January 13, 2022
The Dark Answers to Imperialism, JFK and Afghanistan are hidden in the Mystical–Two Authors’ Journey of Discovery
By Paul Fitzgerald Elizabeth Gould
The first thing an academic tells you when you mention the mystical side of the Afghanistan story is that you shouldn’t talk about that. The study of foreign policy cannot be seen as having been motivated by anything other than rational and objective reasons and measured by the metrics of quantitative analysis.
President John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Friday, November 22, 1963
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How then to explain ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, the first director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the father of today’s CIA calling his agents Knights Templars? How then to explain the American military’s fascination with medieval knighthoods? How then to explain the use of New Testament biblical passages engraved on the gunsights of American and British troops in Afghanistan? How then to explain American exceptionalism whereby the United States gets to do anything it pleases because America is right no matter what it does or how it does it?
Afghanistan’s most notorious ‘Holy Warrior’ Gulbuddin Hekmatyar
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People have heard about the holy warriors of the Muslim world, but what most Americans are unaware of is the mystical component of the warriors who fight for America and how that component has been setting the agenda for American politics from behind the scenes with no public scrutiny.
In Maine they use the expression “You can’t get there from here,” to explain this sort of disconnect. It’s being used to make the point that you can’t get exoteric Afghanistan unless you understand the esoteric and you can’t understand the esoteric without accepting your own personal motivations.
In researching for our books, we discovered a trove of esoteric history surrounding the West’s attraction to Afghanistan starting with the British. It revolves around Mystical Imperialism, a term first used to describe 19th-century British imperial efforts to colonize the non-Christian world by applying Judeo Christian ethics and philosophies.
Simply put, mystical imperialism rationalizes the expansion of a nation’s authority by conquest over other nations by infusing a sense of the divine into the raw politics of empire building. Today’s practitioners of American mystical imperialism are a hardened core of ideological defense intellectuals and military officers who combine their own esoteric and religious beliefs with Washington policy making.
These individuals can trace their philosophical DNA back to 19th-century European secret esoteric societies who were known to be heavily involved in espionage on both British and Russian sides. Reflected in the fictional quasi-Masonic exploits of Rudyard Kipling’s two soldiers in The Man Who Would be King, the “hidden” or occult game for control of Afghanistan and Central Asia was a factor in the foreign policy of the 19th century for the British and the Russians, and continues to this day through the United States.
As the ancient home of Zoroaster and the Avesta, the foundation document for the Judeo/Christian war of light against dark, of good versus evil, 19th-century Afghanistan and its surroundings provided a mystical underpinning to what today is dryly regarded as geopolitics.
Described as the “World-Island” by early 20th-century British geo-strategist Halford Mackinder, Russia’s geographic position at the center of the Eurasian land mass rivaled Britain’s as an island fortress. Mackinder foresaw Russia expanding with ferocity beyond its borders. From the outset – a Russian dominance of Central Asia spawned nightmares for the British of an apocalyptic horde sweeping from the Russian steppe across Europe, which had to be stopped at any cost.
Henry Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president, supported an expedition in 1934 with the intention of establishing a spiritual settlement in the Himalayas. Wallace expressed his enthusiasm for the plan known as the Shambhala Project, stating that, “the political situation in this part of the world is always rendered especially intriguing by the effect on it, of ancient prophecies, traditions and the like.” Wallace anticipated that those prophecies were at last coming due.
Hidden to human eyes, Shambhala was said, by Tibetan Buddhists, to lie somewhere near Tibet and would finally be revealed at the end of time. Others believed it was hidden in the valleys of the Pamir mountain range in Northeastern Afghanistan. This was the Shambhala that concealed the lost wisdom, the secrets of immortality and the beginnings of the human race. Adolph Hitler sent an expedition to Tibet and Afghanistan in 1939 in the hopes of uncovering proof of Aryan links to modern German society in the soil of Central Asia.
From Halford Mackinder at the beginning of the 20th century to the American Cold Warrior James Burnham, the godfather of neo-conservatism, to Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Grand Master of Geostrategic American foreign policy, Eurasia represented the central basis for American global primacy, in a world defined by Manichean opposites.
In a 1945 Partisan Review article titled “Lenin’s Heir” Burnham, while still at the OSS, infused his apocalyptic political views with mystical allusions to the Eurasian heartland as “the magnetic core” of Soviet power, comparing it to the mystical “reality of the One-of-Neo-Platonism,” whose inexorable and unstoppable “progression… descends through the stages of Mind, Soul, and Matter… towards its ultimate destination beyond the Eurasian boundaries and through…Appeasement and Infiltration England and the United States.”
As an “anti-Communist ideology” Burnham’s apocalyptic warnings about the inevitability of Soviet expansion from Eurasia’s magnetic core ring like a medieval theologian’s incantation throughout Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech, which set the terms of the Cold War.
Twenty-six years later, Senator William Fulbright would realize that only because of the disastrous outcome of Vietnam was there any willingness to reexamine the basic assumptions of the Cold War. The 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, known as SALT, would spring from this rational re-assessment, as would the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and eventually SALT II.
President Jimmy Carter and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) treaty, June 18, 1979, in Vienna.
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But because of National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s unyielding hostility toward any compromise with the Soviet Union over Afghanistan, President Carter would ask the Senate to delay consideration of the treaty on the Senate floor. That treaty would never be passed and the United States would begin a long slow march into what Burnham described as the magnetic core of the World Island.
Our initiation into the realm of Mystical Imperialism began six months before the December 27, 1979, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan while we were producing Arms Race and the Economy: A Delicate Balance, a documentary for televangelist Pat Robertson‘s Christian Broadcast Network (CBN).
The station had been airing the American Security Council‘s The Salt Syndrome, a propaganda film railing against the passage of SALT II (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) that would limit defense spending. As host of CBN’s public affairs show, our documentary was to be the rebuttal to The Salt Syndrome as required by the Fairness Doctrine. We were aware that Robertson’s proselytizing on his flagship 700 Club program was already engaged in a religious crusade to change America.
While working on the documentary our eyes were opened to a merging of powerful pro war political, business, and religious interests that were using their combined influence to push America into a Holy War against the Soviet Union.
As we continued to work on the production, experts from the opposite side of the political spectrum, such as economist John Kenneth Galbraith, informed us about the damage that a massive diversion of tax dollars would represent to the civilian economy. Galbraith insisted that accelerated defense spending following the end of the Vietnam War–as the military-industrial complex was demanding–would destroy the civilian economy.
He was convinced that the Cold War had already made America more like the Soviet Union, ideologically rigid, increasingly orthodox and ruled by a military-industrial-academic establishment suspended from reality.
By the time our program aired, the argument was no longer whether our government should call a halt to the nuclear arms race and reinvest in the civilian economy. According to President Carter the December 27, 1979, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War.
That statement instantly rolled back the narrative to 1947, the Truman Doctrine and the psychological warfare campaign necessary to bring it back to life. We realized that the powerful pro-war political, business, and religious interests calling for Holy War in The SALT Syndrome had just won the brass ring.
The point man for that campaign was Zbigniew Brzezinski. As an acolyte of geo-strategist Halford Mackinder, Brzezinski believed the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan and its pursuit of global dominance was foreordained and not subject to rational empirical observations.
Beginning in 1978, Brzezinski had been dialoguing with the Chinese and the Pakistanis over Soviet influence in Afghanistan and how to respond to it. In the summer of 1979, six months before the Soviet invasion, Brzezinski had President Carter sign a finding enabling propaganda support to the insurgency that would help draw the Soviets into what Brzezinski referred to as “the Afghan trap.”
When the Kabul government expelled the Western media one month after the Soviet invasion, we jumped at the chance to get behind the propaganda and break the news blackout. Once we had secured the visas in the spring of 1981, a friend in local TV news connected us to CBS Foreign News Editor Peter Larkin. Larkin was an intense man–Saigon bureau chief during the Vietnam War–and wanted the story immediately.
What we saw in Kabul was indeed in stark contrast to the picture playing on evening news. After struggling with our footage for a month CBS finally aired a segment about the Soviet troops that we didn’t see. Our involvement with CBS News was the beginning of an education in the MSM’s fact-free restructuring of the Afghan narrative that continues to hold sway today.
Following the distribution of Afghanistan Between Three Worlds, a PBS documentary we produced in 1982, we got a call from Major Karen McKay of the Committee for a Free Afghanistan. She complained that we didn’t mention anything about the Soviets’ use of chemical weapons in the documentary.
We explained those charges hadn’t been proved. But the Major countered that since the New York Times and the Washington Post had accepted her evidence why wouldn’t we.
Because, we explained, the claims we’d reviewed came from second- or third-hand sources or were based on hearsay evidence. Then we politely suggested what seemed like common sense, that the Major could make a better case if she had some hard evidence. Major McKay’s answer was revelatory as she snapped, “When it comes to the Russians we don’t need proof. We know they’re guilty.”
Once again, it was made very clear to us that when it came to the MSM narrative, facts REALLY didn’t matter.
When the third opportunity to challenge the MSM’s narrative arrived, we still had hope and again jumped at the chance. In the spring of 1983 we returned to Kabul with Harvard Negotiation Project Director Roger Fisher for ABC’s Nightline.
Our aim was to establish the credibility of the American claims that the Soviets had no intention of withdrawing from Afghanistan. We had a number of credible sources stating that the Kremlin wanted desperately to abandon the war, but the Reagan administration was dragging its feet.
From the moment they entered the White House the new administration had demanded that the Soviets withdraw their forces, while at the same time keeping them pinned down through covert action so they couldn’t leave. Though lacking in factual backup, this hypocritical campaign was embraced by the entire American political spectrum and our effort with Roger Fisher to further the negotiation process remained willfully unexamined by America’s mainstream media.
By 1987 we were so frustrated with getting nowhere at changing the official narrative with the facts on the ground we had to question all our assumptions about journalism. If facts did not matter, what did?
That’s when we looked at our story from a personal perspective and wondered what had called us to the Afghan story in the first place. We started writing screenplays out of our accumulated materials and research and by the end of the 1980s had completed four. But we had yet to find the right path to tell our story.
Then in September of 1991, our ten-year-old daughter Alissa told us about a dream she had with Paul’s deceased father whom she had never met. He was accompanied by a man wearing a Scottish plaid suit with bell-bottom trousers and a matching hat. The man told Alissa he was 800 years old. We already knew the Fitzgerald family had come to Ireland as mercenaries for King Henry II 800 years before and decided to consider Alissa’s dream as a mystical encouragement to dig deeper into the past for answers.
Three months later we saw Oliver Stone’s film, JFK, and found the inspiration we had been looking for. Stone’s decision to include the involvement of an esoteric secret society with deeper motives resonated with us.
In our research into the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170, an enterprise largely run by the Fitzgerald family, we had discovered historical reasons why members of some secret societies might have been motivated to eliminate JFK in the modern era as retribution for past “crimes.” We then developed The Voice research paper with the hope that Stone would become interested in this esoteric perspective too, but he wanted our Afghanistan story instead.
Maurice FitzGerald as shown in the Expugnatio Hibernica, written in 1189 by his nephew, Gerald of Wales
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Once we began to work on the script, the mythic implications of the Afghan story began to emerge when many of the documents preceding the crisis were declassified. As we trailed the clues, we found pseudo-religious references in Washington’s official policy to the Manichean war of the light against the dark-whose origins began in the region now known as Afghanistan.
We then discovered a synchronistic connection that we could not have imagined. One of the books we had purchased was written by an ex-CIA agent about British efforts in the 19th century. In the book were many photos of prominent Brits and Afghans and of the battles they fought. But also included were photos of two Americans. One of these men was dressed wearing a Scottish plaid suit with bell-bottomed trousers and a matching turban. The photo was of Alexander Gardner, a mercenary who’d found his way to Afghanistan in the 1820s. He’d discovered the religion of Zoroaster settled in the mountains and married an Afghan Princess. He not only lived the real life of Rudyard Kipling’s Man Who Would Be King; it has been said Gardner provided Kipling with essential information for his novel.
Alissa confirmed that day when she came home from school that the soldier in the photo wearing a clan uniform of his own design, was the man from her dream. Alissa had somehow tapped a synchronicity about our Afghan adventure that gave it a deeper meaning.
As we continued to develop The Voice as a novel, over time Stone became intrigued and asked us to connect its esoteric background with the fact-based Afghanistan script. Now titled Three Nights of Desmond, we found ourselves merging the past, present, and future into a very different kind of story.
In writing the script, the antagonist (modeled after CBS Foreign News Editor Peter Larkin) emerged as a tragic archetype: an angry, wounded veteran who was determined to twist the Afghanistan story to get back at the Soviets for what he believed they had done to him in Vietnam. In The Voice, published in 2001, the character had matured as a victim of his own propaganda. Through that narrative the character of Alissa, as Paul’s daughter, resolved the conflict between the “Larkin” character and Paul.
Even though Alissa had no involvement in our work, over the decades many of our Afghan contacts, that she had never met, continued to cross into her life as if by magic. The most powerful synchronicity occurred when she came to meet the real Peter Larkin through her friendship with his daughter Brett. We had known nothing about this friendship until December 23, 2011, when Peter and Brett arrived at our home for a holiday party at 7:00 pm as guests of Alissa.
Having the man who launched us into our Afghan saga join with us for our holiday party was beyond surreal. It was as if a dream had materialized before our eyes. The novelized encounter between Paul and Peter through Alissa (which had been foreshadowed in The Voice) had been delivered to us through our front door. The reality of the script we struggled to write for Stone had finally written itself. It was a revelatory moment produced by our daughters that completed a journey begun 30 years before between two competing storytellers.
Back in 1979 when we first encountered the MSM’s propaganda Afghan narrative we could not have imagined that narrative would still be presented as fact in 2021. The science is very clear; a narrative built with no facts is still more powerful at changing minds than facts alone. This MSNBC report is a stark reminder of that fact. From the ancient oral to the modern written tradition humans have always been drawn to stories. The power of narratives to transform people’s views is well documented. Like a recipe being offered as food, presenting even solid facts without framing it in a narrative is not enough to motivate most people to action. Our big breakthrough came when we realized that the power to win hearts and minds was not by trying to change the MSM’s empty narrative; it was in creating a new narrative with our own facts. When you create a good story out of solid facts that is truly food for thought!
We’ve often wondered what would have changed in the American dialogue on the JFK assassination if Oliver Stone had created a film based on the concept we gave him in 1992; going back to the origin of the Fitzgerald family and their dicey relationship with London. What Stone did do for us was put us back on the Afghan course we had walked away from; and in that process crossed us over into the mystical telling of our own story. We came to see that the weaving back and forth of the screenplay and the novel had become a way of understanding the multi-dimensional nature of narrative creation. Although our three years of work with Stone did produce the Three Nights of Desmond script concept, it was never fulfilled. Thirty years in the making, we finally brought the script concept created for Stone to fruition as the heart and soul of, The Valediction Three Nights of Desmond and The Valediction Resurrection that will be available next spring.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story, published by City Lights (2009), Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire, published by City Lights (2011). Their novel The Voice was published in 2001. Their novelized memoir, The Valediction Three Nights of Desmond was published by TrineDay (2021). For more information visit invisiblehistory, grailwerk and valediction.net
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story and Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire and The Voice,a novel.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband and wife team began working together in 1979 co-producing a documentary for Paul’s television show, Watchworks. Called, The Arms Race and the Economy, A Delicate Balance, they found themselves in the midst of a controversy that was to boil over a few months later with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Their acquisition of the first visas to enter Afghanistan granted to an American TV crew in 1981, brought them into the most heated Cold War controversy since Vietnam. But the people inside Soviet-occupied Afghanistan told a very different story from the one being broadcast on the evening news.
Following their news story for the CBS Evening News, they produced a documentary (Afghanistan Between Three Worlds) for PBS and in 1983 they returned to Kabul for ABC Nightline with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher. Arriving in Kabul that spring they were told that the Russians wanted to go home and negotiate their way out. But the story that President Carter called, “the greatest threat to peace since the second World War” had already been written by America’s pundits was not about to change the script.
As the first American journalists to get behind the official propaganda on the war, they not only got a view of an unseen Afghan life, but a revelatory look at how the US defined itself under the veil of superpower confrontation. But as they pursued the reasons behind the propaganda, they were drawn into a story that was growing into mythic dimensions.
It was at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 when they were working on the film version of their experience under contract to Oliver Stone, that they began to piece together the mythic implications of the story. During the research for the screenplay crucial documents were declassified. Over the next decade they trailed a labyrinth of clues to find a likeness in Washington’s official policy towards Afghanistan – in the ancient Zoroastrian war of the light against the dark – whose origins began in the region now known as Afghanistan. It was a likeness that grows more visible as America’s involvement deepens.
By 1998, as the horrors of the Taliban regime began to grab headlines, they started collaborating with Afghan human rights expert Sima Wali. They contributed to the Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future book project. In 2002 they filmed Wali’s first return to Kabul since her exile in 1978. The film they produced about Wali’s journey home, The Woman in Exile Returns, gave audiences the chance to discover the message of one of Afghanistan’s most articulate voices and her hopes for her people.
In the years since 9/11 much has happened to bring their story into sharp focus. Their experience at combining personal diplomacy with activist journalism could become a model for restoring a healthy and vibrant dialogue to American democracy. Ultimately, Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story lays bare why it was inevitable that the Soviet Union and the U.S. should end up in Afghanistan and what that means to the future of the American emp