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‘Vietnam Without Napalm’


Napalm.  A particularly nasty method of destroying life.  Above is a picture that is somewhat iconic and at the same time surrounded by a bit of myth.  It was not the U.S. that dropped the napalm that burned the skin of this girl’s body and scared the hell out of the other children.  It was the Vietnamese Air Force that did it….for us.  Troops in Afghanistan have an interesting take on their situation.  It is well worth it to listen as the debate on what we are doing over there seems to be coming more into the public.

U.S. Troops Call Afghan Region ‘Vietnam Without Napalm’

The men of Bravo Company have a bitter description for the irrigated swath of land along the Arghandab River where 10 members of their battalion have been killed and 30 have been wounded since the beginning of August.

“Like Vietnam without the napalm,” said Spc. Nicholas Gojekian, 21, of Katy, Texas.

Of course, it was no the Americans who had to worry about the napalm in Vietnam but the frustration of fighting a ghost like enemy that inflicts casualties and fades away, if seen at all, is the same.

Bravo Company arrived in Afghanistan with 24 Strykers, the first of the eight-wheeled combat vehicles outfitted with high-tech communications and surveillance gear to arrive in Afghanistan. A third of the vehicles are now out of service due to bomb attacks or maintenance.

The bomb threats are so pervasive that Stryker drivers have abandoned some stretches of road in favor of driving through the deserts on different routes. The road to one smaller outpost has so many homemade bombs that the soldiers usually arrive on foot, a treacherous hike due to buried land mines.

“We have had enemy contact almost every day,” said Lt. Col. Jon Neumann, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. “Until we do clearing, we can’t hold or build here right now,” a reference to the U.S. counter-insurgency tactic of “clear, hold and build.”

And as we used to say in the Marine Corps, they are just shoveling shit against the tide.  And the tide is unrelenting.

Some battalion solders perished when their Strykers hit roadside bombs — known as IED’s or improvised explosive devices — and others were killed by bombs that exploded while they patrolled on foot. On a single deadly day in August, a Bravo Company 1st lieutenant on a patrol had both his legs blown off by a mine, and explosions killed two soldiers temporarily attached to the unit as they walked through the green zone.

Civilian casualties also have climbed. IED’s set by insurgents have blown up many. Villagers claim that other civilians have died or been injured in crossfires when U.S. forces and their Afghan allies fight insurgents.

The tide takes no prisoners.  It washes in and over the guilty and the innocent alike.  The rhetoric is starting to heat up from the hawks in regard our commitment to the  war in Afghanistan.  The right wing is tossing around its usual jingoistic cliches and complaining that Obama is not doing enough or that his focus is not on this conflict.  Again they seem to forget the last eight years, seven of which their party started and then failed to win the war in the first place.  However, Obama has done himself no favors by subscribing to the idea that we have to defeat the Taliban to stop terrorism.  The Taliban were never a threat to us in the first place.  And now we have made them stronger and given them reason to vent their anger at our long occupation after we removed them from power.  The following reminds me of a fairly similar situation we faced in Vietnam:

The Taliban presence is strong enough in some areas that children are afraid to go to school, even abandoning a large school built in 2004 with the aid of Japanese funds. “If we send our children to school during the day, then the Taliban will come kill the parents at night,” said one elder in a meeting with Bravo Company soldiers in the village of Adirah. McClatchy isn’t using the elder’s name to protect his security.

Replace Taliban with Viet Cong and the situation is virtually the same.  We have failed to achieve success in Afghanistan and we now fail to even define what victory will be.  How can we expect to attain it then?

Meanwhile, the tide keeps rolling in.  But at least the napalm is missing.

napalm girl

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