Sunday, March 11, 2012

US Soldier Rampage in Aghanistan; Is There No Leadership?

Afghan villagers mourn their dead -- again         (c) Atlantic

Click here for related story [NY Times]

Once again, we witness an egregious US incident in Afghanistan.

A US soldier loses it and goes on a killing rampage in an Afghan village; the death toll is currently reported at 16, including nine children; we expect it will grow.  The Afghans, whose hearts and minds we are theoretically trying to win over, once again find it safer to ally themselves with the Taliban than with the US military.

And our troops become targets of both foe -- and friend.

This is the most recent in a series of incidents which portray our troops in the worst possible light: a viral YouTube video showing our troops urinating on dead Afghan Taliban, the burning of Qurans in a trash fire, drone strikes which have killed civilians in "collateral damage", and the "payback", our troops as the random murder victims of their Afghan counterparts; and  recently, the as-yet unexplained circumstances surrounding the murder of two US officers inside a secure room within a Afghan Government facility.

Nation Builder -- or Executioner?
Afghan Perceptions

The American military are doing their level best to maintain the traditional image of the honorable soldier, helping the oppressed in other countries. But that honorable image is fast eroding because of a few thugs, criminals, and psychotics allowed to wear the uniform and degrade their fellows -- and the US.

We've mentioned before that the proud tradition of the US Military as emissaries of the American people and protectors of freedom is being undermined by a lackluster and irresponsible leadership.  That problem starts at the top and filters down through the ranks.

If we kill all the Afghan civilians, do I get a Silver Star?
The US Commander, General John Allen, obviously can't control each and every soldier in his command, but it would appear he is incapable of even instilling in his subordinate officers the concept that they must lead by example and control their troops at each echelon -- down to the platoon and squad leaders.

Leadership by example is a precept of the US Military Officer; General Allen apparently skipped that class at the Academy to attend a class in social climbing etiquette.

General Allen seems to have chosen Mr. Obama's concept of "leading from behind" while being pulled to the top by his mentors.

We've commented on Allen's deficiencies before, and reckon that he remains ensconced in his sinecure on his way up the ticket-punch ladder to a top government position -- perhaps an appointment as Chairman of the JCS -- based on his record of incompetence and failures in Afghanistan?
Allen's Order of the Resplendent Banner

He seems to be a favorite of the US ruling class [e.g., Council on Foreign Relations, Georgetown], and is one of the select few Marine Generals who lacks any combat decorations --

although he does sport three Legion of Merit awards, and recognition from Poland, Taiwan, and the Mongolian Meritorious Service Medal -- all obviously preferred to such trivial US medals like the Bronze or Silver Star for combat-related service.

The hazards of the international cocktail circuit can be truly terrifying, even to the most hardened political aspirant.

We prefer our military leaders to have experienced such challenges as dirty fingernails and the sounds of gunfire beyond the skeet shooting range.  The Marine officers who have served under me have been brave, dynamic and honorable men, deserving of the highest respect.  Then again, they were all commissioned well before Allen, so maybe standards have changed; or perhaps Allen simply slipped through the cracks as happens periodically with select Academy grads.

Westie's chopper had FTA painted
on the bottom of his chopper by his troops
Older soldiers and Viet Nam vets recall a similar ceremonial soldier who rose to the top: William Westmoreland, who regarded himself a clone of Douglas MacArthur.

We recall Westie's emphasis on having his combat soldiers stand inspection with shined boots during his base camp visits with dozens of helicopters carrying his staff [the choppers were thus unavailable to support ground combat operations or to evacuate wounded soldiers].

We're not "winning" in Afghanistan.  In fact, we fail to see the real purpose in Afghanistan now that our target, Osama Bin Laden is dead  and buried [albeit at sea].

The Russians and Brits played and lost;
now it's our turn to lose.
Our Military has now become an "occupying force" with the same level of endearment by the Afghan people as the Brits, and later the Soviet troops enjoyed during their time in "The Great Game" of the 19th Century.

We have no objective, other than as "Nation Builders."  

But there is no nation to build, and our preference is that we not attempt to build a faux nation on the corpses of our soldiers.

Observers on the ground report that the shooter was a Special Forces Staff Sergeant.   He was reportedly part of a group of soldiers who went through several villages systematically executing men, women, and children, and then burning their bodies.  This was a killing spree more than likely done for sport rather than retribution.

Early SECAF responses indicated he was a lone gunman suffering from PTSD.
That is obviously not the case now.

The penalties will be severe for our ground forces, and this criminal action reflects on all our Military in Afghanistan and Iraq, and throughout the world.  We are now officially the "bad guys" and have lost the respect we've spent centuries building.

We revert to our  early position that General Allen's lack of responsible leadership has created a lawless environment among our ground troops which may encourage criminal behavior.

I strongly urge the Administration to relieve General Allen of his command and to replace him with an officer who knows how to lead troops, rather than sashay around the cocktail circuit en-route to his appointment as Chairman of the JCS.