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Member since: Wed Jul 20, 2005, 12:23 AM
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It's not an isolated Incident: The massacre and Lt. Col. Davis

Leon Panetta has described the latest rash of events in Afghanistan as a series of "isolated incidents." To see these cases-the urinating on corpses by elite snipers (who are supposedly some of the best disciplined troops), the "accidental" burnings of the Korans, and the incident wherein yet another solder, one who trained as a sniper and was based at the same Washington base as the now-infamous "kill team" that made headlines by taking trophies-as simply isolated incidents requires a wilful blindness to the parallels with Vietnam, another long war that became an endless quagmire that broke down the discipline of US troops

"Each of these incidents is deeply troubling." "We will not allow individual incidents to undermine our resolve."

Goddamn, this sounds familiar. These incidents are not isolated: they occur in a broader context of an endless quagmire, no matter what Panetta claims to the contrary. They also ressurect the specter of another stereotype from the Vietnam era, that of the twitching, ever-ready to snap veteran. Panetta himself apparently believes there is some truth to this: according to news accounts, when he met with Marines in Afghanistan, they had to meet him without their arms:

"In a sign that nerves are on edge, a group of US Marines waiting to hear Panetta speak inside a hall were asked to leave their rifles outside.

American troops typically have their rifles in hand when the US defence secretary addresses them."

So, to summarize the administration's position:

1. These are isolated incidents perpetrated by a few bad apples

2. The strategy is working and we ought to stay the course

3. Please leave your weapons outside

It's not a question of resolve: it's a question of common sense. The counter-insurgency strategy supposes that we will win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, but that's really hard to do when a few bad apples persist in burning their holy books, urinating on corpses, taking trophies and killing their children in their sleep. It seems to me that this goes beyond a PR problem, which is how the administration seems to be handling these problems.

These isolated incidents have also taken place less than a month after Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis issued his report documenting the Pentagon's malfeasance in Afghanistan. You have to call it malfeasance, or worse. To anyone even remotely familiar with the US military, the language used in the report is simply shocking, especially coming from a Lt. Colonel sent by the Pentagon to look into Afghanistan, especially in that he publicized this report and sent it to the Inspector General.

Lt. Colonel Davis is someone who is a real American hero. His once-promising career is over, because he shows in detail how top Pentagon brass have lies to the public. You need to read this:


Davis documents that Panetta's dismissal of the latest massacre as simply an "isolated incident" is exactly parallel to the way the US military in Afghanistan has handled any and every setback: it has been denied and dismissed. The result, according to Davis:

"One of the least considered consequences of mendacity, even among Members of our Congress, is that when we do not deal honestly with public audiences our credibility and reputation take significant hits. This loss of credibility itself has hidden consequences. A diplomat I know from a nation very friendly to the United States recently told me how things look to even some of our best allies."
"Despite overwhelming physical evidence of our failure to succeed on the military front, senior US and ISAF leaders inexplicably continue a steady stream of press releases and public statements that imply the exact opposite. Far from positively influencing the target audiences in the region, our words and actions unequivocally work to our disadvantage, as it causes both our friends and foes to question what we say. One Washington, DC-based foreign diplomat with whom I recently talked, explained that diplomats from other countries whom he knew shared his view: the problem isn't so much they have lost confidence in the truthfulness of our public statements, but possibly something worse - they suppose we genuinely believe what we're saying, but our ability to accurately assess difficult foreign problems is flawed."

In its handling of the massacre, the Pentagon has proceeded exactly in the same way it has mishandled other debacles in the theater. It's noteworthy, for example, that the name of the suspect has yet to be released. Why? After all, when Major Hasan killed other soldiers at Ft. Hood, his identity was released within three hours. So when an American soldier murders other soldiers on base in the US, his name is released immediately, but when an American soldier sneaks off in the middle of the night to murder civilians and their children in their sleep in Afghanistan, it's treated as a matter of national security. The soldier's family has already been placed in protective custody, and he has been secreted out of the country, so why is it they have not released his name? Especially given that this is an isolated incident and there's nothing to hide.

According to Lt. Colonel Davis, actual failures on the ground are covered up, and not acknowledged publicly. Of course we're not going to change course, we're winning? It's easier to claim victory when you are covering up your failures. But what if public support for the war should drop? Would that be a reason for leaving? Surprise surprise surprise, the answer is no:

Little said recent polls that show a lack of American support for the war will not impact the strategy.

"We are not conducting this war effort by polls. We are not going to be guided by polls, which can change on a daily if not hourly basis," Little said.
Pentagon spokesman George Little

These are isolated incidents, but we don't trust Marines to have their weapons when Panetta addresses them. Public support for the war is falling, but that's certainly no reason to leave, because we're winning. Oh, and we're really really winning, never mind that a Pentagon senior officer has accused top brass of lying and covering up failures. We are building the capacity of Afghan security forces, never mind the fact that these forces appear to be killing US troops whenever they get the chance.

We will leave only when all the problems in Afghanistan are solved, and not before, never mind the fact that there's little evidence that more guys with guns have ever solved any of Afghanistan's problems.
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