Sifting Through the Lies About the Deadly 2011 “Chinook Down”
By Harold Hutchison
From the December 2013 issue of SOF
“EXTORTION 17” SHOT DOWN
On 6 August, 2011, just over three months after justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, a Taliban ambush resulted in 30 American troops, 15 of whom were members of DEVGRU, dying in a single incident alongside seven Afghan commandos and an interpreter when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down. They had been sent to support Rangers who were in a firefight with Taliban forces.
That incident was the deadliest aircraft downing involving American troops since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. But the loss of Extortion 17 (the call sign the Chinook was using on that fateful night), soon began to raise a lot of questions from the families of the fallen personnel on that helicopter.
The loss was stunning – it was the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan, and many of the dead were from elite units like DEVGRU and the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. The loss was staggering, both for the families of those who perished and for the special operations community in general.
AN AMBUSH OR AN UNLUCKY BREAK?
During a Pentagon briefing, Marine General John Allen said, “To that end, at approximately midnight on 8 August coalition forces killed the Taliban insurgents responsible for this attack against the helicopter, which we assess was an RPG [shoulder-fired antitank rocket launcher] round.”
However, many questions were being raised about the Pentagon’s version of events. Initial reports indicated that seven Afghan National Army commandos had died on the chopper – only to discover that was not the case. According to a report by The Hill, the Afghan commandos had been replaced by other soldiers, raising questions about whether or not the downing of Extortion 17 was an inside job.
Afghan National Army commandos have been the best local troops. From 12–15 September, Afghan commandos had carried out a number of operations, including taking out a Taliban leader and 13 other insurgents while capturing 52 suspected insurgents. Other Afghan troops have been less reliable, and “insider” or “green-on-blue” attacks, when American troops are fired on by people wearing Afghan army uniforms, are not unheard of.A QUESTIONABLE MEMORIAL SERVICE
Other questions were soon raised, including some about the memorial service for the SEALs. At the memorial service, a Muslim cleric prayed over the fallen SEALs. But according to multiple reports, at the service held in Kabul, Afghanistan, the cleric denigrated the SEALs as “infidels who are fodder for the hell fire” while speaking in Arabic. The cleric’s comments came to light in a press conference held by the families of three of the fallen SEALs, who were represented by Larry Klayman of FreedomWatch, earlier this year.
“The funeral was held in Kabul, where you couldn’t even mention the name of our lord and savior Jesus Christ, and yet a Muslim cleric gets up and damns these fallen heroes to Hell as infidels,” Klayman said at a press conference where the video was shown with a certified translation.
Others disputed the claims that the imam deliberately dissed the fallen SEALs. One expert, Stephen Coughlin, told The Blaze, “If you back it up one verse, it gives you the greater context of the fact that the people who are not Muslim are condemned to hell, by those prayers and so I basically showed that. So my point isn’t that the imam was deliberately inflammatory — my point was that it’s inflammatory even when they’re not trying to, because it goes to the issue of the fundamental and irreconcilable difference between Islamic orientation and a non-Muslim orientation.”
DID LOOSE LIPS KILL SEAL TEAM SIX?
DEVGRU and other special operations units operate under a cloak of secrecy. The secrecy is often essential to help these units carry out their missions and get home alive. But the cloak was breached by the Obama administration in the wake of the 1 May, 2011, operation that killed Osama bin Laden. Eager to capitalize on the takedown, the Obama administration let many details slip, and not just to the media. Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal were given incredible access to help Obama win a tough re-election battle.
“The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made The Hurt Locker will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 — perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher,” Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times.
But in an age of global news networks and the Internet, the information spread to win Obama political points was accessible to al Qaeda. “Vice President Joseph R. ‘Joe’ Biden Jr., leaked confidential information to the media that jeopardized the lives of all Navy SEALs and their families,” Karen L Vaughn, whose son, Special Warfare Operator First Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, was among the SEALs killed when Extortion 17 went down.
Vaughn went on to claim that Biden’s boasting led al-Qaeda to send over 100 fighters to Afghanistan on a quest for revenge. “My son called to tell me there was chatter about revenge,” Vaughn told Human Events. “Biden created a media circus surrounding a highly secretive team. He should be in prison for high crimes and treason.”
“I never heard Aaron this concerned and worried in his entire life,” Mrs. Vaughn said in an interview with WorldNetDaily. “He called me and said, ‘Mom, you and Dad have to take everything down. Biden has just put a huge target on everybody.”
“Michael was home in June, and he talked to us, saying he was worried and felt he needed to update his will,” Charles Strange, the father of another sailor, Cryptographic Technician First Class Michael J. Strange, killed on Extortion 17, said. “My son already had a will that was filled out long before this, so why would he suddenly bring it up again? It was almost as if he knew something was going to happen to him. They labeled those men; the question is, why did they do it?”
Vaughn claimed that the United States had the intelligence to prevent the loss of the chopper, but that nothing was done. “Within three months of their threats, Extortion 17 happened,” she said. “I can do nothing to bring Aaron or the others back, but I can demand answers to suspicious events.”COVER-UP ABOUT CHINOOK DOWN?
The military began an investigation into the incident. However, in a prelude to what would occur after the 11 September, 2012, attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, the Obama administration would try to keep the facts away from the American people – facts that may have reflected poorly on a President desperate to secure a second term after huge losses in the 2010 mid-term elections.
According to a report by Human Events, the Army released a huge report on the downing of Extortion 17. The families received the report on compact disk (CD), but the Army soon pulled the report from the public. Vaughn told Human Events that “the report was quickly pulled off-line and the military was asked to retrieve the CD’s from the families, but declined in order to avoid suspicion.”
Vaughn also raised further questions, including why the SEALs were not using one of the special-operations versions of the Chinook. The MH-47D, MH-47E and MH-47G versions of the heavy-lift chopper are flown by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, but the unit has only 48 of those airframes to cover commitments all over the globe.Questions were also raised about the rules of engagement. “We were told by officials that the rules of engagement prevented our military from returning fire,” Vaughn told Human Events. However, Representative Thomas J. “Tom” Rooney (R-FL) said he had been told that the SEALs on the Chinook did not know where the fire was coming from.
FINDING OUT WHAT OBAMA HAS TO HIDE
Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee’s subcommittee on National Security, announced that he would lead an investigation into the fatal crash in July, a month after meeting with the families of the fallen SEALs. The Congressman noted that a body he had seen “didn’t need to be cremated.” Yet, the Obama administration claimed that the bodies were so badly burned that cremation was the only option. Chaffetz also cited questions about the failure to recover the downed Chinook’s black box.
SOFREP.com editor Brandon Webb revealed in a phone call with the author that a recce team that witnessed the downing of the Chinook observed that the weapon that hit the chopper went toward the helicopter’s exhaust, and that the chopper may have been downed by a man-portable surface-to-air missile like the Stinger, not by a lucky shot from an RPG as the Obama administration claimed.
“Over two years after Extortion 17 was shot down, the families still have these unanswered questions. All of this raises the distinct possibility of a cover-up as to what really happened. We don’t know what happened and none of these answers are forthcoming,” Klayman told WorldNetDaily.
As Congress looks into the downing of this chopper, will it uncover yet another cover-up to join Fast and Furious, the attack on Benghazi, and a host of other scandals? Meanwhile, some family members of the fallen SEALs are filing a lawsuit with the help of Freedom Watch, a public-interest law group headed by Larry Klayman. As we go to press, e-mail and phone contacts with the group were not returned. Will Congress be able to get answers? Can the lawsuit give the families of the fallen SEALs answers about their loved ones? Given the Obama administration’s penchant for stonewalling and cover-ups, this is a difficult task.