Dying for Disaster

It took a medevac unit 59 minutes to get U.S. Army Spec. Chazray Clark to a hospital in southern Afghanistan after receiving a call that a roadside bombing severed three of his limbs. Clark did not survive.

“I need something, please. It hurts,” Clark, a 24-year-old combat engineer from Detroit, can be heard saying on a videotape as he waited in the dark for the helicopter.

Washington Post, February 13, 2012

. . .  the Obama Administration asserted that it was pursuing a well-resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy intended to pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan leadership from July 2011 until the end of 2014.

Congressional Research Service ,  February 6, 2012

U.S. Soldiers’  views [of the Afghan army]  . . .  were extremely negative. They reported pervasive illicit drug use, massive thievery, personal instability, dishonesty, no integrity, incompetence, unsafe weapons handling, corrupt officers, no real NCO corps, covert alliances/informal treaties with insurgents, high AWOL rates, bad morale, laziness, repulsive hygiene and the torture of dogs.

US Study:  A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility, May 12, 2011

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m not for an instant criticizing the medical evacuation (medevac) system for taking 59 minutes to get the fatally wounded Specialist Chazray Clark to the hospital. (The target time is 60 minutes.)  I’m sure that everything was done to get him there as soon as possible, because medevac is marvelous and all those involved are nothing short of ground and airborne saints, although obviously there was a operational glitch in this case.   Nomy criticism, my revulsion, my rage, are directed at the government, the system, that allowed young Chazray Clark to suffer and die in the darkness of doomed Afghanistan.

Politicians who send soldiers to die for nothing are criminals. And soldiers in Afghanistan are dying for nothing.

Those of us who have been soldiers have seen death and injury.  Many of us have heard the agonized screams of the badly-wounded, and it’s not something you forget.  When I read the press report about Chazray Clark my elderly heart went out to his memory and I thought of him lying with limbs severed and bleeding, and gasping “It hurts” in the cosmic darkness.  If that videotape were to appear on the networks, the U.S. would be out of Afghanistan in a New York Heartbeat.  But it won’t appear;  and U.S. and other foreign soldiers will continue to die for nothing while they fight a war that is doomed to failure.  The Pentagon’s public relations machine ensures that there will be no publicity for awkward occurrences, like death. There will never be an official picture or video of the suffering of an American soldier.  Why? —  simply because the war in Afghanistan is supposed to be Good and winnable and anything that might detract from that myth must be suppressed.

The Obama Administration declared it is following a “well-resourced and integrated” track for handover to Afghan military and civilian leadership, yet an independent study shows this is a farrago of lies. Last year’s analysis, ‘A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility’, by Jeffrey Bordin said a great deal;  It included the observation — known and stated in similar words by many of us — that “U.S. Soldiers were in near-universal agreement that the ANA [Afghan National Army] was not a competent fighting force and would quickly collapse without a strong U.S. presence. Many also indicated that they were repulsed to even be associated with it.”

But that didn’t say it all.  Because now comes the bold, honest, articulate, highly intelligent and therefore never-to-be-promoted US Army’s Lieutenant Colonel Daniel L. Davis whose paper, ‘Dereliction of Duty,’ in the Armed Forces Journal asks

How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding and behind an array of more than seven years of optimistic statements by U.S. senior leaders in Afghanistan? No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.

Don’t hold your breath, Colonel.

The study by LtCol Daniel Davis is both brilliant and cataclysmic.  He brings enormous effort and incisive insight to his analysis of what is so desperately wrong in Afghanistan (and, indeed, with the entire U.S. war system).  Concerning Afghanistan in particular, he brings incontrovertible insider facts and plain, clear explanation to make his conclusions.  He explains just how the Pentagon’s information-bending industry and many of its generals do exactly the opposite, bringing ambiguity, insider manufactured baloney, and bent, murky obfuscation to try to influence ingenuous journalists.  Lieutenant Colonel Davis was decidedly not “embedded” like so many of the poor trusting journos who have retailed the official line for so many years. (A few tried to tell the truth.  They were banished to the margins.)

He has written the most definitive analysis of the Afghan disaster that exists in the public domain.  It is the equivalent of the Pentagon Papers (published when the New York Times was a real newspaper, forty years ago), insofar as its content is vital to explaining to the American people and the world exactly what is going on in a country in which Washington has become inextricably entangled in a losing war.  His military analysis is utterly damning:

The United States, along with over 40 NATO and other allied nations [in Afghanistan], possess the most sophisticated, powerful, and technologically advanced military force that has ever hit the field of combat. We have the finest and most well trained Soldiers that exist anywhere; we have armored vehicles of every type, to include MIA2 Main Battle Tanks; artillery, mortars, advanced rockets, precision guided missiles, and hand-held rocket launchers; we have a wholly uncontested air force composed of NATO’s most advanced ground attack fighter jets, bombers, AWACS controllers, spy planes, signals-interception aircraft, B 1 bombers, attack helicopters, and massive transport jets to ferry our troops and critical supplies where they are needed; we have thousands of unmanned aerial drones both for intelligence collection and missile-launching; we have a helicopter fleet for personnel transport and attack support; we have an enormous constellation of spy satellites; logistics that are as limitless as the combined weight of the industrial world; we have every technological device known to the profession of arms; we are able to intercept virtually every form of insurgent communication to include cell phones, walkie-talkies, satellite phones, email, and even some ability to eavesdrop on otherwise private conversations; a remarkably capable cohort of intelligence analysts that are as educated, well trained and equipped to a degree that used to exist only in science fiction; and our various nations have the economic wherewithal to spend $10s of billions each month to fund it all. And for almost 10 years we have pitted this unbelievable and unprecedented capability against: A bunch of dudes in bed sheets and flip-flops.

By God, that sums it up.

Davis states that “The general theme ISAF and US military leaders stress are:  the Afghan government will be at least minimally capable by 2014 and is trending in that direction;  the violence is waning in [Afghanistan] specifically as a result of the surge; and the people recognize the way of the Taliban is a dead-end.  None of those characterizations are accurate.”  He’s said a mouthful, here, and the fact that there hasn’t been instant vituperative denial is evidence enough that the establishment is on the back foot.  But it never remains there long.  I hope the private life of LtCol Davis is as clear as his prose, because there’ll be people seeking to destroy him.

The basic points are that the Afghan War is a catastrophe;  that we have been lied to in order to convince us otherwise; and the handover from foreign forces to the Afghans is going to be a shambles.   The lioes will continue, and this week, alone, when there was slaughter of eight Afghan children in yet another whoopee shoot airstrike, the propaganda machine tried to tell us that the kids were  “seen as adult-sized and moving in a tactical fashion.”  (NYT February 16.)  Not only this, but they “appeared to be carrying weapons and heading for nearby mountains.”  They weren’t shooting at anyone, of course: they could hardly do that because they didn’t have any weapons;  they were herding animals and had lit a fire in the lee of a boulder in order to try to get warm.   But this didn’t stop the usual talking head from weaselling away that there were “some fragments” of what “might be consistent with weapons the youths would have had.”

The Afghan war is based on lies and deception. The only trouble is that it’s not the enemy who is being lied to and deceived;  It’s us.  And if you ever tend towards believing that this is a reasonable war, please think of Chazray Clark, dying in the dark, muttering “it hurts” as the bunch of dudes in bed sheets resist the “most sophisticated, powerful, and technologically advanced military force that has ever hit the field of combat.”   Chazray Clark and the ever-anonymous Afghan kids had a lot in common:  They were young and guiltless;  and they died for disaster.

Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.