Friday Reads: Why would a US President spout Soviet Talking Points?

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers and welcome to the New Year!

It’s been apparent to any one watching that Trump is delusional, lies, and has no grasp on reality, truth, or facts.  One of the most oft repeated personality traits you hear about him is that whoever talks to him last puts the most current words in his mouth. This raises a question for me today.  Why does Trump keep spouting old Soviet talking points and new Russian Federation ones on things like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?  BB and I keep wondering if he has Putin on speed dial. Where does he get this and why is he repeating it?

Here’s a bit of the back ground on that Afghanistan invasion thing and the crackpot narrative of the US President.

“The terrifying depths of Donald Trump’s ignorance, in a single quote” written by Terry Glavin for Maclean’s. ” The president’s recent claim that the Soviets were ‘right’ to invade Afghanistan is worse than idiotic—it’s downright frightening”.

It’s been two years since a reality-television mogul, billionaire real estate grifter and sleazy beauty-pageant impresario who somehow ended up on the Republican ticket in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, failed to win the popular vote but fluked his way into the White House anyhow by means of an antique back-door anomaly peculiar to the American political system known as the Electoral College.

We’re now at the half-way mark of Donald Trump’s term in the White House, and the relentless hum of his casual imbecilities, obscenities, banalities and outright fabrications has become so routine to the world’s daily dread that it is now just background noise in the ever-louder bedlam of America’s dystopian, freak-show political culture.

And yet, now and again, just when you think the president has scraped his fingers raw in the muck at the bottom of stupidity’s deep barrel, the man somehow manages to out-beclown himself. Such was the case this week, in a ramble of fatuous illiteracy that should drive home the point, to all of us, that the Office of the President of the United States of America is currently occupied by a genuinely dangerous maniac.

At a press briefing at the end of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump sat at a long table with a huge faux Game of Thrones television-series poster, featuring an image of himself taking up the whole thing, splayed out on the table in front of him.

In the course of contradicting himself—or maybe not, it’s hard to say—on the matter of if and when he intends to withdraw U.S. troops from the 79-member anti-ISIS coalition (“Syria was lost long ago … we’re talking about sand and death”), Trump muttered something about Iranian forces in Syria being at liberty to do as they please. “They can do what they want there, frankly,” he said. Unsurprisingly, upon hearing the news of what certainly sounded like an abrupt and dramatic shift in U.S. policy, Israeli officials were reported to be in shock.

But then the subject turned to Afghanistan, and Trump’s fervent wish to withdraw American troops from the 39-nation military coalition there—down from 59 nations, at its height—which is currently battling a resurgent Taliban that has been emboldened by American dithering generally, and specifically by Trump’s oft-repeated intent to get shut of Afghanistan and walk away from the place altogether.

Trump mocked India—a highly-valued friend of Afghanistan and contributor of $3 billion in infrastructure and community-development funding—with a weird reference to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan.” Officials in Modi’s office say nobody knows what the hell Trump was talking about. Then Trump complained that Pakistan—a duplicitous enemy of Afghan sovereignty and a notoriously persistent haven-provider and incubator of Taliban terrorism—isn’t making a sufficient military commitment to Afghanistan. Which made absolutely no sense.

But then Trump went right off the deep end with a disquisition on the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and his remarks betrayed a perilous, gawping ignorance of the very reason why Afghanistan became such a lawless hellhole in the first place—which is how it came to pass that al-Qaeda found sanctuary there with the deranged Pakistani subsidiary that came to be called the Taliban, which is how al-Qaeda managed to plan and organize the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—which is the very reason the American troops that Trump keeps saying he wants to bring home are still there at all.

Now, it’s safe to say that Trump never read anything in the news or books about the invasion but there were several movies out there that gave us all a good idea of what was going on and some of them were fairly recent.  Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts starred in “Charlie Wilson’s War” in 2007 for example. This basically outlines the Congressman’s role in funding what became the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

Then, there was this marvelous film from 1988 titled “The Beast” about a Soviet Tank Crew that gets lost in Afghanistan.

In 1981 Afghanistan, a Soviet tank unit viciously attacks a Pashtun village harboring a group of mujahideenfighters. Following the assault, one of the tanks, commanded by the ruthless Commander Daskal (George Dzundza), gets separated from the unit and enters a blind valley. Taj (Steven Bauer) returns to discover the village destroyed, his father killed and his brother martyred by being crushed under the tank, to serve as execution for disabling and killing a Russian tank crew. As the new khan, following his brother’s death, Taj is spurred to seek revenge by his cousin, the opportunistic scavenger Mustafa – and together they lead a band of mujahideen fighters into the valley to pursue the separated tank, counting on their captured RPG-7 anti-tank weapon to destroy it.

The tank’s crew is made up of four Soviets and an Afghan communist soldier. As night falls and the crew sets up camp, the Afghan tank crewman Samad (Erick Avari) educates the tank driver, Konstantin Koverchenko (Jason Patric), about the fundamental principles of Pashtunwali, the Pashtun people‘s code of honour: milmastia(hospitality), badal (revenge), and nanawatai, which requires even an enemy to be given sanctuary if he asks. As the plot progresses, Commander Daskal (called “Tank Boy” during World War II for destroying a number of German tanks when he was a child soldier during the Battle of Stalingrad) demonstrates his ruthlessness not only to the enemy, but also to his own men. He despises Samad for his ethnic association to the enemy and, after a couple of attempts to kill him, finally gets his wish on the pretext of suspecting Samad of collaborating with the mujahadeen. After Koverchenko threatens to report Daskal for the killing, Daskal entraps him and orders Kaminski (Don Harvey) and Golikov (Stephen Baldwin) to tie him to a rock, with a grenade behind his head to serve as a booby-trap for the mujahideen. Some wild dogs come upon him and as Koverchenko tries to kick at them, the grenade rolls down the rock and explodes, killing several dogs but leaving Konstantin unhurt. A group of women from the village, who had been trailing the mujahideen to offer their support, come across Koverchenko and begin to stone him, calling for his blood as revenge (badal). As the mujahideen approach, Koverchenko recalls the term nanawatai (sanctuary) and repeats it until Taj cuts him free, and allows him to follow their procession. That night, hidden in a cave, the fighters eat and Taj asks Koverchenko in broken language if he will fix their non-functioning RPG-7, and help them destroy the tank.

As the remaining three members of the tank crew begin to realize they are trapped in the valley, a Soviet helicopter appears and offers to rescue them. Daskal, caring more for his tank than his men, refuses the offer and simply refills the vehicle’s oil and gasoline. They get their bearings from the helicopter pilot and head back into the narrow mountain pass from which they came, looking for the way out of the valley.

It’s not your typical war movie and basically has more of a cult status than anything. But, please do notice that the reason Reagan and Charlie and every one was all excited about this invasion was that the Soviets got there to prop up what was basically a Communist-style puppet regime in Afghanistan.  It was well known at the time for any one who didn’t even rely on movies for their dose of history.  Well, every one who lived through the period and was some what aware of the goings on knew the deal. But–and I refer back to the Gladin piece–Trump was either not paying attention or forget a long time ago.  Here was his bizarre comment.

“Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan,” Trump began. “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.”

They were right to be there.

You’ll want to let that sink in for a moment: on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, Donald Trump endorsed a revisionist lunacy that is currently being championed by a bunch of cranks at the outermost neo-Stalinist fringe of Vladimir Putin’s ruling circle of oligarchs. They’ve already managed to cobble together a resolution in Russia’s Potemkin parliament that is to be voted on next month. It’s jointly sponsored by lawmakers from Putin’s United Russia and the still-existing Communist Party.

There are so many things wrong with those statements you really have to wonder where it came from until you actually read Russian propaganda about it.  Then, you know.  The WSJ opinion page–not exactly the bastion of liberal enlightenment–even called it “cracked”.

This mockery is a slander against every ally that has supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan with troops who fought and often died. The United Kingdom has had more than 450 killed fighting in Afghanistan.

As reprehensible was Mr. Trump’s utterly false narrative of the Soviet Union’s involvement there in the 1980s. He said: “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.”

Right to be there? We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan with three divisions in December 1979 to prop up a fellow communist government.

The invasion was condemned throughout the non-communist world. The Soviets justified the invasion as an extension of the Brezhnev Doctrine, asserting their right to prevent countries from leaving the communist sphere. They stayed until 1989.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a defining event in the Cold War, making clear to all serious people the reality of the communist Kremlin’s threat. Mr. Trump’s cracked history can’t alter that reality.

I’m old enough to remember when we all were supposed to hate Russia and Communism. WTF did Trump drink on New Year’s Eve?  Russian Koolaide?  Let’s talk again about the No Puppet! No Puppet!” thing by reading Melissa at Shakesville about Trump’s proclivities to spout Russian Propaganda at piece called: “Trump’s Strange Familiarity with Kremlin Talking Points“.

In comments, Shaker Aphra_Behn pointed to this piece at Maclean’s by Terry Glavin, in which Glavin notes [Content Note: Disablist language] that Trump’s “disquisition on the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan” is not only deeply problematic but alarmingly timed:

“Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan,” Trump began. “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.”

They were right to be there. 

You’ll want to let that sink in for a moment: On Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, Donald Trump endorsed a revisionist lunacy that is currently being championed by a bunch of cranks at the outermost neo-Stalinist fringe of Vladimir Putin’s ruling circle of oligarchs. They’ve already managed to cobble together a resolution in Russia’s Potemkin parliament that is to be voted on next month. It’s jointly sponsored by lawmakers from Putin’s United Russia and the still-existing Communist Party.As Aphra said: “The timing is interesting, to say the least. We all know that Trump spouts off shit that somebody has been telling him. Who’s been giving him the pro-Stalinist version of the Afghanistan invasion just as the Russian parliament is set to debate it?”

She’s not the only person wondering. On Twitter, Jamie O’Grady asked: “Where/when/how does Trump access and memorize these random Russian talking points?” He further noted that Rachel Maddow used her show last night to lay out “multiple instances — Poland supposedly invading Belarus, Montenegro a risk to start WW3, justification of Russia’s Afghanistan adventure — where Trump has parroted Putin propaganda that doesn’t (shouldn’t) exist anywhere in Trump’s normal info sources.”

Okay if they’re not in “normal info sources” where the freak did they come from and how did we get to hear them on national TV?  And better yet, WHY?  There’s a lot of strangeness to unpack here. From NPR: “NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Seth Jones about President Trump’s claim that the Soviet Union collapsed due to its military operations in Afghanistan.”

SETH JONES: Thank you for having me on.

KELLY: So a lot to unpack there, but start with the why – why Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The president, as we just heard, says it was to stop terrorists who were attacking Russia. Was that the reason?

JONES: Well, we actually have now declassified Soviet documents, so we can fact check this ourselves. And what Soviet leaders say at the time is that their primary reason for going into Afghanistan was because of concerns that the U.S. government, including the CIA, were having significant influence among Afghan leaders. We know from these documents that the Soviets were increasingly concerned, much like the Soviets had been meddling in the soft underbelly of the United States in Cuba, that the U.S. was now doing the same just south of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

KELLY: And again, just to be completely clear, were terrorists from Afghanistan crossing the border into Russia?

JONES: No, I mean, there were certainly mujahideen operating in Afghanistan at that point. But no, there were no major terrorist attacks. And the Soviet archives are pretty clear about this. The reason was not about terrorism. The reason was entirely about balance of power politics.

KELLY: What about another assertion to fact check here that war in Afghanistan bankrupted Moscow and caused the collapse of the Soviet Union? Do the facts support that, that it was the war in Afghanistan that broke up the USSR?

JONES: No, the facts don’t support that the war in Afghanistan broke up the USSR. The USSR had tons of problems. It had overreach globally. Its military industrial complex was way too large. Its economy was in shambles because of a state-run system, and it had numerous ethnic problems both in Central Asia and in its Eastern European flank. So the Soviet Union collapsed for a range of very complex reasons. Virtually none of them had to do with its operations in Afghanistan.

KELLY: One more piece of the president’s comments to ask you about – he asserted that the Soviet Union was right to be in Afghanistan, which is an opinion, not a fact to check per se, but – safe to say this is not a view that has ever been staked out by a U.S. president before.

JONES: Well, I think the irony of the comment is that this was entirely about great power competition with the United States. So by saying they were right to be there, either it’s a misunderstanding of why the Soviets were actually there, or you’re giving them credence to be competing with the United States at that very point and to be worried about the U.S. influence. So it’s sort of a strange interpretation.

KELLY: Do we know where the president is getting his information about history in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union?

JONES: I could not tell you on this one (laughter).

Even Afghan leaders have stepped up to this revisionists history. This is via the NYT.

The Soviet Union, Mr. Trump said, invaded Afghanistan in 1979 “because terrorists were going to Russia.”

“They were right to be there,” he added. “The problem is it was a tough fight.”

On Thursday, Afghan officials contested Mr. Trump’s account — which was also at odds with the State Department’s Office of the Historian and historians, generally.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, after it fell into civil war, and occupied it until 1989, propping up “a friendly and socialist government on its border,” according to the Office of the Historian. The United States and its allies condemned the brutal, long-running war, and Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan supplied aid to Afghan insurgents fighting the Soviet Army.

In a statement on Thursday, the office of President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan recalled this era, saying, “After the invasion by the Soviet Union, all presidents of America not only denounced this invasion but remained supporters of this holy jihad of the Afghans.”

During this war, the statement said, Afghans did not threaten other countries, but rather “started a national uprising to earn liberation of their holy soil.”

Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani made similar remarks, writing on Twitter that the “Soviet occupation was a grave violation of Afghanistan’s territorial integrity” and national sovereignty. Any other depictions defy historical fact, he said.

I find these kinds of things very disturbing because it lets us know that he’s making decisions based on caca he’s gotten from who knows where at best and directly from Putin at worst. Then, it really worries me when the next morning’s headlines read:US halts cooperation with UN on potential human rights violations.”  In an Exclusive from the UK Guardian we learn that the US “State department has ceased to respond to complaints from special rapporteurs in move that sends ‘dangerous message’ to other countries” It seriously appears that tearing down the UN, NATO, and the US is high on Trump’s to do list.

The Trump administration has stopped cooperating with UN investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside America, in a move that delivers a major blow to vulnerable US communities and sends a dangerous signal to authoritarian regimes around the world.

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30 Comments on “Friday Reads: Why would a US President spout Soviet Talking Points?”

  1. dakinikat says:

  2. dakinikat says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Great post! Thanks for pulling all these sources together. And for anyone who wants a briefer version of Trump’s puppet behavior, watch Rachel from last night.

    https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show

    • dakinikat says:

      Thanks! I was meaning to link to that and just overlooked it!. I was glad to see that last night because when I first heard that he said this stuff I was like … whoa … what ? I mean when this all happened I was barely out of university and working and in grad school so I wasn’t always on the ball plus I was working to try to pass the ERA in Oklahoma and MO so it wasn’t at the top of my priorities but I remembered it was all about the soviet puppet in afghanistan at the time

  4. dakinikat says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      He threatened to use the “military version of eminent domain.” to take people’s land for his wall. What?!

    • dakinikat says:

      This is just another thing that really really bothers me … he seems to think he’s a fucking dictator that can torture us all until he gets his way.

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

  8. NW Luna says:

    Oh, those fat raises for Trump’s Cabinet and VP?

    … are scheduled to go into effect beginning Jan. 5 without legislation to stop them … The raises appear to be an unintended consequence of the shutdown.

    Federal employees — the rank and file working stiffs — were scheduled to get a measly 1.9% raise the same way, but Trump exerted himself to write Executive Order to specifically prevent that. Notice he is not intervening with an Executive Order to block his high-ranking appointees from getting the same wage freeze. Raises for me but not for thee.

  9. RonStill4Hills says:

    Off topics…If you get the chance, check out the “Love, Gilda” special.

    It was sweet and sad and funny and poignant and inspiring.

    As the Hollywood of my childhood is dismantled celeb by celeb it was really great to be back in the world of Judy Miller and Rosanne Rosannadanna and Emily Le Tella and Candy Slice if only for a little while.

  10. NW Luna says:

    Kat, excellent roundup.

    WordPress is being weird to me again and just disappears my “like this post” popup.

    • Joanelle says:

      Don’t feel bad, half the time it doesn’t recognize me and as you can see my little flag rarely pops up these days

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. OG says:

    I am beginning to et worried about the shutdown. One of my children works for one of the agencies. At least she is non-essential and can stay home. But who wants to say their job is not essential. She enjoyed staying home with her kids but they go back to school Monday.

    • dakinikat says:

      I saw that a bunch of TSA folks are starting to call in sick

    • NW Luna says:

      The Orange Caligula yells that he’ll keep the government shut down because n’yah, n’yah, n’yah. Meanwhile, people are not getting paychecks, and it’s not even like an unpaid vacation because you can’t go anywhere since you might get called back in any day. Oh, but border security is supposed to pay your bills.

  13. dakinikat says:

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  15. dakinikat says: