The U.S. delegation to the Shultz-Gromyko demi-summit has packed its shirts and socks and illusions (the socks and shirts are in suitcases; the illusions are in an enormous trunk), so this is a good time to notice a statement that recently issued from the president, a statement concerning a subject that arms controllers insist is irrelevant to arms control. The subject is Afghanistan. The president said continued Soviet butchery there is "a serious impediment to the improvement of our bilateral relations."

Now, that is simply untrue. The Reagan administration is so eager for "improved" relations ("improvement" means less friction, which means more U.S. passivity as the Soviet Union behaves as it always does) that when the president spoke to the United Nations last year, his reference to Afghanistan was so brief and limp that William Buckley said the president "made it seem as though the poor Afghans were suffering from chicken pox."

What the Afghans actually are suffering is reported in the current New York Review of Books, in an excerpt from a report from Helsinki Watch. That organization monitors compliance (where the Soviet Union is concerned, comprehensive noncompliance) with the Helsinki accords.

The report tells of the fate of two brothers, aged 90 and 95, both blind, who remained in their village when everyone else fled from a Soviet offensive last year. The Russians tied dynamite to their backs and blew them up.

Between 4 and 5 million Afghans (about one- third to one-fourth of the population; think of 60 million Americans) are refugees in Pakistan and Iran. They have fled because, the report says, "the crimes of indiscriminate warfare are combined with the worst excesses of unbridled state- sanctioned violence against civilians."

The authors of this report met an Afghan doctor who has lost 42 members of his family and had just learned that two had recently been burned alive. The authors collected abundant evidence of "civilians burned alive, dynamited, beheaded; bound men forced to lie down on the road to be crushed by Soviet tanks; grenades thrown into rooms where women and children have been told to wait. . . . From throughout the country come tales of death on every scale of horror, from thousands of civilians buried in the rubble left by fleets of bombers to a young boy's throat being dispassionately slit by a Soviet soldier."

The Sovietization of Afghanistan is advanced by ripping tens of thousands of children from their parents and sending them to the Soviet Union for "education." And of course there is the usual Soviet torture system: "Mothers were forced to watch their infants being given electric shocks. . . . A young woman who had been tortured in prison described how she andothers had been forced to stand in water that had been treated with chemicals, which made the skin come off their feet."

A European doctor recently told The New York Times: "When an Afghan woman tells you she left home because Russian soldiers killed almost everyone in her village, including her children, you wonder. But over the months, when two dozen more Afghan women from various parts of the country come in with exactly the same story, it begins to seem inescapably true." But it has almost nothing to do with U.S.-Soviet relations.

The Reagan administration's deepest desire is for the Soviet regime -- which has signed the U.N. Charter, the Geneva conventions and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- to sign more arms agreements like the ones it is currently violating.

The arms control lobby will say that Afghanistan is irrelevant to the "imperative business" of arms control. But the arms control process rests on certain illusions about the fundamental dynamic and aims of the Soviet regime. That regime is revealing its essence daily in Afghanistan. It is a regime interested only in enhancing its military advantages and the political gains that flow therefrom. It OP/ED

George F. Will

Afghanistan Is Not Irrelevant

The U.S. delegation to the Shultz-Gromyko demi-summit has packed its shirts and socks and illusions (the socks and shirts are in suitcases; the illusions are in an enormous trunk), so this is a good time to notice a statement that recently issued from the president, a statement concerning a subject that arms controllers insist is irrelevant to arms control. The subject is Afghanistan. The president said continued Soviet butchery there is "a serious impediment to the improvement of our bilateral relations."

Now, that is simply untrue. The Reagan administration is so eager for "improved" relations ("improvement" means less friction, which means more U.S. passivity as the Soviet Union behaves as it always does) that when the president spoke to the United Nations last year, his reference to Afghanistan was so brief and limp that William Buckley said the president "made it seem as though the poor Afghans were suffering from chicken pox."

What the Afghans actually are suffering is reported in the current New York Review of Books, in an excerpt from a report from Helsinki Watch. That organization monitors compliance (where the Soviet Union is concerned, comprehensive noncompliance) with the Helsinki accords.

The report tells of the fate of two brothers, aged 90 and 95, both blind, who remained in their village when everyone else fled from a Soviet offensive last year. The Russians tied dynamite to their backs and blew them up.

Between 4 and 5 million Afghans (about one- third to one-fourth of the population; think of 60 million Americans) are refugees in Pakistan and Iran. They have fled because, the report says, "the crimes of indiscriminate warfare are combined with the worst excesses of unbridled state- sanctioned violence against civilians."

The authors of this report met an Afghan doctor who has lost 42 members of his family and had just learned that two had recently been burned alive. The authors collected abundant evidence of "civilians burned alive, dynamited, beheaded; bound men forced to lie down on the road to be crushed by Soviet tanks; grenades thrown into rooms where women and children have been told to wait. . . . From throughout the country come tales of death on every scale of horror, from thousands of civilians buried in the rubble left by fleets of bombers to a young boy's throat being dispassionately slit by a Soviet soldier."

The Sovietization of Afghanistan is advanced by ripping tens of thousands of children from their parents and sending them to the Soviet Union for "education." And of course there is the usual Soviet torture system: "Mothers were forced to watch their infants being given electric shocks. . . . A young woman who had been tortured in prison described how she andothers had been forced to stand in water that had been treated with chemicals, which made the skin come off their feet."

A European doctor recently told The New York Times: "When an Afghan woman tells you she left home because Russian soldiers killed almost everyone in her village, including her children, you wonder. But over the months, when two dozen more Afghan women from various parts of the country come in with exactly the same story, it begins to seem inescapably true." But it has almost nothing to do with U.S.-Soviet relations.

The Reagan administration's deepest desire is for the Soviet regime -- which has signed the U.N. Charter, the Geneva conventions and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- to sign more arms agreements like the ones it is currently violating.

The arms control lobby will say that Afghanistan is irrelevant to the "imperative business" of arms control. But the arms control process rests on certain illusions about the fundamental dynamic and aims of the Soviet regime. That regime is revealing its essence daily in Afghanistan. It is a regime interested only in enhancing its military advantages and the political gains that flow therefrom. It successfully uses the arms control process only for that purpose.

On the U.S. side, that process rests on the radically false premise that the Soviet regime desires agreements that will codify a relationship of "live and let live." (The words are, astonishingly, those of Paul Nitze, special arms control adviser to Secretary Shultz.) The Soviet regime is not in the "live and let live" business.

As a last rhetorical resort -- and sometimes as a first resort -- arms controllers quote Churchill's famous formulation, "Better jaw-jaw than war- war."

That formulation is true, but hardly exhausts the alternatives, and ignores the fact that the Soviet regime regards jawing as a facet of warring. U.S. policy, illuminated by the light shed from burning Afghanistan, is: We jaw-jaw while they war-war. successfully uses the arms control process only for that purpose.

On the U.S. side, that process rests on the radically false premise that the Soviet regime desires agreements that will codify a relationship of "live and let live." (The words are, astonishingly, those of Paul Nitze, special arms control adviser to Secretary Shultz.) The Soviet regime is not in the "live and let live" business.

As a last rhetorical resort -- and sometimes as a first resort -- arms controllers quote Churchill's famous formulation, "Better jaw-jaw than war- war."

That formulation is true, but hardly exhausts the alternatives, and ignores the fact that the Soviet regime regards jawing as a facet of warring. U.S. policy, illuminated by the light shed from burning Afghanistan, is: We jaw-jaw while they war-war.