There’s this meme that's been going around the net, especially among self-styled “liberal” American fora, for a loooong time now. You'll almost certainly have come across it:
|Let's take it for granted that Ronald "Regan" is Ronald Reagan.|
It’s, of course, meant to drive home the point that Ronald Reagan, the God of the conservative sections of American politicana, was the godfather of the Taliban, and by extension Islamic fundamentalism. It’s a lovely weapon, actually, being almost impossible to refute. I mean, you can see Ron sitting there with the Taliban, right in the White House! You have a direct quote from him praising the Taliban! Who could argue with that?
Nobody from the (conservative) side the propaganda is aimed at, obviously.
They don’t know enough to argue, and aren’t interested in acquiring knowledge about anything.
But, yes, it is propaganda, and like all the best propaganda it mixes some truth with its fiction. And most of it is fiction.
Before we start, let’s get this clear. The photo is not a fake. It shows Ronald Reagan sitting with Islamic fundamentalists from Afghanistan in the White House, though the picture dates from 1983, not 1985; and, yes, Reagan backed those Islamic fundamentalists to the hilt.
That is all the truth in this meme – the photo. Every single thing else about it is false.
First, those are not the Taliban Reagan is talking to. I do believe this may be news to some people, but the Taliban did not even exist in 1985. Those are the Mujahideen in the photo – a disparate collection of murderous, rapacious warlords and killers. They took over Afghanistan in 1991 and immediately began such a brutal civil war among themselves that two years later the Taliban was created by Afghans in Pakistani refugee camps, with Pakistani military backing, to put them down. That’s right, the Taliban was created to fight the Islamic fundamentalists in this photograph, and that was eight years later. By 1996, the Taliban had routed the Mujahideen and seized Kabul – and it was the Democratic Party administration of Bill Clinton which backed it to the full, and continued backing it all the way until 1998 when Mullah Omar granted oil pipeline rights to BRIDAS of Argentina instead of the US’ UNOCAL.
None of this is even a secret. It’s described in excruciating detail in Ahmed Rashid’s Taliban: The Story of the Afghan Warlords, but you can read it on the net as well.
It was the Republican Party administration of George W Bush, by the way, which ousted the Taliban in 2001 – and reinstated the Mujahideen, which immediately began the same old corruption and infighting as before.
But you don’t even need this inside knowledge to know that those are not the Taliban. Just look at them. You can see one Afghan Pakol cap and three brown turbans on the men. Where are the Taliban’s signature black turbans? The one black turban in the far right is nothing like the Taliban turban; it's obviously formal wear, on a man who does not have the Taliban's compulsory beard for all men. And then look at that woman. What is she even doing in the White House? And whatever is she wearing? Why, a traditional Pashtun chador, with her face and hands uncovered. Isn’t one of the charges against the Taliban the fact that they totally shut women off from everything outside the house, and confined them to those blue shuttlecock burqas, with nothing showing? How can this woman be Taliban?
Secondly, Reagan never said that the Taliban, or for that matter the Mujahideen, were the moral equivalents of anyone, the US’ founding fathers or otherwise. This is another instance where a little bit of fact mixed in the fiction works excellently. Yes, Reagan did make the statement that “these gentlemen are the moral equivalents of our founding fathers.” He totally said that.
Only, he was talking of another murderous gang of fascist killers his administration was backing to the hilt, the Contras in Nicaragua. Not the Mujahideen at all.
What did he say about the Mujahideen? If memory serves, he declared, “I am a Mujahideen”. Which translates as “I am a freedom fighters” (yes, fighters, because Mujahideen is the plural of Mujahid.) Somehow nobody ever brings up this quote. Perhaps because it detracts from the myth that he was behind the Taliban.
The third idea plugged by this meme is the piece de resistance, most of all because it’s not stated at all, merely implied. It’s the clear message that Reagan was responsible for promoting Islamic extremism. Of course Reagan did his bit – did his bit and more, actually. But he was merely following in the footsteps of a long, long series of American presidents, stretching all the way back to the 1930s when that allegedly great so-called liberal Democrat, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who also said of the venal dictator of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza, “he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”) began the policy of bending over backwards to appease the fundamentalist Wahhabi theocracy of Saudi Arabia. Today, that so-called liberal Democrat, Barack Hussein Obama, continues to bend over backwards to appease the same Wahhabi fundamentalist theocracy in every way possible.
As for Afghanistan, it wasn’t Reagan who began arming, funding and training the Islamic fundamentalists there. Oh no, it was the Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter which was responsible – and it wasn’t even in response to the Soviet “invasion” of Afghanistan. Carter’s National Security Chief, Zbigniew Brzezinski, openly admitted as early as 1998 that:
“...it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.”
There you are.
A little truth, a lot of lies, and a very large number of people who would much rather not know the facts, and there you have the perfect political weapon in the service of pseudoliberal propaganda and hypocrisy.
Fortunately, some of us still have access to the facts, and aren’t shy about pointing them out.