False Military Doctrine And The Benghazi Assault

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months 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.

However on October 26, “Ambassador” posted the following RUMINT on TigerDroppings (h/t Jim Hoft):

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.


White House Informed Of Militant Claim Two Hours After Benghazi Attack

What’s The Problem With Obama’s Response To Benghazi?

  • jb

    There is no level to which they will not stoop. It’s sad to say. This whole affair has been filled with falsehoods from the beginning.

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  • Sando

    “There is no level to which they will not stoop. It’s sad to say. This whole affair has been filled with falsehoods from the beginning.”
    A comment that is equally true when applied to the Fast and Furious boondoggle. Now this travesty. Nov 6 cannot come quickly enough. It is time for the entire pathetic Obama Administraion to be rejected.

  • http://1152008.com nathan hale

    Thanks for this in-depth look at the situation. The very idea of US military or intelligence people abandoning their own is simply unthinkable – until now. Not only conservatives and libertarians, but *anyone* who believes the USA needs to support our nation’s warriors needs to VOTE for Romney on November 6th!

  • Choey

    I almost choked over Paneta’s claim considering the seriously hot landing zones they dropped us into in Vietnam.

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  • Steve S.

    Ask Sec. Penetta what information he was missing? What extra information would he have needed in order to allow a rescue mission? I would love to hear to answer to that.

  • http://snowgoosechronicles.blogspot.com/ Oscar

    “deploy[ing] forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place” is called a “movement to contact”. It’s not the preferred method, but we do it every day in Afghanistan.

    It’s a standard offensive operation straight out of FM 7-8.

  • Orbit Rain

    Loyalty to Country, Team and Teammate

    2nd in command doesn’t seem to have considered that part of the code. I would toss him out.

  • http://www.skoshitiger.com/Home_Page.html Lee Dodson

    Rodriguez better have a real good JAG lined up. It sounds as if he arrested Ham so that the former commander wouldn’t have time to retire and talk before the election. It is well accepted that Rodriguez’ Rules of Engagement hearken all the way back to Viet Nam, and we all know how well that worked.

    When we Americans fight, we win. When we are led by RAAs, we lose prime combatants. Every mustered out Ranger, SpecOps, PsyOps military person I’ve spoken with says they left for one reason: new Rules of Engagement. Every one.

    Unfortunately, guys like Rodriguez and the new Admiral are cut from the same bolt of cloth as Powell who spoke up to stop the Highway to Hell out of Kuwait. They think we can make friends with the enemy. Hah!

    First, you must destroy the enemy’s will to fight. Make it too expensive in life and property. Only then will the enemy figure it’s in his interest to co-operate. Evil can be very smart, can use our sensitivities against us.

    These guys will kiss our cheeks during the day and shoot our asses off at night or in disguise. What the hell are we thinking when we let it happen?

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  • http://not-yet-europe.com Kevin M

    Wasn’t this “wait for certainty” idea McClellan’s strategy?

  • JeffC

    Lets see …

    there was enough information to dispatch 22 men from Tripoli but not enough information to dispatch a Seal Team from Italy … right …

  • Jim Bowman

    So we now have “political” officers in the fashion of the NKVD?

  • TS Alfabet

    From other web sources, it appears that the CIA did take at least some initiative to save the Americans in Benghazi. Agents/contractors stationed in Tripoli apparently organized an ad hoc rescue party with mercenary Libyan militia. It was this force that eventually drove off the Islamists besieging the Annex in Tripoli. Unfortunately they arrived too late to save Doherty and Woods, but if these brave men had not acted there would doubtlessly have been a far higher body count of dead Americans in Benghazi.

    The picture is getting a little clearer now and we can piece together what seems to have happened along these lines:

    1. The attack on the consulate began at roughly 9:40 pm Benghazi time.
    2. Shortly thereafter the consulate security and staff sent a call for help and AFRICOM, the White House, Pentagon, CIA and others in the loop were alerted.
    3. General Ham at AFRICOM dispatched one or more unarmed drones to provide real time intel overhead of the consulate.
    4. The consulate staff and security team (Sean Smith) were in real time, constant audio contact with either AFRICOM, the Pentagon, the State Dept. or a mix of all of them, providing real time updates on the attack.
    5. The security team at the CIA Annex one mile away from the Consulate (Doherty and Woods) was also alerted to the attack and began requesting permission to go to the consulate to aid the Americans under attack.
    6. The narrative conflicts here with some claiming that Doherty and Woods were twice told to “stand down” while Petraeus’ CIA spokeswoman recently denied that the two were ever told not to aid the consulate. In any event, Doherty and Woods went to the aid of the consulate within a short time after the start of the attack.
    7. Doherty and Woods arrive at the consulate and manage a daring rescue of the remaining staff and retrieve Smith’s body. The ambassador is missing and, apparently, abducted, tortured and killed by the Islamist attackers according to reports in the foreign press.
    8. Doherty and Woods bring the survivors and Smith’s body back to the CIA Annex a mile away.
    9. At some point after the attack began on the consulate, someone (likely General Ham) dispatches a C-130 Spectre gunship to be on station over the Annex. We know this because Doherty and/or Woods take positions on the roof of the Annex and call for fire support from the Spectre using laser guides to pinpoint the location of Islamist mortar teams.
    10. Presumably by this time, Gen. Ham also has the SOF or other teams ready and waiting for clearance to come to the aid of the Annex.
    11. The White House makes the decision to forbid anyone from coming to the aid of the besieged Americans.
    12. General Ham is relieved of command immediately when he disobeys the order.
    13. The Spectre does not fire on the mortar team.
    14. The Islamist mortars hit the roof of the Annex, killing both Woods and Doherty.
    15. CIA contractors from Tripoli arrive with some Libyan militia and engage the Islamists. As more militia are brought in the Islamists call off the attack and retreat into the city.
    16. The surviving Americans are taken in militia trucks to the Benghazi airport and flown out of the country.


  • ParatrooperJJ

    I’ll point out that we have a Airborne Brigade in Italy for just this sort of thing. There’s no doubt we could have had at least a company of paratroopers on the ground soon enough to matter.

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  • Gene

    I have always respected Mr Panetta until now. He is now protecting the
    Obama admistration in decieving the American people. It’s absolutely discusting the way Obama and his people are covering up the obvious.
    It’s now 6 weeks since this terrible event happened and we have to wait till after the election to find out what happened. What a disgrace! Also,
    I want to know what information Panetta needed to make an honorable decision, since they were watching the event in real time, and the Seals
    Woods and Daughtery were begging for help.

  • http://www.orbat.com Ravi

    Of course we launch forces into the unknown but this was not a combat operation as much as a potential civilian hostage rescue. With the Embassy staff and mob and hard core element of mob all mixed in, sending in troops might have ended up with the opposite of the desired results. Is 173rd even in Italy at this time and does it maintain a company for launch at short notice? 82nd Div used to do that in cold war. I am not defending administration’s pitiful media handling. Administration deserves all condemnation for its response. But lets not lose sight of the real problem: Ambassador Stevens should not have gone to Benghazi to begin with. He did because he was a brave man, but the risk went against him.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Not a combat operation. And there were some 200+ fighters aligned against a handful of brave souls left to defend themselves when the cowardly actions took place by the DoD.

    Not a combat operation. You may not know it, but your comments are so idiotic that you really want me to remove them for you so that you won’t be embarrassed. But I’ll leave them up to punish you for being so stupid.

  • Tom Poole

    “not a combat operation”? Any act of war against the US is a combat operation. An attack on a Embassy, Counsalate, or person of the Ambassador is an attack on the US. So lets knock off the BS its not a combat situation.
    As for going in without sufficient knowledge. Admittedly my memories go back to Viet Nam, and Korea before that, but I dont think we ever knew what in hell we were up against until we were up to our butts. Sure we knew in general that some forces might be in the area (or not), but never with certainty as to their strength or disposition. Thats why most of our ‘raids’ were called ‘sneak and peek’.
    Pannetta used to be a person I had respect for, now he is shown as simply a party hack. He should resign now, not wait for the hearings, which will certainly come.

  • Šťoural

    173rd Airborne is currently in Afghanistan.

  • richard40

    It appears that obamas corruption has now extended to parts of our armed forces. But it also appears that rank and file, and even some higher ranks, like Gen Ham, have not yet been corrupted, and payed the price for their integrity by being dismissed. If we have 4 more yrs with Obama, our armed forces, like the rest of the nation, might not be able to recover.

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