AFGHANISTAN: DUTCH DIVISION February 21, 2010Posted by wmmbb in CENTRAL ASIA, European Politics.
Proportional representative voting systems, as in the Netherlands, gives rise to coalition governments. Nato – or is that the Pentagon – in its wisdom has decided to pressure the Dutch.
In consequence another government at the Hague bites the polder. The Dutch forces began their engagement in August 2006 and has been extended for two years beyond the original time with 21 causalities.
The Dutch government collapsed Saturday, the prime minister said, after members of the coalition government failed to agree on a NATO request to extend the Netherlands’ military mission in Afghanistan.
“Later today, I will will offer to her majesty the Queen the resignations of the ministers and deputy ministers of the (Labour Party) PvdA,” premier Jan Peter Balkenende told journalists in the early hours.
He made the announcement after the cabinet held more than 16 hours of talks in The Hague to try to settle the dispute.
Reed Stevenson and Aaron Gray-Block in The Independent say the collapse of the coalition means that the 2,000 Dutch troops will be withdrawn and that elections will now have to be held. The larger problem is that difficult decisions on the economy will have to be delayed.
As for Afghanistan Patrick Cockburn suggests that the role of Pakistan is crucial, more so that the criminal assault on the city of Marjah. He observes:
The resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2006 has also been dependent on the safe havens inside Pakistan. Without them, the flow of money and weapons will be more difficult to organise. But the extent to which the Pakistan army is turning on its old ally and withdrawing support is still not clear. It is unlikely to abandon them entirely, and it could just be demonstrating to the US that it will get not anywhere in Afghanistan without help from across the border.
David Lindorff writing in Counter Punch suggests the battle for Marjah has been lost, because of the reports of the embedded journalists of the murder of civilians. Strategically the military needs to murder civilians but not have their actions reported, and then they could be successful. David Lindroff wrote:
The fighting is still underway in the town of Marjah, in what is being described as the first battle in Obama’s War in Afghanistan, or alternatively as the biggest battle of the US War in Afghanistan. But already, the US has lost that battle.
It lost it from day one, when troops fired missiles in to a Marjah house, killing 12 civilian occupants–half of them children. And it lost it further when another three more civilians were blown away by US-led forces. Finally, it lost the battle as much of the town has been simply destroyed by the fighting.
The supposed goal of the assault on Marjah was to demonstrate that the US would bring the wonders of good government and peace to the Pashtun tribal people who have endured a generation or more of war, and who have been living under the “cruel tyranny” of the Taliban in recent years. The new strategy of President Barack Obama and his hand-picked military leader in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was to show that the US military could fight the Taliban without causing civilian deaths and casualties. Protecting civilian lives would be a priority, they claimed.
The problem with such a strategy is that the whole reason American forces have been able to crush resistance, as they did in the lighting invasion of Iraq in 2003, or the overthrow of the Taliban government of Afghanistan in late 2001, has been their callous disregard for civilian lives, which have been coldly labelled “collateral damage.”
In the war in Iraq, and in Afghanistan until recently at least, the American war-fighting style has been for troops to go into an area, seeking to draw enemy fire, and then to call in long-range artillery or air support, and simply blow up the area with heavy explosives, devastating anti-personnel bombs that shower an area in flesh-shredding flechettes, burning white phosphorus projectiles, and a brutal rain of machine-gun fire from fixed-wing and helicopter gunships. Inevitably with such tactics, countless innocent men, women and children get killed and maimed.
In Iraq, US forces ended up killing far, far more civilians than actual enemy fighters thanks to this approach. While information about deaths in the Afghan War is harder to come by, it is likely that the same holds true there also. In addition to the well-known incidents, where air strikes have been called in which ended up butchering entire wedding parties in both Iraq and Afghanistan, or where farm families engaged in routine activties have been blown away thinking they were terrorists, US forces have for years thought nothing about assaulting compounds and killing the inhabitants, innocent civilians or not, children or adults, if it was thought that even one “terrorist” was in the building at the time.
Such tactics, reminiscent of what years ago used to be attributed to vicious military regimes like the German Nazis or the Imperial Japanese, have become the norm for US forces, as has the tactic of “spray and pray,” under which US forces, if they take fire or feel threatened, simply unload all their weapons in every direction, killing every living thing within range, including people who might be seeking shelter behind mud walls of their homes.
These tactics, while criminal in the extreme under the Geneva Conventions, which require that civilians in any conflict be protected, do work in the short term, which is why American forces have prevailed in their initial assaults. But long-term, they inevitably become self-defeating, since they only turn a population into bitter enemies, many with an understandable desire for vengeance.
Thus, the “new” strategy of trying to minimize civilian casualties. And to adopt electioneering methods in a war context according to Thom Shanker at The New York Times. As Christopher Drew in the same newspaper reports the use of terror weapons, the pilotless, remote controlled drones has increased with Obama.
But once US troops are denied their air support, and are barred by commanders from simply blowing away buildings from which they are taking enemy fire, because of fears that there may be civilians in those buildings, US forces lose any advantage they may have had over local enemy fighters. It becomes a battle of guns vs. guns and person vs. person, and becomes more of a case of who is more willing to die.
Wars makes criminals of its actors- a conclusion that is hardly surprising. But what is the systemic context, personal motivation and gain that attracts otherwise decent people to such a venture?