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Death of a Thousand Cuts

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For the third time in a month, military supplies for US and Allied forces headed for Afghanistan have been ambushed by militants in Pakistan. In the latest attack, over 100 trucks were destroyed, including Humvees that were being transported. Reportedly over 200 militants attacked, overwhelming the small Pakistani security forces guarding them.

Presently 80 percent of the war supplies go through Pakistan to the final staging point to Peshawar before crossing into the Afghanistan border. From there the trucks enter the Khyber area, where many Taliban factions reside. It is important to note that these trucks are not driven by US or allied forces, but contracted out to Pakistan drivers, with security provided by the Pakistan military. It brings to mind the Eastern Front in WW2, when the Soviets launched their offensive to encircle the Germans Sixth army at Stalingrad. They struck at the Axis’s weakest flank that was guarded by the Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian armies. I say this not to demean Pakistanis — nor any Romanians, Hungarians, or Italians, who are reading this. But let’s face it, it’s really our war, good or bad, not theirs. Our government is pursuing this war of terrorists with a vengeance, not Pakistan. Considering the recent US attacks on Pakistan soil in pursuit of terrorists, while infringing upon their sovereignty, one can only imagine how reluctant the contracted Pakistani drivers and military escorts are to fight and die to get supplies through to the US/Allied forces at the front — for a mere paycheck.

In a previous article I wrote for LRC, Technology vs. Ideology in Warfare, I addressed the issue of the limitations of high-tech weapons in a low-tech, ideological war. Modern armies, regardless of how sophisticated their weapons may be, still require traditional heavy transport to haul beans, bullets, and casualties en masse. Air transport can compensate, but at great expense in the construction of airfields, fuel, and maintenance. The hazards of air transport are even greater that road-bound convoys. Aircraft are at great risk during landings and takeoffs. The desperate re-supply attempts of the Luftwaffe at Stalingrad, the Allies DC-3 Dakotas at Arnhem, and the French Armée de l’Air at Dien Bien Phu, show the vulnerability of aircraft in a combat zone. Ironically, it was us that provided the Afghanistan resistance groups the Stinger missiles to shoot down the Soviet Hind attack copter’s. Militants attacking lumbering air transports on a landing approach would be akin to shooting fish in a barrel.

Col. Greg Julian, designated spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan’s, claims that "It’s a very insignificant loss in terms of everything transported into Afghanistan," Perhaps at the present moment, these losses by themselves are nothing. But over time, they can accumulate into a death of a thousand cuts. You can bet that Col. Greg Julian, stationed in Kabul, miles away form the front, is not personally put out from the loss of those supplies and Humvees. After all, his job is to put a positive PR spin on setbacks to allay the folks here in the US. For the troops at the front counting on re-supply from the convoys, it’s another matter. As far as the US taxpayer is concerned, since a single Humvee can cost from $77,000 to $150,000 apiece, the cost of war material is not "insignificant" during this present economic crisis. Remember this when someone says we must continue to "Support the troops." Ask them if they are ready to transition into a wartime economy, requiring the rationing of gasoline, food, metals, and other essentials, as required during WW2. Ask them if they are willing to pay higher taxes, and go without their everyday little luxuries, to replace the expensive war material being destroyed and captured by the ambushing militants. This of course, would play into the hands of our government, as it would impoverish us while enriching them, all for the sake of “supporting the troops.” Orwell’s 1984 predicted this deliberate waste of military material to keep the citizens enslaved by constantly sacrificing their labors to support an endless war. I think you will find that when the majority of Americans really, truly have to materially sacrifice to support this ongoing expenditure to maintain this ongoing war on terrorism, they will question the necessity of it. Goodness knows, the human cost has yet to move the majority to protest in earnest. Perhaps hitting Americans were it hurts most, the wallet, will make the difference.