American Elephants

Benghazi: The Scandal Grows Even Worse. by The Elephant's Child

What a depressing day. Defense Secretary Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey testified on Benghazi. Oh well, nobody to blame here. Just move along.

Under questioning by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that President Obama knew “generally” what U.S military assets were deployed in the region, but did not ask for specifics. He left the strategy “up to us” meaning Pannetta and military leadership. Panetta said that after the initial briefing, which took place at about 5 pm Washington time, he had no further communications at all with President Obama that night. The president never even called to ask how the attack as progressing. No one from the White House ever called later that night, according to Panetta, to inquire about the attack. President Obama went to bed that night not even knowing whether the Americans under assault had survived the attack.

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in the assault which went on for six hours. The Obama administration blamed the event on an obscure You Tube video. The video-maker is still in prison.

Senator Graham (R-SC) queried Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey about aircraft available in the area during the attack. “you said the F-16 was not a good platform to defend the consulate. What would have been the appropriate platform?

“The appropriate platform, Senator, would hae been to have boots on the ground ahead of the event. After the event is in conduct, it would be very difficult” Dempsey responded.

Elsewhere it was reported that Dempsey said that they couldn’t respond because they had no request from the State Department. Hillary also, apparently went to bed.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Angus King (I-ME) asked why forces at the Crete base, across the Mediterranean from Benghazi werent employed to help the Americans at the consular mission.

“The bases that we have in southern Europe, in the Mediterranean area are — generally speaking have aircraft,” Dempsey said. {The first point I made is that it wasn’t the right tool for the particular threat we faced. secondly, the aircraft we have in Europe, generally are there in support of NATO and on a different alert posture. That was not among the forces —the aircraft were not among the forces that we had at heightened alert.”

McCain called the written statement submitted by Dempsey “one of the more bizarre statements that I have ever seen in my years in this committee.”

“When you’re talking about the Benghazi issue, you say, “We positioned our forces in a way that was informed by and consistent with available threat estimates.” Then you go on to say, “Our military was appropriately responsive,” even though seven hours passed and two Americans died at the end of that. Then you go on and say “We did what our posture and capabilities allowed,” McCain said.

It was reported at the time that General Carter Ham, who was AFRICOM commander, received the same frantic calls for help that went to the White House. He was prepared to send in a special forces team, and was abruptly relieved of command. That situation, as far as I can tell, was never publicly mentioned again.

The behavior of this bunch was disgraceful. The attack went on for seven hours, but we are informed that there just wasn’t time. And nobody was very interested, and  the Secretary of State was unavailable and the President just went off to bed.


4 Comments so far
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At the beginning of any President’s term, the prevailing attitude of the professional military types working in DC is “don’t annoy or embarass the boss if you can avoid it”. That’s some of what’s going on here. You have the military establishment trying to not look foolish, but trying to provide cover for the administration. It’s not working in this case. Whatever the White House might claim about the chain of events of that day, the communication logs provided to the committee by the Pentagon have borne out what Dempsey and Panetta have said: NO ONE in the aministration gave them any instruction, and no one from either the White House or Stateattempted to contact the Pentagon on this matter after the scheduled 5:00pm briefing that Panetta gave Obama. Sad to say, the Pentagon did not act on its own because after four years of Obama in the White House, the professional military learned one unescapable fact: Obama (and his advisors, including Jarrett and Clinton) is thin-skinned and vindictive as hell (you need see only the order relieving General Ham to understand what the Pentagon would be concerned about).

BTW – I know General Dempsey… He has a Masters in English Literature, and taught at West Point. I met him at the War College over at McNair, where I was assisting tactical training seminars. For him to get as confused in his statements as he was during this hearing illuminates the impossible position he has been put in, and he deserves much better than this from the administration.


Comment by Lon Mead

But General Ham who was AFRICOM was relieved of command early in the event. If Obama had already gone to bed or to watch movies or whatever, that was done by either Dempsey or Panetta, or a joint decision. Panetta kept saying that there just wasn’t time — which is of course absurd, and Dempsey claiming they needed the State Department’s permission was just embarrassing. Not in any military I was ever familiar with.

I think Obama has an odd view of the presidency, at least in our history. He never had any managerial experience, nor had ever been part of a team. Apparently few in the administration get to meet with him. They give him 2 or 3 choices on paper, he picks one with Jarrett’s advice. She’s a lousy adviser, but 100% protective of the president. And yes, thin-skinned and vindictive as hell.They probably couldn’t have done anything to save the ambassador, though an F-16 doing a low pass over the “insurgents” would have probably broken that up. But the battle went on for 6 or 7 hours, and they just let those guys die. General Ham is the only one who comes out of that mess with honor intact.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

It was Panetta who relieved General Ham… The Joint Chiefs cannot directly relieve commanders in the field. General James Mattis (who, as commander of CENTCOM, is not in Ham’s chain of command) and General Dempsey got Panetta to reverse the order relieving Ham, but by then it was too late for anything to be done. Ham is still in command at AFRICOM, and has developed a quick-action plan in case of a similar situation coming up again.

I give Dempsey his fair amount of blame; he’s a political general with the attitude of a schoolteacher, and he owes a part of his career to Hillary’s husband. His claim of needing cover from the State Department is accurate (as far as it goes)… sending troops into a sovereign nation without invitation can cause more problems than it solves in a situation like that, but I think Dempsey should have done it anyway and taken the flack from Obama and Hillary, and I fault him because he didn’t. But I also think he now knows that he can’t depend on this administration to make the tough calls in a crisis, and if he doesn’t step down as chairman (rumors are that he has considered it), I don’t think he’ll be as wishy-washy again.


Comment by Lon Mead

I didn’t know Ham’s dismissal was reversed. This administration can’t be counted on in any way, no tough calls, no support, and bad direction. I thought the previous bunch in the cabinet was pretty bad, but his nominations are downright scary. The Senate is inclined to believe that a president should get the people he wants, but there have been plenty that have been turned down or filibustered in the past, John Bolton comes to mind, and he ended up being a recess appointment, and one of the best UN ambassadors ever. Nobody is qualified, they’re supposedly willing to do Obama’s bidding and he likes them? His nominee for Interior is a radical environmentalist. Hagel is totally unqualified, Lew even more so. Napolitano wants to run for president. The whole thing is barely held together by our traditional respect for the office of the Presidency. Otherwise it’s all some really bad cosmic joke.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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