by Le Nouvel Observateur
January 15-21, 1998, p. 76.
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(Note: There are at least two editions of 'Le Nouvel Observateur.' With the exception of the U.S. Library of Congress, the version sent to the United States did not include the Brzezinski interview.)
Le Nouvel Observateur: Former CIA director Robert Gates states in his memoirs: The American secret services began six months before the Soviet intervention to support the Mujahideen [in Afghanistan]. At that time you were president Carters security advisor; thus you played a key role in this affair. Do you confirm this statement?
Zbigniew Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version, the CIA's support for the Mujahideen began in 1980, i.e. after the Soviet army's invasion of Afghanistan on 24 December 1979. But the reality, which was kept secret until today, is completely different: Actually it was on 3 July 1979 that president Carter signed the first directive for the secret support of the opposition against the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And on the same day I wrote a note, in which I explained to the president that this support would in my opinion lead to a military intervention by the Soviets.
Le Nouvel Observateur: Despite this risk you were a supporter of this covert action? But perhaps you expected the Soviets to enter this war and tried to provoke it?
Zbigniew Brzezinski: It's not exactly like that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene but we knowingly increased the probability that they would do it.
Le Nouvel Observateur: When the Soviets justified their intervention with the statement that they were fighting against a secret US interference in Afghanistan, nobody believed them. Nevertheless there was a core of truth to this...Do you regret nothing today?
Zbigniew Brzezinski: Regret what? This secret operation was an excellent idea. It lured the Russians into the Afghan trap, and you would like me to regret that? On the day when the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote president Carter, in essence: "We now have the opportunity to provide the USSR with their Viet Nam war." Indeed for ten years Moscow had to conduct a war that was intolerable for the regime, a conflict which involved the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet Empire.
Le Nouvel Observateur: And also, don't you regret having helped future terrorists, having given them weapons and advice?
Zbigniew Brzezinski: What is most important for world history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? Some Islamic hotheads or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Le Nouvel Observateur: "Some hotheads?" But it has been said time and time again: today Islamic fundamentalism represents a world-wide threat...
Zbigniew Brzezinski: Rubbish! It's said that the West has a global policy regarding Islam. That's hogwash: there is no global Islam. Let's look at Islam in a rational and not a demagogic or emotional way. It is the first world religion with 1.5 billion adherents. But what is there in common between fundamentalist Saudi Arabia, moderate Morocco, militaristic Pakistan, pro-Western Egypt and secularized Central Asia? Nothing more than that which connects the Christian countries...
Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser
Source: Killing Hope, by William Blum. Article translated from the French by Bill Blum
Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?
B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentlaism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?
B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.
B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.