10th July 18:57
Battle for Marjah (80,000 people) : The US has already lost. Next tobe destroyed will be Kandahar, a city of 1 million
Published on Thursday, February 18, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Battle for Marjah: The US Has Already Lost
by Dave Lindorff
The fighting is still underway in the town of Marjah, in what is being
described as the first battle in Obama's War in Afghanistan, or
alternatively as the biggest battle of the US War in Afghanistan. But
already, the US has lost that battle.
It lost it from day one, when troops fired missiles in to a Marjah
house, killing 12 civilian occupants--half of them children. And it
lost it further when another three more civilians were blown away by
US-led forces. Finally, it lost the battle as much of the town has
been simply destroyed by the fighting.
The supposed goal of the assault on Marjah was to demonstrate that the
US would bring the wonders of good government and peace to the Pashtun
tribal people who have endured a generation or more of war, and who
have been living under the "cruel tyranny" of the Taliban in recent
years. The new strategy of President Barack Obama and his hand-picked
military leader in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was to show
that the US military could fight the Taliban without causing civilian
deaths and casualties. Protecting civilian lives would be a priority,
The problem with such a strategy is that the whole reason American
forces have been able to crush resistance, as they did in the lighting
invasion of Iraq in 2003, or the overthrow of the Taliban government
of Afghanistan in late 2001, has been their callous disregard for
civilian lives, which have been coldly labelled "collateral damage."
In the war in Iraq, and in Afghanistan until recently at least, the
American war-fighting style has been for troops to go into an area,
seeking to draw enemy fire, and then to call in long-range artillery
or air support, and simply blow up the area with heavy explosives,
devastating anti-personnel bombs that shower an area in flesh-
shredding flechettes, burning white phosphorus projectiles, and a
brutal rain of machine-gun fire from fixed-wing and helicopter
gunships. Inevitably with such tactics, countless innocent men, women
and children get killed and maimed.
In Iraq, US forces ended up killing far, far more civilians than
actual enemy fighters thanks to this approach. While information about
deaths in the Afghan War is harder to come by, it is likely that the
same holds true there also. In addition to the well-known incidents,
where air strikes have been called in which ended up butchering entire
wedding parties in both Iraq and Afghanistan, or where farm families
engaged in routine activties have been blown away thinking they were
terrorists, US forces have for years thought nothing about assaulting
compounds and killing the inhabitants, innocent civilians or not,
children or adults, if it was thought that even one "terrorist" was in
the building at the time.
Such tactics, reminiscent of what years ago used to be attributed to
vicious military regimes like the German Nazis or the Imperial
Japanese, have become the norm for US forces, as has the tactic of
"spray and pray," under which US forces, if they take fire or feel
threatened, simply unload all their weapons in every direction,
killing every living thing within range, including people who might be
seeking shelter behind mud walls of their homes.
These tactics, while criminal in the extreme under the Geneva
Conventions, which require that civilians in any conflict be
protected, do work in the short term, which is why American forces
have prevailed in their initial assaults. But long-term, they
inevitably become self-defeating, since they only turn a population
into bitter enemies, many with an understandable desire for vengeance.
Thus, the "new" strategy of trying to minimize civilian casualties.
But once US troops are denied their air support, and are barred by
commanders from simply blowing away buildings from which they are
taking enemy fire, because of fears that there may be civilians in
those buildings, US forces lose any advantage they may have had over
local enemy fighters. It becomes a battle of guns vs. guns and person
vs. person, and becomes more of a case of who is more willing to die.
Clearly the Taliban then gains an edge. Its fighters, or at least many
of them, believe they are fighting for Allah, or for their country's
survival and independence, or for both, and they are willing to die
for those causes. What are American forces fighting for in
Afghanistan? Hard to say. I suspect many, if asked, would say they
have no idea. Some, I'm sure, would say they are "defending America"
if asked thanks to their indoctrination, but I also suspect that as
they survey the primitive society in which they are fighting, and see
the poverty of the people, they will have a hard time perceiving
Afghanistan as any kind of threat to their own country or families.
Some may say they're avenging the attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon "by Al Qaeda" in 2001, but then, even the US
government admits that the foreign fighters of Al Qaeda have long ago
left Afghanistan, and no Taliban were involved in the 9-11 attacks. So
it's hard to see American troops being willing to die for these
trumped up "causes." I suspect, again, that most US troops are
understandably trying really hard mainly to make sure they don't get
hurt or killed.
And that's why, in the end, the US is losing this war. It's why those
deadly Himars rockets were fired and why air assaults are being called
in after all in Marjah, and why civilians are again being slaughtered
by American forces in this battle.
It's why, despite promises to the contrary from Gen. McChrystal and
Commander in Chief Obama, the town is being wrecked.
And in the end, it will be all for naught, since the US is supporting
a wholly corrupt and criminal regime in Kabul which will not follow up
the ultimate "victory" in Marjah with some kind of honest and well-
functioning government in the destroyed city.
We will no doubt see some photogenic reconstruction in Marjah when the
fighting subsides. We'll see some demonstration projects which will be
dutifully praised by the journalistic shills flown in by Pentagon
flaks. But the people of Marjah will remember the destruction of their
town, and will remember their neighbors and relatives who were killed.
And when the Taliban return to the town, as they inevitably will after
the Americans withdraw or draw down, they will probably be welcomed,
or at least tolerated.
The reality is that America cannot prevail in Afghanistan except by
applying the massive, oppressive power of its military killing
machine, with its robotic rocket-firing drone aircraft, its bombers
and attack aircraft, its fixed-wing and helicopter gunships, its
indiscriminate anti-personnel weapons, and its massive bombs. It
cannot prevail, in other words, without terrorizing the population.
And even then, in the end, it cannot succeed.
If you liked this piece you can check out more and similar pieces by
Lindorff and other writers at the recently renovated news collective
Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is
author of Marketplace Medicine: The Rise of the For-Profit Hospital
Chains (BantamBooks, 1992), and his latest book "The Case for
Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). All his work is available at