Chapter 17 – Taking on Soviet Imperialism in Afghanistan

“Blatant Aggression.” McHenry’s statement summarizes key facts about the invasion, including the execution of Amin by Spetznatz units that took control by storming the presidential palace on December 27. McHenry details the Soviet Union’s propaganda and lies about these events and supports the above U.N. resolution calling for “immediate and unconditional withdrawal.” Thus:

The Soviet Union’s blatant act of aggression against the territory and people of Afghanistan . . . not only breaches the peace and violates international law, but also threatens the viability of the fundamental principles that underlie the U.N. Charter. . . . Let us look at the chilling sequence of events connected with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. . . .
During the first weeks of December; the Soviet Union secured Bagram airfield, north of the Afghan capital of Kabul, by sending the equivalent of an airborne regiment there. It also landed troops and at the Kabul airport, and, at the same time, mobilized enormous forces in areas bordering Afghanistan.

On December 25 and 26, a massive Soviet airlift into Kabul took place. In over 200 flights, roughly 10,000 Soviet troops were transported into Afghanistan.

On the evening of December 27, a special Soviet assault unit [“Spetznatz”] surrounded the presidential palace . . . and President Amin was summarily executed . . . and . . . [Soviet troop took under control] radio Afghanistan and other key governmental installations. . . . Afghan military forces have been disarmed. . . . The Soviet Union now has up to 50,000 troops in Afghanistan . . . other Soviet divisions are moving. . . . The Soviet-appointed successor . . . was not even in Afghanistan at the time . . . but was, rather, in the Soviet Union. . . .
The Soviet claim that it was acting in furtherance of collective self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter is a perversion of the Charter—an insult to the intelligence of the members of this Council.2

Soviet Puppets and Lies. In the days that followed, the Soviet government compounded its aggressive actions of invasion and political assassination. After murdering President Amin, their former ally, they forcibly installed a new PDPA puppet, Babrak Kamal, whom they flew into the Afghan capital from Moscow along with other senior members of the new pro-Soviet Communist regime. In a futile effort to disguise their aggression, Soviet propaganda claimed that their new man, Kamal, was somehow an “elected” President and that the Soviet invasion force had been “invited” by the very same Amin the invaders had just murdered. Soviet deception efforts included radio broadcasts of a speech to the nation by Kamal, purported to be given “live” via Radio Kabul. In fact, the speech was recorded in Moscow before Kamal’s departure and was broadcast from transmitters inside the Soviet Union. In the next weeks, the “invited” Soviet invasion force grew rapidly to 85,000 infantry, armored, air, and Spetznatz troops that launched violent attacks throughout Afghanistan.

A “Democratic Republic?” The Kremlin’s imposition of a puppet government flown in from Moscow was not unique in Soviet history, nor was the regime’s deceptive title—“The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.” The Kremlin was repeating Joseph Stalin’s cynical actions after the Second World War (see Chapter 3) when the Soviet Union grossly violated its wartime pledges made in the Yalta Agreement and other agreements signed with the Western Allies. These agreements required free elections throughout the nations liberated from Nazi occupation. The United States, U.K., and France had all strongly supported the development of democratic principles and governments in their own zones of occupied Germany. In stark contrast, the Soviet Union brought in hard-line Communist loyalists from Moscow to establish Stalinist dictatorships as “democratic peoples’ republics” (in fact captive nations) in areas newly occupied by the Red Army.

Carter’s “Surprise” and Confused Response to the Soviet Invasion. In his first public comments about the invasion, President Carter created public concern in a TV Interview on December 28, 1979 when he expressed “surprise,” notwithstanding credible reports that he and his National Security Council had in fact received serious prior U.S. intelligence warnings about evident Soviet preparations. Carter’s confusion (see Chapter 6) was not unprecedented. Earlier in his administration, Carter’s scolding of his countrymen for their “inordinate fear of Communism,” had raised public concerns about his evident failure to understand the realities of the totalitarian Communist ideology and Soviet threats. He now appeared confused about the basic facts and implications of the Soviet invasion and the larger context of the Kremlin’s increasingly evident and brutal violation of key “détente” assumptions and agreements. In a formal Carter Address to the Nation on January 4, 1980, Carter used stronger rhetoric, but remained weak in his actions as he spoke of:

[Book pg. 403]