Monday, July 06, 2009

Our Marines in Afghanistan: A made-for-TV movie

I just got an e-mail from my secret source of intelligence in Afghanistan -- a Marine mom. And this Marine mom was livid. "My husband and I are writing to our Representatives and asking for an investigation into this poorly-planned forced march of our Marines through Helmand province in Afghanistan. They are having heat issues -- heat exhaustion, dehydration, etc. Who planned this march in 120-degree-plus heat while carrying backpacks that weigh over 100 pounds?" wrote this Marine mom.

I am totally grateful to my Marine mom for two reasons. First, her good reporting and actual legwork in the field (she has two sons in the Corps and they keep her up-to-date) lets me know what is really going on over in Afghanistan. And, second, she's saving me from having to return to Afghanistan in the middle of summer. Been there, done that. It's HOT over there.

According to a report from the Associated Press, "Taliban militants were nowhere in sight as the columns of U.S. Marines walked a third straight day across southern Afghanistan. But the desert heat proved an enemy in its own right, with several troops falling victim Saturday to temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Marines carry 50-100 pounds (23-45 kilograms) on their backs. But because they are marching through farmland on foot, they can't carry nearly as much water as their thirst demands."

So. My next question is, "Just exactly WHY are these Marines on a forced march through Helmand province at this point in time?"

Journalist Stewart Nusbaumer has the answer to that one. In an article published on the Huffington Post, Nusbaumer informs us that 4,000 U.S. Marines are now storming down into southern Afghanistan in order to provide security for future development projects in the area that will help give villagers incentives to resist the the Taliban's lure. Hey, weren't we supposed to have already done that back in 2001? And all this time since 2001? But I digress.

According to Nusbaumer, "This is not a conventional war, but an irregular war; the focus is not on killing the enemy but on protecting the people and enabling development. Further...only brain-dead foamers believe the Taliban will go head-to-head against large numbers of Marines, with their mean Apache gunships circling overhead. A few hundred Marines, one company, would have been sufficient to dampen the Taliban enthusiasm to fight. But this is 4,000!"

So. Why are the head generals and muckity-mucks in the Pentagon forcing 4,000 of our best Marines out into the hot sun while carrying 100-pound backpacks and order them to madly dash off to Helmand province -- if fewer Marines could do the job and the job itself will take years to complete? What's the hurry? Nusbaumer has a theory.

"This current mad dash in the south," Nusbaumer writes, "is reminiscent of the mad rush to Baghdad, both predicated upon the viewpoint that 'faster is better.' Strange, since the US military is a huge bureaucratic machine that doesn't do anything fast, which is probably why they want to do something fast. But in the mad rush to Baghdad, the Marines and Army refused to stop and secure hundreds of munitions depots -- 'time is of the essence!' And these by-passed unguarded explosives were soon blowing up Americans. The rush to Baghdad was stupid, with deadly consequences. But I'm missing the real story of this mad blitz. The moving of large numbers of troops ... pressing relentlessly forward ... the stress and strain ... bold goals proclaiming this is a 'decisive operation!' It is simple, dramatic, important, all wrapped up in a short time frame. It's made for TV!"

No wonder my Marine mom is hopping mad. Our troops' mad forced march to Helmand is nothing more than a made-for-TV movie! And probably an after-school-special at that. Except that these Marines are not actors. These Marines are some mother's sons.

But the Pentagon has succeeded in their mission. They have filmed, edited and shown their made-for-TV movie -- and it's gotten extensive air-time and rave reviews. Good. So NOW can we bring our troops home?