Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
--Everybody Knows, Leonard Cohen______________
Ranger will deconstruct the American Legion Magazine's "Rescue in Afghanistan" (May 2008), an article by far-right mouthpiece Richard Miniter on June 2005 Operation Red Wings, the action for which Lt. Michael Murphy (deceased) earned his Medal of Honor.
Even the title is a misnomer; there was no rescue. Instead, Red Wings was a series of errors, blunders and improper mission planning and execution. The mission cost 19 lives, yet the article hails it as a victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, except that's not how the current Department of Defense reports portray things in that neck of the woods.
"Senior Crew Chief Dan Healy was in chrage of planning the SEAL component of Operation Red Wings. . . . he became obsessed with finding the Taliban warlord killing Marines in A-bad."
Imagine a Senior Crew Chief in charge of planning! Where were the officers? Being "obsessed" meant his decisions were emotional, not based solely upon hard, cold military reasoning. One must also ask, what is a Taliban warlord, and why are we fighting him? If warriors are the newest class of American Heroes, shouldn't we be honoring rather than fighting him?
One team member, Dan Dietz, "wanted to be a ninja, until he found out it wasn't a real profession." So we have an obsessive + a ninja-wannabe. And a writer who doesn't know his history.
This is a good simple plan, except it lacks any contingency plans or Escape & Evasion considerations. This elementary failure is what cost the team their lives.
"The plan was simple. A helicopter would drop off the SEAL team a few miles from a village where the warlord Shah had been sighted from the air. They would rope down and find a concealed position. If they spotted Shah, they would radio "eyes on target" and an 80-man force would swoop in to capture him."
Murphy staked out a position on a "finger of rock" that looked down on his target. After dawn the next morning goatherders with their flock discovered them. After a brief capture, Murphy decided to let them go.
While it was a solid decision not to murder the goatherds, they should have been detained until the team exfiltrated due to the compromised nature of the mission. A recon team is no longer a recon team once it is spotted. Once spotted they quickly become desperate men fighting for their lives.
If Murphy had done a proper terrain analysis based upon maps and satellite photos and visual reconnaissance the make-shift selection of position would have been eliminated. Prior planning goes a long way to keeping a team alive.
"The Taliban were not long in coming. Initial intelligence reports put Shah's forces at 80 fighters, but some 200 Taliban appeared on the ridges above them. The enemy held the high ground and started flanking the SEAL team on both sides; they were about to be surrounded."
This demonstrates weak intelligence and interpretation. Why are Shah's forces and the Taliban enumerated separately? Isn't the fiction that this entire group is Taliban?
Where were their URC-type survival radios?Where was the airborne radio relay? Where were the emergency contingency plans when contact with the team was compromised?
"The SEALs couldn't hold out for long. The radio only spoke static. They couldn't phone home."
Classic hunter becoming the hunted scenario. A team fighting downhill with enemy elements above is the same as a death sentence. "Without an air rescue, or close air support from a plane, the SEAL team would die."
"Murphy ordered them to retreat down the hill, gaining distance and time. But the Taliban pursued their prey relentlessly."
And again, why again was their no air rescue or close air support laid on for immediate support of this mission? Perhaps someone could explain this to the surviving family members.
Miniter writes it took an hour for help to arrive -- "Would their ammunition and luck hold?" The entire article is written like an installment of Boy's Life. Does this melodramatic pap satisfy the combat veterans reading this rag?
Why would it take an hour? Why would any team be expected to survive based upon luck? Luck is not a military term.
As Miniter's rousing tale continues, after Murphy steps out to place a cell phone call to HQ, sustaining a shot through his right side, "Back at Bagram, Lt. Cmdr. Michael McGreevy instantly approved a daylight rescue, though standard procedure was to fly helicopters only at night."
"McGreevy ran into the barracks to round up any SEALs or Night Stalkers he could find. The men sprang into action, grabbing gear and guns while running for the door. Onboard trucks heading, sergeants divided men into "chalks," and Healy counted heads. The posse was coming."
Christ. This herky jerky assemblage thrown together well after this four man recon team was in imminent danger is absurd, yet is being depicted heroically. Has Miniter taken his reportage lessons from Stalin or Mao?
Where is the 80-man reaction team which would "swoop in" and supposedly on standby? They should have been in full combat array and readiness. Launch should have been no more than a 5 minute warning before lift off, day or night.
Are we to believe a day time rescue launch was heroic? Wouldn't the 80-man exploitation unit launch during daylight? If not, the recon team's mission was superfluous.
Ready Reaction Teams should be SOP for recon work, for when things go wrong in recon it is standard to lose an entire team. Especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where there is not thick cover and concealment and the indig are not sympathetic to U.S. forces mucking about their terrain.
Tomorrow: Part II of "Rescue in Afghanistan."