Review for “The Valediction: Three Nights of Desmond” by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

December 1979-The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan. The United States and their allies react with anger and shock by this act of aggression. The mainstream media covers the invasion, highlighting the unprovoked action of the dreaded Soviets. Soon, the US government would covertly aid a group of Afghan fighters called the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets. The primary source in popular culture for the US’ covert role behind the scenes is “Charlie Wilson’s War”, where a hard partying and Congressman named Charlie Wilson(D-TX) partnered with a CIA agent in providing funds and arms to the Afghan resistance. The Soviets are portrayed as cold blooded killers intent on bringing Afghanistan to heel. The truth is much murkier.

Paul Fitzgerald was intrigued by the dramatic developments in Afghanistan and went to the war-torn country to film a documentary in 1981. The venture was initially backed by CBS, but Fitzgerald was told not to upstage CBS’ own Dan Rather in his coverage. Fitzgerald is shocked at how the conditions portrayed by the Evening News bares little resemblance to reality. The presence of the Soviet soldiers seems scant, at the very least less threatening than the reports. Fitzgerald learns through various sources that the battle in Afghanistan is meant to humble the Soviets, if not break them. The invasion wasn’t a surprise to the Carter Administration, but enabled by them with months of planning. The ramifications of this are staggering, however mainstream sources are reluctant to air Fitzgerald and his Wife’s documentary. The more Fitzgerald learns, whether it be through Afghan Citizens or chatty covert operators or jaded media, the black and white of reality fades to an inscrutable gray. Afghanistan is just the latest venue for a global battle of domination that has been waged for decades, if not longer.

“Valediction: Three Nights of Desmond” is an impressive take on a War that seemed to end in 1989 with the Russians defeated and the Cold War practically ended. However, the fate of the country and its citizens has gone through heartrending ups and downs since as stability in government has proven non-existent. Authors Fitzgerald and Gould provide background to the sinister forces that stoked the flames of discord in the country and then stood back to watch the inferno. An excellent read that will open up even the most closed off of minds.

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