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Civilian Casualties in Marjah “Inevitable” as Largest Military Operation of Afghanistan War Begins

Posted by Derrick Crowe on February 10th, 2010

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Military officials say that civilian casualties in Marjah, Afghanistan are “inevitable” as U.S. and allied forces launch Operation Moshtarak, the largest military action since the U.S-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Thanks in part to conflicting messages from ISAF and in part due to some residents’ inability to flee, many civilians remain in Marjah, in the crossfire.

Statements from Brig. Gen. Nicholson, commander of the operation, indicate that he feels he has leeway to use airstrikes in the civilian area, and that he intends to use fast, furious attacks to try to overwhelm the Taliban. The problem: airstrikes in support of troops in contact are the leading cause of U.S.-caused civilian deaths.

In the L.A. Times article on the upcoming operation in Marja, the U.S. commander says all the right words when it comes to the issue of insulating the non-combatants from the carnage:

…[I]n the weeks leading up to the imminent offensive to take the Helmand River Valley town of Marja in southern Afghanistan, the Marines’ commander, Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, sat with dozens of Afghan tribal elders, drinking endless cups of sweet tea and offering reassurances that his top priority will be the safety of Afghan civilians.

“In counterinsurgency, the people are the prize,” Nicholson said

…except Nicholson is talking out of both sides of his mouth:

US Second Marine Expeditionary Force commander Larry Nicholson said that the evacuation of most civilians would give commanders leeway to use air-to-ground missiles, declaring that he was “not looking for a fair fight.”

ABC News quotes Nicholson explaining some truly worrisome logic:

Nicholson underscored the point saying a heavy handed approach will reduce the chance for civilian casualties.

“Our feeling is if you go big, strong and fast, you lessen the possibility of civilian casualties as opposed to a slow methodical rolling assault. You go in and you dominate. You overwhelm the enemy,” he said.

Okay, let’s put these two things together. Nicholson is telegraphing he’s letting the air strikes off the chain and that he intends to use rapid, furious attacks in Marja, and somehow that is supposed to lead to reduced civilian casualties. Well, that would be great if we didn’t already know that the single greatest cause of U.S.-caused civilian casualties was airstrikes in support of troops involved in intense firefights.

All of this is very, very bad news for civilians in Marjah. And it’s bad news for the troops in the fight as well.

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  1. [...] Gen. Nicholson, the commander of the operation, seems to think that this “war’ justifies using airstrikes in civilian areas. Where does this guy come [...]

  2. Heidi Mead says:

    Civilian casualties have always been called “collateral damage” – I remember that phrase very clearly from the Viet Nam war. This whole middle east mess is so very like Viet Nam and we all know how that affected our troops, our nation and the world view of the US. We need to get our troops out of there as safely and quickly as possible. I believe that's really what the Iraqis and Afghans want.

  3. dcrowe says:

    I totally agree, Heidi.

  4. [...] at Rethink Afghanistan, a project helmed by progressive idealist Robert Greenwald, put together a few thoughts on what’s now known as Obama’s War, that being the fledlging offensive – or in [...]

  5. [...] at Rethink Afghanistan, a project helmed by progressive idealist Robert Greenwald, put together a few thoughts on what’s now known as Obama’s War, that being the fledlging offensive – or in [...]

  6. vci says:

    “Thanks in part to conflicting messages from ISAF and in part due to some residents’ inability to flee, many civilians remain in Marjah, in the crossfire.?
    does that mean that this was effectively an ETHNIC CLEANSING operation…. and like flooding survivors stuck in New Orleans, they were nothing but Blackwater bait?

  7. robertupton says:

    So, what are they fighting for?

  8. JC says:

    It sounds like Marjah will be the Fallujah of the Afghan war. Why do we NEVER learn?

  9. R.C.A. says:

    It is a difficult situation. Bush had given the Taliban government $40 million in May 2001. Then the 9/11 attacks occurred, and we invaded 27 days later, and then the young man our media called “the American Taliban” John Lindh was arrested in part for providing material support for the Taliban.” Exactly what Bush himself had done 4 months earlier with the $40 million. Yet I noticed Bush wasn't arrested.
    The “American Taliban” John Lindh had harmed no American, yet Bush has killed thousands of Americans. Yet Lindh is in prison and Bush has hundreds of millions of dollars and is living in luxury.
    Osama was never caught, yet we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan. Now we are told our objective is to make life better for women and girls, and to wipe out the poppies to reduce heroin usage. Admirable goals, but are they possible? And what does that have to do with 9/11?

  10. R.C.A. says:

    It is a difficult situation. Bush had given the Taliban government $40 million in May 2001. Then the 9/11 attacks occurred, and we invaded 27 days later, and then the young man our media called “the American Taliban” John Lindh was arrested in part for providing material support for the Taliban.” Exactly what Bush himself had done 4 months earlier with the $40 million. Yet I noticed Bush wasn't arrested.
    The “American Taliban” John Lindh had harmed no American, yet Bush has killed thousands of Americans. Yet Lindh is in prison and Bush has hundreds of millions of dollars and is living in luxury.
    Osama was never caught, yet we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan. Now we are told our objective is to make life better for women and girls, and to wipe out the poppies to reduce heroin usage. Admirable goals, but are they possible? And what does that have to do with 9/11?

  11. R.C.A. says:

    It is a difficult situation. Bush had given the Taliban government $40 million in May 2001. Then the 9/11 attacks occurred, and we invaded 27 days later, and then the young man our media called “the American Taliban” John Lindh was arrested in part for providing material support for the Taliban.” Exactly what Bush himself had done 4 months earlier with the $40 million. Yet I noticed Bush wasn't arrested.
    The “American Taliban” John Lindh had harmed no American, yet Bush has killed thousands of Americans. Yet Lindh is in prison and Bush has hundreds of millions of dollars and is living in luxury.
    Osama was never caught, yet we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan. Now we are told our objective is to make life better for women and girls, and to wipe out the poppies to reduce heroin usage. Admirable goals, but are they possible? And what does that have to do with 9/11?

  12. seadragonconquerer says:

    Each civilian our troops kill=10 new Taliban recruits. Still, I understand that the poppyfields have to kept in production for as long as possible; George Soros insists. In the longer term, I hope the skids on our helicopters are screwed on real tight….when the Brits tried to subdue Afghanistan in the 1830s, 20,000 troops went in, one came out alive.

  13. Jeffery Haas says:

    Goddamit use the predator drones for God's sake!
    Those flying cans of bug spray have been the only seriously effective tactic we have EVER had against these folks.

    KILLS TERRORISTS DEAD.
    Now with fewer civilian casualties!
    These rocket jocks just want to score one for Lockheed is all, they're making lame excuses so another 187 really really expensive planes will get paid for instead of the really really CHEEP ones.

  14. Jeffery Haas says:

    Actually I thought the same thing but I now realize that US+ Allies are in reality trying to separate the TALIBAN from the opium revenue stream. There's no way they can wean the locals off farming opium, but they CAN keep the Taliban from levying giant taxes on it.

  15. avdavd says:

    Tragic.

  16. Brian says:

    There fighting for bragging rights. This makes as much sense as letting Iran enrich uranium right. I am sure there just doing it for fun. Not to mention beating and killing there own people as well as some from the media made them mad reporting that they have illegal elections. Were gonna sanction the crap out of them though. They will be damn hungry when they nuke someone and probably won't be able to drive anywhere. Oh wait they have more oil than anyone, well that may not work. I got it we'll just starve all there poor people to death. Then only the rich ones can nuke us. Hmm that does not seem to work either. I don't know maybe Bush can Help Obama figure something out (Oh yeah neither him or his father nor the Russian army could do anything either).

  17. martha martin says:

    having lived in germany for many years, i only now am beginning to understand how the german people came to accept a certain number of “civilian casualties” in the invasions there government made in the interest of the national defense.

  18. cherokeeonefivevet says:

    As a veteran, my level of contempt for your lack of understanding of military operations cannot be stated with mere words. While we never seek out civilian casualites, our fear of causing them often leads to more of them. If we made more strikes with the intent of killing our enemies, both air and ground based, people who might shelter these murderous bastards would be much more resistive to them sheltering in their communities. This worked in Ramadi, where we didn't actually kill a lot of people, but we made life hell for folks in parts of town that had known muj symapthies. That combined with knowledge that we weren't going away eventually led to the awakening councils and the end of AQ in Iraq.
    We must win the hearts and minds, and we can do that with soft measures, but if we fail to punish the enemy where he is, he can go anywhere.

  19. richardslowry says:

    Here is a tiny fact for you: HALF of the entire world's production of poppys (the source of opium and heroin) is in Central Helmand Province, Afghanistan. And, the Taliban uses the money gained from the sale of these killer drugs to finance their terror.

  20. elmermcdonald says:

    Afghan for the Afghans. Bring the boys home!

  21. KimMi says:

    This is a war and there are going to be casualities. As a mother of a young Marine in Marjah, I do not like that fact, but Americans have to “buck up” and let these experts do what they know best. We have to have the stomach to see this through or terror will always prevail!

  22. gORAN says:

    Sure,
    we have to have stomach for killing their children.
    What a war monger…

  23. boscobear says:

    In war civilian deaths/injuries are unavoidable. This is especially true when the bad guys hide behind the innocent.

  24. Grousefeather says:

    So, if we are indeed at “war” with terrorism, and civilan casualities can be dismissed as inevitable, then it follows that we should dismiss the casualities of 9/11 as inevitable?

  25. michael b says:

    and it goes on and on and on doesnt it america killing civilians is just ok then i guess 9/11 was just ok well its not ok our civilians get killed and its murder so is killing other people in other countries its murder too the united states has alot of blood on its hands and tries to justify it by painted it differently by demoncracy or protecting us its murder no matter how you dress it up its still a lip stick on a pig

  26. plaguepuppy says:

    Funny how those narrow-minded fundamentalist Taliban had managed to almost eradicate poppy production just before we invaded. Seems like nothing they do makes their former benefactors happy, and nothing is more dangerous than being a former good buddy of the Neocons. Just ask Noriega…

  27. kd says:

    I hope your son comes home alive and not in a box or maimed like the non cmbatants we seem to think are expendable and inevitable. No wonder somany people around the world despise this country. Buck up – I'd say it's more like f**k up.

  28. kd says:

    And my level of contempt for you, sir, for your lack of compassion and cold-heartedness is also beyond mere words. I wonder how you would feel if it was your innocent family who was simply cast off as casualties of war. Your comment is disgusting.

  29. Andie says:

    The response to the slaughter of innocents is cold-hearted and arrogant. It's as if non-Freeholders are only Human when we need them to make a point in support of our economic agenda. Otherwise, they are just grist for the mill…. cheap labor, drugs trade, sex trade, prison system, soldiers, and taxpayers.

  30. aSHAMED says:

    Alot of us never wnated the first war (afganistan) in the first place. More of us didn't want the 2nd (Iraq) completely unjustified, and even more of us think this 3rd war (afgan again – the sequel) is just as bad a choice as the first two.

    Must be great to live life with the blinders on, we were attacked (911) because the US DOES do alot of injustice around the world.
    We are not innocent, but preimtive wars aren't the solution, they are the problem.

    Bush lead us into this problem whole heartedly and foolishly, Obama needs to make a choice, the right one and leave. These wars need to end, other wise it will just continue to escalate.

    How many more afgans want to kill Americans now that their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children have been killed by us as 'cassualties'?

  31. chlai88 says:

    The US army can do better than to say the deaths of innocents are “inevitable”. How would you react if those who perish in 9/11 are also treated in such a dismissive, cheap way ?

  32. [...] February 13, 2010, NATO troops launched Operation Moshtarak in the Marjah district of Helmand Province. It was the first major military action enabled by [...]

  33. [...] February 13, 2010, NATO troops launched Operation Moshtarak in the Marjah district of Helmand Province. It was the first major military action enabled by [...]

  34. [...] RON BEASLEY in Politics, Society, War.Jan 20th, 2011 On February 13, 2010, NATO troops launched Operation Moshtarak in the Marjah district of Helmand Province. It was the first major military action enabled by [...]

  35. [...] February 13, 2010, NATO troops launched Operation Moshtarak in the Marjah district of Helmand Province. It was the first major military action enabled by [...]

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