with a group of Mujahideen

“Wilson ’s best ally for money decisions below Casey’s level in the CIA was John N. McMahon, the agency’s deputy director since June 1982…

“McMahon did support Wilson’s efforts for more money for the jihad, after setting up, during Stanfield Turner’s watch as CIA Director [during the Democratic Carter Administration], many of the original financing and supply arrangements for the Mujahideen…”

In late 1984, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History, the U.S. Congress, “in a rare show of bi-partisanship, and prompted by friends of the Afghan resistance such as Charles Wilson, Gordon Humphrey, Orin Hatch and Bill Bradley, also took the lead in voting more money for the Mujahideen than the Reagan administration requested, sometimes by diverting funds from the defense budget to the CIA.” And CIA Director Casey personally visited three secret training camps in October 1984 to watch some of the Mujahideen guerrillas being trained in Pakistan to wage war in Afghanistan.

The CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1986-1989 who was apparently responsible for arming the Mujahideen was Milton Bearden, according to James Lucas’ “ America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article. In Bearden’s view, “the U.S. was fighting the Soviets to the last Afghan,” during the 1980s. And around 1.5 million to 2 million Afghans would be killed during the CIA-sponsored Afghan war, before all Soviet troops were eventually withdrawn by the Gorbachev regime in the late 1980s. Thousands of Afghan civilians were apparently killed, for example, as a result of the Soviet military’s bombing of apparently 12,000 rural villages in Afghanistan (as part of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] government’s “counter-insurgency” campaign) during the 1980s.

As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “all pretenses that the United States was not directly involved in the Afghan war were dissipated at a stroke late 1984,” when Republican President Reagan then publicly authorized “the delivery of Stinger surface-to-air missiles to the Mujahideen.” The delivery of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Mujahideen by the CIA “would begin to turn the tide of the” Afghan “war in 1985” against the Soviet military forces and Afghan armed forces that supported the PDPA regime in Afghanistan, according to Unholy Wars. As James Lucas noted in his “America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article:

“Between 1986 and 1989, the U.S. provided the Mujahideen with more than 1,000 of these state-of-the-art, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile launchers which by some accounts prevented a Soviet victory. Stinger missiles were able to destroy low-flying Soviet planes which forced them to fly at higher altitudes, thereby curtailing the damage they could cause."

By 1987, the U.S. government was giving the anti-feminist Afghan guerrillas nearly $700 million in military assistance per year; and were it not for the involvement of the CIA and the Pakistani government’s ISI in the 1980s war in Afghanistan, the Mujahideen might not have eventually succeeded in violently overthrowing the PDPA regime by the early 1990s. As Afghanistan: A Modern History noted, “the greatest advantage that the Mujahideen as a guerrilla force had were the safe havens in Pakistan to which they could withdraw from time to time to rest and refit, gather the supplies that they needed, receive training in the use of the increasingly sophisticated weapons that the United States was delivering, and be briefed on the superior intelligence…that the CIA was providing through the ISI.”

The same book revealed some details of how the CIA and ISI organized their military units of Afghan refugees to attack Afghanistan —in violation of international law—during the late 1970s and 1980s:

“Within the ISI, the Afghan Bureau was the command post for the war in Afghanistan and operated in the greatest secrecy, with its military staff wearing civilian clothes. Its head reported to [then-ISI Director General] Akhtar [Abdur Rahman], who also devoted some 50 percent of his time to the affairs of the Bureau and reported directly to [Pakistani President] Zia. The respective roles of the CIA and the ISI’s Afghan Bureau are best summed up by the army officer personally selected by Akhtar in October 1983 to head the Bureau, Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf:

“`To sum up: The CIA’s tasks in Afghanistan were to purchase arms and equipment and their transportation to Pakistan; provide funds for the purpose of vehicles and transportation inside Pakistan and Afghanistan; train Pakistani instructors on new weapons or equipment; provide photographs and maps for our operational planning; provide radio equipment and training, and advise on technical matters when requested. The entire planning of the war, all types of training for the Mujahideen, and the allocation and distribution of arms and supplies were the…responsibility of the ISI, and my office in particular.’”

Around 80,000 Mujahideen Afghan guerrillas were trained, for example in camps in Pakistan between 1984 and 1987. At the ISI Afghan Bureau’s 70 to 80 acre Ojhri Camp in Rawalpindi—not too far from Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad—were barracks, training areas, mess halls and a warehouse from which 70 percent of the weapons used by the Afghan Mujahadeen were distributed, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. The anti-feminist Afghan combatants were mostly recruited by the ISI and CIA from the over 3.2 million Afghan refugees who settled in Pakistan and the over 2.9 million Afghan refugees who settled in Iran between 1980 and 1990.

Yet despite the opposition of the anti-feminist Mujahideen, the PDPA government refused to scrap its program for female equality and female emancipation in Afghanistan during the 1980s. As Gilles Dorronsoro wrote in his 2005 book Revolution Unending: Afghanistan: 1979 to the Present:

“…The regime maintained the proportion of women members of the party at around 15 percent…In addition, there were women members of the party militias, especially in Kabul and in some of the northern towns. The most marked changes were in public education…In Kabul half of the holders of the public teaching posts were women, as were the majority of the staff of the Ministries of Education and Health. Similarly, 55 percent of the students were girls…Dress codes showed the beginnings of a break with traditional practices, although these innovations were mostly restricted to the modern areas of the capital and to a lesser extent of Jalalabad and Mazar-I Sharif…”

In the Afghan countryside, however, “the Mujahideen imposed an order that was much more conservative or even fundamentalist,” the “prohibition of women’s participation in public activities became stricter,” and “opposition from fundamentalists…restricted the educational opportunities for girls,” according to the same book.

(end of part 11. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 12: 1987-1992)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 10: 1979-1981

In 2010 the Democratic Obama Administration is spending another $95 billion on the Pentagon’s endless war in Afghanistan . Yet many viewers of PBS-affiliated television stations or readers of Rolling Stone magazine in the USA still probably know more about the history of rock music since the 1950s than about the hidden history of Afghanistan since 1979.

In September 1979, for example, supporters of People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA]-Khalq Premier Noor Mohammad Taraki discovered that PDPA-Khalq Deputy Premier Hafizullah Amin was plotting to kill Taraki—after political disagreements between the two PDPA-Khalq government leaders developed between March 1979 and July 1979; and Amin apparently began appointing just members of his own family to fill important Afghan government posts. But Amin was still able to force Taraki to resign as Afghan prime minister on September 15, 1979, following Taraki’s return from abroad after attending a conference of leaders of Non-Aligned nations. And Amin apparently then arranged for former PDPA-Khalq leader Taraki to be killed on October 8 or 9, 1979.

When Taraki had visited Moscow in March 1979 to first request that Soviet ground troops be sent into Afghanistan to help his government’s Afghan army defeat the anti-feminist Mujahideen guerrillas, the Brezhnev regime had refused to send large numbers of Soviet troops across the border into Afghanistan at that time. But Taraki—who, along with Amin, had personally signed in Moscow the December 5, 1978 Treaty of Friendship between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan —had apparently been considered friendlier to the Soviet Union than the Columbia University Teachers College and University of Wisconsin-trained Amin. So after Taraki was killed, the Brezhnev regime in the Soviet Union apparently decided that the PDPA-Parcham faction leader that Amin had demoted in late June 1978—Babrak Karmal—should replace Amin as Afghan head of state (if large-scale Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan was required to prevent the U.S. and Pakistani-backed Afghan Mujahideen militias--which by then controlled 23 of Afghanistan’s 28 provinces--from quickly overthrowing the increasingly unpopular government that had been established by the April 1978 Saur Revolution).

On December 12, 1979, the Brezhnev regime did decide to order large numbers of Soviet ground troops to cross the Soviet-Afghan border and march into Afghanistan on December 23, 1979. One result of this internationally unpopular December 1979 decision was that 13,369 members of the Soviet military would subsequently be killed (and 35,578 troops would be wounded), according to official Soviet government casualty figures.

On December 27, 1979, 300 Soviet commandos then surrounded and attacked Amin’s residence at 7 p.m.--at the same time that other Soviet troops seized Kabul ’s radio station. An apparently recorded message from PDPA-Parcham faction leader Karmal, announcing that he was the new head of the Afghan government, was then broadcast over the radio--while Amin and Amin loyalists unsuccessfully fought until 1 a.m. against the 300 Soviet commandos who were attempting to arrest Amin. After being taken to Soviet military headquarters in Kabul , Amin was apparently then executed.

The Democratic Carter Administration next used the Brezhnev regime’s internationally unpopular military response to the Pakistani and U.S. governments’ covert support for regime change and the right-wing Mujahadeen insurgency in Afghanistan as a pretext for once again requiring U.S. men between 18 and 26 years of age to register for a future U.S. military draft. As Democratic President Carter explained in his January 23, 1980 State of the Union speech:

“…The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two-thirds of the world's exportable oil. The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world's oil must flow. The Soviet Union is now attempting to consolidate a strategic position, therefore, that poses a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.

“This situation demands careful thought, steady nerves, and resolute action, not only for this year but for many years to come….It demands the participation of all those who rely on oil from the Middle East…

“…I believe that our volunteer forces are adequate for current defense needs, and I hope that it will not become necessary to impose a draft. However, we must be prepared for that possibility. For this reason, I have determined that the Selective Service System must now be revitalized. I will send legislation and budget proposals to the Congress next month so that we can begin registration and then meet future mobilization needs rapidly if they arise…”

Former Columbia University Professor and then-National Security Affairs Advisor Brzezinski then visited Pakistan in February 1980 and “met with General Akhtar, the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence ] chief, as well as with [then-Pakistan] president Zia-al-Haq and with CIA station chief in Islamabad John J. Reagan,” according to John Cooley’s Unholy Wars: Afghanistan , America and International Terrorism.

But because covert CIA aid to the Afghan resistance fighters violated international law, “both Washington and Islamabad went to extraordinary lengths to cover up their” increased military “assistance to the Afghan Mujahideen,” according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also noted that “for this reason it was decided that only Warsaw Pact weaponry would be delivered, as such weapons could not be traced back to the US …”

So “the Cold Warriors in Langley, Virginia ” then “developed…a top-secret program, codenamed SOVMAT,” which “was probably unknown even to President Zia al-Haq and the holy-war commanders in Pakistan’s ISI,” according to Unholy Wars. The same book also described how the CIA’s secret SOVMAT program of the early 1980s operated:

“…Working with a vast army of phony corporations and fronts, the CIA under the SOVMAT program would buy weapons from East European governments and governmental organizations…Their acquisition and testing by the U.S. military and the CIA facilitated development of counter-measures, such as improved anti-tank weapons used by the Mujahideen

“…Officials running the CIA’s SOVMAT program provided wish lists for CIA and ISI officers operating from Pakistan, who sent their Afghan mercenaries to ransack Soviet supply depots…Some Afghan fighters were taught in their CIA-managed training by the ISI in Pakistan to strip Soviet SPETZNAZ or special forces soldiers of their weapons…”

(end of part 10. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 11: 1981-1987)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 9: 1978-1979

As the New York Times (4/26/10) recently observed, “small bands of elite American Special Operations forces have been operating with increased intensity for several weeks in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan ’s largest city, picking up or picking off insurgent leaders…in advance of major operations, senior administration and military officials say.” So if you’re a Where's The Change? blog reader who’s also a U.S. anti-war activist, perhaps now might also be a good time for you to revisit the post-1978 history of people in Afghanistan ?

Following the April 27, 1978 “Saur [‘April’] Revolution” in Afghanistan, for example, a Revolutionary Council of the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan [PDRA]was established on May 1, 1978 with People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA]-Khalq faction leader Noor Mohammad Taraki as its President and Premier, PDPA-Parcham faction leader Babrak Karmal as Vice President, 30 PDPA civilians as members and 5 pro-PDPA military officers as members; and on May 6, 1978, Taraki announced that Afghanistan was now a non-aligned and independent country. Soon afterwards, however, control of the post-April 1978 revolutionary government of Afghanistan was shifted to the PDPA’s Politburo.

According to an article by John Ryan, titled “Afghanistan: A Forgotten Chapter,” which appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2001 issue of Canadian Dimensions, labor unions “were legalized, a minimum wage was established, a progressive income tax was introduced, men and women were given equal rights, and girls were encouraged to go to school,” by the post-April 1978 revolutionary government in Afghanistan. All debts owed by Afghan’s peasants and small farmers were also abolished; and 200,000 rural families were scheduled to receive redistributed land in accordance with the PDPA government’s land reform program. In addition, the PDPA government elevated the Uzbek, Tucoman, Baluchi and Niristani minority languages to the status of national language in Afghanistan, deprived members of the Afghan royal family of their citizenship and began building hundreds of schools and medical clinics in the Afghan countryside. A female member of the PDPA/PDRA’s Revolutionary Council, Dr. Anahita Ratebzad, also wrote, in a May 28, 1978 Kabul Times editorial, that “privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country;” and “educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention.”

Once the PDPA had gained control over the Afghan government, however, internal party conflict between the leaders of its Parcham faction and its Khalq faction developed again; and at a June 27, 1978 PDPA Central Committee meeting, “Karmal and other leading Parchamis were shunted off to lives in glorified exile as ambassador” and “virtually ousted…from the government” by the Khalq faction, according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History. A number of Parcham activists were then also imprisoned by the PDPA-Khalq faction’s regime. Besides Taraki, the PDPA-Khalq faction in late June 1978 was also now being led by Hafizullah Amin--the Columbia University Teachers College graduate (who some Afghan leftists subsequently claimed may have been previously recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency when he studied in the United States--during the Cold War period when the Afghan monarchical government was considered by the CIA to be too friendly with the Soviet Union).

Karmal, who had been appointed Afghanistan’s ambassador to Czechoslovakia, apparently then met with “Parchamis who were still in place, notably Defense Minister Qadir and the Army Chief of Staff, General Shahpur Ahmedzai;” and a PDPA-Parcham faction internal coup against the PDPA-Khalq faction’s Taraki-Amin regime was planned for September 4, 1978, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. But in August 1978, Amin learned of the planned coup, arrested Qadir and Ahmedzai, and “went on a witch-hunt for Parchamis, eliminating them and their sympathizers from key government and party posts and filling the jails with them,” according to the same book.

Right-wing Islamic opponents of the Taraki-Amin regime in rural Afghanistan, meanwhile, also began to soon organize against the mixing of sexes in the classrooms of the post-Saur Revolution’s literacy campaign and against its democratic reform of Afghan’s marriage laws--which would now abolish forced marriages, now insure freedom of choice of marriage partner and now make 16 years the minimum age for marriage. But the anti-feminist rural Afghan religious leaders, rural village heads, and rural elders who opposed the literacy campaign and marriage law reforms--along with their followers--were also either repressed in large numbers by the PDPA-Khalq regime in 1978 or fled to Pakistan during the last 6 months of 1978. As James Lucas’s recent “ America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan ” article recalled:

“…Efforts to introduce changes involved a degree of coercion and violence directed mainly toward those living in areas outside of Kabul where the vast majority of the population lived in mountainous, rural and tribal areas where there was an exceptionally high rate of illiteracy. Steps to redistribute land were initiated but were met by objections from those who had monopoly ownership of land.

“It was the revolutionary government’s granting of new rights to women that pushed orthodox Muslim men in the Pashtun villages of eastern Afghanistan to pick up their guns. Even though some of those changes had been made only on paper, some said that they were being made too quickly.

“According to these opponents, the government said their women had to attend meetings and that their children had to go to school. Since they believed that these changes threatened their religion, they were convinced that they had to fight. So an opposition movement started at that point which became known as the Mujahideen, an alliance of conservative Islamic groups.”

The anti-feminist Afghan alliance of Sunni Islamic party groups, also known as the “Peshawar Seven,” soon called for a jihad, or holy war, against the post-April 1978 revolutionary government in Afghanistan. And by the end of 1978, some 80,000 Afghans from the eastern half of Afghanistan had reached Pakistan;” and “eight training camps were established in the North West Frontier Province” by Pakistan’s right-wing military dictatorship “to turn simple Afghan refugees into guerrilla fighters,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

A report in the February 1979 issue of the Swiss newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung indicated that the CIA apparently initially provided Pakistan’s military dictatorship with the money needed to purchase weapons for the anti-feminist Afghan refugees that it began training in late 1978. According to John Cooley’s 2001 book Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, American and International Terrorism, “Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] officers and a few key Afghan guerrilla leaders were first secretly schooled in the service training centers of the CIA and the US Army and Navy Special Forces in the United States” and “main training took place under the watchful eyes of the Pakistanis and sometimes a very few CIA officers in Pakistan…”

In response, the Taraki-Amin regime signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the government of the neighboring Soviet Union on December 5, 1978, which then agreed to provide more Soviet military advisors and Soviet military aid for the PDPA-Khalq government in Afghanistan. Yet “in January 1979 a first contingent of some 500” anti-feminist Afghan guerrillas, “under the banner of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizbi-i-Islami” group," still “entered Kunar province, attacked Asadabad, its principal town, and captured a strategically located government fort,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. Hekmatyar’s followers had initially “gained attention” in Afghanistan “by throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil” according to journalist Tim Weiner.

In the western half of Afghanistan, Afghan Shiite Islamic party groups also had prepared for armed resistance to the post-April 1978 revolutionary government; and in February 1979 the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs, was taken hostage by an anti-government Shiite Islamic group that demanded the release by the PDPA-Khalq government of a political prisoner. The U.S. Ambassador was then killed during a shootout between Afghan police and his anti-government captors. The following month, hundreds of Afghan government officials (who were in charge of introducing the women’s literacy program in the western city of Herat ) and their Soviet advisors--along with members of their families—were apparently killed by rebellious local Afghans and a garrison of mutinous Afghan government soldiers in Herat on March 24, 1979. Major attacks were then made in Jalalabad, in Pattia province, and in Gardez during April 1979, “by Mujahideen organized from Pakistan by Syyed Ahmd Gailani and Mujaddidi,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

Even before Democratic President Carter secretly signed a July 3, 1979 directive to officially provide covert military aid to the anti-feminist Islamic guerrillas in Afghanistan (that Pakistan’s ISI agency had covertly trained to seek a regime change in Afghanistan), both the Tarkai-Amin regime and the government of the Soviet Union had accused Pakistan’s military dictatorship of illegally intervening in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, in violation of international law. As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “both Kabul and Moscow were convinced, not without reason, that the spreading insurrections in Afghanistan were encouraged, armed and directed by Pakistan.”

Yet Pakistan ’s military dictatorship apparently lied about its role in illegally intervening in the internal affairs of Afghanistan following the April 1978 Saur Revolution in Afghanistan. As Afghanistan: A Modern History recalled:

“Whenever such charges were publicly leveled at Pakistan, they were flatly denied. Pakistan was able to maintain the fiction…The whole support program was a very covert operation from beginning to end, conducted in…secrecy by the ISI whose chief, General Akhtar, reported directly to [then-Pakistani Dictator] Zia…The fiction was maintained even when the level of support reached massive proportions after the United States became involved…”

Prior to the introduction of large numbers of Soviet troops into Afghanistan by the Brezhnev regime in December 1979, the Carter Administration apparently also was not completely honest about the degree to which it was working for a regime change in Afghanistan by illegally intervening in Afghanistan’s internal affairs in early 1979. For example, as Steve Galster observed in his “ Afghanistan : The Making of U.S. Policy 1973-1990” article:

“According to a former Pakistani military official who was interviewed in 1988, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad had asked Pakistani military officials in April 1979 to recommend a rebel organization that would make the best use of U.S. aid. The following month, the Pakistani source claimed, he personally introduced a CIA official to Hekmatyar who… headed what the Pakistani government considered the most militant and organized rebel group, the Hizbi-i Islami…”

And according to John Cooley’s 2001 book, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, during “the summer of 1979…National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski got Carter to sign a secret directive for covert aid to the Mujahideen resistance fighters.” As Brzezinski--a former Columbia University Professor of Government and former policy advisor to Barack Obama--confessed in a January 15, 1998 interview with the Paris newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur:

“…According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahideen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec. 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul . And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention…We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.”

The Unholy Wars book also observed that “Charles Cogan, until 1984 one of the senior CIA officials running the aid program…agrees with Brzezinski…that the first covert CIA aid to the Afghan resistance fighters was actually authorized fully 6 months before the Soviet invasion—in July 1979…” As a then-classified U.S. State Department Report of August 1979 stated, "the United States larger interests…would be served by the demise of the Taraki-Amin regime, despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan," according to James Lucas’ recent “America’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article.

(end of part 9. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 10: 1979-1981)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 8: 1977-1978

Right-wing anti-feminist Islamic parties and Mujahideen or Taliban militias have exercised a special influence in Afghan politics since the 1980s. But the history of people in Afghanistan between 1977 and 1978 indicates that the radical secular left People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] also played an historically significant role in Afghan politics.

In July 1977, for example, Noor Mohammad Taraki’s PDPA-Khalq faction/party and Babrak Karmal’s PDPA- Parcham faction/party agreed to form one, united PDPA party, with a 30-member Central Committee in which each faction would be represented equally. After Mohammad Daoud seized control of Afghanistan ’s government in 1973, the Khalq faction of the now-united PDPA had apparently been successful in persuading more members of the Afghan military to join the PDPA. A key role in the PDPA-Khalq faction’s recruitment of members of the Afghan military into the PDPA was apparently played by a graduate of Kabul University , the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University Teachers College named Hafizullah Amin, who had lived and studied in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

But between July 1977 and April 1978, Afghan ruler Daoud was apparently “moving towards a one-party dictatorship by banning all political parties and opposition newspapers and by setting up his own National Revolutionary Party,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History by Angelo Rasanayagam. Yet 85 percent of Afghanistan ’s 15 million people in March 1978 were still “either peasants who made a precarious living off the land, or nomads.” The same book also indicated how the standard of living for most people in Afghanistan under the Daoud regime compared to the standard of living existing in other countries of the world in March of 1978:

“…The economic and social indicators relative to Afghanistan were the worst in the world. Per capita income was $157…It was the most backward country in the world with respect to energy consumption, with almost the entire rural population having no access to electricity. The country also ranked among the lowest in the world in terms of public health facilities, with one doctor for every 16,000 Afghans, 80 percent of the doctors being concentrated in Kabul …76 percent of Afghan children had not received any education, with no more than 4 percent of rural girls having ever attended a primary school. Afghanistan occupied the 127th place in the world in terms of literacy…”

While 45 percent of Afghanistan ’s cultivated land in March 1978 was owned by just 5 percent of all Afghan landowners (who owned between 25 to 50,000 acres each), 60 percent of all landowners were still impoverished peasants who each only owned between 5 to 10 acres of cultivated land, from which they earned little money.

But after the autocratic Daoud regime apparently imprisoned or executed numerous PDPA-Parcham leaders and activists--and following the assassination of a leading PDPA-Parcham faction activist and Afghan Marxist intellectual, Mir Akbar Khyber (by the two gunmen who had led him out of his house), on April 17, 1978--Afghan government ruler Daoud was killed on April 28, 1978 during Afghanistan’s “Saur [April] Revolution” of April 1978. Yet according to Afghanistan: A Modern History, the April 27, 1978 Afghan Revolution “was in fact a military coup carried out by leftist officers of the” Afghan “armed forces under the direction of the PDPA without any popular participation.”

Following the murder of PDPA activist Mir Akbar Khyber (who was the editor of the Parcham faction’s Parcham newspaper), the PDPA had organized a funeral procession and demonstration by 15,000 supporters at which PDPA leaders Babrak Karmal and Noor Mohammad Taraki each gave anti-imperialist speeches. But the Daoud regime had responded to the demonstration by arresting Karmal, Taraki and a few other PDPA leaders during the night on April 25, 1978 and early hours of April 26, 1978. According to Afghanistan: A Modern History, however, “the arrests of the PDPA leaders implied that their sympathizers in the armed forces had to take urgent action to forestall their own arrests and certain execution by Daoud.”

So, after first taking over the armories, command centers and radio station in Kabul on April 27, 1978--and announcing on Radio Kabul that a military council led by a pro-PDPA-Parcham faction Afghan Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Abdul Qadir Dagarwal, now controlled Afghan’s government—supporters of the PDPA-Khalq faction within the Afghan military (led by Lt. Col. Mohammad Raf of the Fourth Armored Corps and his troops) overcame the resistance of Daoud’s 2,000-man presidential guard (most of whom were apparently killed in the fighting); and seized Afghanistan’s presidential palace in the early hours of April 28, 1978. After Daoud apparently resisted arrest by wounding one of the pro-PDPA military officers who attempted to arrest him, Daoud and his family were then “killed in a burst of gunfire” by other pro-PDPA military officer-led troops, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also notes that “except for a strong note…protesting against the arrests of the PDPA leaders…there was no Soviet involvement in what was purely an Afghan affair, not-withstanding Cold War-biased Western reports to the contrary.”

(end of part 8. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 9: 1978-1979)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 7: 1968-1976

Since Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, between 500 and 800 people have been killed by Pentagon drone attacks in Pakistan, as a by-product of the U.S. War Machine’s endless military intervention in Afghanistan. Yet much of the history of people in Afghanistan since 1968 may not still be widely-known, even by many readers of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States.

In 1968, for example, when student revolts broke out in the United States at Columbia University, in France, in Mexico and in other countries of the world, student revolts also broke out in Afghanistan and “student strikes that began in Kabul spread to provincial centers, where students who had returned to teach and work had become carriers of a new politically radicalized militancy,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History by Angelo Rasanayagam. The following year, Afghan workers also struck for better pay and better working conditions in the few places in Afghanistan where some factories existed. Between 1965 and 1973, two thousand meetings and demonstrations—mostly led by activists of the secular leftist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] factions/parties—were held in Afghanistan which demanded more democratic reforms and modernization efforts in Afghanistan .

But right-wing Islamic opponents of democratic reforms and modernization efforts in Afghanistan also mobilized between 1965 and 1973 in Afghanistan . In 1971, for example, the University of Kabul “was closed for six months as a result of the bitter confrontation between Islamic and leftist radicals,” according to Afghanistan : A Modern History. The same book also recalled that in the early 1970s in Afghanistan:

“The Islamic backlash also took the form of attacks instigated by the mullahs on women wearing Western dress. They were incensed by the campaigns for female literacy and women’s rights led by the All-Afghanistan’s Women’s Council. According to a senior leader of the Council interviewed by George Arney, the mullahs declared in 1971 that women should stay in the house. Reactionaries sprayed acid on women’s faces when they came out in public without a veil. And when women wore stockings they shot at their legs with guns with silencers…”

By the early 1970s, dozens of Afghan political groups existed on campus at the University of Kabul . In addition, around 2,500 people in Afghanistan were also members of the PDPA faction/party [Khalq] led by Noor Mohammad Taraki and 1,500 to 2,000 Afghans were members of the PDPA faction/party [Parcham] led by Babrak Karmal. The number of people in Afghanistan who were members of the secular Maoist party was also between 1,500 and 2,000 in the early 1970s. But the Islamic party in Afghanistan still only had between 1,500 and 2,000 members. Yet, as James Lucas noted in an article, titled “America’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan”, that was posted on March 5, 2010 on the site, “according to Roger Morris, National Security Council staff member, the CIA started to offer covert backing to Islamic radicals as early as 1973-1974.”

Nearly all the members of the PDPA faction/parties, the Maoist party and the Islamic party in Afghanistan in the early 1970s, however, were still just members of the educated urban middle-class; and all of these political groups still did not have much of an organizational presence or mass base outside of Kabul, in the rural areas of Afghanistan.

Yet many people in the countryside were suffering from the effects of a drought in Afghanistan between 1964 and 1972, which developed into a famine in 1971 and 1972. One result of this famine in Afghanistan in 1971 and 1972 was that between 50,000 to 500,000 people starved to death because of the famine. And 75 percent of Afghanistan ’s land was still owned by only 3 percent of Afghan’s rural population in 1973.

Backed by Afghan military officers, Mohammad Daoud (the brother-in-law of Afghan King Zahir Shah who had previously been the Afghan monarchical regime’s autocratic prime minister between 1953 and 1963) then seized control of the Afghan government from the Afghan king (who had been sitting on the throne since 1933) in a July 17, 1973 coup—while Zahir Shah was on a holiday in Europe. After his 1973 palace coup abolished the monarchy, Daoud next “set up an authoritarian regime which made the government isolated” and “moved rapidly to undermine all the representative institutions” in Afghanistan “and, in particular, Parliament,” according to Revolution Unending: Afghanistan: 1979 to the Present by Gilles Dorronsoro. The same book also recalled that “to avoid any challenge Daud systematically suppressed the opposition, both legal and illegal” in Afghanistan and “following the coup the former Prime Minister and leader of the social democratic Hezb-I Demokrat-I Mottarki party, Dr. Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal ,who had been in power in 1965-67, was arrested in September 1973 and executed.”

Yet long before the U.S. government began to covertly arm the anti-feminist Mujahideen guerrillas during the Democratic Carter Administration—following the 1978 Afghan Saur (‘April’) Revolution and prior to the December 1979 Soviet government’s military intervention in Afghanistan—even the non-communist, autocratic Daoud monarchical regime and the post-1973 non-communist Daoud authoritarian regime felt that it was in Afghanistan’s national economic interest to align itself with the Soviet Union during the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. As Afghanistan : A Modern History recalled:

“…Economic hardships caused the Afghans to turn to the Soviets for help…A four-year barter agreement was signed in July 1950, with the Soviets providing petroleum products, cement, cotton cloth and other essentials in return for wool, raw cotton and other Afghan products. The Soviets also agreed to the free transit of Afghan exports through their territory, and offered to invest in oil exploration…”

After lending the Afghan government money to construct a grain silo, a flour mill and a bakery in Kabul in 1954, for example, the Soviet government followed-up with loans for constructing an oil pipeline and three oil storage facilities, for road-building equipment, and for an asphalt factory and equipment to pave Kabul’s streets. Nearly $1.3 billion in Soviet economic assistance, mostly in the form of loans, was given to the non-communist Afghan government between 1956 and 1978; and an additional $110 million was received by the Afghan government from other Eastern bloc governments during the same period.

The U.S. government, in contrast, only began to provide some economic assistance to the non-communist, autocratic Afghan monarchical regime in 1956; and, after 1956, also began awarding some Afghan students grants to study at certain U.S. universities. But, according to James Lucas’s recent “ America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article:

“The CIA…recruited Afghan students in the U.S. to act as agents for them when they returned home. During this period at least one president of the Afghanistan Students Association (ASA), Zia H. Noorzay, was working with the CIA in the U.S. and later became president of the Afghanistan state treasury. One of the Afghan students whom Noorzay and the CIA tried in vain to recruit, Abdul Latif Hotaki, declared in 1967 that a good number of the key officials in the Afghanistan government who studied in the U.S. `are either CIA-trained or indoctrinated.’”

Coincidentally, the Afghanistan Student Association [ASA] also apparently received part of its funding from the CIA’s Asia Foundation conduit [on whose board sat then-Columbia University President Grayson Kirk] during the Cold War Era.

In addition, between the mid-1950s and 1978, the Teachers College of Columbia University—under a U.S. Agency for International Development [AID] government contract—was involved in training teachers, developing educational curriculum and producing textbooks for the autocratic Daoud monarchical regime’s Ministry of Education in both Afghanistan, at the Ibn Sinn Teacher Training Institute in Kabul, and at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City.

Military assistance was also given by the Soviet Union to the non-communist, autocratic monarchical Afghan regime during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Between 1956 and 1978, for example, the Afghan government “received the equivalent of $1.24 million in military aid from the USSR , mostly in the form of credits” and “by 1978 some 3,725 Afghan military personnel had been trained in the Soviet Union,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

But after the Shah of Iran’s regime agreed to provide the Afghan government with $2 billion in economic aid in 1975 and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Kabul, Afghanistan in August 1976, the non-communist, authoritarian Daoud regime apparently began to reverse Afghanistan ’s post-1950 policy of aligning with the Soviet Union.

(end of part 7. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 8: 1977-1978")

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 6: 1953-1967

In 2010, hundreds of thousands of Afghans are still displaced from their homes as a result of the U.S.-led or U.S.-supported military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan that have taken place since the Pentagon began its endless war in Afghanistan in October 2001. Yet most graduate students in history at U.S. universities were apparently never even required to take a course in the history of Afghanistan when they were undergraduates.

But in a 1953 palace revolution in Afghanistan , for example, Afghan Prince Mohammad Daoud--a cousin and brother-in-law of King Zahir Shah--became the Afghan monarchical regime’s Prime Minister, with the backing of the Afghan royal family; and Daoud then governed Afghanistan in an autocratic way between 1953 and 1963. As a result, “avowed Marxists like Dr. Mahmodi…spent the entire Daoud decade in jail” and other Afghan leftist dissidents, like Mir Akbar Khyber and Afghan leftist student dissident Babrak Karmal, “were released in 1956 on condition that they did not persist in their political activities,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History by Angelo Rasanayagam.

But after being released from prison in 1956, serving two years in the Afghan military and then becoming a student again, Babrak Karmal—the politically radicalized son of an Afghan general and provincial governor—began to recruit dissident left-wing Afghan intellectuals and activists to begin meeting in secret “study circles” inside Afghan private homes during the early 1960s. Four secret Afghan study circles of radical left Afghan dissidents were formed, one of which was led by Karmal. Another one of the four secret Afghan study circles during the early 1960s was led by an Afghan writer named Noor Mohammad Taraki, who had become politically radicalized while working in India between 1934 and 1937, when India was still a UK colony.

After Daoud involved the Afghan government in a dispute with Pakistan ’s government that provoked a closing of the Afghan-Pakistan border (which led to a decline in Afghan government revenues), Daoud was forced to resign as prime minister on March 9, 1963. A new, more democratic constitution was then drafted and promulgated in 1964 by the Afghan monarchical government.

Meanwhile, in January 1965, 30 members of the four secret study circles of dissident radical left Afghan intellectuals and activists met at Noor Mohammad Taraki’s house to secretly form the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] a/k/a Khalq (“Masses”) and to elect a 7-member Central Committee and four alternate Central Committee members. In 1965 an election was also held in Afghanistan to choose members of a two-house Afghan parliament and Mohammad Yusuf was chosen to succeed Daoud as the new Afghan government’s prime minister.

Running as individuals, 4 members of the PDPA were then elected to parliament in the early 1965 Afghan elections. In Kabul , for example, two PDPA members were elected to the lower house of Afghan’s parliament: Babrak Karmal and Dr. Anahita Ratebzad. An Afghan woman physician, Dr. Ratebzad won through election one of the only four Afghan parliamentary seats in the lower house that were reserved for Afghan women in 1965. Both Karmal and Ratebzad also led the Afghan student demonstrators outside the opening session of parliament which demanded further democratization of Afghan political life and that the open formation of political parties in Afghanistan now be legalized.

But in October 1965, Afghan government troops opened fire on protesting students who were shouting slogans outside the home of Afghan Prime Minister Yusuf; and three of the students were killed. Dr. Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal , the leader of the Hezb-I Demokrat-I Mottarki social democratic party (which was less politically radical than the underground PDPA), was then named to replace Yusef as the new Afghan prime minister in November 1965.

In 1965—the same year that the PDPA was formed—a group of professors and teachers who were led by the head of Theology of Kabul University, Gholam Mohammad Niazi, started the Society of Islam (“Jamiat-i-Islam”). These leaders of the Society of Islam in the late 1960s were on the Afghan monarchical government’s payroll; and the Society of Islam’s student group, the Organization of Muslim Youth, “operated openly, organizing demonstrations and fighting” leftist Afghan students in the late 1960s, before winning student elections at Kabul University in 1970, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

Within the radical leftist PDPA between 1965 and 1967, meanwhile, two factions developed: one faction led by Karmal and one faction led by Taraki.; and in May 1967, the original PDPA split apart into two parties calling themselves the PDPA, with each party having its own central committee and general secretary (Karmal and Taraki). Karmal’s PDPA faction/party was called Parcham (named after its newspaper, Parcham/”Banner”), while Taraki’s PDPA faction/party was called Khalq (named after its newspaper, Khalq/”Masses”). Following the release from prison and death in 1966 of the “doyen of Afghan Marxism,” Dr. Abdul Rahman Mahmoodi, some followers of Mahmoodi also formed a smaller pro-Beijing Maoist party in Afghanistan, which gained some support for awhile from Afghan industrial workers that enabled it to lead some strikes of workers in Afghanistan .

(end of part 6. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 7: 1968-1976)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 5: 1933-1953

The U.S. War Machine has been bombing Afghanistan for over 8 years in its endless war against the Taliban regime’s Afghan government. Yet over 80 percent of Afghanistan ’s territory in early 2010 was apparently still controlled by the Taliban regime and other armed Islamic guerrilla groups in Afghanistan that are apparently now allied with the Taliban. One reason neither the Republican Bush II Administration nor the Democratic Obama Administration may not have been able to quickly achieve a military victory in its endless war in Afghanistan might be because most members of the Militaristic U.S. Establishment’s foreign policy-making elite apparently still don’t know very much about the history of the people of Afghanistan.

Nadir Shah’s successor as Afghan King, Muhammad Zahir Shah, sat on the Afghan throne, for example, from 1933 to 1973—although he apparently never received as much U.S. mass media coverage in the USA during his 40 year reign in Afghanistan as did either Queen Elizabeth II or Princess Di of England. But in the 1930s, “fascist intelligence agents…succeeded in penetrating the government apparatus and particular branches of the Afghan economy as `consultants,’ `advisers’ and `experts,” according to The Truth About Afghanistan by S. Gevortom. The same book also noted that:

“The German colony in Afghanistan…greatly increased on the eve of the Second World War…Hitler’s agents Schenk, Fischer, Wenger and Knerlein…infiltrated the war ministry and the ministry of public works of Afghanistan…Nazi Germany managed to spread its influence among tribes in the south of Afghanistan and in the north-western border areas.”

And apparently Nazi agents in Afghanistan encouraged increased anti-Semitism in Afghanistan during World War II; so that the economic situation of the remaining Afghans of Jewish background deteriorated when Zahir Shah’s monarchical government restricted their economic activity to local trading only and removed them from the foreign trade positions some had previously held.

But Zahir Shah’s government did not align Afghanistan with Nazi Germany during World War II. Instead, Zahir Shah's government announced in November 1941 that--like the Irish government of Eamon DeValera--it would remain neutral during World War II.

Yet during Zahir Shah’s forty-year reign, demands for more democratization and modernization in Afghanistan began to also be made by some people in Afghanistan.

A secret society of supporters of constitutional reform and democratization, the People of the Afghan Youth (“ Halqa-yi-Jawani-I Afghanistan ”) was formed and then broken up by the monarchical regime. But after Zahir Shah appointed his uncle, Shah Mahmud Khan, to be the Afghan monarchy’s prime minister in 1945, Shah Mahmud ordered the release of all Afghan political prisoners.

The first student union in Afghanistan , the Union of Students, was then founded in 1946 and its political orientation was liberal reformist and anti-imperialist. The following year, the anti-monarchist, Awakened Youth [“Weekh--Zalmayan’] group of Afghan nationalists was started, which openly discussed the ideal of setting up a democratic republic in Afghanistan .

Then, in 1949, a parliamentary election was held and 40 percent of the elected members of the new Afghan parliament favored democratization and modernization reforms. So, not surprisingly, the Afghan parliament next passed a 1949 law which finally legalized freedom of the press in Afghan society.

Predictably, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History by Angelo Rasanayagam, “the enactment of laws permitting freedom of the press led to the appearance of newspapers and other publications whose favorite targets became the” Afghan “ruling family oligarchy and” Afghan “conservative religious leaders.”

At the same time, between 3,500 and 5,000 Afghans of Jewish background still lived in Afghanistan in 1949--with more than 2,000 of them residing in the city of Herat and deriving their family incomes from the Persian carpet trade or from employment as tailors and shoemakers. But aside from a few wealthy families of Jewish background, most of the Afghans of Jewish background were forbidden to leave the country between 1933 and 1950. After 1951, however, they were allowed to emigrate from Afghanistan.

So by 1966, many Afghans of Jewish background had moved to either India or Israel/Palestine and only about 800 people of Jewish background now lived in Afghanistan; and by 1967 nearly 4,000 people of Afghan background now lived in Israel/Palestine.

By December 1969, only a few dozen Afghans of Jewish background still lived in either Herat or in Kabul; and, in all of Afghanistan, there were now only about 300 Afghans of Jewish background. And by 2005, according to the New York Times, only one Afghan of Jewish religious background apparently still lived in Afghanistan.

At Kabul University , meanwhile, during the early 1950s, the Union of Students “became a forum for free-wheeling debate and attacks on the status quo” in Afghanistan , according to Afghanistan : A Modern History. A Movement of the Enlightened Youth, the TNB (“Tehrik-i-Naujawanan Baidar”), was also started by young students in Afghanistan which, in its manifesto, called for: 1. granting legal rights to Afghan women; 2. a democratic Afghan government which was accountable to an elected Afghan parliament; 3. eradication of official corruption in Afghanistan ; 4. the formation of political parties in Afghanistan; and 5. the economic development of Afghanistan’s economy.

After a 1952 demonstration was held by these groups which demanded that people in Afghanistan be allowed to form political parties, however, the monarchical Afghan government prevented any further protest by these dissident political groups. According to Afghanistan: A Modern History, for example, just before a 1953 palace revolution in Afghanistan, the Movement of the Enlightened Youth/TNB group of young political dissidents “was suppressed” by the Afghan monarchical regime and “some of its more vocal leftists were jailed.” The same book also recalled that among the Afghan leftist dissidents imprisoned in 1953 were included Dr. Abdul Rahman Mahmoodi (who was “the doyen of Afghan Marxism”), an Afghan historian named Mir Ghulam Mohammad Ghubar and an Afghan Marxist intellectual named Mir Akbar Khyber.

(end of part 5. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 6: 1953-1967)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 4: 1924-1933

Between January 2009 and late March 2010, nearly 400 U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the Pentagon’s endless war in Afghanistan . Yet the history of people in Afghanistan is still unknown to many people in the USA .

In July 1928, for example, Afghan King Amanullah, for a second time, attempted to enact a series of democratic reforms in Afghanistan by convening a loya jirga—a meeting of Afghanistan’s leading tribal and religious leaders—and urging it to support the following reforms: 1. establishment of a Western-style constitutional monarchy, a cabinet of ministers, an elected lower legislative house of representatives and a nominated upper legislative house; 2. separation of religious and state power; 3. legal emancipation of women and abolition of polygamy; 4. compulsory education for all Afghans; and 5. establishment of co-educational schools.

Most of Amanullah’s July 1928 proposed modernization and democratic reforms were rejected, however, by the members of the loya jirga meeting. So Amanullah then convened a new loya jirga meeting that only included his own political supporters, which then approved all his reform proposals and also banned slavery, declared Afghanistan to be a secular state and legally abolished the use of a chadar or veil by Afghan women. But agents of the UK government in Afghanistan such as T.E. Lawrence (a/k/a “Lawrence of Arabia”) apparently then encouraged the religiously conservative Afghan tribal leaders who opposed Amanullah’s democratic reform program--because it reduced their power, privileges and special influence within Afghan society--to start another uprising against Amanullah’s regime. According to The Truth About Afghanistan book by S. Gevortom:

“In late 1928 by bribery and deception British agents managed to provoke a rebellion among certain tribes in the eastern part of Afghanistan . A British Intelligence agent, Col. T.E. Lawrence, arrived in the north-western province of India . Under the alias of aircraftsman Shaw he became very active in arranging meetings with Afghan opposition leaders and virtually directed anti-government activities in Afghanistan …”

By November 1928 Shinwari Pashtun tribesmen in Afghanistan had burned down Amanullah’s winter palace and were marching on Kabul to overthrow his regime. So after fleeing to Kandahar , Amanullah then abdicated in favor of his brother Inayatullah Khan, before eventually going into exile in Italy . But, ironically, the Shinwari Pashtun tribesman had also burned down the UK government’s consulate in the city of Jalalabad before marching on to Kabul .

So, not surprisingly, British agents then created “another center of rebellion in northern areas of Afghanistan where their henchman Bacha Saquo was operating,” according to The Truth About Afghanistan. The same book also recalled:

“On the eve of his force’s attack on Kabul his envoys had a secret meeting with British ambassador Humphreys to clarify details of the planned seizure of the Afghan capital. On February 28, 1929, the British Daily Mail wrote that Britain’s representative in Kabul, Humphreys, had helped…Bacha Saquo to come to power…Supporting the rebels…British military aircraft time and again violated the air space…British planes flew over Kabul…”

So only three days after Amanullah’s abdication in January 1929, Saquo--a Tajk bandit from northern Afghanistan--entered Kabul with his followers and “seized Kabul, overthrew the…government and proclaimed himself” the Afghan king, according to The Truth About Afghanistan. But, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History by Angelo Rasanayagam, the UK government-backed Saquo then “subjected the city and its…inhabitants to nine month reign of terror” in which there was much looting, pillage and raping of women by his troops.

Not surprisingly, in response to the 9-month reign of terror in Kabul , armed Afghan opposition to Saquo’s regime soon developed within Afghanistan and though, initially, “strongly supported by the imperialist and internal reactionary forces,” according to The Truth About Afghanistan, Saquo did not remain in power for long. After the UK government apparently ended its support for Saquo--and began to back the Afghan tribal army of General Mohamad Nadir Khan and his Afghan clan—Saquo’s troops were soon defeated.

The Afghan tribal army of Nadir Khan and his Afghan clan then occupied Kabul in October 1929; and Saquo and his leading followers were publicly hanged in November 1929--“despite a pledge to spare Bacha Saquo’s life and a promise of safe passage signed on a copy of the Koran by the victorious general,”when Saquo had agreed to surrender the previous month, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

Nadir Khan then was placed on the Afghan throne, himself, by his tribal army; and in September 1930 a jirga was convened which officially proclaimed Nadir Khan as Nadir Shah, the new Afghan king. Nadir Shah then built up a regular Afghan army of 40,000 men, opened up the Afghan economy to privately-owned corporations and promulgated a new Afghan Constitution in 1931--before being assassinated by an Afghan high school student in November 1933.

Under the Afghan Constitution of 1931, an autocratic monarchical political system linked to Afghan religious conservatives was re-established and the religious law of the Hanafi School of Sunni Islam was decreed as the official law of Afghanistan . The imams of Afghan mosques were then put on the Afghan government payroll during Nadir Shah’s brief reign and relatives of influential Afghan religious figures were all appointed by Nadir Shah to lucrative government positions.

It was also during Nadir Shah’s four-year reign that the first Afghan higher educational institution, the Faculty of Medicine, was set up in 1932. But, prior to his assassination in 1933, “there was a perception that Nadir Shah leaned towards” UK imperialism too much, because the UK government had “granted him 170,000 pounds” after his seizure of power in 1929, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History.

Following Nadir Shah’s assassination in 1933, the remaining Afghans of Jewish religious background were only allowed to live in Herat , Balkh or Kabul and were prohibited from living in other towns in Afghanistan . In Herat , Balkh and Kabul , Afghans of Jewish background apparently also only now lived in separate neighborhoods from the neighborhoods in which Afghans of other religious backgrounds lived. In addition, after 1933 they were not allowed to leave Herat, Balkh or Kabul without a permit and were required to pay a special yearly poll tax. Between 1933 and 1950, people of Jewish background in Afghanistan were also not allowed to obtain jobs in the Afghan monarchical government’s civil service; and their children were not allowed to attend Afghan government schools.

(end of part 4. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 5: 1933-1953)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 3: 1901-1924

Over 2,000 Afghan civilians have been killed in the endless war in Afghanistan since Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009. But the U.S. mass media news departments still seem to pay more attention to the individual deaths of Israeli civilians in war than to the individual deaths of Afghan civilians in war. Yet--although many Afghans of Jewish religious background emigrated during the second half of the 19th century--in the early 20th century around 12,000 people of Jewish background still lived in Afghanistan . According to the 2007 edition of Encyclopedia Judaica:

“…The Jewish communities of Afghanistan were largely composed of… Meshed Jews…Economically, their situation in the last century was not unfavorable; they traded in skins, carpets, and antiquities…”

Some of the wealthiest Afghans of Jewish background derived their wealth from having special economic interests in neighboring Czarist Russia. But after their foreign investments in Russia were nationalized by the revolutionary government in Russia following the October Revolution of 1917 and Afghan’s monarchical government began monopolizing the foreign trade which had previously been a source of wealth for Afghans of Jewish background, they became increasingly pauperized. So more of them then emigrated; and only between 3,000 and 4,000 people of Jewish background still lived in Afghanistan by the 1930s.

But after inheriting the Afghan throne in 1901, Abdur Rahman’s son, Habibullah Khan, was (like his father) paid an annual subsidy by the UK government—even after a 1905 treaty between Afghanistan and the UK removed the official right of the UK government to control Afghan foreign policy. And Habibullah controlled the Afghan government from 1901 until he was assassinated in February 1919.

During the reign of Afghan King Habibullah, some intellectual criticism of both UK imperialism and the nature of Afghan’s antiquated feudalist society in the early 1900s began to develop. A then-46-year-old Afghan intellectual named Mahmud Tarzi, for example, began to publish in 1911 a bi-monthly newspaper, Seraji-al-Akhbar, that “became a vehicle for his critical views on imperialism, the need for the modernization of Afghan society, and on the resistance to change of Muslim clerics” in Afghanistan, according to Angelo Rasanayagam's Afghanistan: A Modern History.

Then, when Habibullah was assassinated after about 18 years on the Afghan throne, the son who succeeded him on the Afghan royal throne, Amanullah Khan, began to be advised by the anti-imperialist Seraji-al-Akhbar publisher-journalist Tarzi. Both Tarzi and the top Afghan army generals—whose support following his father’s murder enabled Amanullah to succeed his father as ruler—urged Afghan King Amanullah to proclaim the complete independence of Afghanistan on April 13, 1919. But in response to this declaration of Afghanistan ’s independence, UK military forces bombed the Afghan monarchical government’s military encampment at Dakka on May 9, 1919, killing 20 to 30 Afghan soldiers and Afghan tribesmen. The Afghan monarchical government then declared war on UK imperialism on May 13, 1919; and on May 15, 1919 the Afghan War of Independence (a/k/a the Third Anglo-Afghan War) began.

After three columns of Afghan troops marched towards India (which was then still a colony of UK imperialism that also included what is now Pakistan and Bangla Desh), British military planes next began to bomb the Afghan cities of Jalalabad and Kabul . The Afghan War of Independence was then soon ended in August 1919 by the Treaty of Rawalpindi, in which the UK government--despite dictating the terms of the treaty-- again officially agreed to allow the Afghan government to control its own foreign affairs and officially recognized Afghanistan ’s independence.

During 1919, Amanullah also established a Council of Ministers and appointed Tarzi to be the Afghan government’s foreign minister. Four years later Amanullah also promulgated a new Afghan constitution that was modeled on the 1906 Persian/Iranian constitution, retained his position as King under the new constitution and attempted to institute some democratic reform and modernization internally in Afghanistan . But Amanullah’s 1923 proposals for the emancipation of Afghan women, compulsory education for all Afghans and co-educational schools in Afghanistan were opposed by Afghan’s religiously conservative tribal leaders. At the same time, the independent foreign policy pursued by Amanullah’s government—which had signed a friendship treaty with the government of the neighboring Soviet Union on February 28, 1921-- displeased the UK government.

So, according to the book The Truth About Afghanistan by S. Gevortom, the UK government then “hatched plots,” “resorted to such tried and tested means as bribing” Afghan “tribal chiefs and religious leaders and supplying arms and ammunition to” Afghan “tribes,” and "actively supported the extreme right of the Moslem clergy which was in opposition to Amanullah.” British agents, in the spring of 1924, then “succeeded in organizing a major tribal uprising in Khosta, a region of Afghanistan bordering” on UK imperialism’s then-colony of India . The same book also noted:

“The uprising spread to some other regions of Afghanistan . The insurgents demanded the repeal of progressive laws and reforms adopted by Amanullah’s government and insisted on a pro-British line in Afghan policy.”

Amanullah’s supporters within the Afghan army, however, were able to suppress this UK government-backed Afghan uprising of 1924. But Amanullah still lacked as strong an army or as strong a government bureaucracy as the Turkish leader Ataturk had at his disposal, when Ataturk was able to introduce some secular democratic reforms in Turkey ( during this same historical period). So Amanullah was unable to immediately move forward with his democratic reform program, even after the 1924 revolt in Afghanistan was suppressed by his Afghan army supporters.

(end of part 3. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 4: 1924-1933")

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lynne Stewart's 10-Year Sentence: The NYU & Columbia Law School Connection

Federal District Court judge John Koeltl recently re-sentenced Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart to 10 years imprisonment--for the act of photocopying and mailing a press release for one of her clients. Coincidentally, Judge Koeltl was also paid $20,000 by NYU Law School in 2008 for apparently also working as an NYU Law School adjunct professor, according to Judge Koeltl’s financial filing. The same 2008 financial filing also indicates that Judge Koeltl owned stock in corporations such as Royal Dutch Shell, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Judge Koeltl was ordered to revisit his original 28-month sentence of Lynne Stewart “when it was overturned by a two-judge majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit” and “Judges Robert D. Sack and Guido Calabresi ruled that Koeltl’s” original “sentence was flawed,” according to a recent statement by Jeff Mackler, the West Coast Director of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee. Coincidentally, the November 2009 legal decision that ordered Judge Koeltl to revisit his original 28-month sentence of Lynne Stewart was written by a Columbia University Law School faculty member named Robert D. Sack.

Judge Sack, the son of Park Slope rabbi Eugene Sack, was the Columbia University Law School Commencement speaker in 2007. In his May 17, 2007 Columbia University Law School commencement speech, Sack confessed the following:

"My father was a reform rabbi with a pulpit in Park Slope Brooklyn...

"...It would be foolish to think that which judge happens to sit on your panel never matters. Sometimes it does...

"I took a job with Patterson, Belknap & Webb here in New York. A partner of the firm, later my mentor, Bob Potter, greeted me at the door. He said, `The most fun around her is representing The Wall Street Journal.' And I said--`Yes. I'll do that.' That's how I got into media law."

Besides sitting on the U.S. federal judiciary bench (having, like Judge Koeltl, been appointed by Secretary of State Clinton’s husband in the 1990s), Columbia Law School Professor Sack has also sat next to two top Dow Jones Company executives--Stuart Karle and James Ottaway Jr.--while serving as a board member of the William F. Kerby and Robert S. Potter Fund.

Coincidentally, Lynne Stewart was the lawyer for the still-imprisoned 1968 Columbia Strike Leader David Gilbert during the 1980s; and the Obama Administration Justice Department which decided to push for Stewart's imprisonment in the Columbia Law School faculty member's federal courtroom is headed by a former Columbia University Trustee named Eric Holder. In addition, at least two current U.S. Supreme Court justices are also former members of the Columbia Law School faculty.

The judicial branch of the U.S. federal government is supposed to be independent of both the U.S. Senate and Columbia University Law School. Yet after Columbia Law Professor Sack wrote the unjust November 2009 legal decision that ordered Judge Koeltl to revisit his original 28-month sentencing of Lynne Stewart, the former Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York--a 1993 Columbia University Law School graduate named Preet Bharara--wrote a motion--on behalf of a U.S. Justice Department that is headed by former Columbia University Trustee Eric Holder--requesting that the bail of the 70-year-old woman human rights lawyer be revoked. And that Stewart be imprisoned immediately.

But in the introduction to its 2005 pamphlet, titled The Case of Lynne Stewart: A Justice Department Attack on the Bill of Rights, the National Lawyers Guild noted:

"When Lynne released for public dissemination to the media a statement from her client--an act that the Justice Department was fully aware of about which it took no action for years--it was assumed her actions fell within current norms of protected legal advocacy. Following a change in administrations as well as the stigma of 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft convened an unseemly press conference and appeared later that day on the David Letterman Show to announce the bootstrapping of that minor violation of regulations into a full blown `terrorism' charge against her.

"Lynne Stewart, known in New York for defending poor and politically controversial clients for decades, was made part of a seven-count indictment, accusing her of `conspiracy' with two others, her translator and a legal assistant. The evidence presented at trial included the secret recordings of her meetings with her client...The evidence showed, at most, that in her effort to counterbalance the devastating effects of her client's lengthy isolation, she had released the press statement years earlier as part of the defense campaign to keep him in the public eye...

"Her trial and conviction were a travesty...

"This case brings us all to a cross-roads. Either we protest her conviction and demand respect for the Sixth Amendment and the rights of clients and attorneys to execute defense strategy without governmental interference and the constant threat of prosecution, or we consent to a radical rewriting of the right to counsel, thereby endorsing the administration's view of a new America ruled by administrative fiat, unhindered by Constitutional restraint..."

If you check out the May 1, 2009 financial disclosure form that Columbia Law School faculty member Robert D. Sack filed for 2008, you’ll notice that Sack was paid $7,500 by Columbia Law School in 2008. In addition, Judge Sack apparently also received $72,000 in 2008 from the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Retirement Plan—at the same time he was employed as both a federal court judge and a lecturer at Columbia Law School.

Coincidentally, the lawyer who served as the principal legal advisor to the National Security Council in the Bush White House, Michael Edney, now works in the Washington, D.C. office of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP firm whose “retirement plan” apparently paid Judge Sack $72,000 in 2008. As a press release, titled “Former White House Legal Advisor Returns to Gibson Dunn in D.C.,” that was posted on the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP website on May 13, 2009 revealed:

“Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP welcomes back Michael J. Edney to its Washington, D.C. office after four years of high-level Executive Branch experience in the White House… Edney rejoins the approximately 125-lawyer litigation practice group in the Washington, D.C. office, including more than a dozen former Department of Justice attorneys….From 2007 to 2009, Edney served as a principal legal advisor to the National Security Council in the White House. In that position, he participated in crafting and implementing the Administration’s response to national security legal matters in the courts...

“Edney resumes his litigation practice at Gibson Dunn after a four-year absence…In 2007, he joined the National Security Council staff in the White House…His responsibilities included advising senior White House policymakers…”

A former Assistant United States Attorney named Alexander Southwell also began working in 2007 at the New York office of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP firm whose “retirement plan” apparently paid Judge Sack $72,000 in 2008. As a July 24, 2007 press release on the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP website noted:

“…Mr. Southwell joins a number of former Assistant U.S. Attorneys at Gibson Dunn…Mr. Southwell served from 2001 through 2007 as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Who Profited From The New York Yankees Under Steinbrenner Dynasty In 1990s?

(Before the Steinbrenner Dynasty apparently formed its Yes Network in partnership with Goldman Sachs in 1997 to restructure the New York Yankees' ownership arrangement, the following column item appeared in the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newsweekly, Downtown, on 6/29/94)

As Baseball and Billions: A Probing Look Inside The Big Business Of Our National Pasttime noted in 1992, "anyone who has tried to inquire into the business of baseball knows that the industry is run like covert operations at the CIA, or perhaps as the CIA would like them to be run" and "almost all the franchises are privately held and do not publicly issue income statements or other financial reports..." The same book also estimated that in the early 1990s the Yankees were worth over $250 million and earned over $50 million a year in local media rights. In reference to [the now-deceased] New York Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner, Baseball and Billions revealed the following:

"According to one account related to the author, Steinbrenner actually invested up front less than $100,000 of his money. More recently, it has been claimed that Steinbrenner and his minority partners pocketed $100 million (presumably coming as a signing bonus) of the roughly $500 million provided in the 12-year cable contract between the team and MSG network, rather than reinvesting it in baseball operation...Another story reaffirms that Steinbrenner and his partners walked off with a $100 million of the cable contract and claims that Steinbrenner was motivated to do this in order to bail out his troubled American Ship Building company."

(Downtown 6/29/94)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gulf + Chevron + Texaco + Unocal = Chevron

In 1990, Everybody's Business: An Almanac recalled:

"Gulf used to lift anywhere from 1 million to 3 1/2 million barrels a day from Kuwait. So their daily profit was more than $1 million--from Kuwait alone...Gulf loaded its Kuwaiti oil on their tankers and sold it around the world. They became Japan's number 1 oil supplier."

And, according to the 2008 book by Antonia Juhasz, The Tyranny of Oil:

"...The largest merger [of the 1980s]...was...when Chevron purchased Gulf Oil for a record-breaking $13.3 billion in 1985...

"...It was the first merger between members of the exclusive Seven Sisters. It was also the largest merger in corporate history at the time, whereby the fourth-largest oil company in the nation was purchased by the fifth-largest company...Overnight the merger nearly doubled Chevron's worldwide crude reserves to about 4 billion barrels and increased its natural gas reserves by three-quarters. The merger also made Chevron the number one refiner and gasoline retailer in the United States, giving it thirty-four refineries and close to 30,000 service stations worldwide.

"Chevron added exploration and production projects where it was already operating, such as in the Gulf of Mexico, Canada, and the North Sea, as well as in West Africa, where Gulf's reserves suddenly advanced the company to a leading position. Chevron also acquired Gulf's other assets, including the Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company and Warren Petroleum, a manufacturer and a seller of natural gas liquids, respectively. The FTC [Federal Trade Commission responsible for preventing monopolization of U.S. oil industry by a few giant transnational corporations] hardly blinked..."

In its 1989 Annual Report, Chevron reported:

"Chevron International Oil Company purchases most of the 750,000 barrels of oil that Chevron imports daily. As part of its strategy to diversify Chevron's sources of crude oil, the company now buys large volumes from Mexico and Iraq in addition to its long-established sources in Saudi Arabia..."

But, not surprisingly,as The Tyranny of Oil observed:

"...After more than one hundred years of `independence,' Texaco became part of the Standard Oil fold when its 2001 merger with Chevron was given the green light...

"...In the case of Chevron and Texaco, the two wanted to move more aggressively into `lucrative but highly risky deepwater offshore projects in West Africa, Brazil and the Caspian Sea.'..

"The merged company briefly went by the name ChevronTexaco, but reverted back to Chevron in 2005, the same year it purchased the Union Oil Company of California (Unocal) for $18.2 billion. The Unocal purchase brought ChevronTexaco 1.7 billion new barrels of crude, increasing its total reserves by about 15 percnt. Unocal had significant holdings in the U.S. Gulf Coast, in the Caspian Sea, and in Asia-Pacific.

"The mergers propelled Chevron to the powerful position of second-largest oil company in the United States, third-largest U.S. corporation, and seventh-largest company in the world..."