Below is an excerpt from the International Criminal Court’s 2016 preliminary examination report on potential war crimes in Afghanistan. Needless to say, it’s findings are shocking, particularly when it comes to the conduct of U.S. forces and intelligence agencies. I will let the findings speak for themselves:
211. The information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that, in the course of interrogating these detainees, and in conduct supporting those interrogations, members of the US armed forces and the US Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape. These acts are punishable under articles 8(2)(c)(i) and (ii) and 8(2)(e)(vi) of the Statute. Specifically:
- Members of US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity on the territory of Afghanistan between 1 May 2003 and 31 December 2014. The majority of the abuses are alleged to have occurred in 2003-2004.
- Members of the CIA appear to have subjected at least 27 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape on the territory of Afghanistan and other States Parties to the Statute (namely Poland, Romania and Lithuania) between December 2002 and March 2008. The majority of the abuses are alleged to have occurred in 2003-2004.
212. These alleged crimes were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals. Rather, they appear to have been committed as part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract ‘actionable intelligence’ from detainees. According to information available, the resort to such interrogation techniques was ultimately put to an end by the authorities concerned, hence the limited time-period during which the crimes allegedly occurred
So as you can see, the report makes allegations of ‘torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape’ that were not limited to ‘a few isolated individuals’, and that were carried out between 2003-2014.
Let us not forget that, alongside the anti-terrorist justification , the U.S. have long claimed to be occupying Afghanistan to build democracy, peace and respect for human rights, particularly those of women and girls. These claims have been dutifully relayed by state-corporate media. This despite the fact that there has long been evidence in the public domain of their criminal misconduct. This has taken the form of support for abusive militias, the mass killing of civilians with impunity, or wiping whole villages off the map.
This International Criminal Court preliminary report now forms part of that considerable body of evidence, encompassing both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Given the horrific nature of these allegations, how is it that some people still regard the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan as ‘the good war’, the war which is worth fighting?
As recently as August, for example, when Donald Trump announced his troop escalation in Afghanistan, a Guardian editorial said that ‘Mr Trump is right to say the US cannot turn its back on Afghanistan’. Predictably, in giving its tacit support to continued occupation, the editorial ommitted any mention of ongoing US crimes in Afghanistan
In his book of the same name, Mark Curtis talks about the concept of ‘Unpeople’. If I have understood correctly, ‘Unpeople’ are essentially those victims of war crimes and human rights abuses who don’t matter to state-corporate media and the political classes, because it’s not politically expedient for them to matter. In practice, that amounts to widespread indifference to ‘our’ victims.
What if Afghanistan itself as an ‘Uncountry’? A country that has been at war so long – pretty much continuously since the early 1980s – that you can do anything to it and its people without anyone batting an eyelid. War, brutality, wretchedness, suffering: they are considered part and parcel of life in that country. An inevitable reality.
But my contention is that war, brutality, wretchedness and suffering needn’t be part of the reality in Afghanistan. They are not inevitable. And perhaps the first step to eliminating them is exposing and challenging the states whose policies and actions knowingly contribute to such conditions.
For those of us living in NATO countries, that means ‘our’ governments, and their torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon and rape of the Afghan people.