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Crimes commited in our names

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".

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

humanitarian cost.

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

rights concerns."

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.




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