17:25 GMT +321 January 2020
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    The Afghanistan Papers have revealed the US never learned the lessons of its loss in Vietnam, with US leaders seeking only how to turn around public opinion, a historian told Sputnik Friday. Indeed, the foundations of the 18-year-long Afghan War were laid just four years after Hanoi’s 1975 victory and based on nearly identical motives.

    “Governments lie, and they lie most about foreign policy, because foreign policy is less accessible than domestic policy to most Americans,” Peter Kuznick, professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University and the co-author of the book and documentary series “The Untold History of the United States,” told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Friday.

    “Most Americans don’t pay a lot of attention, and so the governments believe that they can get away with just openly lying about this.”

    “It’s interesting that many people are drawing parallels between this recent expose about Afghanistan and the Pentagon Papers that Dan Ellsberg released back in 1971 about [the US war in] Vietnam,” Kuznick said. The massive whistleblowing divulgence revealed to the US public the extent to which the US government had lied to them not only about the waging of the Vietnam War, but also its extent, including the hitherto secret wars in neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

    Kuznick explained that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the US government “kept telling the American people that we were winning the war in Vietnam. But if you look at the actual reports from the CIA, the intelligence people, the State Department, they all understood that we were not winning in Vietnam and that what the government was telling the American people would be necessary to win in Vietnam was not what they really knew. So they were sending American boys out to die and to kill for a lie.”

    “The same thing is happening in Afghanistan now. Not on quite the same scale in terms of the numbers of American troops deployed or the numbers of people being killed, but certainly in terms of the mendacity involved,” Kuznick told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou.

    However, contrary to the popular belief that the United States experienced a collective genuflective moment following the defeat in Vietnam and reassessed the wisdom of such overseas ventures, Kuznick said the origins of the mistake that became the Afghan War go back to the 1975 Church Committee, a Senate investigation of alleged CIA, NSA, FBI and IRS abuses of power. One of the committee’s primary subjects was the 1963 assassination of South Vietnamese dictator Ngô Đình Diệm, which the CIA helped direct and coordinate.

    “From the very beginning,” Kuznick said, “nobody looked at what really happened with Vietnam. They said, ‘We’ve got to put this behind us so we can move forward,’” and former US President Ronald Reagan tried to recast the Vietnam War as a “noble cause.”

    “This continued; it’s continued up to [former President Barack] Obama and [US President Donald] Trump, without any reckoning on Vietnam, so we never learned the lessons. The lesson that they learned was that we had to get over the ‘Vietnam Syndrome,’ because the Vietnam Syndrome said that the American people were hesitant to get involved in more reckless foreign operations like this - invasions, overthrows, regime change, nation building. So while the Americans were so hesitant, we had to get past this so we can continue to do what we’re doing around the world with one intervention after another.”

    This, Kuznick said, was why Reagan invaded the Caribbean island nation of Grenada in 1983 after he claimed the Cubans were building a military base there. Likewise, his successor, George H. W. Bush, claimed the US had defeated Vietnam Syndrome on multiple occasions, including after Operation Desert Storm saw Iraq’s massive military annihilated by a US-led attack in 1991.

    “It was only four years after 1975 that the United States got involved in Afghanistan,” Kuznick noted, when the US intervened in the fallout of Afghanistan’s 1978 Saur Revolution to create so much chaos that it would force the Soviet Union to intervene in defense of their ally, the socialist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Kuznick noted that US support for anticommunist Islamic militants in Afghanistan predated the Soviet intervention by several months.

    Kuznick noted that while Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev claimed “with the arrogance of the American leaders” they would be in and out of Afghanistan in “‘three or four weeks’ - they were in there for 10 years. It was a disaster for the Soviet Union and a disaster for the Afghan people.”

    “During that time, the United States was fueling this Islamic extremism. The people we were working with in Afghanistan … these were the Islamic extremists who blew back on us on 9/11,” Kuznick noted. “And the people we were supporting, it’s so important to understand this, the reason why they were upset with the government, the pro-Soviet government, was that the government was industrializing, doing land reform and, worst of all, educating women. The people we were supporting were the ones who would go into the schools, skin teachers alive, because they were teaching women in their classes.”

    Noting that the mainstream media consistently lined up behind the Mujaheddin cause in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Kuznick said a major contributing factor to that problem both then and now is that “there are no alternative voices allowed on mainstream media who critique American empire. There’s some dissenting opinion given on domestic policy, but almost none on foreign policy, and nobody with our perspective even gets on mainstream American media.”

    “It’s really obscene that a country fights wars all over the world, and its people know almost nothing about it and care even less,” Kuznick said. 

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    Zbigniew Brzezinski, CIA, regime change, syndrome, Vietnam, Pentagon Papers, War in Afghanistan, Peter Kuznick, Loud and Clear
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