The CNN documentary on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan unflinchingly exposes both Soviet and Western influences in the destabilization of the region. What was supposed to be a quick occupation that would end in a few weeks, the Soviet invasion lasted for a decade. After Muslim extremists in the region rebelled against sweeping socialist policies in Afghanistan, a rebellion ensued. This rebellion was in part influenced by the fact that Soviet policies were ignorant to Afghanistanian culture and Muslim practices and by the fact that these policies were threatening the control of the Muslim religious leaders. As the political and social unrest reached its height, the Soviet-friendly prime minister assassinated and replaced with a power-hungry dictator, Soviet authorities decided to get militarily intervene. The United States saw this as a threat – Jimmy Carter even went far enough to say that this move threatened American national security and that he was considering unleashing nuclear weapons as a response to this. Thus, the United States began its funding and support of the the Islamic anti-Soviet jihadist group (which was referred to as ‘mujahideen’).
What was interesting was about the documentary was the fact that many American officials explicitly stated that the war in Afghanistan was fueled by American covert operations which supplied arms and training to the mujahideen. One representative said that this was “our war paid with [Afghanistanian] blood”. What was CNN’s bias in presenting the information like this? Was this admittance of direct US manipulation and destabilizing aid one of owning up for America’s action?
The documentary also exposes the ultimate chaos of the US-USSR proxy war. An American official smugly admits that American troops acquired Soviet weapons from Czechoslovakia, China and Egypt because of the alleged materialistic interests that outweighed their socialist priorities. This goes to show how the vision of socialism was failing in the Soviet Union and how intent the United States was to bleed the Soviet Union dry. The unfortunate and truly tragic aspect of this point in history is that this vindictive and disorganized action was fought on foreign land and radically disrupted a religious and cultural country.
The question of bias is interesting in regards to this documentary. At times it seems like CNN presents an anti-Soviet narrative, especially when they discuss the events leading up to the conflict as well as the Soviet Union’s involvement in Afghanistan. However, as you express in your blog, CNN chose quotes from United States officials that clearly implicate the United States’ role in the conflict. Yet, I am unsure if this is a completely fair documentary in the views it expresses.
I also agree that the documentary seems to portray the Soviet Union as the enemy or the “bad guy” in this situation. This can be seen throughout CNN’s documentary, there are frequent instances where the Soviet Union is portrayed in a negative way. The film mentions that the Soviet Union tried very hard for a very long time to conceal the fact that they were participating in a war against Afghanistan, it was told that a mother was not allowed to put that her son had died in Afghanistan on his tombstone and that the country tried relentlessly to gain control of Afghanistan through unnecessary bloodshed. The documentary was definitely swayed towards the U.S.’s side.