Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Tonight on Radio Free Kansas, Gould and Fitzgerald on the Anniversary of the American Invasion of Afghanistan

Beginning at 10pm (Central) an extended conversation with:
Gould & Fitzgerald

Following their exclusive news story for the CBS Evening News, they produced a documentary (Afghanistan Between Three Worlds) for PBS and in 1983 they returned to Kabul for ABC Nightline with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher. They were told that the Russians wanted to go home and negotiate their way out. Peace in Afghanistan was more than a possibility. It was a desired option. But the story that President Carter called, "the greatest threat to peace since the second World War" had already been written by America's policy makers and America's pundits were not about to change the script.

As the first American journalists to get deeply inside the story they not only got a view of an unseen Afghan life, but a revelatory look at how the US defined itself against the rest of the world under the veil of superpower confrontation. Once the Soviets had crossed the border into Afghanistan, the fate of both nations was sealed. But as Paul and Liz pursued the reasons behind the wall of propaganda that shielded the truth, they found themselves drawn into a story that was growing into mythic dimensions. Big things were brewing in Afghanistan. Old empires were being undone and new ones, hatched. America had launched a Medieval Crusade against the modern world and the ten year war against the Soviet Union was only the first chapter.

It was at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 when Paul and Liz were working on the film version of their experience under contract to Oliver Stone, that they began to piece together the mythic implications of the story. During the research for the screenplay many of the documents preceding the Afghan crisis were declassified. Over the next decade they trailed a labyrinth of clues only to find a profound likeness in Washington's official policy towards Afghanistan - in the ancient Zoroastrian war of the light against the dark - whose origins began in the region now known as Afghanistan. It was a likeness that grows more visible as America's involvement deepens.

Afghanistan's civil war followed America's Cold War while Washington walked away. A new strain of religious holy warrior called the Taliban arose but no one in America was listening. As the horrors of the Taliban regime began to grab headlines in 1998 Paul and Liz began collaborating with Afghan human rights expert Sima Wali. Along with Wali, they contributed to the Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future book project. In 2002 they filmed Wali's first return to Kabul since her exile in 1978. The film they produced about Wali's journey home, The Woman in Exile Returns, gave audiences the chance to discover the message of one of Afghanistan's most articulate voices and her hopes for her people.

In the years since 9/11 much has happened to bring Paul and Liz's story into sharp focus. Their efforts at combining personal diplomacy with activist journalism is a model for restoring a healthy and vibrant dialogue to American democracy. Ultimately Invisible History Afghanistan's Untold Story lays bare why it was inevitable that the Soviet Union and the U.S. should end up in Afghanistan and what that means to the future of the American empire.


Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband and wife team, began their experience in Afghanistan when they were the first American journalists to acquire permission to enter behind Soviet lines in 1981 for CBS News and produced a documentary, Afghanistan Between Three Worlds, for PBS. In 1983 they returned to Kabul with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher for ABC Nightline and contributed to the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. They have continued to research, write and lecture about the long-term run-up that led to the US invasion of Afghanistan.

As the horrors of the Taliban regime were beginning to grab headlines in 1998 they began collaborating with Afghan human rights expert Sima Wali on media projects. They contributed to the Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future book project In 2002 they filmed Wali's first return to Kabul since her exile in 1978. The Woman in Exile Returns, the film they produced about Wali's journey home gives audiences the chance to discover one Afghan's vision for her people.

They are featured alongside Zbigniew Brzezinski, Stansfield Turner, John K. Cooley, Benazir Bhutto, Noam Chomsky and Jack Blum in an award winning documentary by Samira Goetschel. Titled, Our Own Private Bin Laden it traces the creation of the Osama bin Laden mythology in Afghanistan and how that mythology has been used to maintain the "war on terror" approach of the Bush administration.


An Alternative History of the US Role in Afghanistan -Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones Jul 23, 2009

US Policies Empower Afghan Taliban: Experts -Christian Avard, The Huffington Post Jul 6, 2009

Watch Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould's appearance on GRITtv with Laura Flanders on June 26, 2009.

Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire -Chalmers Johnson quotes from Invisible History, Huffington Post Jul 30, 2009

Irish Times "In their recent book, Invisible History, Afghanistan's Untold Story, Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, two US journalists with a long involvement there, trace how it has re-emerged after being parked with a compliant Pakistani regime during the Iraq war. . . Speaking at meetings throughout the US, Fitzgerald and Gould report a bewilderment about why the extra troops are being sent there now. They believe the Obama administration is buying time to save face, redefine its commitment and reorganise its priorities."

A hidden denial in the Afghan election Globalpost: September 29, 2009
17,000 Troops? What's Really Behind the Thinking? The Huffington Post July 7, 2009

Thinking Like an Afghan Counterpunch April 16th, 2009

Opinion: To surge or not to surge? Special to GlobalPost February 7, 2009 16:28 ET

Mumbai Terror's Afghan Roots Counterpunch December 16, 2008

A Message for the New President Stop Killing Afghans Counterpunch December 4, 2008

Struggle ahead for Afghanistan The Boston Globe July 30, 2008


"Invisible History Afghanistan's Untold Story is a defining work of great wisdom and depth in which the authors get to the bottom of the cauldron that is Afghanistan. We cannot fully understand today's Afghanistan without reading this insightful book.
Afghanistan was the first war in the US war on terror. Understanding Afghanistan is the key to the current war. You could not start at a better place than this book.To understand why eight years later it is still being fought, Invisible History Afghanistan's Untold Story is a must read."
Ahmed Rashid Author of Taliban and Descent into Chaos

"Invisible History:Afghanistan's Untold Story is a much-needed corrective to five decades of biased journalistic and academic writing about Afghanistan that has covered up the destructive and self-defeating U.S. role there. Backed by prodigious research, it shows that successive U.S. administrations deserve much of the blame for the rise of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and that the increasingly unpopular American military presence in Afghanistan today is likely to prove unsustainable."

-Selig S. Harrison Author Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal and former South Asia Bureau Chief of The Washington Post

"A serious, sobering study of America’s end-of-century adventure in Afghanistan, Invisible History Afghanistan's Untold Story illuminates a critical point of view rarely discussed by our media. The results of this willful ignorance have been disastrous to our national well-being."

-Oliver Stone

"In this penetrating inquiry, based on careful study of an intricate web of political, cultural, and historical factors that lie in the immediate background, and enriched by unique direct observation at crucial moments, Fitzgerald and Gould tell "the real story of how they came to be there and what we can expect next." With skill and care, they unravel the roots of Afghanistan's terrible travail, and lay bare its awesome significance for the world at large. Invocation of Armageddon is no mere literary device. The threat is all too real as the political leadership of a superpower with few external constraints charges forward on a course that is fraught with peril... a critically important contribution to our understanding of some of the most dramatic and significant developments of current history."

-Noam Chomsky

"From the dawn of the Cold War onward, generations of conservative strategists have eyed Afghanistan as a launching pad first for the subversion of the Soviet Union and then to checkmate Russia in central Asia. To that end, as Gould and Fitzgerald show, since the 1950s the CIA has played games with both reactionary, feudal landlords and wild-eyed Muslim fundamentalists. In their exhaustively documented book, Gould and Fitzgerald reveal how that sort of gamesmanship played havoc with a battered nation of twenty-five million souls – helping to spawn, in the process, the virulent strain of violent Islamism that reaches far beyond the remote and landlocked territory of that war-torn country."

-Robert Dreyfuss, Author, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam

REVIEWS "In Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story, journalists Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould outline striking historical accounts of an ancient nation, its borders shaped through colonial wars and conflicts between empires. Their style is reflective yet factual, delving into Afghanistan's key role in central conflicts that have defined global politics in the past century, from the Cold War to the "war on terror." Stefan

Pink Tank "In Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story (City Lights Books, 2009), authors Paul Fitzgerald & Elizabeth Gould give a current examination of the last hundred years in Afghanistan. . . An excellent chapter at the end offers What Can President Barack Obama Do?, an organized list of solid recommendations. It includes 2. Stop humiliating Afghan men and desecrating their homes, a practice many say recruits militants. The list also acknowledges the problem of humanitarian aid trickling down slowly and meagerly: 4. Start helping Afghans in a way they can understand, see, and appreciate. . . Mr. President, are you listening?" —Lisa Savage

Tikkun "Invisible History shows us that we now have an opportunity to transform ourselves through an honest confrontation with our past: a confrontation that would lead us to reorient our national policies around the tabernacle of our professed moral values. If we choose to ignore this opportunity, and once again turn a blind eye to history and its lessons, then we may find ourselves in grave danger, not just from the threat of terrorist attacks, but from falling victim to the same folly that has toppled empires throughout history." —Ryan Croken

Truthout "Thirty years in the making, this deeply researched book is bursting with overlooked facts and unauthorized insights. Through their erudition, prescience and passion, Gould and Fitzgerald have provided us with an urgent and necessary history, one that pierces through the haze of misinformation that has, for far too long, obscured the guiding light of an authentic past. The timeliness of this book cannot be overstated." —Ryan Croken

Newshoggers "Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould is a must read book for anyone who wants to understand world geopolitics since the Vietnam war and even before . . . . Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story, is a must read for anyone trying to understand AF/PAK policy. I have not even scratched the surface of what you will find in this book. And how about a teaser? - Pakistan's ISI was involved in the 911 attacks." —Ron Beasley

Asia Times "Nearly 30 years after their first foray into the land-locked buffer state, married couple and journalist-historians Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould could not have chosen a more appropriate time to publish their comprehensive Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story. . . A chronically disinformed US public should leap at the chance to familiarize themselves with an honest overview of their country's historically scandalous involvement in the region." —Anthony Fenton

Midwest Book Review "There's more to Afghanistan's history than the rise and fall of the Taliban. Afghanistan's Untold Story is a look at the oft forgotten long and storied history of the Afghani people. Drawing the tale from thousands of years ago in ancient times to what Afghanistan was like before the infamous wars with the Soviet Union, it tells the story from the Afghani perspective, leading to a fascinating story of a war-torn people. Afghanistan's Untold Story is enthralling history reading, a great pick indeed." —James A. Cox
The Philadelphia Bulletin "Unhinged by war for nearly 30 years, Afghanistan's tragic story and how it got where it is, teetering on the brink of collapse as a nation-state, is described by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould in Invisible History — Afghanistan’s Untold Story. The book’s approach is comprehensive, combining the sweep of interpretative, historical survey with a current-affairs analysis in the latter chapters, which guides the reader to understand the issues that have plagued Afghanistan for the past two centuries. . . . Afghanistan’s Untold Story raises many questions — not all readily answerable — about America’s role in Afghanistan, and by extension, in other troubled parts of the world."—Sam Oglesby
The Dallas Morning News "The fog obscuring U.S. policies in Afghanistan is thicker than elsewhere in the region. The authors cut through it meticulously, exposing layers of cultural arrogance and myopia. They demonstrate with painful clarity how these traits helped push our would-be ally into the Soviet orbit, causing us to arm and promote the violent extremists we're fighting today. When confronted with al-Qaeda's nihilism on 9/11, our response was 'wildly exaggerated, dangerously reckless, and ... ineffective.'" --- Emily L. Hauser

The Middle East Journal “Utilizing 20 years of experience of researching and reporting on Afghanistan, Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould seek to clarify and contextualize the current situation in conflict-torn Afghanistan with this comprehensive history. The material covers events starting in ancient antiquity, but puts a heavy emphasis on the second half of the 20th century through the end of 2007. The work concludes with analysis and strategy recommendations for the incoming American President and is supplemented by an appendix of historical maps.” —Shannon Rosenberg
Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Journalists Fitzgerald and Gould do yeoman's labor in clearing the fog and laying bare American failures in Afghanistan in this deeply researched, cogently argued and enormously important book. The authors demonstrate how closely American actions are tied to past miscalculations—and how U.S. policy has placed Afghans and Americans in grave danger. Long at cultural crossroads, Afghanistan's location poised the country to serve as 'a fragile buffer' between rival empires. Great Britain's 1947 creation of an arbitrary and indefensible border between Afghanistan and the newly minted Pakistan 'from the Afghan point of view... has always been the problem,' but particularly after 9/11 American policymakers have paid scant attention to the concerns of Afghans, preferring to shoehorn an imagined Afghanistan into U.S. power paradigms. 'The United States is in a fight for its life, not because of [9/11]... but because of the way America responded.... That response was at once wildly exaggerated, dangerously reckless, and... ineffective,' the authors argue, calling on the incoming president to make radical changes. 'Osama is not beating the United States.... The United States is beating itself, and beating itself badly.'"

Kirkus Reviews Seasoned journalists Fitzgerald and Gould—co-producers of the 1981 PBS documentary Afghanistan Between the Between Three Worlds - deliver a probing history of the country and a critical evaluation of American involvement in recent decades. The authors had just finished a documentary in late 1979 on SALT II (Arms Race and the Economy) when Russia invaded the seemingly insignificant country of Afghanistan. In this densely researched work, they study the ancient ethnic makeup of the country, its fledgling attempts at democracy and the catastrophic rise of the Taliban, introduced by Pakistan refugee groups and funded by the Saudis. As the “meeting place of four cultural zones,” Afghanistan has constantly been overrun by invaders eager to get somewhere else, including Alexander the Great, early Arab armies that converted the country to Islam, Genghis Khan, and the mid-19th century invasion by the British, which sowed the seeds of destabilizing colonial politics that would wreak havoc until the present day. The country lived in perpetual fear of Russian invasion of its northern territories, and it became a natural base for Cold War confrontation. Internally, a conservative, traditional society in which Islam played a pious rather than political role was being radically transformed by the 1970s, “under the influence of outside religious and intellectual forces.” Most chilling to read is the American government’s hot-cold manipulation of the region for its own purposes. As the situation devolved into “a sea of drugs, covert operations, Islamic revolutionaries, and Maoist cadres,” and U.S. ambassador Adolph Dubs was murdered in February 1979, an aggressive anti-Soviet stance was set in play from Brzezinski to Reagan, and the entrenchment of Islamic extremism was assured. The authors ably demystify Afghan efforts in the wake of 9/11, delineating its destroyed culture and offering a cogent plan for the next American president. A fresh perspective on a little-understood nation.

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