Beast of the Month - December 2001
General Adbul Rashid Dostum, Northern Alliance Warlord
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
What Taliban representatives were reportedly told in August 2001 by US negotiators over a Caspian Sea oil pipeline, according to Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, by French authors Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie
November 2001 was a month of Thanksgivings in the USA, where things slowly got back to normal. Temptation Island was on television. Sports fans stopped feeling sorry for New Yorkers and rooted for those Damn Yankees to lose. And the US military mercilessly pounded to rubble another Third World country that got uppity to its edicts.
To believe the war on Afghanistan is a "war against evil" and not one of mammon requires one to ignore eagerness of the Bush Team (in both government and the oil industry) to do business with the Taliban - eager, that is, until the Taliban made it clear that they weren't going to let them swindle Afghanistan's resources. When that message was understood, the US planned an early October attack on Afghanistan, according to the BBC's George Arney (whose source was former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik, who claims he was told of the plans by US officials) and the UK Guardian. Oddly, though this war was being prepared for, no mass propaganda campaign against Afghanistan was waged before 911, which made the September 11 attacks very convenient. Despite the popular refrain of "Everything has changed," it appears that US foreign policy didn't change in the least thanks to 911: the Afghanistan campaign began in early October, exactly as planned during the summer.
In any case, the Taliban and their military forces quickly retreated on November 10 - in a timing that suspiciously coincided with China's acceptance in the WTO. This was a major victory for the United States and Northern Alliance forces, and an even bigger defeat for the Taliban. Whether it was a victory for the Afghani people, however, remains to be seen.
The repressive nature of the Taliban leadership has long been condemned in The Konformist, and their brand of twisted morality (from their treatment of women and non-Muslims to their destruction of ancient Buddha statues) will not be defended here. However, the Northern Alliance - while having some noble leaders, including the late Ahmad Shah Masood - are loaded with brutal thugs that have no moral superiority to Mullah Mohammad Omar and his gang.
The Northern Alliance conquests began with the takeover of Mazar-i-Sharif by forces led by General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbekian warlord and The Konformist Beast of the Month. He, more than perhaps anyone else, represents the dubious ethical choice that the US has made in siding with the Northern Alliance. As Robert Fisk noted in The UK Independent:
General Rashid Dostum, our hero now that he has recaptured Mazar-i-Sharif, is in the habit of punishing his soldiers by tying them to tank tracks and then driving the tanks around his barracks' square to turn them into mincemeat. You wouldn't have thought this, would you, when you heard the jubilant reports of General Dostum's victory on Monday night?
No, you wouldn't. You also wouldn't hear much about the deeds by other NA forces. India's IANS reported of eyewitness accounts that Northern Alliance forces killed around 300 Pakistani and Arab fighters in Kabul, besides hundreds of Taliban supporters who had surrendered. (If anything, these numbers appear to be conservative estimates.) "They were slaughtering people," one eyewitness named Ebad-ur-Rehman reported. "I could have been among the deceased, but I saved myself by getting my long beard shaved." (Men found with long beards were regularly killed, as they were suspected Taliban sympathizers.) He added:
"Whoever could not speak Pushtu or Persian was killed on the spot. Whoever they found to be Arab or Pakistani they sprayed with bullets... There was a hue and cry in the streets. The jubilant alliance troops entered any house they wanted. They raped and dishonoured Afghan women and even minor girls... "I don't know much about other areas, but there was no law in Kabul. The alliance troops were looting even personal belongings like jackets and boots... They were beating and spitting on the bodies of Taliban soldiers. I personally saw that the Northern Alliance forces brought foreign media cameramen and forced men to get their beards shaved and women to remove burqas so the cameramen could record the scenes."
Of course, the actual number of casualties isn't known. Part of the reason is that the Kabul office of Al Jazeera (the Arab satellite news service that had been publicly attacked by the Bush Team for its independent coverage of the Afghan War) was conveniently destroyed by an American missile attack just as the NA invasion began. The Pentagon claims the attack on Al Jazeera was an unfortunate accident.
Those with any sense of history shouldn't be surprised by the widespread massacres in Kabul. As Fisk put it, "from 1992 to 1996, the Northern Alliance was a symbol of massacre, systematic rape, and pillage. Which is why we - and I include the US State Department - welcomed the Taliban when they arrived in Kabul. The Northern Alliance left the city in 1996 with 50,000 dead behind it. Now its members are our foot soldiers."
But the massacre of Kabul pales to what happened in November at Mazar-i-Sharif under the nose of General Dostum. The stage was set as his forces invaded the city on November 9 (curiously, the mirror image of 9-11 in date.) The International Committee of the Red Cross reported it had found 400 to 600 bodies, apparent victims of summary execution following the attack.
This was only the beginning. The real slaughter began on November 25, and lasted until the end of the month, when US, British, and Dostum's Northern Alliance forces joined together to slaughter 400 to 800 Taliban POWs in the Qala-i-Janghi prison fortress outside the city, with less than one hundred surviving the slayings. What made this gross violation of the Geneva Convention so notable wasn't the number of deaths (which are still 400 to 800 too many) or the savagery of the slayings (though the slayings were quite ruthless) but the shamelessness in openly flaunting international law by the forces feigning to represent them.
This is the real scandal: there was hardly anything covert about the massacre at Qala-i-Janghi. Despite calls from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for an investigation, the korporate media paid no interest to the blatant butchery. Instead, the focus fell solely on Johnny Spann, the CIA agent killed during the prisoner revolt.
There is some irony here: it appears that the "prisoner revolt" was in fact inspired by Spann and his unnamed CIA compadre, who were both CIA "interrogators" (a rather nice way of saying "torturer".) The two CIA agents reportedly began shouting and shooting at unarmed prisoners, killing at least five. The Times of London also noted the "rebellion may have also been sparked by efforts to tie up the Taliban prisoners, many of whom apparently believed they were about to be killed. About 250 prisoners had been bound by their guards, according to one report, before the rest rebelled."
Whatever inspired the "revolt" (and if they had legitimate concern that they were to be slaughtered, they certainly had every moral right to rebel) it is clear that the mass butchery by the US, UK and NA which followed was inexcusable. Here is some of the more noted evidence, much of it courtesy of the World Socialist Web Site, one of the few media organizations to note the massacre for what it was:
* As the WSWS put it, "news footage of American and Northern Alliance troops firing down on the POWs from the heights of the fortress walls, and fields littered with the corpses of dead and mutilated prisoners, provided clear evidence of a massacre."
* British press reports said Northern Alliance forces executed all Taliban prisoners who managed (or even tried) to escape from the fort. Taliban corpses lied in a gateway, each killed by a single bullet to the head.
* On November 27, NA forces went room-by-room, killing anyone left alive, including the wounded, and even firing bullets and rockets into corpses.
* An AP photographer said he saw up to fifty bodies of Taliban with bound hands laid out in a field inside the fortress. How prisoners with bound hands were deemed a threat remains a mystery. Alliance soldiers were busy untying the hands of the corpses.
* Most of the deaths occurred due to US air strikes on the compound. At least 30 bombing attacks were carried out by US warplanes and helicopter gunships.
* US Special Forces reportedly instructed Northern Alliance troops to pour diesel fuel into a basement where prisoners were hiding and set it on fire.
All of this shouldn't be a surprise as well. Again from Fisk:
The massacres committed by malicious fighting in the name of outside powers have regularly brought shame upon their more powerful allies. The Contras in Nicaragua and the Phalangist militiamen in Lebanon contaminated their respective American and Israeli masters - the latter in the notorious Palestinian camp massacres of Sabra and Chatila in 1982.
General Dostum may issue unconvincing denials about his culpability over what has transpired at Mazar-i-Sharif (and one wonders what's happening in Sheberghan, where another 6,000 Taliban prisoners are held) but The Konformist suspect it won't matter. The Taliban are now officially sanctioned demons, and so therefore the slaughter of anyone associated with their cause is now deemed acceptable. Instead, the outrage and demands for punishment fall on scapegoats such as John Walker Lindh, the 20-year-old American Taliban member found among the few remaining survivors at the prison fortress. While gross atrocities remain uninvestigated, those foaming at the mouth shout calls for Walker's head over dubious charges of treason.
Of course, who really is to blame for the massacre at Mazar-i-Sharif? While much of it deservedly should go on General Dostum, Time journalist Alex Perry's account states on no uncertain terms that American Special Forces and British SAS operatives were "running the show." This would make US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a defendant of war crimes charges. Even the Washington Post, a top cheerleader for the entire Afghanistan campaign, reported of concern in the Middle Eastern press that Rumsfeld's comments before the slaughter amounted to "a 'green light' from the United States to kill so-called Afghan Arabs."
But the blame should be pointed even higher, at both George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. After all, for all the demonization of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, his indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal lists the total deaths of 346 Kosovo Albanians carried out by Serb military and paramilitary forces over a four-month period, a number less than the carnage at Mazar-i-Sharif. Milosevic isn't charged with personally ordering a single death, but creating an atmosphere with his office and populist brand of demagogue rhetoric which inspired the slaughters that followed. He certainly has a lot of company in that department.
Whoever is to be held accountable, the evidence of guilt is there. No actual proof has yet to be provided linking Osama Bin Laden (or any of the Taliban leadership, for that matter) to the 911 attacks, but based on the cruel bloody treatment of anyone even suspected of being an enemy by US, British and Northern Alliance forces, it is clear that (if Osama was behind the 911 tragedy) he has some partners in twisted justifications for ruthless mass killings.
In any case, we salute General Adbul Rashid Dostum as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Rashid!!!
Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie
US-Backed Northern Alliance's Bloody Reputation
Robert Fisk, The Independent (UK)
13 November 2001
What Will the Northern Alliance Do in Our Name Now?
Robert Fisk, The Independent (UK)
14 November 2001
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