Extortion 17 Congressional Hearing Provided More Questions Than Answers

Yes, Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine; Islamic Iran is on an unstoppable quest for the atomic bomb, threatening the United States, Israel and the entire Judeo-Christian world, as our nation continues to sink in a mountain of debt and moral decay – but the war in Afghanistan may be the biggest issue going forward. Thus far, 1,795 U.S. military personnel have given their lives, and 19,665 have been wounded in action in a war that, especially since 2008, the U.S. never intended to win. President Hamid Karzai, our so-called “partner” in the war in Afghanistan, is as corrupt as they come, showing his cards recently with his secret meetings with the Taliban behind the backs of the U.S. and his other Western allies. The way this war has been waged has been a disaster, culminating in a crash in 2011 that resulted in the deaths of 17 Navy SEALs, five special ops servicemen and eight other brave American heroes on a mission ironically named Extortion 17. This crash was the largest loss of life in a single accident in the history of the war in the Middle East.

The very fact that this disaster occurred is reason for pause, but the failure of our government to address the causes of this disaster is an even greater cause for concern. Let me explain.

In June 2013, some of the parents of the fallen heroes and I went directly to Congress in an attempt to push for a congressional investigation. We met with Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and others. Simply put, the official crash report that was given to the families at the debriefing on Oct. 12, 2011 – just two months after their sons had perished – did not add up.

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After reviewing over 1,250 pages of report, questions arose, a few of which included: 1) why a less vulnerable helicopter was not used for the mission (the CH-47D is a transport helicopter that was made in the 1960s and last retrofitted in the 1980s); 2) why the recording device (the black box) of the Chinook was never found, allegedly because of a flash flood; 3) why seven Afghan commandos were substituted out within 30 minutes of the execution of Extortion 17 and why the identities who replaced the original Afghans are undisclosed; 4) whether the President Karzai “sold” the coordinates of Extortion 17 to the Taliban to get something in exchange; and 5) why a Muslim cleric was allowed to damn the soldiers to hell as infidels for not believing in Allah.

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Because of the legitimacy of the questions surrounding the crash and the parents’ unmitigated persistence, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, specifically its Subcommittee on National Security chaired by Rep. Chaffetz, held a hearing on Feb. 27, 2014, called “Afghanistan: Honoring the Heroes of Extortion 17.” Regrettably, however, not only were some of the families’ questions ignored, but many responses from the government witnesses were falsified.

While I commend Rep. Chaffetz for holding the hearing and I acknowledge his altruistic intentions, the witnesses that he and the subcommittee called were compromised at best, and completely dishonest at worst, as in the case of a political Obama hack that gave the principal testimony. This Department of Defense witness was Mr. Garry Reid, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense, special operations & low intensity conflict. Other witnesses included Ms. Deborah Skillman, director, Casualty & Mortuary Affairs, Col. (USAF) John Devillier, commander, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, Col. (USAF) Kerk Brown, director, Army Casualty & Mortuary Affairs, and Cmdr. Aaron Brodsky, director, Navy Casualty Services.

Unfortunately, the majority of the witnesses were not in the position they are now on Aug. 6, 2011 – the night our fallen heroes perished. Moreover, all but one were mortuary specialists, focusing only on the post-mortem events of the downing of Extortion 17. The events that took place after the shoot-down were tragic, but the real tragedy lies in the questions regarding the circumstances of the crash that are still pending.

For instance, three of the most “troublesome” responses from the witnesses were as follows: 1) There was no recording device on Extortion 17, and in fact there are no recording devices on any CH-47Ds; 2) The insulting remarks made by the Afghan at the fallen heroes ramp ceremony were made by a colonel and commander of the Afghan unit that the U.S. troops are required to work with because of the rules of engagement; and 3) The switch-out of the Afghan commandos occurred because there was a mistake made after the crash to retrieve the list of Afghans that were aboard Extortion 17. In essence, the list was provided for another squad that was with the Rangers during the mission.

These answers are illogical. First, it is highly unlikely this chopper did not have a black box or some kind of recording device. The U.S. military, along with its Afghan “partners,” put 30 Americans on one Chinook, 15 of whom were members of SEAL Team VI. Yet, even if this particular CH-47D did not have a recording device, the real question is why not? Second, the insulting remarks made by what we thought was a Muslim cleric turns out to be worse than anyone imagined. Garry Reid says that the Muslim was not a cleric, rather a commander that we are working with because of the rules of engagement. According to Reid, the man who disparaged the souls of our fallen heroes has “been working with us in a very trusted, close, and cooperative way for several years. I believe he is still there.” Third, only the names of the Afghans were reversed. If the alleged “mistake” was that the original Afghans indeed were with the Rangers on their manifest, then why were the other 30 Americans not switched as well? In other words, why were only the Afghans switched and not the entire unit, since there is only one manifest per mission?

It is bad enough what happened to our heroes on Extortion 17, but what is as bad is that no one is willing to find out the truth. With Putin and a return to communism on the rise and the neo-Nazi Islamic regime in Iran, which paid bounties for the death of the brave heroes of Extortion 17, other hostile Muslim interests and states in the Middle East, the U.S. will undoubtedly be soon forced to defend our great nation at war once again. But, with the current rules of engagement that favor Muslim interests over our own, the constant bending over backwards to appease Afghan dictators like “Korrupt Karzai” in order to get him to sign a “SOFA” security agreement that most likely will have zero significance anyway, and the disrespectful way in which the fallen heroes and their families are treated, who will join the armed forces?

I certainly would not allow any son or daughter of mine to serve under these circumstances!

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