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Fwd: sinking in the mire of brutality (moscowtimes),
by Boris Stremlin
26 July 2002 03:02 UTC
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US disregard of international conventions in the Afghan War leads to  
even greater violations of human rights on the part of its allies     
Israel and Russia.  By Pavel Felgenhauer, defense analyst for the     
Moscow Times.                                                         
Thursday, Jul. 25, 2002. Page 9                                       
Sinking in Mire of Brutality                                          
By Pavel Felgenhauer                                                  
It has been another bad week with massive abuses of                   
internationally recognized laws and conventions of                    
A review of U.S. military activities in Afghanistan                   
revealed that some 400 civilians have been killed in                  
the past several months when their villages were                      
bombarded during operations to hunt down remnants of                  
al-Qaida and Taliban forces. U.S. soldiers,                           
apparently, used wrong intelligence information and                   
"by mistake" mass-murdered Afghan civilians, including                
many women and children.                                              
A report by the International Helsinki Federation on                  
Human Rights, published this week, accuses the Russian                
forces in Chechnya of randomly kidnapping and killing                 
50 to 80 young Chechens each month for the past six                   
months of the conflict. The IHF added that the                        
estimate was a conservative one.                                      
This week, the Israeli military bombed a densely                      
populated area in Gaza. A leading Hamas militant was                  
killed along with 14 other Palestinians, nine of whom                 
were children.                                                        
It seems there has been a total worldwide breakdown of                
the international laws governing the conduct of war.                  
Leading world military powers are openly challenging                  
the Geneva conventions (designed to protect                           
noncombatants during armed conflict) that they signed                 
and ratified. In all of the prime military conflict                   
zones -- the Middle East, Afghanistan, the Caucasus --                
laws and conventions are being ignored.                               
During the past two years, Israeli soldiers and                       
policeman have killed some 2,000 Palestinians, several                
hundred of them children. There are no truly reliable                 
figures for the number of innocent civilians murdered                 
by Russian troops in Chechnya -- the estimates vary                   
from conservative ones of tens of thousands to                        
hundreds of thousands. The figures for civilians                      
killed recently by U.S. soldiers seems trivial in                     
comparison. But the flagrant abuse of law and decency                 
by the unchallenged world leader has increasingly                     
become one of the main motives behind other, seemingly                
unrelated, atrocities.                                                
Each time the U.S. military commits a war crime in                    
Afghanistan, it claims it was: First a "mistake";                     
second that it is sorry it happened; and third that                   
the terrorists are themselves to blame, since they use                
civilians as human shields.                                           
In fact, it has been known for some time (as confirmed                
unofficially by high-ranking U.S. servicemen) that                    
from the beginning of hostilities in Afghanistan last                 
fall, the U.S. military has been bombing villages they                
believe to be harboring, feeding or helping in any way                
al-Qaida and Taliban fighters. This form of murderous                 
collective punishment is a crime against humanity. But                
up to now, all substantive reports of ongoing war                     
crimes committed by U.S. servicemen have been shoved                  
aside by the Pentagon.                                                
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The apparent authorization for war crimes and the mass                
murder of innocent civilians by the U.S. government in                
far-off Afghanistan has instantly been taken up as an                 
excuse by other, more serious, offenders. Israeli                     
officials this week quoted President George W. Bush's                 
statement that those harboring terrorists are a                       
legitimate target, when they tried to defend the                      
killing of children in Gaza.                                          
Last weekend, during a summit with French President                   
Jacques Chirac, President Vladimir Putin also cited                   
U.S. killing of civilians in Afghanistan as an example                
that vindicated Russian actions in Chechnya.                          
Furthermore, Putin said the "terrorists are themselves                
to blame for using civilians as shields." The world,                  
led by the United States, is sinking deeper into                      
inhumanity. An International Criminal Court is being                  
established in The Hague to make the Geneva                           
conventions real, by trying war criminals of all                      
nations. But Washington is doing its best to undermine                
the ICC. With such a foe against it, it's a sure bet                  
that the ICC will fail to reverse the tide of                         
officially sponsored mass murder.                                     
But there is still hope. War crimes do not lead to                    
victory, instead they harden opposition and demoralize                
the offender's own troops. It was reported last week                  
that a number of Israeli soldiers and armed settlers                  
were arrested for selling arms and munitions to                       
Palestinians -- just what their Russian counterparts                  
have been doing for years in Chechnya.                                
The United States is getting bogged down in a                         
guerrilla war in Afghanistan allied to some of the                    
fighting factions, opposing others. Soon, U.S.                        
soldiers will surely become involved in the lucrative                 
heroin industry of Afghanistan as users and                           
traffickers -- just as happened in Vietnam. Punishment                
will come to all offenders in the end. And, in fact,                  
the ICC may be the most lenient option.                               
Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent defense analyst.                  
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