Thursday, September 01, 2011
JSOC’s lethality was evident in its body counts: In 2008, in Afghanistan alone, JSOC commandos struck 550 targets and killed roughly a thousand people, officials said. In 2009, they executed 464 operations and killed 400 to 500 enemy forces. As Iraq descended into chaos in the summer of 2005, JSOC conducted 300 raids a month. Over 50 percent of JSOC Army Delta Force commandos now have Purple Hearts.
The most intense Iraqi raids reminded McChrystal of Lawrence of Arabia’s description of rings of sorrow, the emotional toll casualties take on small groups of warriors. Greatly influenced by Lawrence’s life story, McChrystal thought of his JSOC troops as modern-day tribal forces: dependent upon one another for kinship and survival.
If killing were all that winning wars was about, the book on JSOC would be written. But no war in modern times is ever won simply by killing enough of the enemy. Even in an era of precision weaponry, accidents happen that create huge political setbacks.
Every JSOC raid that also wounded or killed civilians, or destroyed a home or someone’s livelihood, became a source of grievance so deep that the counterproductive effects, still unfolding, are difficult to calculate. JSOC’s success in targeting the right homes, businesses and individuals was only ever about 50 percent, according to two senior commanders. They considered this rate a good one.
INITIAL POST: One of the most disturbing aspects of US policy post-9/11 has been the embrace of gangsterism as a preferred counterterrorism strategy. According to Nick Turse:
Fred Branfman has provided corroborating details, with an emphasis upon the authorized expansion of the program by President Obama:
Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight U.S. service members died, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget, and a four-star commander as their advocate. Since then, SOCOM has grown into a combined force of startling proportions. Made up of units from all the service branches, including the Army’s Green Berets and Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, and Marine Corps Special Operations teams, in addition to specialized helicopter crews, boat teams, civil affairs personnel, para-rescuemen, and even battlefield air-traffic controllers and special operations weathermen, SOCOM carries out the United States’ most specialized and secret missions. These include assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.
One of its key components is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command whose primary mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. Reporting to the president and acting under his authority, JSOC maintains a global hit list that includes American citizens. It has been operating an extra-legal kill/capture campaign that John Nagl, a past counterinsurgency adviser to four-star general and soon-to-be CIA Director David Petraeus, calls an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine. This assassination program has been carried out by commando units like the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force as well as via drone strikes as part of covert wars in which the CIA is also involved in countries like Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. In addition, the command operates a network of secret prisons, perhaps as many as 20 black sites in Afghanistan alone, used for interrogating high-value targets.
So, when President Obama describes 9/11 veterans as a one America team that changed the way their country fights and wins its wars and learned the cultures of the lands in which they had served, you now have a clearer understanding of precisely what he means. Here, within the US military, we have the bowling clubs of J. G. Ballard's super-cannes, groups of corporate executives who revitalize their entrepreneurial creativity through participation in cruel, sadistic assaults upon poor, socially marginalized people, adapted for the infliction of violence on a global scale. Like the Kennedys, Obama has a fondness for covert operations that conceal the ugliness of American foreign policy from the public. And he wants us to celebrate it on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 by associating it with those who died in the Twin Towers.
. . . A third factor behind the shift to mass assassination is that Petraeus and the U.S. military are also determined to attack jihadi forces in nations where the U.S. is not at war, and which are not prepared to openly invite in U.S. forces. As the N.Y. Times reported on May 24, General Petraeus (has argued) that troops need to operate beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to better fight militant groups.
The most significant aspect of this new and expanded assassination policy is President Obama’s authorizing clandestine U.S. military personnel to conduct it. The N.Y. Times has also reported:Particularly extraordinary is the fact that these vastly expanded military assassination teams are not subject to serious civilian control. As the N.Y. Times has also reported, Petraeus in September 2009 secretly expanded a worldwide force of assassins answerable only to the military, without oversight by not only Congress but the president himself:
In roughly a dozen countries—from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife—the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists (Military) Special Operations troops under secret Execute Orders have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies.Although sold to the American public and Congress as targeted, selective assassination aimed only at a handful of high value insurgent leaders, the program has in fact already expanded far beyond that. As personnel and aircraft devoted to assassination exponentially increase, so too do the numbers of people they murder, both insurgents and civilians.
The top American commander in the Middle East has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents. The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa. Unlike covert actions undertaken by the C.I.A., such clandestine activity does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress.
While it is reasonable to assume that expanding the number of Special Operations commandos to its present worldwide level of 13,000 will result in increasing assassinations, the secrecy of their operations makes it impossible to know how many they have murdered, how many of those are civilians, and the effectiveness of their operations. It is not known, for example, how many people U.S. military assassins murder directly, and how many they kill indirectly by identifying them for drone strikes. Much of their activity is conducted, for example, in North Waziristan in northwest Pakistan which, as the N.Y. Times reported on April 4 is virtually sealed from the outside world.
More information, however, has emerged about the parallel and unprecedented mass mechanized assassinations being carried out by the C.I.A. drone programs. It is clear that they have already expanded far beyond the official cover story of targeting only high-level insurgent leaders, and are killing increasing numbers of people.