Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Marine Killings Reveal Failing Policy
When Col. John Nicholson, commander of 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, briefed Pentagon reporters Tuesday (May 8) on the March killings of 19 Afghan civilians by a Marine Special operations unit, I expected for the blame to fall squarely on the Leathernecks. Following a suicide car bomb in March, the Marines sprayed gunfire for miles, about 19 Afghans, 50 wounded. They pulled the company out afterward.
Nicholson’s statement led with highlights of his unit’s achievements in eastern Afghanistan.
“We'd humbly suggest we're winning here in Afghanistan,” he said.
Good points all around, tough terrain, illiterate population, troops living in austere conditions, unclear enemy with challenging tactics. Nicholson represented his troopers as best he could.
But what made the press?
We paid off the families of the killed Afghans – sympathy payment - and also apologized.
Support of the civilian population is key in counter-insurgency operations. Even the Taliban has been trying to apologize lately when they kill innocent civilians – they need their support too.
Nicholson told the Afghans he felt, “deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry,” and that this was a terrible, terrible mistake.” He added that people in U.S. are grieving with the Afghans for their loss – while so many Americans do not even know about this incident!
How many Americans have any clue about the U.S. military’s mission in Afghanistan?