Things can only get better

“Can we fucking move on these people, goddamit?” Winning hearts and minds with the US marines in Helmand.

August 20, 2009

Fuck yeah – if it’s fucking hearts and fucking minds you want to fucking win over, walk this way with the fucking US Marines. We’ll capture those fucking hearts and minds or tear the bastards out and shove them up their sorry goddam asses.

Last night, BBC Newsnight aired a warning that the programme contained ‘extremely strong and violent language’ – which immediately got my full attention – referring to a filmed report of US marines patrolling Helmand, Afghanistan’s most troubled province, demonstrating the ‘new’ counter insurgency strategy of ‘building trust and relationships with the local population.’ The Brits had tried this tactic, we were told, but although they got to know the territory, they hadn’t got enough ‘combat power’ and ‘capability’ to do what had to be done. The implication was that they were ill-equipped (surely not?) and a tad wussy and incompetent.

The marines found and searched an almost-deserted village, the natives having sensibly fled in advance of the hearts and minds brigade. Only a young boy remained, with four old men, including a ’sinister man in black’ (Johnny Cash?). ”Why is he shaking? What’s he afraid of?” a 19 year old military genius asks, as camouflaged, helmeted goons, bristling with weaponry, jostle the kid at gunpoint after ransacking his house, finding a rifle – which turned out to be a BB gun (air rifle) and ‘urging’ him to reveal the whereabouts of his friends and family. ”Last time we searched this house they wanted nothing to do with us. Ask them why?” Lance-Corporal Bunch demanded of the interpretor. You didn’t need a PhD to answer that question, but the marines decided that the old men standing nearby were intimidating the boy (possibly they were, but telling him ‘you’re fucked, kid’ and threatening to ‘wax this guy’s ass,’ might have had some bearing on his situation). I bet that village can hardly wait for the next patrol to pass by.

In contrast to their base commander and to various gurning politicians, the marines on patrol, some (literally) sick with fear, were respectful of the Taliban’s abilities and skeptical that they would ultimately ’defeat’ them. The most likely outcome would be to ‘chase their asses into Pakistan’. Later in the sequence, a soldier observes: ”(The) Iraq war was different from this. Here . . this is like some Vietnam shit. No-one even mentions 9/11 here.” He is entitled to be dazed and confused. The ‘War on Terror’ formed the pretext to invade Afghanistan, whose (elected) Taliban government had provided a safe haven for Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden was allowed to escape at Tora Bora as the US turned its attention to Iraq, having ‘defeated’ the Taliban in 2001 (another hubristic Mission Accomplished). Cleverer people than this kid can’t make sense of the tactics or strategy, but the difference is that they, like me, are sitting comfortably outside the firing line. Yesterday almost 200 people died in car bombs in (post-surge) Baghdad, confirming that the ‘surge’ was a chimaera (Thus passim) But hell, they’ve got democracy . . . .

Later in the programme we heard that democracy’s beacon, President Karzai’s last act prior to the election had been to confirm a ‘Status Law‘ enshrining the rights of Afghan men to rape or starve their wife if she withholds sexual favours, despite specific condemnation from towering world figures such as Gordon Brown. Douglas Alexander, the ludicrous Blairite UK Development Minister, brushing aside this minor setback, urged us to ‘celebrate’ the fact that no-one knows who will win the election.’ Bollocks. We do, and so does he. Alexander refused to condemn the principle of endorsing and funding – under the pretext of democracy – a government which passes medieval laws and has promised to include internationally-condemned war criminals such as Dostum (see previous post) in their next regime. In short, he is an example of the prevarication, hypocrisy and expedient madness of bad compromises which have placed the US, UK and the so-called ‘international community’ in the hole into which they are digging themselves deeper by the day.

Thus we were given evidence of how and why the US stands no chance of ‘winning’ and how the election will be spun as a victory regardless of the outcome. The Newsnight bulletin, and the preceding reporting leading up to today’s election, has been enlightening and relatively objective, helped by the absence of posturing hounyhymn jackass, Jeremy Paxman. File under ‘you couldn’t make it up’ – and watch the sequence yourself.