CRIMES COMMITTED IN OUR NAMES
by Amir Butler (20/11/2001)
If there is one moral truism that the West can learn from the events
of the last week, it is the falsity and moral bankruptcy of the belief
that "my enemy's enemy is my friend".
The Faustian pact with the Northern Alliance may have delivered the
West a much needed "win" in the war against terror through the fall of
Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, but it is at a tremendous moral and
The Northern Alliance was the enemy of the Taliban, so they became our
immediate friends. Their long and documented history as rapists, drug
dealers and war criminals was forgotten in a mysterious bout of
selective amnesia that overtook the political leadership of the United
States, United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere.
Following the capture of Mazar-e-Sharif, the world was bombarded with
imagery of jubilant Afghans shaving their beards and playing music.
After the fall of Kabul, we saw Afghans dancing in the street, women
removing their burqa, and lines of freshly shaven Afghans queuing to
watch the latest movies.
Yet, lost amongst all this imagery are atrocities being committed on a
daily basis by the Northern Alliance. They have returned to the same
pattern of behaviour that led Human Rights Watch, Amnesty
International, and even the US State Department to label them war
criminals. There was never any reason to think that half a decade
suffering humiliating defeat by the Taliban would have reformed them
or made them more civil human beings.
The massive PR campaign and moral investment made in the Alliance has
left the West unable to say anything more than to call for restraint
and for human rights to be upheld. At the same time as the Alliance
is carrying out massacres, Donald Rumsfeld is showcasing romantic
photos of US special forces on horseback alongside Alliance troops.
However, the world's humanitarian and aid organizations are not
mincing words. Reports are coming in of mass executions. The Red
Cross has confirmed hundreds of people being slain in cold blood.
Other reports speak of Alliance soldiers, high on opium, exhuming the
bodies of alleged Taliban, mutilating their corpses whilst howling
"Punjabi! Punjabi!". Often those being killed are not Taliban, but
those whose immediate crime was being Pakistani, Pashtoon or Arab.
In simple terms, the Northern Alliance is carrying out a form of
ethnic cleansing in cities coming under their control. Hashmatullah
Mosleh, "advisor" to the Northern Alliance, issued the chilling threat
in Melbourne's The Age (20/11/2001) that "Any Pakistani who shows his face here
will be lynched by the mob". Other members of the Northern Alliance
are promising to massacre the several thousand Arabs, Pakistanis and
Chechens trapped in Konduz - even if they surrender.
In a public statement, Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty
International has described the West's failure to safeguard civilians
as "a clear indication that the military agenda has overtaken human
Ms Khan added, "Those countries which supplied arms to and supported
the Northern Alliance are responsible for ensuring that the Alliance
conducts itself within international humanitarian law and does not use
its arms to commit further abuses. If there is bloodshed, the blood
is also on their hands."
Mary Robinson, head of the UNHCR, demanded, "if there are summary
executions by any group, that group's leader should not be part of the
government formation process". Asma Jahangir, a specialist on
arbitrary executions with the UNHCR called for an immediate
investigation into Northern Alliance atrocities saying that these
"widespread and systematic killings" may amount to crimes against
There should be no confusion or moral ambiguity about what is going
on. Our allies are carrying out horrific war crimes and it is being
done in the name of not just every Westerner that has supported this
war but also in the names of all those who died in equally horrific
circumstances on September 11th.
This war has been marketed as a war of civilized people against
barbarians - a war of good against evil. Such a belief must be
challenged when those fighting on the side of good are themselves
By taking their enemy's enemy as their friend, the West has
compromised whatever moral basis may have existed for their war on
terror. It was only with the aid of the United States and her allies
that the Alliance was able gain the upper hand. If Bin Laden is
guilty of terrorism for influencing or creating the ideological basis
for the events of September 11, then surely the US is just as guilty
of the same turpitude for enabling and being complicit to the
atrocities that are taking place today.