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From Draft NOtices, May-June 2002

U.S. Indoctrinated Afghan Children with Hate and Violence

- Molly Morgan

Less than one month after September 11, 2001, the Bush administration launched a military campaign to establish political and economic control over the geopolitically strategic country of Afghanistan. The cover story invented by the White House for this illegal action is the so-called "war on terrorism." Although 15 of the 19 suspects who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were from Saudi Arabia, the U.S. war on Afghanistan was justified because it harbored the alleged ringleader of the terrorists, Osama bin Laden (who is yet another Saudi, not an Afghan). The military began by bombing the terrorists' training camps, which were easy for them to find. As even the corporate media reported, they had been built with U.S. tax dollars by the CIA.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor, has openly admitted that U.S. operatives were already in Afghanistan stirring up trouble before the Soviets invaded in 1979. The U.S. goal, as part of its Cold War strategy, was to draw the U.S.S.R. into a quagmire, and the long-term military action successfully drained the Soviet Union until its ultimate demise. Afghan fighters willingly accepted covert U.S. assistance to repel the Soviet invasion, which fueled more than two decades of war (civil war continued after the Soviets pulled out in 1989) and entrenched the violent warlord system and social chaos that ultimately gave rise to the Taliban. The militant Islamic fundamentalists who turned their wrath on the World Trade Center and Pentagon are part of the blowback created by this U.S. foreign policy.

It turns out that funding and building camps to train Afghan fighters against the Soviets wasn't enough. In its zeal to topple the U.S.S.R. and eradicate communism, the U.S. government also helped to define, shape, and inculcate what is now referred to as radical militant Islam by training the minds of Afghan children. In the early 1980s, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided funding to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies to develop textbooks (more than 200 titles) in the Dari and Pashtu languages for distribution in Afghanistan. During Soviet occupation, regional military leaders helped the U.S. smuggle millions of copies of these primers into Afghanistan. The textbooks are filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings -- talk of jihad and drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers, and mines -- to stimulate resistance against invasion. Students were taught to count, for example, with illustrations showing tanks, missiles, and landmines. The books have served as the Afghan school system's core curriculum ever since, steeping a generation of schoolchildren in violence and hatred.

Humanitarian aid workers in Afghanistan now assisting in the reopening of schools have been shocked at the content of the textbooks. In one 100-page book an aid worker counted 43 pages containing violent images or passages. The Taliban, which seized control of the government in 1996, continued to use the books after its censors purged human faces in keeping with its fundamentalist code, with only more gruesome results. One page, for example, shows a headless resistance fighter with a bandolier and a Kalashnikov slung from his shoulder. Text on the page includes a verse from the Koran and a tribute describing the mujaheddin as men who will sacrifice their wealth and life itself to impose Islamic law on the government.

The White House and USAID spokespersons are unapologetic about both the violent and religious content of the textbooks. "I think we were perfectly happy to see these books trashing the Soviet Union," said Chris Brown, head of book revision for USAID's Central Asia Task Force. Although taxpayer funds may not be used for religious instruction overseas, USAID spent $51 million on the University of Nebraska-Omaha's education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994, and in January the government announced that another $6.5 million of USAID funds would be used to provide new, revised textbooks and teacher training kits. The books are being purged to remove references to rifles and killing, but Koranic verses and Muslim tenets remain.

Inflicting militaristic indoctrination onto schoolchildren is part of the Pentagon's strategy in the United States as well, most notably through the high school Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program. Respect for the military was at an all-time low in this country after the Vietnam War, and the Pentagon has worked to reverse this situation since then by infiltrating itself ever more aggressively into the school system. Here are some selections from JROTC textbooks:

Americans generally place a high value on human life. This may not necessarily be the case in other cultures or countries that might be willing to gamble lives for political or economic gains. Certain of the terrorist-sponsoring nations of the Middle East may display such behavior. (Navy JROTC, 3rd year)

Take the religion you know best, for instance. It speaks of human brotherhood. It speaks of one God who is the Father of all mankind. Religion does not claim that there is a God for one skin color and a different God for those of a different skin color. Instead, the idea of one Universal Father is stressed. (Air Force, 2nd year)

Today, many nations have governments that oppress their own people and threaten to conquer others by force. The U.S. government has always sought to safeguard liberty for all as outlined in the Constitution. (Navy JROTC, 1st year)

Oh, really? Except, perhaps, for these people:

One of the most well-known instances of using the Army in labor disputes was when the Army put an end to the railroad strike of 1894. (Army JROTC, 3rd year)

Fortunately for the Army, the government policy of pushing the Indians farther west then wiping them out was carried out successfully. (Army JROTC, 3rd year)

And, lest students become confused about inequality in the U.S.:

Under democracy, there must always be economic class divisions, yet the free market system offers an incentive for people to change their economic status. Everyone, no matter what their political associations, can succeed in moving up in the class structure. (Army JROTC, 2nd year)

The U.S. government used an entire generation of Afghan schoolchildren as pawns in its war against communism, and the brutal price for this illegal action is being felt not only in Afghanistan, but in the U.S. as well. The methods being used on U.S. students are only slightly more subtle, but we experience the backlash of militaristic training in the blind support being given to the administration's "war on terrorism." The Pentagon has figured out how important it is to indoctrinate young people into militarism. The peace movement must work to counter this strategy with a focus on young people of its own.

Information sources: The Washington Post, March 23, 2002;;

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (


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