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Thursday, January 03, 2019

Donald Trump learned his "history" from a Russian source

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and for many years afterward, no American dared to suggest that the story had more than one side. If you even whispered that forbidden thought, you were denounced as a commie. I speak from experience, kids.

How things have changed! Behold: History according to Trump.
“Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia. ...The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.”
You probably expect this post to veer into a discussion of the Soviet/Afghan war. Why bother? I've talked about it before. As some of you know, I have long been of the opinion that Zbigniew Brzezinski (Carter's Kissinger, Mika's father) did everything he could to sucker the Russians into that quagmire.

(The Afghan civil war followed hard upon the Iranian revolution, and both events caused the Soviets to fear an Islamic rebellion within their own territory. Zbig encouraged the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, which he felt could be used as a weapon against communism -- the greater menace, in his eyes. As he later told an interviewer: "What's a few riled-up Muslims?" Those words seemed like a grim joke after September 11, 2001. We should also note that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan also proved incredibly helpful to the American right; without that event, Reagan may not have won.)

The really interesting aspect of the above-quoted passage is this: How did Trump learn what he is pleased to consider "history"?

Yes, he's old enough to recall the invasion of Afghanistan, as am I. But until now, he displayed no interest in the topic. He never offered an opinion differing from the wisdom most Americans received from the mainstream media. He has never before spoken in an explicitly pro-Soviet fashion.

Let's repeat that: He has never before spoken in an explicitly pro-Soviet fashion. Yet Trump's supporters still recklessly apply the label "commie" to anyone they don't like.

Everything about the afore-quoted passage suggests that Trump -- a spectacularly ill-educated human being -- learned these "facts" quite recently.

He does that a lot, you know. It's always cute when The Man With the Cosmic Brain shows off some nugget of knowledge which plonked into his skull just a short while before. Remember when he announced that "Most people don't know President Lincoln was a Republican"? Translation: He didn't know that very basic fact of American history; everyone else did.

As David Frum notes, we should be concerned by the lingo. Let's look again at Trump's actual words:
The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.
During the Soviet "experience" in Afghanistan, Soviet propaganda used two terms for the mujahideen (the CIA-supported warriors who banded together to drive out the invaders). Moscow-based media called these fighters "terrorists" and "bandits."

No, I will not be sidetracked into a discussion of whether those terms have any justification; such a debate would be beside the point. For present purposes, the important point is this: American sources never referred to the mujahideen as "terrorists." I'm not just talking about the American government or mainstream media: Even the hardcore lefties on Pacifica radio refused to use that terminology. Anyone who talked that way while Carter or Reagan was in office would have been considered a traitor.

What about the assertion that the mujahideen had sent fighters into the USSR? Back in the 1980s, not even by the most strident opponents of Ronald Reagan would have said such a thing. Near as I can tell, Trump is the only American who thinks that the Afghans invaded the Soviet Union before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

The accusation that "The Afghans crossed the border first" does not appear in Wikipedia's lengthy article on the USSR/Afghan conflict. It doesn't appear in David Isby's Russia's War in Afghanistan. Nobody in the American State Department tells the story this way. Neither the American military or intelligence establishment would justify the Soviet invasion in this fashion. I doubt that anyone in academia would agree with Trump.

(I could be wrong about that. On any given topic, there's always a professor somewhere who enjoys flaunting his unconventionality.)

Conclusion: Trump's "Afghans invaded the USSR" claim almost certainly came from a Russian source.

Which source? Who told him these things? Did Trump speak to Putin directly?

It has been an important ideological project of the Putin regime to rehabilitate and justify the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Putin does not care so much about Afghanistan, but he cares a lot about the image of the USSR.
It’s fitting that Putin’s campaign to reimpose official lying would culminate in a glorification of the catastrophic Afghanistan war. And clearly, that campaign has swayed the mind of the president of the United States.
The importance of this matter should not be understated. Donald Trump doesn't know much history, but what little he does know (or thinks he knows), he has apparently acquired from a Russian -- perhaps from Putin himself.

I'll say it again: Damn, but things have changed since Reagan was in office!

When are the Republicans going to notice this gross historical revisionism? When are they going to cease offering justifications for ideas and practices they once would have considered intolerable?

A word about the shutdown: During the past few days, I've been reticent to blog, or even to watch the news. The shutdown is the only thing that anyone on teevee wants to talk about, even though there's little fresh to say. It's not easy to take 90 seconds of information and stretch it thin enough to fill a 24/7 news channel.

Despite all the triumphalist rah-rah we are hearing from the Democrats, I think Trump will win this one. Trump and the Dems are engaged in a game of chicken. It's one jalopy speeding toward the other. That game is always won by the sicko who doesn't mind crashing.

Update: Yes, I promised not to get mired in the history of the Soviet invasion. But it may be worthwhile to note this previously-secret official British assessment, issued at the start of that conflict:
“Aid to the rebels is highly desirable in itself. A prolonged counter-revolutionary war there could only have the most profound effects on the whole Soviet system. Certainly anything in the nature of a Soviet ‘Vietnam’ – to use an analogy which has been widely employed – would presumably have the same effect on a government in Moscow as the real Vietnam did in Washington."
During the early 1980s, I did not know that such thoughts were being expressed behind the scenes, but I had my suspicions. And that's why I felt certain that the story had more than one side. Nota bene: My use of the phrase "more than one side" does not mean that I believe the version now promoted by Putin and Trump.
It's a surprise to me that the Mujahids raid over the border into the USSR is even controversial. That claim was certainly made in an Adam Curtis documentary I saw many years ago. That was in the days of the War on Terror, when Russia was an ally against al Qaeda and the Taleban.

Of course the odds that Trump saw a documentary like that are about the same as the odds that he got the information from reading an obscure academic tome, but the information didn't necessarily come from a Russian.
Hate to put you on the spot, Stephen, but can you recall the title of the Adam Curtis documentary? I've seen nearly everything he has made, but I don't recall that. Of course, I can hardly claim to have a perfect memory.

At any rate, if there was a raid, it could have been staged as a casus belli. I have yet to find a published source. I guess such a thing COULD have happened, but no-one mentions such a raid as a cause or justification for the Soviet invasion.

I was paying attention to American left-wing media at the time; the left was very concerned by the renewed Cold War hysteria and was trying to make the world safe for detente again. You'd think that THEY would have made a big deal out of such a raid -- if it happened.
I'm afraid I can't remember, and I've also seen all our most of his stuff, including stuff that was only in his blog or the iPlayer and his segments on Newswipe, so it would be hard to narrow down. I think it was part of a larger discussion of Afghanistan, though, I definitely remember something about American engineers introducing irrigation to Afghanistan which contaminated the soil with salt and led to the local farmers abandoning wheat for opium.
Nah, I gotta disagree on the shutdown. This is very straightforward. McConnell will pass a bill reopening the government + the wall and Pelosi (WOW does that feel nice to write!) will pass a bill reopening the government - the wall. The wall is unpopular plus Trump said he would be proud to shut the government down over the wall. On these terms, the Dems will win. The problem from an actual governing perspective is that Trump may feel that as long as his base is with him (which, let's not kid ourselves, it will be), he will never reopen the government. There's really no incentive for him to reopen the government, and I fear that's where this is going. Horrible for the country, but Trump won't win politically from it.

Our country is so screwed. We can't even fund our own government due purely to petty partisanship.
nemdam, you make my point. You don't disagree at all. Trump will win because he's crazy enough to crash the car.
Oh, there's no doubt America will lose in all of this, and Trump (Putin's agent) will win by creating more chaos.
Maybe the lesson the Republicans were pushing at us in Bush was that even an idiot can be president, and life goes on.

Maybe the lesson the Republicans are pushing at us in Trump is that the federal government can be shut down, indefinitely,and life goes on.
Also note the irony that Republican states became "red" states. "Red" sure doesn't mean what it used to.
Jospeh, don't know what you think of Andre Vltchek but this piece of his is quite eye-opening vis-a-vie USSR and Afghanistan ==> I've always thought Jimmy and Zbig were up to no good, but it's wild to read;

"When I sleep, I still sometimes see the former Soviet Union in my dreams. After that, I wake up and feel happy for one entire month. I remember everything I saw there, until now…” I wanted to know what really made him so happy ‘there’? Mr. Wahed did not hesitate: “People! They are so kind. They are welcoming… Russians, Ukrainians… I felt so much at home there. Their culture is exactly like ours. Those who say that Russians ‘occupied’ Afghanistan have simply sold out. The Russians did so much for Afghanistan: they built entire housing communities like ‘Makroyan’, they built factories, even bakeries. In places such as Kandahar, people are still eating Russian bread.."

It's toob bad Putin doesn't read Counterpunch-- otherwise would Trump be telling a different story?
When was the last time a US head of government said the USSR was wrong to invade Afghanistan?
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