For Marjah: The US Has Already Lost, Imperialistically
23 February 2010
By Dave Lindorff
The fighting is still underway in the town of Marjah,
in what is being described as the first battle in
Obama’s War in Afghanistan, or alternatively as the
biggest battle of the US War in Afghanistan. But
already, the US has lost that battle.
It lost it from day one, when troops fired missiles in
to a Marjah house, killing 12 civilian occupants--half
of them children. And it lost it further when another
three more civilians were blown away by US-led forces.
Finally, it lost the battle as much of the town has
been simply destroyed by the fighting.
Results of a US airstrike in Marjah.
The supposed goal
of the assault on Marjah was to demonstrate that the
US would bring the wonders of good government and
peace to the Pashtun tribal people who have endured a
generation or more of war, and who have been living
under the “cruel tyranny” of the Taliban in recent
years. The new strategy of President Barack Obama and
his hand-picked military leader in Afghanistan, Gen.
Stanley McChrystal, was to show that the US military
could fight the Taliban without causing civilian
deaths and casualties. Protecting civilian lives would
be a priority, they claimed.
The problem with such a strategy (if Obama and
McChristal were ever really serious about it) is that
the whole reason American forces have been able to
crush resistance, as they did in the lighting invasion
of Iraq in 2003, or the overthrow of the Taliban
government of Afghanistan in late 2001, has been their
callous disregard for civilian lives, which have been
coldly labelled “collateral damage.”? It is not
because Americans are uniquely capable soldiers that
the US has managed to win battles in places like
Panama or Iraq or Afghanistan. It is because our
military is uniquely powerful in its weaponry, and
uniquely bloodthirsty and indiscriminate in its use of
In the war in Iraq, and in Afghanistan until recently
at least, the American war-fighting style has been for
troops to go into an area, seeking to draw enemy fire,
and then to call in long-range artillery or air
support, and simply blow up the area with heavy
explosives, devastating anti-personnel bombs that
shower an area in flesh-shredding flechettes, burning
white phosphorus projectiles, and a brutal rain of
machine-gun fire from fixed-wing and helicopter
gunships. Inevitably with such tactics, countless
innocent men, women and children get killed and
In Iraq, US forces ended up killing far, far more
civilians than actual enemy fighters thanks to this
approach. While information about deaths in the Afghan
War is harder to come by, it is likely that the same
holds true there also. In addition to the well-known
incidents, where air strikes have been called in which
ended up butchering entire wedding parties in both
Iraq and Afghanistan, or where farm families engaged
in routine activties have been blown away thinking
they were terrorists, US forces have for years thought
nothing about assaulting compounds and killing the
inhabitants, innocent civilians or not, children or
adults, if it was thought that even one “terrorist”
was in the building at the time.
Such tactics, reminiscent of what years ago used to be
attributed to vicious military regimes like the German
Nazis or the Imperial Japanese, have become the norm
for US forces, as has the tactic of “spray and pray,”
under which US forces, if they take fire or feel
threatened, simply unload all their weapons in every
direction, killing every living thing within range,
including people who might be seeking shelter behind
mud walls of their homes.
These tactics, while criminal in the extreme under the
Geneva Conventions, which require that civilians in
any conflict be protected, do work in the short term,
which is why American forces have prevailed in their
initial assaults. But long-term, they inevitably
become self-defeating, since they only turn a
population into bitter enemies, many with an
understandable desire for vengeance.
Thus, the “new” strategy of trying to minimize
But once US troops are denied their air support, and
are barred by commanders from simply blowing away
buildings from which they are taking enemy fire,
because of fears that there may be civilians in those
buildings, US forces lose any advantage they may have
had over local enemy fighters. It becomes a battle of
guns vs. guns and person vs. person, and becomes more
of a case of who is more willing to die.
Clearly the Taliban then gains an edge. Its fighters,
or at least many of them, believe they are fighting
for Allah, or for their country’s survival and
independence, or for both, and they are willing to die
for those causes. What are American forces fighting
for in Afghanistan? Hard to say. I suspect many, if
asked, would say they have no idea. Some, I’m sure,
would say they are “defending America” if asked thanks
to their indoctrination, but I also suspect that as
they survey the primitive society in which they are
fighting, and see the poverty of the people, they will
have a hard time perceiving Afghanistan as any kind of
threat to their own country or families. Some may say
they’re avenging the attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon “by Al Qaeda” in 2001, but then, even
the US government admits that the foreign fighters of
Al Qaeda have long ago left Afghanistan, and no
Taliban were involved in the 9-11 attacks. So it’s
hard to see American troops being willing to die for
these trumped up “causes.” I suspect, again, that most
US troops are understandably trying really hard mainly
to make sure they don’t get hurt or killed.
And that’s why, in the end, the US is losing this war.
It’s why those deadly Himars rockets were fired and
why air assaults are being called in after all in
Marjah, and why civilians are again being slaughtered
by American forces in this battle.
It’s why, despite promises to the contrary from Gen.
McChrystal and Commander in Chief Obama, the town is
And in the end, it will be all for naught, since the
US is supporting a wholly corrupt and criminal regime
in Kabul which will not follow up the ultimate
“victory” in Marjah with some kind of honest and
well-functioning government in the destroyed city.
We will no doubt see some photogenic reconstruction in
Marjah when the fighting subsides. We’ll see some
demonstration projects which will be dutifully praised
by the journalistic shills flown in by Pentagon flaks.
But the people of Marjah will remember the destruction
of their town, and will remember their neighbors and
relatives who were killed. And when the Taliban return
to the town, as they inevitably will after the
Americans withdraw or draw down, they will probably be
welcomed, or at least tolerated.
The reality is that America cannot prevail in
Afghanistan except by applying the massive, oppressive
power of its military killing machine, with its
robotic rocket-firing drone aircraft, its bombers and
attack aircraft, its fixed-wing and helicopter
gunships, its indiscriminate anti-personnel weapons,
and its massive bombs. It cannot prevail, in other
words, without terrorizing the population.