WAR IS FINISHED!
1983 poster from Soviet occupied
the 1980's the U.S.
government trained, financed, and armed the Mujahideen
Islamic guerrillas of Afghanistan to resist the Soviet
of their homeland. Today that training and those sophisticated
weapons have come back to haunt the United States in what
is being called "blow-back."
While the CIA was busy training the forerunners of today's
hated Taliban, others were waging a different type of warfare.
Vincanzo Sparagna and Savik Shuster were two journalists
working for the monthly Italian magazine, Frigidaire.
1983 the mischievous pair decided to have a bit of fun at
the expense of the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan. Sparagna
and Shuster printed a mock version of the official Red Army
newspaper, Red Star, and distributed it in Afghanistan right
under the noses of the Soviet occupation troops.
clandestinely for three months, the journalists pulled together
a team that would create the Russian language parody edition
of Red Star. Russian writer Natalia Gorbanievskaia wrote
the text, and an artist was commissioned to provide the
central Illustration that appeared on the paper's cover
(shown at right).
drawing portrayed a rugged Soviet soldier kneeling in the
snow of Afghanistan, breaking his Kalashnikov rifle over
his knee, while yelling:"The war is finished! Let's
go home!" The real Red Star journal was flown into
the Afghan capitol of Kabul each morning from the Soviet
Union, and then distributed by plane to Soviet garrisons
all over the occupied country. Read daily by Soviet troops,
the publication kept soldiers in touch with news of the
war as well as from the homefront.
war is finished! Let's go home!" - Poster printed
in Russian and distributed in Afghanistan during the
Islamic guerrillas mounting the poster on village
walls in Afghanistan.
printing over 7,000 copies of their parody broadsheet,
Sparagna and Shuster then spent some time along the Afghan
border in nearby Peshawar, Pakistan. They wanted to make
arrangements for the distribution of their newspaper in
all of the Soviet occupied zones of Afghanistan.
made contact with the soldiers of the Islamic National
Front, The Islamic Party, and Hezbi Islami, whose commander,
Abdul Khak, assured them safe passage into zones he controlled.
It was agreed that Hezbi Islami soldiers would post and
distribute the broadsheets, while Sparagna and Shuster
would photograph the efforts. Mujahideen soldiers would
go into battle with their rocket propelled grenades and
Kalashnikov rifles, but they would also be armed with
a strange new weapon, bundles of fake Red Army newspapers.
Assistance was also offered by the many young people in
Kabul who operated in the clandestine Islamic resistance.
from the fake paper read:
extraordinary special edition of Red Star that you have
in your hands is absolutely without precedent. Until today
this newspaper was completely written and directed by the
Communist Party. Today, it is a group of many soldiers,
coming from all the principal garrisons of the Soviet Union
which has written these pages.
Soldiers! The news which comes to us from Afghanistan and
all the areas of the Soviet Union fills us with joy. The
war of invasion is finished! There's unexpected peace in
Afghanistan! The government of Babrak Karmal is in exile.
Soviet and Mujahideen troops are fraternizing! Comrades,
our true enemy finally sleeps! Destroy your weapons and
let us return home. The war is finished!"
Soviet soldier who defected to the mujahideen examines
Soviet occupiers fought hard during the day, but were obliged
to live in their garrisons, tanks, and fortified compounds
at night when the mujahideen fighters would come out of
hiding. While Soviet troops were holed-up in their bunkers
during the evenings, Hezbi Islami had free reign to post
the broadsheets. Since the movement of Soviet troops was
fairly restricted because of guerrilla activity, the papers
were posted where Red Army soldiers were sure to see them,
that is, around government buildings, close to well traveled
roads, even near guard posts and machine gun nests. Time
and again, Soviet perimeters were penetrated by those willing
to post the parody newspapers, a risky operation to say
Afghan soldier with a copy of the poster, surrenders
to Islamic guerrillas.
only a parody, the broadside expressed the desires of many
Soviet soldiers, enough of massacres, bombings, and endless
killings, "let's go home." Not only that, but
some Afghan troops who had fought for the Soviet puppet
government of Babrak Karmal began to defect, and they carried
copies of the parody poster as they surrendered to Islamic
guerrillas (pictured at left).
and Shuster claimed their "prank" was their project
and theirs alone. We may never know if the pair were truly
independent or on the payroll of the Central Intelligence
Agency out to undermine the Soviets, but one thing is certain,
their parody the Red Star newspaper had a tremendous effect
upon history. The paper was printed in Russian for distribution
in Afghanistan, but it was also distributed in the former
Soviet Union itself. Magazine articles on the parody paper
appeared in France (Actuel) Austria (Wiener) Italy (Current,
Frigidare) and Spain (Interviu).
in 1983 I acquired a copy of the French magazine Actuel
(the source material for the photos and facts used in this
article), never dreaming that the Soviet Union would be
broken on the craggy mountains of Afghanistan, or that one
day U.S. troops would attempt to do what Soviet troops couldn't.
My faded old copy of Actuel has been sitting in a storage
box since 1983. In October 2001, as U.S. bombs began falling
on Afghanistan and American troops invaded and occupied
the country, my memory was jarred and I searched for that
long forgotten storage box. Pulling out that ragged magazine
and staring at the art of the Soviet soldier breaking his
automatic rifle, I thought out loud... "Somebody tell
me this war will be different."
that the U.S. war in Afghanistan has entered its 10th year,
conflagration being facilitated by President Obama,
the above article takes on new meaning. Mr. Obama continues
the Afghan war,
and on Dec. 16, 2010, he stated that "notable
were being made in the bloody conflict. Obama's claims of
success are starkly
contradicted by the grim findings
of the National Intelligence Estimate conducted for the
president by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.
would be naive to think that Sparagna and Shuster's poster
campaign was not part of an operation carried out
by the CIA and other intelligence agencies with the objective
of undermining the Soviets in Afghanistan; the only question
is whether Sparagna and Shuster were willing accomplices
in that undertaking. Their base of operations was in Peshawar,
Pakistan, where the headquarters of the Pakistani
(ISA) agency is located. The ISA and the CIA provided intelligence
information to the Afghan Islamic guerilla groups operating
in Pakistan, moreover, the ISA and CIA coordinated the training,
financing, and arming of the Islamic guerillas. It is unthinkable
that the ISA and the CIA were unaware of what Sparagna and
Shuster were up to, or that the pranksters could have carried
out their shenanigans without the acquiescence of the ISA
and the CIA.