In memory of and Sympathy for

  

At least six farmers killed

Three others wounded

April 30-May 7, 2008

 in and around the largely deserted town of Garmser (Garmsir) in southern Helmand where a small British occupation base with 120 soldiers, FOB Camp Dwyer, exists. The newly arrived U.S. Marine occupation force of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in the early morning of April 30th “stormed” the empty small town – in the words of Declan Walsh, “a ghost town” - seeking both to relieve the British and establish a presence in an area under complete control of the Taliban. Storming empty space? Many of the men in the 24th MEU served in 2006 and 2007 in Ramadi and in Falluja in western Iraq. The UN’s IRIN reports that thousands of civilians fled the area fearing (rightly) for their lives. Not surprisingly, the Portuguese Brigadier General Carlos Branco of NATO in Kabul, a gushing fountain of propaganda, asserted that the people had fled fearing being used as human shields by the Taliban. The U.S. military propaganda office in Kabul admitted some civilians were injured in the assault. Local sources reported that others had been killed (as in Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) wire report dated May 2, 2008, “Garmsir clash: ISAF, Taliban make conflicting claims”).

 The U.S. occupation forces’ newly arrived Marine battalion was chosen to lead this foray into southern Helmand which is to be a major “media event.” The operation needed to be widely reported to the U.S. general public in heroic language showing resolve and success – untainted by civilian casualties - in preparation for further deployment in Afghanistan of more U.S. troops (given NATO’s reluctance) diverted from Iraq. Hence, over 1,000 Marines with helicopter gunship and artillery support were sent to the town of Garmser where “up to 100 Taliban” (words of the Associated Press) were located in the poppy-growing area. Secondly, the US/NATO tight censorship of access to and communication with Garmser – total “news management” - prevents any independent assessment. FOX News correspondent Dana Lewis and Jason Straziuoso of the Associated Press, hardly independent sources, are “embedded” with the U.S. Marine occupation force and feed the corporate media with the Pentagon’s virtual reality. The ever “patriotic” Associated Press dutifully published heroic reports mentioning US Marines “storming into Garmser,” “US Marines assault Garmser,” “Attack helicopters ‘obliterated’ a compound used as a base by the insurgents,”  or “Sandwiched between Taliban and poppies, Marines face day of fire in southern Afghanistan,” etc.

 The Taliban and associates learned during 2006 not to fight their over-powering adversaries head-to-head, instead retreating in the face of vastly superior fire-power and later counter-attacking in small-scale, quick actions. The Taliban seek to tie down as many foreign occupation troops as possible, just as the mujahideen did with the Soviets in the 1980’s, wearing them down. The movement of a large Marine force into Garmser achieves this goal for to hold Garmser the Marines will have to commit many troops to this inhospitable outpost in the torrid desert; alternatively the Marines will withdraw and the Taliban will then simply return as usual. But nothing about this or civilian deaths will be reported in the heroics of the Associated Press and FOX News.

 On May 8th, the independent Pajhwok Afghan News was able to finally break through the official new censorship. Haji Muhammad Qasam, a resident and tribal elder from the Darwishan area of the Garmser district, said that peasants and local men working in the poppy fields had been killed and injured in a firefight which had erupted on Wednesday evening (May 7th). He added that some 10-15,000 residents had been displaced from the area by the fighting. The provincial council head noted that the district remained under Taliban control. Resistance sources accused foreign troops of bombing and firing upon civilian targets. 

 As recently as November 11, 2007, U.S-led troops had killed 18 people (3 resistance fighters and 15 civilians) in a raid upon Garmser, including a woman and two children, when they hurled grenades into a building causing its collapse.

Injured and killed in the on-going U.S. Marine Cobra helicopter and ground assault

Postscript:

“The perpetual conundrum of the old men who declare war is how to get the young boys to commit to the battle field. They have solved this conundrum by selling young boys on a counterfeit cause: freedom. War is somehow always about freedom, whether it is insuring it, or making the world safe for it; the men who spin these yarns preach that the only way to insure freedom is to liberate the villages, liberate the towns, and liberate the cities. We did that in Nam. We would send in mortars to soften up a village and then spray it with machine gun fire before occupying it and killing whoever we suspected might be the enemy. After the patrols, some of us would wash away the memories of such philanthropic antics with tumblers of Johnny Walker. We drank at the community lean-to back at the base, a lean-to which was appropriately christened, “Bombs for Peace.” I vividly recall guzzling a pitcher of Manhattans and looking up at the television set to see President Nixon making an urgent address to the nation. His words were clear, emphatic, concise, and complete bullshit. “We are not now, nor have we ever, bombed the country of Laos” (Sheehan 310). So I finished my drink, rolled a nice fat joint, and went outside to smoke it, because it was 8:45 now. The Air Force usually started the napalming of Laos about nine. I didn’t want to miss the show. After all, how many people get to see bombs that don’t exist?” (Source: emphasis added - William P. O’Connor at http://www.counterpunch.org/oconnor04302008.html )