It's difficult to not think about America, a large country with many states inside of it, when reading about the Soviet Union's War in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union's War in Afghanistan wasn't just a “Vietnam”, in terms of them losing a War, but a few years after withdrawing their troops from their quagmire, their entire country collapsed, internally, from economic problems, and by 1991, the Soviet Union had completely dissolved. The historical parallel between the United States and the Soviet Union is too glaring not to be noticed. The Soviet Union was a large country with many states inside of it. The Soviet Union was the United States of the Eastern Hemisphere. The SU is the US of the East. Or they were. Until they got stuck in the “Afghan Trap”, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Advisor, bragged that the Soviet Union had got stuck in1.
Since the Soviet Empire died in Afghanistan, after a 9 year war, having America in the exact same war, in the same place, for two years longer only seems as if the US is just begging for the same conclusion as the “Evil Empire”, to fall into the same Afghan Trap. Afghanistan is a bear trap for America. Bin Laden was happy when the US invaded Afghanistan. That was his dream. Afghanistan is where Empires go to die. It's a tar pit for Superpowers. The point of learning history is to avoid repeating the mistakes, not to walk into the exact same faraway mine fields, wearing the same boots. While reading Afghanistan: A Russian Soldier's Story, I see how the media lies to the Russian people, and how soldiers go crazy, and nobody seems to notice or understand or care, and think about how similar the Russian soldiers, and the Mujaheddin, are to American soldiers. They are us, and we are them. We all are one. And yet our governments have us kill each other, over lies.
Eventually the press in the Soviet Union called the War in Afghanistan a mistake, by 1992, when Afghanistan: A Russian Soldier's Story was published. The War was called a mistake after the Soviet press had reported that “At the request of the Afghan people, in order to bring comradely help to our Great Neighbor, Soviet troops entered Afghanistan, our newspapers said, and they printed pictures of smiling Soviet soldiers surrounded by laughing Afghan children.”2 The lies about WMDs being in Iraq are well known, but even the War in Afghanistan was shoved down our throats immediately after 9-11 on deceitful grounds. We were told that the War in Afghanistan was being waged in order to get Bin Laden, whose is now sleeping with the fishes, and we still haven't withdrawn. There's not a shred of evidence that says Bin Laden had anything to do with 9-11. Also, 17 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, which means we invaded the wrong country. The US goes after the Taliban since they had harbored terrorists, so therefore they were terrorists (didn't we harbor the 9/11 terrorists, while they slept, ate, trained how to fly airplanes,etc.?). However, with US casualties in Iraq totaling over 1.4 million Iraqi civilians, it's hard to say that the US are not terrorizing civilian populations3. And compare 1.4 million dead Iraqi civilians to the 3,000 New York civilians that died on 9/11, and it's easy to tell who the larger terrorist is. The US is 466 times worse than Al-Qaeda, in terms of being a terrorist by civilian body count. Afghanistan has had such a civilian bloodbath, there hasn't been any efforts at documenting the dead4, so the damage the America has done to Afghanistan is unimaginable.
The media in the Soviet Union were showing their troops planting trees and building schools during the Afghanistan War, and our media here isn't showing the blood and gore of the Afghanistan War, nor are they showing the coffins of American soldiers coming back home, draped with the American flag. In the US and in SU, both of our media lied/lies to us, we the people. When I see the photos of the young men in the back of Afghanistan: A Russian Soldier's Story, who were blown up by mines, or had other atrocities happen to them, within hours of the photo being taken, I am affected. I see a young man, who is usually in some goofy, or insecure pose, and seemed to have no idea that death was so near. The images of the Vietnam War are directly responsible for rousing the American consciousness into a frenzy, and pinnacled into the 60s. Donald Rumsfeld had some snide remark about how the images of war usually dampens the mood for the war, which is completely true. Both the US government and media today, like the Soviet Union government and media in the 1980s, understand the power of propaganda, and will continue to spare us the public of the bloody and gory truth about Afghanistan. When I see the images of young Soviet soldiers, I see my cousin, and my friend, and myself, and I'm inundated with the horror that is War. The horror of the Afghanistan War has made it to where now Vladislav Tamarov doesn't believe words. “Afghanistan taught me to believe actions, not words”. Vladislav seems to have experienced Oliver Stone's Apocalypse Now.
Vladislav Tamarov understands that war is hell, and he understands that hell can turn inwards onto the self. When Vladislav first came home, he said that was the first time he actually had some peace, and wasn't worried about being blown up by a mine. Because before, Death was all around him, the whole time, and since you can't get away from death, then “you just try to encounter it as seldom as possible”5. Vladislav was a minesweeper, and playing minesweeper on the games that come bundled in accessories in Microsoft Operating System, I see how random, and dangerous, being a minesweeper is. The game is totally based on luck, and with as many of Vladislav's friend's who were blown up, real life was comparable dangerous and random, so for the soldiers to have mental issues after that traumatic of an event seems evident.
“By 1989, the total number of Vietnam veterans who had died in violent accidents or by suicide after the war exceeded the total number of American soldiers who died during the war.”6 So this means that the inner turmoil lead the Vietnam veteran to kill themselves, or to be involved in some violent episode, and that led to their last breath, moreso than the Vietnam War actually did. And whereas the US had Veteran hospitals for the shell shocked afflicted to attend, the Soviet soldiers didn't have any comparable for them, so that would make it worse. Young men were being dropped into a region they knew nothing about, and learned that those who “kill first survive”7, there's little wonder they were left in a mental mess. The reports about the US soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan are showing the same dismal numbers. The returning soldiers have high suicide rates, insomnia, panic attacks, anger issues, depression, nightmares, shell shock (aka post traumatic stress disorder), and feeling afraid. “Very often I feel terror. I'm afraid to go in the forest by myself. I'm afraid of the bright moon, of dark bushes, of silence. I'm afraid to be alone. I'm afraid when someone is standing behind me. I'm afraid of hitting a person because I know that I could lose control and start to kill him.”8 Vladislav needs sleeping pills in order to help him sleep.9
There were three types of Mujahadeen soldiers: 1) The Mercenary; 2) The Patriot, and; 3) The Conscripted.10 The Mercenary is similar to the American soldier because they are paid for their services. While Patriotism accounts for some of the reasons why an American soldier wants to fight, which is also true of the Mujahadeen, most Americans fight for the economic benefit: the lack of jobs, the promise of college, the promise of a structured path to success, etc., which is the same of most of the Mujahadeen. The 3rd group of Mujahadeen were men who were forced to join a military outfit, at the threat of a gunpoint, which reminds me of how KONY2012 depicted the dictator Kony in Uganda, but not really a comparison for American soldiers today, unless the deeply impoverished can make a claim that either they sign up for the military, or they die. Even then, it's not the same as being forced to serve in the military at gunpoint. So while they aren't completely the same, both Americans and the Soviet Union and the Mujahadeen have their Mercenaries and their Patriots. We are all the same.
The SU in the 1980s was the US (of today) of the East. Since we see similarities in land mass, government structure, imperialist ambitions, a bloody hatred of the Afghanistan people, how the media lies, the mental trauma that have damaged the psychology of young men, and how varied the make-up of the soldier's ranks were, in both in the Soviet Union of the 1980s, and the United States of today, the similarities are resounding. It's only a matter of time before America goes bankrupt, again, for the same reasons the Soviet Union did, and Kentucky will have to fortify her borders to protect herself from invasion from the seven adjacent, and newly independent, States, who completely surround her.
1Noam Chomsky. The United States Is a Leading Terrorist State Monthly Review. Nov 2001. Vol 53, Issue 6. Accessed April 12, 2012, http://monthlyreview.org/2001/11/01/the-united-states-is-a-leading-terrorist-state.
2Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: A Russian Soldier's Story (Berkeley: Ten Speed 2001), 112.
4 James Denselow. The Unknown Afghan Body Count, guardian.co.uk, July 4, 2010. Accessed April 12, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/04/afghanistan-body-count-civilian-deaths.
5Tamarov, Afghanistan, 4.
6Tamarov, Afghanistan, 136.
7Tamarov, Afghanistan, 2.
8Tamarov, Afghanistan, 154.
9Tamarov, Afghanistan, 60.
10Tamarov, Afghanistan, 116.