I first posted this heart-warming April 1945 photograph of Canadian-liberated Zwolle, Netherlands last year. I’m posting it again because the point I raised then is at least as relevant today, particularly in light of the tragic and completely aberrational incident in which an Army Staff Sergeant apparently walked off base and shot and killed t6 Afghan civilians.
Last year, I wrote:
Between 1940 and 1945, 128 known air raids were carried out by Allied forces on German-occupied Rotterdam in the Netherlands, killing 884 civilians and wounding 631. I mention this wondering whether Admiral Mullen ever ponders just why it was that Allied Forces in Europe were greeted as liberators in a war that caused millions of civilian casualties.
Just to underscore: that figure includes millions of civilian casualities caused by Allied Forces. How do Bush and Obama and Mullen and Kilcullen and Petraeus and McChrystal and now John R. Allen, the current commanding general in Afghanistan, explain the welcome Allied forces received across Europe in 1945 despite the massive suffering and death the Allies, too, inflicted? The answer is that the liberated peoples rejected the Nazis and their ideology. So why doesn’t the same logic work on “liberated” Afghans? Maybe they don’t reject either the Taliban or their ideology. Maybe there’s just way too much overlap on both counts.
Nah, say our COIN strategists. The problem is too many civilian casualties. So goes the COIN mantra of at least the past three years in Afghanistan since Gen. McChrystal came on the scene openly promoting “population protection” over “force protection.” Indeed, more than anything else the war in Afghanistan may be seen as a war on civilian casualties in which the ultimate prize is the “trust” of the Afghan people. Or, as Gen. Allen likes to say, “the noble Afghan people.”
A week ago, ISAF ran a report on the latest Civilian Casualty Conference at ISAF headquarters where new figures on civilian casualties were unveiled.
“In the last four months, insurgents have caused 93 percent, or 958 civilian casualties,” Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, ISAF deputy commander. “The majority of these are caused by improvised explosive devices. In that respect, strike operations designed to bear down on facilitators and insurgents involved in this type of activity is an absolutely vital part of reducing civilian casualties.
“In the same period of time, seven percent, or 72 civilian casualties, regrettably, were caused by ISAF forces,” he said. “It is important to note though that compared to the same period of time last year, ISAF caused civilian casualties have been reduced by 65 percent.”
Bradshaw added that 72 casualties are too many and that ISAF is committed to bring that number down to zero.
93 percent of the civilians casualties are caused by the Taliban et al, and 7 percent are caused by pro-government forces. If COIN theory were correct (HAHAHAHA), with numbers like these, we would be seeing scenes like that of the Netherlands photo above.
But COIN theory is, to say the least, not correct. It runs on a rigid adherence to an ideology, a belief system, and not on an appraisal of the facts. In the service of this same ideology, the apparent actions of the Staff Sergeant have been magnified and exaggerated in their overall importance to serve as a crutch for COIN. The apparent killings of 16 Afghans — a figure that wouldn’t move the needle a notch in the Taliban tally of death — now become another rationale for why COIN isn’t working, why the Afghan people — sorry, “the noble Afghan people” — aren’t being won over, hearts and minds.
But we eschew such logic, preferring to enter into the Islamic maelstrom of aggrievement and apology and promising to do better. Yes, master, good dhimmi that we are (we never even said a cross word about six Americans murdered in Koran Burning Rage last month), we will take this soldier, brain injury or not, too many COIN combat tours or not, and string him up to sate the bloodlust of the noble Afghan people — anything to quell Islamic rage. And of course we will send out our men on more IED death marches, happily. We do it all for you. Do you like us yet? No? We’ll do more.
They call it COIN and wear uniforms, but it’s really psychosis and they should be in hospital robes.
Meanwhile, if Afghans were with us, if they were actually against the true butchers, the Taliban, if they were concerned about which side had innocent blood on its hands, and which side did everything humanly possible to prevent such violence even at the expense of its own people, Afghan hearts and minds would have been “won” long ago.
But that will never be. In fact, guess what happens if ISAF gets to its goal of zero civilian casualties?