Dutch crimes-against-humanity investigators have published a list of 5,000 names of Afghans (out of tens of thousands) summarily executed by the Communist government between their April 1978 coup and the December 1979 Soviet invasion. The wave of executions was launched in response to a massive rebellion against the new government, in which 40,000 troops defected to the jihadists and rebels. Many of the victims of this Terror were given one-word charges, according to the documents, and buried alive in mass graves, according to soldiers who took part. The release of the names has provoked a huge reaction (of many emotions) this month, particularly since many senior ex-Communists are in the current government.
A while back I posted the story of the experiences of the Soviet cosmonauts who were in space as the Soviet Union was breaking up.
While that was a pretty extreme situation, I just came across this article from 1997 about Soviet military units deployed in the non-Russian republics of the USSR (the “Near Abroad”) as it was breaking up. What were they supposed to do: withdraw immediately — hold in place? It was a logistical and political nightmare.
In many cases, ethnically Russian Soviet troops suddenly found themselves under Russian national command hundreds if not thousands of miles outside of the new country they were serving. Some units immediately started marching and driving back toward Russia, overland, abandoning in place any equipment they couldn’t take with them. Other units found themselves completely cut off and trapped in deployment locations as long-dormant ethno-religious and political conflicts broke out around them.
18 years later, Dutch UN Peacekeepers who served at Srebenica have been found liable by the Dutch Supreme Court for having ordered refugee men and boys out of the sanctuary of their base and into the waiting ranks of the Serb paramilitaries outside who then massacred them. Although their non-Dutch UN commanders gave the orders, the Court found they should not have followed the orders and that the Dutch government and commanders back home could have and should have intervened. The liability finding means the Netherlands will have to pay reparations to victim families in Bosnia. Meanwhile, in a just irony, the paramilitary commander who led the massacres is on trial now in the Hague (also in the Netherlands).
New revelations in the dormant Pat-Roberton-used-to-mine-conflict-diamonds-with-Charles-Taylor scandal. It was already known that he had used religious funds for an illegal blood diamond mining operation in Liberia (after President Taylor was indicted by the UN for war crimes!), but there was less evidence regarding longstanding allegations about his operations in the DR Congo. Now humanitarian mission air pilots from the Rwanda mission are coming forward to confirm that he was diverting planes from Rwandan Genocide aid efforts to carry mining equipment into the Congo. To give credit where it’s due, as I noted in my 2010 piece linked above, local Virginia reporters had figured a lot of this out as early as 1999 but there wasn’t as much evidence to confirm they were on the right track and also no one pays attention to local news unfortunately. The new information from the pilots and others also tells us used a failed farm in the Congo as a cover for the donations he was raising and diverting into mining.
The State of Virginia continues to refuse to investigate because he has consistently made huge donations to GOP candidates for attorney general.
Image via NYT.
It just occurred to me that the Soviet/Russian space program was flying active missions to the Mir space station during the entire collapse of the Soviet Union over the course of 1991, so I decided to do some research to see how that played out.
It must have been totally insane experiencing your home country’s collapse and dissolution from space.
It can be tough to criticize the liberators, the people who stop a genocide. They are heroes to many, and it’s easy to disregard the people who disagree as the oppressors. Hell, it took us long time in the United States to begin coming to terms with some of the inhuman military actions we took in World War II while liberating Europe and Asia from brutal, genocidal regimes. Rarely are the liberators perfect or unsullied.
In late October 1990, the “Rwandan Patriotic Front,” a ethnic Tutsi minority rebel army suddenly stormed the Rwandan border from Uganda. Once the invasion began Uganda felt compelled to support it. The rebels were largely Rwandan only by parentage and were seeking the right of return and political control of the country after what they saw as decades of injustice by the Hutu majority in the post-colonial period. The authoritarian Hutu-controlled government of Rwanda went into a state of emergency and began crackdowns and reprisals, and elite Zairian and French troops quickly arrived to back the Hutu government. The invasion was a failure and the rebels retreated, with their leadership disintegrating especially as Uganda’s government arrested some of them. Another RPF leader, Major Paul Kagame, was immediately recalled from the United States, where he had been receiving extensive military training during the preceding months, and he took command, planning out a guerrilla long-war strategy. By 1992, the Rwandan regime had been forced to enter a cease-fire settlement with the rebels, although the rebels remained in a weak position. After several months the RPF invaded again because the government was allegedly conducting “small” massacres, but French troops arrived again to arm and support the regime, which ended the invasion and resulted in another cease-fire, this time with UN peacekeepers and a plan for power-sharing. It must be noted that well over a million Hutu civilians had become displaced during the conflict due to RPF massacres.
In April 1994, the presidential plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile of unknown source and the Hutu generals initiated a violent coup within hours and began political purges. Within days, the general massacres of Tutsi civilians were rolling along as the Hutu hardliners had planned for months, and around a dozen Belgian UN troops were killed, prompting Western nations to send in rescue troops to evacuate all their personnel, leaving the ordinary Tutsis (and moderate Hutus) to their fate. Over the course of the next three months, the Rwandan military and an extremist militia committed systematic genocide, killing one person approximately every five minutes on average. (The final victim count was estimated at 800,000 to well over a million. The RPF puts the figure at 937,000).