Sunday, 12 July 2015

Reagan and the Taliban: Deconstructing a Propaganda Image

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[1], 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?   

Any answers?

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[2]. 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[3]. 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:

“ was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.[4]

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.




  1. Nicely researched. I can't defend the fact that America has always backed the horse that served its purpose in the short term at the expense of the long term. It's just a thing my government does. We need people like you who are willing to point it out.

  2. Thanks, Bill. I hate liberals' Republican straw men they attack in order to draw attention from the crimes of their Democratic Party blood lusters like Obama, Killary and her husband, and the like. BTW, FDR was referring to Anastasio Somoza when he said he was "our son of a bitch" but the concept would have been the same if he had said it of Trujillo.

    1. Thanks for the correction. I'll make it in the article.

  3. It would appear that for decades we (Americans) have been meddling in the affairs of other countries, to our shame. Brzezinski was an evil man whose pernicious world view poisoned American actions. This does not let any of them off the hook, however. Not a one.

  4. Bill,
    Excellent work. I appreciate the links also. Yes, I knew the Taliban did not exist during the presidency of Ronnie Ray-gun, still in my opinion he was a total waste of space. Oh, and Bonzo was THE star of that movie.
    Yeah, I do despise "saint" Ronnie and his pal, the same "hero" he couldn't remember a shot time later, Ollie the shit North. I have a particular dislike, I am trying very hard to stay polite with my language here, for Ollie. That turd was a Lt. Colonel in the USMC. He claimed during sworn testimony to a congressional committee that he was "just following orders" when he was running guns and drugs during Iran/Contra since his president asked him to dodge the rules set by the US congress.
    Now, I was a US Marine, 1968-72, I still remember lectures in boot camp where we were told we were obligated to disobey unlawful orders. Being given an order to bypass a law from congress would certainly be unlawful. The allies prosecuted the Nazis for "just following orders" at Nuremberg. The UCMJ had a rule regarding that sort of excuse and that is why we got that particular lecture. Maybe the officers didn't get that lecture or maybe Ollie was in sick bay that day. I still despise that vile sack of cow pie, Ollie North. He is a shameful disgrace to the uniform and the entire Corps.
    I am not one who likes war at all. I detest war as one who has been in combat and seen what war does to all who get caught in it. Fortunately for me, my wounds were not physical, I was not shot nor blown up. Oh, but those memories, they are like starlight my friend, they do go on forever.
    I suppose one could excuse "saint" Ronnie and say he was in the beginnings of Alzheimer's when he hosted those folks in the photo you posted above. Dad thought he was totally nuts/worthless when he was governor of California.
    Sorry for the extended rant Bill, but this hit a nerve with me. Some old wounds heal very, very slowly, if they ever do.

  5. p.s. In my comment on the latest "movie" I meant speed limit, not sped. Thanks for not pointing out my error. Or, maybe you just overlooked it or figured hell, old charlie can't spell worth a crap….

    1. Today on someone else's blog I typed "msn" instead of "man". Wouldn't want to cast the first stone, etc.


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