Punishing the SEALs

November 30th, 2009 at 10:44 am | 31 Comments |

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Earlier this week, news broke that three Navy SEALs were charged and may be court-martialed for allegedly punching a prisoner.  The prisoner, a high-value target (HVT) was turned over to authorities with a bloody lip.

According to a source of mine — a retired SEAL who like myself still serves in other capacities — the feeling going around the Special Operations community at Fort Bragg is that this latest development is a kneejerk reaction to the situation a couple months ago when SEAL operators rescued Captain Phillips – Captain of the Maersk Alabama – off the coast of Somalia.

At the time of the capture, the media played up the angle that President Obama himself gave the order to the SEAL snipers to open fire. Having done extensive time in anti-terrorist units myself, I can tell you from personal experience this is ridiculous, a total fabrication. Nobody except those with “eyes on” the targeted individuals can make the judgment call to open fire.

The truth of the situation was that the SEALs were held off from infiltrating the AO (Area of Operations) for over 36 hours. There was a lot of resistance from the White House in letting them in theater in the first place; once they were in place they were given very restrictive ROE (Rules Of Engagement); so restrictive that they really couldn’t engage their targets. There were two previous opportunities to rescue Captain Phillips, and they were not allowed to engage their targets.

When they finally did execute, they did so by liberally interpreting the ROE; the onsite commander finally had enough with the situation and gave them a weapons-free command and they were able to engage and rescue Captain Phillips. The fallout from the National Command Authority was immediate and extremely unpleasant; the White House did not want the rescue to be conducted in the way that it was.

So the word on the street is that this latest development is payback for the SEALs violating the ROE in rescuing the captain of the Maersk Alabama. The Chain of Command is asserting itself, letting everybody know what’s going to happen to you if you don’t follow orders.

As this was expressed to me, this opinion is based on very good, solid inside information. In my personal experience with Navy brass I have found they are very political and very politically correct. The Naval Command’s reaction to the prisoner situation was so overblown and out of proportion that I somehow find this latest angle quite believable. Unfortunately.


Originally posted at STORMBRINGER.

Recent Posts by Sean Linnane



31 Comments so far ↓

  • Grizelda

    “the media played up the angle that President Obama himself gave the order to the SEAL snipers to open fire”

    Could you provide one example of someone in the MSM suggesting that Obama gave the actual order to fire – as opposed to authorizing the use of deadly force at the discretion of those on the ground?

  • cpanza

    This whole post is confusing to me.

    Like Grizelda, I am baffled by your complaint that Obama was pictured as giving the order to open fire, which only those with “eyes on” can make. Are you suggesting that the media said Obama’s voice was blasted through a loudspeaker on the ship, yelling “open fire!”? That how you make it sound, perhaps unwittingly. Like Grizelda said, it was portrayed that the use of deadly force was approved. Big difference. You don’t need “eyes on” to make _that_ call.

    I’m also confused by your telling of the story. Did Obama give the “use of deadly force” okay or not? If he did, then how was the commander’s “weapons free” command a “liberal interpretation” of the ROE?

    Lastly, are you somewhat implying that if this is “payback” that it is connected to the White House? Or are you merely suggesting that the field commander disobeyed an order and now the brass are laying down the law on field commanders in general?

  • BarryS

    Yet another total BS story from Linnane. Anonymous, un- sourced, idiotic.

  • LFC

    I’m with the rest of you on this one. This post is unsourced and seems totally befuddled.

    David: Keep on eye on this author. He doesn’t seem to fit in with the others on this site.

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  • sinz54

    “Earlier this week, news broke that three Navy SEALs were charged and may be court-martialed for allegedly punching a prisoner. ”

    I’ll hazard a guess that the SEALS did a lot more than just “punch” him once. But the entire chain of command from Obama on down doesn’t want to reveal all that was done, because of the furor that might result.

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  • akw

    The Seals did NOT turn him over with a busted lip. They say that he was unharmed when they turned him over to the Iraqis, and that he didn’t file a complaint until he had been in Iraqi custody for hours. The Seals are the ones who asked for a trial rather than an admiral’s mast because they claim to be innocent. The HVD filed a complaint through the Iraqis, therefore it had to be addressed in either a non-judicial or a judicial manner.

  • Mack

    I’m not so sure why everybody is so accused by this story – it reads fine to me, and conveys its information very well. I had no problem following along. I believe that the “confusion” reflects more on the commenters’ lack of context and experiential subject matter knowledge than it does on the quality of the article.

    Regarding Obama’s involvement, I’d bet that none of us were stupid enough to imagine that Obama gave the order directly to the shooters. However, when you read CNN stating that: “Obama had given standing orders for the military to take “decisive action” if Phillips was in “imminent danger,”, your BS detector should be screaming. From experience, the story’s assertion that the shooters were given impossibly restrictive ROE from the CINC on down makes more sense.

    Those guessing that the SEALS “did more than just punch him once”? Nice stereotyping, bias and prejudice. Know many Special Operations operators, or are you only presupposing that the men in question are ultraviolent ignorant hicks? I love the moral superiority and certainty of the those who do little more than sit back and second-guess those who are out doing the dirty work for our “kind and gentle” country. It’s pitiful to read your judgement of men you’ve never met or walked among; real manly of you, pal.

  • Mack

    Should be CONFUSED by the story, not ACCUSED. Bet that was confusing.

  • BarryS

    Mack.

    When Bush let Bin Laden go at Tora Bora were you on the sidelines cheering?

  • Mack

    No more so than when Clinton let him go in Yemen. So what was it like there in Tora Bora, Barry? How would you have gotten the combat battalions there in time, mass tac parachute drop or beam them in?

  • BarryS

    Mack .

    I sure as hell would not have asked my troops to cut and run away like Bush/Cheney did.

  • Mack

    Spoken like a true American hero. I have no problem with the decision made at Tora Bora – I think that the tactical and logistical reasoning was sound, and I don’t think that we will ever know if committing a brigade sized combat team would have made a difference; it’s hard to move large numbers of men stealthily in the desert, the hardened fighting positions indicated that they knew we were coming, and the troops that the SF teams were commanding knew the area well and fought hard against an entrenched enemy that had every military advantage that they could possibly have, except for air power. Had we tried to take Tora Bora with a conventional brigade sized task force, it probably would have been a blood bath, we have no way of knowing whether we would captured him and you’d be bitching about the pointless deaths of the fighting men that you care so much about.

    Either way, my point is that it’s easy to make those judgements in hind sight with no skin in the game. Any dungeon master level four can do it…

  • cpanza

    “Regarding Obama’s involvement, I’d bet that none of us were stupid enough to imagine that Obama gave the order directly to the shooters. However, when you read CNN stating that: “Obama had given standing orders for the military to take “decisive action” if Phillips was in “imminent danger,”, your BS detector should be screaming. From experience, the story’s assertion that the shooters were given impossibly restrictive ROE from the CINC on down makes more sense.”

    Why should my BS detectors have been screaming? I’m not following you here. Why is “he gave standing orders to take decisive action” less plausible than “they were given impossibly restrictive ROE from the CINC”?

  • cpanza

    Also, Mack:

    “I believe that the “confusion” reflects more on the commenters’ lack of context and experiential subject matter knowledge than it does on the quality of the article.”

    If following the article clearly means that I need to have military experience or context regarding the subject matter, then it’s a badly written article given that it’s not being written for the military. If that’s what you meant.

  • Mack

    Cpanza, you’re absolutely right in that regard – from the perspective of a veteran, the story makes sense and rings true as an opinion piece, but the author doesn’t seem to be writing to non-military readers or explaining why and how he arrives to his conclusions. That might have been a missed opportunity.

    Regarding the difference between “take decisive action” and restrictive rules of engagement, the former is more likely to be heard in an action movie. Real life rules of engagement, from the perspective of the Commander in Chief and the top level brass, are designed to reflect the perceived political realities on the ground and reign in the actions of troops on the ground so that they are compelled to act in a way that works within the perceived political framework. Violations of the rules of engagement are considered a crime. Even under Bush, the rule of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan were very, very restrictive and to the soldiers on the ground seemed to put political goals and fears ahead of their lives and safety. Keep in mind that we are actively at war in both places, and yet there was no individual “decisive action” built in to the rules. Threats generally had to be realized or positively identified before they could be neutralized.

    Think about the perception of Obama as a “cool cat”, and not a “cowboy” like Bush; Obama as a man who seems to be considering terrorism in terms of law enforcement and civilian rule of law, and does not embrace a “war on terror”. Now, if the rules of engagment were restrictive under Bush in theatres where we were actively involved in combat, does it make sense that President Obama would be more agressive in a politically ill-defined situation where we’re not in combat? The kidnapping could be easily considered a criminal matter, he didn’t know exactly who was involved and hadn’t had time to fully consider the ramifications of using military force. Even at the end, the administration was contemplating whether the surviving pirate could be tried in a civilian court in the US. Consider also the length of time that the President has been considering his Afghani policy, even at the risk of seeming indecisive or dithering. Think about his decision to take the 9/11 terrorists out of the military justice system and try them in the civilian courts, and his assessment that the Cambridge police had acted brashly and stupidly in the case of Skip Gates.

    “Take decisive action” when combined with “standing orders” (which means “this is my order and you don’t have to come back to revisit it with me”) doesn’t ring true. It leaves a whole lot of leeway and interpretation, and some of us would even argue would seem strangely out of character for President Obama. In the end, the matter was brought to a military end; this doesn’t feel right when you consider what we know about his perspective so far, and his desire to distance his administraion from what he seemed to consider the “trigger-happy” ways of his predecessor.

    Honestly, though, it’s all conjecture and my perspective. Hard to argue that factually – more a gut feeling of what seems right from my experience and “time in life”.

  • ottovbvs

    ……Linnane is a retired military guy with a complex about the president and militarism generally ……his “sources” are other retired military guys and maybe the odd non com still on active duty……..from this he usually weaves a mighty web in which the president or some other service that he doesn’t like is usually the villain…..you have to wonder what his motivation is?

  • Sean Linnane

    Hey There OttoBVDs-whatever-yer-name-is !
    I was wondering how long it’d take you to crawl out from under your bridge . . . FYI it’s not a “complex” . . . my motivation? Unlike you I don’t have an agenda, I just don’t care for liberals – and the current occupier of the Whitehouse is the WORST kind of liberal: a Black African Nationalist Marxist.

    MACK:
    I talk like a soldier, write like a soldier; eat, sleep, sh*t, shower & shave like a soldier because there is no such thing as a “former” Special Forces soldier. A leopard cannot change its spots; the warrior mindset never goes away.

    Check it out – http://seanlinnane.blogspot.com/2009/07/general-pattons-maxims.html

    “War is simple, direct and ruthless.” – General George S. Patton

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” – George Orwell

    “. . . speed, stealth and violence of action.” – US Army Ranger Handbook

    Peace, Out . . . . . . . . S.L.

  • BarryS

    “Unlike you I don’t have an agenda, I just don’t care for liberals – and the current occupier of the Whitehouse is the WORST kind of liberal: a Black African Nationalist Marxist.”

    Freaking hell, what is this idiot on? He is a RACIST. yes a RACIST. Why the hell is this POS being given a platform here?

    Why don’t you change your dumb picture to one with you wearing your pointy white hat.

    You have never written a decent piece here. It’s all juvenile BS of the highest order. Do yourself a favor dumbass forget writing you are not up to it.

  • BarryS

    Just looked at your blog Linnane. You obviously post RACIST BS there as well. Plus you attract more of your sort to that blog. Do you get together on weekends in your white bed sheets and pointy hats.

  • Sean Linnane

    WOW it sure didn’t take long for someone to throw the Racist epithet out there, did it?

    OK, let’s talk about racism -

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200702090009

    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=59600

    http://sweetness-light.com/archive/barack-obamas-church-ultra-left-and-afrocentric

    Racist? How can I be racist when I’m in a bi-racial marriage?

    I’m not racist – I don’t care what color he is. Come to think of it, I don’t like his white half either.

  • Sean Linnane

    BTW the only time I wear white bed sheets is when I attend toga parties . . . but wait a sec, let me see if I can dig out a picture of me in my dashiki . . .

  • cpanza

    Mack,

    Thanks for your reply. I think we agree that the piece above is not well presented. However, your account at least presents a sensible way of construing it. My response would be, however, that it is highly speculative (to say the least), as you yourself admit. Besides, when this situation occurred I took it to be an attempt by Obama to actually put to rest the belief that he _wouldn’t_ act or authorize the use of deadly force if necessary. So actually framing it in this way makes perfect sense with everything you say in your latter paragraphs. He doesn’t want to look trigger happy, but at the same time he doesn’t want to seem unwilling to use deadly force. The possible ramifications of this particular situation were tiny, given that we were dealing with pirates. So giving the go-ahead even with limited info was a win-win for him. To be honest, it seemed pretty cut and dry to me with respect to framing.

    I am also taken back by the completely unprofessional nature of Linnane’s replies above, and frankly I’m shocked that Frum gives him a forum on this site if unclear blog posts and crass and unprofessional replies are the best he can muster up.

  • BarryS

    Linnane, you only have to read your blog to know that you are a racist, and that you surround yourself with racists. Do you call your wife a “Klingon” as Michelle Obama was described on your blog?

  • Sean Linnane

    I have a personal Code of Ethics that includes: “Never say anything behind a person’s back that you are not willing to say to their face.” Having said that, I have no control over what comments are entered on STORMBRINGER just as I have no control over what you say here; afterall it’s not as if you’re talking about my wife while standing right in front of me, now, is it?

  • BarryS

    Then Linnane you endorse and agree with racism. It’s BS to say that you have no control over racist remarks on YOUR OWN BLOG. Here you do not have control and neither should you.

    Your code of ethics is sadly lacking in my opinion. I’m not talking about your wife. I asked if you would be happy for someone to call your wife a “Klingon” as has been said about Michelle Obama on your blog.

  • Sean Linnane

    FYI I tried to delete that LLORT3 comment but am unable . . .

    You lot crack me up with all your conjecture & assumptions re the military. You can’t learn soldiering by reading books; the saying goes, “You talk the talk, do you walk the walk?”

    You obviously don’t; you quibble around the point; you are a quibbler. There is no honor here- I’m outta here. S.L.

  • BarryS

    So, finally you admit that there are tasteless racist posts on your own blog. Then you say you are unable to delete them. I will take that with a large pinch of salt.

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