This interview with Max Blumenthal (author of “The Management of Savagery“) is well worth hearing in its entirety in Aaron Maté’s “Push Back” podcast, here:
In the meantime, here are some choice quotes:
AARON MATÉ: What do you make of the logic of this story? This idea that the Taliban would need Russian money to kill Americans when the Taliban’s been fighting the US for nearly two decades now. And the sourcing for the story, the same old playbook: anonymous intelligence officials who are citing vague claims about apparently what was said by Afghan detainees.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: This story has, as I said, it relies on zero reporting. The only source is anonymous American intelligence officials. And I tweeted out a clip of a former CIA operations officer who managed the CIA’s operation in Angola, when the US was actually fighting on the side of apartheid South Africa against a Marxist government that was backed up by Cuban troops. His name was John Stockwell. And Stockwell talked about how one-third of his covert operations staff were propagandists, and that they would feed imaginary stories about Cuban barbarism that were completely false to reporters who were either CIA assets directly or who were just unwitting dupes who would hang on a line waiting for American intelligence officials to feed them stories. And one out of every five stories was completely false, as Stockwell said. We could play some of that clip now; it’s pretty remarkable to watch it in light of this latest fake bombshell.
JOHN STOCKWELL: Another thing is to disseminate propaganda to influence people’s minds, and this is a major function of the CIA. And unfortunately, of course, it overlaps into the gathering of information. You, you have contact with a journalist, you will give him true stories, you’ll get information from him, you’ll also give him false stories.
OFF-CAMERA REPORTER: Can you do this with responsible reporters?
JOHN STOCKWELL: Yes, the Church Committee brought it out in 1975. And then Woodward and Bernstein put an article in Rolling Stone a couple of years later. Four hundred journalists cooperating with the CIA, including some of the biggest names in the business.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: So, basically, I mean, you get the flavor of what someone who was in the CIA at the height of the Cold War…I mean, he did the same thing in Vietnam. And the playbook is absolutely the same today. These…this story was dumped on Friday in The New York Times by “quote-unquote” American intelligence officials, as a breakthrough had been made in Afghan peace talks and a conference was finally set for Doha, Qatar, that would involve the Taliban, which had been seizing massive amounts of territory.
Here Blumenthal shows how the US was paying bounties to “proxies” (the mujahideen) to kill Russians in Afghanistan:
AARON MATÉ: Let’s assume for a second that the allegation is true, although, you know, you’ve laid out some of the reasons why it’s not. Can you talk about the history here, starting with Afghanistan, something you cover a lot in your book, The Management of Savagery, where the US aim was to kill Russians, going right on through to Syria, where just recently the US envoy for the coalition against ISIS, James Jeffery, who handles Syria, said that his job now is to basically put the Russians in a quagmire in Syria.
JAMES JEFFREY: This isn’t Afghanistan. This isn’t Vietnam. This isn’t a quagmire. My job is to make it a quagmire for the Russians.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah, I mean, it feels like a giant act of psychological and political projection to accuse Russia of using an Islamist militia in Afghanistan as a proxy against the US to bleed the US into leaving, because that’s been the US playbook in Central Asia and the Middle East since at least 1979. I just tweeted a photo of Dan Rather in Afghanistan, just crossing the Pakistani border and going to meet with some of the Mujahideen in 1980. Dan Rather was panned in The New York…in The Washington Post by Tom Toles [Tom Shales], who was the media critic at the time, as “Gunga Dan,” because he was so gung-ho for the Afghan mujahideen. In his reports he would complain about how weak their weaponry was, you know, how they needed more…how they needed more funding. I mean, you could call it bounties, but it was really just CIA funding.
DAN RATHER: These are the best weapons you have, huh? They only have about twenty rounds for this?
TRANSLATOR: That’s all. They have twenty rounds. Yes, and they know that these are all old weapons and they really aren’t up to doing anything to the Russian weaponry that’s around. But that’s all they have, and this is why they want help. And he is saying that America seems to be asleep. It doesn’t seem to realize that if Afghanistan goes and the Russians go over to the Gulf, that in a very short time it’s going to be the turn of the United States as well.
DAN RATHER: But I’m sure he knows that in Vietnam we got our fingers burned. Indeed, we got our whole hands burned when we tried to help in this kind of situation.
TRANSLATOR [translating to the Afghan man and then his reply]: Your hands were burned in Vietnam, but if you don’t agree to help us, if you don’t ally yourself with us, then all of you, your whole body will be burnt eventually, because there is no one in the world who can really fight and resist as well as the…as much and as well as the Afghans are.
DAN RATHER: But no American mother wants to send her son to Afghanistan.
TRANSLATOR [translating to the Afghan man and then his reply]: We don’t need anybody’s soldiers here to help us, but we are being constantly accused that the Americans are helping us with weapons. What we need, actually, are the American weapons. We don’t need or want American soldiers. We can do the fighting ourselves.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: And a year…or several months before, the Carter Administration, at the urging of national security chief Zbigniew Brzezinski, had enacted what would become Operation Cyclone under Reagan, an arm-and-equip program to arm the Afghan mujahideen. The Saudis put up a matching fund which helped bring the so-called Services Bureau into the field where Osama bin Laden became a recruiter for international jihadists to join the battlefield. And, you know, the goal was, in the words of Brzezinski, as he later admitted to a French publication, was to force the Red Army, the Soviet Red Army, to intervene to protect the pro-Soviet government in Kabul, which they proceeded to do. And then with the introduction of the Stinger missile, the Afghan mujahideen, hailed as freedom fighters in Washington, were able to destroy Russian supply lines, exact a heavy toll, and forced the Red Army to leave in retreat. They helped create what’s considered the Soviet Union’s Vietnam.
So that was really but the blueprint for what Russian…for what Russia is being accused of now, and that same model was transferred over to Syria. It was also actually proposed for Iraq in the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998. Then Senate Foreign Relations chair Jesse Helms actually said that the Afghan mujahideen should be our model for supporting the Iraqi resistance. So, this kind of proxy war was always on the table. Then the US did it in Syria, when one out of every $13 in the CIA budget went to arm the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria, who we later found out were 31 flavors of jihadi, who were aligned with al-Qaeda’s local affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and helped give rise to ISIS. Michael Morell, I tweeted some video of him on Charlie Rose back in, I think, 2016. He’s the former acting director for the CIA, longtime deputy director. He said, you know, the reason that we’re in Syria, what we should be doing is causing Iran and Russia, the two allies of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, to pay a heavy price.
MICHAEL MORELL: We need to make the Iranians pay a price in Syria. We need to make the Russians pay a price. The other thing…
CHARLIE ROSE: We make them pay the price by killing…killing Russians?
MICHAEL MORELL: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: And killing Iranians.
MICHAEL MORELL: Yes, covertly. You don’t tell the world about it, right? You don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say we did this, right? But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: What he means is by basically paying bounties, which the US was literally doing along with its Gulf allies, to exact the toll on the allies of Assad, Russia. So, let’s just say it’s true, according to your question, let’s just say this is all true. It would be a retaliation for what the United States has done to Russia in areas where it was actually legally invited in by the governments in charge, either in Kabul or Damascus. And that’s, I think, the kind of ironic subtext that can hardly be understated when you see someone like Dan Rather wag his finger at Putin for paying the Taliban as proxies. But, I mean, it’s such a ridiculous story that it’s just hard to even fathom that it’s real.