CNN aired the president’s comments on Sunday as a promo for Cooper’s exclusive interview with the President in Ghana, which will air tonight at 10 PM Eastern on Monday, July 13.
The Obama administration’s step in the direction of investigation of possible war crimes stands in stark contrast to the systematic inaction and cover up by the previous administration as detailed on Saturday by James Risen in the Times.
And PHR has offered to help the administration in it data collection:
“Since Physicians for Human Rights discovered the mass grave in January 2002, we have been gathering the facts on the initial incident and the alleged cover-up of it through forensic investigation, legal action against the Bush Administration, and documentation of the chain of command,” said Nathaniel Raymond, PHR’s lead researcher in the case. “We stand ready to provide these facts to the president’s national security team and to Congress. President Obama is right to say that US and Afghan violations of the laws of war must be investigated. If the Obama Administration finds that criminal wrongdoing occurred in this case, those responsible — whether American or Afghan officials — must be prosecuted. Additionally, reports that Attorney General Eric Holder is considering appointing a prosecutor to pursue violations related to detainee abuse is a welcome and long-awaited first step to restoring our nation’s commitment to the rule of law,” said Raymond, who also directs PHR’s Campaign Against Torture.
According to US government documents obtained by PHR, as many as 2,000 surrendered Taliban fighters were reportedly suffocated in container trucks by Afghan forces operating jointly with the US in November 2001. The bodies were reportedly buried in mass graves in the Dasht-e-Leili desert near Sheberghan, Afghanistan. Notorious Afghan warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who was reportedly on the CIA payroll, is allegedly responsible for the massacre.
Excerpt from CNN interview:
ANDERSON COOPER: And now it seems clear that the Bush Administration resisted efforts to pursue investigations of an Afghan warlord named General Dostum, who was on the CIA payroll. It’s now come out, there were hundreds of Taliban prisoners under his care who got killed…
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right.
ANDERSON COOPER: …some were suffocated in a steel container, others were shot, possibly buried in mass graves. Would you support – would you call for – an investigation into possible war crimes in Afghanistan?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah, the indications that this had not been properly investigated just recently was brought to my attention. So what I’ve asked my national security team to do is to collect the facts for me that are known. And we’ll probably make a decision in terms of how to approach it once we have all the facts gathered up.
ANDERSON COOPER: But you wouldn’t resist categorically an investigation?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that, you know, there are responsibilities that all nations have even in war. And if it appears that our conduct in some way supported violations of the laws of war, then I think that, you know, we have to know about that.
For a further in-depth report, see also Democracy Now!’s discussion of the crime and the cover-up with James Risen of The New York Times and Susannah Sirkin of Physicians for Human Rights.
And finally, don’t miss PHR’s hair-raising ten minute video outlining their investigation of the mass grave at Dasht-e-Leili — and what they think needs to be done about it: