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Posts from August 2002

Cartoons! And a Labor Day break

I’ll be away from the ol’ weblog game for Labor Day weekend (which, for me, extends through Tuesday thanks to a very nice class schedule). In my absence, feel free to enjoy this editorial cartoon from 1925 and this somewhat more contemporary cartoon from Tom Tomorrow.

This One’s Going Up On My Door

Why should we suppose that what is merely necessary to life is ipso facto better than what is necessary to the study of metaphysics, useless as that study may appear? It may be that life is only worth living because it enables us to study metaphysics–is a necessary means thereto.

— G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica §28

With allies like these, who needs terrorists?

According to several reports now reaching Western media, mass graves of slaughtered prisoners have been found in the area of Dasht-e-Leili in Afghanistan [forwarded by RAWA]. The massacre was committed by forces under the control of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the notorious warlord of northern Afghanistan, the pillager of Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, and valued ally of the United States government.

After Taliban militia and al-Qaeda guerillas had surrendered at Konduz, Dostum’s troops locked prisoners into unventilated freight containers, packing about 100 to 120 in each container, loaded them up on trucks, and began a death convey towards Sheberghan prison. Truck drivers who realized what they had gotten into and tried to punch holes in the containers were savagely beaten by Dostum’s troops. The prisoners locked in the containers slowly died from suffocation and dehydration.

By the time the trucks arrived at Sheberghan prison, many were ominously quiet. Mohammed was the driver of the second truck in line, but he got down from his cab and walked into the prison courtyard as the doors of the lead truck were opened. Of the 200 or so who had been loaded into the sealed container not quite 24 hours before, none had survived. "They opened the doors and the dead bodies spilled out like fish," says Mohammed. "All their clothes were ripped and wet."

. . .

Abdul, a 28-year-old pashtun, is one who lived. NEWSWEEK interviewed him in Sheberghan prison. He recalls that his container was packed to the breaking point. After nearly 24 hours without water, Abdul says, the prisoners were so desperate with thirst that they began licking the sweat off each other’s bodies. Some prisoners began to lose their reason and started biting those around them. Abdul’s was one of the containers in the third convoy to Sheberghan: by the time they reached the prison, he says, only 20 to 30 in his container were alive.

. . .

For some, the agony in the containers was intensified because they were tied up. This appears to have been a fate reserved for Pakistani–and perhaps other non-Afghan–prisoners. Mahmood, 20, says he surrendered at Konduz along with 1,500 other Pakistanis. All were bound hand and foot either with their own turbans or with strips ripped from their clothing, he says. Then they were packed in container trucks "like cattle," he says. He reckons that about 100 people died in his container.

The drivers remain tormented by what they took part in. "Why weren’t there any United Nations people there to see the dead bodies?" asks one. "Why wasn’t anything being done?" Another driver shook uncontrollably as he spoke with NEWSWEEK.

The massacred prisoners were thrown into mass graves. From information gathered by Physicians for Human Rights and the Red Cross, well over 1,000 prisoners were slaughtered in the Death Convoy to Sheberghan.

Dostum is considered an ally of the United States in Afghanistan’s provisional regime, and at the time of these atrocities, he was actively supported by the United States Special Forces 595 A-team, commanded by Capt. Mark D. Nutsch. There is no evidence that they participated in the massacre, but a lot of evidence that they knew about it and yet did nothing, and continued to work with the butcher Dostum. Despite frequent attempts to deny all knowledge by the Defense Department, the 595 team was at the prison as the truckloads of dead prisoners were arriving, and a separate U.S. intelligence team was screening all incoming prisoners for further interrogation. Before we went in, we knew that Dostum was a butcher. While we were there, our forces had to know what was going on. Yet the US military supported his elevation to power and prestige, and has rewarded his atrocities by turning a blind eye to what he has done.

We are coming up on the first anniversary of the September 11th crime against humanity and I want to hope that we can mark the occasion as a memorial and a beckoning towards healing of the world. But when all the truth comes out about what has happened since then, when we have seen what our government has wrought at home and around the world, I fear that the crimes committed in our names will be more than we can bear.

For further reading:

  • GT 2/03/2002 He Thinks You’re An Idiot
  • GT 10/08/2001 Women of Afghanistan Fight Back Against Both Taliban and Northern Alliance

Minstrelsy for the Po’ White Trash

There is a gargantuan poster hanging in our local movie theatre of Reese Witherspoon looking a bit sassy in a very New York black turtleneck, with the words SWEET HOME ALABAMA stamped across it, advertising the upcoming motion picture from Touchstone Pictures. As soon as I saw it, I thought, Oh Lord, he we go again, another patronizing movie about the wild and wacky local color of the South. I decided not to make my full judgment until I saw the previews, though. Who knows, maybe they were doing something interesting. After all, all you can see on the poster is a huge image of Reese Witherspoon’s head.

Well, OK, I saw the trailer. Apparently this ill-conceived romantic comedy was the product of combining two premises:

  1. Intelligence and sophistication are signs of vice.
  2. Fortunately, neither of these unhappy characteristics are to be found in the South.

Reese is a stylin’ jet-set New York City fashion designer who has everything that the big city has to offer. She comes back home to her ol’ Alabammy home, surrounded by the requisite cast of crackers, rednecks, and a droopy-faced smell-hound. Along the way we have the required jokes about bugs, Civil War re-enactors, and Yankees cluelessly tramping around trying to understand the curious habits of the savage natives.

So here we go again, with a bunch of folks from New York and L.A. making yet another insulting flick in which my home state is reduced to one big expanse of cartoonish stereotypes of white country bumpkins. From what I can tell, this movie is going to have all the subtle grace and sensitivity towards its subjects as a minstrel show; Rastus and Uncle Tom and Aunt Jemima have merely been replaced by Bubba and Lurlynn and Bobby Ray.

Good News in the War on Drug Prohibition

There is good news on the electoral front in the effort to end the US‘s insane war on people who use certain kinds of drugs.

In Georgia, Bob Barr has lost his seat in Congress. Because of redistricting, Barr faced another House incumbent, Rep. John Linder, in the Republican primary, and lost in a 2/3 – 1/3 massacre. Bob Barr is one of the worst drug warriors in Congress, particularly known for his assaults on democracy in Washington DC in order to deep-six a successful medical marijuana voter initiative. A Libertarian candidate’s ad targeting Barr for his sadistic zealotry against medical marijuana may even have played a significant role in Barr’s defeat.

Across the country in Nevada, a ballot initiative will be appearing in November which could completely reshape the drug war debate in America: Nevada already has a provision for medical marijuana; Question 9 would legalize the selling of medical marijuana and completely eliminate arrests for use and possession of up to three ounces of marijuana. A victory for this initiative would represent a dramatic rollback of drug prohibition and the first major strike against the cooperation between feds and state governments in the Drug War. According to recent polling data, the initiative is in a dead heat: 48% support it, 48% oppose, and 4% are undecided. With on-going organizing and campaigning, Nevada has a very good chance of rolling back prohibition this November.

These state-by-state, grassroots victories are just what is needed to win. Medical marijuana initiatives across the country are already rolling back state restrictions and greatly taxing the resources of the DEA. As the campaign expands into more states (one, two, many Vietnams…) our low-level victories are reaching the critical mass at which the government’s ability to carry on its sadistic drug war will simply collapse. Onwards.

Take Action!

You can help Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement with a small contribution which will allow them to run hard-hitting ads in favor of the initiative in the days immediately before the vote. Your contribution will help them push their campaign over the finish line.

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