Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dead Babies Don't Cry

Dead babies can take care of themselves
Dead babies can't take things off the shelf

--Dead Babies
, Alice Cooper

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

--General Stanley McChrystal

My father is no different than any powerful man,

any man with power, like a president or senator

Do you know how naive you sound, Michael?

Presidents and senators don't have men killed.

Oh. Who's being naive?

--The Godfather

The Special Forces that Ranger served in is as gone as last month's rent.
An astute reader called the shift, the devolution of the Special Forces into a kind of Sonderkommando.

The Vietnam era SF fought main force Vietcong, hardcore North Vietnamese Army, and conducted special missions with various programs such as Delta, Omega and Studies and Operations Group (SOG). These programs produced results that were soldierly and based in good faith efforts.

Personally, Ranger was never trained to kick in doors or assassinate. We were not assassins, since that violates the rules of land warfare. There were isolated incidents of killing suspected enemy agents, but this was never officially sanctioned U.S. or SF policy.

The assassinations conducted by the infamous Project Phoenix were not a U.S. military mission, although most of their U.S. shooters were U.S. Special Forces soldiers on detached duty. The killings were done by combat-numb SF assets detached to do a mission not military in nature; the program was undeserving of having utilized good SF personnel for a dirty, nasty business.
Phoenix was the devil's work and will remain a stain upon our national dignity, both civilian and military.

But it's now 2010 and the SF top dog in Afghanistan has dusted off the Phoenix prototype for
Counterinsurgency applications. General McChrystal has done this without asking how the U.S. SF assassins are differentiated from the Nazi SS assassins of WW II. How have McChrystal, our command authorities and the American people enabled the Special Forces to become a criminal organization?

There is no middle ground here:
When SF employs assassins they have become criminals and murderers rather than honorable soldiers.

Do our SF soldiers no longer bother to question the legality of their black ops missions? Further, why do we even allow a concept like Black Ops to exist within our military structure? Assassination is one of the key tactics of terror organizations, whether they be state-sponsored or groups like al-Qaeda.

When U.S. SF assassinate, this is an act of state-sponsored terrorism.
If it is a crime for al-Qaeda to assassinate, then it is a crime for U.S. SF to assassinate.

When an SF team killed pregnant women while on an assigned mission to kill or capture mid- or low-level Taliban members, they mutilated the bodies in their efforts to dig out their bullets
(U.S. Special Forces 'Tried to Cover Up' Botched Khataba Raid"), also a violation of the rules of land warfare and every bit as serious an offense as cutting the ears off dead VC.

My Army became infamous for those actions and as a result for a generation was portrayed as being composed of crazed killers by the entertainment media. Contrast that with today's support for SF assassins because they are "the troops".

These SF assassinations at McChrystal's behest are not military in nature and are a cynical expression of an American military gone wrong. Their morals are gone missing and this is a blight upon all of us.

Even if the mission were to kill every Talib in Afghanistan America still loses, as on a strategic level this removes the regional counterbalance to Iran, concurrently strengthening the warlords of the Northern Alliance.
With every assassination, an SF soldiers is doing Iran's dirty work, making the effort doubly perverse.

Assassinations in theatre do not benefit the safety of America, nor do they contribute to the birth of democracy. They constitute meaningless cynical violence.

What attributes are being rewarded in today's tabbed-up, Christian Army? The contradictions are overwhelming to contemplate.

The SF assassin soldiers will bear a heavy burden. The silence that will surround these men is the absence of a baby's cry in a remote Afghan village, and the silence will condemn their souls. They may never be officially charged for their crimes, but they will always hear that silence, even in their sleep.

[cross-posted at RangerAgainstWar]


  1. Jim,
    sad to say you are right, the SF you knew are mostly gone. We had an 18 series officer join an intelligence task force recently, with the stated goal that he wanted his first "kill" by a given date. What disturbed me more than his stated goal, was that no one else really considered it disturbing. Mind you, this was a TF not associated with Iraq or Afg.

    When I was in Group at the start of Iraq, I would say that it was still a 60/40 split, with the majority of 18 series who valued the traditional FID mission, but from what I am seeing, many of those have been selected out and what we knew as SF is gone.

  2. BG,
    Thanks for the info.
    The downfall of SF started with Beckwith and his bullshit selections based on the SAS model AND the fact that stars now grow on the tab. This was not true in the old days, old timers were lucky to retire as o5's. This change brought in the WPers and the death knell.
    My co -writer Lisa claims that i have a hard on for WP types, which is not true. Just look at the facts.
    BTW- the individual that you describe looking for a kill-while sometimes the other guy has a say in the matter.The 18 series was largely set up by individuals not having SF combat experience since SF suffered heavily in the 70's rif's.
    Has anybody heard from Charlie lately? Is he ok?
    He should check into the net , if able.

  3. jim, charlie sent out a "test" message a couple of days ago, but with no content.

  4. Charlie don't surf!

    Sorry, I just couldn't resist that line...

    (alas, I have no knowledge of Mr. Gitting's status).

  5. jim-

    Back in the 64 when the Corps sent me to Ft Bragg for PsyOps and SpecOps training, the SF community regularly and routinely described their primary mission as "school teachers who could also fight". Unfortunately, they have been rolled into a common command with more kinetically focused folks, and in Afghanistan, used primarily in a kinetic role. No wonder they have morphed away from what they once were.

  6. Jesus, Aviator47, I suppose death squads are "kinetic." Just never thought about it in that way.

    Paul Dempsey

  7. Al,
    We did it to ourselves-it wasn't imposed .
    The direct action mission was always there but it was balanced with the other 3 classic missions.
    In RVN we had direct action-SOG/Mike Forces.Strategic recon-Delta and SOG. IDAD/Fid were the CIDG/A Camps.All of us were UW/GW.
    We only got out of balance after the 18 series was instituted at the push of Beckwith.
    I wonder why we have a separate Ranger and SF tabs now that they've executed a Vulcan Mind meld.One tab should suffice for both .
    Mr. Dempsey.
    Nice comment.

  8. jim,

    3 classic missions? Interesting, it was "7" missions when I was there. Sounds like mission crepe may have deluded the original intent of the SF.

    This website claims even more, and there is one core mission out there that I know has been left off intentional, so add one more to this count.

    I am willing to bet that this mission crepe had a lot to do with the Army of the 90's when we were in search of a mission and purpose. Not sure if any of you were apart of it, but I've been told by friends who worked in the Pentagon circa '99-'01 that the Army was fighting for its life and was trying desperately to demonstrate that there was still value in even having an Army Branch. I am sure the rice bowl fight forced SF to take on more missions than they were chartered for, and thus, what we have today...

  9. bg-

    Para 1-3 of FM 3-05 - Army Special Operations Forces (2006) states:

    ARSOF support the USSOCOM’s strategy for winning the WOT by conducting SO to find,fix, and finish terrorists globally.

    I have no idea what "finish" means, or how such pathetic English made it to publication. It is clear, from a "content analysis" viewpoint, that since the GWOT (or whatever one wishes to call it) is the opening topic in this FM, that addressing "terror" is currently the leading focus of SOF. Since SF is an integral part of USSOCOM, is it no wonder that the triad of missions so well know to us of the 60's vintage has morphed into being part of finding, fixing and finishing terrorists? Back in the 60's, SF people at least claimed they also tried to address root causes, and their training reflected same.

    Secondly, the focus on the terrorists themselves turns the mission into actions towards individuals, not root causes, and individuals are readily "found, fixed and finished", or at least theoretically so. Thus, doctrine has embraced Whack-A-Mole as an objective, and our SF has simply taken a place at the game console, engaging targets of opportunity as they arise.

  10. BG and AL,
    Let's go back to square one.
    SF/77th grp was aimed at the soviet union and was directly a military /OSS application that intended to penetrate and set up UW/GW opns IF we transitioned to war.
    I say again-OSS and SOE model.
    So what did it become? In Soceur 1980's they were talking and assigning deep penetration direct action missions w/o any real idea what to do next. Then IF the team survived the direct action mission it was supposed to become strategic recon, as tho the two functions were complementary and had the same equipment requirements.
    In short a recon team is not a fighting unit.
    But SOCEUR didn't understand that even tho SOG experience was clear to all.
    I always thot that we had 4 misns. I reckon gw and uw could be viewed as one and the same, but i split them for historical reasons alone.
    -direct action
    -strategic recon.

  11. To all,
    An after thought .
    I did not discuss the PWOT misions since i will not accept the pwot as a legitimate war , and the principles of war don't apply.

  12. Moving past the issue of doctrine, a lot of what I think is going on here is tied up in the remainder of this silly wog-bashing; the conflation of tactics with strategy.

    We don't really KNOW how to "beat" these Islamic fundamentalists with rifles. I'd opine that you can't, really, short of genocide, and without a nuclear option there's just not enough bullets to kill the enemies we'd make killing the enemies we have. We're trying to fight an intellectual and social conflict - the Islamic Enlightenment vs. the Islamic Inquisition - using physical force. When you put those blinders on it seems perfectly sensible to send expensive Western soldiers to whack individuals in central Asia - "breaking windows with guineas", the Brits used to call it.

    You need some mental headspace to figure out that this sort of approach isn't really going to do better than stalemate over the short run and will bankrupt and corrupt you over the long run.

    But that sort of intellectual breadth is in very short supply in the U.S. circa 2010. So I expect that these sort of dirty war missions will continue.

    Perhaps we should ask the Israelis how much "peace" and "victory" they've gotten out of similar assassination missions. They survive, yes, but at what cost? Israel is faced with some pretty wretched choices - permanent militarism and occupation, retreat behind fortified borders, or demographic drowning under a sea of Arab kids. It's not anyone's fault, in particular; it's part and parcel of Israel's location and function as the 21st Century "crusader state" on the Levant.

    But we have options they don't, and to jam our head into the meatgrinder...WTF?

    Stupid. Bone-deep stupid.

  13. Chief,
    I agree heartily with you points, up to the comparison with the Israelis which is a horse of a different color.
    The Israelis are fighting a very real near threat contrary to us.
    Our PWOT is addressing an illusion and a far threat that cannot be demonstrated except weakly and weekly through faulty threat analysis.
    I'm not suggesting that you meant otherwise, i'm only saying this for the benefit of visitors.
    My comment was a compliment to both yourself and Seydlitz speaking as an after thought.

  14. Al,

    "Find, Fix, Finish" is used interchangeably with Direct Action. Some SF Purists will say that "finding, fixing and finishing" should be done by, with or through, but that isn't how the majority view it anymore unfortunately (which is too bad because "By, With or Through" is what, IMO, made SF special.

    BTW, for all those who are into semantics, we not longer refer to the GWOT. That is an old term, all new awards, NCOERs, doctrine, etc use the new term "OCO", overseas contingency operations. Thank you for not uttering the G word.

  15. bg,
    Does OCO mean that i can't use PWOT any more?
    So if the SF have to fight terrorists in say Northern Mexico what would we then call it since that's not overseas?
    What made SF special was the Rolex, star saphire and the gold chain.
    You have some serious disconnects.

  16. plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

    Gotta keep the troops busy.

  17. Publius,

    I don't know what those foreign words mean- is it possibly-CHOICE NOT CHANCE-GO ARMY!!