Dear editors, Daily Times Chronicle
As journalists who have followed the unusual and often hidden workings behind world geo-political events, we found your website and your information extremely helpful.
Our focus for 20 years has been the global arms race and the role Afghanistan has played in facilitating a very old, very deep and extremely dark agenda. As the home of the sun god Mithra, the dark side of Christianity, and the birthplace of the Western dream, (the dream which Charlemagne was entrusted) Afghanistan has much to reveal about the future course of world events.
Much of what I've read about the BIGGEST SECRET is quite true from our experience. But it's much bigger than you can believe. A lot more families are involved in more ways than you could imagine and the millennial pursuit is nothing less that the Grail of being itself.
We worked with Oliver Stone for 4 years on a movie version of our book, the Apostle's Diary and have written articles which you might wish to post. We'd very much like to hear from you and I am attaching a recent article in a local newspaper about us for your information.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
August 19, 1999
Winchester couple push for change in America's foreign policy Afghanistan's Apostles
By CHRIS CONNELLY
WINCHESTER, MA - When Paul Fitzgerald recently dug up an old World War II hand grenade in his backyard while planting a tree the irony was not lost on him and wife Liz Gould. After calls to the local police and the State Police Bomb Squad it was determined to be a used training grenade and not a significant threat. But significant threat is one of those "relative" terms that depends on where you are if and when the thing goes off.
The irony is that Gould and Fitzgerald, who have lived in their Forest Street home for 12 years, are committed to changing America's and ultimately the world's policy toward Afghanistan, a country whose continuing war has left millions dead, millions displaced and even more millions maimed and crippled by over 40 million land mines.
"When I look at the emergency response we had to this threat, the irony strikes me," Gould said. "Here was this weapon, thoughtlessly tossed off from a long ago war right in our back yard next to the children's swing set and when we find it, we treat it with horror. But Afghanistan has the greatest density of live landmines anywhere in the world and officially the world basically ignores it. That's all I could think about. It really hit home almost literally."
While expressing gratitude for the quick and professional response of local authorities, she said, "I've come to know a great deal about Afghanistan and its suffering and I wish for just one moment we could all extend the concern we have here for our safety to the people there. Maybe then we could all begin to understand the crisis Afghanistan continues to face as the reward for helping us defeat the Soviet Union.
In their effort to bring the world's attention to the plight of Afghanistan, Gould and Fitzgerald have teamed up with refugee leader, Sima Wali President of Refugee Women in Development. As the first Afghan refugee to come to this country some 20 years ago, Wali knows well what the war has done to the women of Afghanistan. But after so many years she is shocked that after such a long time she should still be pleading for the basic rights of Afghan women to be honored.
Wali recently spoke at a conference in Norway and also addressed the Feminist Majority's star studded Hollywood event in March. Hosted by Mavis Leno, wife of Tonight Show host Jay Leno, the star power generated at the event resulted in some significant publicity and coverage in the mainstream media.
But the struggle for recognition is still tough. In 1996, an army of religious students backed by Pakistan and known as the Taliban (seekers) swept through Afghanistan and now hold 90% of the country. Although a few see the extremist Taliban as a means for unifying Afghanistan and bringing peace, a majority of Afghans and some influential Americans now see the Taliban as an invasion force from Pakistan that is bent on destroying Afghan culture, especially as that culture pertains to women. "The world is finally awakening to the special crisis for women," Gould said of the Taliban. "And whoever responds to that crisis by doing something meaningful is going to find a lot of political support from the women of this country."
The Hollywood women's connection represents a shift for Afghanistan in American awareness. But in an upcoming Presidential year that awareness is bound to flow East and Washington has not been idle at getting Afghanistan back on the political agenda.
While interest groups that desire to change American foreign policy for one country or another lobby ceaselessly in Washington, when it comes to Afghanistan, the United States has no foreign policy to lobby for. Now a Washington foundation intends to change that.
In the past few weeks the Afghanistan Foundation in Washington D.C. released a long-awaited "white paper" on Afghanistan aimed at getting the Clinton administration and/or Congress to redefine American foreign policy for Afghanistan and it's something Fitzgerald sees as long overdue.
"The U.S. inherited Pakistan from the British as an ally in 1947. We didn't need or want Afghanistan. Then, late in the Cold War that changed," Fitzgerald said. "America used Afghanistan to lure the Soviet Union into a trap as a kind of repayment for Vietnam. America supplied the weapons, Pakistan distributed them and the Afghans fought and died in the war. It was a brilliant move that ultimately brought down the Soviet Union and ended Communism. But now that the Cold War is over, the fact that the U.S. has no policy for Afghanistan is becoming a major problem not only for Afghanistan, but for America as well."
Fitzgerald's views are shared by a growing body of Washington experts lead by former congressman Don Ritter (R- Pennsylvania), chairman of the Afghanistan Foundation. At a recent press conference televised on C-SPAN to coincide with the release of the white paper, Ritter acknowledged that among the problems to overcome, one of the most important was the Taliban regime's oppressive policies against women. "The time is right for change," Ritter said.
Together with Reagan Doctrine architect Zalmay Khalilzad, Ritter is moving fast to address what he sees as a situation that "borders on the ridiculous" adding, "There's almost no real focus on Afghanistan....Nobody pays any attention any more."
Conference in Boston
Gould, Fitzgerald and Sima Wali hope to change that as they work with The Afghanistan Foundation and the Gorbachev Foundation to organize a conference on the future of Afghanistan and how Cold War policies at the highest level tore Afghanistan apart. In addition both the Feminist Majority and Amnesty International have promised support. Gould and Fitzgerald see the conference as a unique historical opportunity to bring many of the central figures on both the Soviet and American side together for the first time. They expect to attract such figures as Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev to talk about Afghanistan and its future.
But while a conference sounds like a great idea there are obstacles to consider, such as internal American politics. Afghanistan remains a controversial and almost taboo subject to many on Capitol Hill. As a breeding ground for international terrorism, gross humanitarian violations against women and massive opium smuggling, America's involvement there raises some difficult questions.
Given the threat that Afghanistan now represents to stability in Asia, would the framers who helped shape earlier American foreign policy still maintain Afghanistan was the best way of beating the Soviet Union? There may even be some turf battles over what group should lead the push for a new foreign policy for Afghanistan.
But if all sides are represented, Gould and Fitzgerald believe that something important could come from it. What's more, they believe something "must" come from it because according to Fitzgerald, "time isn't just running out for Afghanistan, it has run out."
A world without women
Nowhere is that more obvious than the current situation regarding the lives of women in Afghanistan, where under the brutal Taliban women have been forced into marriages, beaten and sold into slavery. "Afghanistan today is a world without women," Wali said in her speech to the Feminist Majority on March 29 in Hollywood, a speech aired world-wide on the Voice of America.
"And that is a world without light and a world without hope. It is not a world that you or I could stand to live in. But if the strict codes of behavior that enslave women in Afghanistan are allowed to stand; if for one minute we allow ourselves to believe that depriving women of their rights is a proper culture, Islamic or human way to honor women, then what is to stop it from happening here?"
Over her 20 years in America Wali has become a major voice for refugees form all war torn regions. But although she has seen it all, she maintains that some of the worst humanitarian atrocities in history have been committed in Afghanistan with two million killed, one million maimed by landmines and 12 million dispossessed of their homes and their livelihoods. But even with all that, women have been made to suffer more.
"Yes, women's rights have been trampled on. But what is happening today in Afghanistan is unlike anything that has happened to women anywhere else in the world. And where for 20 years I spoke with the pleading voice of Afghan women, I now carry with me their screams."
As an Afghan who fled the Communists 20 years ago, Wali speaks from a unique perspective as an Afghan, as an American citizen, as a Muslim and a woman. But as a human rights activist she combines all those roles into one and whether in Oslo or L.A., when she speaks about Afghanistan, people take notice. "I tell you that my culture does not dehumanize women. It does not promote the bondage of women. My religion does not propagate the raping, torturing, or trafficking of women in war, imprisoning them in their own homes, driving them into poverty, keeping them from receiving medical treatment or driving them to starvation and suicide."
Wali urged the Hollywood community to tell the "true story of Afghanistan," but cautioned the audience of well known and glamorous figures. "...that story is not the Afghanistan most Americans know about. The power you have here to tell the full story of my country is in your hands; the full story about the Soviet Union and America's involvement that led to the death of my nation."
Introduction to Afghanistan
Gould and Fitzgerald started out looking for that full story back in 1981 when they were the first western journalists allowed back into that country following the Soviet incursion. Contracted to the CBS Evening News their unique glimpse of life behind Soviet lines ultimately became a PBS documentary.
Although closely guarded by heavily armed men as they traveled around Kabul and Jalalabad they were able to capture the essence of the country and its people. The trip provided the west with the first television pictures from inside Afghanistan. They returned in 1983 for Nightline and produced a half hour segment devoted to the possibility of a Soviet withdrawal that was under discussion at that time.
But as the war dragged on without resolution, Gould and Fitzgerald began to look behind the conflict to the men and the motivations that were grinding Afghanistan to dust. And as they did, film maker Oliver Stone took an interest in their work.
"Stone was looking to follow up JFK with something up to date and just as big," said Fitzgerald. But Afghanistan has a funny way of devouring things, British armies, Russian armies and as we developed our story with Oliver the issue seemed to take on an even larger and more ominous importance than I'd first imagined."
What Oliver Stone got from Gould and Fitzgerald was more than a strict political retelling of their Afghan experience. Called the Apostle's Diary, what developed was an intriguing mix of geopolitics, mysticism and end of the millennium crisis that in truth Afghanistan has become. "Stone was working on Natural born killers at the time we were doing the writing on Afghanistan and we all know the controversy that film has raised. But the horror of killers is only a fantasy, while Afghanistan is real. Oliver is on trial for killers. Would he be on trial if he created the real Afghanistan? I think we've lost the line between fantasy and reality and that troubles me. Like that hand grenade in my back yard. It was only an echo of a threat. But what Afghanistan represents is the real threat and we're not reacting to it."
According to Fitzgerald all the fuss over NBK is misplaced when compared to the torture of Afghanistan.
"We became involved in this story in 1979 when the issue of Nuclear war was a big topic of discussion. Should we use the bomb or should we disarm was the big topic of the day and with Afghanistan came an enormous rearmament and nuclear escalation. Afghanistan made nuclear war more than possible. Afghanistan made nuclear war desirable and as the Soviets struggled to catch up, they built up their arsenals as well. That arsenal and the men and the materials that make it up, have been freely flowing out of the Soviet Union ever since the breakup. Pakistan and India have the bomb, the means to deliver it and the will to use it. The U.S. trained Holy Warriors who beat the Russians have already blown up the World Trade towers and Afghanistan is home to a man, Osama bin Laden who has vowed the destruction of the U.S. and spreads his brand of terror from southern China to Kashmir, to Africa. It's hard as a rationalist American to imagine dusty old Afghanistan as important, but after 20 years it's looking all very Apocalyptic and beyond politics and I think that's something we should start being very concerned about."
On the internet
In addition to the conference Gould and Fitzgerald will be taking their concern and their story the Apostle's Diary to foreigntv.com this fall. Specializing in the stories behind the stories, foreign tv will be serializing a new Afghanistan documentary by Gould and Fitzgerald right up to the beginning of the conference.
All in all it's been an intriguing 20 years for Gould and Fitzgerald plus an unintended career in a subject that neither imagined prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979. But if given the chance would they do it all over again or would they find a different way to share their concerns.
"It's hard to say what I would do if given the chance again," Gould said. "But I feel that what I've come to know is irreplaceable. The deep knowledge of how things work, the complexity and beauty of the Afghans, their sense of freedom and independence and individuality. They may be the last real Western individual humans left on earth and for that reason alone we must care about them, because in them I see ourselves."
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