The Power of Language

by Joshua Foust on 5/27/2009 · 2 comments

Alex Strick van Linschoten, apparently reading old Robert Kaplan books so we don’t have to (just kidding: Soldiers of God is pretty much his only legitimate and readable book), noticed something Alexander Cockburn—he of Counterpunch and The Nation fame—said in 1980:

“In the January 20, 1980, issue of the Village Voice, the left-wing writer Alexander Cockburn employed such a rationale to justify the Soviet invasion of the month before: ‘We all have to go one day, but pray God let it not be over Afghanistan. An unspeakable country filled with unspeakable people, sheepshaggers and smugglers … I yield to none in my sympathy to those prostrate beneath the Russian jackboot, but if ever a country deserved rape it’s Afghanistan.'”

Classy, right? I’m certain his opinion has evolved somewhat in the intervening 29 years, but it’s still something to think about.


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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 2 comments }

Christian May 28, 2009 at 11:58 am

Awesome. I found a mini-repository of apologists for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that was compiled by the Soviets themselves. But unfortunately Cockburn didn’t make the cut. So this is news to me. Not really too surprising.

Joshua Foust May 28, 2009 at 12:01 pm

What is surprising to me is over at Attackerman, where I double-posted this, the commenters noted that Cockburn is an attention whore (fair enough), Afghanistan in 1979 was desperate and backward (umm) and the Soviets did a lot of good for the Afghans (well, sort of). It was bizarre, if only because I know if someone like Mark Steyn or Victor Davis Hanson had said such a thing, there would have been an eruption of apoplexy about how inhuman and terrible they are that the world had never before known.

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