The frightening death and destruction that the American civil War brought made General William Sherman, a Union general, say, “War is hell”. A U.S. Airforce Commander after the terror bombing of Dresden in the Second World War admonished, “War must be destructive and to a certain extent inhuman and ruthless." When a high-tech mighty war machine is unleashed on a nation in a decrepit state and with a weaker or non-existent military power, the hell becomes more intense and destruction unbelievably more destructive for the men and women of the frail nation.
One of the first major armed conflicts between the two nations after the Industrial Revolution was the Battle of Omdurman in 1898 in Sudan. The British soldiers armed with state of the art of the time gun boats, rifles and machine guns mowed down over 20,000 Sudanese tribesman armed mostly with swords and lances. Sudanese suffered an astonishing 90% casualty rate. British lost only 48 men, amount to 2% casualty rate. British ultra superior war machinery, compared to the Sudanese swords and lance, was chiefly responsible for the mechanized slaughter of Sudanese and one of the most lopsided victories in the military history.
Today, history of another lopsided death and destruction in a war is being written. This time it’s the poor and helpless Afghans, the fourth or fifth poorest people in the world, are being pounded by the ferocious U.S. and NATO war machine.
Afghanistan is a landlocked and resource poor country. It ranks among the bottom three countries, second only to Niger in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the U.N. Human Development Index in 2009. It had no army or even functioning police before the U.S. invasion in 2001. It had no offensive capability nor defensive mechanism to withstand foreign invasion, not even from a border patrol armed with light infantry weapons. Afghanistan had no significant or insignificant military installations that could have offered high value target for bombing (“I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt”, Bush once said).
The U.S. started the “good war” as Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001 ostensibly to remove the Taliban from power in retaliation for the attack on the World Trade Center. Taliban were routed soon after the war initiated. In December 2001, International Security Assistance Force was formed, and in 2003 NATO assumed the control of ISAF. Both, the U.S. and the NATO led forces came to Afghanistan equipped with the most sophisticated military technology.
Afghanistan provided Western forces a theatre for an impressive and flashy demonstration of its military might with no hindrance and virtually no fear of retaliation. Indeed, the U.S. and NATO put a spectacular show with its fighters, bombers, missiles, cluster bombs, and Depleted Uranium weapons. All these impressive weapons, and all the fury was unleashed upon a country with no anti-aircraft fire, no bomb shelters, no war industry, no ammunition factory, no railroad tracks, only villages of stone and mud dwellings. U.S. and NATO waged a deliberately disproportionate attack on a country that had zero capability to defend itself.
In any essential sense, it’s not a real war; the barrage was solely designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a population and send signal to other nations. The dropping of thousands of bombs precision-guided by satellite and laser technology in heavily populated areas that has caused excessive civilian casualties and widespread destruction betrays the U.S. claim that the war was launched with the aim to uproot Taliban regime, and capture Osama bin Laden; it appeared more in line with Bush’s famous John Wayne style rhetoric, "smoke them out" and "Bring ’em on".
Shortly after the U.S. invasion, in a biting remark, John Pilger observed in The Mirror, a British Tabloid, “The war against terrorism is a fraud. After three weeks’ bombing, not a single terrorist implicated in the attacks on America has been caught or killed in Afghanistan. Instead, one of the poorest, most stricken nations has been terrorized by the most powerful – to the point where American pilots have run out of dubious ‘military’ targets and are now destroying mud houses, a hospital, Red Cross warehouses, lorries carrying refugees.”
The Guardian reported on April 10, 2002 about the number of U.S. bombs and cruise missiles directed at poverty-stricken Afghanistan: "More than 22,000 weapons – ranging from cruise missiles to heavy fuel-air bombs – have been dropped on the country over the past six months…. US pilots dropped more than 6,600 joint direct attack munitions (J-dams), the satellite-guided bombs…” And, this report is only for the first six months of the attack.
In Dossier on Civilian Victims of the United States’ Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan, Prof. Marc W. Herold of University Of New Hampshire, citing different news sources, gives account of bombing in October and November 2001. For example, he writes: “October 11th – farming village of 450 persons of Karam, west of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province is repeatedly bombed, 45 of the 60 mud houses destroyed, killing at least 160 civilians.” This represents 75 percent of the total dwelling and 35 percent of the village population that were annihilated. For November 18th, he says, “Carpet-bombing by B-52’s of frontline village near Khanabad, province of Kunduz, kills at least 150 civilians.”
Not only that the U.S, along with Russia, China, and Israel refused to sign the convention to ban the deadly cluster bombs – a cluster of bomblets – it made a liberal use of the deadly weapon in Afghanistan, as it did in wars with other nations. Cluster bombs severely added to the brutality of the lopsided war in Afghanistan.
According to one report, “From 2001 to 2002 in Afghanistan, the United States used over 1200 cluster munitions that contained close to 250,000 bomblets.” Cluster bombs are known to be more lethal and dangerous to civilians then to enemy combatants. It can not be used in or around the populated areas without causing great loss to civilian life. The violent blow of deadly shrapnel decapitates and severs body parts. The other unfortunate consequence of cluster bombs is that the unexploded bomblets can lie in the ground, fields, and roads or buried in the soil for years and keep killing long after the conflict ends.
Now after securing the intended goal –” uprooting the Taliban regime and crippling Al-Qaeda beyond repair – the over 134,000 foreign troops from 50 nations from all the continents, under the U.S. and NATO command, are for the last eight years waging an unwinnable and untenable but ruthless and lethal war against the insurgency to protect the west installed puppet regime of Hamid Karzai.
In doing so, a disproportionate number of civilian casualties are being created by the indiscriminate bombings and raids by the U.S. Special Forces on civilian population hunting for the insurgents. All reports coming from Afghanistan clearly indicate that the civilian deaths are decidedly excessive and unacceptable in relation to any gain against the insurgents. These thoughtless killing of unarmed men, women, and children galvanizes the opposition to the foreign troops presence and in turn fuel support for the insurgency.
In a moment of truth, during a videoconference with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, General McChrystal candidly admitted, “We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force,” He further acknowledges, “To my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it.”
The totally lopsided tens of thousands of Afghan civilian casualties and widespread destruction and pain caused by the high-tech virtual war imposed by the Western forces is reminiscent of the Battle of Omdurman in 1898 in Sudan, where the British soldiers armed with state of the art of the time gun boats, rifles and machine guns mowed down thousands of Sudanese tribesman armed mostly with swords and lances.
And in the words of General William Sherman, the “War is hell” for the men, women, and children of Afghanistan.