Comment: On the one hand, this is just another news item about Trump again saying something 'outrageous', teeing up another round of apoplexy in Western intelligentsia and intelligence circles (while nothing changes on the ground - yet). On the other hand, Trump seems to have really 'gone for the jugular' in yesterday's post-cabinet meeting press conference, placing the very rationale for America's non-stop wars on very public trial...

bin laden fisk sudan

The good old days of (explicitly-sanctioned-by-the-West) Islamic jihad
Offering an explanation of why US should withdraw from Afghanistan, President Donald Trump appeared to endorse the Soviet intervention there in the 1980s and by extension, disavow US support for jihadist insurgents.

"Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan," Trump told reporters on Wednesday, following a cabinet meeting at the White House.

Comment: That's certainly a plausible and popular narrative. Technically, it's not historically accurate; the USSR broke up for a number of reasons. (See the astute analysis in Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives by actual kremlinologist and Soviet historian Stephen Cohen for more on that.)

HOWEVER, Trump's point is there between the lines: "If we go with the premise that the USSR broke up as a result of being bogged down militarily in Afghanistan, isn't it highly risky for the US to remain there indefinitely?..."

Arguing that Russia, India and Pakistan were all in Afghanistan's neighborhood and should fight terrorism there rather than expecting the US to, Trump offered an impromptu history lesson.

"The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there," he said. "The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally, they went bankrupt."

Comment: No, terrorists in or from Afghanistan were not going into 'Russia' (then the USSR) in the 1970s. Terrorism would only hit the USSR as soon as it began breaking up in 1989, then explode in 2000 when Putin became leader. The USSR went into Afghanistan to uphold a Moscow-aligned government. HOWEVER, the USSR was arguably fighting the first real 'fundamentalist Muslim terror network' in Afghanistan... the one armed and funded by the CIA and which developed into al-Qaeda/ISIS!

Be that as it may, the implication of Trump's logical deduction is sound: "If they went bankrupt and their empire broke up while 'fighting terrorists' in Afghanistan, then could we not too? Are we so full of hubris that we cannot see what fate may have in store for us?"

Trump's apparent endorsement of the Soviet intervention did not sit well with his critics, who exploded in outrage and called it an abandonment of Ronald Reagan's values and policies.

Comment: Ironically, these commentators are equally ignorant about the causes of that war: there is no 'line' in Russia about their rationale for going into Afghanistan in the 1980s being about terrorism - at least not in the sense in which Trump implied ('fighting terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them here at home'). That rationale only developed later, for the Russian Federation, when terrorist tentacles did eventually flow from Afghanistan into the heart of Russia.

In criticizing Trump's comments, one NBC journalist even brought up the end credits of Rambo III, a 1988 American action movie dedicated to the "brave mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan."

Comment: So much Murika, so many movies!

That line of criticism seems ironic, however, given that the US sponsored the mujahideen - Islamic "holy warriors," literally - against Afghanistan's secular government prior to the Soviet intervention in December 1979. It was President Jimmy Carter who signed the directive to start aiding the mujahideen in July that year, on advice of his national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The aid was going to induce a Soviet intervention, Brzezinski told the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998. When Soviet troops crossed the border, Brzezinski said he wrote to Carter that the US had the "opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war."

"Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire," he said in the interview.

Comment: As we said above, it was a factor, but not decisive. Brzezinski, though, was someone whose psychology would certainly lead him to believe that he was 'all that'. What killed the USSR was - specifically - Yeltsin, and more generally, the lifting of the spell (for Russians) of the utopian potential of socialism/communism.

Careful observers will note that Trump's version of history actually overlaps with this statement of Brzezinski's, which has since become the conventional wisdom in Washington. The policy of aiding the mujahideen continued under Ronald Reagan, who sent money and weapons to Afghanistan, including anti-aircraft missiles. One of the recipients of this aid was Osama bin Laden, who led a contingent of Arab volunteers.

Aspiring holy warriors from many Muslim-majority countries went to Afghanistan to fight. They shifted the focus of their zeal to the West in the mid-1990s, after the government of president Najibullah was killed and Afghanistan plunged into chaos of civil war. In 1996, Bin Laden declared a holy war on the US.

Comment: They were turned on the West by their treacherous and traitorous Western handlers.

Asked about this in January 1998, Brzezinski was unapologetic.

"Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea," he told Le Nouvel Observateur. "What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"

Comment: Do you hear that, Hungary? They unleashed terrorism, the wars to defeat said terrorism, and the resulting migrant waves to 'liberate' you.

By August that year, Bin Laden's operatives would bomb the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In October 2000, they would attack the destroyer USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. And in September 2001, they would destroy the World Trade Center and damage the Pentagon using three hijacked passenger airplanes.

Comment: And they would have Western intelligence assistance every step of the way.

None of it led to Brzezinski disavowing his comments from the 1998 interview, or expressing regret about getting the US to back Bin Laden and Afghan "holy warriors" in his personal jihad against the Soviet Union.