Saturday, 16 May 2009

MarSOC murders in Afghanistan

Three years ago, Donald Rumsfeld created a special Marine formation, the Marines Corps' Special Operations Command, or MarSOC, to conduct special operations in Aghanistan. It doesn't seem to be answerable to within the traditional military structure and has been involved in some of the bloodiest, violent and unjustifiable instances where Afghan civilians have been slaughtered.

The Independent's Jerome Starkey writes:

Troops from the US Marines Corps' Special Operations Command, or MarSOC, were responsible for calling in air strikes in Bala Boluk, in Farah, last week – believed to have killed more than 140 men, women and children – as well as two other incidents in 2007 and 2008. News of MarSOC's involvement in the three incidents comes just days after a Special Forces expert, Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal, was named to take over as the top commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan. His surprise appointment has prompted speculation that commando counterinsurgency missions will increase in the battle to beat the Taliban.

MarSOC was created three years ago on the express orders of Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary at the time, despite opposition from within the Marine Corps and the wider Special Forces community. An article in the Marine Corps Times described the MarSOC troops as "cowboys" who brought shame on the corps.

The first controversial incident involving the unit happened just three weeks into its first deployment to Afghanistan on 4 March 2007. Speeding away from a suicide bomb attack close to the Pakistan border, around 120 men from Fox Company opened fire on civilians near Jalalabad, in Nangahar province. The Marines said they were shot at after the explosion; eyewitnesses said the Americans fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and civilian cars, killing at least 19 people.

The US Army commander in Nangahar at the time, Colonel John Nicholson, said he was "deeply ashamed" and described the incident as "a stain on our honour". The Marines' tour was cut short after a second incident on 9 March in which they allegedly rolled a car and fired on traffic again, and they were flown out of Afghanistan a few weeks later.

The top Special Operations officer at US Central Command, Army Major General Frank Kearney, refuted MarSOC's claims that they had been shot at. "We found no brass that we can confirm that small-arms fire came at them," he said, referring to ammunition casings. "We have testimony from Marines that is in conflict with unanimous testimony from civilians."

At the military hearings on the incident, which were held back in the US, soldiers said the MarSOC troops, who called themselves Taskforce Violence, were gung-ho and hungry to prove themselves in battle. The inquiry also heard testimony suggesting there were tensions between the Marine unit and its US Army counterparts in Nangahar province.

Col Nicholson told the court the unit would routinely stray into areas under his control without telling him, ignoring usual military courtesies. "There had been potentially 25 operations in my area of operations that I, as a commander, was not aware of," he said. Asked about the moment he was told of the March shootout, he added: "My initial reaction was, 'What are they doing out there?' " The three-week military inquiry ultimately spared the Marine unit from criminal charges.

[snip]

In August last year, a 20-man MarSOC unit, fighting alongside Afghan commandos, directed fire from unmanned drones, attack helicopters and a cannon-armed Spectre gunship into compounds in Azizabad, in Herat province, leaving more than 90 people dead – many of them children.

And just last week, MarSOC troops called in the Bala Baluk air strikes to rescue an Afghan police patrol that had been ambushed in countryside in Farah province. US officials said two F18 fighter jets and a B1 bomber had swooped because men on the ground were overwhelmed. But villagers said the most devastating bombs were dropped on compounds some distance from the fighting, long after the battle was over, and when Taliban forces were retreating. Afghan officials said up to 147 people were killed, including more than 90 women and children. (1)

The inevitable effect of letting gung-ho thugs with guns rampage is indicated by the priceless Patrick Cockburn, also in The Indie:
It is astonishing to discover that the same small American unit, the US Marine Corps' Special Operations or MarSOC, has been responsible for all three of the worst incidents in Afghanistan in which civilians have been killed. Its members refer to themselves as "Taskforce Violence" and the Marines' own newspaper scathingly refers to the unit as "cowboys".

[Snip]

Survivors from Gerani, Gangabad and Khoujaha villages say that there had been fighting nearby but the Taliban had long withdrawn when US aircraft attacked. This was not a few errant sticks of bombs but a prolonged bombardment. It had a devastating effect on the mud-brick houses and photographs of the dead show that their bodies were quite literally torn apart by the blasts. This makes it difficult to be precise about the exact number killed, but the Afghan Rights Monitor, after extensive interviewing, says that at least 117 civilians were killed, including 26 women and 61 children.

The US military has now fallen back on the tired old justification that the enemy was using civilians as human shields. This certainly is not satisfying infuriated Afghans from demonstrating students at Kabul university all the way to President Hamid Karzai. Whatever MarSOC troops thought they were doing in Bala Boluk, the killing of so many civilians will do nothing but strengthen the Taliban. (2)
Not doubt we'll be told, once these killings are investigated, that there may have been 'instances' where troops - possibly 'stressed' or 'angry' deviated from 'correct proceedure.' That does not exculpate the murderers in MarSOC, it merely makes their commanders guilty as well.

It is a bullshit defence, anyway, because these thugs have been at least allowed, at worst encouraged, to do this sort of thing. They don't seem to be responsible to the official military authorities, so who does command them now? It might have been Rumsfeld that set it up and created the monster, but it's existence is being tolerated by the new adminsitration. If Obama wants to salvage some sort of victory - moral, not military - from the disaster in Afghanistan, he has to act to stop these savages from killing innocent people for sport.
1 - "Rumsfeld's renegade unit blamed for Afghan deaths" by Jerome Starkey, published in The Independent, 16th of May, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/rumsfelds-renegade-unit-blamed-for-afghan-deaths-1685704.html)
2 - "" by Patrick Cockburn, in The Independent, 16th of May, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-these-killings-will-only-strengthen-the-taliban-1685705.html)

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

You clearly have no fucking clue about the men your disgracing with these comments. They don't go out to kill innocent people. Your bitch ass has obviously never been fired upon from weak terrorists hiding behind civilians. This is exactly what the terrorists wanted and your reaction is to.
Force Recon Marines are the best trained and most disciplined of the corps. I suggest talking to some of us before you write your next shitty blog.........

Anonymous said...

typical of a coward who has never served in the line of fire. the article is not even worth commenting on except to say that you have no insight nor intelligent comment on the topic you write about.

lurgee said...

Charming.

I'm responding to the record of events given by two highly regarded journalists working in the region. I'll hazard that they are closer to events, and have a better grasp of what is happening, than you or I.

I am not extending my criticism to the US army as a whole - that would be unwarranted, given the evidence. Msot of the US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are incredibly brave soldiers doing the best they can in a hopeless situation. Their discipline must be incredible, given the circumstances they are operating in, otherwise stories like this, or the vicious rape and murder of a 14 year old Iraqi girl, committed by Steven Green, would be common place.

It is a pity that their courage is being wasted by the fools who put them there and who have no idea how to get them out, but that's beyond the scope of my current anger, which is directed at one small unit of soldiers, within the larger military force, who appear to be acting on specail orders and are acting without authorisation from their area commander. Who is issuing them orders is an interesting question.

Aren said...

I'll admit that I followed a link to this post, and I am not a regular reader of your blog. I am writing this to take issue with your post, and your display of inaccurate information. I find myself wondering how a self-proclaimed "leftist" could so easily fall prey to what is obviously salacious reporting that is not based in fact, but is written to sell copy. You are obviously regurtitating information that you have gleaned from internet articles and other dubious media sources. I am a member of the Marine unit you attack, and have deployed to Afghanistan. You have no concept of the situation on the ground over there. To say that any Marine unit is somehow unaccountable to military authority is rediculous. If proper procedures were not followed, if every reasonable measure was not taken to protect innocent lives, heads will roll. You can dispute this, but you are not coming from a place of knowledge in this argument. To characterize US Special Operations Command members as "thugs" proves that you know very little about the military, and even less about what it takes to be successful in a place like Aghanistan. It does nobody any good to kill innocent people in Afghanistan. The dedicated professionals that serve there are arguably the most highly trained, skilled, and surgical combatants in the world. Without getting into details you don't care about any way, the "thugs" of Special Operations recieve more language and cultural training than you can imagine. We are in the villages, building relationships, helping the people, and training their citizens to maintain security against the extremists that would keep them unwillingly in the stone age. I'm guessing that none of that matters to you. You would rather just take cheap shots at a group of people that are actually living notable lives while you write your hateful blog. I suggest that before you post attacks, you make an effort to meet some of the people that you are slandering. Perhaps engage them in a discussion about how we can best protect the people of Afghanistan while keeping murderous fundamentalists on the run. Maybe you could suggest some effective ways of handling the difficult situations that our Special Operations forces face all over the world. My guess is that you haven't thought things through that far. My guess is that you would have us leave Afghanistan. My guess is that you could really care less what will happen to the people of that country when we do. Until you've thought things through more completely, I suggest you post an apology for speaking from a place of judgement and ignorance, and pledge to spend more time researching the information that you post.

Anonymous said...

you are a biased liberal shit bag who has no clu as to what the fuck is really going on in a war. why dont you join the corps become a marine go to war then you may talk. or grow some balls go on a tour as a reporter and see first hand for yourself what tis like in a hairy situation. you make me puke

lurgee said...

The reprots I quoted from, and which informed my opinion, were by journalists working in the region.

Other than native prejudice, what are you basing you 'rebuttal' on?

Anonymous said...

Former 2nd Force Recon thinks this shit you so called journalists write or blog is so bias, I think you and the Army command are talking and handing out money to the same Afghans. Everyone knows MarSoc does not stand a chance w/the Army in control and fucks like you in their pockets. SOCOM hates us because we never joined, why? It is is simple, we already had special ops that worked for MAGTF and it was beautiful. SOCOM gets alloted a whole lot of money with or without us always have. They get the best equipment that was always gave to the USMC after years of abuse. Let me tell you a secret: we don't care for the Army brass either or how they handle their command. So, from a disabled spec-ops Marine warrior who has more combat medals to count, believe me when I say MarSoc needs to stay and needs to be given a chance and proper logistics and supply personnel....

Anonymous said...

I would love to meet you.. and yes I know it shows nothing by going straight to violence, but I would love to stomp on ur face for ever opening your pathetic mouth do us all a favor and DIE!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I also am an 2nd Force Recon Marine (disabled in classified mission). I missed MarSoc by a couple of years. I know for a fact that these Special Operators would not just murder children and any innocent person. They are some of the most disciplined operators in the world. The Army in it's worldly powers want us out and really never wanted us into SOCOM. SEALs, Air Force Special Tactics, and some great U.S. Special Forces know and understand how we work and our discipline. "Task Force Violence" and all the other names that have been given are mostly made up of Force Recon Marines, therefore, I know there are alot of lies flowing. How many courts martials have taken place for murder or anything? Please let us know since you are the go to journalist on this matter. One more thing, I might be disabled with limited movement in my right leg and lower back, but I would still love to get you in arm's length and show you a good Aikido ass whipping. Thanks for trying to hurt the Marine Corps, the best war fighters in the world...

Anonymous said...

No you have not been there. There is and always will be a rival between the services. When they (our people, nation, government) need the services of an armed force, who do they call first? We all know the answer. When you are the top of your profession you are a target of BS. 20 years a Marine and no BS can break the faith I have in my Corps. This BS sells like the drama of the reality programing on TV due to the fact that only the few and the proud live the challenge to be a Marine. If you do not earn the EGA you will never understand the will to kill the enemy and that is what war is all about. Beat down and destroy the enemy. Do not give disencentive to keep on fighting, beat them into the dust with fire power till their will to fight is dead. Winning the hearts and minds of cave people is stupid, just kill the bastards now and you will not have to fight them tomorrow. Your Blog is totally UNAMERICAN and the citizens of this country are waiting in line to give you their thoughts. Moms, Old Glory, Apple Pie and the Marines keep the peace with death of our enemies. The Marines are always available and willing to sacrifice time effort and blood to keep
America free of your negative press. Remember your rights are provide by people who kill so you can write your opinion. Do not knock the people who die for the USA so you have the rights to freedom.

DETAILS said...

Whoever started this blog is completely ignorant of the U.S. military and its operations.

As an actual journalist, I have thoroughly researched, investigated, and written on this particular case from BEGINNING to END. If you had ALL of the facts and were not a “self-proclaimed lib” (as you boast), you would clearly not post radical garbage that slams these marines.

While continuing my documentation of this situation, I have found a few ignorant bloggers who take pieces of biased information and RUN with their agenda. If you were really passionate about the situation in the Middle East, you would not just read the INITIAL liberal articles published about this or other incidents. Please do some real homework before you foolishly rant. It is this very reason, I hate most bloggers – they pretend to be mini-investigators who STOP their research at what THEY want to believe is true.

Are you even AWARE of the final outcome of this situation - I hardly think you do...

Do the world a favor and write fiction or try bungee jumping without a cord.

Anonymous said...

I know for an ABSOLUTE FACT that you, the leftwing lib if that's what you really are hasn't a clue and totally agree with many of the posts that (respectfully) negate your rantings. I am proud to live in a country where my family members serve to give you the right to your blog. You should be too. And you spelled MARSOC wrong. If you are going to write such heinous things about these elite Marines at least get their name right.

Vladimir Bosnjak said...

The aggressive responses, many of them anonymoussly claiming to be some kind of a Marine, does not help the Navy or the Marines at all. All I see is flames, emotional or meaningless Lorem Ipsum. Merely denying without providing rational and tangible on topic arguments are void. I am a proud former soldier and I must say the respondents here truly make some of us feel ashamed.

I fully understand that Colonel.

Nasty little shit

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