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Private: Why the High Dudgeon over Alleged Russian Bounties for Taliban Slaying of US Troops

Democratic politicians like presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and liberal media pundits are all screaming for “action” against Russia based on an article in the New York Times that relies on anonymous sources in the “military” and “US intelligence.” The article, picked up by most major media unquestioningly, asserts base on no real evidence other than coerced “confessions” from Taliban captives, that Russian GPU agents have been offering cash to Taliban fighters for the killing US troops in that country.

Who knows what these hot-heads calling for retaliatory actions against Russia are imagining:  attacks on Russians perhaps? A Hellfire missile through Putin’s  Kremlin office window? More sanctions on Russia?

Certainly they want Trump to look bad for not loudly condemning the Russians for this alleged atrocity.

But let’s hold on a minute. Paying for scalps has a venerable tradition in the US. Ask any Native American.  It’s not just Native Americans who scalped their foes.

Meanwhile, more recently, doesn’t anyone in this demented nation of ours where history is all about statues of genocidal warriors, not about honest recollections of and reflections on what happened, recall how back in 1979, President Jimmy Carter, now celebrated in his dotage as a great promoter of world peace, funded, trained and armed brutal Mujahidin fighters from Pashtun border regions and neighboring Pakistan and sent them against the Communist government of Afghanistan in Kabul?

The driving force for Carter’s brazen aggression against the Afghanistan government, which had liberated women, expanded free education and literacy and instituted numerous modernization reforms unheard of in that impoverished nation, was his Polish-immigrant, viciously anti-Russian national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. A kind of Democratic Kissinger,  Zbigniew hoped the US funding or fundamentalist Islamic fighters against the “godless Commie” government would have “the effect of drawing the Afghan trap.”  He recalls in the same interview that when the Soviet Union, as he had hoped, sent its Red Army into Afghanistan at the invitation of the Afghan government, “I wrote to President Carter, essentially: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.’”

Since that time, my colleague and editor at Counterpunch, Jeffrey St. Clair calculates, Russia over the course of ten years, lost some 15,000 of its soldiers to the Mujahidin, who benefitted from  $20 billion in US aid during that time, including Stinger shoulder-fired wire-guided missiles excellent for downing Soviet helicopters, and highly effective anti-tank weapons.  Jeff notes that the death toll of Russian troops works out to an effective US bounty to the Mujahidin of $1.33 million per soldier killed — surely a might higher bounty than Russian GPU agents are alleged to have paid their Taliban or Afhan gangster hit-men for the nine US soldiers alleged to have been offed for cash.

The truth is that the US has  been a generous paymaster in the killing-for-hire  business on a grand scale since the start of the Cold war in the late 1940s, funding proxy armies to combat independence fighters in colonial countries trying to throw off the imperial yoke or fighters trying to overthrow newly independent governments like Fidel Castro’s in Cuba (think Bay of Pigs invasion) or the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (Reagan’s Contra “army) or most recently Trump’s clumsy failed “invasion” force landing but quickly captured or killed in Venezuela) for the past three quarters of a century. Often Russians, who have tended to support the anti-imperialists, whether Castro’s revolutionaries, the Vietnamese freedom fighters,  or Syrian government forces, have either joined in the fight or acted as advisors, and have ended up being killed by American-funded forces.  Even the Korean War, which both I.F. Stone in his “Hidden History of the Korean War,” and more recently the Korean-American historian Leo Chang Soon in his magisterial book “Reflections on the Roots of US Involvement in Korea,” have convincingly shown was a product of US provocation, not North Korean, aggression, can be seen in this light as Russian pilots and advisors are known to have been killed aiding their North Korean ally at the hands of US forces and US funded South Korean forces.

The hypocrisy of US leaders in decrying this probably bogus tale of Russian bounties to the Taliban for the killing of a handful of US troops is simply staggering. The US, after funding the destruction of a progressive government in Afghanistan, and funding the slaughter of 15,000 Russian troops in that country supporting the legitimate government there, left the country a smoking ruin of a failed state to be run by a ragtag band of Islamic zealots called the Taliban who promptly launched a campaign to drag the country back into the Middle Ages, re-enslaving women to their husbands, destroying any traces of Western influence or of modernity and then, after Bin Laden and his band of mostly Saudi militants bought their way into the country with Saudi money and then went on to attack the US, launched a war against the benighted nation that is now in its 19th bloody year, with over 100,000 civilians killed, mostly by US bombings and mechanized slaughter.

But the promoters, both imperialist Democratic  warmongers like Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, of further extension of that endless war on one of the world’s poorest countries, and the liberal pro-war media commentariat, have already gotten what they wanted. On Thursday, the House Armed Services Committee, led by Democrats, voted overwhelmingly, 45-11, for an amendment to the current National Defense Authorization Act, which bars the spending of any funds for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, effectively keeping US troops hostage in the war-torn country and preventing President Trump for a drawdown of US forces there. (The NDAA, which is to fund the Pentagon at another record amount for the coming fiscal year, is certain to pass, as it always does, with huge majorities of both parties, though Trump has threatened to veto it if it contains, as it currently does, a measure to rename domestic military bases named after Confederate generals.)

For a thorough evisceration of the current Russo-phobic fairytale of alleged  nefarious bounty-paying for the killing of US troops by Russian agents in Afghanistan, read this piece by retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a long-time CIA Russia specialist who was the CIA morning briefer for a number of US presidents.

Let me add:  This is not an article defending the killing of anyone. US soldiers in Afghanistan know or should recognize however that they are in an imperial game, not somehow “defending Americans’ freedom.  On this July 4 weekend they should know they are playing the role of British Redcoats or Hessian mercenaries, and those who are attacking them, whether at their own risk or with some other country’s financial backing, are in the role of the American rebels of our 1776 Revolution. The right thing to do is to refuse to fight, as some brave American military people have done. Besides, US leaders in government and in the military know that the Afghanistan War has been lost. They’ve known it for a long time. The only reason our troops are there now is political and military face-saving.

Not much worth dying — or even being killed for —  if you ask me.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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