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Tries to hide U.S. role

Newsweek 'discovers' evidence of war crimes in Afghanistan

By Greg Butterfield

Newsweek magazine cover-dated Aug. 26 "broke" a story Workers World reported months ago: the massacre of prisoners by the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance in November 2001.

In a cover-story titled "The Death Convoy of Afghanistan," Newsweek reports how captured Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers were placed in sealed cargo containers and marched across the countryside from Kunduz to Dasht-I-Leili--the site of a now-uncovered mass grave.

When asked by Newsweek's reporters about the number of dead in the mass grave, an unnamed United Nations official said, "The only thing we know is that it's a very large site" with a "high density of bodies in the trial trench."

A leaked UN memo says that 960 captives died of suffocation in the containers on the road to Dasht-I-Leili and there is sufficient evidence to begin a "criminal investigation." Aziz ur Rahman Razekh, director of the Afghan Organization of Human Rights, said, "more than a thousand people died in the containers."

The UN memo goes on: "Considering the political sensitivity of this case and related protection concerns, it is strongly recommended that all activities relevant to this case be brought to a halt until a decision is made concerning the final goal of the exercise: criminal trial, truth commission, other, etc."

What "political sensitivity" could be so alarming that "all activities relevant to this case be brought to a halt"? It is the indisputable role of the U.S. occupation forces in these war crimes.

And that's why Newsweek isn't telling the whole story.

U.S. guilty of war crimes

"Nothing that Newsweek learned suggests that American forces had advance knowledge of the killings, witnessed the prisoners being stuffed into the unventilated trucks or were in a position to prevent that," the magazine claims, although it admits that U.S. Special Forces and CIA were "in the area."

One of two things is possible. Either Newsweek's reporters weren't looking too hard. Or Newsweek's editors and management are lying. There is ample evidence of U.S. culpability.

The Pentagon is in charge of all military operations in Afghanistan--both by its own troops and the Northern Alliance. The Bush administration and the brass are calling the shots.

As reported in the July 4, 2002, issue of Workers World, and by mainstream media outside the United States, Irish filmmaker Jamie Doran documented numerous eyewitness accounts of the prisoners held in sealed containers, the Dasht-I-Leili mass grave, and torture of prisoners by U.S. troops and CIA operatives.

Reports of the "caravan of death" and mass graves began circulating last winter. But it was Doran's film "Massacre at Mazar" that brought Dasht-I-Leili to world attention and prompted the UN investigation.

In June, Doran presented a rough cut of the film to the European Parliament and German Reichstag. Together with human rights attorneys and anti-war parliament members, he exposed the existence of the mass grave, fearing the evidence would otherwise be destroyed.

Eyewitness interviews conducted secretly by Doran showed, among other things, that U.S. soldiers accompanied the "caravan of death"; that U.S. officers ordered Northern Alliance troops to shoot into containers holding suffocating prisoners; that a U.S. officer then ordered the bodies dumped at Dasht-I-Leili; and that U.S. troops stood by and watched while still-living prisoners were executed at the mass grave.

Some of those interviewed by Doran believe up to 3,000 people are buried in the mass grave. All of the eyewitnesses agreed to testify before an international body on war crimes if one were established, despite the great danger to their own lives.

Spin control?

However much Newsweek would like to aid the U.S. cover-up by putting all the blame on the Northern Alliance, the revelations are spinning out of Washington's control.

While the Dasht-I-Leili mass grave came as a shock to many people here, most of the world already knows about the U.S. role there.

When Doran's film was first shown, the Pentagon and White House issued terse denials dismissing the accounts as baseless. But according to Newsweek, the Department of Defense now says it knew of the mass grave as far back as "December/January."

Now that the proof is out in the open, they are taking another tack. The brass claim they've been urging Afghan President Hamid Karzai to open an investigation all along. Karzai is, of course, a U.S. puppet, a former Unocal Oil Co. adviser who was put in power by the occupation forces.

Asked about the mass grave while visiting Afghanistan, Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. military command, made a revealing slip of the tongue. "The right thing to do is for people to go take a look," he said, "and then we will decide what we find." (BBC, Aug. 25)

So after the information is gathered, then the military brass and Bush administration will "decide"!

Franks brazenly added that the U.S. military "needs to step up efforts" in countries bordering Afghanistan. (Financial Times, Aug. 26) Meanwhile, the Pentagon is preparing for more bloody massacres, this time in Iraq.

Reprinted from the Sept. 5, 2002, issue of Workers World newspaper
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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