Archive for February 5th, 2009

05
Feb
09

On This Day, February 5: Soviets Leave Afghanistan

February 5, 1989

The last Soviet troops leave Kabul

In an important move signaling the close of the nearly decade-long Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, the last Russian troops withdraw from the capital city of Kabul. Less than two weeks later, all Soviet troops departed Afghanistan entirely, ending what many observers referred to as Russia’s “Vietnam.”

Soviet armed forces entered Afghanistan in December 1979 to support that nation’s pro-Soviet communist government in its battles with Muslim rebels. Almost immediately, the Soviet Union found itself mired in a rapidly escalating conflict. Afghan rebels put up unexpectedly stiff resistance to the Russian intervention. Soon, thousands of Soviet troops were fighting a bloody, costly, and ultimately frustrating battle to end the Afghan resistance. By the time the Soviets started to withdraw in early 1989, over 13,000 Russian soldiers were dead and over 22,000 had been wounded. The Soviet Union also suffered from a very negative diplomatic response from the United States–President Jimmy Carter put a hold on arms negotiations, asked for economic sanctions, and pressed for an American boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

By 1988, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev decided that the manpower and financial drains imposed by Afghanistan were unacceptable and indicated that Soviet troops would shortly begin their withdrawal. The Soviet Union was in the midst of tremendous internal political and economic instability at the time, and Gorbachev’s action in regards to Afghanistan was yet another indication that Soviet power was on the wane. In less than three years, Gorbachev had resigned and the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. For Afghanistan, the Soviet withdrawal did not mean an end to the death and destruction. The Afghan rebels, who had been armed to the teeth by U.S. aid, simply turned their attention to political and religious rivals within the country. Civil war continued to wrack the nation.

“The last Soviet troops leave Kabul.” 2009. The History Channel website. 5 Feb 2009, 09:19 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2568.

On This Day

1783 – Sweden recognized the independence of the United States.

1861 – Samuel Goodale patented the moving picture peep show machine.

1917 – Mexico’s constitution was adopted.

1962 – French President Charles De Gaulle called for Algeria’s independence.

1997 – Switzerland’s “Big Three” banks announced they would create a $71 million fund for Holocaust victims and their families.

2003 – U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented evidence to the U.N. concerning Iraq’s material breach of U.N. Resolution 1441.

 

February 5, 1994

Beckwith convicted of killing Medgar Evers

On this day in 1994, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith is convicted in the murder of African-American civil rights leader Medgar Evers, over 30 years after the crime occurred. Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi, home on June 12, 1963, while his wife, Myrlie, and the couple’s three small children were inside.

Medgar Wiley Evers was born July 2, 1925, near Decatur, Mississippi, and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. After fighting for his country, he returned home to experience discrimination in the racially divided South, with its separate public facilities and services for blacks and whites. Evers graduated from Alcorn College in 1952 and began organizing local chapters of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). In 1954, after being rejected for admission to then-segregated University of Mississippi Law School, he became part of an NAACP campaign to desegregate the school. Later that year, Evers was named the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi. He moved with his family to Jackson and worked to dismantle segregation, leading peaceful rallies, economic boycotts and voter registration drives around the state. In 1962, he helped James Meredith become the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi, a watershed event in the civil rights movement. As a result of his work, Evers received numerous threats and several attempts were made on his life before he was murdered in 1963 at the age of 37.

Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and Ku Klux Klan member widely believed to be the killer, was prosecuted for murder in 1964. However, two all-white (and all-male) juries deadlocked and refused to convict him. A second trial held in the same year resulted in a hung jury. The matter was dropped when it appeared that a conviction would be impossible. Myrlie Evers, who later became the first woman to chair the NAACP, refused to give up, pressing authorities to re-open the case. In 1989, documents came to light showing that jurors in the case were illegally screened.

Prosecutor Bobby DeLaughter worked with Myrlie Evers to force another prosecution of Beckwith. After four years of legal maneuvering, they were finally successful. At the third trial they produced a riflescope from the murder weapon with Beckwith’s fingerprints, as well as new witnesses who testified that Beckwith had bragged about committing the crime. Justice was finally achieved when Beckwith was convicted and given a life sentence by a racially diverse jury in 1994. He died in prison in 2001 at the age of 80.

“Beckwith convicted of killing Medgar Evers.” 2009. The History Channel website. 5 Feb 2009, 08:19 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52325.




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