Saturday, May 22, 2004

The massacre

Many rightists claim that the Berg murder proves that Muslims show a particular disregard for human life. Yet headlines tell us that the number of suspicious deaths of detainees in U.S. custody has risen to 37.

That's hardly the worst of it. The world seems to have forgotten about the "convoy of death" in Afghanistan, which killed some 3000 Taliban prisoners. Not active combatants. P.O.W.s in allied custody.

From the Democracy Now website:

According to eyewitnesses, after the seige of Kunduz, some three thousand prisoners were forced into sealed containers and loaded onto trucks for transport to Sheberghan prison. Eyewitnesses say when the prisoners began shouting for air, U.S.-allied Afghan soldiers fired directly into the truck, killing many of them. The rest suffered through an appalling road trip lasting up to four days, so thirsty they clawed at the skin of their fellow prisoners as they licked perspiration and even drank blood from open wounds.

Witnesses say that when the trucks arrived and soldiers opened the containers, most of the people inside were dead. They also say US Special Forces re-directed the containers carrying the living and dead into the desert and stood by as survivors were shot and buried. Now, up to three thousand bodies lie buried in a mass grave.
Of course, reactionaries will try to justify this atrocity (in which the body count outdistances the 911 attacks) by noting that the Northern Alliance did much of the actual butchery. Call this the "Sharon" defense. If you're old enough to recall his use of the Phalangists at Sabra and Chatilla, you know what I mean.

Why does the death of Nick Berg count more than the deaths of Iraqi detainees (many of whom were innocents picked up at random)? Why are the victims of the World Trade Center attack granted a presumption of humanity denied to Afghan prisoners of war? Why do we still feel outrage at the Nazi massacre of American P.O.W.s at Malmedy, while we ignore the massacre of P.O.W.s in American hands?

We all know the answer: Skin color and religious bigotry.

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