And though a translator was used, Lavrov understood and immediately responded with an emphatic NO!
I thought the question rather odd, given the history and wasn't sure if Mackay was trying to be a smart ass or was simply naive. Regardless, it was definitively a diplomatic faux pas.
Because the history of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is somewhat different than the official version. It was in fact a deliberate attempt by the Americans to lure the Soviets into an unwinnable war.
The U.S. was still licking it's wounds after their disastrous Vietnam adventure, where they wasted enormous amounts of money and lives, only to go home in defeat. And the fear was that during this time, the Soviet Union had been able to build a stronger military, and what better way to destroy that, than by allowing others to do their dirty work.
I was recently turned on to the writings of Chalmers Johnson, who died this past week, and am reading his Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope.
He describes the chain of events, reminding us that the American training and arming of the Mujahedeen, of which Osama Bin Laden was a member, took place before, and not in response to, the invasion.
It should by now be generally accepted that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on Christmas Eve 1979 was deliberately provoked by the United States. In his memoir published in 1996, the former CIA director Robert Gates made it clear that the American intelligence services began to aid the mujahideen guerrillas not after the Soviet invasion, but six months before it.When asked by Le Nouvel Observateur, whether he in any way regretted these actions, Brzezinski replied: "Regret what? The secret operation was an excellent idea. It drew the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: 'We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.' " (1)
In an interview two years later with Le Nouvel Observateur, President Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski [shown with Bin Laden in photo above] proudly confirmed Gates's assertion. "According to the official version of history," Brzezinski said, "CIA aid to the mujahideen began during 1980, that's to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. But the reality, kept secret until now, is completely different: on 3 July 1979 President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. (1)
And the Americans would continue to work behind the scenes, training and arming and killing.
If Reagan was alive and functioning today, I wonder what his message would be. Would he still admire their "relentless struggle" against their oppressors?
"To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom. Their courage teaches us a great lesson—that there are things in this world worth defending. To the Afghan people, I say on behalf of all Americans that we admire your heroism, your devotion to freedom, and your relentless struggle against your oppressors." (2)
Not likely. Their creation of both al Qaeda and the Taliban was dismissed as "blowback" by the CIA. In layman's terms: "OOPS!"
In critiquing the George Crile book and resulting film, Charlie Wilson's War, a grotesquely inaccurate, historically challenged, version of the events; Chalmers Johnson writes:
The U.S. trained them and armed them and then walked away, "leaving it [Afghanistan] to descend into one of the most horrific civil wars of modern times."
Neither a reader of Crile nor a viewer of the film based on his book would know that in talking about the Afghan freedom fighters of the 1980s, we are also talking about the militants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban of the 1990s and 2000s .... Among those supporting the Afghans (in addition to the United States) was the rich, pious Saudi Arabian economist and civil engineer Osama bin Laden, whom we helped by building up his al-Qaeda base at Khost. When bin Laden and his colleagues decided to get even with us for having been used, he had the support of much of the Islamic world. (3)
Which brings us to the latest decision to extend Canada's involvement in the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan, another three years. It is being sold as "training". A non-combat mission.
We will be engaged in an accelerated civil war without end.
And who will we be training? If the West is so afraid of Islamic fundamentalists, why are they determined to arm and educate those, who if not fundamentalists now, could very well be in the future.
What will our "blowback" be?
We should be working toward a peaceful solution, not creating more enemies.
It could be argued that when George Bush Sr. simply walked away from the mess his country helped to create, it triggered an internal disaster in Afghanistan. But this mess started because of imperialistic game playing.
I don't want to spend 500 million dollars a year training people to kill. The money would be better spent encouraging them to stop.
1. Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope, By Chalmers Johnson, Metropolitan Books, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-9303-2, Pg. 12
2. Message on the Observance of Afghanistan Day, Ronald Reagan, From the Oval Office, March 21, 1983
3. Johnson, 2010, Pg. 88-89