Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Marja: Fact or Fiction?

I’m not entirely certain of my facts on this; it is entirely unreported in the American media and is not all that widely circulated on the Internet. It has persisted long enough for me to comment on it, however, and it does sound rather like the kind of thing that our military might do, because it has done it in the past. Think; "the rescue of Jessica Lynch."

For weeks we heard of a massive buildup for a major offensive against the city of Marja in Afghanistan, cited as having a population of 80,000 and posing the need for “urban fighting” on a significant scale. It was painted as being a command center for the Taliban, and we were told to expect heavy fighting of rather lengthy duration. The Army told us that it had warned civilians to evacuate the city, and told those who did not evacuate to hunker down as we moved into the city with heavy artillery. Many comparisons were made to Fallujah in Iraq.

One thing that seemed a little odd to me during that buildup was that they were talking about facing 800-1000 Taliban fighters. That seemed like an awfully small force to be holding a major city which was central to an entire province, and it seemed to me that a battle with odds of 20:1 in manpower when the larger force had artillery and airpower and the smaller one did not was seriously unlikely to produce the “heavy and prolonged urban fighting” that was being forecast.

Nonetheless we had television clips from embedded reporters of soldiers smoking nervously in their foxholes on the eve of battle, followed by armored troopers blazing away with machine guns at an unseen enemy. The invasion of Marjah was on, although the environment looked more like farmland to me, and remarkably un-urban.

According to IPS news which has a lot more detail about this, Marjah actually is farmland for the most part. What passes for the town is nothing more than what would be called a crossroads in Midwestern America. Why would our military dress up such an advance as the invasion of a big city, when all it is actually doing is advancing into a barely-occupied valley?

The Washington Post reported Feb. 22 that the decision to launch the offensive against Marja was intended largely to impress U.S. public opinion with the effectiveness of the U.S. military in Afghanistan by showing that it could achieve a "large and loud victory."

Stanley McChrystal is new in command of a war zone that is declining in popularity at home, and that is being subjected to a “surge” of troops at his request. Whether this story is true or not, and I’m inclined to suspect that it is, it is entirely consistent with the kind of deception that I have come to expect from our military.

The next question that enters my mind; if this was a deception of the American public, was it done with the knowledge and approval of President Obama? One has to think it would be difficult to do so without that knowledge and approval, and that makes me uncomfortable. They could, however, have been deceiving him as well, and that makes me even more uncomfortable.

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