Monday, November 19, 2012

Making malfeasance in war "look pretty" with PowerPoint

It happens in every war. We've read the books but the men we sent died because needless mission meant more than their lives. Wait until you read this one and then wonder what it must be like for the survivors to know their lives meant so little.

Courage and malfeasance in Afghanistan: “Anyone we drop off will die”
Officers ordered an Afghanistan outpost built knowing it was vulnerable. Then the Taliban arrived and soldiers died
NOV 18, 2012

It was madness.

At Jalalabad Airfield, in eastern Afghanistan in the summer of 2006, a young intelligence analyst named Jacob Whittaker tried with great difficulty to understand exactly what he was hearing.

The 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army wanted to do what?

Whittaker had to choose his words carefully. He was just a low-ranking specialist with the Idaho National Guard, a very low man on a very tall totem pole. A round-faced twenty-six-year-old, Whittaker had simple tastes — Boise State football, comic books — and a reputation for mulishness belied by his innocent appearance.

Whittaker stared at his superior officer, Second Lieutenant Ryan Lockner, who was running this briefing for him and Sergeant Aaron Ives. Lockner headed intelligence for Task Force Talon, the Army’s aviation component at Jalalabad Airfield, in Nangarhar Province, adjacent to the Pakistan border. Military leaders considered this area, officially designated Regional Command East, the most dangerous part of an increasingly dangerous country.

Lockner had an assignment. Soldiers from the 10th Mountain — a light infantry division designed for quick deployment and fighting in harsh conditions — had recently come to this hot corner of Afghanistan and would soon be spreading throughout the region, setting up outposts and bases. More specifically, they would be establishing a camp in Nuristan Province.

Many troops were far more proficient in PowerPoint than they were with firearms, so Whittaker understood just what Lockner meant by “make it pretty”: the slides for the presentation needed to look crisp and to make a compelling case.

“What’s the point of this base?” Whittaker asked. “It’s on the low ground. It can’t be supported in any meaningful way. The troops there will be horribly outnumbered by potential bad guys in the town next door. They can’t even really go out and do anything because the rivers, the town, and the mountains will block any patrol routes.”

He couldn’t stop himself.

“All they can do is die,” he added.
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