The Americans: Why It’s Important That We Understand 1980s Afghanistan

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(If you are interested in learning more about the show, please click here to go to the official site before reading the rest of this article.)

My favorite show, “The Americans,” has gotten off to a great 3rd season. This season, one of the major focuses is on the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, and also on the American response to it. The 2 main protagonists, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, have been running assets to gain the Soviet upper hand against American involvement with the opposition to the Soviet-backed Afghan Government. This decade of conflict, from the Saur Revolution of 1979 to Soviet troop withdrawal in 1989, has still been a major influence on foreign and domestic events in the years since and will only become even more influential.

Unfortunately, until “The Americans,” the only widely-viewed media about this conflict was the 2007 movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and the novels written by Khaled Hosseini.

To understand many of the world’s events beyond the basic rhetoric put out by pundits on TV, we must understand the events of the 1980s in Afghanistan. I will only focus on the events in Afghanistan until 1982, the same year Season 3 of “The Americans” is set in.

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Credit Here. The Saur Revolution.

The Beginning: The Saur Revolution:

In 1973, Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew the King, his cousin, who had ruled Afghanistan since the 1930s. This dissent began during his service in many different Afghan government positions and as Prime Minister. As Prime Minister, his major focus was on the Afghan reunification with the Pashtuns, but conflict that came with that led to his resignation. After taking power in a bloodless coup, Daoud Khan passed major reform to strengthen the military and promoted a republic in Afghanistan by naming himself President. His greatest mistake was siding with the Pashtuns over the other tribal groups in Afghanistan, which led to the direct opposition by Islamic Fundamentalists and indirect opposition by the Soviets, who Daoud Khan had tried to reduce ties with.

After the murder of Mir Akbar Khyber, a leader of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), the leading Communist Party in Afghanistan, it was the beginning of the end for Daoud Khan. The Communists gained support from the people by inflammatory speeches and other propaganda. In April 1978, the Daoud Khan government came to a violent end when PDPA rebels stormed the presidential palace and Daoud Khan was killed, putting the Communists in power.

Communist Trouble From The Beginning:

The first Communist leader to take over, Nur Muhammed Taraki, was assassinated in an inside coup by fellow PDPA member Hafizullah Amin. Distrusting Amin, the Soviets had him assassinated in December 1979, and they replaced him with the Soviet-organized government of Babrak Karmal. The Soviet government also mobilized troops to back the Karmal Government, which changed the game in the region substantially.

IMG_1915 Public Domain. The Regions of Afghanistan The Mujahideen Fought In

Carter Administration Response And Conflict Continuation:

After the installation of Karmal by the Soviets and troop mobilization of the Red Army, American politicians- both on the Republican and Democratic sides- worried that the Soviets would begin to move further into the Middle East. The Soviet Union had long coveted a warm-water port, and the invasion of Afghanistan positioned them for further invasion possibly into Pakistan. The worry that the Soviets were moving to take over Middle Eastern oil and that the ideology behind the Iranian Revolution would spread was prominent.

Americans were ready to end détente.

When the invasion happened, and that it was certain that the Soviets were there to stay, President Jimmy Carter made really good moves and really bad ones.

The Good Moves:

• Carter ended the Soviet Wheat Deal in 1980, which was a major institute of the Détente Era.

• Carter also issued the Carter Doctrine, which was to state that, quoted from Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

• Carter supported generous American contributions to the refugees from Afghanistan who had fled to Pakistan.

The Bad Moves:

• Carter decided to refuse to allow American Olympic athletes to participate in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. This caused great unhappiness among the people, who believed it would be better to beat the Soviets in medal count than to not compete at all.

• Carter also reinstated registration for the draft for young males.

Overall, I believe that Carter took very appropriate actions, and I support his good moves not because we share the same party (we do) but that they worked. Unfortunately, his bad moves, along with the Iranian Hostage Crisis, led to the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980.

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Credit Here. Mujahideen Fighters In The Kunar Province.

The Reagan Administration: The First 2 Years

(I will only cover the years of 1981 & 1982 here because that is the point “The Americans” has reached so far. It is not to say that the events after 1982 are unimportant. I will include some information from 1983 and on, but only limited amounts.)

The Carter Administration had authorized funding for anti-Communist fighters- Mujahideen- in Afghanistan, but under Reagan this program greatly expanded. Operation Cyclone, as it was called, became part of the larger Reagan Doctrine that supported anti-Soviet and anti-Communist resistance around the world. Partnering with similar programs initiated by Egypt, Britain, China, and others, over $3 billion was spent on the opposition effort in Afghanistan by the U.S.

The ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, was the intermediary for the activities conducted during Operation Cyclone. While it is easily to image a large American force training the Mujahideen, only about 10 CIA operatives were in the region because the Agency didn’t want to have the threat of being blamed if something went wrong. With American and other international funding, the ISI trained and armed over 100,000 Mujahideen.

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Philip and Elizabeth Jennings On “The Americans”

Aftermath:

At the current point “The Americans” is at, I do not want to overextend what I feel is necessary information. In the future I may write another article, a sort-of Part 2, covering 1983-1989, but I do not see that coming in the foreseeable future.

Now, I leave you in the trustworthy hands of the creators, directors, and producers, Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields, to reveal how the events in Afghanistan in the 1980s are very relevant and influential to today’s world.

“The Americans” is currently airing on FX Wednesday nights at 10 PM EST.

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The Top 10 Greatest American Presidents

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To rank the leaders of our nation is a difficult task, and honestly is one that is almost impossible. Do some events outweigh others, and should they reflect back on the President? Do certain qualities shine brighter than others?

Though this article is a matter of opinion, there is a lot of fact behind my choices. 2 of these men have presided over the two worst economic times in our history. Looking in terms of political party, there is one Independent, one Democratic-Republican, 3 Republicans (1 modern, 2 before the Conservative Revolution inside the GOP), and 5 Democrats.

I study Presidential History because, to fulfill my life’s goal to help more people than ever imagined before, I need to be elected President. My path will be both similar and different than the other men (and women, after 2017) that have held the office. There have been 44 Presidents, but only a few have been true leaders.

This is my list of those Americans:

10) President Theodore Roosevelt

9) President Dwight D. Eisenhower

8) President James Madison

7) President Jimmy Carter

6) President Bill Clinton

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5) President Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th, 1809 in Kentucky. Growing up a poor boy in Indiana, he learned the virtues of hard work and compassion.

In the 1830s, Lincoln worked as a lawyer along with serving 4 terms in the Illinois House of Representatives, where he gained a reputation as a moderate voice for an increasingly divided American people. In 1846, Lincoln is elected as a U.S. Congressman from Illinois, where he served one term.

In the 1850s, Lincoln became a vocal opponent of slavery but favored moderate solutions to issues beginning to threaten the unification of the United States. While moving up and building the Republican Party, he became the premier voice on slavery and helped unite the North against it.

In 1861, Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States. He presided over the only separation America has ever had, and lead the Union side of the Civil War with moral courage. With the Gettysburg Address, he challenged Americans to decide what kind of nation we wanted to be.

In 1865, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. Though Lincoln did not live longer than 56 years, his influence on the moral component of our nation has lasted since his last days, and always will influence us all.

4) Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR was born into the affluent Roosevelt family on January 30th, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. A born politician, Roosevelt was elected to the New York State Senate in 1910. In 1913, President Wilson appointed FDR to the position of Assistant Secretary Of the Navy, where he helped construct what the modern Navy is.

In 1921, FDR was stricken with the horrid disease of polio. Unable to do it himself, his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, built his image while he was suffering.

In 1929, Roosevelt became the Governor of New York in a year of Democratic losses nationwide. Leading effectively, he becomes the leading Democratic candidate for President in 1932.

In 1932, FDR was overwhelmingly elected President against Herbert Hoover. In his First 100 Days, Roosevelt returned optimism to a nation suffering under the Great Depression and passed his New Deal, legislation that created the modern economy.

In 1941, Roosevelt realized the threat fascism sent to all of the Free World and lead America into the Second World War after Pearl Harbor. In 1945, Roosevelt both lead the greatest victory liberty has ever had and died in Warm Springs, Georgia.

Eleanor Roosevelt helped spark the women’s independence movement and was the first person in power to support the Civil Rights Movement. Roosevelt’s influence has lasted all the way to today and will always continue.

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3) George Washington

George Washington was born to Augustine and Mary Washington in 1732 in Virginia. Washington quickly showed his great potential at an early age, and in 1753 he became a Major in the Virginia Militia.

In 1754, Washington helped spark the French and Indian War when he leads the attack on Jumonville Glen. At Fort Necessity, the French captured Washington but allowed him to return to Virginia with his troops. In 1755, Washington became General Braddock’s senior aide and was at his side when Braddock died. Washington then was put in charge of the Virginia Frontier during the War, and helped secure British victory.

Starting with the 1765 Stamp Act, Washington became more and more disillusioned with British leadership. When the Townshend Acts were passed, he lead the boycott in Virginia against British goods until the Acts were repealed.

In 1774, Washington lead the Fairfax Resolves, which called for a Continental Congress. In 1775, after the attacks at Lexington and Concord, Washington became the Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army thanks to his charisma, support for the colonies, and his military experience. Throughout the war effort, Washington did the unthinkable: he led a group of ragtag colonists to bring the British Empire to its knees with the surrender at Yorktown in 1781.

After the War, Washington lead the effort to ratify the Constitution of the United States. He called for moderate solutions and helped form the greatest government the world has ever seen.

An American Cincinnatus, Washington reluctantly became President in 1789. Achieving many things as President, his greatest accomplishment was proving that a nation could be lead by good men elected by the American people.

Washington died in 1799 at the age of 67.

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2) John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29th, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts, a city near Boston. The son of wealthy businessman Joe Kennedy and wife Rose Kennedy, Jack’s childhood was marred by sickness and physical pain, but beat the odds and worked hard to both build his body and mind.

Inspired by the cause to save democracy and freedom, Kennedy joined the Navy in 1941. In 1943, as Commander of the Patrol Torpedo boat PT-109, the ship was sunk by Japanese forces. Kennedy heroically saved his crew by getting them to an island until evac, saving their lives. He continued his service until late 1944.

In 1946, Kennedy entered the world of politics when he was elected as US Representative from Massachusetts, which he served as for 3 terms, or 6 years. In 1952, Kennedy was elected as US Senator from Massachusetts, and in the same year he married Jackie Bouvier.

In 1960, when the country was looking for a young, visionary leader, Kennedy seized the moment and was elected President of the United States. With his inaugural address, he challenged the people to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” and he asserted the proposition that America would lead the fight against the “common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war.”

Kennedy sparked the fire of the greatest change our nation has ever seen by showing real leadership and action on anti-communism (Ich Bin Ein Berliner), civil rights, poverty, women’s rights, and more. He utilized moderate solutions to the problems America faced, and filled a historically skeptical American people with optimism and hope.

In 1963, Kennedy’s administration was cut short with his assassination, but his legacy will live on forever.

And now for number 1. This choice will be found controversial, but allow me to explain it.

1) Barack Obama

Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4th, 1961, where he was raised by his mother, Ann Dunham, and his maternal grandparents. In 1965, Dunham remarried an Indonesian immigrant, Lolo Soetoro, and in 1967 Obama and Dunham moved with him to Indonesia. Obama returned to Honolulu in 1971, where he graduated from Punahou School in 1979.

After high school, Obama studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he became a strong and vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa. In 1981, Obama transferred to Columbia University and graduated with a B.A. in 1983. 2 years after graduation, Obama moved to Chicago and worked as a community organizer, learning first-hand of the deep poverty our own fellow Americans suffer in.

Entering Harvard Law School in 1988, Obama garnered national attention for his election as the first black President of the Harvard Law Review in 1991. It was after this that he fulfilled his book contract with his American classic-level Dreams From My Father. From 1992 to 1997, Obama worked as a lawyer in Chicago and led massive voting drives for President Clinton.

In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate, where he served as a supporter for bipartisan reform of health-care and ethics laws. In 2004, Barack Obama was elected as a US Senator from Illinois, where he focused his efforts on international relations.

After the beginning of the collapse of the economy, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President in 2007. After overcoming the odds, Obama rose above as the hope and change candidate and was elected President in 2008.

Starting immediately after his inauguration, Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which helped put America back on track after the sharpest economic drop since the Great Depression. In many ways, Obama prevented another Depression (or even worse) with his moderate actions that rebuilt the economy community by community.

In March 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the greatest reform the healthcare system has ever seen. These reforms, moderate solutions to problems that plagued the nation for over a century, have helped over 23 million Americans have been able to get quality, uncorrupt health insurance.

President Obama has also taken action on energy, gun control, foreign relations, and more. His greatest legacy, however, is the fact that he was able to put into action moderate solutions to rebuild America at the community level, and not with massive but effective government spending  which has set the opportunity for anti-poverty reform to happen in the next decades. If it truly takes 50 years to judge a President, in decades Obama will be considered the greatest to ever hold the office.

The Demon Who Peddled Longing By Khanh Ha is A Literary Epic Of The Human Condition

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Khanh Ha is a different type of author. While some authors focus on sales, others, like Ha, write to break old boundaries and push forward literary achievement. Ha made great literary progress with his first novel, Flesh, but now, instead of falling into a ‘sophomore slump’, he has written something unprecedented.

The Demon Who Peddled Longing is set in post-war Vietnam, a nation overrun by Khmer pirates, thieves, and other malevolent beings. It follows the story of 19-year-old Nam, a young fisherman who embarks on a path of vengeance on 2 drifters who violently raped and killed his cousin, who he also shared romantic feelings with. The story begins with Nam in the Plain of Reeds, where he is stumbled upon by an abnormal fisherwoman. While assisting her and earning money Nam plans his next steps in pursuit of the drifters. When the partnership ends badly, Nam runs away from the fisherwoman and on to the South.

On the journey to Southern Vietnam, Nam meets many people, good people who have had their hearts turned black due to the longings their soul carries. This is where also we see the devastation a corrupt and violent government (Communists) and outlaws can inflict upon innocent lives. Nam’s presence in each of these lives both alleviates the darkness in their hearts but also further escalates some already tense situations.

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Whether it be through the colorful markets of cities or the remote fishing villages on the coasts, Nam is always on the lookout for his cousin’s killers. When the boy uncovers the truth of his cousin’s death, he becomes a man with his own compass to guide the direction of his life. This independence lasts until the pain of further longing and oppression reveals to us all that none of us are truly in complete control and often fate isn’t black in white, but grey, in its outcome.

The Demon Who Peddled Longing is truly a literary masterpiece. Utilizing very immersive visuals and the imprint the senses leaves on each of us, the novel delivers an unconventional epic of vengeance, longing, and compassion. The dialogue, which at first may confuse a reader, emerges to enhance the writing to make it a very organic and rhythmic read.

Khanh Ha is masterful and unmatched in his ability to show how violence can lead to atonement and how, like a lotus flower, beauty can arise from the deepest depths of darkness. His writing style and structure is something unseen before, giving the reader a more realistic story of how no one is in complete control of their life’s path and how compassion and redemption can still arise out of the darkness of longing and oppression.

Khanh Ha: Author Bio

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Khanh Ha studied Journalism at Ohio University and learned the craft of writing under Daniel Keyes (Flowers for Algernon) and Walter Tevis (The Man Who Fell to Earth). He is the author of Flesh (2012, Black Heron Press) and The Demon Who Peddled Longing (2014, Underground Voices). Khanh Ha is a five-time Pushcart nominee, a Best Indie Lit New England nominee, and the recipient of Greensboro Review’s 2014 ROBERT WATSON LITERARY PRIZE IN FICTION. His work, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, was honored by Shelf Unbound as a NOTABLE INDIE BOOK.