Makhmur, Iraq (TFC)– Post-action reports from Iraq reveal recent ISIS rocket barrages killed at least one US Marine, the State Department told press. Despite being just days old, the attack has already rippled outward, changing the war once more. It’s shockwave has also forced various, well, shady details and past incidents to the surface, all obscured within the black void of clandestine wartime theatre.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook disclosed the death of a “US Marine providing force protection fire support at a recently established coalition firebase”, USA Today reports. Several other Marines were reported WIA (Wounded In Action), and are reputedly undergoing treatment. After marking this as “the second combat death since the start of Operation: Inherent Resolve”, Cook steeled military personnel for ongoing combat.
America’s first official combat casualty was Delta Force Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who died under circumstances as obscure as his unit. Pentagon spokespeople claimed Wheeler died following a raid which ultimately freed 70 Islamic State hostages. According to International Business Times, wounds from small arms fire claimed the man, who fought alongside Peshmerga and 30 other Americans. Government officials claim five IS fighters were “detained” and four killed, four Kurds were wounded.
Although IBT reports this as the first confirmed US Special Forces raid against the group older, less reported-on raids have occurred in Syria. Additionally, reports of British SAS, close colleagues of Delta Force in this war and others, conducting hunter-killer operations have existed since late 2014.
Although reports of Syria’s first official kill-capture raid initially involved only Delta Force, British SAS were later reported as having participated. The operatives reputedly used American uniforms and weapons in a raid which occurred months before they’d been given official authorization to operate in Syria.
The death toll doesn’t stop at these two Americans, despite the incidents’ portrayal in media. One of the first western military casualties was Canadian special forces Sgt. Joseph Doiron in 2015. Western and indigenous forces having intel and timeline disagreements isn’t unusual or unheard of, Doiron’s death was one such disagreement.
What’s for certain, AP reports, is he’d been killed by friendly Peshmerga fire as his squad returned from the front lines– that’s it. From there, Peshmerga claimed they mistook them for ISIS, saying the unit showed up unannounced to conduct airstrikes. “When they returned”, said director of coordination and relations for Peshmerga forces Hezhar Ismail, “the Peshmerga asked them to identify themselves.”
Peshmerga spokesperson Halgurd Hekmat claimed the soldiers “answered in Arabic, that’s when Peshmerga started shooting. It was their [the Canadians] fault.” Hekmat went on to call the soldiers actions “illogical”, “an improper action by the Canadians.” Canadian defense minister Jason Kenney disagreed, claiming the soldiers were returning from a outpost 200 meters behind the front line.
Eventually the incident was chalked up to battle fatigued fighters making a costly, but understandable mistake. No further efforts were made to answer the many questions haunting the sergeant’s death. Shortly afterward, the American military acknowledged it’s first casualty– Corporal Jordan L. Spears.
According to reports, Spears and other marines were forced to jump from their aircraft after it lost power shortly after take off. Spears was declared lost at sea then later reclassified as the first American death associated with the war. According to the Examiner, Spears died in the war before US officials had given it an official name. No further details surrounding his death were ever released or sought after. Shortly afterward, Lance Corporal Sean P. Neal died in an unspecified “non-combat incident” in late 2014. Although the Pentagon claimed it was launching an investigation no updates, details, or even theories have been disclosed.
Then comes America’s most recent casualty: Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, killed in a firefight supporting Iraqi forces. According to the Daily Beast, the families of 200 marines including Cardin’s were notified of his units relocation to northern Iraq three days before. The US military provided no details on what they’d be doing, or even where in northern Iraq they’d gone.
Following his death, two officials told Daily Beast reporters they’d been deployed expecting the biggest battle of the war. According to Daily Beast, the operation was meant to send a message that America’s war was evolving yet again. What’s interesting is that although the US kept the soldiers whereabouts from the families, their supply helicopters showed ISIS fighters exactly where the base was. The subsequent rocket attack reputedly killed Staff Sgt. Cardin in his bunker, others were wounded, a few seriously so.
Cardin’s death shatters a narrative peddled since the beginning of the war; one which portrays US Special Forces as non combative advisers within secure bases. These Marines instead operated out of a bare-bones firebase near the front, Daily Beast reports, directly involved in fighting. Another attack came just days after, claiming no US forces but instead, the lives of at least two militants.
According to the Daily Beast, Staff Sgt. Cardin’s unit joined at least 1,475 other troops not listed as part of Operation: Inherent Resolve, bringing the actual troop count into question. A murkier atmosphere encompasses the operations of military contractors in Iraq, especially those involved with clandestine action, like Delta Force.
The most striking aspect of this death is how it’s been reported on thus far– as if casualties are only just now occurring. What do all of these cases have in common but a dark, looming curtain fending off even the loved ones of soldiers?
All wars are sustained by commitment to cause, catalyzed by propaganda, and nourished with fear. By harnessing the power of media, and shock, the Islamic State achieved unprecedented propagandic capabilities. It gripped a people, who’d ultimately refuse conventional war, with fear and paranoid uncertainty. As a result, US Special Operations and their colleagues own this war, and there’s no embedding with them. That being said, and given the cases outlined herein, you make up your own mind as to what’s happening on the ground. Your guess is as good as anyone’s without top secret clearance.