6 months, 3 weeks ago
This Washington Times blog post adds yet another wrinkle to the assault by enemy military forces on our consulate in Benghazi. Take careful note of what is apparently official, and also what is not.
Is an American General losing his job for trying to save the Americans besieged in Benghazi? This is the latest potential wrinkle in the growing scandal surrounding the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack that left four men dead and President Obama scrambling for a coherent explanation.
On October 18, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appeared unexpectedly at an otherwise unrelated briefing on “Efforts to Enhance the Financial Health of the Force.” News organizations and CSPAN were told beforehand there was no news value to the event and gave it scant coverage. In his brief remarks Mr. Panetta said, “Today I am very pleased to announce that President Obama will nominate General David Rodriguez to succeed General Carter Ham as commander of U.S. Africa Command.” This came as a surprise to many, since General Ham had only been in the position for a year and a half. The General is a very well regarded officer who made AFRICOM into a true Combatant Command after the ineffective leadership of his predecessor, General William E. “Kip” Ward. Later, word circulated informally that General Ham was scheduled to rotate out in March 2013 anyway, but according to Joint doctrine, ”the tour length for combatant commanders and Defense agency directors is three years.” Some assumed that he was leaving for unspecified personal reasons.
I heard a story today from someone inside the military that I trust entirely. The story was in reference to General Ham that Panetta referenced in the quote below.
“(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Panetta told Pentagon reporters. “And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”
The information I heard today was that General Ham as head of Africom received the same e-mails the White House received requesting help/support as the attack was taking place. General Ham immediately had a rapid response unit ready and communicated to the Pentagon that he had a unit ready.
General Ham then received the order to stand down. His response was to screw it, he was going to help anyhow. Within 30 seconds to a minute after making the move to respond, his second in command apprehended General Ham and told him that he was now relieved of his command.
The story continues that now General Rodiguez would take General Ham’s place as the head of Africom.
This version of events contradicts Mr. Panetta’s October 25 statement that General Ham advised against intervention. But so far there is nothing solid to back it up. Maybe Ham attempted to send a reaction force against orders, or maybe he simply said the wrong thing to the wrong people. Perhaps he gave whomever he was talking to up the chain a piece of his mind about leaving Americans to die when there was a chance of saving them. At the very least U.S. forces might have made those who killed our people pay while they were still on the scene. The Obama White House is famously vindictive against perceived disloyalty – the administration would not let Ham get away with scolding them for failing to show the leadership necessary to save American lives. The Army’s ethos is to leave no man behind, but that is not shared by a president accustomed to leading from that location.
First of all, recall that General Rodriguez is the one whom I called out almost five years ago for spewing the silly propaganda that the Taliban were too weakened to launch a spring offensive, and also the one who wanted to micromanage a Marine Air Ground Task Force in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Less than six hours before Marines commenced a major helicopter-borne assault in the town of Marjah, Rodriguez’s headquarters issued an order requiring that his operations center clear any airstrike that was on a housing compound in the area but not sought in self-defense. This is rules of engagement of the flavor Rodriguez.
If General Rodriguez is in fact taking over the Africa command, I’m not impressed with Panetta’s decision. Then again, I think Panetta is a weasel and his excuse-making cowardly, so I’m not surprised by the decision.
The notion that we don’t send our forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on is patently absurd and false. Simply said, it’s a lie. We deploy Army Rangers to take control of air fields and landing zones in potentially hostile environments, for which we do not know all of the desired information; we deploy Marine infantry into situations of potentially unknown threats all of the time all over the globe; each and every time a patrol left the outpost at the Korengal in Afghanistan, they were deploying into potentially deadly situations without specific and detailed knowledge of the situation.
The counterinsurgency and state-building doctrine that has taken possession of the very souls of our military elite states unequivocally that our forces should be willing to sustain risk – of a potentially unknown quantity and quality – in order to protect the population. But when it comes to protecting our own forces such as those deployed in Benghazi, the excuse is made that we didn’t have enough intelligence.
Finally, as the final nail in the coffin of this ridiculous prevarication, we deploy Marine Scout Snipers and Force Recon all of the time into situations of completely unknown risk, danger and hazard in order to gather intelligence and lay the groundwork for the Marine infantry. If we really needed more information on Benghazi, we could have deployed reconnaissance forces.
Thus has one general been given his walking papers, a system apparatchik been promoted, and yet another lie been woven into the horrible web of lies concerning Benghazi. This is false doctrine being willingly preached by the Secretary of Defense as an attempt to cover the administration. Make no mistake about it. Is there any level to which they will not stoop?
UPDATE #1: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the attention!
UPDATE #2: At NRO’s Corner, David French observes:
His “basic principle” is simply false. We deploy forces all the time in our theaters of war without good real-time information. All. The. Time. If we didn’t, far more men would die. The fog of war never fully clears, and our solution has been to typically go in with sufficient force to deal with virtually any reasonable contingency. But the truly revealing part of the response is here: “General Ham, General Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.” To military ears those are not the words of a man who made a decision; those are the words of a man who made a recommendation. A decision-maker follows his strong feeling with an order: to stand down or decline the request for help. A recommender passes his feeling up the chain of command — in this case, to the president of the United States.
The State Department answered the call with what force it had. The military did not. Either we did not have assets to answer (and that would be a different kind of scandal) or someone made the decision to — in effect — hang up on the 3:00 a.m. caller. Who made that call and why? The military already knows. So should the American people.
UPDATE #3: CJCS denies:
The top U.S. military officer is denying reports that Army Gen. Carter Ham’s planned departure as head of U.S. Africa Command is linked to the Sept. 11 attack in Libya.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey issued a written statement Monday calling speculation about the reasons for Ham’s move “absolutely false.”
Well, Mr. Dempsey, I don’t believe you. It’s sad that it has come to that, no? As for something being absolutely false, Panetta’s claim (see above) remains so.