Tag Archives: special operations forces

A descent into darkness by our special operations forces

Summary: Only slowly have Americans begun to see the dark thing done in our name during our post-9/11 wars. For years we tightly closed our eyes. We told ourselves that only terrorists were killed, or fighters “on the battlefield” — plus a few civilians as collateral damage. Slowly those lies get debunked and we see the institutionalized assassination machinery created in our military – dirtying our reputation, operationally ineffective, and strategically counterproductive. But it doesn’t matter what we think, for the war has slipped beyond civilian control (as wars often do). {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“Even the sharpest sword rusts when plunged into salt water.”
— Ancient wisdom.


  1. SEAL Team 6: quiet killings.
  2. Elite soldiers become assassins.
  3. Assassination seldom works.
  4. Women can fight and kill.
  5. There are alternatives.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  SEAL Team 6: quiet killings

The New York Times gave a tangible example of our madness, a nice follow-up to Study body counts to learn about our wars: how we fight, why we lose:  “SEAL Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines“, 6 June 2015 — “The unit best known for killing Osama bin Laden has been converted into a global manhunting machine with limited outside oversight.”

Once a small group reserved for specialized but rare missions, the unit best known for killing Osama bin Laden has been transformed by more than a decade of combat into a global manhunting machine. That role reflects America’s new way of war, in which conflict is distinguished not by battlefield wins and losses, but by the relentless killing of suspected militants.

… Afghan villagers and a British commander accused SEALs of indiscriminately killing men in one hamlet; in 2009, team members joined C.I.A. and Afghan paramilitary forces in a raid that left a group of youths dead and inflamed tensions between Afghan and NATO officials. Even an American hostage freed in a dramatic rescue has questioned why the SEALs killed all his captors.

Let’s hold the applause for a few minutes and consider what this means for our wars, for our military, and for America.

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Should we use our special operations troops as assassins? Is it right, or even smart?

Summary: As we learn the details about the raid by US special operations forces on bin Laden’s home, we should reflect on how we have used our elite troops since 9/11. Years of dark deeds with bad outcomes show a people on the road to failure. Closing our eyes while we fantasize makes the ride more enjoyable, but not the end.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“I’ll be the good guy.  You be the American special ops assassin.”
— Children at play around the world.

Special Forces

Image by Eric A. Hendrix.


  1. Destroying the brand.
  2. The tip of our spear.
  3. Consequences.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

(1)  Destroying the brand

Every first year MBA student knows that a company’s brand is among its most valuable assets. So it goes for nations as well, where brands attack allies and generate foes. WWII created the brand that we think of as America. But we’re creating a new brand for America that will influence our grand strategy for generations to come.

The CIA has long had a dark reputation overseas, overthrowing democratically elected governments that dare to oppose America. It installed tyrants. But the doers of these dark deeds was compartmentalized, it’s deeds somewhat concealed.

The bin Laden raid shows a next step in the formation of a new face for America as our finest soldiers indelibly stain their reputations by becoming assassins, striking from the night (much as America’s technology becomes Skynet — drones run by cowards that kill from cushy seats on the other side of the globe).

The occasional hit might be forgiven or overlooked.  But as the Romans said, Dosis facit venenum.  It is the dose that makes the poison.  Too many hits and our special ops forces might as well adopt “America’s Sword and Shield” as their motto.  If the KGB will lend it to us.

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Who overthrew the Taliban: Special Forces’ guns or CIA’s cash?

Summary: The information superhighway gives us the illusion of knowledge about our world. Yet the past 50 years teaches us that we know so little and that so much remains hidden for so long. Previous posts provide examples from the post-WWII era. Today we look at a telling vignette from our post-9/11 era, a story still shaping how we view these endless and futile interventions. As we begin a new round of wars, we should clearly see the outlines of the ones before.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
— The Editor explains in “Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962).

Our secret weapon in Afghanistan

Our secret weapon in Afghanistan.

We have to be suspicious of hidden history behind what we know. For example thirty years passed until we learned about the Allies’ secret weapon in WWII — cryptography — and had to downgrade the accomplishments of our generals (If NAZI’s had such an advantage, the swastika might still fly over Berlin). How much of our history since 9/11 remains hidden?

For example, what were the reasons for our government’s invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan (the stated reasons appear bogus)? Today we examine a smaller issue that shows two reasons why we remain ignorant. It explains how we so quickly overthrew the Taliban in our 2001 invasion, with so few troops.

The standard “narrative” tells how the Special Forces moved among the native — dressing like them, showing mastery of their skills — much as the white guy hero did in Avatar — convinced them to rebel, and with the aid of US airpower led the natives to victory.  It was a reboot of the equally almost-true story of our role in defeating the Russian in Afghanistan, right down to the heroic unconventional troops on horseback. Is this the whole truth?

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