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Eyewitness accounts of Afghan atrocities

A Nation is Dying: Afghanistan Under the Soviets, 1979-1987, by Jeri Laber and Barnett Rubin. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press. 172 pp. Hard cover $22.95. Paperback $10.95. JERI LABER, executive director of Helsinki Watch, and Barnett Rubin, a political science instructor at Yale University, use eyewitness accounts from Afghan refugees, resistance fighters, and Soviet defectors to document the wholesale slaughter of Afghans by indiscriminate bombing, reprisal killings, and executions; the destruction of the agricultural sector; and the torture of POWs and hapless citizens. One victim interviewed by the authors said Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan exceed the storied abominations of Genghis Kahn.

The Soviet strategy is to ``spread terror in the countryside so that villagers will either be afraid to assist the resistance fighters who depend on them for food and shelter or be forced to leave.''

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Children are not spared the Red Army's wrath, being ``among the most victimized in the Afghan struggle.'' Many have lost limbs when they have picked up bombs disguised as toy trucks and dolls.

Thousands of children - the lucky ones? - are packed off to Moscow for communist indoctrination and eventual return to Afghanistan. They are used as revolutionary cadres to maintain the regime in Kabul or infiltrate the resistance, sometimes as assassins.

The authors concede that ``the atrocities described in this book are so brutal, so sadistic, that the reader may very well be inclined to question their veracity.... But the accumulation of numerous independent accounts with similar and often identical details increases the weight of evidence in favor of the existence of specific patterns of abuse.''

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