Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Rumors have been swirling about General Carter Ham, commander of Africa Command located in Stuttgart, Germany, ever since Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that President Obama has nominated General David Rodriguez to replace him. Those rumors have been adamantly denied by the Pentagon. While on active duty as an army reservist during 2011 at the Special Operations Command Europe, also headquartered in Stuttgart, I met newly arrived General Ham at the annual Army Ball. He had just arrived in country and took over Africom the day NATO initiated military air operations in Libya. Most command tours of duty are at least three years unless the commander elects to retire. I haven’t read anything about Gen. Ham intending to do so. He has only been the commander of Africa Command less than 18 months. I was forwarded an email from someone associated with the U.S. military in Stuttgart. The email claims that when Gen. Ham was notified of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, he took immediate action to send operational forces there, only to be told by the Pentagon to “stand down.” As commander of Africom, he would have been receiving the same information the CIA, Pentagon, White House and National Security Council did from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. One of Africom’s missions is to conduct NEO’s (non-combatant evacuation operations) in its area of responsibility. He rightfully voiced his objections to the stand down and gave orders to deploy U.S. forces there anyway. When he did, his deputy commander “apprehended” him and then relieved him of his command. When I read the email description of this, I thought this was a scene from a bad war movie. Apprehending someone in the military is the equivalent of a civilian arrest. Disobeying a lawful order is punishable by two-years of confinement and reduction of rank, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It would be highly, highly, extraordinary for anyone to relieve a four-star general, let alone “apprehend” him. A week ago, Rear Admiral Charles M. Gaouette, Commander of an aircraft carrier strike group positioned in the Middle East, was sent home to Washington State pending the outcome of an undisclosed investigation. Coincidence? I hardly think so. The admiral was most probably reading the same message traffic and voiced his objections to “standing down.” Why else send him home for a tune up by his superiors? If the rumors are true, either Secretary Panetta gave the order to “stand down” or he was told by the president to have General Ham do so. Whoever it was obviously was above a four-star general’s pay grade. Regardless, what happened in Benghazi is exactly why the army has various military commands around the world. If this administration won’t use the assets it has to protect U.S. personnel and one of its own ambassadors from harm’s way, then why even have them? If my sources of information are correct about the chain of events leading to Gen. Ham’s departure, it further illustrates why liberals should never be allowed to be in charge of national security. They simply do not have the stomach for it. The President and Secretary of State Clinton wanted to put a nice face on the country’s relationship with the newly established fledgling Libyan government. They portrayed the attack on the consulate as a spontaneous outburst by protestors that got out of hand stemming from an obscure video defaming the Prophet Mohammad. In reality, it was a preplanned terrorist attack on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001. The word “terrorism” has essentially been erased from the vocabulary of this administration, especially after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Having an attack by al-Qaeda factions on a consulate in a country the administration took credit for liberating does not fit the template of a foreign policy success. A cover up was launched, putting a lid on information until after next week’s election. Don’t count on the media asking hard questions about why Gen. Ham left his command early and Rear Admiral Gaouette was sent home on “temporary duty.” The answer to those questions would only amplify this administration’s limp-wristed reaction to terrorist events and foreign policy failures. It would also further demonstrate that President Obama has managed to severely deteriorate relations in the Middle East.