By Manuel E. Yepe
On June 1st 2002, nine months after the heinous terrorist events of September 11, 2001, George W. Bush Jr., the then-US President, made a speech at West Point Military Academy by means of which he ordered the transformation of the United States armed forces into a “military force ready to strike at any moment in any dark corner of the world.” The President added that “we should uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries.“
On 7 June last, The New York Times published a lengthy front-page feature entitled “The Hidden History of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6”. It chronicled the “heroic” actions of one of the most notorious and least scrutinized man-hunting units developed by the United States after the insane presidential order. This unit is credited with the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and after a decade of its existence, it is considered the archetype of the global human-hunting machine operated by Washington.
The narrative is part of the hidden history of the US Navy SEALs, military units which remain the most mythologized, most secretive and least scrutinized military organizations in the US military.
The team was designed for a new method of war, in which conflict is distinguished not by battlefield wins and losses, but by the relentless killing of suspected militants. Once a small group reserved for specialized but rare missions, the unit has been transformed, after more than a decade of combat, into a global man-hunting machine, with little official supervision.
Almost everything about SEAL Team 6 is shrouded in secrecy. They have carried out deadly missions from secret bases in Somalia. In Afghanistan, they have engaged in combat so intimate that they have emerged soaked in blood that was not their own.
On clandestine raids in the dead of the night, their weapons of choice have ranged from customized carbines to primeval Tomahawk missiles.
Around the world, they have run spying stations disguised as commercial boats, posed as civilian employees of front companies, and operated undercover at embassies. They have operated under any appropriate disguise tracking those the United States wants to kill, capture, or neutralize.
SEAL Team 6 performs missions elsewhere that blur the traditional lines between soldier and spy. Taking part in war, they can deploy for clandestine intelligence operations, or work alongside CIA agents for other initiatives.
Team 6 carries out some of the most dangerous missions: those considered too dangerous for conventional troops. It has successfully carried out thousands of dangerous raids against military leaders to weaken their militant networks, but its activities have also spurred recurring concerns about excessive killing and civilian deaths.
Afghan villagers and a British commander accused the SEALs of indiscriminately killing a group of youths during a raid. This created tension with the Afghan authorities. Even an American hostage freed in a dramatic rescue has questioned why the SEALs killed all his captors.
Even the military’s civilian overseers do not regularly examine the unit’s operations. “This is an area where Congress notoriously doesn’t want to know too much,” said a State Department’s legal adviser, who provided guidance to the Obama administration on clandestine war.
Like the CIA’s campaign of drone strikes, Special Operations missions offer policy makers an alternative to costly wars of occupation. But the bulwark of secrecy around Team 6 makes it impossible to fully assess its record and the consequences of its actions, including civilian casualties or the deep resentment against the US inside the countries where its members operate.
The acronym SEAL stands for Sea, Air, Land forces — evolved from the frogmen of World War II. Team 6 arose decades later, born out of the failed 1980 mission to rescue 53 American hostages seized in the takeover of the United States Embassy in Iran. The name itself was an attempt at disinformation when only two SEAL teams existed at the time
Oceans of US taxpayer’s money have sluiced through SEAL Team 6 since 2001, allowing it to significantly expand its ranks — reaching roughly 300 assault troops, called operators, and 1,500 support personnel — to meet new demands.
Trained for hostage rescues and other dangerous missions, since 2003 they have been involved in at least 10 important rescue operations. These have been their most celebrated successes and their most bitter failures.
Sep 25, 2016 0
Sep 25, 2016 0
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