Tuesday, July 27, 2010
For both humanitarian and tactical reasons, the senseless killing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan disturbs us. But we would be equally concerned with the senseless killing of our own soldiers — epitomized by what recently happened in the hamlet of Wanat on the mountainous eastern border.
Within two weeks of redeployment stateside, C Company was ordered to move from their relatively secure hillside outpost to a vulnerable valley hamlet that lacked protection from the hills above.
Every soldier in C Company knew relocation was a dangerous mistake. Requests to reconsider were ignored by superiors unfamiliar with the terrain and focused on a larger tactical plan. A few days later, the Taliban overran their position. Twenty-one defenders were wounded and lay dead.
This travesty of command brings to mind a series of similar massacres that befell our troops in Korea 60 years ago. At that time, whole battalions of Americans were slaughtered by North Korean and Chinese troops because theater operations were directed by General MacArthur’s staff from his warm and secure headquarters in Tokyo.
When local field commanders complained of the futility and impending danger, they were either ignored or threatened with courts-martial.
With all due respect for traditional lines of military command, at some point top brass must listen to what soldiers in the field often see more clearly. No high-ranking officer should ever order soldiers to undertake a mission he knows little about and would not risk for himself or a member of his own family.
Let us hope that the Wanat massacre serves as a sufficient reminder as Gen. David Petraeus assumes theater command.
David C. Duncombe
White Salmon, Wash.