America's coordinated use of psychological warfare began in earnest during World War II and has grown and expanded into public relations, advertising, cinema, radio and television, electronic video games and now social media. Its pro-war boosterism extends over sports, religion, education, news and entertainment to form a seamless electronic cocoon-like web.
Five Part Series: 15th anniversary of 9/11, 2016
Building the Afghan Narrative with Black Propaganda; the People, the Process & the Product
By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
By definition, America's use of Psychological Warfare is described as the "The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives." Of course this very definition is itself propaganda, a black lie which omits the fact that America's domestic population is just as often the target of psychological warfare as any "hostile foreign groups."
The state's use of psychological warfare to bend the population to war is as old, if not older than the existence of states themselves. But it was perhaps Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Goeringwhose statement while on trial at Nuremberg best summed up the cynical simplicity of the logic.
"Of course people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders, that is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger."
Psychological warfare in the form of propaganda comes in all shapes and sizes as well as shades of black, grey or white. America's coordinated use of psychological warfare began in earnest during World War II and ever since has grown and expanded into public relations, advertising, cinema, radio and television, electronic video games and now social media. Its pro-war boosterism extends over sports, religion, education, news and entertainment to form a seamless electronic cocoon-like web. It is employed on an ever growing list of those deemed as enemies of America as well as on a confused and agitated American public -- whose corporate news networks frame and manage an increasingly false narrative while engaging in a kind of Orwellian Kabuki Theatre of fairness and balance.
Americans were heavily propagandized to support a U.S. entry into World War II and again to accept the morality of deploying the atomic bomb to end it. Even Mickey Mouse was conscripted for America's total war effort along with the minds of America's youth. Following the war Americans were heavily propagandizedto accept the Cold War, the need for maintaining a permanent army, navy and air force as well as the buildup of a nuclear weapons arsenal.
Since 9/11 Americans have been bathed in psychological warfare on Islamic terrorism, but so much evidence has emerged linking that terrorism to covert U.S. policy goals, tha the propaganda value has backfired.
The Bush administration can take credit for breaking the system in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, by using fraudulent claims as a pretext for the invasion. But for reasons that defy logic, the U.S. government continues to employ these methods despite them having been shown time and again to be fraudulent.
One has only to look to the U.S. role in Afghanistan in the 1970s to understand the background of the current crisis in American thinking; but without reexamining the real purpose behind America's long term involvement, today's disinformation wars will remain imponderable.
The origins of Washington's war in Afghanistan have always been strategic, long term and particularly black, obscured throughout the Cold War by a narrative adapted from Britain's 19thcentury colonial expansion in India.
After a fruitless effort in Vietnam in the 1950s and 1960s, America's psychological warfare campaign shifted its attention to Central Asia in 1973, when Afghanistan's king was overthrown by his brother in law and cousin, Mohammed Daoud. Aided by the Parcham faction of the Marxist/Leninist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), Daoud's takeover fit neatly into Washington's anti-communist manifesto, despite his overwhelmingly nationalist credentials. The role of the Communist party meant so little to the U.S. media at the time that it remained invisible in both Time and Newsweek's published reports of the coup. But to U.S. ambassador Robert G. Neumann, the presence of the PDPA meant that a "limited Great Game" with the Soviet Union was now back in play.
A coordinated campaign of pressure from U.S.-backed Pakistan and Iran soon ousted Daoud's Marxist partner, while the Shah's dreaded spy agency SAVAK moved in to help Daoud clean house of leftists. The Shah even readied a military force to invade, should Daoud waver in his newfound anti-Communist zeal. But by 1978 a new day for Iran and Afghanistan was about to dawn.
Enter Hafizullah Amin. Before, during and after World War II, the U.S. had created a number of psychological warfare organizations designed to compete with the political propaganda of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Integrated closely into the CIA's intelligence and psychological warfare units after the war, organizations like Leo Cherne's International Rescue Committee (IRC) and according to the CIA's own website, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, helped to solidify CIA's emerging strategy of promoting the non-Communist left--the strategy that would soon become the theoretical foundation of the agency's political operations against Communism over the next two decades."
In constant competition with the Soviet KGB, the CIA was also known to target foreign students destined to hold high rank in their home countries. Handpicked by U.S. administrators to participate in a UNESCO/Columbia University program, Amin was sent to New York in 1957. He later completed a master's degree at Columbia--coincidentally, at a time when future National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was gaining prominence there as a professor.
Amin claimed to have become radicalized at the University of Wisconsin in 1958. He also claimed to have become a Marxist that summer, but would conceal his emergence as a leader in the Kalq faction of the PDPA until much later. Despite being a Marxist, Amin was again chosen in 1962 by the Americans to attend Columbia, this time as a doctoral candidate, rising quickly to become the president of the Afghan Student Association. A disclosure in Ramparts magazine in April1967 would reveal the CIA's sponsorship of that same Afghan Student Association during that time. Following his return, Amin rose rapidly in Afghan politics and by 1978 was positioned to play a pivotal role in another Palace coup, this time of Prince Mohammed Daoud himself.
1978 was a pivotal year in the foreign policy of the United States as President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski made steady inroads into Secretary of State Cyrus Vance's power. By that year, he had persuaded Carter to transfer jurisdiction over the CIA from the Inter-Agency Policy Review Committee, (headed by the Secretary of State), to the National Security Council's Special Coordinating Committee, which he chaired. This shift gave Brzezinski control over covert operations in Afghanistan. It also gave him control of the psychological warfare campaign necessary to make those operations work both at home and abroad.
Hafizullah Amin played the perfect foil to Brzezinski's propaganda war which, regardless of the lack of evidence, painted the PDPA takeover in Kabul as a clear example of the growing dangers of Soviet expansionism and their pursuit of dominance in the Persian Gulf. Throughout 1978 and into 1979, Amin's actions dovetailed perfectly into the expanding psychological warfare campaign against detente and the Soviet Union, with Brzezinski blaming Amin's February 1979 assassination of American Ambassador Adolph Dubs on the Soviets.
Transcripts from Politburo meetingsin Moscow from March 1979 show a Soviet leadership confounded as the events unfolded, referring to a conversation with Amin as seeming "like a detective novel." Had the operation been scripted in advance by the CIA to confuse Moscow, it could not have worked more brilliantly.
The subsequent, December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ended detente, renewed the Cold War and opened a U.S. military relationship with Communist China that could not have been imagined up to that time. It established a new narrative of an expanding Soviet Evil Empire threatening America's vital interests in the Persian Gulf, while shifting U.S. foreign policy permanently into the neoconservative's hands. This policy shift was laid out within days of the Soviet invasion by former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Theodore Eliot and Harvard Professor Richard Pipes in a MacNeil Lehrer broadcast on January 2, 1980.
But it wasn't until we probed this new narrative by going to Afghanistan ourselves in 1981 and were challenged personally in a public forum for doing so by Ambassador Eliot, that we realized there was much more to Ambassador Eliot and his narrative than met the eye. Join us for Part III as we explain how President Jimmy Carter's reelection, as well as American diplomacy, suffered a stealth attack from his own national security advisor in the next installment of Psychological Warfare and the American Mind.
Copyright 2016 Gould & Fitzgerald All rights reserved
and Elizabeth Gould
are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story , Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire andThe Voice
. For more information visit their websites at invisiblehistory
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story and Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire and The Voice,a novel.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband and wife team began working together in 1979 co-producing a documentary for Paul's television show, Watchworks. Called, The Arms Race and the Economy, A Delicate Balance, they found themselves in the midst of a controversy that was to boil over a few months later with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Their acquisition of the first visas to enter Afghanistan granted to an American TV crew in 1981, brought them into the most heated Cold War controversy since Vietnam. But the people inside Soviet-occupied Afghanistan told a very different story from the one being broadcast on the evening news.
Following their news story for the CBS Evening News, they produced a documentary (Afghanistan Between Three Worlds) for PBS and in 1983 they returned to Kabul for ABC Nightline with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher. Arriving in Kabul that spring they were told that the Russians wanted to go home and negotiate their way out. But the story that President Carter called, "the greatest threat to peace since the second World War" had already been written by America's pundits was not about to change the script.
As the first American journalists to get behind the official propaganda on the war, they not only got a view of an unseen Afghan life, but a revelatory look at how the US defined itself under the veil of superpower confrontation. But as they pursued the reasons behind the propaganda, they were drawn into a story that was growing into mythic dimensions.
It was at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 when they were working on the film version of their experience under contract to Oliver Stone, that they began to piece together the mythic implications of the story. During the research for the screenplay crucial documents were declassified. Over the next decade they trailed a labyrinth of clues to find a likeness in Washington's official policy towards Afghanistan - in the ancient Zoroastrian war of the light against the dark - whose origins began in the region now known as Afghanistan. It was a likeness that grows more visible as America's involvement deepens.
By 1998, as the horrors of the Taliban regime began to grab headlines, they started collaborating with Afghan human rights expert Sima Wali. They contributed to the Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future book project. In 2002 they filmed Wali's first return to Kabul since her exile in 1978. The film they produced about Wali's journey home, The Woman in Exile Returns, gave audiences the chance to discover the message of one of Afghanistan's most articulate voices and her hopes for her people.
In the years since 9/11 much has happened to bring their story into sharp focus. Their experience at combining personal diplomacy with activist journalism could become a model for restoring a healthy and vibrant dialogue to American democracy. Ultimately, Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story lays bare why it was inevitable that the Soviet Union and the U.S. should end up in Afghanistan and what that means to the future of the American emp