Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Review: Betrayed, by Billy Vaughn

"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
Ephesians 5:11

To understand University of Texas Chancellor Bill McRaven, you have to examine his performance in his last job as the head of U.S. Special Forces.  Cahnman's Musings has previously examined his role in destroying the bin Laden death photos.  We've also looked into his failure to comply with Federal open records laws.

Betrayed: The Shocking True Story of Extortion 17 as told by a Navy SEAL's Father, by Billy Vaughn, details the actions of the government following the Extortion 17 fiasco in Afghanistan in August 2011.  It was Navy Seal history's deadliest day.  Billy Vaughn's son, Aaron, was on-board.

In May 2011, Seal Team 6 conducted the raid that killed Usama bin Laden.  They died less than four months later.  Almost immediately, the government's story began unraveling.

Three day's after President Obama's announcement of bin Laden's death, Aaron Vaughn called his family in a panic (44).  They needed to instantly close their social media accounts and scrub their presence from the internet.  In an astonishing breach of protocol, senior government officials had already blabbed about Seal Team 6's role in the raid (52-3).  Because of that, the military was concerned about retaliaton against their family members.  This was the beginning of the journey.

Following Aaron's tragic death that August, the government's story became increasingly suspect.  They lied to the families about the media presence when the coffins returned stateside (67).  Almost immediately, questions arose about both the competence and loyalty of their Afghan counterparts (75).  The team was transported into a combat zone "in these slow, outdated troop transport carriers, rather than the usual MH-47 Chinooks that are designed to get in and out of of hotspots quickly" (101).  Their number of missions had grown unsustainable (102).  Worst of all, the rules of engagement prevented the SEALs from properly engaging the enemy (103).  As Billy Vaughn explains, "something was starting to become very clear: weak-willed 'winnning hearts and minds' ideology had taken priority over keeping my son, the men on that chopper, our miliatry, and even our nation, secure" (105).

As the Vaughn family's questions mounted, so did their inquiries in official Washington.  They were ignored by John Boehner and Harry Reid (106).  A staffer for their own U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, rudely blew them off (107).  Further investigation led "to the appalling realization that the mightiest military in the world is being ripped asunder by a regime in Washington, D.C., putrefied with political correctness, moral depravity, and utter corruption" (114).  And that was before they learned that the landing zone hadn't been properly secured (131).  It's here where Mr. McRaven enters the picture.

In November 2012, the Vaughns attended a Naval function in Florida where Mr. McRaven was the guest of honor.  Billy Vaughn wanted to share some of the things he'd learned to prevent future tragedies.  Their conversation speaks for itself:
When the admiral finished speaking, I approached him, took off my sunglasses, shook his hand, and said, "My name is Billy Vaughn, you probably don't remember me..."

Admiral [sic] McRaven responded cheerfully, "Well, of course, I remember you."

I asked if I could speak with him privately. Hesitant, he paused, and then agreed to meet me behind the bleachers after he finished shaking hands and taking pictures with people in the audience.


As the admiral approached, I spoke quickly, not wanting to was any time with pleasantries. "Sir, I just wanted to know if anything is being done differently to protect the lives of our men in battle."

Since Admiral McRaven told me he knew who I was, I thought I didn't have to explain my connection to the Extortion 17 shoot-down. He had replaced Admiral Olson, as US Special Operations Commander, just a few days after Aaron died, and I wanted to know if the military strategy had changed.

I meant this in the most respectful way, but for some reason he became irritated when he spoke with me, "What's the matter with you? Don't you think I care about every guy we lose?"

I responded respectfully, "Well, Sir, I'm hoping you can share some things that will convince me that you do."

I genuinely hoped that a man in his position would know if anything had changed since Extortion 17 went down. I felt the burden as a parent to make sure that nothing like this ever happened again to our military. Admiral McRaven got defensive, put his hand on my shoulder and drew me closer to him with a smirk on his face, which was quickly becoming a brighter shade of red, and said, "Let me give you a few facts, IF your son did die...."

In lightning speed I raised my tone higher than his and said, "What do you mean IF my son was killed? You said you recognized me, and you knew who I was. I'm the father of Aaron Vaughn and he was killed."

This was not going well. There had not been a single military officer who had shown any notion of disrespect toward me since Aaron had died. He flashed a deer in the headlights look, and then immediately apologized. "I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you."

I can't remember what he said next, but he gave me the impression that he thought my son was connected to Benghazi. "I'm not talking about Benghazi. My son was killed on August 6, 2011." At this point, I was thinking, "he's just another politician. He pretended to know who I was, and now he's pretending to know something aboput me that he really didn't remember."

I went on, "You can smile and smirk if you want to, Sir, but let me give you three facts..."

Interrupting me nearly mid-sentence, he raised his voice and said, "Okay, I know who you are!"

Ignoring the interruption and it's content, I continued quickly, "Sir, whey was there no pre-assault fire that night?"

He snapped back, "They can get pre-assault fire any time they want it!"

I responded, "Well, Sir, according to the sworn testimony, they can almost never get pre-assault fire."

His next words only fueled the fire. "Well, what do you want to do, shoot up an entire village?"

"No Sir, but according to the sworn testimony, the village was on the ridges of the valley. There had already been a three-and-a-half hour operation underway and the chopper was shot down in the valley. Also, after the chopper was shot down, the Air Weapons Team did not take out the men who shot the RPG because there might have been friendlies in the building below the tower."

In a calmer tone he said, "There were a lot of mistakes made that night. This war is complicated."

The last comment -- sort of a confession -- struck me. There are mistakes made in every operation; I'm willing to admit that. But I was primarily concerned about the ideology causing our men to die needlessly. It was also the timing of the way Admiral McRaven said, "This war is complicated," because I was just previously forewarned by someone in Washington, D.C. that the flag officers, like Admiral McRaven, are known to say these very words when they want to avoid questioning. It seemed to imply that I could not possibly understand if he were to to go into greater detail.

I was now experiencing this warning firsthand.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to tell him the third fact, and he still never answered my concern on whether he was doing something differently to protect our men in the battlefield. So all I could say was, "Sir, a man in your position, if he had the nuts and the guts, could speak up and change the way we conduct this war, and save our warriors."

Admiral McRaven, who is quite a bit taller than me, then jabbed his finger in my face.

I pointed my finger back at his chest, saying, "Let me tell you something, Sir. You can make a scene if you want, but there are people watching us right now, and I don't think either one of us want that.

He agreed and backed off.

I then calmly said, "What we need to do is get together and have a cup of coffee sometime." In agreement, we shook hands, and he told me to contact his office when I had an opportunity to stop by.

As the Vaughn's dug deeper, they were continually approached by military members  who new first hand how the U.S. government's senior leadership was weakening the military; this set the stage for their follow-up visit with Mr. McRaven:
On January 4, 2013, Admiral McRaven arrived in a black SUV with tinted windows. The SUV pulled into my driveway, all the way up to the garage, and Admiral McRaven and a staff member got out. The driver then backed into the street and reversed into my driveway to park. I chuckled because it appeared as though they had intended to make a speedy getaway when our visit was over.

Karen and I welcomed Admiral McRaven and his subordinate into our home. We greeted each other and met his advisor, who was exceedingly polite and gracious. Admiral McRaven was a complete gentleman this time, leading me to believe it would be a positive encounter as I had hoped. He apologized for not knowing who I was. I accepted his apology and appreciated his concern. The four of us then sat at our dining room table.

Admiral McRaven started out by kindly giving us his condolences and expressed that he wanted to answer any questions we had. He told us he wanted to help us with our 'grieving.'

The 'grieving' angle must be a talking point all officers are keyed in on, since we've heard it time and time again. It's dismissive and insulting. It's as though any question or concern you have is only due to your "grief," not the very real possibility your question is valid.

The admiral wanted to emphasize that nothing about the meeting would be political. Karen and I were primarily concerned about our men and women in the military and the questions surrounding Extortion 17, so naturally we agreed the meeting was not about politics.

We started with small talk and about a half hour into the conversation, Admiral McRaven assured us, "I just want you to know that the military would never hold anything back from the parents."

To which Karen very respectfully responded, "What about Pat Tillman?"

Admiral McRaven lunged forward in his chair, his face instantly reddened, his voice churlish -- as though Karen had no right to say such a thing -- he nearly shouted, "What about Pat Tillman? It was just a simple case of friendly fire!"

The room fell silent, stunned.

Of course, it was just a 'simple case of friendly fire.' The problem was that it took the Tillman family three years to get the truth about the events surrounding Pat's death. Three years of being blatantly lied to by the United States military.

It hadn't been Karen's intention, but clearly she struck a nerve. Much earlier in our search for truth, we had spoken with a man who serves on Admiral McRaven's staff. In that conversation...he finally said, "Billy, the damn Army will lie." Then shortly thereafter, he made a statement, which bluntly ended that portion of the conversation, "Remember Pat Tillman."

We didn't know what to say next. The admiral did not realize the full impact of the revealing statement he'd just made. I finally spoke softly, "The military is holding something back from the parents right now."


Further into our conversation, the admiral unexpectedly and with no apparent reason began touting the virtues of our current president. After a comment or two, I said, "Well, look, Sir, you are not going to get me to agree with you about President Obama.

Admiral McRaven laughed and said, "Okay, I know."

A short time later, he became more emboldened. "I know President Obama and I see him often. I don't just know him as a president, I know him as a man." He pounded his fist on our table. "And he's a good man."

Politely, I touched his arm, "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you not to mention that man's name in my house."

He said, "Okay." Then the admiral -- who said none of our discussion should be political -- continued weaving the praises of President Obama into our conversation any time he saw an opening.

By the time of this meeting, I had been personally reviewing the redacted files we received at Virginia Beach for almost a year. I was very well up-to-date with the material, but felt I'd receive a fuller picture of the shoot-down through Admiral McRaven's eyes. Would they have the answers to my questions? I didn't know -- but I had been hopeful.

That didn't last long.


After a few seconds, I asked, "Why was there no pre-assault fire before Extortion 17 went in, you know, just to soften then landing zone?"

With absolutely no hesitation, the admiral replied, "The Operation was already over. By that time, the Rangers were already in the questioning phase of those they'd detained in the earlier raid and nothing else was going on."

Was this all Admiral McRaven had for his defense? If Operation Lefty Grove was "already over" then why was Extortion 17 sent in at all? Why was the IRF (Immediate Reaction Force) spun up with such hastiness that routes and landing zones were being determined after the chopper was already in the air? And why was the landing zone considered hot?


The misinformation continued and suspicions rose.

Around this point came yet another interjection about President Obama's qualifications and great, fearless leadership; this time it was in reference to Operation Neptune Spear.

The admiral explained to us that the president had nothing to gain from taking out Bin Laden. He then elaborated on the fear factor behind the president's brave decision to do so, telling us "There was only a forty percent chance that Osama was going to be at the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan."

I told Admiral McRaven, "I'm going to have to disagree with you on that one. I don't think the president had any choice but to go after Osama [sic] bin Laden."

He quickly replied, "How so?"

"Because the CIA had located him, and if people learned that Osama bin Laden was there, and it leaked that Barack Obama still refused to take him out, it would have devastated him politically."

At some point, the conversation shifted back to the matter at hand. I asked, "Why were our men on the wrong chopper?"

His countenance became a bit haughty and even defiant towards me.


And then came another round of praise for President Obama when I expressed a very painful concern, "It's hard for me to admit this, but I'm afraid my son's death is going to be in vain because the president has decided we're going to lose the war in Afghanistan."

His response caught me off guard, "Well I can't guarantee how Afghanistan is going to turn out, but I can tell you that President Obama is getting us out of Afghanistan."

Only two months earlier in our discussion at the Navy SEAL Mueseum, he'd snapped at me when I'd said the same thing. His response then: "We're winning the war in Afghanistan."

Had something changed in the previous two months or had he only been honest in one of our two conversations? I came back at him with a little frustration, "Yeah, but at what cost?"

His answer blew my mind: "President Obama got us out of Iraq!"

Unable to contain myself I blurted out, "And look how well that turned out. Now Iran is transporting weapons through Iraq to Syria and threatening Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East."

Still to this dat, I cannot believe what he said next, "Well, you know George Bush got us into the war in Iraq!"

This statement literally shook me. It was a childish argument and very unbecoming of a man of such high stature.


We were now faced with the heavy realization that one of the most powerful men in the special forces world had no intention of changing a single method of operation. [Author's Note: Which is EXACTLY what he did with Bill Powers.]

All this from the man openly rumored to be on Hillary Clinton veep short list:

Bottom Line: Before he carried water for Bill Powers and Joe Straus, Bill McRaven carried water for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  The Extortion 17 fiasco was well known by the time the U.T. system brought Mr. McRaven in as Chancellor.  For the scandal-plagued U.T. politburo to hire someone with Bill McRaven's record at this moment in it's history tells you everything you need to know about the U.T. politburo.

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