By Peter Phillips
Dec. 12 During the first week of December 2003, US corporate
media reported that American forensic teams are working to document
some 41 mass graves in Iraq to support future war crime tribunals in
that country. Broadly covered in the media, as well, was the conviction
of General Stanislav Galic by a UN tribunal for war crimes committed
by Bosnian Serb troops under his command during the siege of Sarajevo
in 1992-94. These stories show how corporate media likes to give the
impression that the US government is working diligently to root out
evil doers around the world and to build democracy and freedom. This
theme is part of a core ideological message in support of our recent
wars on Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Governmental spin transmitted
by a willing US media establishes simplistic mythologies of good vs.
evil often leaving out historical context, special transnational corporate
interests, and prior strategic relationships with the dreaded evil ones.
The hypocrisy of US policy and corporate media complicity is evident
in the coverage of Donald Rumsfelds stop over in Mazar-e Sharif
Afghanistan December 4 to meet with regional warlord and mass killer
General Abdul Rashid Dostum and his rival General Ustad Atta Mohammed.
Rumsfeld was there to finalize a deal with the warlords to begin the
decommissioning of their military forces in exchange for millions of
dollars in international aid and increased power in the central Afghan
Few people in the US know that General Abdul Rashid Dostum fought alongside
the Russians in the 1980s, commanding a 20,000-man army. He switched
sides in 1992 and joined the Mujahidin when they took power in Kabul.
For over a decade, Dostum was a regional warlord in charge of six northern
provinces, which he ran like a private fiefdom, making millions, by
collecting taxes on regional trade and international drug sales. Forced
into exile in Turkey by the Taliban in 1998, he came back into power
as a military proxy of the US during the invasion of Afghanistan.
Charged with mass murder of prisoners of war in the mid-90s by the UN,
Dostum is known to use torture and assassinations to retain power. Described
by the Chicago Sun Times (10/21/01) as a cruel and cunning warlord,
he is reported to use tanks to rip apart political opponents or crush
them to death. Dostum, a seventh grade dropout, likes to put up huge
pictures of himself in the regions he controls, drinks Johnnie Walker
Blue Label, and rides in an armor-plated black Cadillac.
A documentary entitled Massacre at Mazar released in 2002 by Scottish
film producer, Jamie Doran, exposes how Dostum, in cooperation with
US special forces, was responsible for the torturing and deaths of approximately
3,000 Taliban prisoners-of-war in November of 2001. In Dorans
documentary, two witnesses report on camera how they were forced to
drive into the desert with hundreds of Taliban prisoners held in sealed
cargo containers. Most of the prisoners suffocated to death in the vans
and Dostums soldiers shot the few prisoners left alive. One witness
told the London Guardian that a US Special Forces vehicle was parked
at the scene as bulldozers buried the dead. A soldier told Doran that
US troops masterminded a cover-up. He said the Americans ordered Dostums
people to get rid of the bodies before satellite pictures could be taken.
Dostum admits that a few hundred prisoners died, but asserts that it
was a mistake or that they died from previous wounds. He has kept thousands
of Taliban as prisoners-of-war since 2001 and continues to ransom them
to their families for ten to twenty thousand dollars each. Dorans
documentary was shown widely in Europe, prompting an attempt by the
UN to investigate, but Dostum has prevented any inspection by saying
that he could not guarantee safety for forensic teams in the area.
During the recent meeting with Dostum, Donald Rumsfeld is quoted as
saying, I spent many weeks in the Pentagon following closely your
activities, I should say your successful activities. (Washington
Post 12/5/03) The Post wrote how General Dostum was instrumental in
routing Taliban forces from Northern Afghanistan in the early weeks
of the war two years ago, but said nothing about General Dostums
brutal past. Nor has US broadcast media aired Dorans documentary.
It seems that the US governments interest in addressing mass graves
and war crimes extends only to our opponents and that we tolerate such
inhuman behavior among those who support our political agendas.
The corporate medias complicity in this hypocrisy is a glaring
example of the need for widespread media reform in the US.
Peter Phillips is Department Chair and Professor of Sociology at Sonoma
State University and director of Project Censored a media research organization.