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Dasht-E Leili

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo April 07, 2004 Dasht-E Leili By Edward Herman The Tipton Three, recently released
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 9, 2004
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      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      April 07, 2004
      Dasht-E Leili
      By Edward Herman

      The Tipton Three, recently released from Guantanamo, and
      telling their story to the British media, disclosed that
      they had first been captured in Afghanistan by the Taliban,
      then swept into the prisons of the Northern Alliance.

      In late November 2001 the three had been herded into two
      truck containers, which were then driven from the crowded
      jail at Sheberghan to a final destination in the Dasht-e
      Leili desert, where the prisoners were dumped, most of them
      dead from suffocation; the three survived, barely, because a
      little air had come in through bullet holes.

      The truck containers were each stuffed with 200 or more
      prisoners, and according to one Afghan military man 25
      containers were sent out to the desert: some 4,500 prisoners
      in all, a majority dying en route, many of the remainder
      shot on arrival.

      In his 2002 documentary describing this "Massacre at Mazar,"
      based on numerous interviews with observers, officials,
      participants, human rights and forensic specialists, and
      survivors, and visits to the grave sites, Irish film-maker
      Jamie Doran concluded that somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000
      men were killed in this container truck operation and its

      He also provided compelling witness evidence that U.S. army,
      Special Forces, and CIA personnel were on the scene,
      participated in the abuse of the prisoners, did not
      interfere in any way with the operation, and at various
      points seemed in overall command. One witness claimed that
      U.S. personnel urged quick burial at Dasht-e Leili so that
      bodies would not be seen by satellite.

      Visiting the Dasht-e Leili sites back in late 2001 and early
      2002, forensic experts from the Physicians for Human Rights
      (PHR) found a very large grave site, densely packed, with a
      few sample bodies showing signs of death by suffocation.

      PHR and Amnesty International representatives urged that the
      site be protected for further examination and that an
      investigation be carried out of what appeared to have been a
      major human rights disaster and war crime. But nothing
      happened, as I will describe and explain later.

      It will be recalled that 45 bodies at Racak in Kosovo in
      January 1999 caused then Yugoslavia Tribunal prosecutor
      Louise Arbour to cry out about war crimes and try to rush to
      the scene, with ensuing publicity that had much to do with
      the March 1999 commencement of the bombing attack on Yugoslavia.

      The Srebrenica killings in July 1995 were alleged to number
      7,000-8,000, but nowhere near that number of bodies were
      ever found, and many of those found were not executed but
      were killed in furious battles (with hundreds of Bosnian
      Serb soldiers killed in the same fighting).

      No grave site discovered in Bosnia is comparable in size to
      the acre-large, densely packed site at Dasht-e Leili. It is
      very probable that executions at Srebrenica were fewer, and
      likely considerably fewer, than the extremely cruel
      executions--mainly by suffocation--at Dasht-e Leili. But
      Srebrenica has become a symbol of massacre and has been an
      important moral and public relations base of the prosecution
      of Milosevic and other Serbs at the Hague, as well as a
      rationale for a larger interventionist role by the
      benevolent West. The public will not recognize the name
      Dasht-e Leili.

      The difference in the treatment of these cases is easily
      explained. The Racak incident fitted U.S. and NATO plans for
      attacking Yugoslavia, and as Madeleine Albright said happily
      to Sandy Berger on hearing of the incident: "Spring has come
      early this year."

      The Srebrenica killings also fit U.S. and Western plans to
      intensify the Western commitment to bring the Serbs to heel.
      The Yugoslav Tribunal prosecutor, media and "cruise missile
      left" intellectuals therefore rushed into the breach, with
      publicity and indignation that would provide the basis for
      judicial and military action.

      By contrast, the Dasht-e Leili massacre was carried out by a
      U.S. client, with U.S. personnel at the killing sites, not
      interfering with the killing and in some accounts
      participating and showing signs of being in charge of

      As the dominant party in the Afghanistan fighting, protector
      and supplier of the Northern Alliance, the United States was
      arguably responsible for the Dasht-e Leili massacre as top
      command, apart from any question about immediate
      participation. Its personnel had participated in the
      surrender of some 8,000 Taliban and allied fighters at
      Konduz, where they had been promised decent treatment,
      subsequently completely ignored and violated. If the
      Yugoslavia Tribunal had evidence of Milosevic’s connection
      with Srebrenica in any way comparable to the evidence of the
      U.S. link to Dasht-e Leili, the prosecutors would have
      thrown a very big party.

      The neglect of Dasht-e Leili throughout the global structure
      of interest and power follows from these basic facts of U.S.
      (and British) support of the killers and partial direct as
      well as command responsibility for the killings. The United
      States refuses to allow its personnel to be dealt with by
      international bodies on matters of possible criminal
      behavior, and as standard practice it denies or plays down
      any criminal incidents or massacres carried out by its
      personnel or by its clients.

      The UN Security Council and Kofi Annan will never do
      anything that the United States opposes strongly, and there
      are no international bodies with investigative and punitive
      powers that will move against U.S. desires, and none will be
      established for special investigation and the pursuit of
      justice. With some honorable but powerless exceptions the
      world’s NGOs will not make much noise about a U.S.-approved
      massacre, nor will the Western (and especially U.S.) media
      and "humanitarian intervention" intellectuals.

      We may hark back to the global double standard in dealing
      with Pol Pot in Cambodia and Suharto in East Timor, with Pol
      Pot subjected to intense and frenzied propaganda as a
      genocidist, Suharto, engaging in aggression as well as a
      huge massacre, but "our kind of guy" (Clinton official) and
      therefore a continued recipient of aid, and with no labeling
      as a genocidist but rather a man who brought "stability"
      (Barbara Crossette, NYT).

      However, when Vietnam ousted genocidist Pol Pot, instead of
      a reward for "humanitarian intervention" Vietnam was
      punished further for "aggression" while Pol Pot retained the
      UN seat for Cambodia.

      In sum, how the Godfather relates to massacres essentially
      determines how they will be treated by the international
      community. It works like this:

      ---The Principles: Where the Godfather can use killings to
      justify his intervention, killings by the target will be
      labeled a "massacre," or even "genocide," their size will be
      inflated (100,000 and 500,000 killed in Kosovo were figures
      thrown out by the State Department during the 78-day bombing
      war), and large resources will be expended in forensic
      searches for bodies (Clinton gave the ICTY $26 million for
      such a post-bombing-war search in Kosovo in 1999).

      In cases where large-scale killings are by clients such as
      Indonesia in East Timor, from 1975 but resurgent in 1999, or
      by the Northern Alliance at Dasht-e Leili in 2001, no
      non-token monies or forensic experts for investigation in
      the interests of justice are provided by the United States,
      or by the UN. PHR and Amnesty International strongly urged
      the United States and UN to protect the Dasht-e Leili grave
      sites and to fund an investigation for war crimes there, but
      there was no response on behalf of these unworthy victims
      (or on behalf of mere justice).

      ---The UN: Newsweek reported in "The Death Convoy of
      Afghanistan" (Aug. 26, 2002), that a confidential UN memo
      stated that while the facts of Dasht-e Leili "are sufficient
      to justify a full-fledged investigation," the problem is
      "the political sensitivity of this case," so that all action
      should be postponed "until a decision is made concerning the
      final goal of this exercise." Translated from gobbledygook:
      as the Godfather was closely involved in these crimes,
      forget it.

      ---The Human Rights Groups: PHR said that "The examination
      of bodies and dignified burial of remains [from Dasht-e
      Leili] will contribute to the truth and accountability
      process which is essential for future peace and stability in

      PHR is mistaken: this line of argument is only applicable in
      places like the former Yugoslavia in justifying the pursuit
      of villains--it is not applicable in places like Afghanistan
      and Indonesia where the possible villains are "our kinds of
      guy." While the PHR, AI and to a lesser extent Human Rights
      Watch gave some attention to Dasht-e Leili, none of the NGOs
      were prepared to make the Dasht-e Leili massacre into a
      major campaign.

      ---The Media: When Jamie Doran's "Massacre at Mazar" was
      shown in preliminary form in Europe in June 2002, the
      European media gave it some attention, although brief, but
      the film was not mentioned once by the mainstream U.S.
      media. Newsweek's substantial article on "The Death Convoy
      of Afghanistan" (August 26, 2002) led to a tiny flurry of
      reports elsewhere in the media, after which it was quickly

      When the Tipton Three were released from Guantanamo in early
      March 2004, among their other revelations was their personal
      experience barely surviving the "death convoy." While this
      was reported in the British media the New York Times failed
      to mention this feature of the disclosures (see further,
      Edward Herman, "The United States as Torture Central," Z
      Magazine, May 2004 [forthcoming]).

      ---The Cruise Missile Left: The cruise missile left
      displayed the same pattern of service to state policy.
      Samantha Power, Michael Ignatieff, David Rieff, Aryeh Neier,
      Christopher Hitchens, and Timothy Garton Ash, who had
      focused with great indignation on massacres by official
      targets in Yugoslavia (Racak, Srebrenica) and Iraq
      (Halabja), but not on those by the United States and its
      clients in those same countries (Serb Krajina, NATO-occupied
      Kosovo, the "sanctions of mass destruction in Iraq,
      1991-2002), or by Indonesia in East Timor (Liquica),
      predictably have overlooked the "death convoy" in Afghanistan.

      A Nexis search shows zero mentions of Dasht-e Leili by these
      six analysts for the period November 28, 2001 through March

      ---So once again we see how smoothly the system works, with
      power determining which massacres are worthy of attention
      and indignation, and that power causing everybody else to
      fall in line--the craven allies who remain silent; Kofi
      Annan and the UN adjusting nicely to the "political
      sensitivity" of dealing with a U.S.-sponsored massacre; the
      NGOs, a few calling for an investigation, but most of them
      quiet and channeling their benevolence in accord with
      funding sources and practicality; the mainstream media, as
      always, recognizing the unworthiness of the victims of
      U.S.-sponsored violence and looking elsewhere; and the
      cruise missile left doing the same.

      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      "It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
      *anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
      -- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
      _Detective Comics_ #608
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