Falling into the Trap

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Tora bora war Afghanistan by MajeedBabar's Photos.

by David Glenn Cox

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A U.S. warplane summoned by German
troops fired on hijacked fuel trucks in Afghanistan before dawn on
Friday, killing as many as 90 people in an incident that could trigger
a backlash against NATO.

A friend of mine was a Vietnam vet
and had told me his story of a young Vietnamese child who had run
towards the lead armored personnel carrier in the column directly ahead
of his own. The boy was perhaps nine or ten, and as he ran towards the
vehicle it was clear that he had a grenade in his hand. The gunner
opened up and reduced the child’s body to a mass of pulp. On
investigation it was discovered that the grenade had been wired into
the child’s hand.


Using a child the enemy had scored a
propaganda victory. The Viet Cong used the slogan "They shoot your
children," and the rural villagers believed. The facts of the grenade
wired into the child’s hand were covered up. Who would you believe?
Other Americans? Or foreign invaders?

The backlash was so
intense that memos circulated instructing gunners to use caution and
restraint when dealing with local children. That’s an easy memo to
write in your air-conditioned Saigon office. It was received as a slap
in the face by the men with their fingers on the triggers. They had no
desire to make the locals dislike them but were unwilling to die trying
to illustrate how much restraint they could show.

The US
military, as policy, destroys any of their military hardware that gets
captured. The idea is to keep the enemy from getting a hold of radios
or weapons that could be used against us. So, when an M1 Abrams tank
was knocked out in Iraq and abandoned, the local children played on it
unaware of that policy. The children were vaporized when the missile
fired by an F-18 struck the tank.

The Taliban has increasingly
used truck hijacking as a weapon of war against the recent invaders,
just as they did in their war against the Soviets. Long distances on
poor roads leave the truck convoys and any escort vulnerable. A
hijacked fuel convoy passing out free fuel in a poor country is no
different from the child with the grenade wired to his hand. They win,
we lose, but we lose twice. We lose the truck and the fuel and kill the
innocent civilians whose trust we must try to gain in the process.

No
amount of exclamations or protestations will satisfy the locals, nor
will the policy be changed or amended. We are fighting with one hand
tied behind our back and they hate us not because we are Americans or
Europeans, they hate us because we are there. While we in America put
up statues to commemorate our military victories in Afghanistan, they
commemorate the generational expelling of the invaders. Fathers tell
children about expelling the Soviets and about grandparents and great
grandparents that expelled the British before them.

They are a
poor people with very little except their pride and their traditions,
and their traditions teach them that the noblest act is to expel the
invader. Just as many in the west fear Islam, in their country they
fear the non-Islamic. They place more trust in the worst Taliban war
lord than the most noble NATO officer because they, NATO, are not
Muslims; they are not Afghans and they never will be. They are foreign
invaders and always will be.

In an area the size of Texas with
mountains and porous borders, those borders are inhabited by people
with the very same feelings about invaders as the Afghans'; they are
culturally and religiously very similar to the Afghans. We have no more
idea who the friendly Afghans are face-to-face than we do at 30,000
feet as we fire another smart bomb in a dumb situation. We might
conquer their lands but we cannot conquer their hearts.

We
believe in the false idols of firepower and hi-technology; we lost a
$70,000 truck and tractor, and $20,000 worth of fuel. We used a
$20,000,000 airplane and a $250,000 missile and yet we lost to some men
with second-hand rifles. They won, we lost, we must now replace the
truck and fuel to run on the same roads on which we lost them
yesterday. They only need to see tomorrow and to strike there or
anywhere that they can find a weakness. The locals will not blame the
Taliban; they were giving away free fuel. It was the Americans that
killed the civilians.

Doubling or tripling the number of troops
on the ground will only double or triple the number of casualties. Just
as the escalation of the Vietnam War only escalated the misery on all
sides without changing the outcome. The 58,200 names on the black wall
remind us and demand of us that we ask ourselves, just what are we
gaining and at what cost? Each day hardens the hearts and the resolve
of those who seek to repel the invaders. Time is on their side and
serves in their ranks as our enemy, along with its allies, money and
distance.

We hear the pronouncements of generals and their
insistence that with X number of men and machines the war can be won.
That is what generals and politicians have been saying for generations,
and it signals only their ambition, not their accuracy. If the war were
winnable it would have been won by now. It was a war that never should
have been started and now it is time to admit that it cannot be won, or
at the very least the price is too high and the cost too dear to win.
It offers nothing but a trophy and a battle streamer.

President
Obama inherited this war and Sun Tsu would have warned his predecessor,
“Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle
after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat
first fights and afterwards looks for victory.” Now the new President
has two choices, and Sun Tsu would advise, “There has never been a
protracted war from which a country has benefited.”

Candidate
Obama should have anticipated before the first campaign sign was ever
printed that his task, once elected, would involve correcting his
predecessors' mistakes or they would rightly become his own. The sound
of “Change we can believe in” will disappear into the whirring of
chopper blades, and the roar of cannons din over the wail of mothers
being handed folded flags. A slogan which like the war itself will fade
into meaningless vowels and consonants unbalanced against a mothers
tortured screams.