Friday, July 25, 2008


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.

"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."

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.
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?

"The SEALs couldn't hold out for long. The radio only spoke static. They couldn't phone home."
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?

"Murphy ordered them to retreat down the hill, gaining distance and time. But the Taliban pursued their prey relentlessly."
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."

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."

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."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

if only america would listen to ranger against war, there would be no war, no terrorism, and no national failure. humanity would emerge from its present darkness and make peace with itself. the military would no longer make decisions based on its own judgment, but would take its orders from anti-war veterans on the internet.

and there would be a draft again.

i really think i'm coming around to agree with everything you say, mein Fuehrer.

Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 3:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You see how it is... I clicked on the comments to says something about how you had broken the 11th Commandment "Thou shallt not criticize the military, for it is holy in My sight" and there was the bit above from the genius who embodies the sentiment.

It's hilarious to see his "mein Fuehrer" at the end. In the Third Reich it was against the law to criticize the military, the leader, or make "defeatists" statements. These guys would probably be quite pleased by such laws.

Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 9:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another post strikes home and very deep...see comment no. 1!!

A question though -- why are Seals fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan? (Quite a change from their underwater demolition roots.) GSJ

Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 10:45:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

while the roots of the teams are certainly aquatic, and all training does stem from that base, the SEALs have evolved into a team of all around special operators.

afghanistan is a natural place for them to operate. most of the time staffings for the teams would go along the "horses for courses" credo. there were frogmen who were especially adept at parachute work, language and tribal culture adepts (who often ended up in central highlands billets far from any water).

many times a senior crew chief would be involved with the planning for his team's participation in another unit's operation. as senior squid on the ground it was figured to be something right and proper. many times the orders would come down from far higher with the "do it" part left up to us.

still, the personal obsession part, the bizarre fixation on "being ninja" is stuff that wouldn't have flown with the teams where i served.

there is a lot about that operation that i find acutely disturbing.

most of them are points you made ranger. where is the standing by extraction? extraction and cover were considered to be so vital to my planning that the absence or unreliability of one or the another would be a rational reason to scrub the whole thing. getting the fuck out has got to figure prominently.

the operation seems reckless on its face. slapdash in its execution.

no wonder they failed. they failed in the ready room.

luck is not a strategic component you can plan around or depend upon.

luck is the residue of design.

branch rickey

luck is the natural result of good planning.


Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 12:13:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


"the operation seems reckless on its face. slapdash in its execution.

"no wonder they failed. they failed in the ready room."

In a nutshell. When I post the coda today you will see how heartbreakingly correct your statement is.

Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 12:22:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MB - So Seals are now like SF? GSJ

Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 5:57:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Navy SEALS are not as special as Special Forces. Special Forces are the military version of the Special Olympics. I think you will agree that poking around in a country where there might eventually be a war, seeing the sights and talking to the natives, is a perfect job for a "special" soldier.

Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 7:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

raraw, if you would bother to read the raw cmts on war, terrorism and national failure then you would be qualified to make any cmt your dear little mouth desires BUT it's clear that you haven't. Now that Keith Ledger is dead you have a promising future . jim

Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 8:23:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

GSJ and MB, let me combine cmts since they are the same topic.
GSJ- it's an approp misn as MB points out and the Seals have the experience and training to carry these out. But personally i'm uncomfortable with Seals or Marines operating outside the range of naval gunfire.Naval barrages are what makes USMC and naval infantry so powerfully successful historically.Use every tool as designed- or increase USMC Div arty to adapt to nw useages of the ground units.
MB - as for the senior crew chief planning the Seal portion of the Redwing op there are a few questions. Where nwas Lt Murphy during this phase?The team ldr does the final brief before launch AND he should be a primary planner.What about the LTCMDR? Where the fuck was he during pre-misn prep and planning?
MB, you are absolutely correct that the misn orders can and should be interpreted in compliance with the Cdrs guidance for the opn.The teams always tailor the execution of mission statements- we should never tell the man on the ground how to do his job> THAT'S WHY WE PAY THEM.They are experts and should be treated as such.
Emergency and contingency planning is key.E&e and escape routes are the only key to survival when the goats spot your element- Recon teams are not equipped to fight a sustained action- if they can't run they die.And if you can't extract them then PREPLANNED REINFORCEMENT AND FIRES MUST BE LAID ON AS A PLANNING CONSIDERATION'.There are no hopes and prayers in the op order.

Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 8:42:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

Sounds like a clear case of ignoring the 6 P's.


Monday, July 28, 2008 at 12:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

Also known as:


Monday, July 28, 2008 at 12:38:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

terrible, i've always used the word Prior in the list of P"s. Thanks for adding this most pertinent thought. jim

Monday, July 28, 2008 at 12:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MB and Ranger -- Thanks for the responses to my comment regarding the Seals presence in Afghanistan. Had some followup questions/observations I thought I might add.

If the Seals' mission assignment in Afghanistan is appropriate, what does that say in the general sense about the whole organization of the U.S.military. Here we have what started out as a Naval support unit (UWD) morphing into something more like the SF -- an Army specialized unit. That got me thinking about the Marines...same thing...a Naval support arm for limited land engagements now engaged not in one but two land wars (Iraq and Afghanistan -- correct me if I'm wrong about the Marines being in Afghanistan -- figured if the Seals are there the Marines are probably there, too).

So, if the Seals have the essentially the same mission as SF and the Marines have essentially the same mission as the Army...well, seems like we got off track somewhere. This simple comparison got me also thinking that the Air Force probably should still be the Army Air Corp. (do we have LeMay to thank for it being an independent arm?)...

Anyway, just a little more... the deficits in tactics described in RAW for the single incident involvng MOH winner Murphy paints, at least to me, civilian that I am, a devasting picture of a general breakdown in basic, fundamental tactical military science. In other words, our guys aren't being taught what they should be taught or, at a minimum, the emphasis isn't right... the things pointed out by Ranger and MB don't seem like rocket science to me! So, why the breakdown in ...what should I call it... knowledge transfer?

Along those same lines, I hate to think about strategic planning being anything
like the tactical -- but based on the PWOT commented on in RAW-- its just as bad, if not worse!

I see a similarity in my own field of accounting (I know this seems like a stretch, but bear with me). Fundamental accounting principles have forever required a company or business to reflect all of it operations on-the-books and on its financial statements. But, now, we have professional standards that allow multi-billions of assets and liabilities to be created and managed off-the-books (think Enron but there are many more!). Enron broke laws -- but fundamentally it did nothing wrong (according to current-day standards) with its initial moves to get transactions off its books and off its financial statements. Every big money center bank in America (if not the world) has billions of transactions/assets/liabilities off the books (think derivatives).... and its all in accordance with "modern" professional accounting standards... not to mention a wink and a nod from the SEC. The accounting profession has simply forgotten its roots, its purpose, and by doing so has put everyone of us at risk of ruin...thus, the comparison to the military.

If this loss of basic knowledge has happened in disparate areas like accounting standards and military training -- its probably everywhere(!) -- fundamental knowledge that was hard won has been, and is being, steadily forgotten or ignored... but you (Ranger and MB) already knew that!

Rant off. ... and thanks for making it this far!

Monday, July 28, 2008 at 2:30:00 PM GMT-5  

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