Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Aftermath

Now that 36 hours have passed since the US assassinated Osama bin Laden and the shock has worn off, there are a variety of factors which have been going through my head and my heart since we first heard the news. Interestingly, Kaia and I were together – we had been watching a film and Kaia’s friend called to discuss something with her but first told her to turn on the news.

So now that the shockwaves have passed and the reality has sunk in, what do we – as a nation – know – and what do we – as a government – know?

Well, the public has been informed that the mission was performed by the Navy Seals (it was disclosed that it was indeed the highly-respected members of Team Six, aka SpecWar DevGru, that carried out this particular mission). The specifics are a bit sketchy, but the brief version is the US tracked a courier that had been associated with several al Qaeda operatives to a large compound situated behind 18-foot-high walls on one acre in the military garrison town in Pakistan known as Abbottabad. Two of the more curious factors which piqued their curiosity was that the courier and his brother were living elsewhere in a million-dollar home yet had no discernible income. And further, the house they had tracked the courier to in Abbottabad was huge in comparison to its neighbors, yet had no internet or phone service of any kind. And finally, while every other house in the neighborhood routinely left its refuse out for collection, the compound’s trash was never left for collection; it was routinely burned.

When the US established a possible sighting of a large man who perhaps fit bin Laden’s description – sometime between September and December of 2010 – they put in place a possible mission which began with Seal Team Six, aka Red Cell.

The Seals, much like the British SAS (Special Air Service), are the anonymous rock and rollers of anti-terrorist, special operations groups. They operate in largely foul conditions, almost always get their hands dirty, and always succeed. Failure for these groups isn’t an option. Essentially, when there is a terrorist or hostage rescue situation that can be handled on the ground in lieu of an air strike or something similarly catastrophic, these are the groups that receive the first call. After receiving the call in connection with the mission to kill or capture bin Laden, they built a replica of the Abbottabad compound and began training for every contingency.

Team Six is the SEAL elite unit which carried out Sunday’s breach of the compound in Abbottabad. Details are scarce – at least accurate ones – but it appears it was two choppers that were sent into Pakistan. The choppers were specially-outfitted MH-60’s that were almost certainly noise-suppressed to avoid detection. The SEALs had entered Pakistan’s Ghazi Air Base from Pakistan, and they brought, among other goodies, “tactical signals, intelligence collectors, and navigators using highly classified hyperspectral imagers.” In plain English, that means they brought materials to signal success to their delivery men (eg their pilots) as well as personnel to insure any computer/data could be safely brought back to the US for review and research. The last part – “navigators with highly classified hyperspectral imagers” – refers to thermal detection equipment so they could locate all the people within the compound prior to going in. It helps to know what’s around the corner waiting to kill you before actually turning the corner.

One of the choppers experienced significant mechanical failure, so much so that the SEALs abandoned it after setting it down and (after the mission was complete) destroyed it to make sure no one would be able to loot and research the technology aboard the downed aircraft.

The raid took approximately 20 minutes, which included killing or capturing approximately 22 individuals located within the compound walls. Both bin Laden and his son were killed in the actual conflict – eg the firefight – as were several other terrorists and a woman who may or may not have been providing material assistance to bin Laden and his people. The public has been advised the woman was being used as a human shield and her death was a casualty of a fierce firefight, but this may not be accurate. It’s possible she was firing on the SEALs and, despite the political ramifications of her death, when people fire at SEALs – especially when they’re in combat mode – they respond accordingly.

At the conclusion of the firefight, the SEALs took custody of between 10-12 captives in addition to bin Laden’s body, which was flown back to their US handlers for examination and DNA confirmation. More importantly, every hard drive in every computer in the compound was removed and taken as well. Finally, because the compound’s trash was burned, the SEALs collected any papers they thought may be relevant and retrieved those along with anything else that might be used for identification and/or research.

All in all, after photographing all the bodies and the configuration of the compound, the members of SEAL Team Six returned to the chopper and were extricated from Abbottabad back to the Pakistani Air Base and were subsequently brought home.

I’ve received conflicting details about whether any members of Team Six were injured; according to public reports, none of the breach team was injured. Others have suggested several minor injuries, resulting from bin Laden’s people using Teflon-coated ammunition, did occur. Regardless, the battle scars these guys endured on Sunday are medals I am certain they will wear with pride – silently – for the rest of their lives.

While this mission was one of the most public and crucial of America’s SpecWar operations ever – at least in the modern era – I can’t help but be impressed not only with the efficiency the SEALs do their job but also the fact that these missions are run with such regular frequency and rewarded with so little public kudos and thanks. Whether these guys do what they do because of their love for America, for the knowledge that they must do it because no one else can or will, or simply because they are good – great – at what they do, it’s pretty clear that the few times we hear – publicly or otherwise – about their successes we should take the time to appreciate their efforts.

So for the members of Team Six and all the SEAL members who participated in the raid this past Sunday, as well as to all those who have expended blood and sweat in protecting America’s interests and security every- and anywhere, know your efforts are appreciated, even if the appreciation is given indirectly; keep on doing what you do.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Looking Back and Looking Forward

There are varying degrees of significance to Osama bin Laden's death, but invariably they come down to perception and relevance. First and foremost, it was important that the US finally track him down and terminate him with extreme prejudice, and that significance cannot be overlooked. It may mean Obama's re-election is a certainty -- barring completely outrageous failures in other fronts -- and it may also mean that al Qaeda will slowly, eventually, disintegrate.

However, more likely it will mean that that group will temporarily be invigorated and many of the drones who have sworn allegiance to that group will intensify their efforts and planning. This past week, a major plot in Germany was discovered and prevented because some of these very morons who have pledged their allegiance to bin Laden and his group were mindless shitheads. How many of their more intelligent colleagues will join and strengthen their fight can only be anticipated, but I believe it's fair to say the next few weeks will be of significance one way or the other.

In addition to the PR bump Obama and the US military received -- rightfully -- it can't be overlooked that the entire operation sourced in ground intelligence work. See a huge house in the middle of a nondescript suburb in Pakistan. See that no phone or internet service is feeding that large compound, a house/estate large enough to accommodate 20 or more overnight guests at one time. See that they burn their garbage rather than leaving it on the street like their neighbors.

See a known terrorist/courier making regular visits to the house.

See a large man -- approximately 6'4 and very thin -- moving about the property's grounds.

See Seal Team Six kill everyone in the house, including a "non-combatant" female who the terrorists tried using during a 40-minute breach of the compound by Seal Team Six.

See America celebrate.

Don't misunderstand my intentions or feelings here; I'm glad bin Laden is now only a memory. I'm glad he's gone. It's not lost on me that on the day he was killed, people around the world celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Day, and on this day, in 1945, Allied forces in Germany discovered the corpse of Adolph Hitler, another piece of shit of epic proportions.

Let's be clear here: bin Laden was not the monster that Adolph Hitler was. He was a terrible, disgusting human being and deserved a most unsatisfying death and even moreso the most repulsive post-mortem treatment, in direct revulsion to those who respect his beliefs and his lifetime achievements. But he didn't murder 6,000,000 people specifically; he murdered, at most, 5,000 indiscriminately, because he was a disgusting human being.

I'm glad he's dead, but I still rank him below Adolph Hitler and many of his SS leadership for the above-mentioned reasons.

And more importantly, now that the US has locked onto the courier -- the one who led US intelligence personnel to the house in the first place -- and his associates, we may now get a much clearer picture as to what of al Qaeda remains. And that, hopefully, will clarify for us exactly how to eliminate what's left and leave only remains.

My thanks and praise to the members of Team Six (presumably) or whatever SEAL unit(s) that erased this group from the Earth. I am sure it was as dangerous, difficult and intense as anything they will ever see or experience in their lifetimes, and I hope -- for a change -- they receive the proper honor and respect and thanks from their nation and their government for accomplishing something that should have happened long ago. Even if today's news is more PR than significant, I hope it is clear to all that today is of monumental importance and one day we will discuss, like the generation before ours about the assassination of President Kennedy, where we were on this day, and our feelings on the subject.

While the answer to the former will vary greatly, I am sure, I have no doubt the universal response to the latter will be of relief, restrained happiness, and the satisfaction of knowing justice, on some level, has been served.

We Will Never Forget.