Hey folks, regarding what’s happening in Afghanistan – there is nothing new here! It’s an insurgent war, involving a semi-organized government, where corruption, graft, and theft rule, and has ruled for more than a thousand years. We had the same thing in Korea during the Korean War, certainly throughout the Vietnam War, and everywhere else the United States military has stepped in to try and reduce the threat to the West, especially to us or our allies, and tried to aide or assist in the creation of a new and democratic form of government.
In our efforts to push a strong effort at Nation-building we usually fail, not for lack of trying but because we are usually running up against hundreds of years of opposite thought. Recently, for some reason (probably the media), the American public has suddenly taken an interest in what’s happening right this moment in Afghanistan. Why? Because recently some GIs accidentally burned some Korans that had been defiled by Afghani prisoners, which is exactly how defiled Korans are dealt with in the first place, with fire, and because of the unfortunate incident involving an Army Staff Sergeant who went on a drunken rampage and killed numerous innocent civilians in a village outside the gate where he lived.
As I said however, this isn’t anything new. Six U.S. service members were killed by their Afghan counterparts since the burning of those Korans, two at a U.S. and Afghan base in Nangarhar, two at a joint base in Kandahar, and two within a high-security Ministry of the Interior compound somewhere in Kabul. There were also eight U.S. soldiers and a U.S. Contractor killed by an Afghan Air Force pilot in Kabul following an argument. In fact, estimates on how many U.S. and allied troops who have been killed by Afghan soldiers and police are actually unknown, at least to us the general public.
Over the past few years we do know that multiple dozens of American and European soldiers have been shot or blown up by members of the regime’s security forces and a lot more have been wounded. NATO says at least 58 Allied soldiers have been killed by their Afghan partners since only May of 2007 and does not include the recent incidents. Other estimates put that number much higher. Pentagon data suggests that in just five years more than 75 coalition personnel have been killed by Afghan security forces and over 110 have been wounded – these are U.S. Soldiers, fathers, and husbands too.
During the Vietnam War, there were many isolated atrocities committed by American soldiers. This produced a flood of outrage from anti-war critics and the U.S. news media. Americans who deliberately killed civilians received court martials and harsh prison sentences. On the other hand, Communist atrocities exercised on the innocent civilian population were so common they received little or no attention throughout the war, especially from our media. The United States went out of its way to minimize or prevent the attacks on civilians while the Communists received medals for them. According to historical statistics, from 1957 to 1973, the National Liberation Front assassinated 36,725 South Vietnamese and abducted another 58,499. The death squads focused on leaders at the village level and on anyone who improved the lives of the peasants such as medical personnel, social workers, and schoolteachers. We of course had our PHONIX group, but they targeted known enemy sympathizers and traitors.
The fact of the matter is that there are no wars that have no atrocities. By its very nature, war is nasty, brutal, and unfair, and innocent people die in large numbers, they’re called collateral damage. Probably for political or historical reasons, there are seldom accurate figures about this, at least none that I could find, at least for innocent civilian deaths at the hands of the U.S. Military, but you can bet given the destructive level of our technology, it was probably very high.
What is not new when involved in an insurgency is seeing and knowing who the enemy is, it’s impossible! There are friendly allies, guys we work with every day, who report directly to the enemy; usually we call them spies. There are some who live their lives as our friends, and when we turn our backs, they stick a knife in us. And, there are some who by day aid and assist us, but by night plant bombs to blow the legs and arms off our young men and women.
From the get go, the U.S. Military’s mission, going all the way back to the beginning of our involvement in Afghanistan, is to deal with it. We go into the situation of war from the very beginning with a expectancy and a understanding that we must weather through these ambushes, assaults, threats, and murders of our kids in order to bring civil order and the rule of law to areas of the world that in some cases neither want our help, nor have any desire to change. It’s always been part of the mission. It’s what we in the military are expected to deal with, to tolerate, that’s what we do. Our young men and woman today do this very well, and I’m so very proud of them, they serve our cause with honor and distinction.
What is a terrible aggravation to me in this moment in time, is how the media seems to completely ignore or forget this small tidbit of reality, choosing instead to focus on the unfairness of it and the severity of the impact on our relationship with Afghanistan; how they treat this as suddenly a new or different thing, it’s suddenly a new issue that has appeared. And because of this belief, fickle Americans begin to raise their head and suddenly take notice, and the rolling clouds of despair and dissent begin to form on the horizon – it suddenly becomes a good enough reason to get out of Afghanistan, to abandon the work done to date.
Like Vietnam, I can see now how this war is already beginning to re-shape itself, formulate into another war ‘Lost’ by those who have been fighting it. By the end of the year, the war in Afghanistan will no longer be that favored war we started over ten years ago to eradicate the terrorists behind the World Trade Center disaster, all will have forgotten their quest for revenge and immediate feedback. We will have mysteriously lost our reason for being there, and our politicians will be jockeying for appropriate positions of denial in that regard.
Please, do not mistake where I’m coming from. I personally never saw the need to go to war in Afghanistan, nor did I see a reason to politicize our entire counter terrorism effort. In my opinion we were doing just fine clandestinely. Yes, mistakes had been made, but we made efforts in that regard to fix them. But launching a war in an area of the world where nothing has changed since the year 1,000 just didn’t seem like a smart thing to me. But, decisions were made by the Commander in Chief and agreed upon by our Congress as professed and backed by the American public and we went in to do the job we decided needed to be done. As a soldier I can tell you, now is not the time to be deciding the original reasons for being there are no longer existent.
As to the deranged and drunken Staff Sergeant who allegedly killed the innocent civilians – that is an entirely separate matter and should be treated as such. My understanding from what has been told is he was recovering from multiple diagnosed Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and was also known by those around him at least, to be self-medicating with alcohol. My immediate question would be; “What in the hell was he doing in Afghanistan?” The policy as I understand it is that he should be in treatment somewhere, anywhere except there. What in God’s name was he doing in a war zone, serving a fourth tour in combat?
In my opinion, his immediate supervisor (Platoon Sergeant) and his Commanding Officer (Platoon Commander) should have ensured that he was in treatment if not fit for duty. They and whoever, officially or unofficially, encouraged his assignment are just as accountable as he is for his actions, and they too should be prosecuted.
Unfortunately, this is not the way I believe everything will turn out. Our young men and women who are and have served honorably and who have lived with the stress of immediate death as part of the job will also bear the brunt of what’s occurred here. The military upper crust and politicians will turn this into a call for immediate withdrawal and they will try to speed up the calendar of expected events, and once again, our soldiers, sailors, and airmen will be painted as failures for not holding up their end of the bargain. This is far from the truth of it.
And as for us proud and independent thinking Americans? We’ll, once again we will all just go along with it.
Joseph W. McMoneagle, CW2, USA Ret., CStS