1967 reincarnated…

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

The year was 1967.  An Army special forces unit goes on a seven-month killing spree in Vietnam.  Far from being isolated incidents that occurred without notice, Army commanders were aware of the actions and let it continue.  Ultimately, the unit was disbanded, its members never prosecuted, the facts buried by the Army from the public.

Then, a small newspaper, the Toledo Blade, got wind of the cover-up, investigated the accusations, and in 2003, released a Pulitzer-winning mini-series about “Tiger Force“, the unit that committed wholesale slaughter in Vietnam.

Donald Rumsfeld, who in 2003 was George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, stifled any investigation into Tiger Force or its surviving members.  

But, the story doesn’t end there…

It was an elite fighting unit in Vietnam – small, mobile, trained to kill.

Known as Tiger Force, the platoon was created by a U.S. Army engaged in a new kind of war – one defined by ambushes, booby traps, and a nearly invisible enemy.

Promising victory to an anxious American public, military leaders in 1967 sent a task force – including Tiger Force – to fight the enemy in one of the most highly contested areas of South Vietnam: the Central Highlands.

But the platoon’s mission did not go as planned, with some soldiers breaking the rules of war.

Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed – their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.

Two soldiers tried to stop the killings, but their pleas were ignored by commanders. The Army launched an investigation in 1971 that lasted 41/2 years – the longest-known war-crime investigation of the Vietnam conflict.

That is but an excerpt from one of the all-but-forgotten Tiger Force articles published by the Toledo Blade.

Out of that excerpt, we get; an elite U.S. military unit, fighting in a highly contested area, breaking the rules of war, killing everyone, while commanders knowingly allow it to happen.  Keep these facts in mind.

In November 1967, Robert S. McNamara resigned as Secretary of Defense.  His resignation came just as Tiger Force is disbanded.  His new job was as President of the World Bank.  As history tells the story:

Formerly the president of Ford Motor Company, McNamara had served as Secretary of Defense under two presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, from 1961 until 1968. He initially supported U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and encouraged President Johnson to escalate in 1964, but he later began privately to question U.S. policy and eventually advocated a negotiated settlement to the war. In the summer of 1967, he helped draft the San Antonio formula, a peace proposal offering to end the U.S. bombing of the north and asking North Vietnam to join in productive discussions. The North Vietnamese rejected the proposal in October.

Early in November, McNamara submitted a memorandum to Johnson recommending that the United States freeze its troop levels, cease the bombing of the north, and turn over responsibility for fighting the ground war to the South Vietnamese. Johnson rejected these recommendations outright. McNamara subsequently resigned; Johnson adviser Clark Clifford succeeded him.

In 1968, the year following McNamara’s resignation, a photo taken by Eddie Adams was published in an American newspaper.  It was republished here with this caption:

SAIGON, South Vietnam – South Vietnamese National Police Chief Brig. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executes a Viet Cong officer with a shot to the head, one of the most chilling images of the Vietnam War. Photographer Eddie Adams, who won a Pulitzer Prize for this photograph, said the execution was justified, because the Viet Cong officer had killed eight South Vietnamese. The furor created by this 1968 image destroyed Loan’s life. He fled South Vietnam in 1975, the year the communists overran the country, and moved to Virginia, where he opened a restaurant. He died in 1998 at age 67. Loan ‘was a hero,’ Adams said when he died. ‘America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him.’

In 1972, another photo from the Vietnam War was published in an American newspaper.  It is found at the former link as well, and holds this caption:

SOUTH VIETNAM – Phan Thi Kim Phuc was 9 in June 1972 when a South Vietnamese plane mistakenly dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The photo, by Nick Ut of AP, ‘made America conscious of the full horror of the Vietnam War,’ Life magazine editors said.

This brings us back to the 4 1/2 year investigation, started in 1971, into Tiger Force by the United States government.  The Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 was one Donald Rumsfeld.

The Toledo Blade reported:

Investigators concluded that 18 soldiers committed war crimes ranging from murder and assault to dereliction of duty. But no one was charged.

Murder and assault were the least of the crimes committed by Tiger Force, though.

The Tiger Force case is different. The atrocities took place over seven months, leaving an untold number dead – possibly several hundred civilians, former soldiers and villagers now say.

One medic said he counted 120 unarmed villagers killed in one month.

At the end of the investigation in 1975, with Donald Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defense, not one person was ever charged with a crime.  The Toledo Blade published its article on Tiger Force in 2003, and, Donald Rumsfeld was again the Secretary of Defense.  Once again, the investigation was suppressed, and no charges were ever filed against any member of Tiger Force.  

But, the story doesn’t end here either…

On May 19, 2009, the Independent newspaper reported:

A single American Special Forces group was behind at least three of Afghanistan’s worst civilian casualty incidents, The Independent has learnt, raising fundamental questions about their ongoing role in the conflict.

And elite unit (this time its a Marine Corp unit).  

Troops from the US Marines Corps’ Special Operations Command, or MarSOC, were responsible for calling in air strikes in Bala Boluk, in Farah, last week – believed to have killed more than 140 men, women and children – as well as two other incidents in 2007 and 2008. News of MarSOC’s involvement in the three incidents comes just days after a Special Forces expert, Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal, was named to take over as the top commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan. His surprise appointment has prompted speculation that commando counterinsurgency missions will increase in the battle to beat the Taliban.

Fighting in a highly contested area (this time it is Afghanistan), breaking the rules of war (calling in air-strikes on villages), and killing everyone (women and children.

And it gets better…

MarSOC was created three years ago on the express orders of Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary at the time, despite opposition from within the Marine Corps and the wider Special Forces community. An article in the Marine Corps Times described the MarSOC troops as “cowboys” who brought shame on the corps.

It was created by Donald Rumsfeld and even the Marine Corp Times describes this group as “cowboys” who brought shame on the Corps.  So, what are these “cowboys” doing?

The US Army commander in Nangahar at the time, Colonel John Nicholson, said he was “deeply ashamed” and described the incident as “a stain on our honour”. The Marines’ tour was cut short after a second incident on 9 March in which they allegedly rolled a car and fired on traffic again, and they were flown out of Afghanistan a few weeks later.

The top Special Operations officer at US Central Command, Army Major General Frank Kearney, refuted MarSOC’s claims that they had been shot at. “We found no brass that we can confirm that small-arms fire came at them,” he said, referring to ammunition casings. “We have testimony from Marines that is in conflict with unanimous testimony from civilians.”

Killing civilians indiscriminately and lying about it.

At the military hearings on the incident, which were held back in the US, soldiers said the MarSOC troops, who called themselves Taskforce Violence, were gung-ho and hungry to prove themselves in battle. The inquiry also heard testimony suggesting there were tensions between the Marine unit and its US Army counterparts in Nangahar province.

Col Nicholson told the court the unit would routinely stray into areas under his control without telling him, ignoring usual military courtesies. “There had been potentially 25 operations in my area of operations that I, as a commander, was not aware of,” he said. Asked about the moment he was told of the March shootout, he added: “My initial reaction was, ‘What are they doing out there?’ ” The three-week military inquiry ultimately spared the Marine unit from criminal charges.

And, ‘lo and behold, these Marines were “spared” from any criminal charges even though they were operating without using established protocols in areas under others control.

In August last year, a 20-man MarSOC unit, fighting alongside Afghan commandos, directed fire from unmanned drones, attack helicopters and a cannon-armed Spectre gunship into compounds in Azizabad, in Herat province, leaving more than 90 people dead – many of them children.

And just last week, MarSOC troops called in the Bala Baluk air strikes to rescue an Afghan police patrol that had been ambushed in countryside in Farah province. US officials said two F18 fighter jets and a B1 bomber had swooped because men on the ground were overwhelmed. But villagers said the most devastating bombs were dropped on compounds some distance from the fighting, long after the battle was over, and when Taliban forces were retreating. Afghan officials said up to 147 people were killed, including more than 90 women and children.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?  It should, because it sounds just like Tiger Force from Vietnam.  Afghanistan isn’t having it, though.

Meanwhile, Afghan MPs have called for new laws to regulate the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan, and limit use of air strikes, house searches and Special Forces operations. Sayed Hussein Alemi Balkhi, one of the chief proponents of the planned legislation, said: “Special Forces, all forces, should be regulated by the law. If they won’t accept that we have to ask bigger questions about what they are doing here.”

President Obama wants to “look forward not backwards”.  We can look forward, as well.  If there are no prosecutions this time, just as there no prosecutions last time, it will continue to happen now, and, it will happen again in the future.


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  1. Good lord,

    This is the perfect example of history repeating itself, & almost fact for fact.

    Thank you for this essay.

    There should be no US forces in Afghanistan to begin with, & the US, is building troop levels which will only create more civilian horror.

    The strange part I have a real hard time with, is that releasing photos would harm the troops, but killing 140 women & children will not bring harm to them.

    Never has that country been conquered, & I don`t foresee anything but bad news as this continues.

    With the hundreds of billions being poured into these wars, it shouldn`t be too much of a stretch to think that hearts & minds would have been won over with a better use of those resources, than depleted uranium, White Phosphorous, Daisey cutters & bunker busters.

    “Task Force Violence” how screwed is that.

    Big manly men killing civilians in mud huts &, calling in the strikes, from afar, having been sent there by armchair chickenhawks. Too sick.

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