Second-Guessing the SEALs’ Deaths

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Army photo / Daniel Shook

The downed chopper was a CH-47 like this.

Second-guessing took stage center Wednesday at the Benghazi congressional hearing. As you may have heard, State Department officials criticized the Pentagon for failing to do enough when the U.S. consulate in that Libya city came under attack last September 11, killing four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens.

The pattern is slated to continue Thursday, when the surviving family members of three SEALs killed in a helicopter crash will “disclose never before revealed information about how and why their sons along with 26 others died in a fatal helicopter crash in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011.”

Topics of discussions, according to that press release announcing the event, will include:

— How President Obama and Vice President Biden, having disclosed on May 4, 2011, that Navy Seal Team VI carried out the successful raid on Bin Laden’s compound resulting in the master terrorist’s death, put a retaliatory target on the backs of the fallen heroes.

— How and why high-level military officials sent these Navy SEAL Team VI heroes into battle without special operations aviation and proper air support.

— How and why middle level military brass carries out too many ill-prepared missions to boost their standing with top-level military brass and the Commander-in-Chief in order that they can be promoted.

— How the military restricts special operations servicemen and others from engaging in timely return fire when fired upon by the Taliban and other terrorist groups and interests, thus jeopardizing the servicemen’s lives.

— How and why the denial of requested pre-assault fire may have contributed to the shoot down of the Navy SEAL Team VI helicopter and the death of these special operations servicemen.

— How Afghani forces accompanying the Navy SEAL Team VI servicemen on the helicopter were not properly vetted and how they possibly disclosed classified information to the Taliban about the mission, resulting in the shoot down of the helicopter.

— How military brass, while prohibiting any mention of a Judeo-Christian God, invited a Muslim cleric to the funeral for the fallen Navy SEAL Team VI heroes who disparaged in Arabic the memory of these servicemen by damning them as infidels to Allah. A video of the Muslim cleric’s “prayer” will be shown with a certified translation.


Far be it from Battleland to second-guess the second-guessers; we have been questioning the U.S. military since the Carter Administration, and often found its answers to embarrassing questions self-serving or irrelevant.

But we seem to be moving into a new realm here, where the motivation is less operational than political.

Military missions are routinely complicated and dangerous. In fact, they’re usually conducted so imperfectly amid the “fog of war” that the military writes “after-action reports” to figure out what went wrong, and how to do it better then next time. Anyone looking for how a military mission went down — and how it might have been done better — is looking to shoot fish in a barrel with an M-16.

The Army even has a Center for Army Lessons Learned, which is basically a uniformed corps of professional second-guessers, to codify corrections in tactics, techniques and procedures. “There’s always room for improvement,” commanders like to say.

But there isn’t – or shouldn’t be – room for insinuating that Americans died because of political party. If that were the case, there’d be a lot more such events at the National Press Building jawboning over President George W. Bush’s decisions to invade Iraq, and prolong the Afghan war in which these men died.

Just north of Afghanistan, you can almost hear ol’ Joe Stalin weighing in from his grave near the Kremlin wall. “One death is a tragedy,” he reputedly noted. “One million is a statistic.”