John Bernard, a 26-year veteran of the US Marine Corps who blogs at Let Them Fight or Bring Them Home, has posted an extremely important report from Afghanistan, which I present in full below:
Corroboration is a tool we all seek in determining validity. What follows shortly is a first-hand accounting of the cost of the failed policies of this administration and the last in Afghanistan. I want to give full credit to Herschel Smith at 'The Captain's Journal' for bringing this to light. The contacts he has fostered have led to this piece which I believe to be of particular significance and pivotal to the discussion.
For the past several months I have been making the case, in this Blog, for my fellow Warriors - especially for the actively employed but also the retired, that the current strategy in Afghanistan is doomed to failure. Doomed because the assessment of the enemy, the local government and civilian population has been skewed by wrong - if any, historical analysis. We are also back in the cycle of the socialist world view which precludes specific national interests and imperils our Warriors, a national asset, for the purposes of rebuilding a foreign nation. The lives of our Warriors have been trumped by the lives of a civilian population that has no understanding of the freedoms we now perilously take for granted. Because the concept of personal freedom is anathema to the Koranic principles the Afghans willingly apply to their lives, families and culture, they lack any motivation to fight for freedom or any change. Because they will not fight for it; they do not deserve it. 'They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.' Benjamin Franklin. In essence, we are wasting the lives of our precious national resource; our Sons and Daughters for the purposes of freedom for those who neither understand it, nor want it and who are not covered by the oaths sworn by our Warriors.
Our civilian 'servants' inside the DC beltway are equally culpable in this squandering of this most precious asset. What follows is the witness of an imbedded reporter and his experiences with our forces, on the ground, in Afghanistan, which corroborates everything I have been saying about the Commanders Intent, Vision, Strategy, Assessment of the Enemy, Human Terrain and ROE since I launched this Blog in October of last year. The negative feeling expressed by our Warriors in this piece is but one of the fruits of the failed vision of this and the past administrations in shifting focus in Afghanistan:
"From the comments section in An Open Letter to Milbloggers, journalist Ben Shaw gives us this very depressing perspective from Afghanistan.
As a journalist (and combat veteran) currently embedded with US forces in Afghanistan, I have found that roughly 95% of the troops on the ground in no way believe in their mission, have no confidence that their efforts will bring about lasting change to Afghan security, stability, governance, or a decreased influence of radicalism. In truth, they fight simply to stay alive and want nothing more than to go home. A recent quote:
“I joined to defend and fight for the United States, but now I feel like I’ve been tasked out to fight for Afghanistan. Yet the people don’t even care, and make no effort whatsoever to help us help them. They don’t WANT help.”
The nature of freedom is that those who are unwilling to fight for it personally will never realize it. As it stands, nothing is more important to Afghans than survival, even at the expense of all self-dignity, nationalism, tribalism, and whatever ideals may at one time surpassed the will to simply “get by.”
I have also discovered that if I publicize these findings (that literally 95% of troops don’t believe in their own mission), the Soldiers who I cite will be charged, potentially relieved of command, and I will be asked to disembed from these units.
As a recent example, I filmed approximately 75 minutes of combat footage, knowingly exposed myself to concentrated enemy fire, and learned two days ago that if I post this footage, the Soldiers on film will be charged and/or relieved for uniform violations, improper wear of personal protective equipment (ballistic glasses, fire-retardant gloves, etc), and that low-level commanders have already begun this process. In an attempt to preserve the careers of the Soldiers I am trying to advocate, I am unable to tell (or show) the US public what they’re experiencing and what they think of it. The military only wants good news to flow from embedded journalists – not facts.
The reality is this: the current tactical directive leaves US troops on the ground increasingly vulnerable, often unsupported by air assets or indirect fire, and as a consequence their personal mission is to keep each other alive and come home. Under this current “soft war” policy, the war cannot be won.
After all, Pashtun Islamic culture sees any sort of kindness and mercy as a weakness – and immediately exploit it. The Taliban, knowing the restrictive nature of the current ROE/Tactical directive, use it against US forces regularly.
US troops feel abandoned by their chains of command, bilked by military recruiters, and participants in a conflict that history will not treat kindly.
They will return to the US and to civilian life full of disappointment, bitterness at their commanders, and unwilling to serve again. And military commanders here are doing their very best to ensure that this never reaches the public. In their pursuit of mission accomplishment, they have altogether neglected their second purpose: troop welfare. The former, however, will never be realized without an equally dedicated concentration on the latter.
I invite comments and criticism at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos from my current embed can be found online at http://picasaweb.google.com/byshaw
My own website is http://byshaw.com
And then further:
As of today, my photos, videos, and writing have been so closely monitored by the command that I have elected to remove all imagery for fear of jeopardizing the troops on the ground. Commanders are using the images and footage to threaten Article 15s for Soldiers photographed out of uniform, and also threatening to relieve platoon sergeants and first sergeants for allowing such things to happen. Professionally, I have been bound and gagged – that is unless I’m willing to burn an entire troop (or squadron) of Soldiers in the process of telling the US public what’s happening – which would be counterproductive.
My next step will be to file a formal complaint with commanders who use media resources to incriminate their own subordinates. This command, I have determined, is far more concerned with looking pretty than accomplishing their mission. I also think that, somehow, the US public needs to know about it."
There will undoubtedly be those who will condemn this piece by the reporter as well as the troops and lower echelon officers for ‘failing’ to remain stoic in face of challenge. To those I say, strap on a 120 pound pack, 30 pounds of armor, grab an A4 or M4 and ship yourself to Marjah, Now Zad, Korengal, Khandahar, Farah or anywhere else where Marines and Soldiers have been told that their lives are meaningless and that the 'strategy' is now the goal instead of the method. Do this in 100 degree plus temperatures, in the midst of a people who don't want them there and their civilian leadership back home is more concerned about re-election than the lives of Warriors. Traverse IED littered streets, day in and day out, while being fired upon by rebel snipers whom you can't engage unless every dot and tittle of a directive bearing the most murderous ROE imaginable has been met. Do this for 7 months to a year straight, come home for a few months and then go back and do it again under even more stringent conditions and then - - - ONLY THEN; dare to tell me that my Son, his Brother Marines, the many thousands of Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, all of whom are someone's Sons and Daughters are acting in a way that doesn't meet your delicate sensibilities and understanding of professionalism. Ben Shaw hit-it-right-on-the-head; THEY DID NOT SIGN TO DEFEND THE INDEFENSIBLE. They signed to defend the 'Constitution of the United States, against all enemies foreign and domestic'; not to rebuild a country that has never known peace, has never sought peace, has never lived well with others, that bears an ideology of one of the most hateful religions known to the history of mankind and; oh yeah, doesn't want us or what we have.
What else can I say; LET THEM FIGHT OR BRING THEM HOME before you destroy, completely, the finest fighting force the world has ever known.
'Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' John 8:32