Afghan War Documentary Charges U.S. with
Mass Killings of POWs !
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
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
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
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
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.
Source : Stefan
Steinberg - World Socialist