Falling into the Trap

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.


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.


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


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.


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.”


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.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.