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The Biggest Jaw-Dropping Journalism Scandal of All?

Posted: 07/13/11 02:13 PM ET

As the first journalists to enter Kabul in 1981 for CBS News with Dan Rather following the expulsion of the Western media the previous year, we continue to be amazed at how the American disinformation campaign between Hollywood, Washington and Wall Street built around the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan lives on. We've seen this pattern from the media again and again. It happened AGAIN in Huffpost's July 8th 10 Jaw-Dropping Journalism Scandals that missed the biggest scandal of all.

Our opportunity to see inside a Soviet-occupied Afghanistan revealed a complex story of political betrayal, women's rights and a struggle for modernity, but the footage we returned with didn't conform to the evil empire image that CBS News had been promoting. Four weeks after our return, a story about our trip was aired, cross-cut with footage created by the Soviets that in no way represented our experience. But as an anti-Soviet piece, it was masterful. Then in 1983, under contract to ABC Nightline, we invited Roger Fisher, director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, to return with us to assess the chances of negotiating the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Roger told us that the Kremlin's chief Afghan specialist said, "Give us six months to save face and we'll leave the Afghans to solve their own problems." This information was rejected as news by ABC World News Tonight. Then the Soviet request -- as explained by Roger on Nightline -- was framed in such a way by host Ted Koppel, that it dispelled any notion that there was a chance of a Soviet withdrawal.

As the decade of the 1980s wore on, the Soviet occupation left the realm of journalism and transformed into a Ramboesque struggle of holy warriors against the evil empire. Then in 1989 when the Soviets withdrew, the Afghan story disappeared from the media's radar completely. The cold war had ended and the mythology dictated that the U.S. had "won." The Afghan people were left to deal with the blowback from the mujaheddin fighters who had been supported by the largest publicly known U.S. covert operation since Vietnam. Over the next few years that process would give rise to the Taliban and morph into the threat the U.S. faces today. Without any serious reflection on the consequences of funding and training extremists for the purpose of defeating the Soviet Union, the American media not only missed the deeper story, but ignored where the Afghan story had been corrupted for political purposes.

Then articles in the New York Post by Janet Wilson in 1989 and a Columbia Journalism Review article by Mary Williams Walsh in 1990 charged that CBS News repeatedly aired fake battle footage and false news accounts. The accusations caused no serious questioning by the media. It wasn't until 9/11 that Afghanistan got back on the media's radar. But the media continues to resist the deeper analysis necessary to bring about the kind of thinking required by America's current intervention in Afghanistan.

To this day, the press largely accepted, without investigation, the view that a Soviet triggered Muslim Holy War against communism was taking place. Even when both Robert Gates, America's current Secretary of Defense, and Zbigniew Brzezinski President Carter's national security adviser, admitted in print (Gates, in his book, From the Shadows; Brzezinski, 1998 interview in Le Nouvel Observateur), that the U.S. had been secretly undermining its own diplomatic efforts in order to give the Soviets their own Vietnam in Afghanistan, the American press failed to see it as news.

Brzezinski's Le Nouvel Observateur remarks are addressed in a 2005 interview he did with Samira Goetschel for her film, Our Own Private Bin Laden. She asked: "In your 1998 interview with the French Magazine Le Nouvel Observateur you said that you knowingly increased the probability of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan." Brzezinski responded: "The point very simply was this. We knew the Soviets were already conducting operations in Afghanistan. We knew there was opposition in Afghanistan to the progressive effort which had been made by the Soviets to take over. And we felt therefore it made a lot of sense to support those that were resisting. And we decided to do that. Of course this probably convinced the Soviets even more to do what they were planning to do..."

As we document in our books, the record contradicts Brzezinski's assumption that the Soviets would have invaded. The world was remade with the Soviet folly in Afghanistan, a Communist empire destroyed and the West's pre-eminence assured. But the price in human suffering in Afghanistan and the impact on our democratic freedoms and aggressive press coverage has yet to be understood.

Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story and Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire Visit their website at www.invisiblehistory.com.

Watch our critique of the MSM "narrative" Exposing the Official 1980s -- created to build support for Charlie Wilson's War following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Click here for the Mary Williams Walsh 1990 interview in The Progressive Magazine that lays out the charges of fakery against CBS News for its Afghanistan coverage.