Parvan Prison Guantanamo 53


Any Americans who thought their country was hard up for cash because of Obama’s deep welfare cuts can be happy to know that the USA still has huge amounts of money to spare. $100 million of US taxpayers’ cash is being spent on building a new Guantanamo for 2,000 political prisoners near Baghram airport, Afghanistan.

Baghram was of course already a notorious torture black site for the CIA, and there was a regular transport of prisomers between Baghram and Tashkent when I was British Ambassador in Uzbekistan. None, I believe, of the prisoners transferred by the CIA into Tashkent from Baghram has survived to tell their story.

The site of the new Obamamo complex is actually on the battlefield of Parvan, where the Emir Dost Mohammed defeated the British on November 2 1840. Alexander Burnes was present at the battle, at which his close friend and travelling companion Dr Percival Lord and another friend Lt James Broadfoot were killed. After the British had occupied Kabul a year earlier and installed a pupper ruler, the Emir of Kabul Dost Mohammed had originally fled to Bukhara, where he had been held prisoner by the mad ruler Nasrulla. Eventually escaping, he had raised a largely Uzbek force in Kunduz, but this had been dispersed by a British attack. Wandering with only a few hundred followers, at Parvan he encountered the large British force under General Bob Sale which had been sent out to find him.

The approach of Sale’s army had seen the local tribes abandon their villages and take to the hills, where they made hostile demonstrations and took long shots with their jezzails. But these locals were not really a part of the battle. Two squadrons of the 2nd Bengal Cavalry became detached on the right of the British advance, after a planned sweep went still wider to avoid fire from a fort in which a local chief had taken refuge. Seeing his chance, Dost Mohammed with 200 irregular cavalry swept down on the 2nd Cavalry. Numbers each side were about equal, but when the British officers of the 2nd Bengal Cavalry charged, they found almost all their men had panicked and routed, even running down and killing and wounding some of their own side coming up to support, including horse artillery. Seven British officers and about a dozen of their men completed the charge, and all were killed or severely wounded.

Afghan historians claim the battle of Parvan was a much more general affair with thousands engaged each side, but British military records do not bear this interpretation out – there just are not the causalties or use of supplies this would entail. Burnes was with Sale and saw his friends’ disaster from a distance. Precisely one year later he was himself to be killed, alongside James Broadfoot’s brother William and his own brother Charlie.

After his cavalry charge, Dost Mohammed rode on through the night and, considering honour satisfied, the next evening surrendered himself in Kabul to the British authorities.

For America to be building a new Guantanamo is terrible enough. To be building it on Parvan – which has strong associations for Afghans in their national history – is crass.


53 thoughts on “Parvan Prison Guantanamo

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  • Uzbek in the UK

    And to add to these all, it seems that the real victim of this crime has been forgotten or ignored at least. What about off duty policeman? Has he had any rights? He was shot while trying to defend homeless victim of gang attack (something that goes unpunished quite often). People like some on this blog who turned this purely criminal case into white man vs black man are to blame for injustice (if it has taken place).

  • alexno

    JG

    “If the US is building another prison-camp like Guantanamo in Afghanistan they are there for the long haul, and extraordinary rendition will become an increasingly present part of US NIMBY policy.”

    You’ve not noticed what’s happening in Iraq? All that investment in bases is going down the drain. Apart from the famous embassy which cost so much, the rest is being closed. I heard last week that Camp Victory, the main base at the Baghdad Airport, is already closed.

  • Quelcrime

    Uzbek
    .
    What about off duty policeman? Has he had any rights?
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    It certainly looks as though he has not had the right to have his true killer ‘brought to justice’. What rights did you have in mind?

  • Quelcrime

    Let no-one forget Camp Bondsteel, still gracing ‘independent’ (ha ha) Kosovo. How long before the Libyan prisons we’ve seen pictures of come back into service for their new Yankee overlords?

    Obama used to make persuasive speeches, but now he’s just reciting arsedribble, for want of a better word. Did he write it himself? Does he believe this shit makes sense? I’m starting to suspect Cameron is actually thick enough to believe his own lies, but I wonder about Obama.

  • John Goss

    Uzbek in the UK. Nobody’s suggesting that the rights of the policeman who was shot should be ignored. (Though some of his family members were apparently smiling following the execution – how can anyone smile after witnessing such an act?) As Nuid suggested Sylvester Coles is the likely murderer of the policeman and one of the two witnesses who did not change his testimony against Troy Davis. So why execute someone when there is so much doubt? My guess is racism. Nathan Deal, governor of Georgia, is a white supremacist.
    .
    I am opposed to capital punishment, and have good reason. Furthermore it degrades the state. I am also opposed to the shooting of anyone, policeman or otherwise. Davis did get a trial. That’s true. The question is whether it was fair or not. But when the US builds its expensive gulag in Afghanistan, the likes of Troy Davis, and many other people considered undesirable, may well be rendered there in order to prevent terrorism; and never heard of again.
    .

  • nuid

    “What about off duty policeman? Has he had any rights? He was shot while trying to defend homeless victim”
    .
    Of course, but how do you restore his rights by putting a (probably) innocent man to death? What if Sylvester Coles was the real killer?
    And how do you teach people that murder is wrong by using State sanctioned murder in cold blood? The death penalty has been put aside in law or in practise by over 2/3 of the countries in the world. For good reason. As long as it exists, innocent people will be put to death.
    139 people put on Death Row in the USA have been later exonerated. Some posthumously. http://t.co/laTf89Bj

  • Levantine

    Being only superficially acquainted with the case, I’m asking myself – What was the purpose of allowing this execution, what do the powers that be mean to achieve by that?
    Is it to send an unspoken message that the USA regime is authoritarian and merciless? Is that it??

  • glenn

    Levantine – apart from showing what a hardass the state Governor is, because that sort of thing goes down _really_ well with the voters, it’s because the system is almost unstoppable once it gets underway with a capital conviction. The system makes very sure white people don’t get such a conviction – especially if they have money. Even black people with sufficient money will not be executed.
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    You need to see the giddy enthusiasm for executions in these “Bible-belt” states – not to mention the sheer racism – which results in approval for executing blacks on general principles, never mind whether the individual actually committed a crime.
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    The worst thing for a Republican governor would be to get called “soft on crime”, perhaps by recognising that a convict is in fact innocent. Bragging that you never spent even ten minutes looking at an appeal is a big plus – a boast George “Dubbya” Bush made. Rick “good hair” Perry has executed 234 prisoners as Texas Governor, and boasts he never lost a wink of sleep about it – that made him a darling to the teabagger/Republican audience in the recent primary debates.
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    It’s a blood-thirsty country, where the answer to any problem is “Kill them. Kill them all. Even if they didn’t do it, kill them anyway, just in case.” You see it in their foreign policy too.

  • John Goss

    And what’s more, Glenn, this “kill them anyway” attitude can be a stepping-stone to presidency. They used to say that cream comes to the top but it’s actually the scum.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Glenn, yes, these are excellent points you’ve made, I feel.
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    I know this is an area gone over ad infinitum, but let’s reiterate:

    1) Capital punishment is morally wrong.
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    2) Capital punishment does not reduce the murder rate.
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    3) Capital punishment often mistakenly -a dn for thr reasons Glenn suggests – kills the wrong person and lets the guilty party off completely free to roam the streets and do it again.
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    4) I agree with Uzbek in the UK that murderers should be incarcerated for a very long time and sometimes for the span of their natural lives. They ought certainly to receive much longer sentences than those who damage property, etc. Although he was talkinmg about a different crime, Kenneth Clark in principle and practice was right, that every murder – as does every crime – comes with a unique set of circumstances and it is for the judge to decide in an individual case. So, in some cases, it should be 30 years, in others, where perhaps there are mitigating circumstances (eg. wife who poisons abusive husband after many years of suffering), it could be less.
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    5) Capital punishment brutalises a society even more than it is already brutalised.
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    6) Physicians should have NO part in capital punishment.
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    7) Even the drug companies which made/make the lethal drugs are ceasing production. So, the USA will revert en masse to shooting, electrocution, hanging.
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    8) I do not agree with capital punishment in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the USA or anywhere.
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    9) In France, they used to cut off people’s heads until 1981, when Mitterand abolished capital punishment.
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    10) I don’t care how evil a person – so, lock him up and throw away the key! But if we, the people, murder him, we are the same as he.
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    11) There is most definitely an institutionally racist component to sentencing in the USA – the prisons are full of black men. Well, it’s the economic system over many generations and the destruction of liberatory organisations, the murder of progressive leaders, the co-opting of the liberal black leaders and so on. History with which we all are familiar. Blacks were and are targeted like no other group in the USA. Black President or no, this remains the normative, structural position.
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    12) Capital punishment was abolished in the UK partly on account of the execution of the wrong – a completely innocent – man in place of a mass murderer, Reginald Christie. if cap. pun. had not been abolished, the Guildford Four, the Whatsit Seven and so on would all be dead. The real culprits would be free. The victims and thir families would have had even less justice than they got.
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    Oh, there’s more. What’s the point? The state kills outwith and within. It is to be expected. It goes on as it always has.

  • John Goss

    Suhayl, your last point is probably the strongest. So many errors. So many false convictions. This may not be true of all capital punishments, the percentage may be smallish, but it is significant.
    .
    This Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia is a nasty piece of work. He is so racist he was the one who questioned Obama’s credentials as a US citizen, and passed an immigration bill supported by the KKK. I need to get the lowdown on him. But the truth is with all these nasties it needs a good investigative journalist to prove his affiliation. I don’t have the resources but I’d be impressed if others on Craig’s blog could come up with something not in the general domain. He’s on Facebook, apparently, so I’m going to ask him if he is a member of the KKK.

  • John Goss

    I couldn’t contact Nathan Deal on Facebook because he is a public figure. His Facebook account does not show him to be overtly racist, though he is. He won his election on a racist platform, has showed himself to be racist, and last night had a possibly innocent man put to death because to racists non-whites have no rights, human or otherwise.

  • John Goss

    I meant “that to racists non-whites (in general) in the state of Georgia have no rights”. It’s so easy to fall into the trap that racists are white. Sorry.

  • glenn

    John Goss: I’ll see what’s around on that Governor. Got until 29/9 to post it – watch this space.
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    Suhayl: I’m surprised you think capital punishment in China, Iran etc. is somehow “cool” with that sun-glasses smiley you put down. It’s not “cool” anywhere.
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    *
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    BBC’s Question Time tonight had various numbskulls pop up to say that the death penalty was “a deterrent”. Quite how it acted as a deterrent nobody found the time to explain, and fortunately nobody questioned this conventional wisdom either.
    .
    Does the DP deter people from murder? Of course not, or DP enthusiasts would be waving the evidence all over the place. They don’t, because no such evidence exists.
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    Do DP states have lower murder rates than non-DP states? Absolutely not! Does the introduction of the DP lower the murder rate? Err… no. Does abolishing the DP accompany a sudden rise in murders? Err… no.
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    There are basically three types of murderer:
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    1 – The premeditated killer who thinks they are going to get away with it.
    2 – The “passion of the moment” killer, who doesn’t consider what they are doing.
    3 – The psychopath was doesn’t know or care that they are doing wrong.
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    Which of the above would a DP deter? The arguably closest is (1), who we are supposed to presume reasons, “I don’t mind doing life in jail, but I don’t want to be put to death, so I won’t murder this person.”
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    Why is this “deterrent” argument given the time of day, less still assumed to be a given?
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    (Suhayl – I was of course kidding about your point 8. Make a note – don’t put down any series of characters that might be interpreted in txt as an expression 😉

  • John Goss

    Thanks Glenn. And you’re right about the death penalty not being a deterrent. I would however add a 4th and 5th type of murder (unless the 4th can be entered into the 2nd).

    4. Self defence.
    5. Murder by armed forces.

    Sadly people are rarely brought to justice on this last one.

  • nuid

    Troy Davis was actually killed by a private company called “Correct Health”. (Only in America)
    .
    They can be found here {http://www.correcthealth.org/} and here
    {http://twitter.com/#!/correcthealth}
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    if you want to give them a piece of your mind …
    .
    “Troy Davis v the US criminal justice system: an unfair contest” by Sophie Walker at the Guardian:
    http://gu.com/p/325vj/tw

  • John Goss

    Anon. Prochenkov’s photographs are very good, and his story is somewhat different from our common beliefs. The officials (local militia) did not want him to take photographs of the cotton fields, and the children in them, because these are used to accuse Uzbekistan of exploitation and child labour, when they are school-children picking cotton in their holidays. Hmm. I used to pick potatoes in my school holidays for 10 shillings a week.

    The people do not look undernourished. Hmm.

    It doesn’t stop Karimov from being a dictator, with a nasty reputation.

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