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Net Briefs - 09-09
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The Times Remembers the Dasht-e-Leili Massacre
It is always interesting and enlightening to see the New York Times picking up a story belatedly and tracing through the reasons for its early neglect and later resuscitation. This often fits the Orwellian Big Brother principle of using a story only when it is politically helpful and suppressing it when it is inconvenient—forgetting, "and then, when it become necessary again [drawing] it back from oblivion" (1984). My favorite case was the failure of the New York Times to mention the Salvadoran army death list of 138 left-wing and liberal politicians back in 1982, when the United States was supporting a "demonstration election" there and publicizing the death list would suggest unfavorable electoral conditions, but then mentioning that list in 1989 when the left was tentatively entering an election and the paper was anxious to put that election in a good light, contrasting it with the bad old days (Lindsay Gruson, "A Fingerhold for Dissent," March 17, 1989).
Of course, examples of this and other Orwellian processes abound. An important and notorious one was the almost complete suppression of the Reagan-era alliance with and support for Saddam Hussein—weapons supply, intelligence aid during the war with Iran, agricultural loans, protections against UN condemnations or more biting actions following his use of chemical weapons—after he was transformed into "another Hitler" on August 2, 1990 (he invaded Kuwait on August 1). Again, quoting Orwell: "The Party said that Oceania [here, the United States] had never been in alliance with Eurasia [here, Iraq]. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia so short a time as four years ago." No denial in the U.S.-Iraq case, just a playing dumb about the earlier alliance along with a freshly minted intense indignation at the bad man.
Dasht-e-Leili grave—photos from Physicians for Human Rights
Another fine case can be seen in connection with the recent New York Times front-page article and editorial on the Dasht-e-Leili massacre in Afghanistan (James Risen, "U.S. Inaction Seen After Taliban P.O.W.s Died," July 11, 2009; editorial, "The Truth About Dasht-e-Leili," July 14, 2009). This case harks back to November 2001 when, as asserted in a recent (July 14) editorial, "fighters under the command of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum stuffed surrendering Taliban prisoners into metal shipping containers without food or water. Many suffocated. Guards shot others to death. The victims are believed to be buried in a grave in the desert of Dasht-i-Leili in northern Afghanistan."
The editors now denounce as a "sordid legacy" of the Bush administration its "refusal to investigate charges" of these killings. "There can be no justification for the horrors or for the willingness of the United States and Afghanistan to look the other way." But the truth of the matter is that when the Bush administration refused to "investigate charges" and "looked the other way" back in 2001 and 2002, so did the New York Times. The paper had no editorials or opinion columns on the case and only two news articles by John Burns even dealt with the Dasht-e-Leili massacre (a word that Burns doesn't apply to this case), neither published till August 2002.
In the first one, Burns mentions that "as many as 1,000 others [prisoners] died from wounds or during transport in freight containers to that notorious prison at the northern town of Sheberghan, their desperate appeals for water and fresh air denied by captors who buried them later at a mass grave near the remote village of Dasht-e-Leili." This lonely sentence seems a bit cavalier for a cruel and large-scale massacre and its insignificance is highlighted by the title of Burns's article, which featured not the killings, but the "problem" posed by prisoners to Afghan president Karzai ("Foreign Prisoners Becoming a Problem for Karzai," August 23, 2002).
A second article by Burns does focus on the massacre: "Political Realities Impeding Full Inquiry Into Afghan Atrocity" (August 29, 2002). This article, which closed out the Times' interest in this story till 2009, was surely precipitated by what was possibly the most substantial news article on the Dasht-e-Leili massacre to appear in the mainstream media—a Newsweek piece on August 26, 2002, "The Death Convoy of Afghanistan." Burns again says that "as many as 1,000" Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners may have died in this convoy, but this estimate is on the low side. (Jamie Doran, who spoke to many participants and witnesses in making his documentary, Massacre at Mazar, estimates between 3,000 and 5,000.)
Most of Burns's article is on the "political realities" that make pursuit of the case unlikely. Mostly, it's about how General Dostum is in charge in this territory and he hasn't cooperated. The UN representative for Afghanistan said that an investigation was stymied because investigators and witnesses couldn't be protected. Nowhere does Burns mention that Dostum was on the U.S. payroll or suggest that inaction flowed from a U.S. unwillingness to pursue the matter. Toward the end, Burns cites a U.S. general claiming that there had been no involvement in this atrocity by U.S. personnel and that the U.S. would only consider helping with an investigation if the Pentagon "were asked by the Kabul government" to do so. Burns does not dig any further on the relations between the U.S. and Afghan governments or the truth of the claim of U.S. non-involvement or the possible deeper reasons why the Pentagon might have dragged its feet.
Physicians for Humans Rights (PHR), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch all called attention to Dasht-e-Leili in 2001 and 2002 and PHR urged the importance of protecting the huge burial site for possible future investigation. This was not reported in the New York Times, although in its editorial of July 14, 2009, the editors rather late in the game do say "the site must be guarded and the witnesses protected."
The Times had an opportunity to look more deeply into the case when Massacre at Mazar was shown in Europe in June 2002. This documentary cited a number of witnesses testifying that U.S. Army, Special Forces, and CIA personnel were on the scene when the atrocities occurred and, at several points, seemed to be in overall command. One witness claimed that U.S. personnel urged a quick burial to avoid satellite observance. While this documentarywas shown and reported on in Europe, it was never mentioned in the U.S. mass media, including the New York Times.
Another occasion when this story surfaced occurred in March 2004, at which time the "Tipton Three" were finally released from Guantanamo after several years of incarceration and torture. This release followed British government documentation that the claims of their involvement in terrorism were based on torture-induced falsifications. While the British media were full of quotes from the released victims on the "hell" they had undergone, the four New York Times articles that mentioned this case were essentially apologetics for Guantanamo, with no details or quotes from the victims and twice as much space given to Pentagon replies than to victims' claims. Times reporters never mention that the Tipton Three were falsely accused by other prisoners, apparently based on torture, and that the Three themselves eventually gave up and "confessed," before an inquiry in Britain showed them to be innocent.
Most relevant here, none of the New York Times articles mention the Tipton Three's experiences in Northern Afghanistan and their claims about the Dasht-e-Leili massacre in which they were among the small number of barely surviving victims.
For half a decade the New York Times followed the official, Bush administration party line that sought to evade any investigation, let alone search for justice, in the Dasht-e-Leili massacre case. With each opportunity to look more closely at the subject and bring it to public attention, the Times failed to do so. The Bush administration wanted the paper to look the other way and it did, and the "sordid legacy" of George Bush is also part of the sordid legacy of the New York Times.
Why is the paper changing its tune now? The editors are open about it. They say that "the administration is pressing Mr. Karzai not to return General Dostum to power. Mr. Obama needs to order a full investigation into the massacre" (ed., July 14, 2009). Now, the editors acknowledge that back in 2001 Dostum "was on the C.I.A. payroll and his militia worked closely with United States Special Forces in the early days of the war." But seven years ago John Burns quoted a Pentagon general saying that "there is no evidence that America troops were in any way involved in what happened at Shibarghan [sic]." At that time General Dostum was doing what the Pentagon wanted him to do; now the Administration wants Dostum out of the way. And the news fit to print changes accordingly.
Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.
Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.