Wednesday, December 05, 2001
Egg on face time

Those eighty prisoners, were they the one's who surrendered or not? As there is no specific mention of them being the ones who surrendered I think its best to assume that they are not the same people (and the fact that the San Fransciscan boy was among them and is still very much alive).

Sorry for that.

Another take on this from one of my correspondants:

This tale is really absurd, because a single grenade, even in a confined space, would not kill or even injure 80 men. The men were presumably packed very close together, and the fatal effects of blast and shrapnel would have been absorbed before they hit those on the periphery of the group.

Feedback on Mazar.

The article on Mazar and the dubious rebellion (almost 5000 hits so far) got a few letters. Some friendly:

Yeah well, beats "Shot In The Back While Trying To Escape", doesn't it?

Most not:

The recent article posted on addressing the prison riot and subsequent killings is absolutely deplorable. It shows a lack of forethought such that anyone who objects to the killings would be doing himself or herself a disservice to refer to it in conversation or debate.

The sarcasm with which the article addresses the presence of weapons at a prison shows that the author either gave the matter no thought or has no knowledge of prisons; ALL prisons always include an armory of weapons for those who guard the inmates, so that brutal riots can be quelled if necessary. As for why anyone might surrender on the battlefield and then later attempt to escape or take up the fight once more, consider how much better the odds are when you can fight from within a fortress than when you're in a relatively open city.

People who write for always seem to run into this same problem; they always start with a conclusion and then try to fill in the path to that conclusion using convenient information. This approach is quite in contrast to that taken by most news agencies, an approach of providing the facts first and then drawing conclusions at the end. Ironically, that approach has had a lot more affect on people's opinions, while an article like the one that you published online only serves to underline the belief that your web site is somewhere out in left field instead of looking at the real world.

This chap also has a problem with sarcasm:

I don't mean to be rude about this, but even when you're writing an opinion piece you should try to base it on the facts (or what has been presented as 'fact' at least) rather than ignoring every account which does not mesh with your 'common sense'.

1) They were not being held in a prison, they were being held in the Qalai Janghi fortress--a base used by Dostum during the years of Taliban occupation of Mazar-e-Shariff. The main courtyard where the uprising apparently started was located near a weapons shack.

2) The prisoners had not been S&S'd (searched and secured) and were still carrying knives and shivs apparently.

3) The fortress itself was not secure. There were two CIA agents, fifty United Front (Northern Alliance) soldiers in addition to the general and his staff- the rest of his forces were pinning down Al-Qaeda and Taliban holdouts approximately 30 miles west of Mazar-e-Shariff.

5) The riot was apparently sparked when they began tying the hands of prisoners and leading them into interrogation, the prisoners
misinterpreted this as torture and execution, and fighting broke out.

6) There's a difference between dying in battle and managing to kill an enemy commander after being captured- both will get you martyrdom, but one will help the cause of your allies once you are gone. It is likely that some of the prisoners who were already prepared with melee weapons were waiting for an opportunity to kill Dostum & his advisors.

7) The fact that you are writing an op-ed does not give you the right to be uninformed. If you're going to consider yourself anything even approaching a journalist or an -observer with a VALID viewpoint- you should present an interpretation of the facts that effectively argues what a person did was wrong.

If you're going to accuse people of something (the massacre of prisoners) you should accuse them of it, not hint with sneering derision and sarcasm at the possibility of it. Your article was insulting to the men who died there--no matter what side they were on. People are dead, have some respect for the manner in which they died (making light of a massacre ala the "maybe this was how it happened bit" with Dostum is in poor taste, to say the least.)

You also, by the way said that there weren't any survivors- there were in excess of eighty on the side of the Taliban, and your use of the term 'survivors' is a little slanted. One CIA agent, a fair number of United Front soldiers, British Spec. Ops and American Spec. Ops also 'survived' the fighting and have -meaningful- accounts of what happened.

A concerned one-time reader that hates propagandistic material of any sort.

This was a bit less factual:

I am educated, and against the war, but your article is baseless, based on speculation, speculation can take you where your fears reside.

get a grip


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