WASHINGTON—The families of the 17 Navy SEAL Team 6 members killed when their Chinook helicopter was downed in Afghanistan in August 2011 blame the US command and the Obama administration for the tragedy and want an official investigation into what they are calling a whitewash.
The family members, speaking at the National Press Club last Thursday, tried to reopen the book on the crash, in which a total of 38 were killed, including the SEALs who belonged to the same unit as those who carried out the raid on Osama bin Laden earlier that year. The Chinook helicopter was shot down by the Taliban.
During the event organized by Freedom Watch, founded by lawyer Larry Klayman, and StandUpAmericaUS.org, founded by retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, family members and former military personnel claimed President Obama turned the SEALs group into a Taliban target after the administration revealed they had conducted the bin Laden raid. The raid on Osama’s compound was also depicted in the Academy Award nominated film Zero Dark Thirty.
In fact, the much talked about film won only one award. An industry publication remarked, “Zero Dark Thirty, about the decade-long US hunt for Osama bin Laden, has received more attention in the US Congress than it did at the Oscars on Sunday, amid political fallout over its depiction of torture and the leaking of classified intelligence leaks to the movie’s makers.”
Doug Hamburger, whose son Patrick was killed, called the incident “an ambush” that could have been prevented.
He added, “We’re very concerned that the administration had disclosed that the Navy SEALs had carried out a successful attack on bin Laden’s compound resulting in his death. And you know, never before in the history of our county [has] a sitting president released that type of information to the public, especially when he was talking about Special Forces. Their names and their missions had never been revealed before. And we really feel that this put our guys in an unnecessary risk.”
In all due respect to this bereaved father, political or intelligence thinking would consider “Dead men tell no tales” as a good enough reason for the crash, including the scripted details of the film.
Many military experts at the time, including some of Obama’s top military advisers, had questioned the White House’s public praise of SEAL Team 6 and said it put members in danger.
Three months after bin Laden’s alleged death, members of the SEAL Team 6 force—though apparently not the same ones who carried out the bin Laden raid—were on board the CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter, along with its Army National Guard aircrew. There were several support personnel and seven Afghan commandos. In all, 38 people died that night after the chopper was shot down by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade—or RPG—over the Wardak Province on Aug. 6, 2011.
This is one tragic consequence of Hollywood scripting revisionist history. Previous to this film, the leading 9/11 historian Dave Ray Griffin, in his book Osama bin Laden-Dead or Alive, wrote on Page 1, under Bin Laden Funeral reports, “That a funeral for him occurred on or about December 15, 2001. On December 26, 2001, an article entitled ‘News of Bin Laden’s Death and Funeral 10 days Ago’ appeared in the Egyptian newspaper Al Wafd. Based on a story in Pakistan’s Observer that was published on December 25, it said:
“’Islamabad: A prominent official in the Afghan Taleban movement announced yesterday the death of Osama bin Laden, the chief of al-Qa’da organization, stating that bin Laden suffered serious complications in the lungs and died a natural and quiet death. The official, who asked to remain anonymous, stated to The Observer of Pakistan that he had himself attended the funeral of bin Laden and saw his face prior to burial in Tora Bora 10 days ago. He mentioned that 30 of al-Qa’da fighters attended the burial as well as members of his family and some friends from the Taleban. In the farewell ceremony to his final rest guns were fired in the air. The official stated that it is difficult to pinpoint the burial location of bin Laden because according to the Wahhabi tradition no mark is left by the grave.’”
Griffin continues, “According to this article, therefore bin Laden’s funeral took place ten days before December 25, 2001, which would have been December 15. Given the Muslim custom of burying the dead quickly, this would mean that he had probably died only a day or two earlier, hence December 13 or 14 . . .”
Also, according to former Middle East CIA Station Chief Robert Baer, Osama entered the American Hospital in Dubai in August 2001 for kidney dialysis treatment; this chronic and debilitating condition was more likely cause of bin Laden’s death. This was just a month and two weeks before 9/11. In total, Griffin’s book gives a more scrupulously detailed report not only of what Baer felt was bin Laden’s time and cause of death, but all the history before it concerning bin Laden’s life.
Returning to the Washington press conference, Charles Strange, whose son Michael, 25, died in the attack said, “Obama personally promised him a thorough investigation of what happened but has failed to deliver.”
Far more likely, accurate coverage of what happened to bin Laden, including when and how he met his maker appears in Griffin’s book. Mr. Strange also blamed top military brass for sending the troops into a situation they were allegedly ill-equipped and unprepared to handle. The team was responding to an Army Ranger unit that was engaged in a firefight with the Taliban and needed backup.
Asked for comment, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory said: “We share in the grief of all of the families who lost their loved ones.” Of course that’s not a real answer concerning adequate backup for the Army Rangers who did not receive additional backup against Taliban fighters.
While not commenting directly on the allegations, he called those who were lost “warriors” as representing “the diversity and talent of America and its military.” Yet, such military platitudes are difficult for a still grieving parent to swallow, or even for an informed individual to swallow.
An official report was released of the August 6, 2011 mission but family members say it did little to fill in the details and left more questions than answers.
Karen Vaughn says she wants to know why her son Aaron and his team were not using special operations aircraft which have defenses in place to allow helicopters to go deep behind enemy lines. The night her son Aaron died, he was in a helicopter that was built in the 1960s and last retrofitted in 1985. There, unfortunately, is the real essence of the tragedy of those lost “warriors” and therein lies the rub, an outdated, under-serviced helicopter that took the precious lives of those on this ill-fated mission.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at email@example.com.