On Monday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, released the following statement to the Washington Times: ‘The speculation that General Carter Ham is departing Africa Command (AFRICOM) due to events in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September 2012 is absolutely false. General Ham’s departure is part of routine succession planning that has been on going since July.’ The Slog thinks this is bollocks.
The story behind this one – as advanced in the blogosphere over the last few days – is pretty straightforward. I posted last week and earlier to the effect that there were doubts about a degree of ‘Fifth Columnism’ inside the Benghazi compound on the evening in question. It now seems possible that senior military on the spot were ordered by the White House/Pentagon to take no action: but one senior officer, General Ham, said nuts to that – and was about to launch a counter-attack when two of his junior officers arrested him for disobeying an Executive Order.
On first reading of this update, I was sceptical. It had anti-Obama right-wing conspiracy theory written all over it – a feeling that seemed confirmed by the Pentagon’s rubbishing of it. But just for the hell of it, I went to one or two Federal Government sites (you’d be amazed how dumb Washington can be about some cover-ups being left, um, uncovered as it were) and bless me, this is what I found:
‘SINDELFINGEN, Germany, March 9, 2011 – The Defense Department’s newest combatant command bid farewell to its inaugural commander here today. Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward passed the reins of U.S. Africa Command to Army Gen. Carter F. Ham after nearly three years at the helm.‘
Ham had thus been in the job just 18 months when the Banghazi
demonstration raid hit. He’d been in the job just fifteen months when the Pentagon claimed that ‘routine’ succession planning began. There is no such thing as an ‘average’ length of assignment for a four-star general, but three years is closer to the norm. 15 months isn’t at all routine.
The Obama White House would be on safer ground here if it hadn’t systemically lied from Day One about what it did or didn’t know about the Benghazi compound attack, hadn’t then tried to dump the blame on Secretary Clinton (pretty successfully as it happens), and then stuck with the ridiculous idea that it was a revenge attack in reply to an anti-Islam movie. But then, rogue generals disobeying Presidential orders are more often the subject of Stanley Kubrick films than real life. Dig a little deeper, however, and now and again you find more….while bumping into the odd mole, about his merry business of scratching at the bullsh*t.
“I am committed to working with African partners to confront violent extremists and eliminate terrorist safe havens and support groups on the continent,” growled General Ham to Africom News (a Defense Dept magazine) earlier this year. He was so committed, in fact, he was already planning to retire. Two weeks ago US defence secretary Leon Panetta told the media that Ham would indeed be retiring forthwith. In fact, four years early.
“Ham was about as ready to retire as Warren Buffet,” says my Washington source, “He got retired is what happened. The guy made everyone nervous because he actually believed in what he was doing. That never plays well in this town”.
I’ve contacted this source many times; as usual, his asessment checks out. General Carter Ham is a hardline anti-extremist God Bless America gung-ho soldier. On June 25th this year, he told Defense News, “there are indications extremist organisations are seeking to coordinate and synchronize their efforts…. to establish a cooperative effort amongst the three most violent organizations, and I think that’s a real problem for us, and for Africa’s security in general. Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram may be sharing funds, training and explosive materials. There very truly are those who wish to undermine the formation of [a post-Gadaffi Libyan] government,” he said. “And again, we see some worrying indicators that al-Qaida and others are seeking to establish a presence in Libya.”
Significantly, Ham talked about wanting “to map out what the U.S. assistance might be for Libya well into the future”. But of course, this is now revealed by the Pentagon as a cunning cover-story: clearly what good ol’ boy Carter really wanted to do was draw up a chair to some nice warm fire somewhere and dictate his memoirs.
On announcing the General’s retirement, Panetta said “The nation is deeply grateful for his outstanding service”, which is presumably why he abruptly pensioned the guy off….in favour of a bloke who is not at all at home with the media. My my, fancy that.
Ham’s successor David M. Rodriguez is also made of four-star stuff: but according to my Washington contact, “not media savvy at all. I think this is why he got passed over for the top job in Afghanistan. He’s only interested in soldiering, not selling.”
Equally clear, however, is that running Africom hadn’t been anywhere in his ‘planned succession’ intentions. For in July last year, he was sent back to Washington and a desk job. So after just eleven months of doing this, he is ‘routinely’ chosen to succeed a General – one who may well think, in private, that the President is a traitor.
It all smells, does it not? But here’s the rub: Romney should be all over this like a rash, yet he isn’t. Why?
It’s the same riddle that surrounds Hillary Clinton’s abrupt capitulation nine days ago on the issue of ‘responsibility’ for the US Amassador Steven’s death. In fact, that surrender to Obama gets curiouser and curiouser in the light of new evidence emerging over the last few days. Four days ago, Fox News (ok, ok, I know, suspect source – but hold your fire) asserted that ‘Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had ordered more security at the U.S. mission in Benghazi before it was attacked where four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Steven, were murdered by Al-Qaeda, but President Obama denied the request’.