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Apr 1

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, April 01, 2010 6:02 AM 

Photo: Infantrymen of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade liberating Zwolle, Netherlands, 14 April 1945. Grant, Donald I. (Biblioteques et Archives Canada).

Between 1940 and 1945, 128 known air raids were carried out by Allied forces on German-occupied Rotterdam  in the Netherlands, killing 884 civilians  and wounding 631. I mention this wondering whether Admiral Mullen ever ponders just why it was that Allied Forces in Europe were greeted as liberators in a war that caused millions of civilian casulaities. From DVIDS:

KABUL - The coalition record on civilian casualties has improved significantly as a new strategy has gone into place in Afghanistan, but American leaders continue to hammer home how important it is to avoid killing civilians.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited with troops serving on the front lines of the war in Regional Command South. Marines in Marjah – the site of the recent offensive in Helmand province – asked him about the rules of engagement. Troops in other venues ask him about the furor over civilian casualties.

Unfortunately, this report brings us only  one of those questions -- but better one than none.

One Marine yesterday wondered why the Americans – who try desperately not to kill civilians – are pilloried when an accident occurs, yet the Taliban seems to kill fellow Afghans with impunity.

"The question that surrounds civilian casualties ... takes me immediately to the lack of depth and breadth of understanding that we had ... about the severity of the outcome and the impact it has," Mullen said to reporters traveling with him.

Reporters? Didn't Mullen answer the Marine? Whether he did, Mullen's  talk of "breadth and depth" ignores the Marine's question. Fact is, the Taliban, love or hate 'em, are the Afghans' Muslim brethren. The Marines are infidels (just hate 'em).  From the cultural chasm between the two groups bubbles up an easily fanned rage at the Americans. Meanwhile, such rage, akin to "Arab anger" as recently discussed by Gen Petraeus, is a big booty-winner for Afghans, garnering all kinds of compensation. Pillorying the Americans for civilian (or "civilian") casualties is a win-win situation -- for locals and the enemy.

"We just can't win it if we keep killing the locals."

Mullen's mantra. Of course, so long as our forces are armed with live ammunition, they will continue "killing the locals," whether because the "locals" are enemy fighters or enemy shields. So, by Mullen's definition, it seems likely we just can't win. Unless, that is, we move from "armed social work," the COIN strategy, to just "social work." Maybe Mullen could show the way.

The enemy uses any accidental civilian death against American or coalition forces.

Because we help the enemy by apologizing up and down the countryside -- whether the charge is true -- for any accidental civilian death.

Mullen said Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in the country, shared with him the results of a study showing what happens in an area when civilian casualties occur.

"When we cause them, they generate a serious uptick in violence for up to five months," he said. "When the Taliban causes them, they generate an uptick in violence for about three months."

Sounds like a word problem in the making: If we cause 2 civilian casualties, triggering an uptick in violence for five months, and the Taliban causes 22 civilian casualties, triggering an uptick in violence for 3 months, how many months will it take ... to win hearts and minds in Khandahar?

Coalition leaders know that civilian casualties have a huge impact on the overall strategy, Mullen said, and the study McChrystal commissioned proves that.

That's some strategy.

"We know that the Taliban use that against us, and we are working hard to both denounce that and take that away, but they are very good and agile in attacking us," he said.

Coalition forces have to get to the point where they are not causing civilian casualties at all, he added, and when the local people know only the Taliban are causing civilian deaths, and it will start to work against the enemy. "We're not there yet," he said.

Again, that's some strategy -- COIN, right? Junk-heap time.

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