I suspect that few today even know who Mark Fidel Kools is — which is, perhaps, perfectly understandable. Mr. Kools is the illegitimate son of John Kools. John was a gangster who operated in the Watts section of Los Angeles, California, and, as a consequence of his domestic terrorism as a gangster, was sent to prison. The State of California released John from prison in 1974 — but not before falling in with another gang, which we today call the Moslem Brotherhood — an organization funded by the Saudi Kingdom as part of their Wahhabist invasion of western civilization. John Kools, having converted to Islam (at the taxpayer’s expense), changed his name to Akbar.
At the time of John’s release from prison, Mark was three years old. By then, his mother had also converted to Islam and married William Bilal, also a convert to Islam. Mrs. Bilal is known today as Quran Bilal. With apparent pride in her former lover’s accomplishments, Mrs. Bilal changed Mark’s name to Hasan Karim Akbar.
In 1988, Hasan began attending the University of California (Davis); he graduated nine years later with bachelor’s degrees in Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering. During his somewhat elongated college experience, Hasan participated in the Army Reserve Officer’ Training Corps (ROTC), but he was not offered a commission upon his graduation in 1997. Deeply in debt, Hasan subsequently enlisted in the US Army.
A few years later, Hasan served as a sergeant with the 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne. In 2003, the Army staged elements of the division at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait. In the early morning hours of 23 March 2003, Akbar cut off the generator that powered the lights inside the encampment. He then tossed four fragmentation grenades into three tents where other soldiers were sleeping, causing numerous injuries. In the resulting chaos, Akbar used his service rifle to kill Army Captain Christopher S. Seifert, an intelligence officer whom Akbar shot in the back. Air Force Major Gregory L. Stone was killed from one of the four hand grenades.
An Army court-martial convicted Akbar of murder and sentenced him to death. Having exhausted all of his appeals, he remains on death row at the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. All that remains, in this case, is presidential authority to carry out the execution.
Also awaiting execution at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is former Army major Nidal Hasan. We all know what he did at Fort Hood, Texas. While awaiting his execution, Hassan petitioned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for citizenship. Whether he remains in close contact with former sergeant Akbar is unknown, but it is plausible that they offer one another comfort and encouragement since they are both confined on death row.
Carrying forward in my snake hunt, I similarly expect that few people today know who Ali Abdul Saoud Mohamed is. Mr. Mohamed has a long and interesting history working against the interests of the United States of America and its people. He was born in Egypt in 1952. For some period of time until 1984, Ali Mohamed served in the Egyptian army as an intelligence officer, reaching the rank of colonel. From around 1979 through 1984, he was instrumental in training anti-Soviet fighters en route to Afghanistan.
Afterward, back in Egypt, Mr. Mohamed went to the US Embassy in Cairo, asked to speak to the CIA Station Chief. During this meeting, Mohamed volunteered his services as an informant against the emerging Al-Qaeda organization. Apparently, the CIA was unaware of Mohamed’s former association with the Egyptian Army or his involvement with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Despite the CIA’s suspicions that he might be an Islamist agent, they appointed him as a junior CIA intelligence officer and tasked him with collecting information about the Islamist movements. One of his first tasks was to infiltrate a mosque with known ties to Hezbollah. Mohamed affiliated with the mosque but soon informed the Imam that he was working for the United States as a spy. He may have suggested that this situation would be an excellent opportunity to feed the Americans misinformation about Islamist movements.
As it turned out, Mohamed was not the only informant in that particular mosque. There was another who informed the CIA that Mohamed was a double agent. The CIA subsequently dismissed Mohamed and took measures to bar him from entering the United States. However, Mohamed somehow evaded the ban and once more went to the United States. He married an American woman, became a US citizen, and joined the U. S. Army.
After Mohamed’s initial training, he found his way into the US Special Forces. In that organization, his leaders encouraged him to pursue advanced degrees in Islamic Studies. They wanted Mohamed to become an instructor so that he could teach courses involving the Middle East. They thought he was a pretty sharp tack, not knowing he was a former Egyptian army colonel. Mohamed was a “self-starter,” they said.
Throughout his service in the US Army, Mohamed collected information from the Army. He made copies of technical manuals, doctrinal publications, and training manuals to inform Al-Qaeda better how to defeat the American armed forces. He provided information about weapons, tactical formations, and Special Forces operations.
In 1988, Mohamed took a 30-day leave from the Army and returned to the middle east. He informed his superiors that he wanted to fight in Afghanistan. When he returned, he bragged about killing Soviets, and to back up his claim, he showed people his “war relics.” Alarm bells sounded in the head of his immediate commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Anderson, who initiated action to have Mohamed investigated by Army Intelligence. Anderson’s reports went unanswered; no investigation was ever conducted (that we know about) — which led Anderson to wonder if Mohamed was part of the US clandestine services.
Mohamed left the US Army in 1989, finding work with a defense contractor providing security at a factory that produced Trident Missile systems. When he wasn’t doing that, he began training Middle Eastern refugees and American-born Islamists in such areas as demolitions, including those who were later associated with the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, Mahmud Abouhalima and Ramzi Yousef.
In the early 1990s, Mohamed returned to Afghanistan. He trained Al-Qaeda volunteers in unconventional warfare techniques, including kidnapping, assassination, and aircraft hijacking, which he had learned during Special Forces training. According to some, Mohamed even trained a wealthy Saudi fighter named Osama bin-Laden and later helped bin-Laden plan the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Mohamed became the “go-to” guy when bin-Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri needed to know or understand something about the US Army. In 1993, Mohamed toured California with Zawahiri, who posed as a Kuwait Red Crescent Society representative. Together, the two men hoped to raise money from Islamic-American charities to fund Jihadi movements (otherwise known as global terrorism).
In May 1993, Mohamed became an FBI informant in San Jose, California. In exchange for worthless information, Mohamed provided Al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad with valuable American intelligence. It was also in 1993 that Mohamed was nearly arrested in Canada while meeting with a representative of Osama bin-Laden. He escaped arrest by telling Canadian authorities that he was an FBI informant, and they promptly released him.
After the 1998 bombings, FBI agents searched Mohamed’s apartment and discovered his complicity in terrorist activities. Such evidence included plans and scripts of Al-Qaeda training, plans to meet with Osama bin-Laden, and so forth. On the day Mohamed was scheduled to give testimony in another case, FBI agents arrested him.
Federal authorities charged Mohamed with several offenses, including five counts of conspiracy to kill US nationals, conspiracy to kidnap, murder, and maim others outside of the United States, conspiracy to kill government employees, conspiracy to destroy US buildings and property, and conspiracy to destroy or disrupt utilities vital to the security of the United States. Mohamed faced the death penalty, but he made a deal with the federal prosecutor. He would plead guilty in exchange for life in prison. To date, Ali Mohamed has not appeared in court. He remains in federal custody at an undisclosed location.
These are the snakes among us. How many of these snakes exist is — unknown. What the US government is doing about the snakes inside America is equally obscure. It would be comforting to have some indication that the United States is on top of the problem rather than unwittingly playing a role in global terrorism. Still, I cannot comment about that possibility, either. However, here’s what we know: all three men are US citizens, all three are Moslems, all three murdered American citizens, and all three remain alive at the taxpayer’s expense. Pest control specialists say that if you see one cockroach, there are 50 more that you don’t see. I wonder if the same ratio applies to venomous snakes.
In a televised interview, Ali Mohamed explained his rationale for becoming a terrorist: “Islam without political dominance cannot survive.” If this isn’t good advice, then I’ve never heard it.
Atwan, A. B. The Secret History of Al-Qaeda. UC Berkley, 2006.
Bergen, P. Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden. Free Press, 2001.
Esposito, J. L. Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. Oxford University, 2002.
Mura, A. The Symbolic Scenarios of Islamism: A study in Islamic political thought. Routledge Publishing, 2015.
In the eighty or so years following independence from Spain, Panama was a province of Gran Colombia, a free association begun in 1821. From that point onward, the people living in Panama made several dozen attempts to withdraw from their Colombian alliance, including the so-called Thousand Days War (1899-1902). For the Panamanians, it was a struggle for land rights more than an issue of sovereignty. Observing these machinations and with a growing interest in constructing a canal across the Isthmus, the United States under President Theodore Roosevelt began to engineer the separation of Panama from Colombia.
In November 1903, Panama declared its independence from Colombia. To constrain Colombia from sending naval and ground forces to Panama, the United States re-introduced a Marine Corps presence in Panama under future commandant, Major John A. Lejeune. Of course, this was not the Marines’ first deployment to Panama. In 1856, Marines went to Panama to guarantee the security of American fortune hunters while en route to California via the Isthmus.
Given Roosevelt’s interest in constructing a canal, Major Lejeune realized that a Marine presence in Panama would continue. So, with that foresight, Lejeune established a permanent barracks there in 1904. Between 1904 and 1911, the principal mission of the Marine Corps was to safeguard the canal while under construction (and its workers/executive managers). Marines established a permanent barracks at the US Navy’s submarine base at Coco Solo in 1923 — known simply as Marine Barracks (MB), Panama. From that year forward, the size of the barracks expanded and contracted according to the needs of the Navy.
In February 1945, the MB had 36 officers, three warrant officers, and 1,571 enlisted men at its peak strength. The Marines also experienced several “re-designations” and relocations. In 1943, Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) consolidated all Marines serving in Panama under the Marine Barracks, Fifteenth Naval District, Rodman, Canal Zone. In 1987, HQMC renamed the barracks as Marine Corps Security Force Company (MCSFC), Panama.
Responsibility for the Canal Zone (CZ) security fell to the U. S. Army under the Commanding General, U. S. Army South (CG USASouth), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. USASouth became a subordinate command of the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), headquartered in Miami, Florida, as one of eleven unified combatant commands. The mission assigned to the Marine Security Forces was in providing security for U. S. Navy installations in Panama.
Panama — US Relations
The agreement between Panama and the United States vis-à-vis the canal was that the United States would lease a twelve-mile swath of land across the Isthmus for 100 years, construct the channel, and control it as sovereign US territory during the period of the lease. Over time, with technological advances in ship sizes, the canal proved no longer adequate for the largest naval and maritime vessels. Within this period, relations between the US and Panama were not always amiable. Marine battalion landing teams infrequently went to Panama as a show of force and a demonstration that the United States intended to exercise its control over canal zone operations, particularly during periods of political and civil unrest.
By agreement between Panama and the US in 1977, complete control of the Panama Canal would shift to the Panamanians in 2000. In 1981, however, General Omar Torrijos, then serving as “Maximum Leader of the Panamanian Revolution,” the man who negotiated this treaty, died in a plane crash — which opened the door for General Manuel Antonio Noriega to succeed him as a revolutionary leader and de facto head of state in Panama. During Noriega’s tenure, five men served as puppet heads of state to give Noriega’s dictatorship international credibility.
General Noriega consolidated his power in Panama by seizing control of the armed forces, renaming them as Panamanian Defense Forces. By 1988, Noriega controlled the national police, the army and paramilitary organizations, the air forces, and the small naval force — in total (on paper), around 15,000 men. In terms of combat troops, Noriega could field roughly 3,500 men organized as two light battalions in each of Panama’s thirteen military zones, ten independent companies, a cavalry squadron, and a handful of “special operations” forces. Noriega’s air force consisted of 50 aircraft, and his navy operated twelve small vessels. He also controlled 14 battalions of civilian laborers, the so-called Dignity Battalions, which consisted of unemployed workers shepherded by low-ranking officers and NCOs.
Manuel Noriega was a caudillo in the finest tradition of post-Spanish petty dictators. He was arrogant, corrupt, dangerous, and stupid. His arrogance led him to misjudge the United States’ continuing interest in the Canal Zone (CZ). While the United States turned a blind eye to Noriega’s involvement in narcotics, Noriega’s time was fast running out. In January 1988, two federal grand juries in Florida indicted Noriega on racketeering and drug trafficking charges. Subsequently, puppet-President Eric Arturo Delvalle attempted to depose Noriega, but Noriega engineered Delvalle’s dismissal. Civil disorder one more returned to Panama, with threats made to the lives and safety of American personnel and military installations.
The Culture War
As relations between the US and Panama deteriorated, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) issued a warning order to various military commands ordinarily responsible for the security of the canal zone. Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, began updating their contingency plans for Panama. With only one MCSFC in Panama, a platoon from the Marine Corps Security Force Battalion (at Norfolk, Virginia), known as a Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Team (FAST), was quickly dispatched to reinforce the Marines of MCSFC Panama.
Of course, the FAST platoon was an inadequate measure, but the National Military Command Authority (NMCA) or JCS had yet to decide what to do about Noriega. With so few men to provide security to naval installations, Major E. A. Keith, CO MCSFC Panama, had to prioritize his security concerns. With the concurrence of the Commander, US Naval Forces (South), Keith identified the fuel storage facility, known as the Arraijan Tank Farm (ATF), as his first security concern.
The ATF is located within two square kilometers of rolling grassland, surrounded by dense jungle, which provided excellent avenues of approach should Noriega’s PDF attempt to seize the ATF or threaten the adjacent Howard Air Force Base. Major Keith did not have a sufficient number of men to maintain a formal defense perimeter around the ATF, so his only recourse was to employ irregular area security patrols.
Patrol leaders almost immediately reported the presence of PDF forces dressed in black field uniforms using night vision goggles (NVGs) and evidence of recently prepared foxholes in the jungle areas surrounding the ATF. When Marines reported this intelligence up the chain of command, US Army South dismissed it out-of-hand, claiming that US troops prepared the fighting holes during recent training exercises. US Army South also emphatically denied that Noriega’s PDF had any NGVs. Subsequently, however, Navy intelligence officers learned that the Army had not conducted any training exercises adjacent to the ATF for several years; moreover, that the Army had (in fact) transferred NGVs to the PDF.
Despite the Army’s lack of interest in further reinforcing the MCSFC, the navy requested that the Marine Corps ready a combat brigade for possible deployment to the Canal Zone. Accordingly, the 6th Marine Brigade (6thMEB) was issued a warning order. In developing his operation plan, the Brigade Commander suggested an “all or nothing” approach. Either the Brigade deployed as a fully functional combat brigade (two battalion landing teams, two combat aircraft squadrons) or not at all.
Even as the JCS fretted about a proper response to deteriorating conditions in Panama, 6thMEB received a “stand up” order on 31 March 1988. While this was going on, the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic (CG FMFLant) ordered an advance combat element to proceed to Panama to reinforce the MCSFC. The Marines viewed this advanced element as a nucleus for a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) around which a brigade might later form, although one without any air support.
Why was there no aviation support for the Marines? Given the amount of Army and Air Force assets stationed at Howard Air Force Base, COMUSSOUTHCOM did not see a need for additional Marine Corps combat aircraft. SOUTHCOM didn’t see a need for any Marines at all, but at that stage, the employment of Marines wasn’t up to SOUTHCOM if their mission was to reinforce security for naval installations.
The unit assigned as the brigade’s advance element was Company I, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines (India 3/4), under the command of Captain Joseph P. Valore. Upon arrival in Panama on 6 April, Valore reported to Rear Admiral Jerry G. Gnecknow, Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Command. Colonel William J. Conley, who served as brigade chief of staff, accompanied Captain Valore to Panama. As part of the advance team, Conley’s mission was to arrange logistical support for the brigade, should it actually deploy. Admiral Gnecknow assigned Colonel Conley as Senior Marine Officer, Naval Forces, Panama, when the brigade’s deployment did not appear likely.
The selection of India 3/4 (Reinforced) to serve as the brigade’s advance element was that the brigade earmarked its parent battalion as one of the brigade’s battalion landing teams and because the company, who at the time was the 2nd Marine Divisions air alert/rapid response team, had completed extensive pre-deployment training. The 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines reinforced India Company with an 81mm mortar section, a Sensor Control and Management Platoon (SCAMP), a counterintelligence team, and a squad of combat engineers. Colonel Conley assigned responsibility for securing the ATF to Captain Valore, who embraced Major Keith’s aggressive patrolling strategy. Suddenly, on 9 April, operational control of India Company passed from Admiral Gnecknow to the Commander, Joint Task Force (JTF), Panama — who also served as Commander, U. S. Army South.
At the time of his deployment, Captain Valore felt obligated to address two issues affecting his company’s performance in Panama. The first was a standing policy decision that precluded armed Marines from chambering a round in their weapons until fired upon, and the second involved rules of engagement. Captain Valore correctly believed that sending Marines into harm’s way with unchambered weapons was foolish; indeed, it is. He raised this issue with Colonel Conley, who agreed with Valore and authorized the Marines to patrol with chambered weapons. As to the rules of engagement, Conley allowed Valore’s Marines to “return fire if fired upon.”
What made these two issues “hot button” topics was the 1983 Beirut bombing incident. Because of the restricted weapons policy, Marine sentries were unable to stop the bomb-laden truck that drove through the security perimeter and kill 241 American servicemen. As to the rules of engagement, no one fired on the Marines standing guard that day — the terrorist simply drove through the perimeter at a high rate of speed. Thus, Conley’s cautionary instruction, to “return fire if fired upon,” was woefully inadequate. There are occasions when initiating hostile action is unquestionably appropriate.
But COMJTFPANAMA/COMUSARMYSOUTH had a different perspective. He did not want Marines firing on Panamanians. The mission, he argued, was to safeguard American interests in Panama, not make the deteriorating political condition worse. In his view, the Marines — by their very presence — were making matters worse by their aggressive behavior. At this point, one may wonder, what would be the purpose of arming military personnel to guard US installations if the men charged with executing that mission weren’t taking their responsibilities seriously?
This particular kerfuffle leads one to consider the cultural differences between the U. S. Army and the United States Marines. There is a unique and very distinctive Marine Corps culture that sets the Marines apart from every other branch of service. First, Marines never lose sight of their primary mission: winning battles. Locating, closing with, and destroying the enemy is at the forefront of every Marine Corps mission. It is the only reason Marines exist. Second, a bended knee and/or erring on the side of caution in a kinder-gentler world is not a Marine Corps tradition. Marines are warriors — it is their ethos. There is something very different going on inside the heads of (too many) senior army officers.
So, while senior Army officers berated the Marines for doing what they’re best at, senior Marine Corps officers remained adamant: they would not employ a lethal combat company and then tie its hands by ridiculously simple-minded restrictions.
Moreover, in 1988, a bolstered Marine presence in Panama resulted from the PDF’s aggressiveness, not the cause of it. It may be true that army personnel in Panama were serving a fantasy tour, accompanied by their families, enjoying an exotic and leisurely lifestyle, but that wasn’t what India Company was doing in Panama. India Company arrived in Panama in combat mode.
A test of each of the preceding presumptions transpired during the night of 10-11 April. Soon after the arrival of India Company, unknown intruders began probing Marine positions at the ATF. Early in the morning of 11 April, a Marine patrol operating in the northeast sector contacted an unknown number of intruders. The patrol leader, Corporal Ricardo Villahermosa, determined to apprehend these unknown trespassers. To accomplish that, Villahermosa split his force, intending to envelop them. The jungle was pitch black, and the only sound was an occasional snap of vegetation, which suggested human movement. A short time later, a flare accidentally “popped,” emulating the sound of the discharge of a weapon, and then ignited. Marines from the split force opened fire, and Corporal Villahermosa was mortally wounded. It was a frightful accident — but one that prompted a renewal of the ‘weapons ready’ debate.
Major General Bernard Loeffke, U. S. Army, CG USASouth, also serving as JTF commander, critically challenged the Marines at a meeting on 12 April. Major Alfred F. Clarkson, the operations officer of the MEB’s advance element, rigorously defended the “weapons ready” policy, informing General Loeffke in no uncertain terms that the Marine chain of command would not deny the use of weapons to their troops. Doing otherwise, he said, was morally indefensible. Colonel Conley concurred and made certain that Loeffke’s concerns did not impede Marine combat operations.
Shortly after nightfall on 12 April, remote battlefield sensors alerted Valore’s Marines that approximately 40 unknown persons were approaching the ATF perimeter. SCAMP Marines confirmed the presence of these unknown persons, and a USAF AC-130 gunship provided the third verification. Captain Valore immediately consolidated his force in the center of the ATF. Soon after that, Marines received and returned fire into the line of tracers aimed at them from this unknown force.
To the west of the company, a SCAMP detachment reported another probe. The detachment NCOIC, Sergeant Michael A. Cooper, requested illumination, revealing well-armed hostiles were moving toward his position. Captain Valore approved Cooper’s request for a mortar fire mission, and sixteen HE rounds were dropped on the approaching hostile force. Valore also authorized Cooper to return fire. As Cooper engaged the hostiles, an additional force assaulted Valore’s company. The Marines returned fire with an M19 chain gun that spits out 220 rounds of 40mm grenades, and the enemy withdrew.
At around 2200, General Loeffke arrived at Valore’s position in civilian attire, demanding to know what had transpired. After Captain Valore briefed Loeffke, the general ordered him to cease fire and not re-engage unless first fired upon. Loeffke also ordered the Marines to remain in place and allow the intruders to withdraw from the area. Loeffke assured Valore that he had contacted the PDF command structure, who assured him that there were no Panamanian forces in the area.
In compliance with Loeffke’s order, Valore moved the SCAMP detachment back from the perimeter. Through the use of NVGs, Valore witnessed several intruders administering first aid and evacuating casualties from the jungle. Marines from the MCSFC, who had established a roadblock on the Pan American highway and observed the PDFs evacuation of dead and wounded, confirmed Captain Valore’s after-action report.
In the aftermath of this incident, Valore and his Marines were set upon by a bevy of Naval Investigative Service (NIS) and Army Intelligence Service (AIS) agents. The repetitious questioning lasted several days. Additionally, Loeffke ordered Valore and his Marines to submit to urinalysis testing — all of which were negative.
More than anything else, Major General Loeffke and his JTF Staff wanted to discredit Captain Valore, India Company Marines, and the U. S. Marine Corps. Loeffke publicly stated that the Marines had fired at ghosts and shadows. General Noriega and the anti-American Panamanian press exploited this opportunity and began planting stories about drug abuse among the Marines. For their part, the Marine hierarchy closed ranks around Captain Valore and his Marines. Colonel Conley rejected Loeffke’s and Noriega’s nonsense and may have even confided some concern about Loeffke’s loyalty to his superiors.
Undeterred, Loeffke replaced India 3/4 at the ATF with an Army battalion. On 14 April 1988, Army sentries guarding the ammunition supply point came under fire from an unknown size of PDF forces. The same night, an Army patrol of the 7th Special Forces Group operating west of Howard AFB came under fire. It, therefore, became apparent to everyone (except General Loeffke) that the Marines did not imagine the PDF assault at the ATF. In retrospect, the Marines developed the appropriate response to PDF aggression, and Loeffke’s general incompetence as a field commander countermanded it.
Over the next several months, the PDF continued to initiate aggressive actions against US forces in Panama, but nothing on the scale of the firefight in April 1988, which suggested that Captain Valore’s response had the desired effect on PDF activities. Between April and December 1988, the US decided on diplomatic maneuvers rather than military.
This period of calm allowed the Marines to undergo additional jungle training and exercise command and control systems, particularly between the Army and Marines. COMUSSOUTHCOM formally appointed Colonel Conley as commander overall Marine forces in Panama and Army units temporarily attached to the Marines for training. Under Conley’s direction, Marine intelligence assets began to revise contingency plans based on needed updates to the “enemy situation” in Panama.
In mid-May 1988, India 3/4 went back on the line for another two weeks. In addition to regular patrolling (day and night), the Marines improved their hardened observation and listening posts surrounding the tank farm and ammo depot and rehearsed rapid reaction operations. Operations Purple Storm and Purple Blitz were joint-service exercises designed to improve command and control procedures between Marine and Army units and combat casualty evacuations. Army and Air Force dog teams joined the Marines during their security patrols. Army specialists installed a loudspeaker system designed to inform intruders that they were on US government property. Air Force C-130 gunships flew nightly missions in support of the Marines.
Lima Company 3/4 relieved India 3/4 in June 1988.
Crandall, R. Gunboat Democracy: US interventions in the Dominican Republic, Granada, and Panama. Rowman & Littlefield Publications, 2006.
Donnelly, T. Operation Just Cause: The storming of Panama. Lexington Books, 1991.
Reynolds, N. E. Just Cause: Marine Operations in Panama 1988-1990. History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps, 1996.
Yates, L. A. The US Military Intervention in Panama: Origins, Planning, and Crisis Management, June 1987-December 1989. Army Center of Military History, 2008.
 On 9 January 1964, grievances between native Panamanians and the “Zonians” (Americans living within the US-controlled Canal Zone) boiled over into a series of anti-American riots that resulted in an evacuation of the US Embassy in Panama City, assaults on US citizens — including the lynching of several US Army personnel — widespread looting and substantial damage to US-owned property. The United States responded to this unrest by dispatching the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines (BLT 2/8) to Panama to protect American lives and property. At the time, I had the privilege of serving as a rifleman in Company E (Captain William R. Wildpret, commanding). Echo Company was assigned responsibility for the security of the naval base at Coco Solo.
 The density of the jungle limited Marine patrols to about 500 yards over two hours.
 At this time, security for Howard Air Force Base was not a Marine Corps responsibility.
 USMA graduate in 1957, Loeffke has a degree in engineering, an MA in Russian language and Soviet Era studies, and a PhD in international relations. He is a combat decorated officer, served as the Army Attaché with the US Embassy in Moscow, served on the White House staff, served as the Defense Attaché with the US Embassy in China, befriended Chinese general Xu Xin, is fluent in Chinese, and is a self-professed expert on Sino-American affairs. After leaving the Army in 1992, Loeffke earned a medical degree and served as a physician in Bosnia, Haiti, Kenya, Iraq, Niger, and Darfur. According to Loeffke, China is not the United States’ enemy. While instructing at the USMA, Loeffke urged his students to increase their understanding of the Chinese and Russians as they are just like us.
 It normally takes an army regiment to replace a Marine rifle company.
 Documents uncovered after the December 1989 invasion of Panama confirmed the PDF assault on the Marines at the ATF. Analysts subsequently concluded that the ATF was not the focus of the PDF, but rather the Marines themselves, as perpetrated by Noriega’s 7th Rifle Company, also known as Macho de Monte, one of Noriega’s few elite units, possibly reinforced by a few members of the Special Anti-terrorist Security Unit, and that they were likely augmented by several Cuban military advisors.
The story of Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, as with most of what we know about the ancient world, is wrapped in both fact and myth. Historians believe this because ancient record-keepers were more storytellers than historians. It is also likely that what they didn’t know as an absolute fact, they made up. That’s what storytellers do — and it usually does make for a good story.
In any case, according to the story, Cincinnatus saved Rome on two occasions. In 458 BC and 439 BC, the Senate of Rome summoned Cincinnatus, a modest farmer, and gave him dictatorial powers to raise an army to defend Rome — which he accomplished. Then, when the fighting was over, Cincinnatus promptly relinquished his power and returned to his beets.
If the story is true, then the account of Cincinnatus could provide us with the earliest example of a citizen-soldier (also known as militia). A militia is a military force raised from the civilian population during an emergency to serve in defense of the state (or community) or enforce the laws thereof.
Four hundred years later, during the Gallic Wars (a series of conflicts between 58-50 BC), Julius Caesar invaded Britannia because the Celts aided and assisted the enemies of Rome. Once Caesar had completed his punitive campaign, he returned to the continent — mission accomplished.
Rome’s formal occupation of Britain occurred between 43-410 AD. Roman government in Britain started well enough, but bribery, fraud, and treasonous behavior soon followed — presumably because corruption was part of Rome’s political landscape. Apparently, this is something the United States inherited from the ancients, as well. But life in Roman-Britain was further complicated by a more-or-less constant stream of invasions and assaults on Roman settlements by those who objected to Rome’s presence: the Picts, Irish/Scots, and later, the Anglo-Saxon hordes. By the beginning of the fifth century, Rome’s military resources were stretched to the limit. A more pressing need for military manpower at home forced the Romans to withdraw their legions.
During Britain’s Anglo-Saxon period (410-660), also known as the Migration Period, massive numbers of Germanic people escaped the chaos of their homeland and made their way to the Albion shore. Upon arrival, they quickly learned that they were no safer in Britain because of the constant presence of marauders from northern Europe. At best, these invaders helped create a sense of insecurity among the British people — at worst, the seeds of national paranoia. Of course, when people are trying to kill you, then you aren’t paranoid.
During this period of great peril, Anglo-Saxons established a tradition called “the common burden.” It was an obligation of community service toward the collective defense of towns and villages, and it was particularly noteworthy in the ancient settlements of Kent, Mercia, and Wessex. It would be safe to say that thousands of able-bodied men were called upon to defend their boroughs from evil-doers over several hundred years. By the 10th century, the common burden tradition had evolved, and it became the duty of landowners to assume the responsibility for organizing and maintaining armed militias.
Following the Norman invasion of England in 1066, William I saw the wisdom and prudence of local militias, and he incorporated the Anglo-Saxon tradition of the common burden. William’s grandson, Henry I of England, mandated the following: “He will possess these arms and will bear allegiance to the Lord King Henry, namely the son of Empress Maud, and he will bear these arms in His service according to His order and in allegiance to the Lord King and his realm.” — The Assize of Arms, 1181.
The Assize of Arms established armed militias (on-call) by dividing the free populations into socio-economic categories. Those who were wealthiest had the greater obligation to acquire and maintain various prescribed weapons. In 1285, the Statute of Winchester expanded the Assize to include every able-bodied male person regardless of their status (free men or those bonded to the land), who were between 15 and 60. Local gentry made the decision which of them served and under what circumstances. The Statute stated, “Every man shall have in his house arms for keeping peace according to the ancient Assize.” When called upon, the duty of these men might include expeditions away from their shire, local guard duty, local defense, and occasionally escort duties. Feudal military service ended during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) — replaced by indentured service.
Indentured soldiers incurred an obligation to serve their lord for a specified length of time. It was the beginning of the profession of arms. When the lord no longer needed professional soldiers or could no longer afford them, he might sell the contract to another, or the lord might have permitted the soldier to serve another as a mercenary. In this way, soldiers began migrating from one conflict to another — mainly because the profession of arms is all they knew how to do.
A problem arose when there were no conflicts. In these instances, it was common to find that soldiers turned to outlawry — marauders who preyed on defenseless hamlets, villages, or towns. Circumstances like these caused town officials to return to the idea of local militias, and once more, locals served “on-call” of their community’s needs.
In 1581, British law stipulated, “If any [highborn] man being a Queen’s subject, and not having a reasonable cause or impediment, and being within the age of sixty years (except spiritual men, justices of the bench, or other justices of Assize, or barons of the Exchequer) have not a longbow and arrows ready in his house, or have not for every man child in his house between seven years and seventeen of age, a bow and two shafts, and every such being above seventeen years a bow and four shafts, or have not brought them up in shooting, if any man under the age of four and twenty years have not shot at standing targets (being above that age) have shot at any marks under eleven score yards with any pick shaft or flight,” shall be punished.
Translated, the Latin term Posse Comitatus means “force of the county.” It refers to a citizens group assembled by officials to deal with an emergency. The term also applied to any force or band called forth to confront hostiles.
By the time the English fixed their sights on North America, France and Spain already claimed much of it, and neither kingdom was well-disposed to share it with Englishmen. There was no regular English soldiery in the early formation of British colonies, so to protect themselves from assaults by Spanish coastal raiders and from hostile Indians sicced upon them by French colonial officials, English settlers created local militias modeled on those of the mother country. These early American militias were crucial to the survival of the British colonies.
Naturally, the Englishmen who migrated to North America took with them their long-held British values and traditions. Among these traditions was a general loathing for standing armies and the profession of arms. The reason for their profound contempt for the military was simple enough: British soldiers were instruments of government tyranny. Even after more than 100 years, British-American colonists viewed the Redcoat as a clear and present danger to colonial autonomy and liberty.
Beyond the preceding, British-American settlements were bastions of Puritan values. Outside instruments of a tyrannical parliament and king, American settlers were deeply offended by the uncouth Redcoat. He was profane, bawdy, and addicted to Satan’s beverages. Besides, the professional soldier was an outsider. Militia, on the other hand, was part of the community. They were family by blood or marriage, they were neighbors, and they were people who everyone could count on when needed — and so it was understandable that organized militia also viewed the Redcoats with suspicion.
The issue of suspicion and contempt was a two-way street because British regulars also had little regard for local militias. In the view of professional soldiers, militias were undisciplined and unreliable mobs who tended to bolt once the sound of that first shot reverberated through their ranks. This claim was, of course, valid. Colonial militia were not soldiers; they were farmers. They were undisciplined because they followed their own hook. They decided for themselves whether they liked the odds on the battlefield. More often than not, they made these decisions at the spur of the moment, prompted by others with similar fears, and usually, at the worst possible time.
The American militia was not an ideal defense mechanism, although some militias were more reliable than others. Some militia refused to fight outside their county/colony — but there were also great successes, such as demonstrated at the Battle of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. But the militia was generally useful to colonial governments because once they activated the militia, officials could reposition the Redcoats elsewhere — where the need was greater.
Each British colony had a unique system for creating and maintaining its militia force. In most cases, regulations specified “able-bodied white males between the ages of 18 to 45.” Militias were formed under the auspices of the colonial charter, which required militia members to furnish their own armaments.
The first colonial militia was formed in Massachusetts in 1636. Historians tell us that the early organization of the Massachusetts militia explains how the New England militias became part of the political framework. More than one hundred years later, New England militia, having been thoroughly infiltrated by the Sons of Liberty, became the fuse that lit the American Revolution.
From Colonial to American Militia
American militia became the foundation of the Continental Army and played an important role in General Washington’s strategies throughout the war of independence. Militia carried out the siege of Boston, which gave Washington the time to organize his army and decide how best to prosecute the war. It was the militia that later became part of Washington’s sophisticated spy network.
After the war, the colonist’s distrust of standing armies carried over to the new United States, and Congress disbanded the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. A small American Legion was restored, but the only seaborne force remaining was the Revenue Cutter Service. Issues involving a state militia (and who should control it/pay for it) became hotly debated.
Despite the traditional distrust of standing armies, President Washington realized that the United States could not remain sovereign if it did not have the capacity of protecting its communities, ports, coastal regions, or its commerce — and so began the process of reconstituting the armed forces. The timing of Washington’s initiatives could not have been better; the Quasi-War (with France) and the War of 1812 (in which the American militia played an important role) were just around the corner.
The militia is a long-held American tradition — part of our British heritage — and, one might argue, one that has maintained faith with its original purpose. If modern Americans understood this history, they would realize that the strength of a community is that everyone belongs to it; everyone carries the burden of community obligation. Community watch programs are one manifestation of this. Community militias do not force membership — they are volunteer organizations. Such militias offer no monetary benefit; there is only a sense of accomplishment by serving the community’s interests. What are those interests? Common cause, mutual security, and survival.
In early America, militia organizations combined military defense with community policing. Militiamen served because their community needed them. But as we all know, time changes all things. In the past, American militia played a key role in the common burden even if it was not always professionally competent or efficient — but this is because they weren’t regular soldiers. They were homeboys who did the best they could with what they had and, much like another militia unit that we’ve all learned to respect — the Texas Rangers — militiamen were often shoddy looking characters, undisciplined, and would only follow the orders of the officers they themselves respected and elected. American militiaman decided whether and when to fight — and they chose when they’d had enough of it.
The American Civil War was a crossover period. There were militia organizations back then, but they became fewer once the regular army assumed responsibility for protecting settlers from Indian hostilities. They also became fewer in number when the law took hold. County sheriffs could hire deputies and raise (volunteer) posses. The United States had an army in 1861, but it wasn’t large enough to complete the task of preserving the Union. It fell upon the states to raise a force of volunteers to augment the regular armies on both sides of the issue. The people who volunteered to serve their state were the same kinds of people from an earlier period, albeit identifying more with their respective states than with their counties. Even so, recruitment for state regiments came from one or more counties. There were exceptions, of course. The Kansas Red Legs and Missouri Bushwhackers are two — but it is difficult to say whether these were truly area militias or simply armed thugs with a mean streak.
Today there are state guard units and national guard organizations. As one example, the Military Department of Texas includes the Texas State Guard and the Texas National Guard. Together, these two organizations are regarded as the Texas State Militia. The commander-in-chief of all state military forces is the governor, directed by the Adjutant General of Texas. The governor of Texas commands the Texas Department of Public Safety similarly, including the Texas Rangers and other state troopers. Unrelated to state government, there are also numerous volunteer militia groups throughout the United States.
Good vs. Bad, Right vs. Left
Lately, almost every discussion about the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States — the right to bear arms, has become a political narrative. There is nothing ambiguous about the Second Amendment, which states, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Nevertheless, some continue to argue against this Constitutional right and regularly seek ways to limit or deny that right to citizens of the United States. Nearly every state addresses “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” which is every state’s right under our system of constitutional federalism. Still, the debate continues. Pro-gun groups (including almost every private militia group) insist that the Second Amendment means what it says. Anti-gun groups insist that guns in the hands of private citizens pose a danger to public safety. Still, to make that argument, they must also ignore the history of the American militia. Criminals in Chicago have managed to elevate their city to a murder capital in the United States; yet, not one of these murdering thugs has ever belonged to a militia organization.
By claiming that anyone who supports the Second Amendment is a racist or a domestic terrorist, anti-gun arguments have become particularly nasty. In response, pro-gun enthusiasts echo the Gonzalez Flag of 1835: Come and take it.
Today, in making word associations between “militia” and “white supremacy” and “Bible-thumping Christians,” anti-gun criminals (those acting in contravention of the law) have increased the intensity of the debate, even claiming that gun-carrying citizens are un-American. It is an interesting argument given the entire history of militias and the people’s right and responsibility to bear arms dating back to 500 AD.
The English Bill of Rights of 1689 allowed citizens to “have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by the Law.” In modern arguments, particularly among those with a pro-gun point of view, and given Sir William Blackstone’s ageless opinion, we may argue that U.S. gun rights indeed are a primary example of American exceptionalism. Moreover, gun-rights advocates strenuously argue that the Second Amendment is an American’s only protection from federal totalitarianism. When one considers the numerous instances where the federal government has violated the constitutional rights of the American people, it is impossible to find fault with that reasoning.
Among those who argue that militias of an earlier time were ‘white supremacists,’ it is only accurate in the sense that many American communities (north, south, southwest, midwest, and northwest) were mired in the filth of Democratic Party politics and remained in that morass through the early 1970s. In the post-Civil War period, when radical Republicans placed the Freedman’s Bureau in charge of state governments, racial hatred increased — which serves as another example that too much government benefits no one.
Modern militias see themselves as a check against the totalitarian government — and while this would not have been possible in 1776, it certainly was the case a few years later during Shay’s Rebellion (Massachusetts) and the Whiskey Rebellion (western Pennsylvania). Oddly, some militias supported the rebellion, and other militias joining President Washington’s ranks. But returning to today, modern militias (generally) are not part of state mechanisms; they are privately organized, loosely connected groups of men and women who, for some reason, scare the hell out of the Democratic/Progressive Party apparatus.
Less than a year ago, federal authorities charged thirteen so-called Wolverine Watchmen (a Michigan-based militia) with terrorism, conspiracy, and weapons charges. Six men faced additional charges, which included conspiracy to commit the kidnapping of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Lately, however, there is information that the entire episode was an FBI entrapment operation. Among those who have no trust or confidence in the federal government, they will argue that this isn’t the first time the FBI has created a crime in order to make an arrest. The ploy, so the argument goes, is first to outline a criminal act, plan it, participate in it, arrest the “perpetrators,” lay on them every possible criminal charge, and then let the event play out for years until no one even remembers what happened. Meanwhile, if none of these fellows are convicted, the federal government has destroyed them financially. There must be a lesson in all this, somewhere.
We should know that there are “bad actors” everywhere in our society, but if we hope to restore civil society, then we have to let the facts lead us to proper conclusions. There may be some off-center militias in America today, but they are few in number, and we serve no good purpose by applying a too-broad brush stroke to militias that see themselves as serving their communities.
AL Schuler, A. Sir William Blackstone and the Shaping of American Law. New Law Journal, 1994.
Beckett, I. F. W. Britain’s Part-Time Soldiers: The Amateur Military Tradition, 1558-1945. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Publishing, 2011.
Barnett, R. E., and Heather Gerken. Article I, Section 8: Federalism and the Overall Scope of Federal Power. National Constitution Center online.
Chermak, S. M. Searching for a Demon: The Media Construction of the Militia Movement. Dartmouth, 2002.
Tucker, S. G. Blackstone’s Commentaries: With Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Volumes 5. Philadelphia, 1803; Reprint 1969.
United States Constitution, Amendment II, 1792.
 Britannia is a personification of the ancient Roman Province, of the isles Britain and the British people; she is a helmeted female warrior, armed with a trident and a shield. In earlier times, the Roman name for Britain was Albion.
 Occupation rather than conquest because it is doubtful that any historian can make the argument that the Romans ever conquered the British people.
 By this time, of course, there was already a substantial Roman civilian presence in Britain. It was a Roman custom to award large land grants to legionnaires once they had served 25-30 years under Rome’s standard. These people and their descendants, became British farmers, blacksmiths, shopkeepers, and teamsters.
 Henry II of England, (also Henry Plantagenet) (1133-1189) (Reign 1150-1189) laid the foundation of English Common Law and influenced the development of societies in Brittany, Wales, and Scotland. Henry’s creation of armed militia to serve on call of the lord king was a reaction no to the so-called Great Revolt (1173-75).
 A court that convened at various intervals in each county of England and Wales to administer civil and criminal law. These courts existed until 1972 when the civil jurisdiction of Assizes was transferred to the High Court, and criminal jurisdiction was assigned to the Crown Court.
 Military indenture was a legal contract between a soldier and the man he served. The contract was written out twice on one sheet of paper and then cut into two in such a way that the jagged edges would fit together (hence the name indenture). The soldier retained one part, his captain the other. Any subsequent dispute would require that both parties fit the copies together to resolve the problem.
 Later reflected in the US Constitution: Article I, Section 8, Clause 12: [The Congress shall have the power …] “To raise and support armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer term than two years.”
 Initially formed as a secret society/separatist group to advance the rights of citizens and oppose the arbitrary imposition of taxes. The group disbanded after repeal of the Stamp Act, but the name was taken up by other local groups prior to the outbreak of hostilities between the British government and the colonies. Some might argue that secret societies and clandestine raids is a mark of cowards, bolstered by the fact that during the so-called Tea Party, they dressed themselves as Indians.
 “This may be the true palladium of liberty … The right of self-defence is the first law of nature. In most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Whenever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” Sir William Blackstone, 1803.
 In an article by R. E. Barnett, Georgetown University Law Center and Heather Gerken, Professor of Law at Yale, the authors provided an overview of Article 1, Section 8: Federalism and the Overall Scope of Federal Power. Historically, federal-state relations have always contested, with federalism undergoing four distinct phases: Enumerated Powers Federalism (1787), Fundamental Rights Federalism (1865), New Deal Federalism (1933), and State Sovereignty Federalism (1986-). The authors credit the Rehnquist Court with the revival of Enumerated Powers Federalism, and the Roberts Court, which continues the work of Rehnquist favoring state sovereignty over federal authoritarianism.
Kǒng Fūzǐ, otherwise known in the western world as Confucius (551-479 BC), was a paragon of Chinese philosophers and sages and, perhaps, one of the most influential individuals in all human history. His teachings emphasized personal morality, justice, kindness, and sincerity — but his school of thought was only one of a hundred philosophical and legalistic academies during China’s Qin dynasty. He once warned, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
Operation Cyclone was the brainchild of Texas Congressman Charles Nesbit Wilson (also known as Charlie Wilson). It was the codename for a Central Intelligence Agency program to arm and finance the Afghan mujahideen (1979-1989) during the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. It was one of the most protracted and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken.
Wilson’s idea was to funnel black money through the CIA to financially support radical Islamists who more or less worked under the control of Pakistani military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988). We don’t know how much of this money Zia diverted to his atomic weapons project, but it may have been substantial. Between 1980-1986, the CIA sent between $20-40 million to Afghanistan annually; in 1987, this amount increased to $640 million annually. CIA funding continued after the Soviet Union departed Afghanistan in 1989 to support the Afghan Civil War (1989-1992). Before Zia’s death, he successfully wooed both the United States and China into a ménage à trois — which was “just fine” with Charlie Wilson, a Democrat, who leaned in that direction anyway.
The CIA’s arms deal included the state-of-the-art Stinger surface-to-air shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapon that cost around $38,000 each. We sent thousands of these to Afghanistan to help the Islamists rid themselves of the Soviet MI-24 (Hind) helicopter. Once CIA operatives instructed the Islamists how to employ these weapons, no Russian helicopter was safe. How many of these Stinger missiles remained in Afghanistan after the CIA withdrew its support is unknown. Still, at some point, the supplies diminished — driving Islamists to employ a much cheaper and easier to obtain weapon: the Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG).
The RPG fires a shaped charge explosive warhead. There are various warheads, but the most common is the high explosive (HE) round and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) round. Either of these is devastating to helicopters.
As it turned out, the Americans instructing mujahideen on fighting a sophisticated enemy combat force did an extraordinary job. Radical Islamists later turned these skills toward the Americans once the United States decided to replace the Russian invaders in 2003. Americans in Afghanistan have been digging graves ever since.
Extortion One Seven
Members of the U. S. Navy’s Seal Team Six assaulted a Pakistani compound on 2 May 2011, killing the founder and leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. It was a CIA-led operation with the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) codenamed Operation Neptune Spear. Operating alongside the Navy’s special warfare group was an element of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (Night Stalkers). This operation ended a nearly ten-year search for bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attack upon the United States.
One month earlier, the US Tenth Mountain Division turned control of Combat Outpost Tangi over to Afghan government forces. It was an interesting “turnover” since the Afghan Defense Force (ADF) never actually occupied the base, so Taliban forces took the initiative to seize it for their use. There could be a connection here, but I hesitate to judge. In any event, US forces continued to operate in the Tangi area. By 2011, the number of Taliban in Tangi was significant. On 8 June, Taliban ground forces engaged a US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter from five or six different locations with 14 separate RPG attacks forcing the overwhelmed helicopter to abandon its mission.
At about this same time, US intelligence determined that senior Taliban leader Qari Tahir might have operated from within the Tangi Valley. Thus, the International Security Force (ISF) command group ordered American/Coalition forces working within Wardak Province to locate Tahir and capture or kill him.
Beginning around 22:30 hours (local time) on 5 August, a platoon of 47 Army Rangers departed their forward operating base in Logar Province aboard two CH-47D aircraft. After a thirty-minute flight, the two helicopters landed near a compound believed to be the location of Tahir. After disembarking the Rangers, the helicopters departed the area. It was a high-risk operation. Two AH-64 Apache gunships and an AC-130 gunship remained on station to provide intelligence, surveillance, and aerial reconnaissance of the area. Seventeen SEALS served as a reserve force.
As the Rangers approached the designated compound, ISR aircraft observed numerous individuals leaving the compound, but the Rangers did not engage these people. Apache aircraft did engage a different group of around eight insurgents, reporting six of these insurgents killed in action. Meanwhile, ISR assets continued to observe the disengaged group, estimating between 9-11 fighters. The on-site commander believed that these individuals might include Tahir. At 0100, the task force commander directed the SEALS to engage these suspected insurgents. The Aviation Brigade Commander took nearly an hour to approve a new landing zone for the SEAL infiltration. At 02:00, the task force commander decided to increase the size of the SEAL Team from 17 to 33 warriors and then, to reduce transportation time, command authority loaded SEAL reinforcements into a single CH-47D; another aircraft served as a decoy that would land at a separate landing site.
While this part of the operation was unfolding, the Taliban force split into two sections. At around 02:15, one team of three insurgents went to a stand of trees; the other group entered a building located 1.2 miles from the original compound. Since the Apache helicopters were involved in tracking these two groups of insurgents, they could not offer security or fire support to either of the two in-bound CH-47Ds.
Six minutes out, the decoy CH-47D split off and returned to base. The remaining helicopter, callsign Extortion One Seven, proceeded to the earlier landing zone. One minute out, Extortion One Seven descended to an altitude of 100 feet and reduced its airspeed to around 58 knots. A third group of Taliban previously undetected by the Americans fired 2-3 RPGs from a two-story building. The second round fired struck Extortion One Seven’s aft rotor assembly. Within five seconds, the CH-47D crashed and exploded, killing everyone on board. It took the Apache aircraft another thirty seconds to report the 47’s destruction.
The official determination in the after-action report was “wrong place/wrong time.” Such things do happen in war. People die. Suddenly. But former Navy JAG Officer, Lieutenant Commander Don Brown, disagrees. He claims the US military intentionally concealed what happened to Extortion One Seven, much in the way the Army lied about the circumstances of Patrick Tillman’s death in 2004.
After reviewing all the evidence available to him (unclassified material), Brown concluded that military command sacrificed the SEAL Team through gross negligence during mission planning and covering up what happened. As Brown understood the facts, seven ADF personnel slipped aboard Extortion One Seven without authority (a significant security breach), men who had no role in the operation. Moreover, the rules of engagement (ROE) precluded pre-landing suppression fire within the CH-47D’s designated landing zone. Brown argued that a pre-landing suppression fire would have saved Extortion One Seven from destruction.
On the issue of the seven ADF personnel, Brown contends that the remains of these men were flown to the United States and cremated, as reported in the Washington Times, leading Brown to conclude, “Something went terribly wrong inside that helicopter, and whatever went wrong was most likely beyond the pilot’s control.” Brown also raises the question about a so-called helicopter black box, which the Army contends does not exist in that model aircraft. But Commander Brown was adamant, asking why the Brigade commander sent Rangers back to the crash site looking for something that doesn’t exist.
Brown additionally claimed that the AC-130 gunship circling above the LZ spotted suspected Taliban insurgents moving on the ground toward Extortion One Seven’s designated landing site and requested permission to engage those insurgents. According to Brown’s investigation, the task force commander denied the gunship permission to engage. US Air Force Captain Joni Marquez, assigned to the AC-130 gunship at the time as firing officer, confirmed Brown’s assertions, and agreed with his conclusion that denying the gunship permission to engage sealed the fate of the CH-47D.
The cost in American lives from the US teaching a potential enemy how to kill our sons and daughters has been too high. It is incomprehensible that any official of the US government would plant the seeds for a lethal future conflict for no other reason than to engage in an illicit relationship with a socialite. Worse, Wilson soon had the full cooperation of the White House, CIA, and House of Representatives.
How many graves have we dug so far in the war on terror — graves that a US Congressman helped to dig?
Bergen, P. Manhunt: The Ten Year Search for Bin Laden. Crown Publishing, 2012.
Bowden, M. The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2012.
Carter, S. “Retired Air Force Captain says Pentagon covered up the real cause of deadly chopper crash.” On-air broadcast, 18 April 2017.
Herring, J. K. Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield. Center Street Publications, 2011.
 Wilson’s motivation for starting the so-called Charlie Wilson War was his infatuation with Joanne Herring, a quite-wealthy anti-Communist crusader. Herring, appalled by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, employed her feminine wiles in convincing Wilson to take up her cause of revenge against the Soviet Union. Joanne Herring is also believed to have had an intimate relationship with Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq while serving as “Honorary Consul” at the Pakistani Consulate in Houston, Texas. Osama bin-Laden may have been the founder and leader of al-Qaeda, but it may have been Joanne Herring who started it. Treason, anyone? Anyone?
 Brown served as legal counsel to Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance, who was charged and convicted for war crimes. Brown’s subsequent book Travesty of Justice: The Shocking Persecution of Lt. Clint Lorance was a major factor in Lorance’s pardon by President Donald J. Trump in 2019.