Thursday, October 14, 2010

Common Ground With A War Criminal: Stryker Brigade Commander Harry D. Tunnell IV Sneered At COIN Doctrine, And So Do I

Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, US Army
The Stryker Combat Brigade in Afghanistan, some of whose members stand accused of killing civilians for sport, was led by a man who openly sneered at the U.S. military's counterinsurgency strategy, according to Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post.

From Whitlock's report of September 18th:
The U.S. soldiers hatched a plan as simple as it was savage: to randomly target and kill an Afghan civilian, and to get away with it.

For weeks, according to Army charging documents, rogue members of a platoon from the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, floated the idea. Then, one day last winter, a solitary Afghan man approached them in the village of La Mohammed Kalay. The "kill team" activated the plan.

One soldier created a ruse that they were under attack, tossing a fragmentary grenade on the ground. Then others opened fire.

According to charging documents, the unprovoked, fatal attack on Jan. 15 was the start of a months-long shooting spree against Afghan civilians that resulted in some of the grisliest allegations against American soldiers since the U.S. invasion in 2001. Members of the platoon have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones.

The subsequent investigation has raised accusations about whether the military ignored warnings that the out-of-control soldiers were committing atrocities. The father of one soldier said he repeatedly tried to alert the Army after his son told him about the first killing, only to be rebuffed.
Seven other soldiers have been charged with crimes related to the case, including hashish use, attempts to impede the investigation and a retaliatory gang assault on a private who blew the whistle.
And so on.

As Whitlock reported on October 13th,
When the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade arrived in Afghanistan, its leader, Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, openly sneered at the U.S. military's counterinsurgency strategy. The old-school commander barred his officers from even mentioning the term and told shocked U.S. and NATO officials that he was uninterested in winning the trust of the Afghan people.

Instead, he said, his soldiers would simply hunt and kill as many Taliban fighters as possible, as dictated by the brigade's motto, "Strike and Destroy."

What resulted was a year of tough fighting in territory fiercely defended by the Taliban and a casualty rate so high that it triggered alarms at the Pentagon. By the time the 3,800-member brigade returned in July to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash., it had paid a steep price: 35 soldiers were killed in combat, six were dead from accidents and other causes, and 239 were wounded.
As sordid accounts of the platoon's activities continue to emerge, critics inside and outside the Army are questioning whether the brigade's get-tough strategy, which emphasized enemy kills over civilian relations, influenced the behavior of the accused.

Questions also persist about why the 5th Stryker Brigade's chain of command did not intervene earlier ...
And so on.

I happen to agree with Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, at least insofar as I have openly sneered at the U.S. military's 'counterinsurgency' strategy myself.

In a much different way, no doubt, but apparently to the same degree, Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV and I see the so-called 'COIN' strategy as -- to use the clinical term -- one big fat lie.

I cannot speak for Tunnell, but my understanding begins with the fact that the words 'insurgent' and 'insurgency' are entirely inappropriate in this context. In dictionary-English, as opposed to the political double-talk that goes on in America, an 'insurgent' is someone who rebels against a legitimately established government.

Both Iraq and Afghanistan were bombed, invaded, demolished and occupied, based on transparently obvious lies. The fact that the lies were exposed as such -- which wasn't very hard to do -- has not made a whit of difference to the wars; they still carry on, although the propaganda attending them has morphed as the official 'justifications' change and change and change...

And the governments set up by the Americans in Baghdad and Kabul are mere puppets, even though they sometimes try to bite the hand that moves them. The so-called 'elections' in both countries which installed these governments were controlled by occupying foreigners, so even if they had been 'fair', they never could have been 'free', and their results would have been tainted in any case.

Because the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are undoubtedly war crimes and crimes against humanity of the highest order, and because the governments of these two countries are decidedly illegitimate, the people in these countries who are fighting against the US-led, NATO-assisted, ongoing war crimes are not 'insurgents' by any stretch of the imagination.

Secondly, as I see it, 'COIN' doctrine, which has evolved precious little despite the enormous numbers of casualties it has claimed and the relatively few successes it can point to, is based on the idea that occupying foreign soldiers can 'win' the 'hearts and minds' (or, in the Vietnam-era acronym, HAM) of indigenous people.

Perhaps in some fantasy land somewhere, but not on this planet, is it possible to 'win' anything resembling the 'hearts and minds' of any people at the same time as you are systematically killing their friends and relatives, demolishing their social and physical infrastructure, poisoning their landscape, setting up checkpoints to control their movement, kidnapping and torturing them, and dropping bombs on them from the skies -- all in an effort to gain control of their country.

The only way in which it is possible to stop indigenous people from attacking invaders and occupiers is to kill enough of them, in gruesome enough ways, and destroy enough of their environment, so completely and so permanently, that the survivors lose every aspect of their humanity except their survival instinct, and start cooperating, albeit tacitly, with manifest evil.

I understand that, and Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV understands it, and Barack Obama understands it too -- but Obama can never say it, and neither can Tunnell, and neither can any of the other men and women who make their living by manifesting the policy of evil.

But sometimes -- even despite the best efforts of those who have nothing but contempt for humanity and the truth -- facts come out which demand action. In such cases, the difference between the truth as we know it and the lies that must be told serves as a grindstone which destroys anyone unfortunate enough to be squeezed against it.

This is the inevitable consequence of a long-standing, bi-partisan, national policy so unspeakably evil that the people who implement that policy will never dare to tell the truth about it ... if they think anybody's listening.

In other words, they don't call it the Stryker Brigade for nothing.

If they were truly out to win Hearts And Minds, they would call it the HAMster Brigade.

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