About That Delta Force Guy Killed in Iraq…

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About That Delta Force Guy Killed in Iraq…

Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a U.S. soldier and member of an elite Delta Force unit was killed during a raid on an ISIS facility in Iraq last week. (Photo: via NBC News)

(Editor's note: When Van Buren wrote this article, he predicted Washington would use the death of Sergeant Joshua Wheeler as a propaganda tool to enable greater U.S. involvement in the Iraq/Syria war. Sad to say, it took less than 24 hours for Van Buren's prediction to come true, as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter unveiled a new strategy in its war against Islamic State. For the first time, American military advisors will overtly be on the ground in Syria, some of the existing 3,200 advisors in Iraq will be moved closer to the front lines, and American special forces will be sent into direct combat in both locations. These actions will almost certainly result in additional American combat injuries and deaths. They may also turn out to be the vanguard of an even deeper American involvement in what appears to be a war without end in the Middle East.)

The United States does not formally acknowledge the existence of Delta Force, and rarely mentions the names of any of its members, even after they leave the service.

Unlike the SEALs, who seem to be prolific writers, Delta operators keep to themselves. Most of the unit’s actions abroad are never mentioned publicly, and when an operator is killed in combat, often the death goes unmentioned in the press, or attributed sometime later to a training accident.

So the very public attention given at the highest levels in Washington to the combat death of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was more than a little significant.

Wheeler was not only acknowledged as having fought with Delta, but his photo was widely published. That in itself is usually a no-no, for fear of linking him to others and outing active duty Delta. His place of death, on the ground, deep inside Iraq, on a strike mission, was explicit, with only a little b.s. thrown in about how Delta was present to provide security for the Kurdish raiding forces seeking to free some hostages. Well, well, nobody in their right mind believes America’s finest special forces are sent out to provide security for a bunch of gussied up militiamen.

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That all within the context that the president of the United States has made it explicit that his war against Islamic State would not involve any American “boots on the ground.” Well, Sergeant Wheeler most definitely was an example of boots on the ground. There were an awful lot of reasons to have said nothing about Wheeler, and instead much has been said.

So why all the public attention to Wheeler’s death, and why now?

One reason stands out: we, the public, are being readied for a larger U.S. combat role in Iraq and Syria, one big enough that it will be hard to keep hidden.

The circumstances of Wheeler’s death are picture perfect for such a plan. He was a revered hero simply by the nature of the unit he served with. He was fighting with about the only competent and pro-American force left in the Middle East, the Kurds. He was fighting the most evil enemy of America (for now), Islamic State. He was on a successful rescue mission; hostages were freed, prisoners released, some IS bad guys dispatched. And the whole thing was conveniently videotaped — a videotaped special forces raid. How often do you see that? You don’t.

The whole could not be more palatable to an American public perhaps just a little bit weary of war in the Middle East.

Now hear this: in an “exclusive,” meaning the entire story was handed intact to a single reporter to jot down and print, The Hill reports “top leaders at the Pentagon are considering a range of options to bolster the military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), including embedding some U.S. troops with Iraqi forces… A second option sent to Pentagon leaders would embed U.S. forces with Iraqis closer to the battlefield, at the level of a brigade or a battalion. Some of the options sent to Pentagon leaders would entail high risk for U.S. troops in Iraq and require more personnel.”

Timing? Couldn’t be better. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joseph Dunford (himself just back from Iraq) will discuss the options when they testify today, October 27, in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They will no doubt raise Wheeler’s name.

I don’t like to traffic in conspiracy theories, but if you can put these pieces together in another way without having to use the word “coincidence” a couple of times, I’d be interesting in what you have to say. Otherwise, hang on, the United States is doubling down in the quagmire of Iraq. Again.

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well. His new book is We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).

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