Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 9 Comments

Next City: In a war, anything can be a weapon. In a particularly ruthless war, such as the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than three years, those weapons are often turned against civilians, making any semblance of normal life impossible. Such is the case, experts say, with the way the nation’s water supply is being manipulated to inflict suffering on the population. According to an article posted by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, water…… [read more]

Benghazi: Shit Happens

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 11 months ago

Douglas Kmiec writing for Huffington Post gives us one of the canned progressive responses to the debacle at Benghazi.

First, a reminder: the work of the American foreign service in the Middle- East extending into the Mediterranean is difficult, and often, dangerous. The particular risks of working in Libya were well-reported to the Department of State in cable and in person by Ambassador Stevens, who, readers of this column know, was a fellow diplomat serving in neighboring country. To meet Chris is to instantly like him and I grew ever more admiring. I know from conversation with Chris dating back to spring 2011 that he was well aware of the risks in his assigned mission. Chris understood the primary risk to be the absence of any governmental tradition.

This is a slight more polished response than the one given to me earlier by a Facebook “friend” named Philip Smucker, an independent journalist whom some may know (he has written about Afghanistan).

I listened to his rants as we debated Benghazi, with Philip claiming to be good friends with Ambassador Stevens.  Good friends.  He mentioned it enough times in his Facebook replies that it became rather odd and monotonous.  He then gave me a long winded discussion about the risks associated with being in Libya, told me that Stevens assuredly knew about them, and then said, “What I’m trying to tell you is that shit happens!”

There you have it.  Good friends with Mr. Stevens take the position that shit just simply happens.  At that point I unfriended Philip not because we take different political views, but because I consider that to be one of the creepiest responses I can imagine.

Forget questions of who ordered what and when it was ordered and what assets were available to assist those poor souls at Benghazi.  Smucker, a known and very vocal supporter of Mr. Obama, just thinks that “shit happens.”

It doesn’t work that way with other Presidents, or for those with whom he disagrees.  For instance, he also went off on a diatribe against Mr. Bush for allowing UBL escape Tora Bora.  For Smucker, who wrote a book on the subject, UBL’s escape isn’t about shit happening.

But for the right President, people like Smucker and Kmiec are willing to throw their colleagues and good friends under the bus.  They are just so much collateral damage, and knew all about the risks associated with their job.

For those who have followed my prose, I was as hard on Bush for untimely reinforcement of the troops in Iraq as I have been on Obama for giving the Operation Enduring Freedom less than half of the additional troops requested, and much less than needed.

I also don’t care for the present discussion about why Stevens was at that “special mission” (although the reasons will be important in the future).  When we find out all of the facts, I may disagree with the assignment.  Some Americans disagreed with Operation Iraqi Freedom too.  But when my son was deployed to Fallujah in 2007, I would have expected the 2/6 Marines to move heaven and earth to find my son had he been captured or upon learning that his fire team was under siege.  Once the deployment is decided, America owes the very best to our men, including Mr. Stevens.

“Shit happens” isn’t even nearly an acceptable excuse.  But then again, I suppose that’s the difference between me and Philip.

Trouble With The Benghazi Timeline

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 11 months ago

The distraction has been successful.  For several days now, America (and its horrible main stream media) has been captivated by stories of scandals involving generals and men who have no business being involved in anything other than making the weighty decisions to protect the country.  As one recent commenter said, if you want to play games, get out of the way and let a more serious person make the moves.

There are a number of disparate timelines being floated by various sources (I’ve seen most or all of them), and sooner or later the truth will come out.  Someone will divulge what he knows, and it will differ from some other report, and then the other report can be examined more closely for accuracy, and so on until the investigative work points to all of the culpable actors.  Secrets cannot be kept, and the sooner the truth comes out the better off the innocent actors will fare.

But one such recent report in the midst of the silly focus on tawdry affairs comes to us from Fox News.  Here is the money quote.

The Pentagon says that the European-based team of rescuers landed at Sigonella air base at 7:57 p.m. on Sept. 12, more than 20 hours after the attack began and 40 minutes after the last survivor was flown out of Tripoli on a U.S. C-17 transport plane.

Fox News has learned more details about the European rescue team. More than 30 Special Operations Forces, part of a Commander’s In Extremis Force, or CIF, which is normally on a short tether, are deployed in the event of a terror attack. They are a counterterror SWAT team.

The group ordered toward Libya was from the Charlie 110 Company, based in Stuttgart, Germany, but had been training in Croatia on an exercise known as “Jackal Stone.” The training involved counterterrorism exercises.

Military sources familiar with the orders given to the CIF team tell Fox News the CIF plane headed to Libya — not to first stage at Sigonella as the Pentagon timeline suggests. The Pentagon denies this, saying simply that they were ordered to an intermediate staging base.

What cannot be confirmed is what time that team could have been outside Libyan air space. The Pentagon won’t say when they took off from Croatia.

Multiple defense sources say that the plane did not have permission to enter Libya. That permission would have to be secured from the Libyans by the State Department.

Survivors of the attack at the annex say that they heard over the radio net that night that U.S. military assets were, “feet dry over Libya,” which would refer to assets crossing from sea to land and hovering. The Pentagon denies this.

The original story board that shows the CIF movement that night is difficult to find, according to those who saw the original timeline. The official brief, according to those familiar with it, simply says that the plane landed at Sigonella at 7:57 p.m. on Sept. 12 — 20 hours after the start of the attack, even though they were just a few hours away in Croatia.

This raises the question: what time did they get their orders and how long did it take the CIF to scramble?

The team was most likely flying on a modified MC-130 P Talon 2. A modified C-130 flying from Croatia about 900 miles from the Libyan coast could have been there under three hours from take-off. Croatia to Libya is the same distance approximately as Washington, D.C., to Miami.

Furthermore, the modified C-130 plane used by Special Operations teams can be refueled in flight, allowing them to extend their range and hover time, if an air refueling plane is available. It can fly for nine hours without being refueled.

Here is the offending part: “The official brief, according to those familiar with it, simply says that the plane landed at Sigonella at 7:57 p.m. on Sept. 12 — 20 hours after the start of the attack, even though they were just a few hours away in Croatia.”

This is simply not believable.  It cannot possibly be correct.  Such forces carry pagers and aren’t allowed to take local tours to get drunk and visit with the local women.  If commanded to deploy to Benghazi to protect American citizens and interests (such as classified documents at the consulate – or “special mission” as the Ambassador called it), they were a few hours away at the most.  This report strains credulity and just doesn’t pass simple tests of acceptability for evidence.  I’ll say it again.  It’s just incorrect, and if the report actually reads that way, the first interrogation should be saved for the author of that report.

On the other hand, it would make better sense if the balance of the Fox News report is accurate and the official statement a lie, with the timeline including a short flight from Croatia to Libya, with the administration showing deference to a non-existent Libyan government and refusing to land in Libya without “permission.”  Short of further data and information, thus far this is the most believable report.

More Benghazi Excuses

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 11 months ago

We’ve discussed the excuses for the failure to respond to the assault on the consulate (or “special mission,” as the Ambassador called it).

  1. The only other assets immediately available were F-16 fighter jets based at Aviano, Italy. These aircraft might have reached Benghazi while the fight at the Annex was still going on, but they would have had difficulty pinpointing hostile mortar positions or distinguishing between friendly and hostile militias in the midst of a confused firefight in a densely populated residential area where there would have been a high likelihood of civilian casualties.
  2. There was no AC-130 within a continent’s range of Benghazi.
  3. “We didn’t have forewarning of this tragic event in Benghazi,” Little said. “The entire U.S. government was starting from a cold start.”
  4. We were preparing for a hostage situation.

We can now add to list of excuses this one.

Sources who have debriefed the team that was at the CIA annex the night of the attack in Benghazi say that the CIA operators from the Global Response Staff, or GRS, were equipped with Mark 48 machine guns and had two types of laser capability. Each weapon had both a “passive” as well as a “visible” laser that could be used against the Libyan attackers.

The presence of laser capability on the roof of the CIA annex confirms what Fox News sources that night in Benghazi originally said, which is that they had laser capability and for 5 hours and 15 minutes were wondering where the usual overhead air support was, especially since, according to this source, they radioed from the annex beginning as early as midnight asking for it.

The presence of lasers raises more questions about why air support was not sent to Benghazi even protectively once it became clear that the fighting had followed the CIA rescue team back to the annex.

U.S. military officials say they “thought the fighting was over” after the team left the consulate and that there was a lull in the fighting.

[ ... ]

A source present the night of the attack says that the GRS team that was defending the annex asked where the air support was at midnight. Former SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed 5 hours and 15 minutes later.

Forget for a moment the inherent contradiction in these excuses (see prior articles).  They didn’t have the assets, but even if they did, they were prepared for something else (i.e., a hostage situation), but even so, we were all caught with our pants down, but even with our pants down, we had moved assets to the area, but then, F-16 fighters in Europe were not on alert (I could be wrong about this, but deployed fighter pilots are able to be reached, just like SEALs are within pager distance), and so on.  It’s the leaky bucket problem, and ten of them still leak even when used together.

Thought the fighting was over.”  There you have it.  What reason could there possibly be for concluding anything whatsoever at this point?  How could military and national security professionals concoct such strange, bizarre tales?

Prior:

So What Were The Assets Available For Benghazi, Part II?

So What Were The Assets Available For Benghazi?

Benghazi Inconsistencies

False Military Doctrine And The Benghazi Assault

So What Were The Assets Available For Benghazi, Part II?

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 11 months ago

Prior: So What Were The Assets Available For Benghazi?

The Pentagon has responded to the question of assets available to respond to the debacle at Benghazi.

Among the units ordered by Panetta on the night of the attack to Sicily,  which is less than 500 miles from Libya,were two special operations teams that were moved to  Sigonella.

As previously reported, one of the units came from a U.S. military base in “Central Europe.” And Little disclosed that Panetta also ordered another team from the United States to head to Sigonella.   Little refused to describe what kind of unit was sent from the U.S., though it was presumably a special operations team trained for hostage rescues.

Little said both the units “did not arrive until after the entire sequence of events was complete. … They were in Sigonella many hours after the attacks.”

The Pentagon spokesman said that it can take hours for troops to be organized and transported to where they might be used.  He added that at the time they were ordered to move, policy makers  ”did not know when the attacks would end.”  Little said that, in theory, a hostage situation in Benghazi could have lasted for days.

“We didn’t have forewarning of this tragic event in Benghazi,” Little said. “The entire U.S. government was starting from a cold start.”

[ ... ]

Little reaffirmed that no other American aircraft were involved over Libya the night of the attack beyond the unarmed surveillance drone that arrived 90 minutes into the attack.  As for reports that an AC-130 gunship could have been dispatched over Libya at the time of the attack,  Little was clear that “there was no AC-130 within a continent’s range of Benghazi” that night.

Yet astute commenter Šťoural (Jan Špaček, Czechoslovakia) gives this summary of assets via e-mail.

1) NAS Sigonella: NAS Sigonella supports a rotational VP squadron, an HC squadron, C-2, C-9, and C-130 detachments, shore-based fleet aircraft, transient NATO aircraft and U.S. Air Force transient aircraft.  Look at Google Earth Photo 17th March 2011-four P3C Orion, 37°24’27.89″N,14°54’49.81″E

CTF-67 is a subordinate command to Commander, U.S. SIXTH Fleet and maintains tactical control of deployed maritime patrol and reconnaissance squadrons. When assigned to CTF-67, P-3C Orion aircraft provide the Fleet with essential information in the European and African Areas of Responsibility.  The Mediterranean maritime patrol force for these operations included ten P-3Cs, five of the AIP variant, and 14 crews from Patrol Squadrons 1, 4, 5 and 10 from Naval Air Stations Whidbey Island, Barbers Point, Jacksonville, and Brunswick, respectively.

2) P-3C AIP Orion capabilities, Orion is much better then drone Predator and Reaper.

The P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) Hunting terrorists in the peaks of the Hindu Kush? Spotting for special operations troops in Iraq? Not the stereotypical MPA missions.

Not only has the Navy’s front-line MPA been venturing far inland; it has been an indispensable surveillance platform in the global war on terrorism, a sensor and weapon platform that has impressed operational commanders with its high degree of utility and versatility.

3) CIF,probably C-company, 1st Bn, 10thSFG at least be able to make CASEVAC and NEO-non-combatant evacuation operation from Benghazi Airport.

Example operation CIF

I had also mentioned that Marine Force Recon should have been available at Sigonella.  And all of this brings up an important point.  I think I have made a mistake in framing the question so broadly, i.e., what assets were available to the DoD to assist at Benghazi?  One important but easily overlooked exigency in the DoD rebuttal above is this idea of a hostage situation.  It is mentioned at least twice in the ABC News article.

The Department of Defense rebuttal answers nothing, but adds to the list of problems.  The proper way to frame this discussion is this: What assets existed at Sigonella that night (Delta Force, SEAL Teams, Marine Force Recon, MPs, cooks, administrative staff, etc.)?  This report leads to more questions, such as did the National Security Counsel or Pentagon war game this scenario in such a manner that precluded the consideration of assets available at Sigonella because they weren’t specifically related to the scenario being gamed (e.g., a hostage situation)?  Why weren’t forces of any kind sent to relieve the poor souls in Benghazi?

On to the recent and very important Fox News report from the ground in Benghazi.

As details emerge of serious security issues before the attack on Sept. 11, Fox News is also beginning to hear more frustration from sources both on the ground in Benghazi and in the U.S. Multiple British and American sources insist there were other capabilities in the region and are mystified why none were used. Fox News was told there were not only armed drones that monitor Libyan chemical weapon sites in the area, but also F-18′s, AC-130 aircraft and even helicopters that could have been dispatched in a timely fashion.

British intelligence sources said that unarmed drones routinely flew over Benghazi every night in flight patterns and that armed drones which fly over chemical sites, some a short flight from Benghazi, “were always said to be on call.” American sources confirmed this and questioned “why was a drone armed only with a camera dispatched?”

Another source added, “Why would they put a ragtag team together in Tripoli as first responders? This is not even what they do for a living. We had a first responder air base in Italy almost the same distance away.” Despite the team arriving from Tripoli that night, sources said sufficient American back-up never came.

British sources on the ground in Benghazi said they are extremely frustrated by the attack and are still wondering why they weren’t called for help. “We have more people on the ground here than the Americans and I just don’t know why we didn’t get the call?” one said.

Both American and British sources said, at the very least, the security situation on the ground and the lack of proper response were the result of “complete incompetence.” The covert team that came in from Tripoli was held up at the Benghazi airport for more than three hours by Libyan officials. Sources said the team notified officials in Washington that they were being delayed within 30 minutes of their arrival.

They also point out that these questions “don’t even address the military capabilities of our United Nations ally Turkey, who (has) forces available a similarly short flight away.” Fox News has learned that Turkey had a number of embassy staff in town the night of the attack and that the Turkish consul general met with Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi the night he and the three other Americans were killed.

One source asked, “Were the Turks not warned? What forces were available from our ally Turkey? Especially since they had officials there in Benghazi also and had to be concerned … and where was the U.N. in all of this?”

The Pentagon answers don’t even approach closure on this issue.  Their responses have only raised more questions, and much more work needs to be done on this.

Prior: So What Were The Assets Available For Benghazi?

See also: John Jay

Benghazi Inconsistencies

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 12 months ago

President Obama didn’t deny assistance to the poor souls at Benghazi, or so says President Obama.

The White House on Saturday flatly denied that President Barack Obama withheld requests for help from the besieged American compound in Benghazi, Libya, as it came under on attack by suspected terrorists on September 11th.

“Neither the president nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News by email.

On the other hand, the CIA didn’t tell anyone not to help the poor souls in Benghazi either.

Breaking news on Benghazi: the CIA spokesman, presumably at the direction of CIA director David Petraeus, has put out this statement: “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.

The Department of Defense also isn’t responsible.

Following a pair of denials by the CIA and the National Security Council to a Fox News story published Friday, the Pentagon has come under scrutiny for its response to the assault on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. However, in a statement to The Atlantic Wire, a senior defense official says the Pentagon never rejected requests for military intervention in Benghazi. Not only that, the official said no such requests were ever made.

“The Pentagon took action by moving personnel and assets in the region shortly after it learned of the attack on the Benghazi consulate,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There was no request made for military intervention in Benghazi. To be successful, such an operation, if requested, would have required solid information about what was happening on the ground. Such clarity just wasn’t available as the attack was unfolding.”

Oh my.  See the problem?  The response revealed that there is a problem somewhere along the chain of command.  The DoD never received a request for help according to the DoD.  But then the equivocation.  Just to be successful, they say, they would need “solid information,” and that just wasn’t available.  So if they never received any request, why even mention that there wasn’t enough information (according to them) to help the souls in Benghazi?

But then, we also know that the chain of command denied help to the souls at Benghazi.

Citing “sources who were on the ground” in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News is reporting that an urgent request for military help during last month’s terrorist attack on the US consulate there “was denied by the CIA chain of command.”

Among other things reported in some detail, Fox asserts that a Special Operations team had been moved to US military facilities in Sigonella, Italy – approximately two hours away – but were never told to deploy.

“The fighting at the CIA annex [in Benghazi] went on for more than four hours – enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.”

They had access to the most secretive, most well trained, most bad ass operators on the planet.  Delta Force.  And Delta was told to stand down.  It’s breathtaking, really.

So the request for help to the souls at Benghazi was denied multiple times.  Yet the President didn’t do it.  No request for help ever came to the CIA.  The DoD never had any request come in to its offices.  In fact, the fingers of blame are busy ensuring that culpability doesn’t fall on the one pointing.

Kel McClanahan, the executive director of the National Security Counselors and an attorney who specializes in national security law, said he didn’t detect any false or misleading statements in any of the denials but noticed a few things about the words the CIA and the Pentagon used that raise questions. With regard to Jennifer Youngblood’s statement, he said “all she said was that nobody told Woods ‘not to help those in need.’”

“Helping those in need is a very broad term,” said McClanahan. “It ranges from fire-bombing the attackers to providing medical assistance. I have complete confidence that nobody at CIA told their field office not to provide any help to those in need. However, she did not say ‘no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to attack.’” As such, there’s a little bit of wiggle room in how the CIA is defining its terminology. We don’t know exactly what the agency told its operators on the ground. How about the Pentagon?

“DOD, for their part, is probably telling the truth as well, while not telling the whole story,” said McClanahan. He homed in on the Pentagon’s assertion that “There was no request made for military intervention.”

“That doesn’t say to whom or what constitutes a ‘request for military intervention,’” he said. According to the Fox News story, the opportunity to intervene was in the form of a Special Forces team at an air base in Signonella, Italy, which is about two hours from Benghazi. The suggestion in Griffin’s report is that the Special Forces unit could’ve intervened to help Amb. Stevens and the other Americans in a timely manner. (It’s worth noting that U.S. officials told CBS News last week that a fast intervention wasn’t possible because of State Department concerns about violating Libyan sovereignty.)

But we also know that the President’s fingerprints are all over this.  Lies are usually counterproductive, as well as immoral and unethical.  Meanwhile, four souls were left behind.  One cardinal rule for the Marines and Army is that you don’t leave men behind.  Ever.

I read the deployment orders (and accompanying PowerPoint presentation to the Battalion) when my son deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, because (then) Lt. Col. William Mullen showed it to me.  The men were issued “die in place” orders.  It is always better if your family has closure, rather than wondering if you’re alive and tortured or dead.  But one simple truth permeated that part of the presentation.

If missing, the Battalion would move mountains to find their men wherever they were.  This simple commitment, so revealing of character and integrity, went with the men throughout their combat tour in 2007.  The poor souls in Benghazi didn’t have the same commitment from their “brothers.”

The Forces Available: What Did President Ben Ghazi Know?

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 12 months ago

The notion has been floated that the Benghazi response is thus far simply a muddled message.  There was actually nothing more that could have been done, but the administration just hasn’t explained that very well to the American people yet.

Wrong …  wrong on all kinds of fronts.  Bing West gives us a little brief on the forces available to the President.  These forces were available in Sigonella, Italy.

The Obama national-security team had several hours in which to move forces from Sigonella to Benghazi.  Fighter jets could have been at Benghazi in an hour; the commandos inside three hours. If the attackers were a mob, as intelligence reported, then an F18 in afterburner, roaring like a lion, would unnerve them. This procedure was applied often in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Conversely, if the attackers were terrorists, then the U.S. commandos would eliminate them. But no forces were dispatched from Sigonella.

Among the forces available to commanders was Delta operators then on station in Sigonella.  Finally, if all else had failed, there were also Marine Force Recon personnel in Sigonella, Italy.  Did the President know what was happening in Benghazi?

Of course he did.  He was watching it all transpire.

I take issue with the notion that only the President could have ordered a response.  Someone else could, and apparently General Ham did because he is a man of integrity.  He was relieved of command shortly thereafter, and thus not only did President Ben Ghazi know what was happening and refuse to order a response, he apparently punished the man who did order a response.

Thus has America lost its heart to remain America.


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