Pak PM Falls for Reagan-Mujahideen-US Founding Fathers Misquote
Imran Khan claimed that in the 1980s, former US President Ronald Reagan compared the Afghan mujahideen fighting against Soviet forces to the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Imran Khan claimed that in the 1980s, former US President Ronald Reagan compared the Afghan mujahideen fighting against Soviet forces to the Founding Fathers of the United States.(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

Pak PM Falls for Reagan-Mujahideen-US Founding Fathers Misquote

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CLAIM

Pakistani PM Imran Khan, while speaking at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) think tank in New York on Monday, 23 September, claimed that in the 1980s former US President Ronald Reagan compared the Afghan mujahideen fighting against Soviet forces to the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Responding to a remarks by former US Defence Secretary James Mattis calling Pakistan as “the most dangerous country in the world”, Khan proffered a history of events that led to Pakistan becoming ‘radicalised’.

PM Khan stated that in the 1980s, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan, along with the United States, was involved in organising resistance against the Soviets. He added that the resistance was organised by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, who trained militants “who were invited from all across the Muslim world to do jihad against the Soviet Union”.

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“And so, we created these militant groups to fight the Soviets. Then of course, fighting the Soviets, jihad was glorified,” he said.

PM Khan then went on to slip in an anecdote about former US President Ronald Reagan, claiming that the latter had praised the militants who had fought the Soviets.

“And I never forget when Ronald Reagan invited the mujahideen leaders to Washington and he said they reminded him of, and I quote, ‘the moral equivalence of the founding fathers of the United States’. So jihadis were heroes then,” PM Khan said.

He went on to speak of how Pakistan was left with these fighters who would have reminded Reagan of the Founding Fathers and how, when Pakistan joined the US in the war on terror, they had to tell the same men, who had been trained in jihad, that it was terrorism.

Khan’s statements can be seen in the video below.

HOW TRUE IS THIS?

The anecdote that PM Khan shared about Ronald Reagan comparing the mujahideen to the Founding Fathers is a commonly made mistake and there is actually no truth to it. Reagan had actually compared Nicaraguan rebel fighters to the Founding Fathers, a comment which has since been wrongly connected to the mujahideen.

WHAT WE FOUND

On searching for reports about any such comment made by Reagan, we came up blank. However, we came across two other facts that we realised have been connected over time.

A Photo...

First, on searching for results about Ronald Reagan and mujahideen fighters, we came across a photo from 1983 in an article by The Atlanic, which said that it showed President Reagan meeting with Afghan freedom fighters to discuss Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan.

(Photo: Screenshot/The Atlantic)

The photo was attributed to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. On searching for the photo on the portal, we came across the original, which was captioned “President Reagan meeting with Afghan Freedom Fighters to discuss Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan.” The photo was dated 2/2/1983.

(Photo Courtesy: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

It is a well known fact that the US was among those nations supporting and propping up the mujahideen in Afghanistan as opposition to the Soviet Union, who had invaded the country in December 1979 and set up a communist government. In 1986, the US also began supplying the mujahideen with Stinger missiles, enabling them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships, according to BBC.

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... And A Quote

Next, we came across a quote by Reagan which is often attached to this photo. On searching for reports about President Reagan comparing someone to the Founding Fathers, we came across an article by The New York Times from 2 March 1985.

The full page of the NYT and the article about Reagan.
The full page of the NYT and the article about Reagan.
(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

According to the article, President Reagan had said that day that “the rebels seeking to overthrow the Nicaraguan Government were the ''moral equal of our Founding Fathers.''” Speaking at the annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Conference in New York in 1985, Reagan called the rebel forces ''our brothers'' and ''freedom fighters.''

‘’And we owe them our help,’’ he said. ‘’You know the truth about them, you know who they’re fighting and why. They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French Resistance.”
Ronald Reagan, quoted by The New York Times

''We cannot turn away from them,'' he said. ''For the struggle here is not right versus left, but right versus wrong,” the article went on to quote him as saying.

It is clear now that Reagan never compared the mujahideen leaders in Afghanistan to the Founding Fathers of the US, but to the rebel forces seeking to overthrow the Nicaraguan government in 1985. Khan has fallen prey to a commonly piece of fake news where the photo and the quote are attached to each other.

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