[News] I witnessed US war crimes in Afghanistan - for all its victims justice is due

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Sep 3 15:47:51 EDT 2021


middleeasteye.net
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/us-afghanistan-war-crimes-victims-justice>
I
witnessed US war crimes in Afghanistan - for all its victims justice is due
Moazzam Begg - September 3, 2021

Moazzam Begg is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, author of Enemy Combatant
and outreach director for UK-based campaigning organisation CAGE. Follow
him on twitter: @Moazzam_Begg - CAGE sponsored an extensive trip to the UK
in 2012 sponsoring multiple showings of *Cointelpro 101 *in events intended
to connect US violence globally and internally. - Editor

------------------------------

In the summer of 2001, I moved with my family to Afghanistan
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/tags/afghanistan> from the UK to work on a
project to build wells in drought-stricken regions of the country, and to
help set up a girls’ school in Kabul.

The Taliban, who were in charge of the country, had banned television
<https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210824-afghanistan-s-media-enters-the-unknown-under-taliban-rule>,
but a friend of mine heard on the radio that the US had been attacked. I
understood what the Pentagon was, but I had never heard about the Twin
Towers. Initially, I thought the US had been invaded by China, or even
Cuba. But the finger was soon being pointed at Osama bin Laden
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/tags/osama-bin-laden>, who was also in
Afghanistan.

It was clear to me that the Americans had no idea what they were doing, or
what the consequences of their abuses would be

Before the bombing began, I saw planes dropping leaflets from the skies,
offering bounty money for al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects. It was a strange
spectacle, and although I’d never been there, the description
<https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4388545/user-clip-snowflakes-december-chicago>
given by then-defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld - “dropping like snowflakes
in December in Chicago” - seemed apt.

At first, US warplanes bombed under cover of darkness, and I could see
Taliban anti-aircraft guns fire ineffectually into the sky. Shortly
afterwards, however, the air raids occurred during the day. I had heard
explosions during my visits to Bosnia in the 1990s, but I had never heard
any explosions like this. I learned later that the US Air Force used
15,000lb “Daisy Cutter” bombs.

I evacuated to Pakistan and remained there until early 2002, when I
was abducted
from my home
<https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2012/5/5/guantanamo-remembered-a-personal-perspective>
by CIA and Pakistani intelligence agents at gunpoint in front of my wife
and children. Bad intelligence from the UK, alongside the snowflake
leaflets, had secured my fate.
Horrific abuses

I was taken back to US detention facilities in Kandahar and Bagram, where I
remained for almost a year before being sent to Guantanamo. Several of
those held with me were Taliban members, including senior ones - but they
were not the only ones.

I witnessed horrific abuses in Bagram and saw two Afghan prisoners beaten
to death
<https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghan-prisoners-were-tortured-to-death-by-american-guards-491534.html>
by US soldiers. One was an innocent taxi driver called Dilawar.

In Bagram, I met Afghans who had even fought against the Taliban, but had
been sold for bounties amid tribal feuds. It was clear to me that the
Americans had no idea what they were doing, or what the consequences of
their abuses would be.

[image: Afghan soldiers escort Taliban prisoners released from Bagram
prison in May 2020 (AFP)]
Afghan soldiers escort Taliban prisoners released from Bagram prison in May
2020 (AFP)

A young Afghan prisoner told me that his father had been buried alive
<https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/mass-grave-discovered-northern-parwan> by
Soviet occupation forces at Bagram. In fact, the Soviets had originally
built the place used by the US military to imprison us. I’ll never forget
when the young Afghan told US interrogators: “The USSR killed my father
right in this place; do you think his son will submit to the USA?”

US soldiers I spoke to then seemed proud that they’d captured Afghanistan
in so little time. But they hadn’t read the history of this land. No one
likes invaders, but Afghans have a history of defeating them - especially
when they are the world’s most powerful forces.

And torturing people and desecrating their faith - well, that literally
seals the fate of both the resistance and the occupation.
Unwinnable war

The years of drawn-out conflict in Afghanistan proved that the US coalition
could not win. The Taliban were in their own homes while the Americans were
faraway, wishing they were home.

Those sent to Guantanamo had to undergo torture and humiliation under the
command of General Geoffrey Miller
<https://www.france24.com/en/20160218-french-judge-summons-guantanamo-chief-miller-torture-ghraib-benchellali-sassi>.
He used government-approved “enhanced interrogation techniques” to maximum
effect. Miller went on to lead detainee operations in Iraq, notably in Abu
Ghraib
<https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/04/04/472964974/it-was-torture-an-abu-ghraib-interrogator-acknowledges-horrible-mistakes>,
where infamous abuses occurred, and Camp Bucca.

<https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/afghanistan-west-taliban-seismic-shift-geopolitics>

Afghanistan: A seismic shift in geopolitics

Miller’s aim to “Gitmo-ise
<https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2004/08/tipt-a25.html>” Iraqi prisons had
devastating effects. Al-Qaeda, which moved into Iraq as a result of the US
invasion, formed the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in Camp Bucca, alongside
former Baath party members close to Saddam Hussein. ISI eventually became
the Islamic State (IS); an estimated 17 top IS leaders
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/11/-sp-isis-the-inside-story>
had been held captive in US-run prisons.

Al-Qaeda attacked the US on September 11, 2001, for many reasons. One view
is that it sought to deal such a blow that the US would not recover. Yet,
not only did the US recover, it put everything it had into trying to
destroy al-Qaeda and anyone connected to it - real or perceived.

That’s where another theory comes in: 9/11 happened so that the US would be
drawn into a war it could not win. In that regard, it seems Bin Laden got
his way.

The Taliban celebrated the departure of US troops as a clear victory, and
they weren’t alone. British military leaders, who had commanded tens of
thousands of troops in Afghanistan, were conceding
<https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/07/01/taliban-has-prevailed-afghanistan-says-former-army-head-lord/>
Taliban victory and describing them as people with a “code of honour” who
seek an “inclusive government”.
Irreversible damage

As former victims of Guantanamo and torture take leading positions in the
new Afghan government, it’s hard to conclude that the US’s standing in the
world hasn’t been irreversibly damaged. The chaos at Kabul airport
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvGLDUhHOwQ> will never be forgotten,
having already overshadowed scenes of Saigon as the US withdrew from
Vietnam.

While haunting images of the “falling man
<https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a48031/the-falling-man-tom-junod/>”
will forever be linked to the 9/11 attacks, images of three Afghans falling
from US military aircraft
<https://www.newsweek.com/afghanis-fall-us-military-plane-after-clinging-wing-shocking-video-1619589>
at the Kabul airport will be engraved in our collective memory of the US’s
end in Afghanistan.

But that’s not all: even as the chaotic evacuation proceeded, more than 160
Afghans and 13 US soldiers were killed in an airport attack
<https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/u-s-troops-killed-in-kabul-airport-attack-identified-1.6157253?cmp=rss>
carried out by IS-Khorasan. At some point, US leaders must come to terms
with the fact that 28 Taliban soldiers died
<https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/27/us-braces-for-more-possible-attacks-after-deadly-kabul-blasts>
while guarding the US perimeter and the civilians and soldiers within it -
and so must the Taliban.

The Times describes Bagram as 'the scene of some of the darkest episodes of
the US-led occupation'. But to me, it's the scene of countless unresolved
war crimes, and I'm an eyewitness

It took two decades, thousands of deaths, trillions of dollars and the
destruction of the US’s reputation to conclude that negotiations were
possible. But there must also be a reckoning.

As Kabul fell to the Taliban, so did Bagram prison. As a former prisoner of
this place, it’s hard to describe the emotions I felt at hearing this news.
The Times describes
<https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/bagrams-new-taliban-masters-uncover-horrors-of-us-jail-l028tdzxg>
Bagram as “the scene of some of the darkest episodes of the US-led
occupation”. But to me, it’s the scene of countless unresolved war crimes,
and I’m an eyewitness. It is regarding those crimes that I gave testimony
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/icc-dead-us-america-declares-war-international-justice>
to the International Criminal Court, and for which the US government
threatened to prosecute its members.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the war on terror, my organisation, CAGE,
is launching the International Witness Campaign
<https://www.20yearsofwar.com/> (IWC) alongside 40 international
organisations that bring together former prisoners, former soldiers,
academics and campaigners to discuss, document and divulge to the public
our collective analyses and experiences of this historic moment.

The US’s literal parting shot to Afghanistan was a drone strike
<https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/29/asia/afghanistan-kabul-evacuation-intl/index.html>
in retaliation for the airport attack. It killed 10 members of one family,
including seven children. The IWC will assess the impacts of war on
millions of people. It’s not something I’m looking forward to, but if our
governments fail to learn lessons, the rest of us are left with the task of
reminding them.

*The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not
necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.*
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