How Rolling Stone Magazine saved the lives of American and Afghan troops.
By Michael S. Long (Captain US Marines Retired)
Seldom does one hear of the Rules of Engagement (ROE). The ROE are contained in 1176 pages of the Laws of War Manual. These military commands are designed to guide the conduct of all military personnel during times of war. Importantly, it covers when and how to engage the enemy, what can be attacked, how to identify the enemy, what can and cannot be destroyed and under what circumstances. In general, it is the rules of conduct for our nations warriors. ROE can be made more rigorous but never reduced from the original 1176 basic pages.
WWII was more or less (often less) governed by the Geneva Convention laws of 1864, 1906, and 1931. All sides in WWII abrogated the Convention to varying degrees at one time or another. Surprising to some, it happened more frequently by the allies but was seldom publicized. Naturally, the violations perpetrated by the Axis have much more notoriety as they lost the war and the victors write the history.
Wars have now become much more complicated starting with the Korean war of 1950-1953. Previously, we hoped to kill and destroy enough of our adversaries, (with the fewest casualties to our side) thereby forcing the enemy to surrender (Germany, Japan). In later wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East, our objectives were not straight forward. The enemy enjoyed sanctuaries, e.g. N. Korea/China, N. Vietnam/Laos, Cambodia, and China, also Iraq and Afghanistan had Iran and Pakistan. Sanctuaries pose a huge disadvantage to our forces and make it all the more impossible to win a clear cut victory. These wars were also characterized by our forces being allied with nit-wit and weak leadership and often working at cross-purposes to our goals, splendid examples are: Syngman Rhee, the Diem brothers, Gen. Thieu, Karzai, and al-Maliki. They were however, prepared to fight to the last American soldier, and if possible, snaffle a “few” dollars for their 401ks and a Swiss retirement.
As these wars became more difficult, (no war is ever easy) oddly enough, the ROE became even more rigorous and restrictive. This could possibly be ascribed to more politicians with NO military experience and others being replaced by 60s hippies, draft dodgers, one worlders, peaceniks, and Politically Correct lefties. Yes, political correctness has also and unfortunately filtered into our military. Many General officers, and Admirals have refused to play that game and as of this writing, almost 200 Flag Officers have been forced into retirement or cashiered outright. This feat of military incompetence was accomplished by our favorite Moslem, Generalissimo B. Obama.
History buffs will recall Beloved Leader Josef Stalin in 1936-38 Soviet Russia purging roughly 7% of the Red Army officer corps including 154 of his 186 division commanders. The well-known results were disastrous for the Red Army in the opening first year of the war. It looks like Generalissimo Obama would like to be a Stalin mimic, (in more ways than one). Did the Red Army beat the Wehrmacht with strict rules of engagement? We all know the answer to that one. Our restrictive ROE have caused the needless deaths of American troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan. It is shocking and largely unreported by the Generalissimo’s sycophants in the media reporting their alleged news.
A review of the Battle of Ganjigal Valley (Afghanistan 8 Sept. 2009) will clearly demonstrate the stupidity of a battle heavily influenced by of all things, LAWYERS!
An American led force of approx. 90 combined Afghan army troops and police force with 16 imbedded U.S. officers and other ranks moved into the Ganjigal Valley. Their mission was to meet with village elders and discuss the rebuilding of a damaged mosque. The reasoning behind such a large force was the frequent sightings of large Taliban forces in the area. The Ganjigal Valley is located in the mountains of North East Afghanistan, running roughly west to east, with three sides circumscribed by high, rocky mountainous terrain, ideal country for an ambush. The Pakistani border, (sanctuary) is 6 miles further to the East. The Taliban bring in all their supplies, ammo, food and water by back pack and donkeys covering the 6 miles usually at night. As the force, designated 2-8 moved into the valley, heavy small arms, and machine gun fire opened up. Rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) supplemented the firing by an estimated 60 or 70 Taliban.
The valley is also characterized by upward terraced stone walls used to hold planting beds and gardens. Obviously, troops on the high ground have the distinct advantage as they can observe just about all that moves below them (the beaten zone). The 2-8 forces took cover along the stone walls and in or behind stone structures and empty homes and anywhere that offered protection. Except for the troops left in the rear and not yet in the valley the leading troops were pinned down with little or no chance to maneuver. To forestall heavy casualties in such an ambush, 2-8 had other support available, forces that they could quickly employ. Within range was a battery of 155mm heavy artillery, and an 81mm mortar platoon. Also on stand-by were helicopter gunships along with jet fighter/bombers. Normally a few fire missions of the 155s would keep the Talibans heads down long enough to allow for a safe pullback. The aircraft would be even more effective. During this action calls were made to the TOC (Tactical Operation Center) requesting fire and/or air support.
The writer will not cover all the details of the battle as space does not permit. However, I will cover all that took place regarding the ROE as germane to this ambush. I will also have to omit the heroic actions of the 2 individuals who won the Medal of Honor and the 2 individuals awarded the Navy Cross, (well covered in Bing West’s best seller, “Into the Fire”).
In all events, the Taliban continued to pour heavy fire from 3 sides of the valley onto the forward elements of 2-8 trapped behind stone walls and various stone structures. Casualties started to mount. The most forward element consisting of a Marine Corps Lieutenant, 2 Marine Sargent’s, and a Navy Corpsman were trapped in a small stone building receiving heavy fire. They had only the ammo they carried with them with no resupply or extraction possible. (For the Generalissimo’s benefit, He is a Navy Corpsman, like in Core Man NOT Corpse Man. The latter found any day in Chicago—“It’s a corpse man.” Generalissimo, go read a book on WWII you might learn something). Supporting elements of 2-8 repeatedly tried to reach the surrounded Marines to no avail. The 4 were in a life threatening position.
A situation like this can and has been ameliorated by a call to the TOC with a request for support. This time the request was greeted by what was later termed as “20 Questions.” Remember, time is of the essence as the Taliban are not waiting for Allah to give them the ok to start killing Americans and Afghans. Once the “Battle Captain” makes his decision, as in this case (Negative) it can be appealed to Brigade or Regiment for review by the JAG officer, (Judge Advocate General) a LAWYER! Imagine Georgie Patton calling a lawyer while running his 3rd Army into Germany!! The decline of additional fire support was due to the sighting of some civilians in the area, (many were women and children carrying ammo to the Taliban).
It is now important to examine the decision making process in the TOC. It would be logical to conclude that accomplishing the mission and saving American lives as in past wars would be the overriding objective of the Battle Capt. and JAG officer. (The lawyer with those 1176 pages of The Laws of War memorized). Not under Generalissimo Obama and his Moslem cohorts in the White House. Moslems come first as is well known.
For our purposes, the military officer corps can be divided into 3 categories: The Winner, who will do anything to defeat the enemy with the fewest casualties. There are the ” Triple AAAs,”——Aides, Adjutants, and Assholes, (see Lt. Gen. David P. Bolger’s book, “Why We Lost”). These are the careerist’s who will do anything to advance their rank and career. They would never do anything that would endanger that objective. The last category is probably the larger of the three, “Key Decision Fear.”
The officer, under pressure, is afraid of making the wrong decision and will delay making any decision at all possibly leaving it to someone else. Would members of the PC crowd in Washington want to entrust their son’s life to an officer that falls into the last two categories? The writer will be kind and answer, “doubtful.” The unit Commander of those in combat can override the JAG officer at his own peril. If civilians are accidentally killed or structures destroyed, the Commander will be subject to an investigation by the same type of officer that fall into the three categories. An override seldom occurs as Military Justice can be very harsh.
The four Marines were found dead in their forward position after American and Afghan troops heroically and with further casualties attempted a number of extractions. The Battle Capt. and other officers at the TOC received Letters of Reprimand due to the after battle investigation. The real question is, “Who (or What) is really at fault?
Deeper into this story finds that Major General Stanley McChrystal US Army, upon taking command of all American forces in Afghanistan, made the ROE even more restrictive. Gen. Mac. was big on winning hearts and minds and all that Bobby Kennedy blather. Our military should be employed to win wars and protect the USA. A very difficult mission in itself. Since we have (as of late) yet to win a war AND win the hearts and minds of the locals, maybe we should avoid these types of wars or turn the Peace Corps (pronounced CORE Generalissimo) into Hearts and Mind Winners. They could be trained to give-away US taxpayer assets.
We have a sordid history of success in that domain. Combat troops appealed directly to Gen. Mac. about the added difficulties when confronting the enemy. Gen. Mac even went on patrol with the complainants to no avail. He never lifted the restrictions. His second mistake was career ending. He foolishly allowed a writer from “Rolling Stone Magazine” to embed with he and his staff. Naive General, Naive. The reporter is writing for a Left Wing rock and roll magazine and obviously is not going to do the US Army or the troops any favors. He is looking for controversy Gen. not combat reporting. The story was published and the writer (now deceased) used anti-Generalissimo Obama comments that the staff thought was “off the record.”
The Generalissimo being as thin skinned as he is, brought Gen. Mac. home and fired him. He replaced him with that later to be, Hillaryesque mishandler of state secrets, Gen. David Petraeus. Upon review of the latest ROE, Petraeus negated Gen. Mac’s rigorous additions and brought back some bit of sanity. Lives were saved as our forces were able to utilize our overwhelming and well proven firepower. “Rolling Stone Magazine was instrumental in getting Gen. Mac. fired and saving American and Afghan lives. It was I am sure all unintentional on the magazines part as their real objective was to increase circulation and stay in business.
As previously cited, wars have become much more complicated. In times past, troops fought for their buddies, units, our country and a good cause. They were trained to close with the enemy and kill him. They did not have to ask “Pretty Please.”
Males thinking of enlisting in our armed forces, and troops heading for combat should consider a few factors mentioned above:
What is the level of ROE? Is it as burdensome as Gen Macs additions? Are there Sanctuaries involved as in Afghanistan and Iraq? Are we faced with divided loyalties such as: the Shia; the Sunnis; the Kurds; Taliban; al Qaeda; the Muslim religion etc.
The PC Hacks in Washington give little thought to the preceding circumstances, after all their son is safe in boarding school and the major problem he is now facing is his secretary going on about getting away for a weekend. Her thoughts on engagement are quite different than is our discussion.