RANGER AGAINST WAR: Black is Beautiful <

Friday, April 06, 2007

Black is Beautiful

Chief: I'm sure Congress will reconsider our budget cut.
Agent 99: Well, why doesn't Congress cut the CIA's budget?

Maxwell Smart: How can they? Nobody knows what their budget is

Get Smart

There's a man who leads a life of danger
To everyone he meets he stays a stranger
--Secret Agent Man, Johnny Rivers

Agent 99: Oh, Max, how terrible.

Maxwell Smart: He deserved it, 99. He was a Kaos killer.
Agent 99: Sometimes I wonder if we're any better, Max.
Maxwell Smart: What are you talking about, 99? We have to shoot and kill and destroy.
We represent everything that's wholesome and good in the world
--Get Smart

Recently it was revealed that Lt. General Stanley McChrystal--''commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, head of "black ops" forces''--notified Bush's office early following the Tillman tragedy that it was a friendly-fire incident, and not an ambush (''General Tried to Warn Bush on Tillman.'')

This piece will not focus on Tillman's sudden and tragic extraction from this earthly plain, but rather on the concept of the Joint Special Operations Command, currently led by General McChrystal, and the emplacement of black ops in our military structure.

The present Special Forces traces its roots back to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of WW II fame. After the war a schism occurred, out of which emerged the CIA, with a paramilitary covert and black ops capability and mission.

Most of the original types had OSS and conventional combat experience. But sometime in the 1960's, the paramilitary function was increasingly farmed out to Special Forces as the CIA had degraded their capabilities, and the experience was now on the Army side. This led to a CIA-SF cooperation and coordination for paramilitary operations of a covert nature in the unconventional warfare and guerrilla warfare environment of the Republic of Vietnam.

This cooperation also made the conventional leadership of the Army uncomfortable with SF's cozy partnership with the CIA. Much of the institutional hostility to SF was actually projected mistrust of the CIA. This jaded view earned for SF, seen as neither fish nor fowl, in the Army's eyes the classification of being pimps for the CIA.

Following cessation of hostilities in RVN, the SF went in a different direction and attempted to pull back into the Army perimeter. One result was the formation of Special Operations Command on a provisional basis around 1980. Concurrently, SF became a career field, which it had not been previously. The key point here is that SF had a deep history of black and covert operations that was generally approved by the Commander in Chief.

I was a Special Forces officer during this period when SF duty was considered the kiss of death upon one's Army career. The covert operations that were prevalent during that time were designed to circumvent legality or suppress embarrassing facts.

For example, MACVSOG (Studies and Observations Group) in RVN operated in Laos and Cambodia for years, although the Geneva Accords, of which the U.S. was a signatory, clearly specified that military operations were ''outlawed'' in these areas. Of course, the enemy operated in those areas with impunity, and with North Vietnamese cooperation, the Air Force and MACVSOG made of these areas a battlefield. But the fact remains that the U.S. President preferred to lie to the American taxpayers and maintain the fiction that the U.S. was a legal player in the international areas.

SOG lost many men in those ''denied areas,'' the NVN knew we were there since they were killing U.S. soldiers, and the SF operators knew we were there. But the inconvenient truth was hidden from the voters. Why?

Why, indeed. Soldiers are supposed to be honorable, legal and straightforward individuals. When their missions become covert or black ops, then a transformation takes place, a transformation that need not happen. CIA spooks should and can fulfill this secretive function.

The National Command Authority has placed additional taskings upon JSOC simply because the military does not have the same restrictive Congressional oversight that binds CIA covert operations. Is it any wonder that a former CIA director now directs a powerful Dod with enhanced covert operations capabilities? Congress accepts this illusion with a wink and a nod. This allows DoD to perform illegal and questionable functions that area carried out without the knowledge of the taxpayers. The budgets for these commando operations are often classified, as well as are their missions.

The military should not be responsible for covert operations. The classic SF missions of intelligence, UW, GW and direct action--which includes internal defense and development--are straightforward, honorable and military in nature. Why is JSOC not the major command in Iraq? They are trained, equipped and have the historical, institutional background to deal with this bucket of worms.

The integrity of the military should be sacrosanct. Let the CIA conduct the illegal ops. Soldiers are sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution This means they are bound by its restrictions. If it isn't legal, it is not a soldierly function, even if ordered by the president.

The U.S. military leaders love to invoke the image of the warrior and that of a warrior culture. Covert and black ops are not reflective of these values. Soldiers are warriors; covert operators are somewhat less direct.


Anonymous Killer Whale said...

Excellent post, Ranger.

Saturday, April 7, 2007 at 6:33:00 PM GMT-5  

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