A shocking exposé in The Intercept reveals CIA-backed death squads in Afghanistan have killed children as young as 8 years old in a series of night raids, many targeting madrassas, Islamic religious schools. In December 2018, one of the death squads attacked a madrassa in Wardak province, killing 12 boys, of whom the youngest was 9 years old. The United States played key roles in many of the raids, from picking targets to ferrying Afghan forces to the sites to providing lethal airpower during the raids. The Intercept reports this was part of a campaign of terror orchestrated by the Trump administration that included massacres, executions, mutilation, forced disappearances, attacks on medical facilities, and airstrikes targeting structures known to house civilians. “These militias … were established in the very early days of the Afghan War by CIA officers, many of whom had been brought back into the fold after the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 who had previously been working in Afghanistan during the 1980s,” says reporter Andrew Quilty. “This network of militias was set up and appear to be entirely under the control of the CIA but made up entirely of Afghan soldiers.”
That the liberal belief in and fear of a Trump-led fascist dictatorship and violent coup is actually a fantasy — a longing, a desire, a craving — has long been obvious.
The Democrats’ own actions proved that they never believed their own melodramatic and self-glorifying rhetoric about Trump as The New Hitler — from their leaders joining with the GOP to increase The Fascist Dictator’s domestic spying powers and military spending to their (correct) belief that the way to oust The Neo-Nazi Tyrant was through a peaceful and lawfully conducted democratic election in which vote totals and, if necessary, duly constituted courts would determine the next president.
The motives for concocting this Wagnerian fantasy about coups, dictatorship, concentration camps and civil war are numerous. Politics is boring, and your life unspectacular, if it’s dedicated to a goal as banal and uninspiring as empowering a septuagenarian career-politician — the centrist-authoritarian author of the 1994 Crime Bill, the credit card industry’s most loyal servant, and key Iraq War advocate — along with his tough-on-crime prosecutor-running-mate who always seems as if she just left a meeting of the Aetna Board of Directors where massive hikes in deductibles were approved.
Glory is available only if one can convincingly herald oneself as a front-line warrior risking it all to courageously battle unprecedented evil and a Nazi-like menace. But working to do nothing more than elect Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the rest of the painfully ordinary and mediocre corporatist and imperialist Democratic Party politicians through a standard American election? There’s no glory residing in that, no courage needed for it, to put it mildly.
Posturing as a courageous soldier in an existential battle for freedom, democracy and the survival of the marginalized against Nazi despotism is far more exciting and psychologically satisfying (and financially profitable) than being an obedient liberal drone marching in perfect tune to the dreary, McKinsey-scripted musical theater produced by Tom Perez and the DNC. That is therefore the delusional storyline adopted by many.
The question of truth is at the heart of the story Holland tackles—the deadly famine, engineered by Stalin’s regime, that swept through Ukraine, the Volga Basin, the Kuban and Don regions of the North Caucasus, and Kazakhstan in the winter of 1932-1933. In Ukraine alone, where it is known by its Ukrainian name of Holodomor and often referred to as the terror-famine, it took an estimated 4 million lives. In this exceptionally fertile land, Stalin imposed impossible production demands, expropriating all available grain and livestock and using the ensuing starvation to break the back of the peasantry, whose resistance to collectivization threatened to undermine his industrialization efforts.
But Stalin’s crime was only one face of the story. The other face was the extraordinary failure on the part of the world to report and acknowledge the facts. Many were complicit in this failure, but the starring role undoubtedly belonged to the Moscow-based Western journalists, who misreported, underreported, and failed to report about what was plainly happening under their noses. Walter Duranty, the New York Times’ man in Moscow, outright lied about the events, deliberately misleading his readers. In 1932, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for reporting. Holland’s exploration of the complicity of the press in one of Joseph Stalin’s greatest crimes lends the film an unexpected relevance to our current moment, when the role and purpose of the media and of journalism itself seem to be under attack—from both would-be dictators and people for whom virtue is the arbiter of truth.