An Open Letter to Rachel Maddow about Afghanistan


It was when Dan Rather told Rachel Maddow on her January 27th show, “We are not seeking to colonize Afghanistan. The Soviets made no bones about it. They were coming in to take over the country. They wanted to run the country. They wanted to be there 100 or 1,000 years from now. That is not the case with what we‘re trying to do,..” we held our breath. There has been a controversy over the authenticity of Rather’s coverage of Afghanistan going back to 1980. Now in 2009 Rather was building on the his own Cold War disinformation campaign from the 1980’s and taking it to an absurd new level. We had hoped that Maddow was up to the challenge. Unfortunately, she allowed Rather’s disinformation to go unchallenged. We assumed that Maddow must not have known that Rather’s views of Soviet motives in Afghanistan and the American role were propaganda from another era. We assumed that Maddow, along with most Americans, must not have known that Rather’s reports on Afghanistan were tainted and have been challenged by many journalists.


So in response we sent a letter to Rachel Maddow regarding her January 27th interview with Dan Rather on Afghanistan summarized here.




Dear Rachel Maddow;


Our personal involvement with Afghanistan and the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather began in 1981. We were the first journalists to gain access to Kabul through diplomatic channels at the United Nations following the expulsion of 1135 western journalists one month after the Soviet invasion. Contracted to CBS what we found in 1981 was in stark contrast to the picture that Rather was playing on the evening news.


The war in Afghanistan was a civil war between progressive modernists who advocated women’s rights and a secular state versus extremist Islamists backed by the United States, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who wanted to turn back the clock to the medieval era. Women’s rights had been a spark in that war.


Since then we have pieced together the complete story of how the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was miscast in the US media in order to intentionally reflect the political position of the new right and the neoconservatives who were just then coming into power through the Carter and Reagan years. There are now reams of first hand material available that we have incorporated into our book Invisible History Afghanistan’s Untold Story, that contradict the child-like Reagan era/good vs. evil approach to the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan promoted by CBS and Rather at the time. The Soviets tried to avoid invading Afghanistan for months prior to December of 1979. They warned the Marxist party in Kabul in no uncertain terms that they were not a broad enough political party to govern Afghanistan. The KGB recommended that they step aside and help in the formation of a broad based coalition government including conservative Islamists. Moscow wanted to return the King to the throne in the summer and fall of 1979 and informed the United States of it. Even secretary of defense Robert Gates and former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski have both publicly boasted that they intentionally set out to lure the Soviets into their own Vietnam quagmire. According to Gates in his 1997 book From the Shadows, there was no downside to having the Soviets trapped in Afghanistan.


Here are quotes from a 1989 article that raised serious charges regarding the authenticity and purpose of Dan Rather’s reporting on Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation but have never been adequately addressed by CBS, Rather or the media itself.


“Beginning September 27, 1989, a series of articles by Janet Wilson in the New York Post charged that Dan Rather’s CBS newscasts had repeatedly “aired fake battle footage and false news accounts” of the Afghan War. Among the charges:


CBS presented staged “action-packed commando” footage in which Afghan mujahedeen performed as actors in sequences purporting to show rebel advances, such as blowing up electric lines leading to Kabul. Scenes of mujahedeen stalking enemy positions and blowing up a mine were acted out and filmed in the safety of a Pakistani training camp. A Pakistani Air Force jet on a training mission was presented as “a Soviet jet bombing Afghan villages.”


CBS News aired a segment in 1987 showing a bomb made to look like a toy allegedly planted by Soviet soldiers to injure Afghan children. The Post cited an unnamed BBC producer claiming the bomb-toy had been created for the CBS cameraman.


On August 11, 1987, Dan Rather presented combat footage purporting to show what he described as “the biggest one-day defeat for Soviet forces since World War II,” killing 800 Soviet troops. In reality, the battle was small and didn’t involve Soviet forces.”


Much of what Dan Rather promoted in the 1980’s was propaganda designed to keep the American people in the dark. The current dialogue in the media still present disinformation as fact. It’s critical that the media do its own house cleaning and set the record straight on Afghanistan and the U.S. role for the American people. We would like the opportunity to address this issue with you (Rachel Maddow).




Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould




Although we confirmed that the letter was reviewed, we have had no response. It was bad enough that Maddow has allowed herself to become a conduit for another generation of Dan Rather’s 1980’s propaganda. Then Maddow invited Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, onto her February 18th show. This time we didn’t hold our breath. Brzezinski boasted in 1998 that 6 months before the Soviet invasion,”President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime.., this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention… drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap.”


On Maddow’s show Brzezinski stated that “the Taliban …is an Afghan movement.” As top national security advisor on the National Security Council, Brzezinski was in charge of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations. Brzezinski should have known what Charles Cogan, chief of the Near-East South-Asia Division in the Directorate of Operations of the CIA from 1979 to 1984 has already stated in the interest of full disclosure.


“The Taliban, a postwar phenomenon, was created initially as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pakistani ISI in 1992, with the purpose of having a friendly regime in Afghanistan and thereby assuring Pakistan’s strategic depth.” Charles G. Cogan is quoted from a World Policy Journal article from September 22, 2008


Brzezinski states on Maddow’s show to millions of people that the Taliban ( think Nazi’s invading Poland) was indigenous to Afghanistan. For reasons we do not know, Maddow doesn’t question the veracity of this statement. Regardless of the reason, this is an excellent example of disinformation continuing to be laundered through the media as “fact.” As the media continues to present as the Taliban as a legitimate Afghan political movement, it has been forgotten that in the late 1990’s the UN labeled what the Taliban had done to Afghan women as Gender Apartheid. The current dialogue in the media is continuing to mislead the American people on Afghanistan just as Dan Rather did in the 1980’s when the effects of Brzezinski’s plot to draw the Soviets into the Afghan trap was in high gear.


By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould,


1. June 24 7:00 pm we’ll be speaking at Brooklyn for Peace
Brooklyn Friends Meeting House, 110 Schermerhorn St., (between Brooklyn Br Blvd & Smith St)

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