The United States Marines are expected to do the hard work when it comes to War. They are given the toughest jobs and the most dangerous tasks to perform and the Marines will not complain and will carry out their assignments as ordered.
So when told to deploy in an uninhabited part of Afghanistan to secure a portion of desolate desert terrain for the sake of ensuring that oil pipelines are built and kept safe from rebel hands, the Marines take on the job.
The Marines might look at this deployment as just another mission that happens to involve oil. This is not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last time the US military gets in a fight over oil. The reason the United States went to war against Saddam Hussein a first time in 1990-91 was to get him out of Kuwait because Kuwait has oil, and because it placed Iraq far too close to Saudi Arabia.
There is no question as to the crucial role oil plays when it comes to the national security of the United States. Oil is vital to keeping our cars running, our airplanes flying, our homes heated and our tanks, ships, helicopters and other military vehicles operating.
According to a recent report published in The Washington Post military operations in Delaram, in the southwest of Afghanistan, where some 3,000 Marines are to be deployed is "far from a strategic priority for senior officers at the international military headquarters in Kabul.''
Yet, continues the report, ''the U.S. Marines are deployed and are fighting in that part of the country." The report states that Delaram is a day's drive from the nearest city and refers to it as 'the end of the Earth.' The Marines are trained to fight to hell and back, but shouldn’t the politicians back home think twice before placing the leathernecks in such great numbers in a single area?
The Marines, according to the Post, are constructing a vast base on the outskirts of town that will have two airstrips, an advanced combat hospital, a post office, a large convenience store and rows of housing trailers stretching as far as the eye can see. By this summer, more than 3,000 Marines -- one-tenth of the additional troops authorized by President Obama in December -- will be based there.
The may well be a desolate place but it does not mean that Taliban and other Islamist groups could not launch rockets and mortar attacks on the Marines and be gone before the Marines have time to react. Israel, with all its sophisticated equipment and operating on home ground, remains unable to prevent Hamas from firing rockets at its border towns and settlements.
With that in mind what are the chances of the Marines on foreign soil, in a hostile environment and where it is difficult to identify friend from foe, of being more successful in preventing attacks?
One thought jumps to mind: Beirut, October, 23, 1983. Every U.S. Marine knows what that date signifies. That was when the Marines suffered their largest loss of life in any single day since the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
In the early morning of Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, a single terrorist driving a truck packed with explosives drove his vehicle into the Battalion Landing Team building near Beirut International Airport housing U.S. Marines serving with the Multinational Peacekeeping force in Lebanon.
The bomb killed 241 U.S. servicemen, mostly Marines. Moments later another similar attack took out a building housing French paratroopers, killing 58.
The attack against the Marines was the largest non-nuclear explosion in history.
The mistake committed in Beirut was to allow a large number of troops in a single location, and that, despite objections from Col. Timothy Geraghty, the Marine commander on the ground, who feared his men were placed in a vulnerable position. Col. Geraghty's complaints, warnings and requests to amend the situation was over-ridden by his civilian superiors in Washington.
Today Marines are being sent once again into harm's way without a clear cut vision of where the mission is heading, or why. The Post asks why are the Marines deployed in this remote part of Afghanistan and asks if this is the best way to make use of a force such as the Marines. The mission, according to the report, will likely tie up two Marine battalions and hundreds of Afghan security forces until the summer.
Bruce Gagnon comments in an article written for Global Research that a proposed pipeline route is to move Caspian Sea oil through Turkmenistan into Afghanistan and then finally through Pakistan to ports along the Arabian Sea where U.S. and British tankers would gorge themselves with the black gold.
When you look at the map where the U.S. Marines are operating inside Afghanistan it is in areas, says the writer of the article, that must be controlled if pipelines are to be built and safely exploited.
Oil, understandably, remains vital to the West's national security. But what is inexcusable is to repeat the mistakes of the past and place that many Marines in a single compound where the history could repeat itself.
Claude Salhani is editor of the Middle East Times
Disclosure: No positions