Socialist Worker

US clears way for war crimes

Issue No. 1776

Tony Blair, George W Bush and their media cheerleaders are hailing 'liberation' in Afghanistan. But the record of the Northern Alliance forces which took control of much of the country last week is every bit as bad as the Taliban regime the West is out to crush.

Now the US and Britain are encouraging the Northern Alliance to unleash more slaughter. US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld said this week that the US wanted 'no negotiations' with Taliban forces such as those trapped in the northern city of Kunduz. Rumsfeld said he wanted Taliban forces taken prisoner 'or killed' so they could not 'make their mischief elsewhere'. The US is giving a green light to the wholesale slaughter of anyone deemed to be associated with the Taliban regime.

That has already started. At least 520 young Taliban hiding in a school in Mazar-e-Sharif were massacred by Northern Alliance troops. Eyewitnesses confirm that days after the capture of the city by the Northern Alliance bodies were still being pulled from the wreckage of Sultan Reza school. The International Committee of the Red Cross says that half of the dead found on the battlefield outside Kabul had been executed.

They had been shot in the head, some between the eyes, others at the side of the head. At least one of the bodies had been decapitated. Rumsfeld's 'no negotiations' call carries chilling echoes of the war crime in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995, used at the time by the West to justify stepping up its intervention in that country's civil war. In July 1995 Serb forces besieged and then entered the Bosnian town. It had previously been dubbed a United Nations 'safe haven'.

Thousands of Bosnian Muslim men were simply shot dead by the Serb forces. At the start of this week the US was encouraging its Northern Alliance allies in Afghanistan to repeat that kind of barbarity in Kunduz and elsewhere in the country.


20 dead children in the streets

More bombing after 'victory'

The war in Afghanistan did not end last weekend. In fact the US intensified its bombing and in the process slaughtered innocent civilians.

Journalist Justin Huggler reported for the Independent from inside Afghanistan on Monday that 'US jets continued to pound' and that 'the bombing raids over the past two days were described as among the heaviest in 43 days of war.' That bombing claimed the lives of at least 150 civilians in the town of Khanabad, where there were no military targets, reported Huggler.

He wrote how 'terrified refugees said American planes had bombed the area daily since Thursday seemingly oblivious to the fact that the buildings they were bombing were civilian homes. 'All day yesterday huge plumes of smoke rose as B-52 bombers continued to drop their loads of bombs. 'I saw 20 dead children on the streets,' said Zumeray, one of the refugees. 'Forty people were killed yesterday alone. I saw it with my own eyes. Some of them were buried by the bombs. Others were crushed by the walls and roofs of their houses when they collapsed from the blast'.'

In Kunduz escaping refugees spoke of the terror caused by the US B-52 bombers which had been pounding the city.

Guardian journalist Luke Harding reported that 'two boys playing football were killed by an American bomb on Friday' and that 'people are afraid of the Taliban, but they are more afraid of the American bombardment.'

The US military itself admitted that it 'accidentally' dropped a 500 pound bomb on a mosque in the town of Khowst in eastern Afghanistan. And the BBC's correspondent Ragih Omaar reported direct from the town of Gardez, near Kabul, of how the US was still bombing the town even though it had been under the control of anti-Taliban forces for more than a week.

A family of refugees, he reported, had been killed when the US bombing destroyed a building in Gardez belonging to a United Nations mine-clearing agency which they had been sheltering in.


Afghan people fear new regime

'The terror of the Taliban has been replaced by fear of a new round of bloodletting and ethnic cleansing as rival factions lay claim to the capital,' reported BBC journalist Kate Clark last week. 'Kabul has unpleasant memories of the misery caused by factional fighting when the Northern Alliance controlled the city between 1992 and 1996. Already there are signs of abuses and looting.'

Ahmed Rashid, author of the definitive study of the Taliban regime and Afghanistan, painted a similar picture. 'The Northern Alliance faces rivalries in its ranks and with other groups that could cause a renewed civil war,' he warned. Rashid described what has happened in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the first major city to fall to Northern Alliance forces.

The city 'was captured by the Uzbek general Rashid Dostum, General Atta Mohammed, a Tajik, and Ustad Mohaqqiq, a Hazara. 'They are still at loggerheads. United Nations officials are unable to enter Mazar because of the lack of security and general lawlessness.' Many of the groups now vying for power across Afghanistan are also sponsored by rival foreign powers.

The Pakistani regime is determined not to allow the Northern Alliance to dominate the country, and will be willing to fuel rival groups among the majority Pashtun population in the south of the country. Former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani has arrived back in Kabul. He is sponsored by Russia and Iran, which will try to secure their influence as against that of Pakistan.


No good reason to celebrate

'There is little sign that the return of the Mujahadeen will bring freedom and prosperity to the people of this city. Five years ago these same men brought chaos and violence. Now the fear is they are bringing it again. The locals are watching developments with fear and resignation. There is no sign of women forsaking the burqa.'

''Thank you Britain and America for allowing these men to come back and rob and beat us again,' one refugee shouted as he drove slowly back into Jalalabad on Friday.'
Journalist Jason Burke's report from Jalalabad


Afghan women freed?

'The religious police have gone but the burqas remain. Foreign newspaper photographers, under pressure to produce images of the city's rejection of the Taliban can be seen each day persuading a few women to remove these garments. What the photos do not show is the women putting them back on again a few moments later. The fact remains that the Northern Alliance feels the same way about women as the Taliban did-they are chattel, to be tolerated but kept out of real life.'
CHRIS STEPHEN, Observer journalist in Kabul


Cluster carnage to come

Up to 70,000 lethal cluster bomblets may be littered across Afghanistan posing the risk of large scale casualties and maiming, according to the Human Rights Watch agency. The figures are based on the US military's own figures for the number of cluster bombs dropped and published information on the proportion which fail to explode.


'Chemical bunker' in every British school

'Inside Bin Laden's Chemical Bunker' was the headline splashed across a full page article in last Saturday's Guardian. Journalist Rory McCarthy claimed he had uncovered a secret chemical weapons factory used by Osama Bin Laden's network.

Some of the chemicals he found could be used for making primitive weaponry. But McCarthy's description of what he found in the building would make every secondary school chemistry lab in Britain a target for US bombing as a potential chemical weapons factory. He spoke of 'a long metal box holding 18 containers of toxic liquids'. Among these lethal liquids were 'several brown 2.5 litres of sulphuric and nitric acid and acetone'.

These acids are in every British secondary school. Sulphuric acid is routinely used to clean food handling equipment. Acetone is the basic ingredient of...nail varnish remover! Other dangerous chemicals included 'olive oil' and 'glycerine'. Strangely for a chemistry lab, 'several funnels, syringes, pipettes are packed into boxes'.

Further compelling evidence of the sinister purpose of the buildings included a 'pair of extra large blue mountaineering trousers'.


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Sat 24 Nov 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1776
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