Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Oops, Our Bad

Among the worst Orwellian deceptions being exposed by the Pentagon’s Marjah offensive is the ludicrous notion that we’re fighting a war in Afghanistan in order to protect Afghan civilians. The recent U.S. Special Forces air strike in the Marjah area that killed 27 or more civilians, including four women and a child, is a prime example of a cognitive disconnect that has been endemic in U.S. military operations throughout our misnamed war on terrorism.

The Feb. 21 air strike occurred in an area under Dutch control. The Dutch are durn-burnit het up about that, because the day before, the Dutch government collapsed over an initiative to extend the deployment of the country’s 2,000 troops in Afghanistan. (We could learn something from the Dutch on how to throw a peace movement, couldn’t we?)

A Dutch Defense Ministry spokesmodel, who talked to the press at the Hague on what the New York Times described as "customary anonymity," said it wasn’t any Dutch boy who called in that air strike. The Dutch Defense Dude wouldn’t say who did call in the air strike, and unidentified NATO officials didn’t say who ordered the strike in either. Sadly, it’s just possible that nobody knows who called in the air strike. If that’s the case, though, the operations types running the show over there are bigger screw-ups than I thought they were, and I already thought they were colossal screw-ups.

The NATO officials did, however, release a statement that said, "After the joint ground force arrived at the scene and found women and children, they transported the wounded to medical treatment facilities." It’s a good thing the NATO guys made sure everybody knows they took care of the civilians they wounded; otherwise, the Afghans might have gotten mad about all the civilians they killed.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head hatter of the Marjah madness, expressed his "sorrow and regret" over the civilian deaths to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. This happened moments after McChrystal won two out of three falls from a crocodile in a crying contest. Dead civilians? Oops, my bad.

McChrystal’s been wearing a bleeding-heart mask ever since his confirmation hearing in June 2009 when he fed the Senate Armed Services Committee that line of coke about how "the measure of effectiveness will not be enemy killed. It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence." McChrystal then turned around and, in his first major action as commander in Afghanistan, launched an offensive in Kandahar province designed to kill the enemy.

The Pentagon (i.e., Gen. David Petraeus and his minions) sold McChrystal to the Senate as a counterinsurgency expert. McChrystal was and is nothing of the kind. From 2003 to 2008, he commanded the Joint Special Operations Command, the super secret outfit that reported directly to Dick Cheney and that specialized in targeting, tracking, and assassinating suspected terrorists in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

You can bet a shiny new Missouri quarter that for the five years Stan the Man and his Howling Commandos were running amok in the west end of Asia they whacked a whole lot of mommies and babies more or less by mistake. McChrystal has more blood on his hands than Lady Macbeth. His apology to Karzai for the recent collateral deaths, like his confirmation hearing statement about protecting Afghan civilians, was a talking point crafted for him by the likes of Rear Adm. Gregory "Word" Smith, a career bull-feather merchant who is now McChrystal’s propaganda czar.

Smith no doubt had a lot to do with fabricating the "tactical directive" McChrystal promulgated in June 2009 that ordered a "new operational standard" to "minimize the use of deadly force" as a measure to protect Afghan civilians. Smith briefed the press that not only would McChrystal cut back the air strikes, but ground troops would refrain from "firing on structures where insurgents may have taken refuge among civilians" unless, of course, "Western or allied troops are in imminent danger."

The assertion made by Smith and other war merchants that we can separate the "enemy from the people" in a scenario like the one we have in Afghanistan is hallucinatory. The Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan didn’t invade the country. There may or may not be foreign fighters in theater looking for an opportunity to sock it to Uncle Sam’s infidels, but this insurgency, like pretty much all insurgencies, is a home-based enterprise. What’s more, just about everybody in Afghanistan and Pakistan is related to somebody who totes a gun for the guerillas, so separating the "civilians" from the insurgents would involve splitting genetic material. As one Pentagon planner has aptly noted, “It’s harder to separate the enemy from the people when they are the people.”

Hence, when you bump against insurgents, you bulldoze civilians, and if the insurgents are fighting you, you are bound by the U.S. Standing Rules of Engagement that command you to defend yourself and your unit. And if you’re in danger, which you are the moment you’re in a firefight you can’t withdraw from, you call in an air strike to bail you out of it.

So the June 2009 order to limit air strikes didn’t limit air strikes at all. In fact, at the time the directive was issued, one of McChrystal’s advisers said the order didn’t mean the use of air power would be reduced. It just meant, as the Los Angeles Times related, that the "emphasis" would be on "protecting civilians rather than killing insurgents."

What kind of air strike emphasizes protecting civilians? The kind that drops leaflets that say "Have a Nice Day" in Pashto? And if the emphasis of an air strike isn’t to kill insurgents, why call it in to begin with?

McChrystal has now issued a new directive that will, as the Boston Globe puts it, "limit night raids on civilians." What in the wide world of sports are they conducting night raids on civilians for? McChrystal says, "We didn’t understand what a cultural line it was" to burst into civilian Muslims’ homes. We’ve been busting into Muslims’ homes for nearly a decade now to disastrous results. How could McChrystal or anyone not understand what a cultural line it is to cross? How could anyone not understand what a line it is to cross in any culture? Does McChrystal think maybe the Jews in Berlin liked it when the Gestapo kicked their doors in? Will Americans like it when Chinese bill collectors come for their high-definition TVs and bargain barn furniture?

Like the directive on air strikes, the directive on night raids is classified so we can’t see what it actually says, but Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a NATO spokesmodel, tells us it "does not limit the ability of troops to operate." It’s just that the emphasis of raiding civilian’s homes will now be to protect the civilians who live in them, not to kill insurgents.

It’s entirely possible that the personality disorders with life-support systems that run our military truly believe the lies they tell us, but that doesn’t excuse them. It merely makes them pathological liars, along with the other malignant things they are.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. The price tag is 2K$ per child in compensation.
    Drones have no heart, and no soul.
    The idea of winning hearts and minds in AF/PAK is long gone.

  2. Thanks for the "per pop" info, RZ.

  3. Dept of Hearts and Minds strikes again, smearing them around liberally from high up and out of reach using surgically precise bombs.

    A rifle would have been more accurate, but hey, what's just a few more $K for the collateral damage on civilians when one of god's own US soldiers is unharmed?

    Luckily the Afghani Muj and their types and their assigns have proven to have a preference for being a peaceful and forgiving people, with little memory and virtually no means of global retribution.

    Or so they still tell us on TV.

  4. Hi, Jeff. I think these guys are living in an alternative reality, one where, after letting the Taliban know where the "offensive" was going to take place, thus allowing them ample time to get prepared and thoroughly pepper Marjah with IED's, they now raise the Afghanistan flag over it and say it's secure. Fortunately, no "Mission Accomplished" banner accompanied it - not that I noticed, anyway.

    People left in droves, those who could, anyway. Those who couldn't started to starve after a few days. I don't know how many who left will now become permanent refugees or IDP's.

    But what is this NONSENSE (sorry for the yelly capitals) about broadcasting the plans for Kandahar months ahead of time? Who in their right minds would give their opponents not only their next step but also a schedule?

    Wow! Months worth of time to go on an IED spree. I'm sorry, but these people are completely and totally NUTS.

    Your mention of the "Have a Nice Day" leaflets in Pashto delivered by airdrop had an echo in TomDispatch today (great minds, and all that...).

    How to Fight a Better War (Next Time)
    Three Fixes for the American Way of War

    Pared down to the essentials, they are:
    1 - Make apologies in advance for the death and destruction, perhaps by leaflet
    2 - Pre-Build the Bases, Prisons, and Embassy Complexes (no fuss, no muss, no waiting)
    3 - Pick the Right Natives (you know, the ones who can fight, i.e the Taliban, rather than the ones who can't, i.e. the ANA.

    There is a fourth way, of course, that of no war. (Hah! He's just kidding!)

    As "summer fighting season" starts (sounds innocuous, doesn't it, like baseball season), I'm afraid the planes full of dead Canandian soldiers, most of whom are in Kandahar, will be flying over here day after day toward CFB Trenton. I predict nightmares.

    (By the way, the serial rapist and murderer, Col. Williams, who used to command the base has been replaced. He now spends his days awaiting trial in segregation in an overcrowded detention centre, wearing an orange jumpsuit and having chats with the prison chaplain.)

  5. Nice to see that I am not the only one who reads Tom Dispatch. His latest is very good indeed.
    The idea of "up front" apologies is almost funny.
    His fourth solution, is, of course the very best idea yet. No more wars!
    I agree with those who posted above, the clowns who are running the show do live in some alternate universe. As Mr. Raimondo at Antiwar.com has said many times since 9/11. We are in some "bizzaro" universe now, where up is down, etc.
    As to letting the "bad guys" know where and maybe even when, we will launch the new offensive, I see a twisted logic there. If we let them know where we will mass our troops, then they can prepare for a good, long fight. This just keeps the damn fool war going that much longer and plays into the main goal. This war is never supposed to end. Endless wars for endless profits. So, it is required that we notify the other side as to when and where the next "act" in this sick theater will take place.
    Just my 2 cents worth.

  6. Charlie: RE "when and where the next "act" in this sick theater will take place."
    I am sure we have seen the chatter that Kandahar is the next target, just as some of us thought.
    The "build up" for this assault will take months.
    Unfortunately I suggest they take a lot of body bags. Over 1 million people live in this Taliban stronghold.
    How will they justify this? How will they explain to the families of our dead soldiers of why their loved ones died. Before one more soldier dies.
    WHY-WHY-WHY-WHY ! ! !
    It is high time that Obama is questioned about his actions. The so called "left" is not doing their job.

  7. Charlie and RZ - the war-without-end scenario is looking more and more likely. Someone suggested that it might take - ready for it? - 81 years to prepare Afghan army and police to take over. (I know - I should have bookmarked it.) Apart from the near three-generation span, why the "one" in eighty-one?

    Odierno is looking to expand his empire in Iraq as well, saying that maybe he won't be able to leave by August, what with the violence and all. He's doing a McChrystal - dictating the conditions instead of - gasp - taking orders. I saw a video of him the other day. He looks all rested and shiny, almost sleek, as if he spends his days in a spa. I don't even want to think about that.

  8. Anonymous7:46 PM

    The Iraq surge was a total success!!

    It spent the money.

    It put the US deeper in debt with nothing to show for that debt.

    Betrayus and Cheney did not need mention it was only good for a year, then you all will have forgot it was so expensive and so fleeting.

    That is what psywar is for so you all forget it is your patriotic duty to bankrupt the US, and keep a few very rich.


  9. EdNSted9:38 AM

    From a purely practical standpoint, I have to wonder to what extent and duration our nation can economically sustain the burdens that the expanded 'forever war' approach imposes. Will the wisdom of Sun Tzu prevail once again?

    On second thought, we probably don't need to worry about that. We've still got checks left...

  10. Petraeus was in Ottawa talking to his military buddies yesterday.

    His speech seemed to be strung together bit of clichés, bafflegab and bullroar.

    Oh, please read the article. I can't stand keeping this one to myself.

    Afghan Mission turning a corner, Petraeus says

    Even if you don't read the article, have a look at this picture.

    It looks like Petraeus and Natynczyk are about to go into a clinch.

    My favourite quote?

    "“Having worked hard this past year to get the inputs right...[n]ow [the International Security Assistance Force] and its Afghan partners can start to see the progress that is possible.”

    What is that supposed to mean?

  11. I almost forgot. Petraeus has added another clock to the many clocks ticking away on this one.

    “There's an Afghan clock, a Washington clock, an Ottawa clock and a lot of other clocks out there...

    Does anyone know what time it is?

  12. Patreus can have all the clocks he wants.
    The Taliban and the Afghans have the time.

  13. Your scalpel is as sharp as ever. May you continue to slice and dice on all our behalves.

  14. Thanks for the nice words, Russ. Nice to hear from you.


  15. I like it so much. its really very nice and informative post.

  16. Anonymous3:51 PM

    I have to ask you, do the people wearing a US uniform in 2010 really think that they are keeping us safe?
    If they really do it would explain why they can not defeat the Taliban.
    I saw the Taliban the other day on Front Line. The bombs the Taliban planted went off 5 minutes after they pressed the detenator. I have read on mil.com and lineofdeparture.com and thisainthell, and blackfive how unreliable some of the soldiers in the Afghan army are. The thing is the Taliban showed on Front Line did not seem any better.
    Why do so many people seem to humor those who have gone over there, especially to Iraq, by continuing to pretend that they are protecting anyone.
    I will tell you how well they are protecting me. I wrote on this aint hell that I thought they were a bunch of criminals and 2 days latter the antenna was ripped off my car. Just a coincidence? Maybe, but it sure as hell was not a Jihadi that ripped off my antenna.
    So do they really believe that the are protecting America? Or do they just say that so that they can keep their jobs?

  17. Curt,

    That's a complex question with a fuzzy answer.

    I'm pretty sure the folks wearing uniforms with stars on the collars know good and well they aren't protecting anybody, they're preserving an institution.

    The folka without stars are doing what they're told, and for the most part do believe they're protecting us because any other worldview would put them in rubber rooms.

    But I don't any of them ripped the antenna off your car. ;-)


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