Archive for the ‘Geopolitics’ Tag

Sexual Assaults by Asylum Seekers in Europe may be Normal Behaviour   1 comment

This is not intended to be a piece on Islamophobia.  However, misogyny in Islamic cultures is a proven and profound phenomena that is real.  It has ancient traditions that linger on into contemporary times. This is an objective report on what may have been behind the assaults in Europe.


A German town has banned male asylum seekers from a public swimming pool after women complained of harassment.  A government official in Bornheim said men from a nearby asylum shelter would be barred until they “got the message” that such behaviour was not acceptable.

It follows outrage over hundreds of sexual assaults in nearby Cologne and other German cities on New Year’s Eve. Those attacks, by men of mainly Arab and North African origin, raised tensions over the influx of migrants.

More than 1.1 million people claimed asylum in Germany in 2015.

The head of the social affairs department in Bornheim – about 20km (12 miles) south of Cologne – said the move to ban migrant men followed increasing number of reports of inappropriate behaviour from female swimmers and staff members.

“There have been complaints of sexual harassment and chatting-up going on in this swimming pool… by groups of young men, and this has prompted some women to leave,” Markus Schnapka told Reuters.

He said none of the complaints involved a crime being committed, but that social workers in the town would help to ensure the asylum seekers changed their behaviour.

It is unclear how this rule will be enforced, although Germany is set to introduce new ID cards for migrants in February.

Support falling

Correspondents say the pool ban is the latest sign of increased tensions following the Cologne attacks.

On Thursday, the authorities in another town in west Germany, Rheinberg, cancelled a carnival parade planned for February over security concerns.

Rheinberg’s public security chief, Jonny Strey, told German media that events in Cologne had influenced the decision and that officials were worried about from men from migrant backgrounds misbehaving.

Rheinberg Mayor Frank Tatzel later denied this, according to Reuters.

Cologne authorities expressed concern about the city’s own carnival in February following the NYE attacks, promising to step up security and public awareness.


Taharrush jamaʿi (Arabic: تحرش جماعي taḥarrush jamāʿī, Egyptian pronunciation taḥarrush game’a, lit. “collective harassment”) is a type of sexual harassment and sexual assault of women by groups of men on the street that may involve rape, beating and name-calling, groping, sexual invitations and robbery. The assault usually happens under the protective cover provided by large gatherings or crowds, typically mass events, including protests, rallies, concerts, and public festivals.

The general term taharrusch and further combinations like Taḥarrush el-ginsy (Arabic: تحرش جنسي sexual harassment) have played a controversial role in Egypt since the political turmoils in the 2000s. In the beginning, Egyptian security forces have been blamed to use sexual harassment on female activists and participants of public demonstrations and rallies. The behavior has however spread and is being used by crowds of young men to harass female persons in the public space. Taharrush is a symptom of misogynous ideology according to Farhana Mayer, senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, theology department. Women are punished for being in public.

Before 2006 the term El taḥarrush mainly referred to the molestation of minors and young people. Already during the Egyptian constitutional referendum, 2005 female activists reported cases of being harrassed by police personnel and hired agents provocateurs during demonstrations and rallies. Taharrush then started to be used as a political means. On the Eid al-Fitr holiday in 2006, a crowd of young men harassing women and girls in the inner city after they had been denied access to a local cinema gained notoriety in Egyptian social media. A study provided by an Egyptian NGO (and partially funded by the EU) described various forms of taharrush and introduced the term Taḥarrush el-ginsy, sexual harassment including group-related incidents.

In 2008 a local movie maker, Noha Rushdie, was the first woman to win a court case against a molester. Movies have some importance as a medium, as they allow depiction of current events and topics as well for an illiterate audience in Egypt.  Ihkî yâ Shahrâzâd (Les Filles du Caire, from Yusrî Nasr Allâh, in 2009) and 678 (Arabic: فيلم ٦٧٨ – feelm sitta seba’ thamaniyya) in 2010 were among the first to show various forms of tarrush in Egypt in cinema. 678 (the number of a bus line) caused some controversies in Egypt but got an award at the 2010 Dubai International Film Festival and has been published in various countries (e.g. 2012 as Kairo 678 in Germany). It depicts three women of various backgrounds: the first uses a knife to defend herself against attacks, the second is being harassed in a group in the presence of her husband, who is not able to help her. Her marriage fails afterwards. The third one activates a group of people to help her against a single molester. While her filing of a report to the police is being blocked by officers, she is invited to appear on a TV show, as she was the first Egyptian woman to file a report for harassment.

The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 saw an enforcement of the use of sexual harassment as a means of denying women and female activists access to public spaces and rallies and as a well a larger counter-movement by NGOs and women’s organizations. The counter strategies involved have been discussed in research papers. Some taharrush-related incidents made national news in Egypt and gained notoriety on social networks. After 9 March 2011, a day after International Women’s Day, some feminist activists arrested during a rally on Tahrir Square were forced to have their virginity inspected. Mobile phone videos like the Blue Bra or Tahrir Girl, (Sit al Banat in Arab), an unknown person covered in an abaya and undressed in Cairo went viral. The phenomenon first came to the attention of Western media after an instance of an Egyptian taharrush jama’i attack hit headlines when a prominent female foreigner, CBS reporter Lara Logan, was assaulted by hundreds of men in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during her reporting of theEgyptian Revolution of 2011.

During the period of the Mohammed Mursi government, the incidents became even more violent. A gathering of women survivors of such treatment on the eve of the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution (on 25 January 2013) met at Cafe Riche (Talaat Harb close to Tahrir square) concluded to start a larger political initiative. They gained support from a variety of NGOs and political parties against the use of sexual harassment by the police forces. Lamis El Hadidy, a TV anchorwoman and political analyst, used the topic in a TV transmission in February 2013.  A first attempt to change the penal law, supported e.g. by Amr Hamzawy failed. The ruling party made women participating in public rallies personally responsible for such incidents. In March 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood provided a strongly worded statement against the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women as a danger for Egyptian cultural norms and society. The massive participation of women in the public rallies was one of the reasons for the controversies.

A working paper of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS, a research charity affiliated to the University of Sussex) describes the phenomenon, the legal situation and the answers in civil society.  After a further incident in 2014 made news, when at the Cairo University College of Law a woman had been harassed by a large group of men and had to be escorted to safety by the police, the Egyptian penal law has been partially adjusted.


According the newspaper Die Welt, the Bundeskriminalamt, the German Federal Crime office mentioned Taharrush gamea in an internal paper laid out after an conference with executives from the various Länder police forces. The newspaper article on 10th of January made international news. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Beirut correspondent Stephan Erhardt reported about the weird career of the term Taharrush gamea: E.g. the German Wikipedia article started based on that announcement and used the slightly wrong (in German, Taharrusch dschame’a would be appropriate) transcription of the BKA.

A North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Justice report to the parliamentary comittee of the Interior described “taharrush gamea” as the Arabic term for a modus operandi that it described as a form of group sexual harassment that takes place in crowds. It compared as well the 2015 New Year’s Eve Cologne incident to incidents that took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Reports by the North Rhine-Westphalia interior ministry and the German Federal Criminal Police Office attributed the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Germany to the practice. The perpetrators were said to have been “almost exclusively” of “North African and Arab” recently arrived migrant background. However there are some important differences – the main driver behind the (group related) phenomen in Egypt have been political interests and even governments themselves, which was not the case in Cologne.

Finnish migration authorities informed Helsinki police and made them aware of planned Taharrush attempts before New years eve 2015. Similar to Cologne, a large crowd of (about 20.000) people, including about 1.000 refugees gathered around the Helsinki Central station and the Senate square in Helsinki. The police was present with a massive force and arranged for a dozen of preliminary arrests in refugee’s asylums. Compared to Cologne, the whole event went quite peaceful and without larger incidents, a further dozen of men has been arrested during the night but were set free the day after.

According to Russian author and pundit Yulia Latynina, “Taharrush is a new social phenomenon when visitors of Europe commit violence against European women in crowded places”.

Charlie Hebdo pulled no punches:

A cartoon in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has caused online shock by suggesting drowned toddler Alan Kurdi would have grown up to be a sexual abuser like those immigrants allegedly involved in the assaults in Cologne.

Under the headline “Migrants”, the drawing shows two lascivious pig-like men with their tongues hanging out chasing two terrified, screaming women who are running away.

An insert at the top the cartoon contains the famous image of three year old Syrian boy laying face down dead in the sand. The question at the top of the drawing “What would little Aylan have grown up to be?” is answered at the bottom by “Ass groper in Germany”.


I guess Charlie may have an axe to grind. As Muslim terrorists butchers killed many of their staff.


Posted January 16, 2016 by markosun in Uncategorized

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2016 Predictions: Worst Case Scenarios   Leave a comment


A Pessimist’s Guide to the World in 2016

Oil prices soar after Islamic State destroys facilities across the Middle East. Angela Merkel is forced to resign, throwing the European Union into disarray. The dollar slumps as Russian and Iranian hackers team up to launch cyber-attacks on U.S banks. Bloomberg News asked dozens of former and current diplomats, geopolitical strategists, security consultants, and economists to identify the possible worst-case scenarios, based on current global conflicts, that concern them most heading into 2016.

U.S. Banks Collapse

black banks1

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South America Erupts

black brazil

China’s Economy Nosedives

black china

Planet Heats Up

black climate

Great Britain Leaves The EU

black eu

More EU Trouble

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Israel Attacks Iranian Nuclear Facilities

black iran

black iran1

Oil Prices Rocket to a Hundred Dollars a Barrel

black oil

black oil1

Donald Trump Wins Presidential Election

black trump

black trump1


Posted December 16, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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NATO Maps   Leave a comment








Makes it a little easier to understand Russian paranoia.


Posted December 11, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Russian Subs and Spy Ships Sneaking Around Underwater Fiber Optic Cable Zones   Leave a comment

NY Times


Russian Akula Class nuclear attack submarine.



Worldwide underwater fiber optic cable systems.



cable map 2




Cable laying ship


Giant cable spool on a laying ship

cables spool on ship


Posted October 26, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Putin’s actions in Syria   Leave a comment







Posted October 10, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s Devastating Barrel Bomb Terror Weapons   Leave a comment

Cheap, easy to use and devastating. The Barrel Bomb is being used by Syrian forces without restraint.

A barrel bomb is an improvised unguided bomb, sometimes described as a flying IED (improvised explosive device). They are typically made from a large barrel-shaped metal container that has been filled with high explosives, with possibly shrapnel, oil or chemicals, and then dropped from a helicopter or airplane. Due to the large amount of explosives (up to thousands of pounds), their poor accuracy and indiscriminate use in populated civilian areas (including refugee camps), the resulting detonations have been devastating. Critics have characterized them as weapons of terror and illegal under international conventions.



Before the Civil War, the Syrian arsenal was built to counter an Israeli attack and thus did not have much in the way of close air support (e.g., air to ground bombs and missiles), but instead predominantly had ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles to harass and delay the Israeli air force. The Syrian military thus soon ran out of precision weapons, had trouble obtaining more and needed a cheap and readily available supply of air to ground weapons. The use of barrel bombs in the Syrian Civil War was first identified in August 2012, in particular through the video forensic work of Eliot Higgins (Brown Moses) and Richard Lloyd. Their existence was initially denied by a Russian military expert until a video surfaced in October 2012 from inside a moving helicopter showing a barrel bomb being lit and dropped onto a target by Syrian Air Force personnel. The person who allegedly came up with the scheme to load barrels with explosives, nails, and metal fragments is Suheil Al Hassan, or “The Tiger,” an Allawite warlord.



The deliberate use of indiscriminate weapons makes President Assad potentially liable for war crimes. As such, Assad has denied the use of these weapons, saying “We have bombs, missiles and bullets. There [are] no barrel bombs, we don’t have barrels.” Nevertheless, there is considerable video, pictorial, and after the fact proof of the use of such weapons in Syria. Video evidence of a barrel bomb being used was recovered from a mobile phone found in the wreckage of a crashed government forces helicopter in May 2015. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said, “This video footage exposes Assad’s lies on barrel bombs,” and “We will bring those involved in these criminal acts to justice”.

Barrel bomb attacks throughout Syria have killed more than 20,000 people since the conflict began in March 2011, according to a December 2013 statement by the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC). It is estimated that, as of mid-March 2014, between 5,000 to 6,000 barrel bombs have been dropped during the war and their use has escalated. Aleppo has been the focal point of the Syrian government’s use of barrel bombs. Over time, government forces have refined their use of the barrel bomb to cause maximum damage – dropping one device and then waiting 10 to 30 minutes to drop another bomb on the same location. According to opposition activists, the aim is to ensure that those who flood the scene to rescue the victims are then themselves killed.



Putin’s Russia has recently stepped up its military aid for the Assad regime.  Russian advisors have been pouring into the Syrian port of Latakia. Work has also been underway on an airbase near the city. Russian aircraft have been landing at the base in steady streams over the last 10 days.


Syria, Russia, Assad, Putin, barrel bombs, Allepo, political cartoon


Posted September 16, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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North Korea vice-premier Choe Yong-gon long gone!   2 comments

Asia Watch


North Korea vice-premier Choe Yong-gon ‘executed’

South Korea’s government says it is monitoring reports that North Korea’s vice-premier Choe Yong-gon was killed in May on the orders of Kim Jong-un.

Mr Choe was executed after he “expressed discomfort against the young leader’s forestation policy”, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.  Close to 70 officials have been killed under Kim Jong-un’s rule, Yonhap says.

The BBC has not been able to verify the claims. North Korea rarely confirms the South’s reports of executions.

Mr Choe was last seen publicly in December, South Korea’s unification ministry said. The ministry said it was “closely monitoring the possibility of any changes in Choe’s circumstances”.

Few details about the execution were given by Yonhap, which is often first to report news from North Korea.

Choe Yong-gon was deputy minister of construction and building material industries, and had represented North Korea in trade talks in Seoul in the mid-2000s.

You must not disagree with this little bowl of jelly thug!


He was appointed as one of seven vice-premiers in June last year, and his promotion was seen by one analyst as a sign Pyongyang was keen to maintain close ties with the South.

‘Spate of killings’

In April, South Korea’s intelligence agency said Kim Jong-un had ordered the execution of 15 officials in the first four months of the year.

Among them was a forestry official who complained about the leader’s forestation plan, the agency said at the time, but it is not clear if this man was Choe Yong-gon.

In May, the agency said North Korean Defence Minister Hyon Yong-chol was reportedly executed by anti-aircraft fire for apparently showing disloyalty to the leader.

Kim Jong-un and the forests

The reports of the killing of Choe Yong-gon for disagreeing with Kim Jong-un’s forestry policy bring into focus a programme that is closely followed by the leader.

The country says it is suffering its worst drought in a century, and that close to a third of rice paddies have dried up.

Radio Free Asia says the country launched an intensive “greenification” programme last year, with more power granted to every province’s forestry department.

And in a speech in February, Kim Jong-un delivered a speech in which he said: “At present, the forests of the country can be said to have reached a crossroads – whether to perish for ever or to be restored.”

He also criticised officials for seeking to respond to problems caused by flooding, rather than prevent flooding in the first place by planting more trees.

Has the world ever experienced such a dysfunctional regime?




Posted August 12, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Strange and weird, yet very funny protest song from the mid eighties   2 comments

‘Things That Made Us’ was a song by an obscure band called Jeb Loy and the Oil Wells. It came out around 1983 or thereabouts. 1983 was when the Cold War was at its hottest since the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Ronald Reagan was president and he was spending trillions of dollars on the military, scaring the crap out of the Russians.  The Russians were pulling off despicable things like shooting down civilian airliners and supporting communist rebels in Central America and Africa.  Cold War propaganda was being blasted out by both sides. It was a scary time.

This song takes a different approach. It starts off sounding like some screwball patriotic American drum beat, but towards the end the real intended message is revealed. And the message is powerful, and the song is seriously funny.




Posted August 7, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Russian Bears   Leave a comment

Russian Bear Tu-95 strategic bomber intercepted by a British Typhoon fighter


Russian brown bears having a drinking contest

MOS02-20010903-MARIINSK, RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Businessman Nikolai Kirpichnikov gives medovukha (self made alcohole drink based on honey) to his bears (bears like this drink very much and they receive it time to time) in the yard of his house in the town of Mariinsk in Kemerovo region (eastern Siberia), Saturday, 01 September 2001. Nikolay Kirpichnikov found three bear cubs four years ago in the forest when their mother was killed by a poachers. Untill now all three bears live in his house ian iron cage.

The Russian Bear is a widespread symbol (generally of a Eurasian brown bear) for Russia, used in cartoons, articles and dramatic plays since as early as the 16th century,and relating alike to Tsarist Russia, the Soviet Union and the present-day Russian Federation.

It often was and is used by Westerners, to begin with especially in Britain and later also in the US, and not always in a flattering context – on occasion it was used to imply that Russia is “big, brutal and clumsy”.



Posted August 3, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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SEAL Team 6: still on the hunt   Leave a comment

NY Times


SEAL Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines

The unit best known for killing Osama bin Laden has been converted into a global manhunting machine with limited outside oversight.

They have plotted deadly missions from secret bases in the badlands of Somalia. In Afghanistan, they have engaged in combat so intimate that they have emerged soaked in blood that was not their own. On clandestine raids in the dead of the night, their weapons of choice have ranged from customized carbines to primeval tomahawks.

Around the world, they have run spying stations disguised as commercial boats, posed as civilian employees of front companies and operated undercover at embassies as male-female pairs, tracking those the United States wants to kill or capture.

Those operations are part of the hidden history of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, one of the nation’s most mythologized, most secretive and least scrutinized military organizations. Once a small group reserved for specialized but rare missions, the unit best known for killing Osama bin Laden has been transformed by more than a decade of combat into a global manhunting machine.

That role reflects America’s new way of war, in which conflict is distinguished not by battlefield wins and losses, but by the relentless killing of suspected militants.

Almost everything about SEAL Team 6, a classified Special Operations unit, is shrouded in secrecy — the Pentagon does not even publicly acknowledge that name — though some of its exploits have emerged in largely admiring accounts in recent years. But an examination of Team 6’s evolution, drawn from dozens of interviews with current and former team members, other military officials and reviews of government documents, reveals a far more complex, provocative tale.

While fighting grinding wars of attrition in Afghanistan and Iraq, Team 6 performed missions elsewhere that blurred the traditional lines between soldier and spy. The team’s sniper unit was remade to carry out clandestine intelligence operations, and the SEALs joined Central Intelligence Agency operatives in an initiative called the Omega Program, which offered greater latitude in hunting adversaries.

Team 6 has successfully carried out thousands of dangerous raids that military leaders credit with weakening militant networks, but its activities have also spurred recurring concerns about excessive killing and civilian deaths.

Afghan villagers and a British commander accused SEALs of indiscriminately killing men in one hamlet; in 2009, team members joined C.I.A. and Afghan paramilitary forces in a raid that left a group of youths dead and inflamed tensions between Afghan and NATO officials. Even an American hostage freed in a dramatic rescue has questioned why the SEALs killed all his captors.

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Navy SEAL operators awaited a night mission to capture insurgent leaders near Falluja, Iraq, in July 2007. Credit John Moore/Getty Images        

When suspicions have been raised about misconduct, outside oversight has been limited. Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees SEAL Team 6 missions, conducted its own inquiries into more than a half-dozen episodes, but seldom referred them to Navy investigators. “JSOC investigates JSOC, and that’s part of the problem,” said one former senior military officer experienced in special operations, who like many others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity because Team 6’s activities are classified.

Waves of money have sluiced through SEAL Team 6 since 2001, allowing it to significantly expand its ranks — reaching roughly 300 assault troops, called operators, and 1,500 support personnel — to meet new demands. But some team members question whether the relentless pace of operations has eroded the unit’s elite culture and worn down Team 6 on combat missions of little importance. The group was sent to Afghanistan to hunt Qaeda leaders, but instead spent years conducting close-in battle against mid- to low-level Taliban and other enemy fighters. Team 6 members, one former operator said, served as “utility infielders with guns.”

The cost was high: More members of the unit have died over the past 14 years than in all its previous history. Repeated assaults, parachute jumps, rugged climbs and blasts from explosives have left many battered, physically and mentally.

“War is not this pretty thing that the United States has come to believe it to be,” said Britt Slabinski, a retired senior enlisted member of Team 6 and veteran of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. “It’s emotional, one human being killing another human being for extended periods of time. It’s going to bring out the worst in you. It’s also going to bring out the best in you.”

Team 6 and its Army counterpart, Delta Force, have delivered intrepid performances that have drawn the nation’s two most recent presidents to deploy them to an expanding list of far-off trouble spots. They include Syria and Iraq, now under threat from the Islamic State, and Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, mired in continuing chaos.

Like the C.I.A.’s campaign of drone strikes, Special Operations missions offer policy makers an alternative to costly wars of occupation. But the bulwark of secrecy around Team 6 makes it impossible to fully assess its record and the consequences of its actions, including civilian casualties or the deep resentment inside the countries where its members operate. The missions have become embedded in American combat with little public discussion or debate.

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SEAL Team 6’s headquarters are just south of Virginia Beach, in an area closed off to the public. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

While declining to comment specifically on SEAL Team 6, the United States Special Operations Command said that since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, its forces “have been involved in tens of thousands of missions and operations in multiple geographic theaters, and consistently uphold the highest standards required of the U.S. Armed Forces.”

But others warn of the seduction of an endless campaign of secret missions, far from public view. “If you’re unacknowledged on the battlefield,” said William C. Banks, an expert on national security law at Syracuse University, “you’re not accountable.”

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A Heckler & Koch MP7 firearm, top, fitted with a suppressor to reduce muzzle flashes and sounds, and an MP5, a submachine gun widely used by law enforcement officers. In the American military, the MP7 is used only by Delta Force and SEAL Team 6. Some police SWAT teams have also bought it. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times        

The Culture

SEAL Team 6’s fenced-off headquarters at the Dam Neck Annex of the Oceana Naval Air Station, just south of Virginia Beach, houses a secretive military within the military. Far removed from the public eye, the base is home not just to the team’s 300 enlisted operators (they disdain the term “commandos”), their officers and commanders, but also to its pilots, Seabee builders, bomb disposal technicians, engineers, medical crews and an intelligence unit equipped with sophisticated surveillance and global tracking technology.

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SEAL Team 6 headquarters in Virginia.

The Navy SEALs — the acronym stands for Sea, Air, Land forces — evolved from the frogmen of World War II. Team 6 arose decades later, born out of the failed 1980 mission to rescue 53 American hostages seized in the takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran. Poor planning and bad weather forced commanders to abort the mission, and eight servicemen died when two aircraft collided over the Iranian desert.

He flouted rules and fostered a maverick image for the unit. (Years after leaving the command, he was convicted of military contract fraud.) In his autobiography, “Rogue Warrior,” Commander Marcinko describes drinking together as important to SEAL Team 6’s solidarity; his recruiting interviews often amounted to boozy chats in a bar.

Inside Team 6, there were initially two assault groups, called Blue and Gold, after the Navy colors. Blue used the Jolly Roger pirate flag as its insignia and early on earned the nickname “the Bad Boys in Blue,” for racking up drunken driving arrests, abusing narcotics and crashing rental cars on training exercises with near impunity.

Young officers sometimes were run out of Team 6 for trying to clean up what they perceived as a culture of recklessness. Adm. William H. McRaven, who rose to head the Special Operations Command and oversaw the Bin Laden raid, was pushed out of Team 6 and assigned to another SEAL team during the Marcinko era after complaining of difficulties in keeping his troops in line.

Ryan Zinke, a former Team 6 officer and now a Republican congressman from Montana, recalled an episode after a team training mission aboard a cruise liner in preparation for potential hostage rescues at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Mr. Zinke escorted an admiral to a bar in the ship’s lower level. “When we opened the door, it reminded me of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’” Mr. Zinke said, recalling that the admiral was appalled by the operators’ long hair, beards and earrings. “My Navy?” the admiral asked him. “These guys are in my Navy?”

That was the beginning of what Mr. Zinke referred to as “the great bloodletting,” when the Navy purged Team 6’s leadership to professionalize the force. Current and former Team 6 operators said the culture was different today. Members now tend to be better educated, more athletic, older and more mature — though some are still known for pushing limits.

“I got kicked out of the Boy Scouts,” said one former officer. Most Team 6 SEALs, he added, “were like me.”

Inside Team 6, there were initially two assault groups, called Blue and Gold, after the Navy colors. Blue used the Jolly Roger pirate flag as its insignia and early on earned the nickname “the Bad Boys in Blue,” for racking up drunken driving arrests, abusing narcotics and crashing rental cars on training exercises with near impunity.

Young officers sometimes were run out of Team 6 for trying to clean up what they perceived as a culture of recklessness. Adm. William H. McRaven, who rose to head the Special Operations Command and oversaw the Bin Laden raid, was pushed out of Team 6 and assigned to another SEAL team during the Marcinko era after complaining of difficulties in keeping his troops in line.

Ryan Zinke, a former Team 6 officer and now a Republican congressman from Montana, recalled an episode after a team training mission aboard a cruise liner in preparation for potential hostage rescues at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Mr. Zinke escorted an admiral to a bar in the ship’s lower level. “When we opened the door, it reminded me of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’” Mr. Zinke said, recalling that the admiral was appalled by the operators’ long hair, beards and earrings. “My Navy?” the admiral asked him. “These guys are in my Navy?”

That was the beginning of what Mr. Zinke referred to as “the great bloodletting,” when the Navy purged Team 6’s leadership to professionalize the force. Current and former Team 6 operators said the culture was different today. Members now tend to be better educated, more athletic, older and more mature — though some are still known for pushing limits.

Delta Force members, who have a reputation for going by the book, often start out as regular infantry, then move up through the Army’s Ranger units and Special Forces teams before joining Delta. But SEAL Team 6 is more isolated from the rest of the Navy, with many of its men entering the brutal SEAL training pipeline from outside the military.

After several years on regular SEAL teams — the even-numbered ones based in Virginia Beach, the odd-numbered ones in San Diego, and a unit in Hawaii dedicated to mini-submarines — SEALs can try out for Team 6. Many are eager to get to the most elite unit, but about half of them wash out.

Officers rotate through Team 6, sometimes returning for several tours, but the enlisted SEALs typically stay far longer, giving them outsize influence. “A lot of the enlisted guys think that they really run the show,” said one former senior member. “That’s part of the Marcinko style.”

And they tend to swagger, critics and defenders say. While the other SEAL teams (called “white” or “vanilla” SEALs within the military) perform similar tasks, Team 6 pursues the highest value targets and takes on hostage rescues in combat zones. It also works more with the C.I.A. and does more clandestine missions outside war zones. Only Team 6 trains to chase after nuclear weapons that fall into the wrong hands.

Latitude to Kill

Early on in the Afghan war, SEAL Team 6 was assigned to protect the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai; one of the Americans was grazed in the head during an assassination attempt on the future president. But in the years that followed, Mr. Karzai became a bitter critic of the United States Special Operations troops, complaining that they routinely killed civilians in raids. He viewed the activities of Team 6 and other units as a boon for Taliban recruiting and eventually tried to block night raids entirely.


SEAL Team 6 was assigned to protect the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. After an assassination attempt in 2002 in Kandahar, a team member whose head was wounded used his shirt to stanch the bleeding.

Most missions were not lethal. Several Team 6 members said they herded women and children together and knocked men out of the way, with a push or a gun muzzle, to search homes. They frequently took prisoners; a number of detainees had broken noses after SEALs punched them in struggles to subdue them, one officer said.

The Team 6 members often operate under the watchful eyes of their commanders — officers at overseas operations centers and at Dam Neck can routinely view live surveillance feeds of raids provided by drones high above — but are also given wide latitude. While Special Operations troops functioned under the same rules of engagement as other military personnel in Afghanistan, Team 6 members routinely performed their missions at night, making life-or-death decisions in dark rooms with few witnesses and beyond the view of a camera.

Operators would use weapons with suppressors to quietly kill enemies as they slept, an act that they defend as no different from dropping a bomb on an enemy barracks. “I snuck into people’s houses while they were sleeping,” Mr. Bissonnette says in his book “No Hero,” written under the pseudonym Mark Owen. “If I caught them with a gun, I killed them, just like all the guys in the command.”

And their decisions tend to be certain. Noting that they shoot to kill, a former noncommissioned officer added that the operators fire “security rounds” into those who are down to ensure that they are dead. (In a 2011 mission on a hijacked yacht off the coast of Africa, one Team 6 member slashed a pirate with a knife and left 91 wounds, according to a medical examiner, after the man and other attackers killed four American hostages. Operators are trained “to slice and dice every major artery,” said one former SEAL.)

After years of refining techniques to sneak up on enemy compounds, Team 6 members were often required to “call out” before attacking a site, akin to a sheriff announcing through a bullhorn, “Come out with your hands up.”

One Operator said that civilian casualties occurred most often during the “call out” operations, which were meant to mitigate exactly such losses. Enemy combatants, he said, would sometimes send out family members and then shoot from behind them, or give civilians flashlights and tell them to point out American positions.

Mr. O’Neill, the former Team 6 member, agreed that the rules could be frustrating. “What we found was, the more latitude for collateral damage that they gave us, the more effective we were because we’re not going to take advantage of it but we know we’re not going to be second-guessed,” he said in an interview. “When there were more rules, it did get more difficult.”


The first high-profile rescue came in 2003, when SEAL Team 6 operators helped retrieve Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who had been injured, captured and held in a hospital, during the early days of the Iraq war.

Six years later, Team 6 members jumped out of cargo planes into the Indian Ocean with their specially designed assault boats in advance of the mission to rescue Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, a container ship hijacked by Somali pirates. The operators, captured in a video shown by Mr. O’Neill, parachuted with swim fins strapped over their boots after releasing four boats — small, fast and equipped with stealth features to evade radar — that were each suspended by a canopy of multiple parachutes. SEAL snipers eventually killed three of the pirates.

In 2012, operators sky-dived into Somalia to free an American aid worker, Jessica Buchanan, and her Danish colleague, Poul Hagen Thisted. JSOC considers its performance as the standard for such missions. The SEALs used a free-fall parachuting technique called “HAHO,” for high altitude-high opening, in which they jump from a high altitude and steer their way on the wind for many miles to cross a border secretly, an exercise so risky that over the years several men died while in training.

seals uss hawaii
SEALS transferring to a sub

A Global Spying Force

From a string of firebases along the Afghan border, Team 6 regularly sent Afghan locals into the tribal areas of Pakistan to collect intelligence. The team transformed the large, brightly painted “jingle” trucks popular in the region into mobile spying stations, hiding sophisticated eavesdropping equipment in the back of the trucks and using Pashtuns to drive them over the border.

Outside the mountains of Pakistan, the team also ventured into the country’s southwest desert, including the volatile Baluchistan region. One mission nearly ended in disaster when militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade from a doorway, causing the roof of their compound to collapse and a Team 6 sniper atop it to fall through onto a small group of fighters. A fellow American sniper nearby quickly killed them, one former operator recounted.

Beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan, members of Team 6’s Black Squadron were scattered around the world on spying missions. Originally Team 6’s sniper unit, Black Squadron was reconfigured after the Sept. 11 attacks to conduct “advance force operations,” military jargon for intelligence gathering and other clandestine activities in preparation for a Special Operations mission.

It was a particularly popular concept at the Pentagon under former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. By the middle of last decade, General McChrystal had designated Team 6 to take on an expanded role in global intelligence-gathering missions, and Black Squadron operatives deployed to American embassies from sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America to the Middle East.

SEAL Team 6 used diplomatic pouches, the regular shipments of classified documents and other material to American diplomatic posts, to get weapons to Black Squadron operators stationed overseas, said a former member. In Afghanistan, Black Squadron operators wore tribal dress and sneaked into villages to plant cameras and listening devices and interview residents in the days or weeks before night raids, according to several former Team 6 members.

The unit sets up front companies to provide cover for Black Squadron operators in the Middle East, and runs floating spying stations disguised as commercial boats off the coasts of Somalia and Yemen. Black Squadron members, working from the American Embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital, were central to the hunt for Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric and American citizen who had become affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was killed in 2011 by a C.I.A. drone.

One former member of Black Squadron said that in Somalia and Yemen, operators were not allowed to pull the trigger unless the highest-value targets were in their sights. “Outside Iraq and Afghanistan we were not throwing any nets,” the former member said. “It was totally different.”

Black Squadron has something the rest of SEAL Team 6 does not: female operatives. Women in the Navy are admitted to Black Squadron and sent overseas to gather intelligence, usually working in embassies with male counterparts. One former SEAL Team 6 officer said that male and female members of Black Squadron would often work together in pairs. It is called “profile softening,” making the couple appear less suspicious to hostile intelligence services or militant groups.

Black Squadron now has more than 100 members, its growth coinciding with the expansion of perceived threats around the world. It also reflects the shift among American policy makers. Anxious about using shadow warriors in the years after the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia, government officials today are willing to send units like SEAL Team 6 to conflicts, whether the United States chooses to acknowledge its role or not.

“When I was in, we were always chasing wars,” said Mr. Zinke, the congressman and former Team 6 member. “These guys found them.”

Posted July 11, 2015 by markosun in Uncategorized

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