Magazine article The Nation

Annals of the Freedom Fighters

Magazine article The Nation

Annals of the Freedom Fighters

Article excerpt

Annals of the Freedom Fighters

"Soon after the offensive at Jalalabad began March 7, there were reports of government troops being slaughtered after they surrendered or were captured. In one case, as Western journalists watched, a truckload of prisoners being escorted by relatively moderate rebels was stopped by extremists who casually shot the captives to death." This was Mark Fineman of the Los Angeles Times, in a dispatch from Afghanistan published on May 22. Fineman's reporting has been outstanding.

Here's another report: "A motor column was supposed to bring dozens of women, children and old people from Jalalabad to Kabul. The buses and trucks were stopped by 'a band of Afghan extremists' led by Saudi Arabian advisers. The drivers were lined up on the shoulder of the highway and shot. Small children were held up by their hair, shot in the face and their corpses thrown into Kabul River. Pretty women from the convoy were dragged off into the mountains by the rebels. The rest of the refugees were shot on the spot."

The West German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung of April 18 relays this eyewitness account initially reported by Tass, I read the quotation in Workers Vanguard, which makes it all thirdhand, relayed through Commies of varying stripe, kidney and complexion. Who'd believe Commies when we have several years' worth of Western reports depicting your average member of the mujahedeen as Warren Beatty with a towel round his head, a Doonesbury anthology in his backpack and the Geneva Convention's prescriptions for treatment of prisoners committed to memory.

After years of trumpeting the mujahedeen's valor and popularity, some members of the U.S. press corps have been turning in creditable performances. John Kifner and even John E. Burns of The New York Times have done well. Indeed it was Burns who early on, at a moment when most newsrooms had Najibullah practically in the air and fleeing to Moscow, hinted that maybe the P.D.P.A. was stronger and the mujahedeen less puissant than commonly supposed.

Why has reporting become more forthright? After all, the United States continues to shovel money into Islamabad to finance Pakistan's invasion of Afghanistan, so by generally accepted accounting principles for state-influenced journalism, the U.S. press should still be loyally hailing the mujahedeen. It may be that these Western journalists, in their adventures through Kabul and Jalalabad and on the enormously risky helicopter trips between the two, have been under intense bombardment by the mujahedeen and have observed their missiles slaying, wounding and rendering homeless many civilians. Indiscriminate bombardment tends to concentrate reporters' minds, particularly if they are on the receiving end. …

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