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Afghan war documentary charges US with mass killings of POWs

While the documentary has become a major news story in Europe, it has been virtually blacked out by the American media. The UPI released a dispatch on the screenings last week, yet the existence of the film has not even been reported by such leading newspapers as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The film and its allegations of US war crimes have been similarly suppressed by the television networks and cable news channels.
World Socialist Website

Afghan war documentary charges US with mass killings of POWs
Showings in Europe spark demands for war crimes probe

By Stefan Steinberg
17 June 2002

A documentary film, Massacre in Mazar, by Irish director Jamie Doran, was shown to selected audiences in Europe last week, provoking demands for an international inquiry into US war crimes in Afghanistan.

The film alleges that American troops collaborated in the torture of POWs and the killing of thousands of captured Taliban soldiers near the town of Mazar-i-Sharif. It documents events following the November 21, 2001 fall of Konduz, the Taliban's last stronghold in northern Afghanistan.

The film was shown in Berlin by the PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism) parliamentary fraction to members of the German parliament on June 12. The following day it was shown to deputies and members of the press at the European parliament in Strasbourg.

After seeing the film, French Euro MP Francis Wurtz, a member of the United Left fraction that organised the showing, said he would call for an urgent debate on the issues raised in the film at the next session of the European parliament in July. A number of other deputies in the European parliament called on the International Committee of the Red Cross to carry out an independent investigation into the allegations raised in the film.

Leading international human rights lawyer Andrew McEntee, who was present at the special screening in Berlin, said it was "clear there is prima facie evidence of serious war crimes committed not just under international law, but also under the laws of the United States itself."

McEntee called for an independent investigation. "No functioning criminal justice system can choose to ignore this evidence," he said.

The Pentagon issued a statement June 13 denying the allegations of US complicity in the torture and murder of POWs, and the US State Department followed suit with a formal denial on June 14.

Doran, an award-winning independent filmmaker, whose documentaries have been seen in over 35 countries, said he decided to release a rough cut of his account of war crimes because he feared Afghan forces were about to cover up the evidence of mass killings. "It's absolutely essential that the site of the mass grave is protected," Doran told United Press International after the screening in Strasbourg. "Otherwise the evidence will disappear."

Doran's call for the preservation of evidence was echoed by the Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights, which issued a statement June 14 urging that immediate steps be taken to safeguard the gravesite of the alleged victims near Mazar-i-Sharif.

Late last year Doran shot footage of the aftermath of the massacre of hundreds of captured Taliban troops at the Qala-i-Janghi prison fortress outside of Mazar-i-Sharif. His film clips, showing prisoners who had apparently been shot with their hands tied, ignited an international outcry over the conduct of American special operations forces and their Northern Alliance allies.

Doran's new film includes interviews with eyewitnesses to torture and the slaughter of some 3,000 POWs. It also contains footage of the desert scene where the alleged massacre took place. Skulls, clothing and limbs still protrude from the mound of sand, more than six months after the event.

The film has received widespread coverage in the European press, with articles featured in some of the main French and German newspapers (Le Monde, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt). Jamie Doran has also given interviews to two of the main German television companies.

While the documentary has become a major news story in Europe, it has been virtually blacked out by the American media. The UPI released a dispatch on the screenings last week, yet the existence of the film has not even been reported by such leading newspapers as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The film and its allegations of US war crimes have been similarly suppressed by the television networks and cable news channels.

This reporter was able to view the 20-minute-long documentary in Berlin. In the course of the film a series of witnesses appear and testify that American military forces participated in the armed assault and killing of several hundred Taliban prisoners in the Qala-i-Janghi fortress. Witnesses also allege that, following the events at Qala-i-Janghi, the American army command was complicit in the killing and disposal of a further 3,000 prisoners, out of a total of 8,000 who surrendered after the battle of Konduz.

Afghan witnesses who speak of these atrocities are not identified by name, but, according to the director, all those testifying in the film are willing to give their names and appear before an international tribunal to investigate the events of the end of last November and beginning of December.

In Doran's film, Amir Jahn, an ally of Northern Alliance leader General Rashid Dostum, states that the Islamic soldiers who surrendered at Konduz did so only on the condition that their lives would be spared. Some 470 captives were incarcerated in Qala-i-Janghi. The remaining 7,500 were sent to another prison at Kala-i-Zein.

Following a revolt by a number of the prisoners in Qala-i-Janghi, the fortress was subjected to a massive barrage from the air as well as the ground by American troops. The atrocities inside Qala-i-Janghi are confirmed in the film by the head of the regional Red Cross, Simon Brookes, who visited the fort shortly after the massacre. He investigated the area and found bodies, many with their faces twisted in agony.

The American Taliban supporter John Walker Lindh was one of 86 Taliban fighters who were able to survive the massacre by hiding in tunnels beneath the fort . In one chilling scene in the film, we witness actual footage, secretly shot, of the interrogation of Lindh. We see him kneeling in the desert, in front of a long row of captive Afghans, being interrogated by two CIA officers. The officer leading the interrogation is heard to say: "But the problem is he needs to decide if he lives or dies. If he does not want to die here, he is going to die here, because we are going to leave him here and he's going to stay in prison for the rest of his life."

Massacre in Mazar then goes to describe the treatment meted out to the remaining thousands of captives who had surrendered to the Northern Alliance and American troops. A further 3,000 prisoners were separated out from the total of 8,000 who had surrendered, and were transported to a prison compound in the town of Shibarghan.

They were shipped to Shibarghan in closed containers, lacking any ventilation. Local Afghan truck drivers were commandeered to transport between 200 and 300 prisoners in each container. One of the drivers participating in the convoy relates that an average of between 150 and 160 died in each container in the course of the trip.

An Afghan soldier who accompanied the convoy said he was ordered by an American commander to fire shots into the containers to provide air, although he knew that he would certainly hit those inside. An Afghan taxi driver reports seeing a number of containers with blood streaming from their floors.

Another witness relates that many of the 3,000 prisoners were not combatants, and some had been arrested by US soldiers and their allies and added to the group for the mere crime of speaking Pashto, a local dialect. Afghan soldiers testify that upon arriving at the prison camp at Shibarghan, surviving POWs were subjected to torture and a number were arbitrarily killed by American troops.

One Afghan, shown in battle fatigues, says of the treatment of prisoners in the Shibarghan camp: "I was a witness when an American soldier broke one prisoner's neck and poured acid on others. The Americans did whatever they wanted. We had no power to stop them."

Another Afghan soldier states, "They cut off fingers, they cut tongues, they cut their hair and cut their beards. Sometimes they did it for pleasure; they took the prisoners outside and beat them up and then returned them to the prison. But sometimes they were never returned and they disappeared, the prisoner disappeared. I was there."

Another Afghan witness alleges that, in order to avoid detection by satellite cameras, American officers demanded the drivers take their containers full of dead and living victims to a spot in the desert and dump them. Two of the Afghan civilian truck drivers confirm that they witnessed the dumping of an estimated 3,000 prisoners in the desert.

According to one of the drivers, while 30 to 40 American soldiers stood by, those prisoners still living were shot and left in the desert to be eaten by dogs. The final harrowing scenes of the film feature a panorama of bones, skulls and pieces of clothing littering the desert.


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World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved

"Interview with Jaimie Doran, director of Massacre as Mazar"
 http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jun2002/dora-j17.shtml
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homepage: homepage: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jun2002/afgh-j17.shtml

U.S. denials fit previous patterns 17.Jun.2002 19:49

DL

>"The Pentagon issued a statement on June 13 denying the allegations of U.S. complicity in the torture and murder of POWs."

Didn't the Pentagon say the same thing when "allegations" first surfaced about the No Gun Ri massacres in Korea, and also about the My Lai massacre? So it's quite par for the course for the U.S. Dept. of WAR to deny killing innocents.

Of course, the Bush League regime has another trick up its sleeve. Remember, the Pentagon has so far refused to label captured Afghans as POWs, instead using its pretzeled logic to name them "illegal combatants." Thus, the denial statement is "technically correct" in that--by self-serving U.S. definition--no POWs were ever captured. What brilliant duplicity by the White House Oilers team!

Massacre of 500 Taliban blamed on Alliance 17.Jun.2002 21:07

Dennis Bejin

Dear Readers,

The artilce is entitled,"Massacre of 500 Taliban blamed on Alliance," David WardFriday November 16, 2001
The Guardian

Part of the article reads as follows:

More than 500 Taliban troops were killed in a bloodbath after the capture of the key northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, it was confirmed yesterday.
The Northern Alliance has admitted turning tanks and heavy guns on to hundreds of mainly Pakistani jihadis who were holed up in a school after apparently being abandoned by their Taliban leaders.

According to the first eyewitness reports from the city bodies are still being pulled from the rubble of Sultan Reza school.

A further 200 Taliban soldiers have been seized and held in freight containers; 42 of these men were paraded before western TV cameras yesterday looking gaunt and frightened.

There had been rumours of a massacre at Mazar since the city was taken over the weekend. But the death toll was said to be far fewer than the 520 confirmed dead by the Northern Alliance yesterday.

 http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/story/0,1361,595620,00.html

A google search under "Massacre at Mazar" will bring up a wealth of information, especially out of England.

Other articles include"

New film accuses US of war crimes
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/waronterror/story/0,1361,595620,00.html

HOW TO GET FILM? 17.Jun.2002 21:18

Wes brain@mind.net

how can one acquire this video? we need to broadcast it on access television from sea to shining sea.....

This is a ridiculous movie 18.Jun.2002 13:03

anonymous or made up

Hiya Kids,

This film really isn't going to bring to life what did or didn't happen. It's a pretty shoddy excuse for a documentary, academically about on the level of," Kurt and Courtney". It's basically Interviews with supposed local folks, and stock shots of carnage from around afghanistan. Not exactly concrete evidence on anything. I'm glad that the folks on the film are willing to levy officalcharges, but in a situation such as this you would really need the confimation from higher ups in the Afghani goverment, or whistleblowers from the US military to come forward in lieu of concrete physical evidence. Not that any won't be found, but you'd probably need an investigation for that, so keep your ears peeled

Wrong 18.Jun.2002 16:08

Doran is right

If you bothered to read the article and interview, you'd know the version of the film which Jamie Doran released is a rough cut, not the final polished version.

The reason why Doran released this unfinished version is that he wanted to publicize the US War crimes and prevent the destruction of evidence--in particular a mass grave site that his Afghan sources told him were being tampered with by some unnamed party (cough, cough, USA).

The comments made by "anonymous" are typically glib in attempting to dismiss these American war crimes. This clown wants people to rely upon "higher ups in the Afghani goverment, or whistleblowers from the US military." In other words, rely upon American stooges in Afghanistan or Americans themselves.

Get real, the last people in the world to trust for the truth--or for an "independent investigation"--are Americans, who are the world's greatest liars and manipulators when it comes to hiding their own crimes. An
"independent investigation" conducted by Americans will be no more credible than the current Congressional "independent investigation" about the WTC and Pentagon attacks on Sept. 11.

Don't worry, the truth will come out. Independent investigations are already being mounted by various European groups. Better hurry up and destory that evidence--faster than you can shred an Enron document.

Glib answers for the uninformed 20.Jun.2002 10:19

anonymous or made up

"If you bothered to read the article and interview, you'd know the version of the film which Jamie Doran released is a rough cut, not the final polished version."

I certainly bothered to read the original article a lot closer than you read my post. I had no problem with the quality of the piece stylistically, just the academic value of the material and the lack of investigative principle in the idea behind the piece. I compared it to Nick Bloomfeld's, "Kurt and Courtney", which employed the same sort of interview and stock footage montage, to give readers an idea of what sort of merit the piece had as a "document". Not that It doesn't have the inherent value of asking questions, to further the discourse and make further investigation possible.

"The reason why Doran released this unfinished version is that he wanted to publicize the US War crimes and prevent the destruction of evidence--in particular a mass grave site that his Afghan sources told him were being tampered with by some unnamed party (cough, cough, USA)."

Yes that's fine, I had no objection with the filmmaker providing a rough-cut, as time would seem to be of the essence in this case.

"The comments made by "anonymous" are typically glib in attempting to dismiss these American war crimes. This clown wants people to rely upon "higher ups in the Afghani government, or whistleblowers from the US military." In other words, rely upon American stooges in Afghanistan or Americans themselves."

It's "anonymous or made up" just like the posting page recommends. Just to let you know, I am always glib if when I'm not attempting to dismiss American war crimes, so there. I understand that some of us were unable to pass the reading comprehension examinations, but I can't see where in my post that I stated that we had to rely on the American stooges in Afghanistan or Americans themselves. I merely stated that it would be impossible to rely completely on hearsay evidence and that without "concrete physical evidence" you would need confirmation from "official" Afghani sources like the provisional government, or whistleblowers from the US Military who participated in such events. I believe that I inferred that there might be some physical evidence out there, but we would have to have a fact finding mission or investigation to ascertain this, and to keep your ears peeled for any developments. Unlike many on this site, I was taught to investigate using primary source material, and to view all material with a cynical eye. There are too many bright-eyed true believers in far left wing politics, while they may be adept at filtering some of the spin from the mainstream media, they seem to have no ability to research any of the "news", "information" and "views" thrown out by the so called progressive outlets or luminaries.

"Get real, the last people in the world to trust for the truth--or for an "independent investigation"--are Americans, who are the world's greatest liars and manipulators when it comes to hiding their own crimes. An "independent investigation" conducted by Americans will be no more credible than the current Congressional "independent investigation" about the WTC and Pentagon attacks on Sept. 11."

Ok this is troubling; first you shouldn't blindly trust anyone for the "truth" as I implied before. When did I suggest a US fact finding mission, or even imply that that would be a good Idea? Your brain is a little cloudy with the hate the US first rhetoric, and all to eager to accept any source however dubious. A US fact finding mission into allegations of US war crimes would be preposterous, a farce, much like the "referendum" in Cuba last week. Now I know I'm going to get flack from some of the moneyed "socialist workers" on this site aside from the flack I will receive about the last descriptor, but if you cannot see the parallel between the two you are so far gone that no one can help you anymore. What ever you views on socialism, capitalism, communism, anarchism, all deeply flawed and corrupt systems in my view, you have to understand that Cuba's latest exercise in supposedly flexing it's democratic muscles was one of the most naive and embarrassing PR maneuvers I've seen in the last couple of years. The saddest thing was that socialist groups were shooting out press releases like they'd just discovered the cure for cancer.

For those of you who don't know Cubans were asked to sign a petition to enshrine socialism as the official and only government in the Cuban constitution. Although it may seem like a pretty innocuous idea in practice this sort of polling can be wholly repressive and undemocratic. Imagine if you will voting stations meted out by district, where your choice was to show up and sign your name or stay home and abstain, in a country where all business and utilities are tightly controlled by the state. You might have a few future problems when the local election figures notified higher ups about your lack of attendance. At least the Americans are great at something, lies and manipulation, if they could only package it and sell it to the world.

Yes I think we all agree that an independent investigation conducted by the Americans into allegations against crimes they stated would be counterproductive, though I'd imagine that if one were launched the US would run a parallel investigation into the practices of their armed forces in the affair. And to answer your last aside, who the hell would investigate the Twin Towers and the Pentagon disaster? Nt too many countries would allow foreign nations to poke around in their security and intelligence measures, it would be suicidal at best.

"Don't worry, the truth will come out. Independent investigations are already being mounted by various European groups. Better hurry up and destory that evidence-- faster than you can shred an Enron document."

I would hope that these groups don't plan on presenting this to the EU, as it'll take them about 20 months of mediation just to pick the color of the report binder. If these missions are preformed without prior prejudice, they could pressure the UN to launch an official fact finding junket with the ability to present conclusions, or bring charges. A few things bother me about these stories:

"One Afghan, shown in battle fatigues, says of the treatment of prisoners in the Shibarghan camp: "I was a witness when an American soldier broke one prisoner's neck and poured acid on others. The Americans did whatever they wanted. We had no power to stop them."

Another Afghan soldier states, "They cut off fingers, they cut tongues, they cut their hair and cut their beards. Sometimes they did it for pleasure; they took the prisoners outside and beat them up and then returned them to the prison. But sometimes they were never returned and they disappeared, the prisoner disappeared. I was there."

This isn't the US special forces usual M.O., and I've never actually heard of US tactics involving the use of acid or dismemberment. though I'd really have to see what kind of information the Northern Alliance and Soviet field experts provided in dealing with the local populations before I dismissed the charges out of hand.

vietnam is all the proof you need for the SF 20.Jun.2002 17:55

really now

In Vietnam there were many cases of torture by US troops,
enough to suggest that, while not the "usual MO"
it was present none the less to be considered ingrained in the training by the '80s. Torture has been taught to school of Americas graduates as recently as the 90s.

"This isn't the US special forces usual M.O., and I've never actually heard of US tactics involving the use of acid or
dismemberment."

Well maybe youve heard of villagers being strung up by their testacles and their limbs hacked off.

"anonmyous" sounds like a Miami Mafia moron 20.Jun.2002 21:05

doran is right

Nice try but still no cigar, "Anonymous or made up."

Your attempt to glibly deny the charges of American war crimes in Afghanistan is no more convincing than your tangential anti-Cuban diatribe--and is just as irrelevant.
(By the way, are you one of those Right Wing Cuban Exiles in South Florida?)

Regardless, what you Right Wingers and your instinctive "Excuse America" mentality cannot stand is the possibility that your delusions about American benevolence and goodness will be shot down once again.

The My Lai Massacre, the No Gun Ri massacre, the Basra Highway Bloodbath, Operation Phoenix, Operation Just Cause in Panama, and 1001 other American war crimes and massacres all give the Lie to the idea that torture (as described in the article) is not part of America's Modus Operandi--past, present, and future.

As for the veracity of the claims made by Doran's film, no amount of your juvenile humor and American-loving denial can wish away the stench emanting from America's Massacre at Mazar. Personally, I would truth the integrity of European MP's who have seen the film and are calling for an international investigation into US war crimes more credibile than anything you have to offer.

As for the 9-11 investigation, the United States needs to be compelled to allow an INTERNATIONAL group of investigators to look into the issue. No amount of whining about "national security" should be allowed to block this investigation. After all, the USA routinely attempts to violate the "national security" of other nations by demanding phony Weapons Inspectors (who are often US spies) be given access to places like Iraq.

Its time to flip the script and demand the American Empire do the same.