The failed attempt earlier this week to raid Caracas by boat and capture the illegitimate Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro has generated many questions about possible U.S. government backing. As I previously noted, based on the available evidence, U.S. backing appears highly unlikely. It is even more unlikely given the numerous tactical and operational blunders committed by the amateur “mercenaries.”
The rogue private paramilitary mission, named “Operation Gideon,” and led by former U.S. Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, CEO of Silvercorp, was riddled with mistakes even the most basic officially sanctioned U.S. paramilitary effort would have avoided. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said about the effort, “if we were involved it would have gone differently.”
The most glaring example of the ineptitude of the operation’s leader is the apparent obsession of Goudreau with gaining publicity for his effort while the “secret” operation was in motion. As New York Magazine noted:
It should go without saying that if you’re involved in an alleged attempt to overthrow a government already prepared for interference from a well-funded opposition leader, you should keep it offline. But Silvercorp, the private contractor employing the pair of mercenaries, tweeted about the operation on Sunday while it was still in motion…
However, operational security (OPSEC) was lost even before the operation even began. The Gideon plot had already been public knowledge since May 1, when the Associated Press published an exclusive expose on what they described as a “failed attempt to oust Venezuela’s Maduro.”
As The Drive reported:
That story included on-the-record interviews with former associates of the coup plotters and Venezuelan authorities, who also said their intelligence services had infiltrated the group. Those latter claims are supported by previously unexplained reports of increased security in the areas where the Operation Gideon force ultimately landed.
These reports also point to the probability that the operation had been infiltrated by Maduro security and intelligence agents. As The Drive further notes, this probably explains why in recent weeks Maduro forces had been blocking off access to Caracas by placing containers on the highway from la Guaira to Caracas, the route that would likely have been taken by the bumbling “raiders.”
Then there are the numerous basic logistical and tactical failures, such as not having enough fuel for the boat, an engine that broke down, and no spare boats as back-ups. As reported by The Drive, the two captured former Green Berets, Airan Berry and Luke Denman “had engine problems, aborted the mission, and attempted to flee to the Dutch island of Bonaire off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. The motor ran out of fuel well before that, forcing them to attempt a landing.”
There is also this OPSEC absurdity – both Berry and Denman were carrying their U.S. passports and other identifying documents when captured. The detained Venezuelans were all also carrying ID cards or other means of identification, as well – a basic no-no in any type of covert operation.
According to The Drive, in the Venezuelan safe house that was raided by Maduro security forces, they found “unencrypted handheld radios, tablet computers, body armor and helmets, some with American or Venezuelan national flag patches.” Using any type of unencrypted communications in a covert operation is beyond amateur, and likely to get the operators captured or killed.
Based on just these number of operational and tactical blunders, it is almost impossible to accept there was any official U.S. government backing of this farcical operation. As important as the need to show this was in no way sanctioned by the U.S. though, is the need for the Special Forces and Special Operations communities to disavow this buffoonery and protect their stellar reputations. Green Berets are especially well known for their professionalism. (RELATED: Trump Sends Military Message to Venezuela’s ‘Narco-Terrorist’ Dictator)
As one former Marine Corps infantryman and military contractor with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, granted anonymity to speak candidly, said to Vice:
My colleagues who are currently Green Berets have completely denounced the careless and vain manner this operation seems to have been executed in and they don’t want this operation or company associated with the prestige and legacy of the Army Special Forces community.”
I’ve had the privilege of being on teams with Green Berets and in each instance, they were consistently reliable, the epitome of what a teammate should be, and performed at a high operational standard. I think that’s what makes this all the more confusing and disappointing for veterans seeing this play out right now. The contrast between this situation and the level Army Special Forces units operate is breathtaking to say the least.
Amen to that.