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Ask the average American citizen or citizen of a 'Western' country for their opinion on Afghanistan and they will likely offer thoughts along the lines of: "cruel treatment of women, brutal, fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime, no education, no music." Followed by: "U.S. military, under the command of President Bush, liberated the Afghan people who now enjoy many more Western-style liberties."

Of course, this opinion did not magically spring from humanity's collective unconscious but was implanted into the mind of the average citizen by the U.S. government by way of the mainstream media. It should come as no shock therefore that such beliefs about the history of this Central Asian country are, at best, an extremely subjective interpretation of the facts, and at worst, an outright lie.

In 2005, Laura Bush graced Afghan soil and, referring to the previous Taliban regime, declared:
"It's very hard to imagine the idea of denying girls an education, of never allowing girls to go to school."
The only conclusion that we can draw from such a comment is that Laura is not much of a history fan, particularly the history of the latter part of the 20th century which concerns US foreign policy in Central Asia. If Laura had bothered to delve into the harder-to-find history books, she would have discovered the real reason that Afghan women were treated like cattle throughout the 1980's and 90's.

In 1973 Dr. Mohammad Daoud declared a new Republic of Afghanistan, ousting the monarchical government of Mohammed Zaher Shah in a bloodless coup d'état. Daoud was an extreme conservative and ruled as absolute dictator. In response to the oppressive policy of the new regime, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was formed. On April 26, 1978 Daoud ordered the arrest of almost the entire leadership of the PDPA. The progressive masses in Kabul saw the arrests as an attempt to annihilate the PDPA, just as the military junta had done to the workers' parties in Chile in 1973 (with US backing). An uprising by the lower ranks of the military freed the popular party leader, Nur Mohammad Taraki. Within a day, Daoud was overthrown and a revolutionary government proclaimed, headed by Taraki. According to the CIA's own casebook in Afghanistan:
Before the revolution, 5 percent of Afghanistan's rural landowners owned more than 45 percent of the arable land. A third of the rural people were landless laborers, sharecroppers or tenants. Debts to the landlords and to money lenders "were a regular feature of rural life." An indebted farmer turned over half his crop each year to the money lender. "When the PDPA took power, it quickly moved to remove both landownership inequalities and usury." Decree number six of the revolution canceled mortgage debts of agricultural laborers, tenants and small landowners. The revolutionary regime set up extensive literacy programs, especially for women. It printed textbooks in many languages - Dari, Pashtu, Uzbek, Turkic and Baluchi. "The government trained many more teachers, built additional schools and kindergartens, and instituted nurseries for orphans," says the country study.

Before the revolution, female illiteracy had been 96.3 percent in Afghanistan. Rural illiteracy of both sexes was 90.5 percent. By 1985 there had been an 80-percent increase in hospital beds. The government initiated mobile medical units and brigades of women and young people to go to the undeveloped countryside and provide medical services to the peasants for the first time. Among the very first decrees of the revolutionary regime were to prohibit bride-price and give women freedom of choice in marriage. "Historically," said the U.S. manual, "gender roles and women's status have been tied to property relations. Women and children tend to be assimilated into the concept of property and to belong to a male." Before the revolution a bride who did not exhibit signs of virginity on the wedding night could be murdered by her father and/or brothers. After the revolution, young women in the cities, where the new government's authority was strong, could tear off the veil, freely go out in public, attend school and get a job. They were organized in the Democratic Women's Organization of Afghanistan, founded in 1965 by Dr. Anahita Ratebzada.
The revolution and the establishment of the social government under Taraki challenged the old fundamentalist Islamic order. Afghanistan was slowly being turned into a progressive and liberal country with a somewhat secular government providing equal rights for all. What was the US government's response?
The CIA began building a mercenary army, recruiting feudal Afghan warlords and their servants for a "holy war" against the "communists", who had liberated "their" women and "their" peasants. Washington spent billions of dollars every year on the war.
Now remember, the reforms in Afghanistan began in 1978 and were gaining pace over the following years. In an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski in Le Nouvel Observateur Jan 15-21, 1998, p.76, Brzezinski tells us:
Brzezinski: According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, closely 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.
The "pro-Soviet regime" mentioned here was the socialist government of Tariki that was advocating women's rights and education for all.
Question: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it? Brzezinski: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
The fact is that the Russians were enticed to intervene in Afghanistan because of the aforementioned aid and weaponry that the the US was supplying to the Feudal warlords who were seeking to overthrow the socialist government of Taraki - the one that had begun to reform and open up Afghan society.
Question: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghani trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, in substance: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Question: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?
So not only did the U.S. successfully give Russia its "Vietnam", it also succeeded in removing the socialist government of Tariki, replacing it with the regime of the Feudal warlords, that is, the ones that promote the murdering of women if they are not virgins on their wedding night.
Question: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.
Indeed, not only does the US government allege that Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace, but they also allege that the 19 hijackers on September 11th 2001 were trained, aided and abetted by the Taliban warlords that the U.S. placed in power. If only we could encourage Laura Bush to expose herself to the truth about Afghanistan's history, she might find it a little easier to "imagine how the idea of denying girls an education, of never allowing girls to go to school", can come about.