Chapter 17 – Taking on Soviet Imperialism in Afghanistan

Reagan on Soviet Imperialism, Use of CW—December 1982. Reagan’s Statement on the Third Anniversary of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan on December 26, 1982 reasserts the rising global stakes in Afghanistan and references Soviet use of chemicals and toxins there as follows:

Afghanistan is important to the world, because the Afghan people are resisting Soviet imperialism. Three years ago on December 27, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and installed a new Communist leader to head the Marxist regime that had taken power in 1978. For the first time since the immediate aftermath of World War II, the Soviets used a large-scale military force outside their borders and Eastern Europe to try to impose their will. If this aggression should succeed, it will have dangerous impact on the safety of free men everywhere. . . .

We must recognize that the human costs of this struggle are immense. With the more intense fighting of 1982, casualties on both sides rose, and the civilian population suffered more than ever before. Crops and fields were destroyed by the Soviets, trying to deny to the mujahedin the support of the local population. Homes, and even entire villages, were leveled. We have convincing proof chemical weapons have been used by the Soviets against the Afghans. The refugee population has continued to grow, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, as peasants flee the destruction of war. It is a sad but inspiring story.17

USIA Report on Soviet “Yellow Rain” in Afghanistan, Laos, and Cambodia—December 1982. Yellow Rain, a public report issued by the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in December 1982, provides compelling public evidence on the horrors of chemical and toxin warfare by Soviet or Soviet-proxy forces in three countries, including Afghanistan. The report was distributed globally to provide the world convincing evidence from refugee testimonials, laboratory tests, and photographs. It lists U.S. diplomatic demarches on the proof obtained in recent months that: “The Soviet Union and its allies are violating international law systematically by using chemical and toxin weapons that have killed thousands” in Laos, Cambodia, and Afghanistan.

The report identifies the perpetrators in Laos as Soviet-supported Communist Pathet Lao, operating against Hmong Montangard tribesmen. In Cambodia, it identifies Communist Vietnamese invasion forces as committing such atrocities against Cambodian forces and civilian populations. In Afghanistan, it identifies the perpetrators as Soviet, and Soviet-backed Afghan, forces utilizing:

[Soviet] chemical attacks with irritants, a variety of nerve agents, mustard gas, toxic smoke and incapacitating agents, including . . . Blue-X . . . [that] apparently renders its victims unconscious for six to eight hours, allowing them to be disarmed or captured.
Recently, excerpts have received and tested samples that verify frequent eyewitness reports of the Soviet use of Yellow Rain toxins. The special State Department report published in November 1982, for example, documents the analysis of two contaminated Soviet gas masks that revealed the presence of trichothecene mycotoxins. . . .

In the first months of the invasion, Afghan observers reported 10 separate chemical attacks in the northeastern section of the country; by the spring and summer of 1980, eyewitnesses and refugees reported attacks in all areas of resistance to the Soviet-installed regime. . . . Mujahidin eyewitnesses in Lowgard Province . . . report that on two occasions in September 1982, Soviet forces contaminated underground water supplies by using an armored vehicle to pump a yellow gas through hoses into waterways. . . . Experts estimate that chemical attacks killed at least 3,000 Afghans by 1982. Officials indicate that the actual casualty figure might be twice that number.18

Department of State Update on “Yellow Rain”—February 1983. An update of the above report is Yellow Rain: The Arms Control Implications. It publishes a February 24, 1983 statement by Ambassador Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Arms Control, Oceans, International Operations, and Environment. Eagleburger’s testimony covers both the earlier USIA report and a more recent Reagan CBW arms control initiative publicized by Vice President H.W. Bush.

U.S. Treaty Proposal—April 1984. Vice President Bush’s speech, VP Bush Address on U.S. CBW Ban Proposal at the U.N.’s Committee on Disarmament, in Geneva on April 18, 1984 is reviewed in Chapter 14 on NATO/Warsaw Pact Forces. His speech, coordinated by the NSC-led Interagency system, lays out a new Reagan initiative to encourage a shift from the U.N. Committee’s rhetorical strategy to one forcing a change on serious verification and compliance issues in order to develop a meaningful path toward the global elimination of chemical and toxin weapons. It should be noted that in two arms control initiatives earlier undertaken

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