by Scott Creighton
On Jan. 29th 2017, Seal Team 6 launched a dusted-off raid plan in Yemen that had been devised under the previous Obama administration and ultimately rejected for reasons unknown. More than likely it was because the previous administration and their high level military advisors didn’t foresee a high enough “risk/reward” coefficient to justify the raid in a country we aren’t actually at war with.
That raid produced: one wrecked Osprey, 3 wounded servicemen, one deceased Navy Seal (Ryan Owens) and about 40 or so dead women and children, one which I wrote about yesterday, Nawar “Nora” al-Awlaki. It also produced one of the most off-putting moments in State of the Union addresses (I know it wasn’t technically a State of the Union address) when Ryan Owens’ wife Carryn Owens emoted for 3 long minutes as the gathered congress-critters applauded for way too long.
Many are arguing that Owens was used by Trump as a political prop. The fact that he seated her right next to his daughter so she would be in the photos and videos as well leads one to believe that is a definite possibility as does the decidedly “performance” feel of Carryn’s drawn out moment in the spotlight.
That night Trump said Ryan was a “hero” and that he had been “told” the raid produced invaluable intel that we would use against “the enemy” which is supposedly al-Qaeda… who, by the way, just won an Academy Award for their White Helmets propaganda.
Last night CNN held some town-hall thing with a bunch of carefully selected “townsfolk” asking per-approved questions of war-mongers Lindsey Graham and John “bomb Iran” McCain. One of the first questions dealt with that awkward moment from the Trump address to congress and both McCain and Graham emphasized repeatedly that the mission didn’t have to be “successful” for Ryan Owens to be viewed as a “hero”. Graham actually used the word “hero” about 40 times in his one minute response to the question.
So even though they disagree about the ultimate success or failure of the mission, everyone has to be on the same page when it comes to defining Seal Team 6 as “heroes” and by extension, the whole of the military and our interventionist policies in the Middle East. Don’t forget, while Trump is pushing for massive cuts in domestic spending to get our budget under control, he is also pushing for a massive increase in military spending for this adventurism. Ever since the phony raid that supposedly killed Osama bin Laden, Seal Team 6 has been the unofficial face of the Global War OF Terror and a raid in a country we aren’t even supposed to be in that ended so badly and killed so many women and children isn’t really helpful right now when it comes to glorifying the military and all the new money the MIC demands from Trump.
Military.com produced a bit of spin the day after the raid in which they tried to justify the large number of women and kids being killed by saying the women were combatants and attacked the Seals.
The New York Times wasn’t subtle when they spun the story of Carryn’s moment: With Nation Watching, Widow of Fallen SEAL Becomes a Face of Bravery
From CNN to ABC News to the Washington Post and Fox, the stories are all basically the same: Carryn and Ryan are the new faces the military industrial complex wants plastered on their foreign policy agenda because, quite frankly, who could possibly be derogatory about a fallen hero and his emotionally distraught white Anglo-saxon wife?
But there was a totally different face being exposed by the Intercept’s Matthew Cole on Jan. 10th 2017 that was quietly becoming the standard image of our war machine in certain informed circles across the country. And that face was quite disturbing.
Cole’s 4-year study of the practices of Seal Team 6 culminated in a 14,000 word expose titled quite simply and directly: The Crimes of Seal Team 6. The article itself received a good deal of attention. Here’s how the Daily Mail summed up the findings:
- Bombshell expose quotes SEAL Team 6 members and military officials as saying that the celebrated unit tolerated culture of lawlessness
- SEAL Team 6 operators were said to have mutilated the corpses of dead insurgents and were not punished by their superiors
- SEAL officers had allegedly disregarded rules of engagement, resulting in the deaths of civilians
- SEAL Team members involved in bin Laden raid tried to take credit for killing the 9/11 mastermind and inflate their roles in the raid
As bad as that is, the report from Cole is absolutely brutal. This is how it starts:
“Officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, SEAL Team 6 is today the most celebrated of the U.S. military’s special mission units. But hidden behind the heroic narratives is a darker, more troubling story of “revenge ops,” unjustified killings, mutilations, and other atrocities — a pattern of criminal violence that emerged soon after the Afghan war began and was tolerated and covered up by the command’s leadership.” Matthew Cole
Cole goes on to tell a rather disturbing story. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but the implication, along with that quote above, “revenge ops”, leaves a distinct impression in the mind of the reader.
The story is about a “mistake” attack launched by the Seals in Afghanistan where they took two teams, some helicopters and a couple bombers and attacked a convoy they said someone had thought bin Laden might be in. There were no weapons seen by the “intel” guys who gave them the target and bin Laden was identified as a guy wearing long white robes.
It turns out it was a wedding party, men women and children. Not one of them in military garb and only a few “family rifles” in the vehicles.
They dropped two bombs on the convoy which killed many of the wedding party members instantly and then went “weapons free” on the gunners on the helicopters who ended up “mopping up” survivors as they ran. One group was a man trying to get several women and children away from the slaughter. They were all mowed down.
Then the Seals hit the ground and some more shooting and head-cleaving took place.
All of this Cole tells from the perspective of a number of Seals, retired of course, who explain some of it was pretty horrible:
“According to this source, after shooting the man, who turned out to be unarmed, Hyder proceeded to mutilate his body by stomping in his already damaged skull. When Heath, who witnessed Hyder’s actions, reported them to his team leader in the presence of other members of the team, “several of the guys turned and walked away,” said the retired SEAL. “They were disgusted.” He quoted Heath as saying, “I’m morally flexible but I can’t handle that.” Heath refused to comment for this article.” Matthew Cole
Then Cole goes on in the very next paragraph and explains what happened in that little area just prior to this “accidental” mistaken identification of a wedding party as being Osama bin Laden:
“Less than 48 hours before Objective Bull commenced, a small reconnaissance group from SEAL Team 6’s Red Team had tried to establish an observation post on the 10,000-foot peak of Takur Ghar, overlooking the Shah-i-Kot valley, where forces from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division intended to strike the last redoubt of al Qaeda forces massed in Afghanistan. Neil “Fifi” Roberts, a member of the SEAL recon team, fell 10 feet from the back of a Chinook and was stranded as the helicopter took fire from foreign al Qaeda fighters who were already on the snow-covered mountaintop. Two hours passed before the SEALs in the damaged helicopter were able to return. They didn’t know it, but Roberts was already dead, shot at close range in the head shortly after his helicopter departed the mountaintop. A Predator drone video feed filmed an enemy fighter standing over Roberts’s body for two minutes, trying to behead the dead American with a knife.” Matthew Cole
The mission that took out the wedding party was not a mistake. It was a message. That’s the implication from Cole.
The message was as simple as it was savage: you do something to horrible to one of ours, we’ll do something much worse to you.
This goes beyond “revenge ops”. It’s a tactic typically used by occupying armies against growing insurgencies. When their guerilla fighters kill a member of the occupying force, they then target civilians in response in order to send a clear message to the insurgency and also to the civilian population that resistance will come at a terrible price. This kind of thing has gone on forever.
What’s new is the fact that the story was told.
After Roberts was killed, Seal Teams came in and fought the insurgents for several hours to retrieve his body. That story has been told.
“The battle of Roberts Ridge, as it came to be known, has been frequently described in books and press accounts. But what happened during Objective Bull, the assault on the convoy in the Shah-i-Kot Valley, has never been previously reported.” Matthew Cole
And now the massacre in the Shah-i-Kot Valley has also been told.
Without going into all the details of the Matthew Cole expose suffice too say it was not a glowing picture of the face of the Global War OF Terror. It was quite the opposite in fact.
And make no mistake, neither I nor Matthew Cole are trying to assert that all Seal Team members behave in this manner or serve this specific function. But the fact remains that over the years certain Seal Teams and certain members have become decidedly more brutal in places like Afghanistan and Iraq to the point where previous administrations were getting some blow back of sorts from out puppet regimes regarding the bloody trail they leave in their wake. This motivated various JSOC leaders to issue special orders in order to try to curb the ultra-violence being used by some Seals.
“The 14,000-word report describes a gradual erosion of the rules of engagement whereby SEALs became less scrupulous in shooting people who were perceived as enemy combatants.
Furthermore, it quotes SEAL Team 6 members as saying that senior commanders not only failed to discipline wrongdoing but also swept many details under the rug so as to avoid legal entanglements…
As the SEALs’ reputation for lawlessness began to gain traction and as complaints mounted from local Afghan government officials over nighttime raids and civilian deaths, the new head of the Joint Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral William McRaven, is reported to have to tried to rein in the outfit.
To the SEALs’ dismay, McRaven instituted a new set of regulations that required commandos to do ‘call outs’ before beginning an assault on a compound so as to allow women and children to escape.” Daily Mail
My article here is not about re-hashing the disclosures of the Matthew Cole piece. My article is about what happened on Jan. 29th this year and why it happened.
William Owens, the father of Ryan Owens who was killed during the raid in Yemen (a raid which once again produced a large number of women and children casualties), refused to meet with President Trump prior to that address before the members of congress where Carryn had her moment. He said he was angry about the mission and wanted an investigation into why President Trump authorized it in the first place.
“I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him”, Mr Owens told The Miami Herald.
The father, who served in the military himself, called for a full investigation into the circumstances that led to his son’s death.
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration?”, he said. “Why?” The Independent
That’s a good question and a valid one when someone offers up their child’s life overseas.
Especially considering the fact that this particular mission had been passed up by the previous administration when they deemed it wasn’t worth the risk and when you consider the end result which can’t by anyone’s standards be considered a success.
No, your mission doesn’t have to be successful to be considered a hero for your actions during it. It helps if scores of unarmed women and children aren’t slaughtered in the process. But all that morality stuff aside… it’s a fair question to ask why your son died in some little obscure patch of hell-hole on the other side of the world.
And if your son died because someone thought we needed a makeover for the face of our MIC adventures in the Middle East, I think it’s also fair to say that’s just not good enough.
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