Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Benghazi Tragedy and Lincoln's Generals

When the call came in, President Obama supposedly met with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Presumably National Security Advisor Tom Donilon was present.

We don’t know because unlike the Osama raid or the President’s “monitoring” of Sandy, no photos or list of the Situation Room participants have been released. We also know that the Counter Terrorism Group was not convened during the 7-8 hour Benghazi attack. Perhaps no meeting occurred in the Situation Room.

Perhaps no meeting occurred at all.

The Obama Administration was quick to leak details of the successful Osama Raid. Their reticence on the Benghazi debacle after 7 weeks is suspicious. Can they drag it out past November 6?

Tom Donilon serving as the President’s  security advisor is interesting. His background is as a political operative, a political hack if you will. His wife is the chief of staff for Jill Biden. He was even a registered lobbyist for Fannie Mae from 1999-2005. He is widely believed to be the leaker of the Osama materials to boost the President’s image.

We don’t know what happened at that meeting because nothing has been released or leaked. The President said he directed that everything possible be done to protect the personnel.

Nothing was done.

If the President issued that order, it would have been reduced to writing so that the military could execute it.

Here are the alternatives: 1) The order was issued and ignored; 2) The order was not issued; 3) The President did nothing because he was preparing his campaign trip to Las Vegas.

We can assume therefore that President Obama did not issue the order unless a copy is released.

The CIA had a compound one mile from the consular attack. Several requests for assistance and backup were made from Benghazi. The CIA employees twice, or thrice, requested permission to aid the Ambassador at the Consular Annex. They were told to stand down. Tyrone Woods and two others ignored the order.

No one claims credit for the stand down order. The CIA denies it came from the CIA. The Administration initially threw the intelligence community; i.e the CIA, under the bus for the intelligence failures leading to the attack. As we now know, the security weaknesses of Benghazi were well recognized, so there was no intelligence failure. Indeed, Ambassador Stephens earlier on 9/11 before the attack repeatedly asked for increased security. The CIA will not be the fall agency for the Administration’s failures. Therefore we can expect leaks to emanate from the CIA.

The leaks are coming from Washington. Drip, drip, drip!

 The White House vehemently denies that the President or anyone in the Administration issued the stand down order. The State Department doesn’t control the military or CIA so it probably did not issue it. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has fallen on her sword in assuming blame for the inadequate security in Benghazi, but has not talked about the lack of a military response.

If we believe, for the sake of argument, the Administration’s denials, then the onus must attach to the Defense Department. Secretary of Defense Panetta fell on his sword in explaining why the military did not respond.

He said that he and the military leaders, General Ham of Africa Command and General Dempsey, “felt very strongly” that deploying force to defend the Benghazi compound against the attack was too risky. “We felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”   

So much for the basic principle that we don’t leave our people behind.

Secretary Panetta added “The basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without some real time information about what’s taking place.”

The State Department, and thus the Administration, had a livestream video from the ground as well as a drone flying over ahead. They were watching in real time the action on the ground.

The military did not even scramble planes to be in a position to react with immediate force if ordered.

Remember the President’s comments to Governor Romney during the third debate “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them.” Planes were not even sent up from the carriers in the Mediterranean.

One of the security forces defending the compound targeted a laser on the mortar shelling the compound. He expected relief from the air. None was coming. The message from Washington is simple: “We don’t have your back.”

Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by a mortar round.

If the Secretary is correct, then the Secretary and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff defied, or deliberately failed to execute the President’s directive.

If so, the President and the nation should be outraged because such disobedience is an attack upon civilian control of the military. General Dempsey has subordinated his office to the President, so we assume he would not disobey a direct order of the President to aid the Americans under attack.

Secretary of Defense Les Aspin lost his job because of Blackhawk Down.

The security risks were widely recognized in Benghazi. Yet the State Department refused to increase security.

Nothing could interfere with the theme “Osama’s dead, Al Qaeda is on the run.”

The saga of General Carter Ham is puzzling. He was the head of the Africa Command. Rescue forces were mobilized as soon as word of the attack reached the military. Remember, Secretary of Defense Panetta said Generals Ham and Dempsey agreed.


General Ham is rumored to have ignored the order to stand down and was about to dispatch special forces when he was suddenly relieved from command and is now retiring 5 months early. General Dempsey calls it a “routine succession transfer.” 

In spite of the real time feeds directly from Benghazi and from an overhead drone, which clearly indicated a terrorist attack was occurring, the President and State Department claimed for over a week the attack was an outgrowth of a 14 minute anti-Mohammed video trailer on YouTube – a video which had been online since July. The President and Secretary of State went on yet another apology tour, including  $70,000 of ads in Pakistan apologizing for the video.

The FBI was dispatched to Libya to investigate. The agents did not go to Benghazi for over three weeks because it was too “dangerous,” but an AP reporter visited the scene 4 days after the attack, and found Ambassador Stevens’ personal dairy.

President Lincoln had to overcome an almost infinite series of problems to win the Civil War, save the Union and free the slaves.

One of his greatest challenges was finding a general who was both competent and decisive. He went through seven generals who either lost battles or lacked the will to turn victories at Antietam and Gettysburg into decisive victories. President Lincoln fired Generals Scott, McDowell, McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade. He brought in a general who successfully executed the western strategy of cutting the South in half by controlling the Mississippi River. General Grant captured the Confederate fort at Vicksburg, Mississippi and was soon on his way to the Army of the Potomac.

General Grant possessed competence and the will to win. He brought with him Generals Sherman and Sheridan.

General George C. Marshall during World war II was also quick to terminate generals who were ineffective or incompetent. Out of that crucible of war emerged Generals Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, and Ridgeway.

Great generals are forged in the crucible of war. Generals normally advance through politics and not making waves. They don’t take chances and lack the drive, just like President Lincoln’s generals. General Dempsey is such a general.

General Petraeus is a general forged by war. President Obama moved him out of the Pentagon by shipping him to the CIA.

The problem we face is that the current Administration lacks the will to win. 

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