Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"If they run, they're VC. If they don't run, they're well-disciplined VC"

Most of the news out of Afghanistan is depressing and occasionally enraging, but when I see Seymour Hersh's byline attached to a story, I make sure to read it even though I know it will probably be both depressing and enraging. This story is no exception. It seems "the good guys" are now executing prisoners on the battlefield, or at least that is the story that has been relayed to Hersh by U.S. troops.
I won't argue that Hersh is infallible -- no one is -- but he is one of the best reporters working today and his track record from My Lai to Abu Ghraib is pretty impressive.

This isn't a story, at least not yet. This comes from a talk Hersh gave at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva on April 24, 2010.

HERSH: The purpose of my [Abu Ghraib] stories was to take it out of the field and into the White House. It's not that the President or the Secretary of Defense Mr. Rumsfeld, or Bush, or Cheney, it's not that they knew what happened in Abu Ghraib. It's that they had allowed this kind of activity to happen.
And I'll tell you right now, one of the great tragedies of my country is that Mr. Obama is looking the other way, because equally horrible things are happening to prisoners, to those we capture in Afghanistan. They're being executed on the battlefield. It's unbelievable stuff going on there that doesn't necessarily get reported. Things don't change. 
What they've done in the field now is, they tell the troops, you have to make a determination within a day or two or so whether or not the prisoners you have, the detainees, are Taliban. You must extract whatever tactical intelligence you can get, as opposed to strategic, long-range intelligence, immediately. And if you cannot conclude they're Taliban, you must turn them free. What it means is, and I've been told this anecdotally by five or six different people, battlefield executions are taking place. Well, if they can't prove they're Taliban, bam. If we don't do it ourselves, we turn them over to the nearby Afghan troops and by the time we walk three feet the bullets are flying. And that's going on now.

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