Summary: Films from 1987-1888 about the Afghanistan mujahideen reveal much about our inability to clearly see the world and learn from it. We can do better.
With childlike wonder each day I see with astonishment our willingness to believe what we’re told. We suffer from our lack of curiosity, our minds closed to alternative sources of information. We treat the information highway like a Fisher-Price toy.
A previous post reviewed the many outright lies told us by high government officials about enemies of America — and how we fail to learn, but believe the new lie. Today’s post looks at something more subtle but just as deceitful: the narratives spun in the news by government officials, their associates, their useful idiots, and journalists. There’s a pattern here that we refuse to see, a costly error. As with so many aspects of America, it’s clearly seen on the big screen.
Today we look at three films from 1987-1988, the end of the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghanistan War — in which we played so large a part, with horrific results for Afghanistan and America. Here we see what we were told about that war, and the mujahideen “freedom fighters”, despite the ample information available showing this to be false.
The Living Daylights (1987)
James Bond travels the world fighting evil in The Living Daylights. He finds unlikely allies, such as a band of bold horse-riding Afghanistan mujahideen — led by the Kamran Shah. After refusing to fight, they are shamed by the bravery of the beautiful young Russian, Kara Milovy, and follow Bond. They help Bond attack the heavily-armed Soviet base, ending in victory.
As so often in American films, even in the wildest corners of the world the good guys are led by someone much like us. Kamran Shah was educated at Oxford, and would be a comforting presence at any Manhattan cocktail party. How sad for America to learn that actual mujahideen leaders were Afghanistan in culture and values — both of which are guaranteed to disrupt a Manhattan cocktail party.
Rambo III (1988)
We love westerns, even if set in Afghanistan. Rambo plays a hyper-violent Gary Cooper in Rambo III, with the mujahideen as the cavalry. This is perhaps the most prophetic movie Hollywood has ever produced, eerily foreshadowing America’s war in Afghanistan from 2001 to now. For details see Meg White’s What Rambo Taught us About Afghanistan.
The film ends with a sentiment shared by all Americans in 1988 (except those who knew something about Afghanistan):
But after 9-11 America needed a new version of history, lest awareness of our past folly produced discomfort or even learning. So that ending went down the memory hole, and the Ministry of Truth created new history for the ending of the film:
The Beast of War (1988)
If you should wonder why Hollywood feeds us misleading or outright false information about the world, these box office numbers provide the answer. It’s the free market at work; Hollywood gives us what we want.
- The Living Daylights: $191 million.
- Rambo III: $189 million.
- The Beast of War: $161 thousand.
The pattern of our wars, and some conclusions.
- Afghanistan: a communist but secular regime overthrown with US aid, replaced by Islamic fundamentalists — and endless civil war (when that stabilized we invaded again, re-starting the war).
- Iraq: a tyrannical but secular regime invaded and destroyed by the US, replaced by Islamic fundamentalists — and civil war.
- Libya: a tyrannical but secular regime overthrown with US aid, replaced by Islamic fundamentalists — and civil war.
- Syria: a tyrannical but secular regime attacked by rebels, either receiving or will receive US aid.
The conclusion is clear: if you are a woman in an Islamic nation and the US comes to help, leave immediately. Future historians will draw another conclusion: US foreign policy in this era is quite mad.
But even the best future historians might never solve this puzzle: why the richest and most powerful nation on Earth, whose people have instant access to the accumulated knowledge of humanity, displayed such ignorance on matters of so great importance. Disinterest, preferring that the 1% rule instead? Apathy, or even the spiritual sickness of acedia (extreme torpor, making one unable to fulfill one’s duties).
Whatever the cause, the cure lies within us. We have all the tools at hand to make this again a great nation. We need only take them up and wield them.
For More Information
- Learning skepticism, an essential skill for citizenship in 21st century America.
- Remembering is the first step to learning. Living in the now is ignorance.
- Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America.
We need not travel the information superhighway like this…
It’s a powerful tool for a free people.