The Red Cross, Amnesty International and assorted news agencies are reporting that many Taliban POWs, with hands tied behind their backs, were executed by Northern Alliance troops in Mazar-e-Sherif. There are even reports that American special forces had protested the executions but were ignored. A CIA agent died in the assault on the prison.
Initial reports had the Northern Alliance claiming that the riot was a pre-planned conspiracy started by suicidal Taliban POWs who had smuggled weapons into the prison. But that was an obvious fabrication, since the POWs had surrendered in Konduz and been searched before being sent to a fort outside Mazar-E-Sherif controlled by Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Afghan warlord with a long rap sheet of war crimes. Later the story was changed and the Taliban were accused of having rushed their guards and taken their guns. The BBC aired a report that the prison revolt was instigated by the mistreatment of the prisoners.
This was a prison riot for the history books. Apparently none of the prisoners survived. That, in and of itself, is suspicious. American air strikes were called in to ‘control’ the riot. After the three-day blood bath, Dostum walked through the rubble and seemed quite pleased with himself. Two Taliban leaders who had negotiated the surrender at Konduz were with Dostum. Reporters noted that one of them was visibly shaking and refused to talk at the staged ‘cover-up’ news conference. The other Taliban leader flatly denied that there was a conspiracy by the POWs and made clear that they had surrendered in good faith.
While the Red Cross and Amnesty International called for an investigation, CNN’s Aaron Brown applauded the slaughter because the POWs ‘had asked for it.’ It now appears that every last Taliban POW was killed, many with bound hands and bullets through the head. Many bodies had been mutilated. It was a very grizzly scene, even for the ICRC which just last week was recovering the remains of hundreds of other Taliban soldiers who had been killed in suspicious circumstances at a school in Mazar-E-Sherif.
Now, I am going to go out on a limb here and speculate that the slaughter of the POWs was pre-planned. Dostum got some unmistakable green lights from Rumsfeld, who has spent the last week openly disparaging the idea that prisoners should be taken alive. At a press conference in the Pentagon on Friday, Nov 30th, Rumsfeld claimed he had no idea of the particulars of the events at the POW camp. But, he brushed aside the need for an inquiry. Well, if Rumsfeld knows so little of what transpired in a three day prison riot that was quelled with the use of American air power, one would think that he would be anxious to clear up any doubts that POWs were executed with their hands tied behind their backs.
In a week when CNN pundits were deliberating the Bush Administration’s new policy to try terrorists in military tribunals, General Dostum was making certain that no one would need a day in court. So, why would the government of the United States go through the elaborate ruse of setting up military tribunals for the Taliban and their foreign allies? The real tribunals have already been established by Dostum and his followers. Dostum’s brand of ‘justice’ was predictable and many experts in the region were aware that he is prone to this kind of behaviour. It should be noted that the Northern Alliance is a signatory to the Geneva Convention and that the Red Cross has demanded that the Geneva rules governing the treatment of POWs be enforced in Afghanistan.
Many organizations, including Amnesty International, are demanding an investigation of the prison riot. The American and British governments are claiming that there is no need for an inquiry. Now, what possible harm could come of an inquiry? If no war crime took place at that camp, than it would serve the national interest to dispel all the lingering doubts about the many press reports of mass execution of POWs. Even if CNN approves of this kind of slaughter, it does not have the authority to give Dostum a free pass. An inquiry should also investigate the role of the major networks in covering up the details of this war crime. They have done it before for their favorite war criminal, Ariel Sharon. It appears that they are developing an unhealthy habit for this sort of thing. From now on. every time I see Aaron Brown on the tube , all I see is the face of a man who approves of putting a bullet in the head of a POW with hands tied behind his back. Those who applaud war crimes are virtual participants in war crimes. CNN fits the profile all too well. Their journalists should be disarmed in areas of conflict, lest they get a little carried away and start shooting POWs just to get a good clip for the nightly news.
Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN).