Monday, August 08, 2011

Bumbling in Bananastan

9 Aug 2011

by Jeff Huber

The combat deaths of 30 special operations troops on 6 August should have told the country loud and clear that our woebegone Long War on whatever and whomever it is we're fighting is a travesty that needs to end now.  Unfortunately, in today's polluted information environment, the incident is being used to peddle the Pentarchy's agenda for Orwellian persistent conflict.  

A team of Army Rangers dropped into some remote Palookaville to snatch some alleged low-level Taliban im-potentate, and they ran into resistance their intelligence officer probably forgot to tell them to expect.  Forty minutes or so into the firefight a Chinook helicopter carrying Navy Seals flew in to bail their Ranger pals out of a jam and somebody the intelligence officer probably didn’t know about popped shot down the Chinook with a rocket grenade, killing the all of the SEALs and the aircrew as well.  

Ranger and Seal outfits are highly trained and custom-armed units of young Adonises genetically disposed to war.  Unleashed in a village someplace to run amok and do something you can brag about and/or have to cover up later, these war dogs are fierce, they are dazzling, they are undefeatable.  Piled into a helicopter they become a low/slow flying duck begging to get bagged by turban togged rock rancher armed with a weapon that the poorest people on earth can afford to own.  (36 percent of Afghans live below the poverty line, and we’re not talking about the U.S. poverty line.  Afghanistan’s per capita GDP is $900.  That’s right: nine hundred dollars.  Per person.  Per year.  Those people couldn’t buy a bag of potato chips at a Junior Market in Detroit.)

The 6 August incident shouldn’t have surprised anybody, even the intelligence weenies.  The first time We the People heard about troopers in helicopters getting whacked in Bananastan by bottle-rocket technology was back in 2002.  We heard about it again in 2005, and in 2007, and in 2008, and in 2009, and in 2010.  The only greater threat to troops in helicopters than rocket propelled grenades are the helicopters themselves, which have a penchant for shooting themselves down due to mechanical failures, weather, pilot error, and the animus of the gremlins that inhabit them.  Incredibly, we’re now hearing that subsequent to the 6 August incident, the Pentagon brass is examining the wisdom of landing helicopters like the Chinook in battle zones.  Why do you reckon the Pentagon brass is just now scratching its collective hat on the subject?  Maybe the Pentagon intelligence officers weren’t briefing them on all those other shoot downs over the years.  Tsk, tsk.   

Worse than the insanity of continuing to pursue a proven failed tactic is that said tactic—vertical assault on targets chosen by the most inept intelligence apparatus in the history of warfare—is the cornerstone of an even more profoundly failed grand strategy.  As Jonathan S. Landay and Hashim Shukoor of McClatchy report, the SEALS who died on 6 August were operating in a valley where frequent U.S.-led night raids like the one the SEALS were reinforcing are driving the locals into the arms of the Taliban.  No strategy can be more self-defeating than one in which attacks against enemies provide them with aid and comfort.  

Lamentably, McClatchy is just about the last of the mainstream news outlets willing to tell the ugly truth about our disingenuous wars.  The rest of big media is scrambling to see who can put the most pro-war spin on the affair.  A 6 August New York Times story by ace Pentagon echo chamberlain Thom Shanker noted that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the “attack,” and that the “attack” came during a “surge of violence” that has “accompanied the beginning of a drawdown of American and NATO troops.”  That’s a remarkable statement considering that we were the ones doing the attacking in this scenario, and that the only “surge of violence” it seems to have been part of is the one in which we’re using commando units to blow the smithereens out of remote villages in hopes of bagging Taliban non-coms who are as important to the insurgent war effort as The Good Soldier Schweik was to Kaiser Wilhelm’s general staff. 

NBC's Jack Jacobs says elite combat
units are too valuable to risk in combat.
On 8 August, NBC Nightly News spokesmodel Brian Williams trotted out Retired Colonel War Hero who questioned why high command used “tier one” troops on a target that wasn't that important.  I guess Colonel Hero figures if we’re going to throw troops away on paltry missions we should throw away the everyday, disposable troops, not the high-price ones we keep for special company.  Then Embedded NBC echo chamberlain Richard Engel slipped in the money mantra about how Afghanistan is getting more dangerous because we’re drawing down (we aren’t yet, actually) and the Afghans aren’t ready to take over (they never will be). 

Then Williams brought on NBC’s senior Pentagon bobblehead Jim Mxyzptlk who repeated the five or so words his Pentagon handlers wrote specially for Jim so he could repeat them verbatim on camera.  (I can’t see Jim on NBC Nightly News without flashing on John Cleese as a footballer in the Monty Python sketch where he tells interviewer Eric Idle, “Hello, Brian, I’m openin’ a boutique!”). 
Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell
provides opportunity to form
disposable combat teams.

I thought Jim's one-line soliloquy would be the end of the torture, but it was just getting started.  Next came video of the Monday morning’s Today freak show featuring the wife of one of the guys who got killed, crying about how her SEAL loved his country.  Mother Mary at the foot of the cross, man.  Remember when the rabid right had a fit over how insensitive PBS was being when it ran a roster of that week’s war dead against a backdrop of silence?  I beseech the craven idol I worship to someday locate my mitts across the trachea of the Chief of Naval Information (aka CHINFO) cretin who arranged to put that SEAL’s widow on national television days after her husband was killed in action.

But making a spectacle of the warrior’s wailing widow for propaganda purposes was a ray of decorum compared to the obscenity NBC and the other networks committed by running footage of our newly inserted defense secretary Leon Panetta’s public statement on the affair.  At the Special Operations Command ceremony in Florida, Panetta said of the latest commando casualties that we, “must pledge to them and to their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause for which they gave their lives, the cause of a secure and safer America."
NBC's Brian Williams
and Jim Miklasewski.

Holy peyote, Uncle Leo.  Even Don Rumsfeld knew that our War on Evil was making more evildoers, not a secure and safer America.  What the 30 special ops troopers gave their lives for on 6 August was the continued creation of conditions that ensure perpetual low-level conflict in support of the neoconservative goal of world domination through military force.

Now let’s see some CHINFO bull feather merchant get that widow back on the Today show and have her tell us how proud she is that her husband died for the cause of putting American combat boots on every square inch of the globe from the bottom of the Mariana Trench to the summit of Mt. Everest. 

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is author of the critically lauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance. 


  1. I guess what it is that appalls me about this whole episode is the feigned surprise by the media and the generals.

    re: the idea that the Taliban are still fighting back.

  2. We called these things "Shithooks" in Vietnam. But I don't recall the Army using them anywhere near a hot LZ. Guess it's now OK to use a big, lumbering POS anywhere. As an old Army guy, it warms my heart when I see true tactical brilliance. Especially when it complements the operational and strategic brilliance that have been demonstrated for the past ten years. Makes one choke up a bit, makes one proud to be a Murrican.

    We were the same in Vietnam: always surprised when we learned that third-world rathole residents were actually allowed to shoot back. And that they were allowed to have modern weaponry. Gee, it's not fair. Why can't they just use bows and arrows, eh?

    The terms "NCA" (National Command Authority) and "senior generals and admirals" are used in the media and in other polite circles. In MY circles, we call them "stupid" and "criminally negligent." We also talk a lot about "goat fucks."

  3. "In a separate statement Wednesday, the military said the Monday strike killed Taliban leader Mullah Mohibullah and the insurgent who fired the rocket-propelled grenade at the helicopter. The military said intelligence gained on the ground provided a high degree of confidence that the insurgent who fired the grenade was the person killed. It did not provide further details."

    Well, that didn't take long. Nice to know the propaganda still works, anyway. I guess "further details" will be available just as soon as the PR folks invent something that sounds plausible.

    I wonder how long it will be before we see the first stories asserting that the RPGS were supplied to the insurgents by Iran. I mean, it stand to reason, right?

  4. Heh. Well, heck, JP, as far as I know, nobody except Iran makes RGPs. Isn't' that so?


  5. If the Stinger v HIND battle wasn't one of the big lessons to come out of the USSR's failed 10 year military occupation of Afghanistan, then I don't know what was.

    Spoiler alert for the unteachable: the HIND lost.

    In more recent news for the uninformable: Stingers and rebels* still exist in Afghanistan.

    (*Freedom fighters is considered an obsolete term, and its last official use was by President Reagan.)

  6. I guess freedom having an American tank parked in yout front yard isn't considered freedom.

  7. Don't get yer knickers in a knot Jeff!

    Recent developments:
    1. We got the shooter! ISAF announced that the rocketeer and the band of merry men with him were clobbered in an airstrike as they made their way back to safe haven in Pakistan for some stand-down R&R.

    2. Take twenty percent off that mourning! It seems that there were only 17 dead Seals on that chopper, not the original 22 who were named. I'd imagine the 5 who weren't there will be feeling pretty miserable at having 'missed' the opportunity to make a real contribution.

    Which then raises the point of who actually was on the chopper? It wasn't a 'regular' flight, and, apparently, apart from the guy who released the names within hours of the bird going down, nobody was keeping a manifest.

    The bodies of 'all' aboard were flown into Dover AFB for a solemn 'welcome home' service. This 'all' would include the 5 who weren't (?) - somebody would have wondered about 28 coffins as opposed to 33, no?

    The eight Afghan 'commandos' were being returned to Dover as well - in order to aid identification, we're told. They will be repatriated when, and if, identified as not American.

    Wouldn't it be a hoot if this was somebody's 'retirement' scam 'gone global' and the CinC was saluting the biggest load of dope to be imported into the US of A in history?

    Stranger things have happened.

  8. I personally wouldn't fly on a Chinook even in peacetime, the thing is like two helicopters mating, a flying collection of single point failures. I've thought for awhile now that somebody needs to point out to the media that the only reason the US is flying helicopters over there is because the Russians, Chinese, etc., have elected not to sprinkle the region with SAMs, presumably because they like us being down to our axles.

  9. Pop,

    I wonder if the news that we popped the shooter came from the same intelligence officer who didn't anticipate the shooter would be at the target.


  10. Ted, something I'll write about in the next week or so is how the Army and Marines' entire maneuver doctrine is based on the "safe vertical lift" hallucination.


  11. I'll be looking for it. The only "safe vertical lift" is an elevator, but I guess soldiers are a lot more expendable than civilians. If the Hind was an easy target for an 80s SAM then the Blackhawk and certainly the Chinook are obviously current missile fodder. It seems like even politicians could understand this.

  12. This must be part of the same hallucination:

    Contact lost with hypersonic glider after launch

    Odd how they missed the obvious explanation, that the Chinese have a really good repo man.

  13. the dog was cool catching the wild duck..
    i wish i had a dog like that.

  14. A few years back, I was reading an article about mujaheddin operations against the Soviets in Afghanistan. One of the more effective techniques involved shooting down transport helicopters with RPG7s. This involved selecting a location with one obvious landing zone, positioning a rocketeer or two 900 metres from the landing zone and then staging an "event" to attract the Soviets' attention. When the Soviets responded with helicopter-borne troops, the rocketeers would fire the RPG7s towards the helicopters and then wait for the rockets to self-destruct at 900 metres. There was no need to be particularly accurate as the self-destructing RPG7 would cause enough damage to bring down the helicopter. The people who developed this technique and trained the mujaheddin in it - I'm pretty certain it was the C.I.A. Some "intelligence" service?

  15. Oh, it was the CIA all right. Good note, BB, thanks for posting.