When we hear the phrase “military justice,” most of us recall Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men” saying, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.”
A JAG officer is a commissioned officer who serves as an attorney in the US Military. Many JAG officers perform routine tasks such as preparing wills, power of attorney forms, or filling other legal needs of military personnel. As part of the military justice system, they may serve as prosecutors or defense attorneys in trials in which decisions can determine freedom, prison time, or even execution.
In an ideal world and like their civilian counterparts, JAG officers pursue the truth and seek a just verdict based on that reality.
But what if the wheels of military justice were corrupted by the internal politics of the military or political elite? Pursuit of the truth then becomes a pawn in the hands of the oligarchy whose greed and lust for power demands an outcome favorable to their chosen agenda.
That’s when the “truth” becomes a lie used to cover up unwanted and inconvenient facts. Such is the case with “Extortion 17” the largest single loss of life for American forces in the Afghan War and the largest single loss of life event in the history of the US Navy Seals.
On August 6, 2011, a high value Al-Qaeda leader was pinned down in a native village in Afghanistan by U.S. Army Rangers. A 17-man SEAL team was dispatched to capture the target alive. They boarded a Chinook helicopter with a crew of five. Prior to take off, seven of eight Afghans also on board suddenly deplaned and were replaced by another seven who boarded at the last minute in violation of military protocol. The Chinook helicopter is designed for troop transport and is minimally armed but was accompanied by two Apache attack helicopters. The entire operation was being overseen and overflown by an AC-130 close air support gunship. The Chinook was named “Extortion 17”.
As the Chinook approached its destination, the AC-130 saw Taliban fighters running toward a building with a tower to shoot down the incoming Chinook. The two Apaches and the AC-130, with firepower more than ample to eliminate the enemy before the Chinook arrived, were denied permission to attack and protect the incoming Chinook. Current rules of engagement prevent air strikes unless there are assurances that no civilians will be injured.
The Taliban hiding in the tower shot down Extortion 17 with three rocket-propelled grenades, killing all 30 soldiers on board. In spite of reports that the Taliban were tipped off to the location of the Chinook’s landing zone and even after numerous congressional and military investigations and hearings, the families of those soldiers have yet to receive a fair and honest accounting of this incident.
Dr. Dan’s guest on Freedom Forum Radio this weekend is Don Brown, a former United States Navy JAG officer and former Special Assistant United States Attorney stationed at the Pentagon. Since 2003, Don has authored ten military and legal novels, including Zondervan’s riveting “Navy Justice Series,” a dynamic storyline chronicling the life and adventures of JAG officer Zack Brewer.
Don’s latest book is Call Sign Extortion 17: The Shoot-Down of SEAL Team Six, a non-fiction account of the tragic loss of American SEALs and their Chinook crew in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011.
Don Brown graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1982, and after finishing law school, continued his post-graduate studies through the Naval War College, earning the Navy’s nonresident certificate in International Law. He lives and practices law in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Part one of this three part interview airs this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, August 22-23, on WJRB 95.1 FM and streamed live over the Internet. Part two airs August 29-30, and part three airs September 5-6. All programs are available by podcast following air time here.