Over the past nine months I’ve fielded a rather large number of queries about Benghazi, especially in view of so much political misinformation, speculation and rumor surrounding the tragic event. The following attempts to broadly summarize my responses without getting too deep in the weeds. In order to properly understand Benghazi you need an ability and knowledge to view an issue over a period longer than two minutes, and understand how parts fit into a whole, into a continuum longer than 140 characters. If you’re one of the few with an interest (and you should be interested), this summarizes the full story in the far larger context. (For earlier background on Libya, see “Conversation With A Young Lady” and “Getting Gadhafi“.)
+++ Some Background Context
Many Americans today are so derisive and ignorant of the military and military matters that they couldn’t even recognize the clearest declaration of war on the US possible – a declaration that had been universally understood throughout western civilization for over 2000 years – a deliberate attack on a nation’s warship. Just one month before the 2000 US presidential election, in October 2000, a sworn enemy staged an unambiguous attack on the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole. Seventeen American sailors were killed and 39 were injured, and the ship barely managed to stay afloat.
That enemy had been attempting in vain for years to signal its holy war intentions to the US, including via attacks on its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, but the Americans refused to get the message. After those two 1998 attacks, Democrat President Clinton quickly ordered a missile attack from US Navy ships in the Red Sea on suspected al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan – 75 cruise missiles into Afghanistan and several more into Sudan – and the matter was quickly forgotten. President Clinton said that the US had “convincing information” that the al Qaeda network organized and financed by bin Laden had carried out the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and that the strikes were a response to an “imminent threat” to the US posed by that terrorist network. Unfortunately, at that moment, Clinton was embroiled in a scandalous affair in the White House, so most people chalked up the missile attacks as a pathetic effort to divert public attention from that scandal. The US government very soon identified by name 20 al Qaeda members under bin Laden who it held responsible for the embassy attacks – in a criminal indictment filed in New York.
It seemed lost on everyone that the attack on the war ship might have greater significance. The USS Cole, a guided missile destroyer, was hit at the Yemini port of Adan, very close to where US Navy guided missile ships had earlier fired their missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan. The intent could not have been more clear, or remarkable, especially for an enemy that did not own one single ship, plane, tank, missile or drone. But in the US, buried under the 2000 election mess, the bombing of the USS Cole was no big deal, and many Americans seemed to fault the military for allowing the USS Cole attack to happen and nearly spoil their election fun. No players in the attack were identified, and there was no military response to the attack on the USS Cole either by Clinton or by his successor.
Several of the key planners of the USS Cole attack, however, very soon traveled to the US and participated directly, less than a year later, in the 9/11/2001 attacks, including the attack on the Pentagon – attacks which “no one could have foreseen”.
Because this enemy operates totally unconventionally, naïve Americans, including those in high political office, often miss what’s really going on. There are no great conventional forces out there somewhere on a two-sided battlefield killing each other and blowing everything to smithereens with very visible results for the TV cameras. But the United States is, indeed, engaged in a very deadly war with a very dedicated and potent militant enemy with a really huge support base. In the US, however, there soon developed, and remains, a great deal of confusion whether or not the country is involved in a deadly war with a military enemy or engaged in a law enforcement operation against a criminal enterprise. And rather than eliminate that confusion, incompetent and ignorant civilian politicians in high places seemed to delight in fanning it for political gain among their respective support bases.
Twelve years after the attack on the USS Cole, again on the eve of another US presidential election, which also coincided with the anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks, al Qaeda again orchestrated a massive signal intended to belie the “spin” being used by the sitting administration to tell American voters and the world that al Qaeda was in its death throes thanks to the administration’s expert “foreign policy and military strategy”. On 11 September 2012 the enemy staged really huge demonstrations in a well-coordinated communications exercise at US facilities throughout the Muslim World to broadcast very loudly to the world that the official American spin on “the war” was total bullshit. During those demonstrations, which the administration implausibly attributed to nearly “justified” Muslim outrage over a very obscure video clip (made by some obscure American exercising his freedom of speech), a well coordinated military attack was also staged on US facilities in Benghazi Libya. Benghazi lies in a vast lawless area next to Egypt and Saharan Africa that is now a huge playground for al Qaeda-affiliated groups, made that way by a very ill-advised eight-month US and “NATO” bombing campaign against Libya – engineered by four American women appointed to very high office. The video clip excuse, coupled with considerable political focus on the Benghazi incident, in the US easily swamped the much larger intent of the massive demonstrations over a huge part of the globe. (Unfortunately domestic political opponents have to focus solely on Benghazi in isolation because they, too, were eagerly beating the drums to stupidly bomb Libya – which predictably created the very environment in which the attack on US facilities could occur.)
Taken together, the events orchestrated by al Qaeda in September 2012 stated very loudly that their active operational arm was still very potent and their support base was still huge and responsive. Even worse, the Benghazi attack demonstrated that the US had handed al Qaeda a whole new lawless operational base in Libya. Both the coordinated wide and huge demonstrations and the military attack on US facilities in Benghazi ran in the face of both the narrative of a “defeated enemy” and the wisdom of “bombing Libya”. Since all this showed that the administration’s inept approach was a totally failed policy, it was quickly decided to bury the whole mess behind a fabricated “alternative narrative” about “spontaneous demonstrations” against a little video clip posted on some internet web site, with the implication that the video was the product of domestic political enemies from “the other side”. It was never about relaying truth to the American people; it was all about what nonsense could be sold to American voters, and especially to naïve women voters, on the eve of a Presidential election. The administration coasted to another election victory, largely on the basis of extremely shaky spin and willful deception. It certainly wasn’t al Qaeda’s fault that Americans, once again, were too militarily naïve to get their message.
There’s a whole chapter on conveying such messages for strategic purposes in the unconventional warfare handbook, but when you’re the world’s only conventional super-power, why bother with that unconventional stuff? Right? Who cares that the tactic was employed very successfully against the US on the eve of another presidential election all the way back in 1968? (Only those who don’t know, or care about, history.)
Postscript 2014. The US military has been fighting one unconventional enemy (Islamic militant extremism) for the past twenty years – all while our civilian “leaders” and “foreign affairs” gurus have been moving us in an inexorable direction to renew animosities with a conventional enemy (Russia) we had put behind us a quarter of a century ago. So now events are evolving, as was inevitable, to ensure our military will face off against TWO enemies. And what makes it even more delightful is the fact that this second enemy also has as its enemy our first enemy. Isn’t that just “special”? You don’t exactly have to be a military genius to understand the old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” But you DO have to know how to THINK. So now the options are: 1. Fight one unconventional enemy and one conventional enemy at the same time, while the conventional enemy undermines our efforts with the unconventional enemy. Or 2. Join forces with the conventional enemy to form a united front against the unconventional enemy. To do this, you first have to decide whether or not what you do in the world puts your own nation’s interests FIRST. Is Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine really worth it? Ukraine has had a quarter of a century to get its act together and treat all its citizens in a equitable manner under one set of very good laws and institutions; they have failed to do so, and western Europe has done almost nothing to assist them in that direction. Why not short-circuit the whole mess and join with Russia, in return for allowing them to have whatever they want in eastern Ukraine? Of course, if we had done this twenty years ago, or even five years ago, no one would have to worry about Ukraine, or any place else in Europe. (Or was the whole stupid campaign really all about re-creating a reason, the essential bogyman, needed to justify that “military alliance” anachronism called “NATO” – and keep the US military and US taxpayer carrying Europe’s defense burden decades after it should have ended?) The money we waste needlessly on “NATO” could be much better spent trying to undermine the support base for Islamic militant extremism – the Muslim people in the Mid-east, Africa and Central Asia ruled and exploited by dictators and thugs, who seek nothing less than the deaths and destruction of ALL “infidels”. (P.S. That was the whole idea behind Iraq – a military mission first screwed up and then ended by neophytes, naturally, too soon.)
But don’t hold your breath waiting for the Baby Boomers to discover the obvious; this mob defies the history of humanity in new ways to ignore even common sense. Already we are shifting large portions of US military resources to the Pacific so it can face a THIRD enemy perceived in China. And, of course, we have to send US soldiers to Africa to play “world cop” there, too. But we couldn’t even send a rescue team to Benghazi, stop the slaughter in Syria or foresee Russia’s intent to take the Crimea. “It’s all just one big TV reality show!” If you’re a military professional dealing with actual reality and the American people today, you can easily go nuts. “War’s just fine, as long as it doesn’t involve “me”.”
+++ What Happened In Benghazi
The American Embassy in Libya is in that nation’s capital city of Tripoli, in the western part of the country; a subordinate US consulate was being established in Benghazi, 425 away in eastern Libya. On the evening of Tuesday, 11 September 2012, the nascent US consulate installation in Benghazi was being visited by the US Ambassador in Tripoli, J. Christopher Stevens, with his State Department Information Officer and small US State Department security team, to establish a new cultural center and modernize a local hospital in that city. He also used the occasion to meet with a number of other officials in the area. Ambassador Stevens, who also spoke Arabic, French and Italian, and had 21 years service as a career State Department diplomat, possessed extensive knowledgeable of the Mid-east and Northern Africa and its people. He was not, however, expert in militant extremism, military tactics or installation security and had been in Libya, at the strongly fortified embassy in Tripoli, only four months. At about 9:40 PM local time, after all guests had departed, the consulate was attacked from several sides by a heavily armed and well trained enemy force.
The installation, a medium-sized villa in a residential neighborhood, had been protected by armed but untrained Libyans recruited in Libya by a British security firm that had the installation security contract; many of these personnel fled before or during the attack, and their British supervisor was not present during the attack. At least one of the local guards is believed to have supported the attack, which was obviously very well coordinated and executed by a well trained and adept military force. Members of the attacking force, numbering between 50 and 100, were wearing flak jackets and using small arms, including automatic rifles, grenades, mortars, machine guns, RPG launchers and artillery mounted on truck beds. The attackers were quickly identified as members of the al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; some of their trucks bore the logo of Ansar al-Sharia, a group of Islamist militants working with the local government to “manage security” in Benghazi amid a wide range of rather violently competing interests. What united all of these players, of course, was their fervent allegiance to an ideology, Islamic militant extremism (sometimes referred to as fundamentalist jihad or “holy war”), that has been steadily growing throughout the Mid-east and Northern Africa for the past twenty years. Repeated calls for help, along with real-time descriptions and pictures of the on-scene situation, from various personnel, went directly via cell phones and computers to the embassy in Tripoli, a nearby “annex”, State and CIA headquarters in Washington, and military commands from Europe to the Pentagon.
Both the ambassador and the information officer soon become separated from their State security officer when they failed to follow his lead, probably because they had been overcome by heavy toxic smoke. The security officer tried unsuccessfully to relocate the men. The consulate installation was quickly breached, overrun and occupied, and destruction and fires ensued. After being informed of the attack by personnel at the consulate, a small team from the nearby “annex” (a semi-covert CIA facility), defying orders, arrived at about 10:30 PM (50 minutes after the attack had begun), scaled a grounds wall and found the body of the State information officer, but could not locate the ambassador in the burning building. Still under fire by enemy personnel in and around the facility, they elected to evacuate the official’s body and all remaining personnel to the “annex” building in their Land Rovers. On the way back to the “annex”, a distance of a little over one mile, the Land Rovers came under heavy fire from rifles and hand grenades, but no further deaths ensued before the “annex” gates were closed behind them shortly before midnight. Some of the tires on the Land Rovers had been shot out, and the vehicles were driven to the annex on steel rims.
At about 1:00 AM an unconscious Ambassador Stevens was found at the consulate by local citizens and taken in a private car to a local hospital, where he expired of asphyxiation apparently caused by smoke inhalation, but reportedly had no other injuries. Apparently it was not until well after the ambassador was pronounced dead at the hospital that any of the Libyans realized just who he was – the personal and direct representative of the President and People of the United States of America. (It is believed that the consulate facility, and not the ambassador, was the target of the initial attackers, and that the death of the ambassador was an added “bonus” for those attackers. The significance of both the date and the ownership of the facility were key factors in planning the attack, not the unexpected presence of the ambassador.)
However, a second well-coordinated and executed assault took place at the “annex” seven hours after the first had begun at about 5:00 AM the following morning by the same force. The second attack occurred shortly after an eight-man team, consisting of two active-duty military special operations experts, five CIA personnel plus a Libyan employee, had arrived from the US Embassy in Tripoli via a contracted jet plane (at $30,000 cash) to evacuate personnel. The availability of suitable ground transport was a difficult problem for any actual or potential rescue personnel throughout the ordeal; its absence had significantly delayed the small team from Tripoli at the airport in Benghazi. (It is believed that the annex was not a target of the original plan, that the attackers had been led to the annex either by the earlier rescue team or the later arrival of the Tripoli security team.) During this second attack, two more Americans, both ex-Navy SEALs under CIA contract, were killed by enemy mortar fire, and three more were injured by shrapnel and enemy small arms. Seven Libyans were also injured. As the attack was underway, video images relayed to the “annex” from an overhead drone showed an even larger force assembling in the early morning light to augment the first. The decision was made to quickly move everyone via all available vehicles to the airport for evacuation. On the way to the airport, they were hit with small arms fire but arrived with no further injuries. No CIA government employees had been injured, but classified material was left behind at both the consulate and the “annex”.
State and CIA in DC were informed immediately about the attack and were kept informed throughout. The Pentagon and DIA were also immediately aware, and two hours later began observing the activities in Benghazi directly via a redirected overhead drone (that was in the air conducting surveillance on militant camps in eastern Libya); its feed also went to other overseas military headquarters. A US Army special operations unit was deployed to Sicily, but did not proceed on to Benghazi. Also, at two hours after the first attack began, Clinton at State spoke with Petraeus at CIA via telephone. The State Department believed that the CIA security team at its “annex” would assist the consulate in the event of an attack, but the mission of that team was to provide security to the “annex” and its personnel, not to the consulate, which was not yet formally “occupied”. Even though the CIA made up most of the US government’s presence in Benghazi, that presence was never considered a factor in consulate security in previous assessments. (Both very experienced former US Navy SEALs were employees of a company that had a CIA Global Response Staff (GRS) contract to provide security for CIA case officers and for counter-surveillance and surveillance protection. One (Woods) was working at the annex in Benghazi, and the other (Doherty), who had retired from the Navy, was working at the embassy in Tripoli; both men knew each other well.) Nevertheless, personnel from the CIA “annex”, which included Woods, had already gone to the rescue of the consulate personnel shortly after the attack began, despite orders not to do so.
The full capabilities of the US military were never engaged during the lengthy incident. The two military special operations men who had accompanied the CIA rescue team from Tripoli were members of a larger military team tasked with defense of the embassy. Additional members of that small force were ordered not to leave the embassy; this is reasonable so as to not dangerously reduce security at the embassy. All US personnel were later flown out of Benghazi aboard a US Air Force C-17 sent in for that purpose. During the fighting, the CIA contract team, augmented by the small CIA rescue team flown in from Tripoli, both consisting mostly of former members of the US military, had successfully rescued six State Department personnel, recovered the State information officer’s body and those of two fellow team members (their SEAL friends), and had evacuated over thirty Americans, including CIA case officers, out of Benghazi alive. State Department officials claim they do not know who took the body of the ambassador from the hospital to the airport and into US custody, but it was probably arranged by a CIA case officer working with local contacts. I estimate that what transpired inside Libya with all Americans involved was proper and the result of sound decisions, given the existing circumstances. Within those circumstances is a critical factor that always is a critical factor with ground operations – the availability of appropriate ground transport where it’s needed when it’s needed. Ground transport can usually also be provided by military transport helicopters.
The bodies and US personnel were flown first to Tripoli, then to the US Air Force base at Ramstein, Germany, for medical treatment, and then on Andrews Air Force Base adjacent to Washington DC. At Tripoli and Ramstein uninjured personnel departed the plane as appropriate to their subsequent assignments. At Andrews Air Force Base in Washington the bodies were received home by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton; at that ceremony and in subsequent statements both sought to downplay a “planned and coordinated militant terrorist attack” line and promote a “spontaneous Libyan citizen response to a video” angle.
+++ What Happened In Washington
During and after the incident in Benghazi, confusion, disinformation and denial reigned in Washington DC. Members of the US military all around the globe were steaming with anger that no US military response had been launched to protect an American ambassador, American property and other American personnel under heavy and sustained military attack in a region known to represent a grave danger to US interests. The US had overhead drone visual relay and real-time visual/audio communication during the attacks; military commanders could watch the entire tragedy unfold in real time. (The drone footage of the events in Benghazi was summarily classified “Top Secret” by the Obama administration.) Part of the anger was due to the fact that former military brothers, Navy SEALs, had been waging valiant and successful efforts to defend and protect those personnel and that property against great odds for hours and hours while large numbers of people all around the US military world knew precisely what was happening as it happened, and why it was happening. Making matters even worse was the fact that the attack had taken place on the 11th anniversary of the attacks in the US of 9/11/2001, an anniversary which would have, in and of itself, heightened the concern of any responsible American official, in a lawless region long known to represent a grave threat to Americans and to US interests. After all, the CIA “annex” contingent was not in Libya for a vacation.
Compounding the mess was the fact that the attack occurred just two months before another close presidential election in the US, and that the sitting administration had been campaigning with the line that it had “killed Osama bin Laden, eviscerated al Qaeda, and made the world safe for America and Americans.” In the background was the Secretary of State and her well known plans to seek the Presidency in 2016 on the basis of her “vast successful foreign policy experience”, including the eight-month bombing campaign of a sovereign Libya “assisted to blossom” under a forcibly changed regime in the “Arab Spring”. Her most famous campaign ad when seeking her party’s nomination during the 2008 election strongly touted her experience, as the wife of a sitting President, to validate her ability to answer the phone at 3 AM and respond to grave situations around the globe with clear, deliberate, responsible and strong leadership. A very potent military terrorist attack and the killing of an American ambassador on the anniversary of 9/11, in Libya, and with no US military rescue or response action taking place, simply ran directly in the face of all of that domestic political spin. At the same time as the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, dozens of coordinated mass demonstrations organized by al Qaeda and related extremist elements took place at American facilities throughout a large portion of the Islamic world – specifically to dispute and refute the premise of the Administration’s political campaign then taking place in the US. (Have we seen this movie before?)
(The intent of the demonstrations and the attack was to achieve an impact inside the US similar to that of the massive and very well coordinated 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. The large demonstrations were a well-coordinated communications exercise throughout the Muslim World on the anniversary of 9/11/2001 AND on the eve of an American election, with one strategic purpose: To duplicate “Tet ’68”, and show the world that the American official spin on “the war” was total bullshit. It wasn’t al Qaeda’s fault that the Americans didn’t get the message; they’ve been having the same problem with Americans for twenty years. Americans seem to have an uncanny “ability” to simply refuse to hear. As Baby Boomers, and most especially politically active Boomers like the Clintons, John Kerry, Sidney Blumenthal, et al., know full well, Tet ’68 showed Americans that their political leaders had been grossly misleading them about the war. That resulted in a groundswell of American public opposition to that war, forced a complete “re-thinking” of the war strategy, and had a dramatic effect on US domestic politics and military tactics. It was Tet ’68 that sent Bill Clinton off to Europe, where he could protest the war without worrying about being drafted. It was Tet ’68 that had John Kerry, who somehow had even managed to have a lackey film his exploits in Vietnam, to produce his very own version of “PT 109” that would one day carry him into the White House, instead adjust to the changed political winds and throw his Navy medals over the White House fence. It was Tet ’68 and the Draft when Sidney Blumenthal was a sociology student at Brandeis while Hillary Clinton was a political science student just five miles away at Wellesley, in western Boston. And many other male Boomer politicians have similar stories in their backgrounds (a topic that was never of concern to women); these older people in Washington knew precisely what was going on. Among political women, Hillary Clinton was especially cognizant of the significance and parallels between 1968 and 2012.
(Younger Americans may not have made the connection between Tet ‘68 and the very wide-spread 2011 demonstrations across the Muslim world, but older Americans like these and Secretary of Defense Panetta most definitely would have seen the parallels instantly, and it was important to them to fill the air with verbal smoke as rapidly as possible before political opponents could make the case. For Baby Boomers viewing Benghazi, Tet ‘68 is the reeking elephant in the living room no one wants to acknowledge; the stark reality of the huge Tet ‘68 demonstration caused the “Great Society” Democrat President Lyndon Johnson to step aside, to not seek re-election, to in effect hand the job to Republican Richard Nixon. And the then-deceased Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, often ridiculed by the ignorant younger political ideologues in the White House and State, most definitely would have seen the parallels, too; he had been warning about our mistakes in overall strategy for years. In fact, many of his arguments contained elements of comparisons between our over-confident approach to Islamic militant extremism today and our over-confident approach to Southeast Asia decades earlier.
(It was Tet ’68 that spelled the end of American military involvement in Southeast Asia, and the first loss of a war in American history. The object of war, of course, is not to win the battles; the object of war is to win the war – by the most effective means possible.
(But similar efforts by a new enemy, al Qaeda, 44 years after 1968, straight out of the same unconventional warfare handbook, went over in America like a lead balloon. Younger Americans of BOTH political parties just didn’t get it (or perhaps just didn’t want to get it). It’s amazing how little people care about such things when they have no skin in the game themselves, when the only thing about government that interests them is what free stuff they can get out of it, what it can get “someone else” to do for “very special me”. Add military stuff to the equation, and you can triple that regard.
(The main concern of the 2012 Democrat election campaign was, as usual, women voters. The Draft, Tet ‘68, etc., was never of interest to the vast majority of women, and still isn’t. These are our super-majority of voters, now numbering 10-12 million, at least three times greater than decides our elections. Government is another of their rights; it certainly isn’t a responsibility. They only want to hear what they want to hear, and politicians just love to tell it to them. These women and their clones have the same regard for American men dying in the service of their country as does Hillary Clinton and her sisters appointed to very high places. The long politically-correct censored US “news” media, far more interested in seeing the President re-elected, and then have a woman follow him into the Oval Office, went along with the administration’s “narrative”. It was just too easy. Benghazi was actually the smallest part of the story. The video clip gambit was the cookie, the “shiny object”, the bouncing bauble, you use to take a dangerous toy away from the infant. And IT WORKED! It’s still working. Contrary to the political campaign spin, al Qaeda has not been defeated. It’s not a simple-minded matter of this group or that group, this lunatic or that lunatic; the ideology of Islamic militant extremism is rising rapidly and will soon engulf far greater portions of the Muslim world and infect even more.)
(May 2015 addendum: Some of the documents obtained in the SEAL raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakaistan were just released to the public. Among many other things, those documents (including a rather impressive book/reading list) reveal that bin Laden had seen the “Arab Spring” as a boon presenting a plethora of opportunities to followers to his ideology; that he had studied the major political impact of Tet ’68 as an integral part of the unconventional Vietnam war effort; and that, just as I had suspected from the beginning, and wrote in 2011, with the “NATO” war against Libya we had actually joined forces with our enemy in its war against us. Since some Republicans were so eager to join the “Arab Spring” bandwagon, that party has been forced to focus its attention solely on events that took place in Benghazi – and completely ignore the larger context of both the war against Libya and the enemy’s use of regional wide demonstrations on the eve of a US presidentail election. Yes, it is rather pathetic to watch “leaders” chase shiny objects.)
Once the attack in Benghazi was underway, a military rescue attempt would have focused even greater public attention on embarrassing facts which the sitting US administration was trying hard to downplay and even ignore. The fact that a rescue attempt probably would not have been successful then would create a larger problem and focus attention on the administration’s failure to properly and responsibly plan for known contingencies. Ambassador Stevens’ travel to Benghazi was ill-advised, but so was the failure of the administration’s national security team to follow existing contingency plans and pre-position military assets in the Med that would be available anywhere they were needed in the region at that moment in time. It’s a “no-brainer” thing. Far too much attention was being paid to buying votes from Americans at home and not enough attention paid to the position in which the nation had placed itself abroad.
Three of the four political-appointee women most closely associated with the unprovoked bombing of Libya – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Ambassador to NATO Madeline Albright, and White House human rights advisor Samantha Power – were suddenly among the missing. Instead, the fourth such woman, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, widely assumed to be in line to succeed Clinton at State, was sent out by the Administration to explain Benghazi to the American people on five major national TV channels and endear herself to everyone. (It was Rice’s slick verbal gymnastics at the UN that secured Russian and Chinese concurrence of a UN “humanitarian” resolution about Libya; it was only immediately after that resolution was approved that both Russia and China realized that they had been deceived about exactly what the Americans intended to do in Libya – “regime change”.) The administration, already in full campaign mode, had gotten its political spin in reaction to the demonstrations and consulate attack on one sheet of music with impressive speed. On live TV cameras Rice repeatedly used the line that the attack on Benghazi had been the spontaneous reaction by a mob of average Libyans angered at an obscure video clip about Islam that had been made in California and posted on the internet, in a manner very similar to other demonstrations taking place elsewhere for the same reason, and she doggedly recited that line over and over. Everyone I know in or familiar with the US military and US intelligence communities knew instantly that that line was simply laughable, and designed solely to deceive the American people on the eve of an election. These people have absolutely no compunction about making the boldest of lies, knowing that most people will readily accept the barest of threads to hang on to their own predisposed beliefs. “Just keep telling the same lie until everyone believes it.”
Most Americans, however, with very little to no interest in matters foreign or military, uninterested in delving into the details or placing them in a larger context, seemed to accept the Administration’s political line, especially when the vast majority of the nation’s humongous Fourth Estate “news” apparatus also readily accepted and advanced the same lie. And the more the line seemed to sink into the popular consciousness, the louder those actually knowledgeable screamed. The American protesters were easily drowned out by the media, even when far more serious events took place in the background, even after the President’s re-election. The press made it all out as a matter of politics, a cheap partisan “witch hunt”, by the “other side”. Initially the effort was to protect the President’s re-election, with Clinton’s subsequent campaign of secondary concern; as soon as the election was sealed, the effort reversed these priorities, and protecting Clinton rose to the forefront. The Big Lie succeeded.
Some of those pushing for answers to Benghazi seem far more interested in making a big case over the deaths of four men in a single incident, while at the same time willing to completely ignore the deaths of 7,000 dead and 55,000 maimed soldiers, and the waste of several trillions of US taxpayers dollars, due to incompetent civilian direction, in both political parties, of two whole wars. What’s becoming ever more clear is that civilians in high places and throughout American society, ever eager to exercise their nation’s military muscle for political gain and self-aggrandizement, have almost no understanding of military matters, demonstrate truly shocking ignorance of the significant knowledge and responsibilities necessary for a global super-power. Many of the marginal people in Washington (and the “news” media) are way out of their element, which is becoming a very scary situation. (When I hear civilians debating matters of foreign policy and military matters today, it all sounds like something in an alternate universe as far removed from intelligent reality and logical thinking in this universe as it’s possible to get.) The country, and its leadership, has drifted FAR too distant from its own military. If you’re going to use your military to pump up your self-esteem and play world cop, you damned well better know precisely what you are asking it to do out there; very few today do.
Part of the problem was that the event in Benghazi was viewed in isolation, out of context to the entire story beginning all the way back to a Libyan leader who had been cooperating with the US on nuclear and WMD disarmament and on Islamic militant extremism while also trying to hold his country together in the face of growing violent insurgency heavily instigated and assisted by foreign extremist elements. The strategic situation, despite highly romanticized illusions about an “Arab Spring”, was such that there was actually more justification for assisting Gaddafi than for assisting the “rebels”, especially in view of the inevitability of splitting the country into two opposing halves, one completely ungovernable, and the other barely so. As the Russians, mainly through their very astute foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had been saying all along, the eastern half of Libya has predictably descended into another chaotic opportunity for Islamic extremism, even geographically closer to western Europe, the outcome of which has yet to be decided. The bombing campaign also handed to extremists a bonanza of weapons for distribution and use throughout the much wider region, including in Syria and Mali. Strategically, the bombing campaign was just stupid, and then the decision not to put identifiable “boots on the ground”, preferably European “boots” led by the French and Italians, that could help give the country time to get its act together was almost criminal. But since many on the right vocally urged the left’s macho use of Navy and Air Force machines to wage “antiseptic” remote-control warfare in support of emotional objectives, with the very clear and loud stipulation that there would be absolutely NO American “boots on the ground”, both political sides are now party to papering over the whole mess. The Russians always wanted to know what comes next, considering it critical, but the Americans never thought that far ahead, considering it irrelevant to the here and now.
(Of course, as always, US “boots” were sent in; they were just covert “boots” with no identifiable markings on their uniforms. In addition to the former military contract hires at the annex, there had been a 16-man Army team conducting a security assessment for State and another 20-man special operations military team providing special security services for the embassy in Tripoli, plus a contingent of Army Special Forces soldiers who had been trying to train Libyan security forces in a very unstable environment near Tripoli (sort of like trying to close the barn door after the horses have fled). Maybe the real problem was that the four men in Benghazi died in public, and Americans now prefer that their military men, trying to fix messes created by inept civilians, die out of sight and out of mind – and give the civilians the “plausible deniability” they need to make up any story they want about what’s going on and who ordered it. That certainly does help incompetent civilians avoid accountability for their actions.)
It later developed that several 3 AM calls had come, but in each case Mrs. Clinton was asleep at the switch, expecting “someone else”, perhaps the CIA or the Pentagon, to pick up her slack, to do what had suddenly become necessary. Obviously women placed at very high positions on America’s foreign relations and national security team had failed miserably to plan for known contingencies on the anniversary of 9/11 on the eve of a presidential election – contingencies that literally screamed out for attention. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the case involved State Department bureaucrats, most of whom were women, who demonstrated such a breathtaking lack of concern for the security of American representatives in Libya before, during and after the attack, even though such expert concern was the primary function of their positions. In testimony before Congress, the “rationale” most evident in the “thinking” of these people, such as one senior official named Charlene Lamb, seemed to be proclaiming in quite matter-of-fact language that, “I have rights; I do NOT have responsibility and therefore cannot be held accountable.” US Army Special Forces LTC Andrew Wood, with his professional 16-man counterterrorism team, had been in Libya under the radar for six months conducting for State an extremely detailed installation and environmental security assessment in both Tripoli and Benghazi, but State had allowed the team’s mission to end prior to the attack and had not heeded its strong recommendations. (SF pros are famous for avoiding publicity, but if you were going to ignore their professional advice, why did you risk their lives by sending them in? Who does that? It’s small wonder that LTC Wood broke long-standing SF protocol to testify before live TV cameras in Congress on his experiences with the idiots at State.)
Eventually fault was found with high level State Department officials who had failed to provide adequate security to the Consulate, and several of these officials, mostly women, were placed on administrative leave and reassigned within State. Mrs. Clinton’s defense was that the “buck” never got to her desk, harking back to a similar accountability-dodge defense once taken by her husband.* She even, after the election and after the avoidable deaths of four good American men, arrogantly screamed to questioners in Congress, “What difference does it at this point make?!” (I’m afraid to imagine what this supremely arrogant woman, along with the rest of America’s “special” responsibility-free princesses, would have screamed if those four dead Americans had been women.) It had all transpired on her watch. No one is “responsible” for an agency, but not accountable for what that agency does; that notion is simply ludicrous. What happens when such a person becomes “commander-in-chief” and screws up? Simply fire a bunch of generals known for keeping their mouths shut and give everyone else a pass? Women at State seemed far more concerned with protecting Princess Hillary than in responsibly doing the People’s business. A leader does not just occupy space like some birth-entitled royal princess; they assume responsibility and accountability – for others. Present in Washington, she should have been the one out there on all five national TV channels answering some very tough questions, including precisely which specific actions she directly took to assist her subordinates she knew to be in very grave danger, even before the attack. Hillary Clinton, simply due to her personal background, KNEW the full context, all the way back to 1968. The same applies to Leon Panetta, formerly Director CIA and now Defense Secretary; Panetta had served for two years as an Army lieutenant MI officer, 1964-66, before moving into Washington politics as Vietnam began growing into a very major issue. He would have seen the parallels immediately, recognized the urgent need to defuse the matter fast.
But even the slap-on-the-wrist for a few State bureaucrats has failed to assuage the American protesters. Gradually focus settled on “talking points” originally issued by the CIA but heavily “massaged” by State, the White House, the Pentagon, the DNI, and a raft of political bystanders and policy wonks throughout various and sundry bureaucracies in Washington. (Unclassified “talking points” are not the same as the daily intelligence briefings provided to the President, but are presumed to be based on the same underlying intelligence.) The sole focus of the repeatedly altered “talking points”, directed mostly by Clinton’s State spokeswoman, was to do no damage to the President’s political campaign while also deflecting accountability from Clinton’s State Department. As an adjunct to the “talking points” angle was apparently similar “spin” testimony by the then-director of CIA Petraeus before Congress shortly after the attack. To avoid a potentially difficult Senate confirmation hearing, the Administration did replace the directly-involved Susan Rice with not-involved Senator John Kerry as Clinton’s replacement at State (Clinton was already long scheduled to step down from that post); Rice remained at the UN, until she switched places with Samantha Powers at the White House. (The matter is rather moot anyway; it’s impossible for any Congressional committee to conduct a “grueling” interrogation of any women appointee. You can’t even do it for women appointed for life to the Supreme Court. Women are regarded by all politicians as “special”, “untouchable”, cannot be subjected to “mean” or “tough” or potentially “embarrassing” questions, etc.. In the United States it’s against the law to criticize or embarrass women in high places.) A male State official testified much later before Congress that he was chastised for talking to congressional investigators and then demoted for breaking the “party line”. The Administration then tried shifting to the claim that the whole Benghazi affair was the fault of Republicans in Congress who had cut future funding for State Department foreign installation security (a claim that was totally irrelevant and even patently false). But while many questions about the Benghazi event remain to be answered, the biggest problem now is in the cover-up.
While “killing bin Laden and defeating al Qaeda” narrative would win the election for President Obama, Libya was intended to be the great “foreign policy accomplishment” narrative that would subsequently float Princess Clinton into the White House as Queen President. The mass demonstrations throughput the Muslim World belied the Obama “spin”, and the tragic Benghazi affair rendered the Clinton “spin” useless – primarily because there was never an over-arching strategy in place, or foreign policy civilians in place who could even devise a sensible strategy. (But most Americans, manipulated by a fawning “news” media, didn’t care anyway.) How could a competent White House and its “foreign policy” team NOT see the blatantly obvious significance of the eve of a US election on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and NOT ensure intelligent prior planning to deal with highly likely contingencies? Were they so sold on their own political “spin” that they were blind to stark realities – just as were those on the eve of the 9/11 attacks? “I only want to know MY truth!” Did this political nonsense also infect the State Department, the Defense Department, the CIA? Once again we have to ask just what all those tens of thousands of computer snoops at NSA were doing before, during and after all this actually relevant stuff was going on. The Obama Administration has been “purging” very senior US generals in key positions for years, like some insecure Third World dictatorship. (See Footnote #3) The only other person who’s been held accountable for anything is some obscure guy in California who exercised his freedom of speech to make a brief video, and he’s been held ever since incommunicado in jail. Apparently it is now against the law for our “special” women to be held accountable for anything. If the only people in government who can be held “accountable” are senior Regular military men, even on the flimsiest of excuses possible, then we better try hard to get a lot of them to run for the highest elective and appointed offices in the country, and fast.
After a while, all the domestic political deception naturally feeds other wild scenarios. For example, is there some secret plan to replace the US military with CIA drones and NSA computers – all manipulated by incompetent political hacks behind the curtains? Imagine a world controlled by unaccountable bureaucrats in pristine offices killing people by remote control based on surveillance information provided to them by other unaccountable bureaucrats snooping around in everyone’s private lives … in one massive police state. When everything is a lie, anything is possible.
+++ The General
The attack on the consulate (and the “annex”) in Benghazi was clearly a planned and coordinated potent military terrorist attack by trained militant groups associated with al Qaeda and largely armed as a direct consequence of the US (“NATO”) bombing of Libya. So this discredits the first political story line about “spontaneous demonstrations” in Benghazi. The State Department official responsible for diplomatic post security in Libya, Ms Lamb, testified on camera before Congress that the availability of funds for Libya security was simply not an issue for her concern; ample funds for this purpose were already available. So this discredits the second political story line. The fact is that Congress had previously authorized so much money for this global security purpose that State had been unable to spend it all. (Part of the reason for the abundance of security funds for this region was due to the inability of State to get the American Taj Mahal of all embassy walled fortresses, in Baghdad, up and running at more than 10% of originally (naively) planned capacity.) In addition, the Defense Department is always willing to provide expert personnel and equipment, with funding, to protect Americans and American interests anywhere in the world where competent civilian leadership deems it necessary, and had already sent three military contingents into Libya with different missions, CIA a fourth.
The main reason for all the lingering doubt about the ludicrous post-attack DC political story lines has to do with General Petraeus (plus three serving US military flag officers). Many believe that Petraeus’ four-month romantic affair (with another security-cleared military officer AFTER leaving the Army and which he had ended long before Benghazi) was NOT the reason for his resignation from his CIA post. The retired general, as CIA Director, had testified to Congress immediately after the Benghazi attack (11 September 2012, two months before the election) with a thoroughly unbelievable story that everyone at the time knew was simply implausible. (See Footnote #1.) There has been persistent and strong subsequent speculation that certain parties were attempting to use the still-secret affair as leverage to get him to continue advancing that original phony story. He declined, but did make a trip to Libya for his own edification. According to respected news accounts, which may or may not be accurate, the affair was presented to Petraeus on election day (6 November), and it became public three days after the election (9 November 2012). Now discredited, he resigned from the CIA. But at least Mr. Holder at Justice (and the FBI Director) were well aware of the affair long before it became public (probably through NSA communications intercepts); many believe that knowledge of his affair had been presented to the highly respected general several months earlier, and was then used to influence what he subsequently said. (Timing of public knowledge of the affair presented a problem for the general inasmuch as his son was still serving his first combat tour as an Army lieutenant in Afghanistan.)
It is also strongly suspected that CIA had not been entirely forthcoming about CIA activities in Libya with Petraeus in the brief period after he became director, that any such information was filtered through the agency’s deputy director, Michael Morell, and that Morell also handled liaison with the Washington political community and crafted the “talking points” for the White House and State. Morell is now widely expected to become CIA director if Hillary Clinton wins the next election.
The fact is that the eight-month US bombing campaign of Libya, AFTER that country had given up its nuclear and other WMD, and which had ignored the example of our own Pearl Harbor, had opened the Pandora’s Box of Gaddafi weapons caches to the Bad Guys, who had been scrounging them up ever since the first bombs fell. Soon after the dust settled, and the Europeans predictably had refused to put any of the required military forces on the ground, the CIA had placed a sizeable contract-hire paramilitary team under case officer direction in eastern Libya in an effort to locate and/or track those weapons, most of which had already left the country. (Israel had tracked a whole cargo ship carrying some of those weapons to Syria; other weapons were tracked being smuggled to Mali. Recently they have turned up among Islamic Boko Haram extremists groups now also terrorizing Nigeria.) Of special concern to the CIA contract team, under case officer direction and supported by one overhead unarmed surveillance and communications drone, were a large number of missing man-portable SAMs that could be used to bring down civilian and military aircraft, as well as a very large number (over 10,000) of missing RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) weapons. (A couple of European countries, including France, did briefly send in small special operations teams to assist the US contract-hire efforts.) There was also some CIA liaison contact with the former Gaddafi installations and personnel previously employed in the secret CIA “rendition” program. The Gaddafi government had been cooperating with the US in the global “war on terrorism”; we repaid that cooperation by bombing his country into oblivion. (There is also suspicion that the Libyan facility and personnel previously used in the rendition program had been resurrected to continue its former mission under new direction, despite the administration’s public claims that such practices had ended.)
Before the attack on the consulate, it was well known in the US intelligence community that eastern Libya had become a lawless hotbed of all sorts of “militias”, criminal gangs, and al Qaeda-affiliated groups jockeying for position both in Libya and in nearby countries like Mali – all of which represented an ever-increasing threat to US (and French) personnel and interests in the region. Some of these elements were also associated with extremist elements in neighboring Egypt. A number of western, including British, installations and vehicles in eastern Libya had been bombed and attacked in the months leading up to the attack on the US consulate. The handwriting was everywhere that simply demanded significantly increased security for both the consulate and the ambassador in eastern Libya, even without considering the significance to enemies of such dates as the anniversary of 9/11 or an upcoming American election. At the behest of State, a professional on-site security assessment team, led by a respected US Army colonel, had earlier communicated this urgent need in no uncertain terms to State, but its recommendations were largely ignored.
During the attack, three relevant factors played a major role: some of the previously stolen RPG and mortar weapons were used in the consulate and “annex” attacks; for hours after the consulate attack the existence and location of the CIA “annex” installation was considered by many in DC as still secret and best left that way; and the Pentagon had not been fully apprised in advance by both State and CIA of the full situation on the ground in eastern Libya – so no realistic contingency plan for immediate response was in place.
(Any such plan would have had to consider what a SAM could do to a fully armed and fueled US fighter flying low and slow over a heavily populated metropolitan area; the attack on the consulate could have been bait for such a spectacular and deadly shoot-down. The same possibility would have faced any cargo planes used to bring in airborne soldiers even if they were air-dropped some distance away, without ground transport. Without available armored ground transport, the only realistic response would have required Apache or similar attack helicopters coming in very low from several directions ahead of airborne soldiers in Blackhawk transport helicopters, but such aircraft have limited range and speed, so an aircraft carrier would have to be pre-positioned. And then you are faced with a possible chaotic situation similar to what developed in Mogadishu Somalia in 1993 without integral armored ground transport. These things are never as easy as they seem in the movies.)
Later, when the US Air Force C-17 went in to retrieve the ambassador’s and three other Americans’ bodies, well over thirty US personnel from a number of different locations in eastern Libya also showed up, with equipment, for evacuation. This number caught everyone in the military by surprise, which then sent in a second plane. (It is possible that the existence of so many armed people had played into State’s own assessment of the security situation in Benghazi, even though the on-site assessment team had been aware of the “annex” and had been led by a fully competent and knowledgeable US Army Special Forces expert intimately familiar with US military capabilities and responsibilities. Its assessment report had gone to State, not Defense.) Compounding the matter even further was the fact that not all members of the CIA contract team in Benghazi were US citizens.
The FBI has been handed the task of conducting an investigation of the attack, and has used other sources and methods to identify with a reasonable degree of certainty at least seven participants in the attacks, but their investigation has been severely hampered by the lack of adequate security in quite lawless and volatile eastern Libya – made that way by the “NATO” bombing campaign. One open question remains as to the degree to which the consulate installation may have been compromised by previous US (CIA) activities in eastern Libya; it could have been earlier CIA personnel, using the installation later designated as a future consulate, who had compromised the installation to the bad guys. (It is believed that the contract-hire rescuers had led the Bad Guys from the consulate to the second “annex” installation, which, of course, compromised it and its personnel, too. But this is only conjecture; the “annex”, like the consulate, could have been already compromised.)
+++ The Truth
The US military once had the attack’s leader in its possession. The leader of the assault was one Abu Sufian bin Qumu, a bin Ladin associate arrested in Pakistan in 2002, soon after the al Qaeda attacks on the US of 11 September 2001, and sent to the US military POW camp at Guantanamo Bay. Qumu, a Libyan citizen, was one of the original Arabs who accompanied bin Laden to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight against the Russians. He was released by the US five years later and handed over to the Libyans in 2007, who set him free in 2008 in a Libya still under the tight control of Gadhafi. Once the 2011 US (“NATO”) bombing campaign against Libya had facilitated the removal and murder of Gadhafi, Qumu, no longer watched by Libyan security, was free to form his own branch of the Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Sharia in lawless eastern Libya. His group then attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, exactly 11 years after the attacks on the US and 12 years after the attack on the USS Cole. The man most responsible for killing the American ambassador had been a prisoner of the Americans for five years, and then Americans deliberately created the conditions for his revenge. And all of this transpired in the space of a single decade. Mr. Qumu remains a free man.
No one except the Russians ever asked, or answered, what comes next.
The only man who can answer all the very many questions still remaining surrounding the whole Benghazi fiasco in Washington is General Petraeus. Unfortunately senior military officers, including former senior military officers, are notorious for keeping their mouths shut and not refuting civilian leadership. This is what makes them such easy patsies for civilian incompetence, stupidity and screw-ups. So it would be necessary to have Petraeus testify under oath to very specific questions. It is blatantly clear that State failed totally to ensure adequate protection for its diplomatic installation, and the American Ambassador, in Benghazi, and most especially on the anniversary of 9/11. State was then very concerned with dissipating this irresponsibility, both for the then-current political campaign and the planned 2016 campaign. This irresponsibility is especially grievous when you consider that it was the Secretary of State who had taken the lead in the original bombing campaign (theoretically led by the Europeans even though the US military ended up picking up over 80% of costs and equipment) against a country that represented zero threat to the US, to US citizens or to US interests – a bombing campaign which succeeded in creating a whole raft of new problems. Any response to an active security threat to am official US installation and personnel overseas would have been a normal US military mission, something which it is fully prepared to execute – if given enough notice by knowledgeable, competent and responsible officials of potential problems, such as the ill-advised travel plans of a US ambassador. (Without the ambassador’s presence, any attack on the installation would have been much less significant. Still, the plan was to soon establish a functioning consulate with a compliment of additional personnel, so ignoring professional security recommendations remains inexplicable. It was still “US property”.) In addition to State, it also seems grossly apparent that fault also lies with the CIA, the White House, and to a lesser degree, the Pentagon, and that someone somewhere was actively mucking up the whole mess, screwing up the usual lines of communication, with confusing information and instructions, for political purposes. (See Footnote #2 for a discussion of the matter of Contract Hires.)
I personally am not satisfied that that person was not Mr. John Brennan, then the White House counterterrorism advisor, but he managed to get through his Congressional appointment hearings for the Director CIA job intact (and has not followed up on promises made to members of Congress since taking up his job at CIA). (Brennen was only 13 during Tet ’68 and thus would have had no relevant experience with the Vietnam era, as older key members of the administration definitely did, and went directly into the CIA with no military experience.) Secretary of Defense and former CIA Director Leon Panetta, who had served as a US Army lieutenant 1964-66 before the Vietnam “build-up”, and with a very long history in the thick of Washington partisan politics, is also a very likely suspect. There is also a highly suspect Deputy Director of CIA under Petraeus, a man named Michael Morell, who is three younger than Brennen, also went directly into the CIA with no military experience, rose in the agency on the analytical side of the agency, and seems very adept a playing Beltway politics. (He is now employed with a group supporting the election of Clinton.) Other likely suspects are National Security Advisor Tom Donilon (a real estate lawyer Brennen’s age also with no military experience) and the President’s advisor on human rights, Ireland-born firebrand Samantha Power (who switched places with Rice at UN. Yes, the US representative at the UN is a female first-generation immigrant, similar to another female first-generation immigrant, Madeline Albright, who was the US Secretary of State during the 1990s and has played a major role with “NATO” in recent times. How much do such “special” “entitled” women really know about America, and especially about its military forces?). It’s obvious that many senior women at State are far more concerned about protecting Clinton than about the mission of State. And the White House staff is far more adept at playing domestic politics than about expertly managing the many major agencies under the executive branch.
The most likely key administration person to have played a major role in the immediate “spin” about Benghazi is former White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton, Director CIA and Secretary of Defense under President Obama – the very politically astute, experienced and knowledgeable liberal Leon Panetta. Clinton close advisor and friend, Sidney Blumenthal, would have been a quick and eager fellow “co-conspirator”. Both men would instantly have seen the connections with Tet ’68 and the subsequent loss of an election that was already “won”.
Many of my military friends still do not understand what the CIA was doing playing around with political “talking points” – incredibly through 24 revisions! Neither do I. The CIA is supposed to issue clear concise intelligence information. Period. Didn’t we decide all this “intelligence spin” nonsense when no weapons of mass destruction turned up in Iraq?! “It’s a slam dunk!” Yeah, right – 7,000 dead soldiers later. What was the CIA spinning right up to the 9/11/20001 attacks? It certainly wasn’t anything about an ideology that had declared war on us. Just what role is supposed to be played in these situations by that whole new giant bureaucracy – the Directorate of National Intelligence – created because of the intelligence weaknesses revealed by the 9/11/2001 attacks? What role was played by the President’s National Security Advisor? His “human rights” advisor? Why has the CIA drifted so far away from its core mission – sophisticated strategic clandestine human intelligence collection operations – and into tactical paramilitary operations with mercenary hires and suitcases of cash, when there’s already a fully competent and resourceful US military sitting there with its own extensive special operations capability? That professional military needs a professional CIA to be doing what it is supposed to do best, and then sharing what it learns openly and honestly with the professionals who can act on it. That’s the whole purpose of the set-up of all these bureaucracies.
Why are civilian political appointee women, with zero experience, allowed so much power as to engineer prolonged military operations against sovereign nations with no consideration to subsequent consequences? This is precisely the type of action that so greatly concerns countries like Russia, and remains the principal reason why Russia is continually trying to put some brakes on American impetuosity and why China is steadily building its own potent military capability. This type of American “thinking” makes a lot of others very nervous, and very reluctant to join in. Everyone else does NOT think “just like very special me.” Mrs. Clinton’s visceral disdain, and that of many of the White House staff, of military men was very well known throughout her years as the “First Lady” during the 1990s, but has been kept carefully out of sight ever since she began running for elective office on her husband’s coattails. Military men know it’s as visceral as ever. Similar sentiments have been documented for Madeline Albright, but such views of both Susan Rice and Samantha Power are less certain. Just who is running the shop? Everyone knows that foreign affairs are not President Obama’s strong suit, or even his main interest, that he leaves most of that stuff to appointees. This is the neophyte who went to Berlin wearing Kennedy’s cloak even before he had won the election, who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on the hope of something wonderful he might do in the future! Is the true puppet-master just some jerk in the shadows with their own agendas bent on getting more people, including American military people, needlessly killed for cheap domestic political objectives through stupid adventures abroad? Is this what it takes to create the vicarious illusion of self-worth, of “The Greatest Nation On Earth”, for “very special me”?
Everyone has “responsibility”, but no one has accountability (unless they’re military). It’s just insane. How can military people, expected to lay their lives on the line, ever trust, much less respect, the wisdom and altruism of such civilian masters? American women, with the supremely opportunistic Hillary Clinton at the forefront, are in 2014 anguishing and making all sorts of political gain over dozens of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria, but never mentioned anything about hundreds of boys slaughtered earlier in that same country by that same group – or the fact that the Boko Haram terrorist organization was largely armed by weapons secreted out of a Libya bombed by Hillary Clinton and her girl friends. For sexist and totally self-interested American women, only the living are victims; the dead are just dead. Kidnapped girls are a far greater horror than slaughtered boys? Saving boys is not worth sacrificing American soldiers, but rescuing girls is? What kind of twisted creep thinks like that? What kind of a twisted society nurtures it?! What kind of sick society even tolerates such unanswered bigotry?! I, for one, would never trust a Hillary Clinton, and I know no professional military man who would. Ditto for those other three “special” women at the top, too. Such women care only about themselves, and they certainly don’t care one bit about sacrificing others for what they want for themselves.
Running low on munitions, facing an even larger attack, responsible for wounded and civilian lives, and realizing that no help would be forthcoming, the men in Benghazi were forced to opt for an action really hated by all American military men – and run. Those political appointee civilians responsible for their condition were all operating way beyond their competence level, and with zero sense of responsibility. The actions of the masters back home in September 2012 were reminiscent of a similar event in October 1993 during the Clinton Administration when US Army Rangers were pinned down in Mogadishu, Somalia (“Blackhawk Down”) after being committed, almost as a post-Persian Gulf War after-thought, under UN “command” to a “humanitarian” mission of no consequence to the security of the US, and then largely abandoned and forgotten. They, too, had faced fighters, 19 years earlier, trained by al Qaeda groups no one wanted to recognize. The masters back home are always eager to shower themselves in childish glory when military operations go well, but are very quick to point fingers elsewhere when they don’t. With little or no ability to think through their causes beyond the immediate, very few of them are willing to join military guys on the line for those causes.
In addition to General Petraeus, three highly respected US military flag officers associated with this incident also abruptly ended their careers in the aftermath of Benghazi under rather implausible circumstances. This is an unprecedented event that has received little serious attention in the media. Why are all involved civilian officials still standing? Apparently the press only takes notice when the vast investigative powers of the government are used by political hacks to threaten, intimidate, influence and blackmail them. (Little noticed by the press, the Obama Administration has systematically “purged” more senior military officers than any other administration in history.)
Eric Holder, as the nation’s supposedly independent Attorney General, has been closely associated with a number of very troubling events in recent years, including the handing of military firearms to Mexican drug cartels; charging reporters in court subpoenas with engaging in “criminal conspiracies” over “state secrets”; using the Internal Revenue Service to harass, intimidate and stonewall groups with a different political perspective; the strategic leaking of serious state secrets that benefit the current administration’s public image; and using the FBI to snoop around in the private lives of senior military officers. All of these things do serious damage to the constitutional rights and liberties of all Americans and seriously undermine what America is and what America represents. What gives any American the right to criticize political misuse of government powers in other countries, such as Russia, that are routinely duplicated in America? Mr. Holder seems to be the Administration’s “chief facilitator” in a coordinated effort to use the vast powers of the US government and its justice system to manipulate events and people for domestic political gain. (See Footnote #4 to “Who Decided The 2012 Election”, for a brief description of “The Cave”.) While others in positions of power in Washington would apparently be right at home in Moscow, I would not hesitate to rate Holder as the most dangerous man in America.
Within two months after the Benghazi attack on 11 September, these four highly respected and dedicated senior US military officers were gone (See Footnote #3):
- Gen. Ham, on October 18.
- Adm. Gaouette, on October 27.
- Gen. Petraeus, on November 9.
- Gen. Allen, on November 13.
Just who is so naïve as to think that generals Petraeus and Allen are the only US military officers, regardless of gender, who’ve ever had an affair or written flirtatious emails during very long wars? Petraues’ brief dumb affair did not begin until after he had retired from the Army, was with an adult women officer in the Army Reserves with her own security clearances, and had concluded long before it became known to others. (Further, there was never any evidence that either party had committed adultery.) The FBI eventually found no harm to national security arising from the Petraeus affair, but inexplicably still has not closed the investigation (ensuring Petraeus’ continued silence). Allen’s dumb behavior was also entirely private and impacted no other interest. As for Ham’s forced “retirement” and Gaouette’s “temporary re-assignment”, there is not even a hint that either man’s morals or unsavory personal conduct were at issue. And NO senior military officer ever lowers himself to the level of many of our elected representatives in Congress, or members of their staffs.
The performance of all four men on the job had been stellar, and that job was constant.
Russia and the Russian people paid a truly staggering cost when Stalin purged his officer corps of all he felt were not totally subservient to his dictate, regardless of their true loyalty, their best possible expert advise, and existing undeniable realities. The effects of that purge reverberated throughout Russia’s entire military forces for decades. The rarest form of “malfeasance” found in the US military has to do with personal financial or political gain. Wouldn’t it be nice if senior civilians in government, including those in Congress, who presume positions superior to our military people, were held to at least a third of the level of military standards? Can you imagine what kind of government we would have if we held politicians and political appointees and bureaucrats to such standards, including those in the General Services Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Veterans Administration, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, etc.? (See Footnote #4.)
* President Harry Truman, a junior Army officer during WW I, commenting about people “passing the buck” (to “someone else”, usually a subordinate, in order to avoid just responsibility and thus accountability), stated unequivocally, “The buck stops here.”, indicating his own desk. A good example of this principle is the case of a US Navy ship that accidentally collides with some other object. Even though a junior subordinate is at the helm, the captain is automatically presumed responsible, and thus quickly relieved of command (accountable). It’s all about adult leadership – that actually means something. In contrast, President Clinton had simply quipped that “the buck never got here.”
Footnote #1: Petraeus’ Changed Story:
On Friday, 14 September 2012, three days after the Benghazi attacks, Mr. Petraeus, as Director CIA, testified before the House and Senate intelligence committees in closed-door sessions. Comments made by elected representatives who were present indicated that the general’s testimony supported the comments made by Susan Rice on Sunday, 16 September 2012, on 5 national TV news programs – that the attack appeared to be a spontaneous demonstration that got out of hand. Petraeus briefed lawmakers that day that the attack was akin to a flash mob, and some top lawmakers noted that he seemed “wedded” to the administration’s narrative that it was a demonstration that spun out of control.
It should be noted that the testimony was not public, so there are no independent sources beyond those general comments made by elected representatives who were present. That 14 September 2012 briefing did appear to conflict with one from the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center a day earlier (13 September), not immediately made public, in which officials said the intelligence supported an Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-affiliated attack. Why was Petraeus selling the false Benghazi protest story three days after the attack, a story that contradicted other official conclusions? Why would he still believe that? And if he didn’t, why was he selling it?
Two months later, after the election and after he had resigned from the CIA, he again testified in Congress with what apparently was, again according to representatives who were present, a very different story from the assessment he gave to Congress two months earlier. Between the two briefings, and still as Director CIA, Petraeus conducted his own review of the Benghazi attack. He had gone in late-October 2012 to Libya before his resignation to interview people about what happened in Benghazi on 11 September 2012. While in Tripoli, he personally questioned the CIA station chief and other CIA personnel who were in Benghazi on 11 September when the attack occurred. (Is it possible that his own agency, and his deputy Morell, earlier had not fully informed him of CIA operations on-going in Libya?)
On 16 November 2012 Petraeus again testified before the House and Senate intelligence committees in closed-door sessions, now as a private citizen. In this third appearance on the same topic, he again was not asked to testify under oath. He said that he and the CIA had sought to make clear from the outset that September’s deadly attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi involved an al Qaeda affiliate. He told lawmakers that “there were extremists in the group” that launched the attack on the diplomatic mission, describing them as affiliates of al Qaeda and other groups. He also stated that he thought all along that he made it clear in his first testimony that there was significant militant terrorist involvement.
Petraeus also testified that he developed unclassified “talking points” in the days after the attack but he had no direct involvement in developing the ones used by Susan Rice. (It later developed that the “talking points” had been written by his deputy director, Morell, that Patraeus had added text to that draft, but that his text was subsequently removed so as to “avoid inter-agency conflict”, primarily with State. Petraeus had included in his text a list of specific prior warnings given to State by both Defense and CIA.) US Rep. Peter King, R-New York, on 16 November 2012: “No one knows, yet, exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points, other than to say the original talking points prepared by the CIA were different from the ones that were finally put out,” said King, stressing that the original talking points were more specific about al Qaeda involvement.
Maybe it would be better if the CIA were prohibited from playing domestic politics at all, prohibited from issuing “talking points”, and just required to issue the full truth, no matter high highly classified that truth needs to be – and let the politicians deceive the people as they will.
The FBI concluded its investigation into the Petraeus personal affair and found no harm to national security. For a discussion of the general’s decision to resign, see Footnote #5 to the article “Armed Drones”, posted separately.
Footnote #2. Contract Hires. I would not be honest if I failed to mention another troubling aspect of this matter – the fact that the SEALs and most of their partners at the “annex” in Benghazi were former military men. While Doherty had served a full career before retiring honorably from the US Navy, Woods and others had voluntarily left the military early. The men were working for a commercial company that had a government contract to provide at high wages military-style protective and defensive services at dangerous overseas locations to CIA personnel and installations. (It is presumed that they were not performing tasks that went beyond these limits.) The men (who had not first retired from the military with full benefits) had acquired their expertise from the Regular military forces and then left those forces for higher pay outside the military with a civilian company. Although their pay is rather high in their contract capacity, they are each considered independent commercial contractors (not employees) who not eligible for government benefits, including union bargaining or representation; medical, disability and unemployment insurance; or pensions, etc., and are expected to provide for such contingencies on their own out-of-pocket. Regardless of their honor as dedicated American men, they thus were, in effect, mercenary hires of the US government. For the past ten or twelve years there has been steadily growing debate among thinking men in the US military and US intelligence communities about contract hires, or as some refer to them, mercenary hires. (And very many of these “mercenaries” are employed solely in brand new comfortable and pristine offices inside the US.)
Some of us are aware that the practice of the US government to contract out to commercial companies services which the government itself previously provided has virtually exploded in recent time. While there is some evidence that certain such “out-sourcing” has resulted in improved services and efficiencies, this “off-the-books” explosion has also very effectively masked the true explosive growth of the sheer size of the federal government. Even the Defense Department now makes very extensive use of such contractors to provide a wide range of “nation-building” functions that were previously eviscerated from the Regular forces – at humongous cost and questionable results. It has also placed huge portions of government services outside legal mechanisms originally designed to regulate, police and control the activities of government. This is, in essence, “government” for personal profit.
There are many thinking men who firmly believe that certain government functions should never be “out-sourced”; most of these functions involve policing and national security functions, such as law investigation and enforcement; intelligence surveillance, collection and analysis, and military functions, including special operations. Yet these are the very highly sensitive areas where civilian contractor companies have realized their most explosive growth, at stupendous cost. Not only do these functions represent a very grave threat, if misused, to the freedoms and rights and security of American citizens, but they also operate outside the system of constitutional checks and balances and legal restraints placed on government so as not to encroach on the rights and freedoms of The People.
A former SEAL is not subject to the same laws that an active-duty SEAL is subject to, nor are the expected standards of performance as unwaveringly high. Furthermore, there is no requirement for the hires of many US government contractor companies to be only US citizens.
In the final analysis, such government contractor companies and their contract hires are simply hired mercenaries dependent on US taxpayer dollars. Many of the companies also trade on stock exchanges and are required to return profit and dividends to investors, a profit that is taxpayer dollars. They are also subject to outright purchase by any other entity, including by foreign companies and governments. Even minority shareholders in those companies can exert significant influence over their direction and activities. If their US government contracts are terminated, the companies have no choice but to sell their services to the next highest bidder, even if that bidder happens to be a foreign government or even a criminal enterprise. What happens to the extremely extensive and very sensitive, even highly classified, inside knowledge such companies have gained through their US government contracts? It certainly doesn’t simply vanish, get erased. What happens to all that company infrastructure and physical plant that was purchased with taxpayer dollars? Is it even possible to terminate the services of such companies? (It’s possible for these contractor companies to acquire an immortality greater even than the government bureaucracies that created them; they can easily become not just “too big to fail”, but also “too critical to fail”.) What happens when these companies get so good at what they do that they operate beyond their capability of the government that created them to supervise and control? What is to stop those companies from using their capabilities to secretly collect and siphon off select information for purely domestic political or criminal purposes, such as extortion? The same concerns apply to the employees of such companies. Their services were initially contracted by government employees, most of whom then left government to work for the companies at higher pay; just who polices it all? Who is left in government that even knows what the companies are actually doing?
There are many in the US military, myself included, who regard with a very jaundiced eye those who capitalize on their military vetting, training, experience and expertise to leave the military and sell their services as para-military operators for commercial companies that exist to show profits, i.e., are ruled and guided primarily by money. The same applies to many in the intelligence community, myself included. (I am not sufficiently knowledgeable of the federal law enforcement community, but I suspect similar concerns among thinking men there also.) Money obviously also rules and guides the employees of such companies, who are, by definition, hired mercenaries. The same designation applies to those who were originally vetted and trained by US government intelligence and policing agencies. If one of these guys comes knocking on my door, do I owe them the same deference as I do a government police officer? How do I tell the difference? Do they need a search warrant?
This whole area is fraught with a plethora of very dangerous pitfalls – that have no place in a free and democratic society. We have reached a point where some of these companies are even authorized to grant to their own employees, and also even to US government employees, national security clearances allowing themselves access to whatever highly classified information they want! We now even have huge commercial companies with US government contracts charged with policing and securing our borders; what is going to stop them if they ever decide to turn that enormous capability around and direct it within, against the American people? Am I the only one who has nightmares about creepy Gestapo-type masked thugs flying around in black helicopters, storming up to my house in black SUVs, watching my every move with overhead armed drones – and all on the basis of very faulty “thinking”? What is to stop certain of these companies from using their capabilities to predict and manipulate politics, elections, group behavior, inside America?
Anyone who thinks all that enormous commercial contractor power cannot very easily be used against American citizens is a bona fide moron. These are simply unaccountable commercial mercenaries guarding the American prison, a prison Americans built for themselves! Just who, or what, is our new master? Is this democracy? It certainly does not fit my definition.
With all of these, and many more, very grave but as yet unanswered questions, just what role does the legitimate US military have in protecting mercenary hires, such as those working for the CIA and pinned down in Benghazi? Some day the US military may very well find itself fighting against such mercenaries, hired by “someone else”. Such situations as Benghazi are bound to raise serious intellectual conflicts within the US military and intelligence communities. There is no doubt that the party with the first responsibility for bailing out those at the “annex” was the CIA via its contractor company. And there is no doubt that the party with the first responsibility for protecting the consulate and the ambassador was the State Department and its (British) contractor company. And both the CIA and State were negligent for not appropriately and fully advising the Defense Department (the active-duty military professionals) of the complete situation and requesting professional military back-up support – in advance.
While this particular arrangement did not, others of these “out-sourcing” schemes seem to be working fairly well, for now. But just what are we leaving to our children when these things inevitably “evolve”, as they ALWAYS do? Some government functions belong firmly and completely inside a fully accountable government, responsible solely to The People and their elected representatives, and should NEVER be out-sourced for profit. And ALL interested government entities should be kept fully “in the loop” by fully accountable government officials – who know how to think, and are, in fact, fully accountable.
Footnote #3: Five Other Flag Officers
1. In September 2012 highly respected four-star Army Gen. Carter Ham, commanding US AFRICOM (headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany), was suddenly brought home after rumors circulated that he was outraged when his offer to send in a reaction team to save the besieged Americans at Benghazi was turned down. There have been persistent reports that the general, who had started his career as an enlisted infantryman in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and was in command of the 2011 military intervention in Libya, had a rapid response team all set to go, but was ordered to “stand down.” (It is unknown who specifically ordered that “stand down”, but I personally believe that it was the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who would have consulted with the White House and with State. Panetta was a politician who had previously served as Director CIA, and widely known as the source of several major “sources and methods” public security leaks surrounding the bin Laden raid upon which the Obama Administration has so heavily leaned.) AFRICOM had been enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya since 2011, so General Ham had intimate knowledge of events on the ground. On 18 October 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta unexpectedly announced that President Obama would nominate General David Rodriguez to succeed General Ham as commander of US Africa Command, even though Rodriguez was in the middle of his then-current assignment as Commander US Army Forces Command. Rodriquez assumed command of AFRICOM on 5 April 2013, and Ham’s retirement was recorded in the Congressional Record on 8 April 2013.
Panetta is on record as claiming that the refusal to use force was the result of a three-party consultation between Gen. Dempsey (Chairman, JCS), Ham, and himself. At a Pentagon press briefing, Panetta told reporters: “(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. 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.”
Ham then simply said that he had forces ready and that no order was given, making no mention of a “consensus.” (There was, in fact, an abundance of real-time information in many quarters, including in the Pentagon and AFRICOM, about what was taking place on the ground in Benghazi.)
General Ham had stated on 1 October 2012 that, as a result of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s overtaking and capturing more territory in Mali in Africa, and possessing arms from Libya after the Libyan “civil war” which overthrew Gaddafi, there was the possibility of the US assisting (not leading) counterterror operations done there by other countries. A more radical step would be the use of drones. (The US later took both actions behind French lead in Mali.) Extremist elements in Mali, Egypt and Syria, in addition to Libya, are making very good use of the great opportunities and bountiful weapons the ill-advised American bombing of Libya, under “NATO” cover, offered them, especially when no ground forces followed up the bombing campaign.
2. On 13 November 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suspended the scheduled Senate confirmation hearing of four-star Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, who had been nominated to be NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (EUCOM). General Ham was then serving as the top US commander in Afghanistan, but was placed under investigation into his “inappropriate communication” with a woman that arose out of the Petraeus affair investigation. (It is suspected that those communications, as with those involving General Petraeus, were intercepted by NSA and provided to the White House, probably via the FBI, which then passed the ball to Holder at Justice.) Panetta also requested Congress to speed the confirmation of General Joseph Dunford to take over as commander of US forces in Afghanistan. This, in effect, not only determined that Allen would not be promoted to SACEUR, but that he had also lost his present command post in Afghanistan. On 22 January 2013 General Allen, as was Petraeus, was cleared in a misconduct inquiry. On 10 February 2013 Allen relinquished command of the International Security Assistance Force and US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) to General Dunford. On 19 February 2013 President Obama accepted General Allen’s request to retire from the military because his “wife is seriously ill”.
3. On 27 October 2012 the commander of the USS John Stennis Strike Group (Carrier Strike Group 3), Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette, was mysteriously relieved of duty while the vessels patrolled the North Arabian Sea. The commander of the US Fifth Fleet, Vice Admiral John W. Miller, ordered the temporary re-assignment of Gaouette pending the results of an investigation by the Naval Inspector General. Five months later, on Monday 25 March 2013, the Navy officially disciplined the admiral. He had been accused of using profanity in a public setting and making at least two racially insensitive comments. The investigation ultimately found that the admiral had used profanity while himself being the target of a shipboard roast, called a “Foc’sle Follies,” and had made racially insensitive remarks on two previous occasions. He was cleared of any criminal violations under the UCMJ, the laws governing the behavior of armed services personnel, but a set of administrative penalties effectively ended his career.
Sources in the Stennis strike group said that Gaoeutte’s behavior did not seem out of line to them. The complaint was filed, claiming Gaoeutte was abusive, after he had corrected a subordinate commander for not following safe procedures when piloting a ship under the subordinate’s command. Another has known Rear Admiral Gaouette to be a the “consummate officer.” Other reports have claimed the admiral wanted to send help during the deadly Benghazi attack and disobeyed orders to stand down. However, Rear Admiral John Kirby, chief of naval information at the Pentagon says, “Rumors of this having anything to do with Libya and the Benghazi attack are simply false and ridiculous.” The Stennis didn’t arrive in the Persian Gulf until 10 October. On 11 September the ships were still in the Pacific. (The Stennis fighter planes could have reached Benghazi; the carrier also has a compliment of its own refueling tankers to support those fighters.)
Postscript 2014: In May 2014 US Army Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; and chair of the Military Intelligence Board, announced that he will retire early later in 2014. It is widely believed that the outspoken 3-star “egghead” general is being forced out by the Obama Administration. In September 2011 he had been temporarily assigned to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and took command of DIA in July 2012, two months before the Benghazi incident. A trained and experienced case officer and 82nd Airborne Ranger with three master’s degree and an honorary doctorate, Flynn’s career has been primarily operational HUMINT, with numerous combat arms conventional and special operations senior intelligence assignments. He was General McChrystal’s top intelligence officer in Afghanistan and also served as the senior intelligence officer for the Joint Special Operations Command.
As with the other three officers, someone just wanted him gone. One is reminded of the case of four-star Army General Stanley McChrystal, a previous commander of ISAF and US Forces in Afghanistan, who was relieved of his command in June 2010 for “impolitic comments” made informally by some of his subordinate staff members. Note that McChrystal was fired, not for anything he said or did, but for things his subordinates were reported to have said by a publication with a long anti-military history. A guiding principle for senior American military officers, who rise in the most competitive meritocracy in America, is, “Never speak truth to power,” no matter how inept is that power. American civilians really get off on ordering around and firing real men in military uniform, especially if they are ten times as capable as the civilians; there is no better way for lesser people to show how “macho” they are – safely in the rear, of course. (And, of course, it helps greatly that you don’t have to apply the same standards to yourself.)
And it helps enormously that military people don’t have unions, or lobbies, either.
If the eight month bombing campaign of Libya wasn’t stupid enough, consider the idiot proconsul civilian who summarily dismissed the entire Iraqi army – leaving the US military suddenly with less than a quarter of the people needed to secure the country – plus a huge new potent, trained and armed force pissed off that they no longer had jobs or incomes to support their families. The world’s fourth largest army was suddenly a very potent insurgency. Then there are all those geniuses who think an enemy like al Qaeda can be defeated by remotely assassinating whoever steps forward as a “leader” at any given moment. After over a dozen years these brilliant “whack-a-mole” people still have never heard the story of the little boy on the beach doggedly working to empty the sea into his little hole in the sand. And anyone who ever expected the Europeans to make up for the lack of “nation-building” capability in the US military, fired en masse ten years earlier at the end of the “Cold” War, had to be either a moron or smoking some really heavy stuff. (There are dozens of such examples of American civilians stuck on ‘stupid’ over the past twelve years. Seen any of them summarily fired?)
Taken together over the two years since the 2012 election, the US military has undergone the greatest purge of senior officers in its history. And none of them have talked. But no senior civilian, including any of the affirmative action women appointed to very high office, has been held accountable for anything.
Some bosses are shocked when they discover that certain hitherto dismissed subordinates are enormously more qualified than they are; the more insecure of such bosses often view such subordinates as threats rather than the assets they are. The most secure (and rare) bosses tend to use such subordinates to their advantage. The most insecure (and common) derive a sense of delicious reaffirming power by simply getting rid of them. It’s one of the mechanisms that push standards ever lower.
Footnote #4. Invisible People. The following perceptive writer is describing his experiences when he accompanied a couple of sanitation workers making their daily rounds in New York City. I know many military people who would grasp his observations instantly:
Kurtz, Federici, and I were making our way down a street lined with tall sycamore trees and elegant town houses when all at once, as if she had materialized out of the remarkable morning light, a muse appeared. She was tall, slender, in her mid-20s, with flawless olive skin, large eyes, full lips. Her hair, neat behind her shoulders, bounced lightly in sync with her brisk footsteps.
Kurtz was staggered. He leaned against the truck, folded his arms, and gazed at her; when a trace of her perfume reached us, he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He smiled hugely, his eyes still closed, and I smiled as well to see a man so frankly enjoy the sight, and scent, of a woman.
I didn’t know it yet, but that morning on the street I was also observing a man who could stare so blatantly because any potentially disapproving members of the public wouldn’t notice him doing it. In fact, as Kurtz knew well, passersby didn’t even see him. Years on the job had taught him that when he put on his uniform every morning, like Federici and every other sanitation worker in the city, he became invisible.
Uniforms in general change the way any worker is perceived. The man or woman wearing a uniform becomes the Police Officer or the Firefighter, the Soldier, the Doctor, the Chef. Individuality is subsumed by the role that the clothing implies. But the sanitation worker is more than just subsumed by a role. Because of the mundane, constant, and largely successful nature of his work, his uniform acts as a cloaking device. It erases him.
Effective garbage collection and street cleaning are primary necessities if urban dwellers are to be safe from the pernicious effects of their own detritus. When garbage lingers too long on the streets, vermin thrive, disease spreads, and city life becomes dangerous in ways not common in the developed world for more than a century. It is thus an especially puzzling irony that the first line of defense in any city’s ability to ensure the basic health and well-being of its citizenry is so persistently unseen, but the problem is hardly unique to New York.
The sociologist Wayne Brekhus might point to sanitation work as an example of an “unmarked” element of daily life. The world around us is more completely comprehended if we look for phenomena that are usually unnoticed—unextraordinary, he calls them—and therefore unanalyzed. They stand in contrast to things, relationships, identities, or behaviors that are marked, claims Brekhus; these garner a lot of attention and are often used as examples that purport to illustrate larger realities, but recognizing only marked phenomena distorts our understanding of the world.
(Amen. “We pay soldiers to die.”)
Excerpted from Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks With the Sanitation Workers of New York City by Robin Nagle, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. ©2013 by Robin Nagle. All rights reserved.