From Herat to Homs, the Western left’s decades-long zeal for Russian bombs

Enthusiasm on the left for Vladimir Putin’s bombing campaign in Syria has strong echoes of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that killed and displaced millions, including relatives of this author.

In March 1980, the Sunday Times published an article on events in Kabul titled, “Tricks and terror in the KGB’s Afghan duel.” Its author, Anthony Mascarenhas, a well-known journalist famous for his investigative work on the genocide in Bangladesh in 1971 by Pakistani forces, was the only Western reporter in the Afghan capital when the Soviets invaded the country on Christmas Day, 1979, and began their almost ten-year-long occupation, which was, as the headline described very well, mainly dominated by tricks and terror.

While many of today’s analyses still focus on the Islamic insurgency, the Mujahideen, that was fueled during that time and has dominated Afghan politics to this day, the crimes of Kabul’s Communist regime and its allies in Moscow often seem to be almost forgotten. Nevertheless, a discussion of this issue is not just necessary because of all the Afghans who lost their lives during this period, but also because of new conflicts in the world and the framings and discussions that have evolved thereof.

Perhaps the best example of such a conflict is the war in Syria, which in fact has many similarities to 1980s Afghanistan. In Syria, a brutal dictatorship has ruled the country for decades, attacking, imprisoning and murdering literally all political opponents. According to all credible human rights observers, the Assad regime and its key Russian ally are responsible for the vast majority of killed Syrian civilians, who now number around 500,000 human beings by conservative estimates.

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