BENGHAZI DEBACLE: SPEC OPS VET FINDS GLARING FAILURES (PART ONE)

Benghazi map, Libya

As a veteran of Special Forces (and a keen observer of military affairs) I decided with my unique perspective to wade through the 800-plus pages of the Select Committee Report on the Benghazi debacle, which as we all know cost 5 Americans their lives. It is, as you can imagine, a rather daunting task; and far too much material to cover in a single post. So, instead, I will comment on those glaring errors in judgement, actions, and questions remaining as strike me (from a military standpoint) while reading the Report; here in bite-sized parts.

Ambassador’s residence at the Diplomatic Mission compund, Benghazi

It should be keep in mind that the initial attack on September 11, 2012 upon the Ambassador’s residence at the American Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi (not designated as an official “Consulate”) began (approx) at 9:42 local time. It would continue as an off-and-on engagement for the next 13 hours. The fighting would start at the Diplomatic Mission compound where the Ambassador and six other Americans were present; and continue through the dark streets of Benghazi; and, finally, into the early morning hours at the CIA Annex, which came under siege.

View of the CIA Annex compound in Benghazi; from which the GRS operators launched their rescue attempt of the beleaguered Mission; and which was itself the scene of attack in the early hours of September 12th. Operators fought and died defending from these roofs.

During these hours, a senior team chaired (by phone) by Secretary Hillary Clinton debated the ongoing attack and made-up an Action Item List. Missing from this meeting was the Secretary of Defense (or senior deputy), Director of the CIA, or any senior military chief. This meeting will be discussed later. But what was not among the 10 items on their Action Item List was a plan to dispatch an immediate rescue; this at a time when the battle was ongoing and the Ambassador was only reported as missing, not yet dead.

GLARING FAILURE 1: Why did the Marine F.A.S.T. platoon not deploy in time to effect outcome of battle of Benghazi?

One question that I found myself asking early into the Report was why did the Marine Corps Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (F.A.S.T.) take so long to launch from its base in Rota, Spain to Benghazi?

What is found in the Report, as testified before the Committee by the F.A.S.T. platoon commander on the ground, is truly astonishing to someone who served for many years in Special Forces (myself).

The F.A.S.T. platoon leader in Rota (likely a Marine Corps First Lieutenant or at best a Captain), aware of what was happening at Benghazi through news reports, decided along with his “Gunny” to initiate the “recall order” at 12:45 am (1:45 in Benghazi); and began assembling his platoon in preparation for deployment. At that time, the Ambassador’s residence at the Mission was in flames, and the Ambassador reported as merely missing. The battle had moved to the streets; as the CIA Global Response Staff (GRS) operators, who had gone from the nearby CIA Annex to the Mission to rescue the Ambassador and his Diplomatic Security detail, were retreating to the Annex with the survivors.

AT 2:39 the F.A.S.T.team received official orders to deploy to Libya. The team was fully packed-out and waiting on the tarmac of the airfield at 5:45. Though ready to deploy, the F.A.S.T. platoon in Spain had to wait, as its air assets were not at Rota, as one would expect. They were in Germany, at Ramstein Air Force Base! It was not until NOON that the C-130 arrived from Germany; fully 9 HOURS after the orders to deploy!

Now, I don’t ever remember being hours away from my airfield when my unit was tasked as a “Rapid Response Force” (or the “Ready”, or “Go” unit). What sense does it make to have a fast response force that is hours away from the air assets required to deploy it??

U.S. Marines from a Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) assigned to Marine Corps Security Force Company-Europe, based at the U.S. Naval Station Rota, Spain, board an Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft bound for Monrovia, Liberia where they will provide security for a humanitarian assistance team sent to gather information about requirements for a potential humanitarian mission. (Photo by Chief Journalist Dan Smithyman)

The F.A.S.T.team Marines loaded rapidly and were prepared to depart by 1 pm. However, there was further delay of 4 hours; as decision-makers in Washington debated whether or not the F.A.S.T.platoon should go in uniforms or not (Section 1, p. 154); and whether to deploy with their weapons or without! (To his very great credit, this latter option was dismissed by the Platoon Leader, who refused to consider such a ridiculous option.) Four times the team changed in-and-out of uniform; as conflicting orders continued to come in! The delay was also caused by efforts to get diplomatic permission from the Libyan government (what there was of it). This took fully six more hours. (The Committee failed to discover who was responsible for this farcical display of indecision.)

By the time the F.A.S.T. rescue team actually took off, and landed in Tripoli (not Benghazi), the battle was long over and three more Americans were dead at the Annex.

These delays show the utter lack of preparation and coordination at all levels, an operation that was utterly FUBAR from beginning to end. Only the junior officer commanding the  F.A.S.T. platoon at Rota and his men showed the proper alacrity and concern for timeliness necessary to accomplish such a rescue mission as was required of them that night.

(Interestingly, the version of events depicted in the Michael Bay film, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” (2016) seems largely vindicated by the Committee’s highly detailed report. For my review of that film, go here.)

 

DEMOCRATS CHOOSE DIVISION OVER UNITY!

When the hijackers crashed those planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 9/11; President Bush worked to unite the country against the perpetrators. To their credit, the Democratic opposition rallied (for a brief time) behind him.

By contrast, after an Islamic terrorist carried out the worst mass shooting in American history President Obama, the Democratic Party, and the American political left have chosen to divide the nation; focusing their fury (and the nation’s) not on the enemy trying to kill us. But, instead, on their Republican opposition in Congress, the Republican nominee for President, and the NRA.

On any other day, at any other time, all of the above would be fair targets for Democratic fire. But in the wake of a terrorist attack by an Islamic extremist; and at a time when ISIS is promising more such attacks, this is an opportunity lost. The President and the Democrats could have, like President Bush on 9/11, linked arms with their Republican colleges on Capital Hill and made a show of unit; denouncing ISIS, Islamic extremism, and working together to fight our common enemy. The President could have ignored Donald Trump’s gadfly comments about failed policy and instead shown real presidential stature and leadership; and risen above the political muck to unit the country.

John Roberts reports from Atlanta

Instead, Obama delivered his most petulant, politicized, contempt-filled speech attacking Trump and the Republicans. It was less an national address than a national temper tantrum. It was the nadir of a wasted Presidency, that began with such high expectations. Sadly, never once did the President mention ISIS in that entire scree. Less than an hour later, in what appeared to be a coordinated effort, Hillary Clinton came out with her own attack on Trump; more-or-less on the same theme as the President.

In Congress, a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando massacre was broken by partisan Democrats; who walked out of the House, followed by angry shouting from the Democrat side of the isle that brought the House to a standstill. The Democrats, mindful of Rom Emanuel’s maxim,  never let a serious crisis go to waste, decided to cynically take advantage of this tragedy to push their gun control agenda. Why unite with their Republican brethren and focus on ISIS and the enormous threat of Islamic terrorism; when they can focus on their favorite fund raiser issue, gun control?

This was the time to unite and fight against the real enemy; who, as a candidate named Barack Obama long ago reminded us, is not “Red America”, nor “Blue America”. But, instead, is the people who are trying to kill us; and the pernicious doctrine that motivated the shooter in Orlando. But Obama 2016 seems to have forgotten his own words; and the Democrats to have forgotten the real enemy.

The New York Times, our “newspaper of record”, leaped on with perhaps (and this is saying a lot) the most irresponsible, execrable Op Ed in its recent history; blaming not ISIS for the attack on the Pulse nightclub’s gay club-goers. But chose instead to blame Republicans; for creating an environment where “bigotry is allowed to fester.”

For the record, Omar Mateen (whatever his sexual identity issues) did not say he was going to kill gays because of anger over gay marriage or  trans-gendered bathrooms. He claimed to be acting in the name of the “Islamic State”. He pledged his alliance to (ISIS leader) abu bakr al Baghdadi; and said he was striking us because of our culture, and enacting vengeance against the US for our war against ISIS:

“The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west” …“You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes..now taste the Islamic state vengeance.”

Nowhere did he say hatred of gays/lesbians/bisexuals et al, inspired by current political debate, have anything to do with his anger. He was acting on his Muslim extremist beliefs, pure and simple.

Former extremist reacts on 'The Kelly File' to new details on Omar Mateen's actions while hostages were held inside the Pulse nightclub

The Times also failed to mention that Mateen’s Afghan father, Seddique Mir Mateen, is a Taliban sympathizer. Nor that both the Taliban and ISIS espouse anti-gay beliefs, and execute homosexuals. So if Mateen was acting on an anti-gay bias, the more likely source of his animus was his Islamic extremist beliefs, not Republican opposition to gay marriage or trans-gendered shower rooms.

By focusing on gun control (a comfortable and lucrative issue for progressive Democrats) instead of the much more troubling issue (for them) of Islamic extremism (a term the President, who due to a childhood spent in Muslim Indonesia has a romanticized soft-spot for Islam, has noting but contempt for), the Dems and the left are dividing this country at the very time we should be locking arms.

Reasonable people should be able to agree that making guns less available to the victims of terrorism does little to make them safer. As we saw in Paris, with the attacks on journalists at Charlie Hebdo and  later upon club-goers at the Bataclan concert hall , under-gunned police and an unarmed populace are easy prey for well-armed terrorist. France (and the EU in general) have VERY strict gun laws; the kind Democrats are eager to enact here in America. But they have done nothing to keep these weapons out of the hands of terrorists. All that these laws do is make us all more vulnerable to attack.

Video screenshot

This is not about ISIS, this is not any kind of foreign terror, this is about guns in America“. That is how Democratic leader in Congress, Representative Jim Clyburn framed the issue.

With respect to Mr. Clyburn, no, it isn’t.

This is not a gun issue; despite the left’s attempt to identify guns as the common denominator. This is about terrorism and violent jihad; and an enemy who promise more such attacks on our homeland.  The President, Hillary Clinton, and the Democrats want to deflect from the Islamic threat, because to focus upon that raises questions of what this President has been doing for the last 7 years of his Presidency; and why attacks on the homeland have increased dramatically under his watch.

HILLARY THE “MOST QUALIFIED” CANDIDATE EVER? NOT!

Today President Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. In the process, he used an often used phrase. He called Hillary the “most qualified” candidate to ever run for the Presidency.

‘I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office’

Really?

Hyperbole is not unusual in politics; especially in political endorsements. But to call Hillary “the most qualified” ever, in our nation’s history, is an opinion so often voiced by Democrats that it screams out for analysis, and ultimatley rebuttal.

So, with all humility, I will endeavor herein to offer such rebuttal.

Many great (and less than great) men have run and been elected (or not) to the Presidency. Let us examine some of these, and compare their credentials and experience going into their Presidential bids with that of Hillary Clinton.

How, for instance, does she compare with our nation’s “Founding Father” and first President, George Washington?

When Washington ran for President in 1789, he had previously served as the victorious Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in our Revolutionary War against the British. He had before that been a delegate to the Continental Congress which drafted and ratified the Declaration of Independence. Following our independence, Washington was unanimously elected as President of the Constitutional Convention of 1787; where historians credit his support for the draft Constitution with its acceptance.

Not a bad resume going into his presidency, right?

Let’s look at another “Founder” who went on to run for and ultimately win the Presidency: Thomas Jefferson. Also a delegate to the Continental Congress, in 1776 he authored the brilliantly worded Declaration of Independence, the first of our Founding Documents. Before this he had served as a delegate in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1769 until 1775. In 1779 he was Governor of Virginia, the largest and most prosperous of the 13 colonies. Following our victory in the Revolution, he was a member of Congress and later Ambassador to France. He next served as our first Secretary of State; then, in 1796 became the second Vice President of the United States.

How impressive, by comparison, do Hillary’s credentials look now?

But let’s continue with just a few more former candidates for President.

When Grover Cleveland ran for the Presidency in 1892, his qualifications included having previously served as… President of the United States! You can’t get more qualified for a job than having previously done that job, right? He was both our 22nd and 24th President. Before serving his first term in the White House, Cleveland had been a County Sheriff; the Mayor of Buffalo, New York; Governor of that state; as well as one of New York state’s most prominent attorneys.

Teddy Roosevelt began his run for the Presidency in 1904 from the Oval Office: He was already President of the United States. Vice President to William McKinley, he had stepped into the Presidency when McKinley was assassinated in 1901. So, by the time he ran (successfully) for the Presidency in 1904 he had served in that office for the previous 3 1/2 years. Prior to becoming McKinley’s running mate in 1900, T.R. had been Minority Leader of the New York State Assembly, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York… Oh, and a war hero of the Spanish–American War.

Skipping forward in history, our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge Jr., was also serving as President following the death of his predicessor, Warren G. Harding in 1923. He was therefore a candidate for President in 1924 whose experience included the Presidency. Further, before serving as Harding’s Vice President he was Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts, Member (and later President) of the Massachusetts Senate, then first Lt. Governor and ultimately Governor of the Bay State.

Finally, lets look at a more recent (and still living) former President.

When George H. W. Bush ran for the Presidency in 1988, he was already a two-term sitting Vice President of the United States. Before becoming Ronald Reagan’s VP running mate in 1980, his resume of service included being the youngest Navy pilot in the Second World War, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas, our United Nations Ambassador (1971-1973), Chairperson of the Republican National Committee, American Ambassador to China, and Director of the C.I.A.

This is not by any means a comprehensive list. I could have gone on, and on, and on. But for brevity, this short list makes the point: Hillary is hardly the “most qualified” person to ever run for the Presidency. Such a claim merely illustrates the lack of historical education among much of America’s elites.

Compare Hillary’s credentials to any of these previous presidential candidates. When I last looked at it, she had never served as a Mayor of any city, nor as a State Governor, nor as Vice President of the United States; not to mention serving previously as the President. She never served in the military, much less earned the title of “war hero”, as many of these (and many more other candidates) have.

Hillary has been a US Senator; though one without a single legislative achievement to her name. She was Secretary of State, but with a very unimpressive list of achievements to her name. Finally, she was First Lady of both Arkansas and the United States; during which time she was (perhaps) the most unpopular woman to serve in that capacity.

So, next time a Democrat touts Hillary as “the most qualified”, you can feel qualified to scoff heartily; and if a friend spouts such nonsense, to (gently) correct their misconception.

She is, by historical standards, barely qualified to fill that office.