What really happened to Navy SEAL Team 6? In August 2011, the elite special forces unit suffered the worst battlefield calamity in its history. A Taliban fighter shot down a Chinook helicopter carrying 22 Navy SEAL Team 6 members in Afghanistan. All 38 persons on board — the Navy SEAL warriors, other U.S. military personnel and seven Afghan soldiers — were killed. Grieving family members have been demanding answers. They may now get some as Congress finally opens an investigation.
Navy SEAL Team 6 has attained international prominence for one reason: They were responsible for killing Osama bin Laden. They are American heroes. Yet, their own government betrayed them. Several days after the bin Laden operation, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — in a pathetic attempt to spike the football and gloat — publicly revealed their central role in the raid. His revelations put a giant target on the backs of every Navy SEAL Team 6 member. A covert unit, whose mission is to operate in the murky shadows, was exposed as the group that eliminated al Qaeda’s chief mastermind. Mr. Biden’s reckless actions — followed by President Obama’s own words acknowledging the secret unit’s operation — jeopardized the Navy SEALs’ safety. Jihadists bent on revenge began an intense manhunt. The hunters now became the hunted.
Upon hearing of Mr. Biden’s disclosure, SEAL members were stunned. Many of them immediately contacted family members, warning them to eradicate all personal information from social-media sites. Aaron Vaughn, one of the SEALs eventually killed in the ambush, told his mother, Karen Vaughn, to delete every reference to SEAL Team 6 from her Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“I never heard Aaron this concerned and worried in his entire life,” Mrs. Vaughn said in an interview. “He called me and said, ‘Mom, you and Dad have to take everything down. Biden has just put a huge target on everybody.’”
Tragically, Aaron Vaughn was right. Mr. Biden is often portrayed in the liberal media as an amiable buffoon. His gaffes are written off as Joe simply being Joe — a loveable uncle figure who has a tendency to shoot his mouth off. That is pernicious nonsense. Mr. Biden is a cynical opportunist, who will say and do anything to advance Mr. Obama’s agenda. He hung the SEALs out to dry in order to score cheap political points. He compromised a highly sensitive, covert operation that ended up costing dozens of U.S. lives.
SEAL-gate is potentially a bigger scandal than Benghazi, Libya. The administration — along with the top military brass — are desperately trying to cover up what took place on that fateful raid. Taliban guerrillas were waiting for the Chinook as it approached its landing site. Apparently, someone tipped them off that the SEALs were coming; the helicopter was attacked from three sides in a coordinated ambush. The U.S. military claimed that the Chinook was blown to pieces by a shoulder-fired missile, in which everyone on board was burned beyond recognition. Hence, senior military officials ordered the American bodies cremated without the prior approval of their family members.
The military’s narrative, however, is false. Charles Strange, whose son, Michael, died during the attack, says he viewed the pictures of the crash site. “I saw Mike’s dead body,” Mr. Strange said in an interview. “It was clearly recognizable. He was clutching his gun. He wasn’t burned to a crisp. Why did they cremate my boy? They didn’t need to do that. Something’s not right.”
There are numerous questions that need to be answered. Why was the Chinook’s black box never found? The military claims it was washed away in a flash flood. Impossible. Flash flooding is extremely rare — almost unheard of — in that part of Afghanistan. Why was the Chinook not given aerial backup, which is standard military procedure when special forces are deployed?
Even more alarming, why were the seven Afghan soldiers who boarded the Chinook at the last minute different from those on the flight manifest? This clearly violated U.S. military protocol. Afghan strangers (al Qaeda suicide bombers?) got on that Chinook, and potentially sabotaged the raid.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s regime has been infiltrated with al Qaeda sympathizers. Only the naive could dismiss the possibility of an inside job: Jihadi cash in exchange for information about the whereabouts of our SEALs. If our supposed ally cut a deal with the Taliban, resulting in the slaughter of U.S. troops, it would be a humiliating blow to Mr. Obama’s failed Afghanistan policy.
The most important question of all remains the strict rules of engagement. Why were U.S. troops deployed into battle in a Chinook jalopy made in the 1960s and ordered not to fire back at Taliban snipers? Washington has imposed such severe rules of engagement — the inability to fire into civilian areas, the refusal to conduct night operations, and the reluctance to confront the regular occurrence of Afghan soldiers deliberately shooting American personnel — that defeat is not only likely, it’s inevitable.
Congressional Republicans must get to the bottom of this burgeoning scandal. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Rep. Darrell E. Issa of California have now launched an official probe into the deaths of the SEALs. Thirty brave warriors honorably served their country — only to be betrayed. Those responsible must be exposed and punished. Justice demands it.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio commentator on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.