Sunday, May 19, 2013 5:59 AM
The overwhelming presence in the Extortion 17 press conference last week, which I wrote about in last week's syndicated column, was the pain that filled every corner of the room. The shootdown of the Chinook CH-47 carrying 17 SEALS and 13 other American forces on August 6, 2011 may have faded like newsprint for most of us, but there on the top floor of the National Press Club, a stone's throw from the White House, the shock of it was still nightmare-vivid, particularly as the families described the holes in the military's investigation, and closed doors and runaround they gotten ever since. What they want are answers to their natural questions, and accountability for the failures of the mission. For them, this is a grieving process without end untl they are treated with the decency and respect that their sacrifice merits and they receive answers they need and surely deserve.
One set of question that burns is why, on a SEAL Team 6 mission in August 2011, three months after the bin Laden strike, at at time when (by September) I could already count 40 murders of American and other infidel (NATO) forces over the past 22 months, were 7 Afghans along for the ride?
Why were the 7 Afghans on the manifest scrubbed at the last minute and replaced?
Who were the 7 Afghans who came on board?
And why, as the families say, weren't any Afghan commanders interviewed during the military investigation?
I asked the aunt of slain SEAL Michael Strange to describe how it happened that she first heard about the Afghans on board. She wrote:
Hi Diana --
It was on the morning of August 6th they went to my sister in laws house (Michael's mother Betsy) Betsy had called me screaming around 9:30 that the Navy was at her house and that Michael was dead. It was horrific.
My husband & I ran up to her house and 3 representatives from the Navy were there. I kept asking them over and over what had happened & they said that Michael had gone on a rescue mission & the helicopter he was in had been shot down by the Taliban.
We thought that it was just Michael & a pilot we did not know there were other people on board. They kept telling us they were waiting for an update from the Command that they only had a little information. Then after about an hour my husband went on the computer and it was on there and he said "It wasn't just Michael...there were others on the Chinook."
Then I asked them again what had happened and they told me the number of our guys that were on there and they said there were 2 Afghan soldiers with them--they were interpreters. I said "I thought you said they were going to rescue Army Rangers" They said "That's right" So I asked them "If they were going to rescue Army Rangers why would they need interpreters? Army Rangers speak English" They did not respond.
It was absolutely horrific. Michael was a sweet kid and he had plans for the future he was taking college courses and he was looking into going to Johns Hopkins for nursing. He was smart, he was really funny, and he had the kindest heart you would ever imagine.
One thing I am happy about--he knew that we all loved him dearly.
If they were going to rescue Army Rangers, why would they need interpreters?
If there's a good reason, let's have it.
Follow me @diana_west_