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Richard Greener Headshot

Afghanistan: D-Day On St. Barts

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Imagine this. It's June 1944. Allied forces commanded by General Dwight D. Eisenhower using an armada of thousands of ships with hundreds of thousands of soldiers launch an amphibious attack. It is the boldest move in a long and bloody war. In a massive, coordinated effort they hit the beaches on St. Barts in the Caribbean. An announcement is made - "The invasion of France has begun!" Technically correct, but who would have laughed harder, the Germans or us? This is exactly what's happening right now in Afghanistan.

The US war in that oft-invaded land has become George Orwell's perpetual phony war against a phony enemy. In order to wage such a "struggle" Orwell understood it was necessary to have phony campaigns on fake battlefields against nonexistent "insurgents" resulting in fictional victories. In any foreign war, from time to time, the public needs to see action. They require news of some sort of forward movement, some kind of violent encounter, and some kind of result they can call victory. They don't actually require that it be real. They only need to be told about it. They need to see and hear about it in "the news." Sound familiar? That's Afghanistan today.

On February 13th fifteen thousand US and NATO troops launched a "major offensive" against what we were told was the largest Taliban stronghold left in Afghanistan. The Taliban was "in control" of the "city of Marjah" in southern Afghanistan, 360 miles or 610 kilometers southwest of Kabul, near the Pakistan border. This bustling metropolis, headquarters of the Taliban, had 80,000 people living there. The Taliban was dug in ready for a fight. Game on!

By March 1st victory was at hand. United States Marines helicoptered in an Afghan Vice President from Kabul to raise the Afghan flag over "the city of Marjah" in Helmand province. Afghanistan has 34 provinces of which Helmand is the largest. And yet nobody from the Afghan national government had been able to set foot in it in 35 years. Thirty-five years! Imagine, if you can, an equivalent situation here in the US. Imagine that not a single federal officer or employee - not a single person from any federal agency at all - had been able to enter Texas since 1975. And then imagine the reason for it was - Texas was controlled by armed insurgents. The Afghan VP was whisked in, raised the flag, and was then promptly flown back to the comfort of the capital, Kabul.

"The significance of this is that it happened." So said Mark Sedwill, NATO counterpart to US Gen. Stanley McCrystal who was also present for the occasion. "It happened," he said, meaning it could be photographed and reported around the world especially in those countries that had military forces in Afghanistan like the United States and Britain. Mission Accomplished.

Why was the "Battle For Marjah" a phony campaign? Was the battlefield a fake? Was the enemy nonexistent? Was the victory fictional? Could any of that be true?

"The city of Marjah" does not exist. Is that enough to make it phony? There is a rural area of Helmand province called Marjah or Marja, but it is just a collection of scattered farms, which just happen to produce 42% of the world's heroin, a few marketplaces and some tiny villages. There is no city or town anywhere - not anywhere at all. Yet we were told there are 80,000 people in Marjah. Some European news reports said no more than 50,000. The world's leading commercial demographic map company (Falling Rain Genomics) has maps and data on practically every place in the world. I looked up my own hometown before writing this. It was as complete and accurate as anything I've seen. FRG lists Marja, Afghanistan with a population of 4,874. You could look it up too.

The flag raising photo of the Afghan VP, the NATO spokesperson and General McCrystal can be found in newspapers, on TV and across the Internet. Take a look. There is a single, obviously temporary flagpole erected in a vacant field, surrounded as far as the eye can see by - nothing but empty, flat, barren land. Not a single structure in sight. The caption, carried by worldwide media, says the ceremony took place in "Marjah's central marketplace." Like the Mall of America, maybe? More like the Middle Of F@#*&$g Nowhere.

Following this biggest military victory in the Afghanistan War, a check of the worldwide press, broadcasting and Internet services fails to produce a single photo showing any US or NATO troops engaged in battle with any enemy. No TV video has been shown in which any Taliban forces are visible. There is nothing showing Taliban dead or wounded. There are no captured Taliban fighters. No POWs. No "enemy combatants." And Marjah - we were told by our Generals - was the biggest Taliban stronghold left in Afghanistan. What happened to the Taliban?

According to American television and various other news services, the Marines were told by "several residents" that the Taliban had pulled back. They had retreated. But to where? Nobody seemed to know. A US Marine Capt. Joshua Winfrey was quoted: "I don't expect they can keep this up for long," he said. Keep what up? That's the question. No one can find the enemy. Fifteen thousand US and NATO troops on the ground, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft overhead, satellite images flying across military computer screens, and the best they could come up was this - Commanders with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment said they "believed" there were "about 100" Taliban fighters... in another place, not in Marjah but in "an area known as Kareze." Huh?

A phony war, on a fake battlefield, against a nonexistent enemy with a fictional victory. D-Day on St. Barts.