Jscotlive at aol.com
Jscotlive at aol.com
Tue Mar 3 08:02:14 MST 2009
My late friend Al Richardson once said to me that he supported the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan on the grounds that Moscow was trying to drag
Afghanistan into the feudal period.
Moscow wasn't trying to drag Afghanistan anywhere. It was an attempt to aid
the existing Afghan govt fight off a US-backed insurgency in the countryside,
an insurgency made up of religious obscurantists intent on taking Afghan
society back to the 7th century.
The record shows that the Afghan govt had to request the help of the Soviets
11 times before they finally intervened.
The record also shows the tragic consequences of the failure of this
invervention and the success of the insurgency.
As I wrote in my original article:
Upon taking power, the new government introduced a program of reforms
designed to abolish feudal power in the countryside, guarantee freedom of
along with equal rights for women and ethnic minorities. Thousands of
prisoners under the old regime were set free and police files burned in a gesture
designed to emphasise an end to repression. In the poorest parts of
Afghanistan, where life expectancy was 35 years, where infant mortality was one in
three, free medical care was provided. In addition, a mass literacy campaign was
undertaken, desperately needed in a society in which ninety percent of the
population could neither read nor write.
The resulting rate of progress was staggering. By the late 1980s half of all
university students in Afghanistan were women, and women made up 40 percent
of the country's doctors, 70 percent of its teachers, and 30 percent of its
civil servants. In John Pilger's 'New Rulers Of The World' (Verso, 2002), he
relates the memory of the period through the eyes of an Afghan woman, Saira
Noorani, a female surgeon who escaped the Taliban in 2001. She said: "Every
girl could go to high school and university. We could go where we wanted and
wear what we liked. We used to go to cafes and the cinema to see the latest
Indian movies. I tall started to go wrong when the mujaheddin started
They used to kill teachers and burn schools. It was sad to think that these
were the people the West had supported."
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