Sunday, December 5, 2010

Community Protest Against Columbia University's Kravis School Construction Project: December 7, 2010


Come out and support our protest this Tuesday, Dec. 7th, 3:30 – 5:30PM, against Columbia’s failure to address issues it promised to resolve when the Borough President and City Council sold out the Harlem community.

Where are the jobs? Where is the job training promised by Columbia and the West Harlem Local Development Corp so Harlemites in Boards 9, 10, 11 and 12 could work from the very beginning?

Why does Columbia still insist that residents facing eminent domain must be out of the expansion area by 2018? Why does Columbia not leave the last two property owners alone and let them, and other businesses who still have leases, stay under the 197A philosophy of sharing the community? (The Sprayregens and the Singhs are still fighting against eminent domain, and we still expect that CB 9 would be supporting them according to the CB 9 position against eminent domain, but check out the CB 9 Chair’s statements below.)

Why do the politicians, and the West Harlem Environmental Action group, support Columbia’s biohazard lab #3 business park – spurred on by military defense contracts - in our residential community? Here is how Community Board 9 is approaching this situation – two quotes from Chairperson Larry English in the Columbia Spectator :

“In West Harlem right now and in Harlem in general, there is not a vibrant, entrepreneurial, economic class, and that is crucial to everyone living in West Harlem,” English said in an interview in October.

“Obviously, the last four years caused a lot of tension between the Columbia and the community, but as a community board, we’ve ruled that we’re turning the page. We don’t want to do anything that’s gonna inhibit the project.”

Somehow the whole notion of the 197-a plan, 10 years in the making, is absent from CB 9 Chair Larry English’s language and apparently from his scope of vision. It is a radical shift on the part of CB9; it goes right along with the CU concept of “all or nothing” that CU has pushed relentlessly. All along this dispute with Columbia has been about their illegal conflict of interest regarding how they used the threat of eminent domain as a scare tactic that worked.

A CPC member reacted to English’s comments as follows:

“This guy is really a politician in the making – he’s just changed the language of everything and has conveniently forgotten all of the key points CB9 was defending. He’s dropped the validity of 197-a plan which was ALWAYS what the Community had as an organized response to the real deficiencies in how the neighborhood is being unfairly treated while Columbia grabs land on the cheap.”




United for an Open and Strong Community
POST OFFICE BOX 50 - Manhattanville Station
365 West 125th Street
NEW York City, New York 10027





Broadway just below 125 St., east side of the Street
Tuesday, December 7th 3:30 – 5:30 P.M.

And hey Columbia: drop your eminent domain abuse* & no biohazard #3 labs in residential Manhattan
* Let businesses and residents stay - support the 197A
For additional information contact Coalition to Preserve Community: write: CPC, PO Box 50, Manhattanville Station, NY, NY 10027. Visit our website: ESPANOL – OTRO LADO
United for an Open and Strong Community
POST OFFICE BOX 50 - Manhattanville Station
365 West 125th Street
NEW York City, New York 10027

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Community Resistance to Columbia University's "Kravis Business School Building" Construction Project In West Harlem Continues: November 2010 Update

As the text of a recent email from the West Harlem-based Coalition to Preserve Community group of neighborhood activists indicates, community resistance to the Columbia University's 2010 landgrabbing and Kravis business school building/campus expansion project in West Harlem apparently still continues:

"CPC Meeting 11/22, Eminent Domain, evictions & rats & NO JOBS

The next cpc meeting will be this Monday, nov. 22, at 6:30pm at St. Mary’s church. (see flyer below for details).
Our next protest against Columbia’s deceit and eviction plan will be on Dec. 7, starting at 3:30pm – details to follow.
The Sprayregens and the Singhs are still fighting for their rights.
Columbia is after them, and after us. Join in and help us resist this elitist and racist gentrification process.
And the rats are already invading the buildings surrounding the construction site, dining inside garbage bags 8 at a time, and eating at car engine hoses for dessert.
For more info, see flyer below.
Also below is a letter cpc wrote to the chair of community board 9,larry english, asking for jobs information from columbia that we have been requesting for five years. Mr. English has suggested that a “partnership” with columbia is the way to go.
We cite columbia’s “partnership” at harlem hospital as a good reason to talk about the facts of the eviction plan and not soft soap The bleeding. So where are the jobs? So why not leave the last two property owners alone? So why have bio-hazard labs here?

United for an Open and Strong Community
POST OFFICE BOX 50 - Manhattanville Station
365 West 125th Street
NEW York City, New York 10027

Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC) meeting – Monday, November 22,
St. Mary’s Church, 521 West 126th St. (bet. Broadway and Amsterdam)
Do you need a job? We had about 2,000 jobs in Manhattanville before Columbia’s expansion began. The University promised 7,000 jobs.
Where are they?
Would you like to stay in your apartment? Will you loose it because of eminent domain, gentrification or the privatization of public housing? STAND UP FOR YOUR HOME!
*Columbia continues to deregulate apartments in the buildings it owns. Some 7,000 have been lost.
*3333 Broadway was taken off the Mitchell-Lama program.
Hundreds have already been displaced and more than a thousand are threatened with the loss of their subsidies.
*Public Housing is under attack as privatization becomes ever more real.
Join us (1) on Nov. 22 to discuss what’s happening and (2) on December 7th for a jobs protest against Columbia.

Hon. Larry English
Community Board 9 – Manhattan Nov. 15, 2010
Dear Mr. English:
Since 2004, Columbia University has emphasized the employment opportunities that will result from its proposed Manhattanville expansion for Harlem residents and others. The figure of 7,000 jobs has frequently been mentioned in public relations statements.

Ever since Columbia opened an employment center on Broadway and 124th
Street, not long after President Lee Bollinger made Columbia’s initial presentation at the Board, CB 9 members and community residents have requested basic information about the effectiveness of this center – that is, some hard quarterly numbers on who is getting the jobs that the center offers as well as job training that Bollinger suggested was in the cards. We have lost more than 2,000 jobs in the businesses and
in the area surrounding the expansion site since Columbia started its quest to re-zone West Harlem and end the employment development concepts we outlined in the CB 9 197A community plan.

Former Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc advised members of the Coalition to Preserve Community that he had tried for years to follow up on our requests for job statistics from this center. He said that he constantly got the run-around every time he raised the issue.

We were disheartened to read your statement in the Columbia Spectator that the entrepreneurial spirit in Harlem is lagging, and your suggestion that building a partnership with Columbia is the pragmatic way to proceed.

We intend to mount a campaign in early December to focus on Columbia’s job promises and we would like to know what the facts are. The employment center has been operating for years and they consistently refuse to disclose how many community residents were able to obtain jobs there, or any other basic statistical information about who has gotten a job as a result of coming to the center.

The Community Board itself has requested this information. The Coalition to Preserve
Community has requested this information. In the interests of honest community advocacy and cooperation, we are repeating our oft made request that the Board once again demand this information which should be a matter of public record and should be
made available forthwith.

Please let us know what the results are. Thank you.

Tom Kappner Tom DeMott Nellie Bailey Luis Tejada
For the Coalition to Preserve Community Action Committee
cc. Perkins"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Columbia University's Kravis/KKR/TASC Connection--Conclusion

(To help fund the construction of a new Columbia Business School on Columbia University's 21st-century landgrabbing, private university real estate development/campus expansion project in West Harlem, the co-founder, co-chairman and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts [KKR]--Henry Kravis--recently gave a $100 million "gift" to the Columbia Business School. Coincidentally, Kravis is also the co-chair of the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School. And since 2009, Kravis's KKR investment firm has been a co-owner of the TASC firm which obtains 40 percent of its annual revenues from Pentagon military contracts.

The following article about Henry Kravis and KKR's pre-1992 hidden history first appeared in the July 22, 1992 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper weekly, Downtown, during the period when Kravis's KKR firm still owned New York magazine--prior to its sale to Bruce Wasserstein in 2003 for $55 million).

Like George W. Bush [II]’s father and grandfather, Henry Kravis’s father—a Tulsa, Oklahoma petroleum engineer and oil industry investor named Ray Kravis—was also extremely interested in Republican Party national politics (although he had worked for President Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy in the 1940s by investing Kennedy Dynasty money in southwestern oil properties). By the 1970s, Henry Kravis’s father regularly gave about $40,000 a year to the Republican Party’s national and senatorial committees.

In the 1970s, Henry Kravis’s father was also worth about $50 million [in 1970s money]. And in the 1970s, the Tulsa businessman also “began launching the next generation, working his network of New York cronies to position his son for great things to come,” according to The Money Machine.

Henry Kravis’s father had gained entry into the U.S. Establishment after he discovered a tax loophole which enabled investors in oil properties to be taxed at a greatly reduced rate; and, in addition to working for President Kennedy’s father, Ray Kravis also became friendly with Gustav Levy, the then-senior partner of Goldman Sachs & Co. and Co. and with Cy Lewis, a Bear Stearns senior partner. Coincidentally, after Henry Kravis secured his MBA from Columbia University’s Business School in 1969, his father’s friend, Cy Lewis of Bear Stearns, offered him a high-paying job at Bear Stearns.

When an older Bear Stearns partner named Jerry Kohlberg decided that money could be made quicker if he founded his own partnership to specialize in leveraged buy-outs [LBOs], Henry Kravis and his cousin George Roberts (who was also then a Bear Stearns partner) decided to become Kohlberg’s partners in the 1976-founded Kohlberg-Kravis-Robersts [KKR] firm. By the late 1980s, however, Jerry Kohlberg decided he wanted to leave the firm, and did so, although it still bears the Kohlberg name.

Although Henry Kravis and his cousin George Roberts each increased their individual personal wealth too over $325 million by the late 1980s as a result of KKR’s 1980s business activity, some critics of KKR held the firm responsible for breaking up U.S. companies unwisely, destroying thousands of jobs and loading up companies with irrational amounts of debt. By 1989, other critics were warning that “because Kravis and other takeover artists typically finance their deals with enormous amounts of debts…the highly leveraged financial structure of the corporations…may come crashing down at the next recession with dire consequences…for the economy at large,” according to 1989 Current Biography Yearbook. And James Ledbetter characterized Kravis in the Village Voice’s May 26, 1992 issue as “the takeover magician whose greed-driven mergers and acquisitions helped wreck the U.S. economy in the 1980s (a point that even Fortune magazine conceded in a recent issue).”

Kravis’s 1980s business activity was also criticized on ethical grounds by at least one business journalist. In her The Money Machine book, for example, Sarah Bartlett wrote:
“…Was it good public policy for [Oregon Investment Council Member] Roger Meier to be able to commit several hundred million dollars of other people’s money to KKR and then several months later move into a position where he was personally enriched by the firm?...Did it make sense for KKR to be the largest source of financial support to state treasurers or comptrollers who, after their election, were in a position to assign to KKR state employees’ money?

Ironically, despite his enormous wealth, Kravis’s first marriage apparently fell apart in the late 1970s, after he fathered three children, because “he was so preoccupied with work that he barely noticed his wife’s growing frustration” and “some times the only time she would see Henry was when he would come staggering into their bedroom very drunk, and collapse fully-clothed onto the bed” and his wife “found out that Henry was fooling around with a barmaid at a downtown restaurant,” according to Sarah Bartlett’s The Money Machine.

After divorcing his first wife, Kravis began seeing a dress designer named Carolyne Roehm, whom he married in 1985. In the early 1990s, Kravis and his second wife shared a $5.5 million duplex apartment in Manhattan, a farmhouse in Sharon, Ct., a ski house in Colorado and a home on Long Island. In addition, in the early 1990s Kravis also owned a personal jet, a personal helicopter and a $14 million painting, besides also being a member of many exclusive country clubs.

[But after divorcing his second wife in 1993, Kravis then married a politically conservative Canadian policy wonk named Marie Josee Drouin-Kravis, who currently sits on the executive committee of the right-wing Hudson Institute think-tank’s board of trustees and on the corporate board of Ford Motor Company. In addition, the wife of the billionaire who's paying for the new business school building on Columbia University's new campus construction project in West Harlem--in which Columbia hopes to train more Wall Street executives--is also currently the president of the Museum of Modern Art.].

(end of article)

(Downtown, 7/22/92)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbia University's Kravis/KKR/TASC Connection--Part 4

(To help fund the construction of a new Columbia Business School on Columbia University's 21st-century landgrabbing, private university real estate development/campus expansion project in West Harlem, the co-founder, co-chairman and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts [KKR]--Henry Kravis--recently gave a $100 million "gift" to the Columbia Business School. Coincidentally, Kravis is also the co-chair of the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School. And since 2009, Kravis's KKR investment firm has been a co-owner of the TASC firm which obtains 40 percent of its annual revenues from Pentagon military contracts.

The following article about Henry Kravis and KKR's pre-1992 hidden history first appeared in the July 22, 1992 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper weekly, Downtown, during the period when Kravis's KKR firm still owned New York magazine--prior to its sale to Bruce Wasserstein in 2003 for $55 million).

To persuade U.S. public officials to serve KKR’s special, private interests by letting KKR use public pension funds to help finance KKR’s lucrative 1980s leveraged-buyout program, Henry Kravis’s firm used a variety of techniques.

In Oregon, for example, KKR hired a member of the Oregon Investment Council named Roger Meier in 1983 to be a director of Norris Industries, a company that KKR had acquired in 1981 with the help of the Oregon Investment Council. Meier then received an annual director’s fee of $15,000 from the KKR subsidiary, and, in 1985, Meier was named by KKR to an $18,000/year position on its Fred Meyers subsidiary’s corporate board. The Money Machine by Sarah Bartlett noted that:
“…When his [Meier’s] dual role was revealed in the local newspapers many Oregonians were outraged.

“It was, and still is, a violation in Oregon for anyone to use his or her public position for private gain.”

After the outrage over his accepting board slots on newly-acquired KKR subsidiary companies—following the approval of the utilization of Oregon public pension funds to finance KKR’s acquisition of these same companies—forced him to resign his Oregon Investment Council membership post, “Meier became an investor in certain companies in KKR’s portfolio” and “was also offered stock in one KKR company at a price that led one to wonder whether it was a sweetheart deal,” according to The Money Machine. He was sold 3,000 shares of U.S. Natural Resources [USNR] by KKR in the Fall of 1986 at $100 a share and by the early 1990s a share in USNR was worth $400, giving Meier a profit on paper of around $900,000 on his 1986 stock purchase from KKR.

When Oregon State Treasurer Bill Rutherford replaced KKR subsidiary director Meier on the Oregon Investment Council, KKR continued to treat kindly an Oregon public official with the power to let KKR use Oregon public funds to serve KKR’s special interests. It invited Rutherford to a KKR sponsored conference in New York City and paid over $800 of the Oregon public official’s conference expenses. Three weeks after this conference, the Oregon Investment Council voted to commit $600 million more of Oregon’s state funds to finance more KKR acquisitions.

To insure that Oregon’s public pension funds continued to be used in support of KKR’s special private interests, KKR intervened in Oregon politics in other ways during the 1980s. It contributed $6,000 to Rutherford’s 1984 campaign for Oregon State Treasurer when he ran against a candidate who opposed investing state funds in KKR’s deal-making operation. Another $20,000 was contributed to Oregon State Treasurer Rutherford’s 1984 campaign by three KKR subsidiaries: Daw Forest Products, U.S. Natural Resources [USNR] and PacTrust, making Kravis’s KKR firm “the largest contributor to Rutherford’s campaign by far,” according to The Money Machine. Not surprisingly, the KKR-sponsored Rutherford then won the 1984 election for Oregon State Treasurer.

Henry Kravis’s KKR—and his cousin and KKR partner, George Roberts—also used their financial power to help influence the outcome of the 1986 election for Oregon’s governor, who was the public official responsible for appointing members of the Oregon Investment Council. KKR gave the Democratic candidate for Oregon governor, Neil Goldschmidt, $6,000 for his primary campaign and $10,000 for his general election campaign. KKR also gave his Republican opponent in the general election, Norma Paulus, $35,000 in campaign contributions through individual donations from George Roberts or KKR subsidiary company donations.

Kravis’s firm also attempted to use its financial clout to influence the 1986 election in New York State for state comptroller, where then-State Comptroller Edward Regan had the sole authority to invest New York’s public pension funds. KKR contributed $50,000 to New York State Comptroller Regan’s re-election campaign chest in 1985 and 1986, making KKR the second-largest contributor to Regan’s campaign. KKR also gave then-New York State Comptroller a $15,000 post-election campaign contribution. Coincidentally, in 1986 then-New York State Comptroller Regan provided KKR with $55 million in public pension fund money for its acquisition program and in 1987 Regan gave KKR another $370 million in public funds for more KKR deal-making activity.

After some economists began to argue that KKR’s way of doing business was harmful to the U.S. economy, some political pressure to limit the use of KKR’s leveraged-buy-out [LBO] method of taking-over U.S. corporations began to develop in the U.S. Congress. To counter this political pressure, KKR hired five different lobbying firms in Washington to prevent passage of legislation that might reduce merger or LBO activity and limit the tax benefits of such activity.

In addition, KKR partners Roberts and Kravis began to pump more of their surplus profits into funding other nationally-known politicians, in addition to George Bush I. After 1987, KKR partner George Roberts made campaign contributions to then-members of the Senate Finance Committee such as Lloyd Bentsen, John Danforth, Robert Dole and Bill Bradley; and he also gave $100,000 in 1988 to Team 100, which was the Republican National Committee’s group of largest contributors. The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over tax issues affecting KKR and 9 of the 20 senators on the committee received campaign contributions from either Henry Kravis, George Kravis or Henry Kravis’s second wife during the late 1980s. The Money Machine reported that Henry Kravis “gave over $80,000 to an assortment of senators, congressmen, Regular PACs and the GOP’s national committee” in 1987; and he gave another $100,000 to the Republican National Committee’s Team 100 in 1988, like his cousin and KKR partner George Roberts had done.

(end of part 4)

(Downtown 7/22/92)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Columbia University's Kravis/KKR/TASC Connection--Part 3

(To help fund the construction of a new Columbia Business School on Columbia University's 21st-century landgrabbing, private university real estate development/campus expansion project in West Harlem, the co-founder, co-chairman and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts [KKR]--Henry Kravis--recently gave a $100 million "gift" to the Columbia Business School. Coincidentally, Kravis is also the co-chair of the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School. And since 2009, Kravis's KKR investment firm has been a co-owner of the TASC firm which obtains 40 percent of its annual revenues from Pentagon military contracts.

The following article about Henry Kravis and KKR's pre-1992 hidden history first appeared in the July 22, 1992 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper weekly, Downtown, during the period when Kravis's KKR firm still owned New York magazine--prior to its sale to Bruce Wasserstein in 2003 for $55 million).

As long ago as the late 1980s, Henry Kravis’s KKR controlled one of the largest industrial empires in the world. As The Money Machine by Sarah Bartlett noted, “Not even J.P. Morgan in his heyday tried to amass an industrial empire on the scale of KKR’s.”

To acquire this economic empire between its founding in 1976 and 1989, the KKR investment banking partnership raised $62 billion from a variety of investor sources. Among the U.S. corporations gobbled up by Kravis’s KKR prior to its purchase of New York magazine in the early 1990s (in addition to Storer Broadcasting and Golden West Broadcasters) were the following: RJR Nabisco; Duracell; Stop & Shop; Safeway; Beatrice Foods; Owens-Illinois; Jim Walter; Union Texas Petroleum and Amstar.

A large proportion of the funds that KKR utilized after 1980 to acquire its privately-controlled economic empire came from the public funds of various state governments which were controlled by U.S. public officials, as well as from “nonprofit” institutional investors in KKR’s acquisition deals (like Harvard, Yale and the Salvation Army), from banks and from the sale of high-risk “junk-bonds.” In 1981, for example, KKR acquired the Fred Meyers company for $420 million “with a large slug of public pension money, courtesy of the State of Oregon,” according to The Money Machine. By 1986, KKR was using public money provided by the state pension funds of Washington, Oregon, New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, Michigan, Minnesota and Utah to secure the capital required to increase the size of its economic empire by additional “leveraged buy-outs.” One year later, public pension funds from the same 11 states provided 53 percent of the $5.6 billion which KKR used to take private control of RJR Nabisco, according to The Money Machine. The same book also noted that “Over the years…KKR and the state funds came to be more like partners.”

In the course of acquiring its economic empire during the 1980s, KKR executives made millions of dollars in super-profits in a variety of ways:

1. After going heavily into debt to acquire a company that was built up by other people’s labor, KKR usually laid off a significant number of employees of the acquired company and sold off portions of the company;

2. KKR charged an exorbitant management fee to those nonprofit institutions and state government pension funds who invested in its deal-making funds; and

3. KKR pocketed huge acquisition transaction fees. From its 1986 acquisition of Beatrice Food Companies, for example, “KKR earned $45 million in management fees alone and many times that in transaction fees and profits,” according to 1989 Current Biography Yearbook.

(end of part 3)

(Downtown 7/22/92)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Columbia University's Kravis/KKR/TASC Connection--Part 2

(To help fund the construction of a new Columbia Business School on Columbia University's 21st-century landgrabbing, private university real estate development/campus expansion project in West Harlem, the co-founder, co-chairman and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts [KKR]--Henry Kravis--recently gave a $100 million "gift" to the Columbia Business School. Coincidentally, Kravis is also the co-chair of the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School. And since 2009, Kravis's KKR investment firm has been a co-owner of the TASC firm which obtains 40 percent of its annual revenues from Pentagon military contracts.

The following article about Henry Kravis and KKR's pre-1992 hidden history first appeared in the July 22, 1992 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper weekly, Downtown, during the period when Kravis's KKR firm still owned New York magazine--prior to its sale to Bruce Wasserstein in 2003 for $55 million).

Henry Kravis was one of New York's leading financial sponsors of former CIA Director Bush I's 1988 presidential campaign. Kravis and Bush I "really made a connection" at the end of 1987 and "during the early days of Bush [I]'s campaign for the primary election," Kravis "agreed to co-chair a Bush [I] fund-raising luncheon at the Vista Hotel in lower Manhattan, to which many Wall Street dealmakers were invited" that raised $550,000 for Bush's 1988 presidential campaign, according to The Money Machine by Sarah Bartlett. After Bush I won the 1988 election, Kravis was named co-chairman of Bush I's inauguration dinner. And in 1990, Kravis served as the national chairman of Bush I's inaugural anniversary dinner. The Money Machine described what happened at this latter dinner:
"The gala affair, which was held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, was attended by about one thousand people, most of whom were Republican Eagles, the group that gives at least $15,000 a year to the Grand Old Party...In his remarks that fun-filled night, Bush [I] took the time to single out Henry [Kravis] as one of `those who did the heavy lifting on this.'"

Kravis told The Money Machine author Sarah Bartlett in the early 1990s that Bush I "writes me handwritten notes all the time and he calls me and stuff, and we talk" and Barlett also revealed in her book that "when Bush [I] is mulling over a financial issue, he will seek out Henry's opinion." Bush I also offered Kravis some U.S. ambassadorship posts before Kravis agreed to accept an appointment by Bush I to a national trade commission. Kravis also contributed funds to George W. Bush II's uncle, Jonathan Bush, when Bush II's uncle was the financial chairman of New York State's Republican Party organization. New York Republicans named Kravis as their "Man of the Year" and then-Republican Vice-President Quayle gave a keynote speech at a Republican Party dinner which honored Kravis in either the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Coincidentally, Kravis's father--Ray Kravis--was a friend of George W. Bush II's grandfather--Prescott Bush of the Brown Brothers Harriman investment banking partnership. According to The Money Machine, "When his son George [Bush I] graduated from Yale and was looking for a job, Prescott asked Ray if he would give George [Bush I] a job. Sure, was Ray's response."

(end of part 2)

(Downtown, 7/22/92)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Columbia University's Kravis/KKR/TASC Connection--Part 1

(To help fund the construction of a new Columbia Business School on Columbia University's 21st-century landgrabbing, private university real estate development/campus expansion project in West Harlem, the co-founder, co-chairman and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts [KKR]--Henry Kravis--recently gave a $100 million "gift" to the Columbia Business School. Coincidentally, Kravis is also the co-chair of the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School. And since 2009, Kravis's KKR investment firm has been a co-owner of the TASC firm which obtains 40 percent of its annual revenues from Pentagon military contracts.

The following article about Henry Kravis and KKR's pre-1992 hidden history first appeared in the July 22, 1992 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper weekly, Downtown, during the period when Kravis's KKR firm still owned New York magazine--prior to its sale to Bruce Wasserstein in 2003 for $55 million).

"Last week a partnership controlled by Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts, the New York financial firm famous for engineering takeovers like RJR, Nabisco's, announced it would buy most of the U.S. magazine holdings of Rupert Murdoch...The $650 million deal (which came just days after KKR announced it would back Fleet/Norstar's $625 million acquisition of the failing Bank of New England) calls for the KKR group to buy nine publications. The list includes the Daily Racing Form--the most profitable--and New York, Seventeen and Premiere." (Newsweek magazine on May 6, 1991)

"Henry R. Kravis...has...been characterized as impatient, aggressive, and hard-edged. His longtime friend Michael Douglas is said to have copied some of his mannerisms for his role as Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone's film Wall Street...An early supporter of George Bush [I], he donated $100,000 to Bush's presidential campaign and, as the candidate's New York co-chairman, raised many times that amount." (1989 Current Biography Yearbook)

In its Sept. 5, 1989 issue, New York magazine published an article on the Kohlberg-Kravis-Roberts [KKR] investment banking partnership which concluded: "KKR has been one of the most self-consciously private and publicity-shy firms on Wall Street." Coincidentally, less than two years later, KKR's K-III Holdings Corp. subsidiary purchased control of New York magazine from the then-debt-burdened Fox Television Network/TV Guide Owner Rupert Murdoch. Shortly after KKR's April 1991 purchase of New York magazine, a New York media analyst named Richard MacDonald predicted: "I bet there won't be any Henry Kravis covers on New York."

In addition to purchasing New York magazine, Seventeen, Premiere and the Daily Racing Form, in the early 1990s, the KKR firm of New York's 1988 Bush-for-President campaign co-chairman, Henry Kravis, also purchased Soap Opera Digest, Soap Opera Weekly, European Travel & Life, Automobile and New Woman from Murdoch in 1991. The Weekly Reader and Funk & Wagnalls encylopedia were also owned by KKR prior to 1992.

Besides owning magazines, Kravis's KKR also owned commercial television stations in the early 1990s. In 1983 it had purchased Golden West Broadcasters and in 1985 it had raised $2.4 billion to gain control of Storer Communications. Consequently, KKR owned 15 percent of Storer/SCI Television--which operated commercial television stations in such places as San Diego, Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee--in 1992. That same year, New York magazine's then-parent company also "made an agreement with an upstate New York cable" commercial television company "to acquire up to $1 billion in cable systems," according to the May 26, 1992 issue of the Village Voice.

In addition to having a special interest in the world of commercial television in the early 1990s, Bush I's 1988 campaign co-chairman in New York was the chairman of the board of trustees in the late 1980s of the New York City area's publicly-funded local PBS television station--WNET/Channel 13. In The Money Machine: How KKR Manufactured Power And Profits, Sarah Bartlett noted how Kravis reacted after gaining more control over Manhattan's "non-commercial'television station:
"Today, Henry sits in his magnificent 42nd floor office exuding the satisfaction of a man who has conquered...`Chairmanship of Channel 13,' he says, clearly savoring the sound of it. `That's going to be a kick. I can bring my business background to that, my interest in television, my interest in education, and I'm having a lot of fun.'

But prior to 1992, Kravis apparently attempted to use his special influence to censor journalists who showed too much curiosity about how his KKR firm operated. As freelance journalist Sarah Barlett recalled in The Money Machine:
"The journalists who tried to raise questions about KKR's behavior toward its investors were met with a combination of intimidation, personal attack, and disinformation.

"In my own case, after I wrote two stories in the New York Times in August of 1989 about KKR's troubled deals and [former KKR Partner Jerry] Kohlberg's lawsuits, Henry [Kravis] called the newspaper's [then-] publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, to complain. Henry knows Sulzberger...through the Metropolitan Museum, where Sulzberger is [was] chairman. The Met, of course, is where Henry donated $10 million for the Kravis wing.

"On Friday, Sept. 15, Henry [Former WNET-Channel 13 lawyer] Dick Beattie, and another KKR partner, Paul Raether, had lunch with Sulzberger, Max Frankel, the [then-] editor of the paper, the managing editor, and an assistant managing editor who oversees the business section. I never heard afterward from any of the editors who attended the meeting."

(end of part 1)

(Downtown, 7/22/92)

Monday, September 13, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Conclusion: 2001-2010

By November 13, 2001, the U.S. government and NATO-backed Northern Alliance coalition of right-wing Mujahideen groups had marched into Kabul and taken control of Kabul from the Taliban’s Afghan government. But apparently the U.S. government-supported Northern Alliance militias also committed a number of war crimes in Afghanistan in late 2001. As Guilles Dorronsoro’s Revolution Unending book recalled:

“Enemy military losses…went unrecorded. However, a number of war crimes were committed by allies of the United States. For example, on 25 November hundreds of Taliban prisoners were killed in the prison at Mazar-i-Sharif, after a revolt in which a CIA agent who had been interrogating prisoners was killed. Apparently many prisoners were summarily executed once they had been recaptured. The most serious incident concerned the deaths of Taliban and foreign prisoners who were suffocated inside containers. According to a meticulous inquiry, around 3,000 Taliban prisoners were massacred by Northern Alliance forces, an atrocity which by some accounts was perpetrated in the presence of American soldiers. Despite the gravity of these reports, and the known locations of communal graves, the UN declined to carry out an inquiry in order not to embarrass the Afghan and U.S. government…”

After the Northern Alliance marched into Kabul, an agreement to eventually begin construction of the proposed Unocal [which became a subsidiary in 2005 of a company-- Chevron Texaco--on whose corporate board former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat before joining the Bush II Administration) pipeline project in Afghanistan was soon reached. A former Unocal consultant, Zhalamy Khalizad, was named as the Bush II Administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan; and a former Unocal consultant, Hamid Karzai, was soon brought back to Afghanistan by the Bush II Administration to be the new Afghan president in Kabul. As Revolution Unending observed, “his exile in the United States …enabled Karzai to gain the backing of the U.S. government and therefore achieve his present position.” According to the same book, Karzai “is the son of a…Pashtun family from Kandahar ” and is “related to the royal family” of Afghanistan, whose members controlled the government of Afghanistan until the 1970s. But outside of Kabul, “local warlords and militia commanders…were able to take de facto control of their respective areas,” and “Karzai’s tolerance of the warlords has been seen by Afghans in general as a weakness,” according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History.

Since 30 to 50 percent of the recruits in the Karzai regime’s new Afghan Army of 6,000 troops deserted in 2003, in 2004 the Pentagon still had to spend $11 billion a year on U.S. military operations in Afghanistan in 2004 in order to prop up the Karzai regime. As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed:

“…The balance of armed forces was weighted heavily on the side of the warlord militias, variously estimated at between 60,000 full time fighters to over 100,000, if one includes `part-timers’ from the swollen ranks of the unemployed…

“As before, warlords have been able to expand their financial base by imposing customs duties and other taxes on their own account. Some have benefited substantially from smuggling and drug trafficking…The opium crop earned Afghan farmers and traffickers some $2.3 billion, or around 50 percent of the gross domestic product…The crop in Afghanistan accounted for over 75 percent of the world’s illicitly grown opium in 2003…The New York-based Human Rights Watch has produced detailed documentation of the abuses committed with impunity by militia leaders and their followers…”

The U.S. soldiers first sent to occupy Afghanistan in late 2001 (who now number between 70,000 and 100,000) were apparently seen by many people in Afghanistan as yet another set of the foreign invaders that have attempted to manipulate Afghanistan’s internal affairs since the 19th-century. As Revolution Unending observed in 2005:

“The U.S. forces are unwelcome, especially in the Pashtun areas, where the civilians have complained of harassment. Regularly and predictably, military operations result in civilian casualties…For instance, 42 Afghans died and 181 were wounded on the night of June 30-July 1 2002 when four villages near Kabraki in the province of Uruzgan were bombed during a marriage ceremony…The treatment of prisoners of war also does not measure up to international standards. In a communique on January 28, 2003 the World Organization Against Torture stated that Taliban detained by the Americans had been subjected to torture in CIA interrogation centers, particularly at Bagram air base in Afghanistan and on the island of Diego Garcia …”

Around 1,025 U.S. soldiers have been killed and around 5,275 have been wounded in Afghanistan since October 2001 (along with around 500 troops killed from other nations whose governments agreed to send troops to fight with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] —which, besides its 70,000 to 100,000 U.S. soldiers, now includes 38,000 troops from other nations). But the number of Afghan civilian casualties produced by the Pentagon’s war in Afghanistan since October 2001 has been far greater. As James Lucas’s “America’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan” article, for example, noted, “since the U.S. started its bombing in 2001 an estimated 7,309 Afghan civilians have been killed by U.S.-led forces as of June 20, 2008, according to an estimate made by University of New Hampshire Professor Mark Herold.”

In his “ America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan ” article, Lucas also summarized what life is apparently like for the people of Afghanistan in 2010:

“Today the ordinary Afghan is caught between three forces: the U.S., the Taliban, and the puppet government composed of former members of the Mujahideen whom many Afghans would like to have tried as war criminals. Also, the Upper House of Parliament is not a democratic institution, its members being appointed by the President…Up to 60% of the deputies in the Lower House are directly or indirectly connected to current and past human rights abuses.

“Under the newly established government in 2001, women were allowed to once again work and go to school. Nevertheless, the abuse of women continues, since the government is too weak to enforce many of the laws, especially in the rural areas.

"According to Human Rights Watch, `The law gives a husband the right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if she refuses to obey his sexual demands. It grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers. It requires women to get permission from their husbands to work. It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying `blood money’ to a girl who was injured when he raped her.’…

“…About one in ten Afghans is disabled, mostly due to the wars and landmines. Their life expectancy is about 43 years…

“Although more than 3.7 million Afghan refugees have returned to their homes in the past six years, several million still live in Pakistan and Iran. About 132,000 people are internally displaced as a result of drought, violence and instability. Furthermore, there are reportedly about 400,000 orphans in Afghanistan.

“ Afghanistan suffers from an unemployment rate of 40 percent and most of those who have jobs earn only meager wages. Many youth joined the Mujahideen or Taliban in order to receive some food, shelter and income. The average educational level of Afghans is 1.7 years of schooling, which severely limits their job opportunities. As many as 18 million Afghans still live on less than $2 a day.

“…On their land there are still about 10 million mines which cause loss of life and limbs and reduces the amount of land available for farming….”

But the Turkmenistan government is apparently still “interested in moving forward with a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan,” according to a Feb. 15, 2010 UPI article. The same article noted that the proposed 1,044-mile Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India [TAPI] pipeline “is seen as a rival to a long-delayed natural gas pipeline from the Iranian South Pars gas field” and “TAPI is favored by Western powers over the South Pars option because of diplomatic concerns with dealing with Iran.” And since much of the $230 billion that the U.S. War Machine has spent on the endless war in Afghanistan between October 2001 and the end of 2009 has gone to private war contractors, the recipients of the Pentagon’s lucrative war contracts have also apparently profited much more from the 21st-century historical situation in Afghanistan than have the people of Afghanistan.

So, not surprisingly, the Pentagon is still using some of the additional 30,000 U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan in 2010 in a military offensive against the Taliban in Kandahar during 2010 that it has nicknamed “Operation Omid.”

The word “omid” means “hope” in the Dari language of Afghanistan. Yet—as this people’s history of Afghanistan indicates—people in Afghanistan are not likely to hopefully accept the endless presence in their country of still more foreign troops. Whether they come from the UK, from India, from Pakistan, from Saudi Arabia, from Russia, from the United States, from Canada, from NATO or from the ISAF. So it’s not necessarily historically inevitable that a Taliban guerrilla force of about 25,000 Afghan fighters will be easily defeated militarily by the Obama Administration’s troops in 2010, if the U.S. troops continue to be seen as foreign invaders by most people in Afghanistan in 2010. As an Afghan farmer in Kandahar named Abdul Salaam recently told the Global Post (April 19, 2010): “You cannot bring peace through war.”

(end of series)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 14: 1998-2001

Ironically, despite Unocal and the Democratic Clinton Administration’s tacit support for a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan’s government prior to 1996, Taliban Leader “Mullah Omar’s government never had any intention of allowing U.S. firms to construct an oil pipeline,” according to Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie’s Forbidden Truth book. So after Unocal’s pipeline deal with the Taliban government in Afghanistan fell through, the Administration of Secretary of State Clinton’s husband used the August 7, 1998 bombings—apparently by armed right-wing Islamic fundamentalist groups--of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (which killed over 200 people) as its pretext to order the U.S. War Machine’s initial bombing of Afghanistan on August 20, 1998.

From Pentagon warships in the Indian Ocean, 67 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched which struck camps in Khost and killed 20 people in Afghanistan. The Clinton Administration then froze all U.S. assets of the Afghan government and banned all commercial and financial dealings with the Afghan government on July 6, 1999. By October 15, 1999, the Clinton Administration had also succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to pass a resolution (1267) which imposed economic sanctions on Afghanistan. And shortly before it was replaced by the Republican Bush II Administration, the Clinton Administration also was able to get the UN Security Council to pass a resolution (1393) on December 19, 2000 which froze all foreign assets of the Afghan government. Yet in 2000, the Taliban regime still controlled 85 percent of Afghanistan and the U.S. government-backed Northern Alliance of Mujahideen groups only controlled 15 percent of Afghanistan’s territory.

So soon after the January 2001 presidential inauguration of George W. Bush, negotiations between the Republican Bush II Administration and representatives of the Taliban regime’s Afghan government about reviving the proposed pipeline project in Afghanistan were apparently held between February and April 2001. And after an aide to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar met with the CIA in Washington,D.C. in March 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced in April 2001 that the Bush II Administration was going to give $43 million in aid to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, according to the November 19, 2001 issue of the Irish Times.

But when Taliban regime negotiators apparently refused to agree to the Bush II Administration’s proposals related to the pipeline project and the establishing of a new coalition government in Afghanistan at a July 2001 meeting in Berlin, a U.S. government representative at the meeting apparently “evoked the option of a military operation against Afghanistan,” according to Forbidden Truth.

What happened on September 11, 2001 in Downtown Manhattan and at the Pentagon was then used as a pretext by the Bush II Administration (and its Blair Administration military ally in the UK) to launch an October 7, 2001 aerial attack on all cities in Afghanistan--which killed 400 Afghan civilians during the first week of Pentagon bombing alone. As Michael Parenti recalled in a December 2008 article, “in sum, well in advance of the 9/11 attacks the US government had made preparations to move against the Taliban and create a compliant regime in Kabul and a direct US military presence in Central Asia;” and “… 9/11…provided the perfect impetus, stampeding US public opinion and reluctant allies into supporting military intervention.”

Yet as Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie’s Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace observed, “there was no explicit agreement under international law for the USA to go to war,” in a now overt and direct way, against the people of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001.

But after the September 11, 2001 events, the Bush II Administration claimed it was morally justified for the U.S. War Machine to start bombing Afghanistan in October 2001 because Osama Bin Laden was “responsible” for what happened on September 11, 2001 in the United States. Yet as Guilles Dorronsoro’s Revolution Unending book noted, “Bin Laden’s role in Afghan politics was minimal” in 2001.

Ironically, Osama Bin Laden (a multi-millionaire son of an extremely wealthy Saudi Arabian construction contractor) had apparently previously begun working in partnership with the CIA in Afghanistan in 1979—-the same year that the Democratic Carter Administration signed an official order that authorized its CIA to work for regime change in Afghanistan (by providing covert aid to the right-wing Afghan Islamic guerrilla fighters who were being trained by the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence [ISI] agency). After leaving Saudi Arabia and joining the Afghan Mujahideen guerrillas in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1979, Bin Laden, for example, apparently helped the CIA and the ISI organize the Mujahideen guerrillas to wage the CIA’s 1980s proxy war in Afghanistan between 1980 and 1986. And in 1988, Bin Laden apparently created his al-Qaeda group--which recruited foreign fighters and raised money for the anti-feminist Mujahideen guerrilla groups in Afghanistan—before he left Afghanistan in 1989. As Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “according to Milt Bearden, the CIA station chief in Pakistan in 1986 to 1989, Bin Laden and other fund-raisers for the Afghan jihad were bringing in between 20 and 25 million dollars a month from the Saudis and Gulf Arabs to underwrite the war” against the Soviet military-supported Afghan government.

During the same period when Unocal, the CIA and the Clinton Administration were apparently supporting the Taliban group’s campaign to gain control of the Afghan government in the summer of 1996, Bin Laden also “reportedly contributed 3 million dollars to the Taliban war chest,” according to Forbidden Truth. But although “the CIA gave Osama free rein in Afghanistan, as did Pakistani intelligence generally,” the “CIA seems to have…turned against its former partner Bin Laden in 1995 and 1996,” according to John Cooley’s Unholy Wars book. Coincidentally, between 1982 and 1997, the Bush II Administration’s Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs in 2001, Christine Rocca, had also “worked with the CIA as an agent reporting to the director of Intelligence Operations;” and “in this capacity, for several years she coordinated relations between the CIA and the Islamic guerrillas, and supervised some of the deliveries of Stinger missiles to the Mujahideen fighters,” according to Forbidden Truth.

Prior to the Bush II Administration’s illegal attack on Afghanistan in October 2001, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Taliban’s Afghan government proposed that Bin Laden just be deported from Afghanistan to another Muslim country and just be placed under surveillance, since—as CNN reported on September 21, 2001--“Bin Laden…denied he had anything to do with the attacks, and Taliban officials repeatedly said he could not have been involved in the attacks;” and the Bush II Administration failed to provide any international court with concrete evidence that Bin Laden had actually been “responsible” for what happened on September 11, 2001 in the United States. In addition, even the BBC News reported on October 5, 2001 that there was “no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks.”

Yet “the American government preferred to give the Taliban an ultimatum rather than negotiate, hence the refusal to provide any kind of proof of Bin Laden’s implication” in the September 11, 2001 events, according to Revolution Unending.

When the Taliban’s Afghan government refused (as anticipated) to accept the Bush II Administration’s illegal ultimatum to “hand over Bin Laden” (or the U.S. War Machine would attack Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban regime), the Pentagon (and its UK military junior partner) then began its “Operation Enduring Freedom” military campaign in Afghanistan (which was subsequently joined by soldiers from the military forces of other members of NATO)--that people in Afghanistan are still having to endure over 8 years later. And according to the Afganistan: The Mirage of Peace book:

“By the end of October 2001…there was a switch in strategy to carpet bombing of frontlines…Sub-atomic bombs were dropped on Taliban frontlines in the Shamal plains north of Kabul…In addition, a quarter of a million deadly bomblets were scattered from the cluster bombs that the USA dropped throughout the country…”

The Bush II Administration then sent large numbers of U.S. ground troops to invade Afghanistan in late November 2001; and by the end of December 2001, the Pentagon had dropped over 12,000 bombs on Afghanistan. Although the U.S. army refused “in principle to estimate” the number of Afghan civilian casualties created by the direct U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan by the end of 2001, it “probably amounted to several thousand,” according to Revolution Unending.

(end of part 14. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Conclusion: 2001-2010")

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 13: 1992-1998

Since October 2001, the Pentagon has been waging an endless war in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime. Yet after the Taliban guerrillas first marched into Kabul in September 1996, an editorial in the October 8, 1996 issue of the New York Times stated that the Taliban regime “has brought a measure of stability to the country for the first time in years.”

In Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace, Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie indicated why the coalition of CIA and ISI-organized Mujahideen guerrilla groups that initially replaced the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] regime in Afghanistan in April 1992 failed to bring “stability to the country,” when they described what happened after the Mujahideen militia groups marched into Kabul:

“…Tens of thousands of civilians fled their homes…The public services that the Najibullah regime had maintained were soon a thing of the past…

“About 20,000 people died in the fighting between April 1992 and December 1994 that followed the `liberation’ of Kabul. Almost three-quarters of those who survived were forced to leave their homes and move across the city, or flee to squalid camps for the displaced in Jalalabad…Kabul continued to be the focus for rocket attacks from the outside until 1995…”

In August 1992, for example the Mujahideen leader whose armed group had received the most military aid from the CIA in the early 1980s, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, “launched a barrage of rockets against Kabul from his bases north and east of the city that killed over a thousand civilians,” according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also noted that in January 1994, Hekmatyar’s Mujahideen group also “unleashed the most ferocious artillery and rocket attacks that Kabul had ever experienced” and “these attacks destroyed half the city, took some 25,000 civilian lives, and caused tens of thousands of Kabalis to seek safety in Pakistan or in the north” of Afghanistan.

The situation of women in Kabul also worsened dramatically after the CIA and ISI-organized armed Islamic groups entered Afghan’s capital city. As Guilles Dorronsoro’s Revolution Unending noted:

“The arrival of the Mujahideen in 1992 inaugurated a range of restrictions from the wearing of the veil to the ban on women appearing on television…In Kabul all the armed groups…were guilty of rapes and kidnappings, leading sometimes to the suicide of young girls who had been dishonored. The very few women who dared to dress in the western style in the modern part of Kabul were harassed by the Mujahideen. All this was a new departure, and a contrast, since Afghan women had seldom before been threatened with deliberate acts of violence and certainly not with rape…”

But, according to John Lucas’s “America’s Nation-Destroying Mission in Afghanistan” article, although the Mujahideen now set up a “Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” to “control women’s dress codes and the length of men’s beards,” under the Mujahadeen government “women were still allowed to work” and were still able to be employed in professional jobs in Kabul.

Outside of Kabul, the Afghan countryside was pretty much ruled by Afghan warlords and Afghan drug lords. And by 1994, the country in the world that produced the most heroin was now Afghanistan.

But in November 1994 a new anti-feminist, Islamic guerrilla group of Afghan Pashtun tribes that was apparently backed by Saudi government money and Pakistani government weapons--the Taliban--initiated its military campaign to gain control of Afghanistan’s government. As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “the heavy Pakistani involvement in arming, training and even providing logistical support in Taliban field operations was no secret to informal observers as early as 1995” and “the generous Saudi funding was also well known.” The Democratic Administration of Secretary of State Clinton’s husband also apparently wished, during the mid-1990s, to see the Taliban obtain control of the Afghan government, after one of its diplomats, Ms. Robin Raphael, held a meeting with Taliban representatives. According to the same book:

“The United States …was not an uninterested party. An eventual take-over by the Taliban…served both the U.S. political strategy of `containing’…Iran…, as well as its economic interests in fostering…an alternative land route through Afghanistan and Pakistan for the exploitation by U.S.-led companies of the seemingly inexhaustible oil and gas reserves of Central Asia.”

Dator Zayar’s “Afghanistan: An Historical View” article also asserted that “the Taliban were the creation of the Pakistan military and intelligence establishment with the active support of the CIA” and “U.S. imperialism is directly responsible for the Taliban reaction in Afghanistan.”

Less than three weeks after Taliban guerrilla fighters from Pakistan captured in two days the Afghan city of Kandahar on November 3, 1994, the number of Taliban guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan had rapidly increased to 2,500. And, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History, many of these Taliban insurgents were “armed with brand-new weapons that could only have come from Inter-Service Intelligence [ISI] warehouses in Pakistan.” So, by February 1995, the Taliban forces were able to capture the base near Kabul of Hekmatyar’s Mujahadeen forces.

Although the Taliban apparently began to act more independently of the Pakistani government in March 1995, during the summer of 1995 the Pakistan government’s ISI agency trained more Taliban guerrillas; and, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History, there is “no doubt that Pakistan through its ISI had played a key role in reinforcing the Taliban capacity to wage war.” The Afghan city of Jalalabad was then captured by the Taliban on September 12, 1996; and by September 26, 1996, the ISI-trained Taliban troops now controlled Kabul. By 1998, over 90 percent of Afghanistan’s territory was now controlled by the Taliban’s new Afghan government.

Coincidentally, after an October 21, 1995 agreement was signed between Turkmenistan President Saparmurad Nizazov, Unocal and Unocal’s business partner—the Saudi-owned Delta oil company—to build a gas pipeline through Afghanistan, Unocal (which became a subsidiary of Chevron Texaco in 2005) began to handle “public relations for the Taliban and sponsored visits to Washington and Houston during the mid-1990s," according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. As the same book explained:

“Behind… U.S. acquiescence in an eventual Taliban takeover, engineered by its Pakistan and Saudi allies, lay the Unocal game plan. Unocal was a consortium of U.S. oil companies formed to exploit the hydrocarbon reserves of Central Asia. Unocal and its Saudi partner, Delta, had hired every available American involved in Afghan operations during the jihad years, including Robert Oakley, a former ambassador to Pakistan, and worked hand-in-glove with U.S. officials. Unocal staff acted for a time as an unofficial lobby for the Taliban and were regularly briefed by the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI. In U.S. eyes, the most important function of the Taliban would have been to provide security for the roads, and potentially for the gas and oil pipelines that would link the Central Asian states to the international markets through Afghanistan rather than Iran…The U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asian Affairs, Robin Raphael, went so far as to state that the Taliban capture of Kabul was `a positive step.’”

Following the September 1996 takeover of Kabul by the Taliban regime, Unocal Vice President Chris Taggart also said on October 2, 1996 that “if this leads to peace, stability, and international recognition, then this is a positive development.”

Support for the Taliban by the Clinton Administration apparently became “an economic priority,” after Unocal executives signed its October 21, 1995 agreement with the Turkmenistan president, based on potential gas exports evaluated at $8 billion, according to Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie. Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie also observed in their Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace book:

“… Afghanistan potentially offered advantages over all the alternative pipeline routes…The Clinton administration weighed in heavily on behalf of Unocal…In February 1997, and again in November of that year, Taliban representatives were in Washington meeting both Unocal and State Department officials. Unocal estimated it had spent some $15-20 million on the pipeline project…It hired…Zalmay Khalizad…a member of the National Security Council…Hamid Karzai…in 1997 represented Unocal in negotiations with the Taliban leadership…”

Yet for Afghan women in Kabul, the victory of the Unocal, Clinton Administration, Pakistani government and Saudi government-backed Taliban in September 1996 apparently “represented the triumph of the most fundamentalist tendency,” according to Revolution Unending. The same book also observed that the “earliest victims” of the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan “were educated women, who were mainly in Kabul and numbered around 165,000.” As a March 1998 article by N.O.W. vice president Karen Johnson noted:

“…On Sept. 27, 1996, the Taliban issued an edict that forbade women and girls from working or going to school. The edict took effect immediately, and women who tried to go to work the next day were beaten and forced to return home….On Sept. 26, 1996, women were 70% of the school teachers, 40% of the doctors, 50% of government workers and 50% of the university students…A woman must be accompanied by a male relative in order to leave the confines of her home…In the city of Kabul alone there are 40,000 widows who can no longer work to support themselves and their families…The Taliban asserts that the prohibitions for women and girls are religious and protective in nature…”

But, according to Revolution Unending, for “country women” in Afghanistan “the principal effect of the arrival of the Taliban was an end to insecurity,” since rural Afghan women already lacked the educational and work opportunities that urban Afghan women lost after the Taliban militias entered Kabul in September 1996.

At least one writer has questioned the assertion that all actions of the Taliban regime’s Afghan government between September 1996 and November 2001 deserved condemnation. For example, in his book, The World Is Turning, Don Paul wrote that “the Taliban…rebuilt schools and hospitals,” “eliminated (according to a year 2000 United Nations drug Control Program study) opium cultivation in their territory,” and “barred the selling of women as chattels.” In addition, the Taliban (according to a speech by their roving Ambassador, Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi, at the University of Southern California on March 10, 2001) claimed that it allowed women to “work in the Taliban’s Ministries of Health, of Education, of the Interior, of Social Affairs” and allowed” more women than men” to “attend the schools of Medical Science that the Taliban had re-opened in all of Afghanistan’s major cities.”

Another early victim of the Taliban occupation of Kabul on September 26, 1996 was the Afghan government leader whose regime had collapsed in April 1992, Najibullah. Between April 1992 and September 1996, Najibullah had enjoyed sanctuary at the United Nations diplomatic premises in Kabul. But “one of the Taliban’s first acts after entering Kabul was to violate the United Nations diplomatic premises” to “torture and execute” Najibullah “and two companions in a particularly gruesome manner and expose their mutilated bodies in a Kabul square,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. Datar Zayar’s “ Afghanistan: An Historical View” article also observed that, additionally, the Taliban regime “unleashed a reign of terror with ethnic cleansing in Bamiyan and Mazar-e-Sharif and severe repression against oppressed religious minorities and nationalities” in Afghanistan.

(end of part 13. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 14: 1998-2001"

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 12: 1987-1992

In 2010 more than 600 individuals were still imprisoned by the Democratic Obama Administration at its Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan; and many of these Bagram prisoners have apparently been held without access to lawyers or an opportunity to legally challenge the basis of their imprisonment for as long as six years. Yet none of the U.S. government officials responsible for escalating the covert and overt U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan since the 1970s have ever been held legally accountable for the morally disastrous humanitarian effects their policies have had on the history of people in Afghanistan.

Yet in April 1986, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan[PDPA]-Parcham faction leader who had been installed in late December 1979 by Soviet troops as the head of the PDPA regime in Afghanistan--Babrak Karmal—was replaced by the former head of the PDPA regime’s secret police, Dr. Mohammad Najibullah, after Najibullah was elected by the PDPA’s Central Committee to be its new general secretary. Subsequently, on January 1, 1987, the new PDPA regime head of state attempted to bring peace to the people of Afghanistan and negotiate an end to the 1980s Afghan war by announcing a “program of `national reconciliation’ comprising three key elements: a six-month unilateral cease-fire, the formation of a government of `national unity’ and the return of over 5 million refugees from Pakistan and Iran,” according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also recalled:

“An `Extraordinary Supreme Commission for National Reconciliation’ was set up and branches were opened all over the country. Their job was to make contact with refugees…in exile or fighting with resistance groups, pass on the message of peace, and distribute essential relief items for the use of returning refugees. Other inducements offered were tax concessions, the return of confiscated property and the deferment of military service. Radio Kabul started calling the Mujahideen fighters `angry brothers’ rather than `bandits.’ Some 4000…prisoners were released. Six months later, just before the expiring of the 6-month ceasefire, Najibullah was able to claim that 59,000 refugees had returned; tens of thousands of men were negotiating with the government; 4,000 representatives of the opposition had been included in the reconciliation committees; and coalition governments had already been formed in several villages, sub-districts, districts and provinces.”

But the alliance of seven U.S., Pakistani and Saudi government-sponsored anti-feminist Afghan political parties apparently “turned down with disbelief and contempt” the January 1987 peace proposals of the PDPA regime in Afghanistan. As the same book explained:

“The Islamic parties…claiming to represent the Mujahideen resistance had developed into vested interests that were not receptive to power-sharing arrangements. They and their Pakistani sponsors, replete with funds and weapons generously contributed by `the international community’, developed their own agendas for a post-Soviet Afghanistan…The parties owed their `influence’ to the fact that they served as somewhat porous conduits for the U.S. and Saudi funds and weapons channeled to the resistance fighters inside Afghanistan by Pakistan’s ISI [Inter-Service Intelligence]…”

Ironically, “a survey among Afghan refugees conducted in 1987 by one of Afghanistan’s outstanding academics and intellectuals, Professor S.B. Majrooh, found that less than half a percent of those polled would choose one of the seven” Afghan Islamic political party “leaders to rule a free Afghanistan,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. Coincidentally, the Union of Mujahideen (a coalition of these seven unpopular Islamic parties) apparently then arranged for Professor Majrooh to be assassinated in his office in Peshawar on February 11, 1988, shortly after his survey results were made public.

Yet despite the rejection of its January 1987 peace proposals by the U.S., Pakistani and Saudi government-sponsored Islamic parties, the PDPA regime extended its unilateral January 1987 ceasefire in Afghanistan for another six months in June 1987; and it invited its right-wing Afghan political opponents to suggest changes in the draft of a proposed new Afghan constitution which it published in July 1987. The proposed new Afghan constitution--that set up a democratic, multi-party parliamentary political system in Afghanistan in which Islam was the state religion—was then formally approved by the PDPA regime’s parliament [jirga] in November 1987.

On February 8, 1988, the Gorbachev regime in the Soviet Union next announced that on May 15, 1988 it would start to withdraw the 85,000 Soviet troops still in Afghanistan; and it would have all Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan by March 15, 1989. Parliamentary elections were then held in Afghanistan in April 1988 in which the National Fatherland Front [NFF] and other newly formed Afghan parties won more seats in the new, democratically-elected Afghan parliament than did the PDPA—which just won 22 percent of the parliamentary seats. In addition, 25 percent of the seats in the lower house of the new Afghan parliament were left vacant for representatives of the Islamic opposition parties in Afghanistan--that were still unwilling to negotiate an agreement in 1988 that would finally bring peace to Afghanistan.

A peace agreement between the Pakistani government and the Afghan government-- guaranteed by both the Reagan Administration and the Gorbachev regime in the Soviet Union --was, however, signed on April 14, 1988. But after the withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan was completed in February 1989, Pakistan’s “ISI drew up the battle plans and arranged the logistics, the intelligence and the communications,” for a March 7, 1989 attack from Pakistan by its Afghan Mujahideen units, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. Although the Mujahideen quickly “captured the government base of Samarkhel, 12 miles south-east of Jalalabad,” their march to the local airport “ran into heavy resistance.” As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “despite human wave assaults and a heavy bombardment of the city that cost over 2,000, mostly civilian lives, the Muhajideen could not advance any further. And in July 1989, the Afghan government military forces were able to easily retake its Samarkhel base, where they found that 70 captured Afghan army officers had been murdered by the ISI-organized Mujahideen.”

Without the support of any Soviet troops, the army of the Najibullah regime’s Afghan government in 1989 was also able to defend Jalalabad “against the most massive attack ever undertaken by the Mujahideen during the whole war,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. And, despite a failed coup attempt by the Minister of Defense of the Afghan government regime in March 1990, Najibullah’s regime did not collapse until there was a successful 1992 Afghan military coup which, according to Dator Zayar’s October 2001 “Afghanistan: An Historical View” article, was “planned by the CIA and ISI” and “prepared the way for the capture of Kabul by the Islamic fundamentalists.” Afghan President Najibullah then announced in early April 1992 that he would resign as part of a UN-brokered transition of power and “ Kabul now became the scene for a power struggle between four main armed” Mujahadeen “groups,” according to Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace by Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie.

By April 1992, the commanders of the various Mujahideen guerrilla groups were also deriving a major source of their personal income from Afghanistan’s lucrative drug trade. As Trinity College Professor and International Studies Program Director Vijay Prashad wrote in his “War Against The Planet” article that was posted on the CounterPunch website:

“The opium harvest at the Pakistan-Afghan border doubled between 1982 and 1983 (575 tons), but by the end of the decade it would grow to 800 tons. On June 18, 1986, the New York Times reported that the Mujahideen `have been involved in narcotics activities as a matter of policy to finance their operations.’.”

In his Killing Hope book, William Blum also wrote:

“…Mujahideen commanders inside Afghanistan personally controlled huge fields of opium poppies, the raw material from which heroin is refined. CIA-supplied trucks and mules, which had carried arms into Afghanistan, were used to transport some of the opium to the numerous laboratories along the Afghan-Pakistan border, whence many tons of heroin were processed with the cooperation of the Pakistani military. The output provided an estimated one-third to one-half of the heroin used annually in the United States and three-quarters of that used in Western Europe ….”

(end of part 12. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 13: 1992-1998)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 11: 1981-1987

On March 29, 2010, the Associated Press reported that “a senior military official” in Washington “who was not authorized to speak publicly on the operation” said that “NATO forces...will make a long-planned assault on the Taliban’s spiritual home in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar;” and that “military officials say they expect `several thousand’" of the 30,000 extra troops that Barack Obama recently ordered to Afghanistan “to be sent to Kandahar.” But long before the Republican Bush II Administration ordered Pentagon ground troops to begin the endless war in Afghanistan in late 2001, the Republican Reagan Administration was involving the U.S. government even more deeply in the internal political affairs of Afghanistan.

The CIA’s SOVMAT program of arming anti-feminist Afghan guerrillas, for example, continued to operate after the Democratic Carter Administration was replaced by the Reagan Administration and William Casey (a former Capital Cities Communications media conglomerate board member who also then owned over $3 million worth of stock in companies like Exxon, DuPont, Standard Oil of Indiana and Mobil-Superior Oil) became the new CIA director in 1981. As Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History observed:

“Bill Casey’s CIA procurers scoured the globe in search of Soviet-style weapons. Egypt, which had large stockpiles of automatic weapons, land mines, grenade launchers and anti-aircraft missiles delivered by the Soviets was the first source…Other sources were Israel, which had a supply of Soviet-made weapons—captured during the Six-Day War and from Syrian troops and Palestinians in London—and China. Using Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence [ISI] as a go-between, the CIA contracted with the Chinese government to manufacture rocket launchers, AK47s and heavy machine guns in return for hard currency and new equipment. China became a major source of supply. As the requirements grew, the CIA arranged for copies of Soviet weapons to be manufactured in factories in Cairo and in the US , where one leading firm was given a classified contract to upgrade SAM-7-anti-aircraft missiles…”

The CIA’s covert military intervention in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and early 1980s represented “the biggest single CIA covert operation anywhere in the world,” according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. The money the U.S. government’s CIA secretly spent on giving weapons and military aid-- via its Pakistani ISI middle-men--to the Afghan Mujahideen guerrillas grew from $30 million to $280 million-per-year between 1981 and 1985. In addition, Reagan Administration CIA Director Casey also persuaded “Arab governments to contribute to a reserve fund that could be kept secret from Congress and the State Department” during the early 1980s, according to the same book. As a result, in late 1981 the repressive Saudi Arabian monarchical regime “began to match the CIA dollar for dollar in the financing of purchases of weapons for the Afghan resistance,” “funneled more than half a billion dollars to CIA accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands,” and made “substantial direct contributions of cash and weapons to its own favorites among the Mujahideen parties” in Afghanistan.

The Bank of Credit and Commerce International [BCCI] in Geneva was the financial institution secretly used by the CIA and the Saudi government in the 1980s to manage the special “Afghan War” accounts--from which the CIA and Saudi government payments were made to the various arms dealers who supplied the weapons needed for the CIA’s covert military intervention in Afghanistan. By 1989, around $13 billion had been spent by the U.S. and Saudi governments on subsidizing the CIA and ISI’s Mujahideen militias in Afghanistan; and around 50 percent of U.S. government-supplied weapons had been distributed to Hekmatyar’s extremely anti-feminist Hizb-I Islami guerrilla group.

Ironically, one of the strongest proponents for the escalation of the Republican Reagan Administration’s escalation of Casey’s covert war in Afghanistan in the early 1980s was a Democrat: a now-deceased Democratic Congressional representative from Texas named Charles Wilson. As John Cooley’s Unholy Wars recalled:

“The single U.S. Congressman who emerged as CIA Director William Casey’s champion Congressional ally, especially for appropriating money was Democratic Representative Charles Wilson of Texas, one of the most colorful figures of the Afghan jihad…Always ready to promote the interests of the Texas defense contractors who supported him, he got seats on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee…

“Wilson made 14 separate trips to South Asia…In 1982, he began intensive work in secret hearings of the Senate Appropriations Committee to inject more and more money into the Afghan enterprise. On one trip in 1983 he crossed into Afghanistan with a group of Mujahideen

“Wilson ’s best ally for money decisions below Casey’s level in the CIA was John N. McMahon, the agency’s deputy director since June 1982…

“McMahon did support Wilson’s efforts for more money for the jihad, after setting up, during Stanfield Turner’s watch as CIA Director [during the Democratic Carter Administration], many of the original financing and supply arrangements for the Mujahideen…”

In late 1984, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History, the U.S. Congress, “in a rare show of bi-partisanship, and prompted by friends of the Afghan resistance such as Charles Wilson, Gordon Humphrey, Orin Hatch and Bill Bradley, also took the lead in voting more money for the Mujahideen than the Reagan administration requested, sometimes by diverting funds from the defense budget to the CIA.” And CIA Director Casey personally visited three secret training camps in October 1984 to watch some of the Mujahideen guerrillas being trained in Pakistan to wage war in Afghanistan.

The CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1986-1989 who was apparently responsible for arming the Mujahideen was Milton Bearden, according to James Lucas’ “ America’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article. In Bearden’s view, “the U.S. was fighting the Soviets to the last Afghan,” during the 1980s. And around 1.5 million to 2 million Afghans would be killed during the CIA-sponsored Afghan war, before all Soviet troops were eventually withdrawn by the Gorbachev regime in the late 1980s. Thousands of Afghan civilians were apparently killed, for example, as a result of the Soviet military’s bombing of apparently 12,000 rural villages in Afghanistan (as part of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA] government’s “counter-insurgency” campaign) during the 1980s.

As Afghanistan: A Modern History observed, “all pretenses that the United States was not directly involved in the Afghan war were dissipated at a stroke late 1984,” when Republican President Reagan then publicly authorized “the delivery of Stinger surface-to-air missiles to the Mujahideen.” The delivery of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Mujahideen by the CIA “would begin to turn the tide of the” Afghan “war in 1985” against the Soviet military forces and Afghan armed forces that supported the PDPA regime in Afghanistan, according to Unholy Wars. As James Lucas noted in his “America ’s Nation-Destroying Mission In Afghanistan” article:

“Between 1986 and 1989, the U.S. provided the Mujahideen with more than 1,000 of these state-of-the-art, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile launchers which by some accounts prevented a Soviet victory. Stinger missiles were able to destroy low-flying Soviet planes which forced them to fly at higher altitudes, thereby curtailing the damage they could cause."

By 1987, the U.S. government was giving the anti-feminist Afghan guerrillas nearly $700 million in military assistance per year; and were it not for the involvement of the CIA and the Pakistani government’s ISI in the 1980s war in Afghanistan, the Mujahideen might not have eventually succeeded in violently overthrowing the PDPA regime by the early 1990s. As Afghanistan: A Modern History noted, “the greatest advantage that the Mujahideen as a guerrilla force had were the safe havens in Pakistan to which they could withdraw from time to time to rest and refit, gather the supplies that they needed, receive training in the use of the increasingly sophisticated weapons that the United States was delivering, and be briefed on the superior intelligence…that the CIA was providing through the ISI.”

The same book revealed some details of how the CIA and ISI organized their military units of Afghan refugees to attack Afghanistan—in violation of international law—during the late 1970s and 1980s:

“Within the ISI, the Afghan Bureau was the command post for the war in Afghanistan and operated in the greatest secrecy, with its military staff wearing civilian clothes. Its head reported to [then-ISI Director General] Akhtar [Abdur Rahman], who also devoted some 50 percent of his time to the affairs of the Bureau and reported directly to [Pakistani President] Zia. The respective roles of the CIA and the ISI’s Afghan Bureau are best summed up by the army officer personally selected by Akhtar in October 1983 to head the Bureau, Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf:

“`To sum up: The CIA’s tasks in Afghanistan were to purchase arms and equipment and their transportation to Pakistan; provide funds for the purpose of vehicles and transportation inside Pakistan and Afghanistan; train Pakistani instructors on new weapons or equipment; provide photographs and maps for our operational planning; provide radio equipment and training, and advise on technical matters when requested. The entire planning of the war, all types of training for the Mujahideen, and the allocation and distribution of arms and supplies were the…responsibility of the ISI, and my office in particular.’”

Around 80,000 Mujahideen Afghan guerrillas were trained, for example in camps in Pakistan between 1984 and 1987. At the ISI Afghan Bureau’s 70 to 80 acre Ojhri Camp in Rawalpindi—not too far from Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad—were barracks, training areas, mess halls and a warehouse from which 70 percent of the weapons used by the Afghan Mujahadeen were distributed, according to Afghanistan: A Modern History. The anti-feminist Afghan combatants were mostly recruited by the ISI and CIA from the over 3.2 million Afghan refugees who settled in Pakistan and the over 2.9 million Afghan refugees who settled in Iran between 1980 and 1990.

Yet despite the opposition of the anti-feminist Mujahideen, the PDPA government refused to scrap its program for female equality and female emancipation in Afghanistan during the 1980s. As Gilles Dorronsoro wrote in his 2005 book Revolution Unending: Afghanistan: 1979 to the Present:

“…The regime maintained the proportion of women members of the party at around 15 percent…In addition, there were women members of the party militias, especially in Kabul and in some of the northern towns. The most marked changes were in public education…In Kabul half of the holders of the public teaching posts were women, as were the majority of the staff of the Ministries of Education and Health. Similarly, 55 percent of the students were girls…Dress codes showed the beginnings of a break with traditional practices, although these innovations were mostly restricted to the modern areas of the capital and to a lesser extent of Jalalabad and Mazar-I Sharif…”

In the Afghan countryside, however, “the Mujahideen imposed an order that was much more conservative or even fundamentalist,” the “prohibition of women’s participation in public activities became stricter,” and “opposition from fundamentalists…restricted the educational opportunities for girls,” according to the same book.

(end of part 11. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 12: 1987-1992)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A People's History of Afghanistan--Part 10: 1979-1981

In 2010 the Democratic Obama Administration is spending over $95 billion on the Pentagon’s endless war in Afghanistan. Yet many viewers of PBS-affiliated television stations or readers of Rolling Stone magazine in the USA still probably know more about the history of rock music since the 1950s than about the hidden history of Afghanistan since 1979.

In September 1979, for example, supporters of People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan [PDPA]-Khalq Premier Noor Mohammad Taraki discovered that PDPA-Khalq Deputy Premier Hafizullah Amin was plotting to kill Taraki—after political disagreements between the two PDPA-Khalq government leaders developed between March 1979 and July 1979; and Amin apparently began appointing just members of his own family to fill important Afghan government posts. But Amin was still able to force Taraki to resign as Afghan prime minister on September 15, 1979, following Taraki’s return from abroad after attending a conference of leaders of Non-Aligned nations. And Amin apparently then arranged for former PDPA-Khalq leader Taraki to be killed on October 8 or 9, 1979.

When Taraki had visited Moscow in March 1979 to first request that Soviet ground troops be sent into Afghanistan to help his government’s Afghan army defeat the anti-feminist Mujahdeen guerrillas, the Brezhnev regime had refused to send large numbers of Soviet troops across the border into Afghanistan at that time. But Taraki—who, along with Amin, had personally signed in Moscow the December 5, 1978 Treaty of Friendship between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan—had apparently been considered friendlier to the Soviet Union than the Columbia University Teachers College and University of Wisconsin-trained Amin. So after Taraki was killed, the Brezhnev regime in the Soviet Union apparently decided that the PDPA-Parcham faction leader that Amin had demoted in late June 1978—Babrak Karmal—should replace Amin as Afghan head of state (if large-scale Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan was required to prevent the U.S. and Pakistani-backed Afghan Mujahideen militias--which by then controlled 23 of Afghanistan’s 28 provinces--from quickly overthrowing the increasingly unpopular government that had been established by the April 1978 Saur Revolution).

On December 12, 1979, the Brezhnev regime did decide to order large numbers of Soviet ground troops to cross the Soviet-Afghan border and march into Afghanistan on December 23, 1979. One result of this internationally unpopular December 1979 decision was that 13,369 members of the Soviet military would subsequently be killed (and 35,578 troops would be wounded), according to official Soviet government casualty figures.

On December 27, 1979, 300 Soviet commandos then surrounded and attacked Amin’s residence at 7 p.m.--at the same time that other Soviet troops seized Kabul ’s radio station. An apparently recorded message from PDPA-Parcham faction leader Karmal, announcing that he was the new head of the Afghan government, was then broadcast over the radio--while Amin and Amin loyalists unsuccessfully fought until 1 a.m. against the 300 Soviet commandos who were attempting to arrest Amin. After being taken to Soviet military headquarters in Kabul, Amin was apparently then executed.

The Democratic Carter Administration next used the Brezhnev regime’s internationally unpopular military response to the Pakistani and U.S. governments’ covert support for regime change and the right-wing Mujahadeen insurgency in Afghanistan as a pretext for once again requiring U.S. men between 18 and 26 years of age to register for a future U.S. military draft. As Democratic President Carter explained in his January 23, 1980 State of the Union speech:

“…The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two-thirds of the world's exportable oil. The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Straits of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world's oil must flow. The Soviet Union is now attempting to consolidate a strategic position, therefore, that poses a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil.

“This situation demands careful thought, steady nerves, and resolute action, not only for this year but for many years to come….It demands the participation of all those who rely on oil from the Middle East…

“…I believe that our volunteer forces are adequate for current defense needs, and I hope that it will not become necessary to impose a draft. However, we must be prepared for that possibility. For this reason, I have determined that the Selective Service System must now be revitalized. I will send legislation and budget proposals to the Congress next month so that we can begin registration and then meet future mobilization needs rapidly if they arise…”

Former Columbia University Professor and then-National Security Affairs Advisor Brzezinski then visited Pakistan in February 1980 and “met with General Akhtar, the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence ] chief, as well as with [then-Pakistan] president Zia-al-Haq and with CIA station chief in Islamabad John J. Reagan,” according to John Cooley’s Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism.

But because covert CIA aid to the Afghan resistance fighters violated international law, “both Washington and Islamabad went to extraordinary lengths to cover up their” increased military “assistance to the Afghan Mujahideen,” according to Angelo Rasanayagam’s Afghanistan: A Modern History. The same book also noted that “for this reason it was decided that only Warsaw Pact weaponry would be delivered, as such weapons could not be traced back to the US …”

So “the Cold Warriors in Langley, Virginia ” then “developed…a top-secret program, codenamed SOVMAT,” which “was probably unknown even to President Zia al-Haq and the holy-war commanders in Pakistan’s ISI,” according to Unholy Wars. The same book also described how the CIA’s secret SOVMAT program of the early 1980s operated:

“…Working with a vast army of phony corporations and fronts, the CIA under the SOVMAT program would buy weapons from East European governments and governmental organizations…Their acquisition and testing by the U.S. military and the CIA facilitated development of counter-measures, such as improved anti-tank weapons used by the Mujahideen

“…Officials running the CIA’s SOVMAT program provided wish lists for CIA and ISI officers operating from Pakistan, who sent their Afghan mercenaries to ransack Soviet supply depots…Some Afghan fighters were taught in their CIA-managed training by the ISI in Pakistan to strip Soviet SPETZNAZ or special forces soldiers of their weapons…”

(end of part 10. To be followed by “A People’s History of Afghanistan—Part 11: 1981-1987)

This article originally appeared in the Austin, Texas-based Rag Blog alternative news blog.