Friday, May 24, 2013

In Memorium

Before 2004, Memorial Day was just a time to relax, mess around and barbeque.  Before 2004, it was something of a celebration to mark the beginning of summer and the end of school.  Before 2004, I knew intellectually that a lot of people had died for this country, but it had never connected with me.  Before 2004 I would never have understood how worth fighting for this country is.  In 2004, I saw war.  I saw death.  I saw mutilation.  I saw good men turned into hamburger.  But I also saw the kind of strength that you won’t see on the news.  I saw men who were clearly scared silly “put their shit on” day after day and run up and down IED strewn roads.  I saw men and women go out for hours upon hours of patrols and return with while lines in their uniforms from the salt they had sweated out.  I watched soldiers refuse to give up on a people that had been ruled by fear as long as most living could remember.

I returned home to a country that did indeed honor my service, though not uniformly.  I returned to a country that was at war, but said war was not outwardly evident.  I returned to a country blessed with generations of freedom from oppression and tyranny, and the fruits such a life could provide.  How many children here never need fear a government that will target them because they pray to the wrong God (or don’t pray at all)?  Our children are free to love and be loved by whom they chose.  They are free to chose their own path in life.  Despite the fact that there are hardly any civilians that know what a CMB is, and despite the fact that our education system is so dismal many high school children couldn’t even place where Iraq was on a map, I came away with the certainty that America was an idea worth fighting for.  America is an idea worth dying for.  Lest anyone tell you otherwise America is, at its core an IDEA.

We have planted the seed of this idea in a region that couldn’t be more inhospitable.  Like a gnat in a blast furnace we tried to bring Pax Americana to the worlds most horrendously dangerous and unstable region.  We have paid a price in dearest blood so that others might live beneath the shade of the Tree of Liberty.  We have tried to do this before, in Kuwait, in Panama, in Grenada, Vietnam, Korea, Europe. . . the whole world is almost literally covered with dead Americans who at one point or another raised their right hands and sore to defend the highest ideal of our society.  We weren’t always successful, or even right.  Despite this, we are an honorable people, who are always willing to extend the hand of friendship to our one time enemies.

To me the Star Spangled Banner will literally bring tears to my eyes.  The words have meaning.  I have seen the rocket’s red glare.  I have felt the bombs bursting in air, and despite it all the Flag was still there.  This symbol for a land too vast for one person to take in, a people so diverse, yet unified, still fills my heart with pride and my eyes with tears when it waves proudly over scenes of devastation like those in Oklahoma.  When it drapes the coffin of a young man or woman that gave their last full measure of devotion.  This nation has some of the bravest sons of bitches you can imagine, and it has been truly an honor to put my boots in their footsteps.  That so many young talented,incredibly great men and women would lay it all on the line for their country really says something about this country, and I can say without shame or reservation that I truly Love this country.  With every fiber of my being I love America.

This Memorial Day weekend will be a long weekend for me in many ways.  I will have to face some of my deepest held fears among which that I failed as a medic, that there was some bit of training I had neglected that might have saved a life.  I will face the fear that the country I so love has forgotten me, and my kinsmen.  I will face my fear that I should have died out there, that I failed as a soldier to meet the enemy and deliver unto him the unequivocal ass kicking he so deserved.   I will face the fear that there are brothers and sisters in arms right now that I should be helping but am not, and we may lose them because they didn’t have a battle buddy when they needed one.  I will face the fear that I will one day need a battle buddy when my past gets the better of me.  I will face the ultimate fear that I am weak in spirit and in mind that I should be so easily overcome by so relatively little when compered to great men and women who go forth and do great things minus limbs or with severe deformity.

I know many other veterans will look at pictures of the headstones in Arlington.  I know that many other veterans will have a quiet moment where they raise a glass to absent companions.  I know many other veterans feel as I do, and will relate to almost every single word I have written.  I remind you, look around.  There is such goodness in our people.  Your battle buddies are not gone.  The spirit of their courage, of their devotion lives on all around you.  Their insatiable humor, or their devotion to duty, or whatever aspect of your brothers or sisters that you miss can be found infused in the People.  We the People may have lost some truly outstanding individuals, but because of those sacrifices our nation has not known some of the horrors war can bestow on a people.  Because some brave American souls held the line the world is a safer place.  For that reason if no other I will rest a little easier this Memorial Day weekend.

In memory of:
SPC Daniel J McConnell, 27 Duluth MN 16 November 2004
SPC David P Mahlenbrock, 20 Maple Shade NJ 3 December 2004
SPC Andre Craig Jr., 24 New Haven CT 25 June 2007
PFC James J Harrelson, 19 Dadeville AL 17 July 2007
SFC James D Doster, 37 Pine Bluff AR 29 September 2007
veteran Neil D Holmes, 32 Suicide on 26 May 2011

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Mysteries of Veteran Suicides.

As part of an upcoming series that the Rhino Den is doing I've been doing a lot of research in the area of suicides in the veteran community.  Before I get to the actual statistics I really need to take a moment to thank Senator Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) office (specifically Emily Rampone) for the assistance.  His office was the only legislative office to respond in more than a general "leave a message for our media director."  I also have to thank the news desk of the Washington Post for being surprisingly helpful, and one of their reporters, David Finkel who I have gotten to know over the years. The folks at Business Insider were also willing to help me in this novice fumbling, though they could do little more than point me at organizations that might have contacts.  I also have to point out Ami Neiberger-​Miller, from for the truly exceptional work she does, as well as the passion she brings to the issue.   

I still have yet to get any response from the VA, and the response from the DoD was mostly pointing me to official press releases but they have promised to put me in touch with the head of the suicide prevention program, which I'm genuinely looking forward to interviewing.

Now that I've said all that I need to point out something truly disturbing about the VA.  Wanna know what that is?  They actually have no idea just how many suicides are actually happening in the veteran community.  The best guess based on data from 2 years ago (FY 2010) and has a variance of +/- 2 suicides a day with the presumptive rate being 22.  The data is pretty sketchy because there are a lot of people they're not sure if they're veterans or not, and there are a lot of states whose information was not made available to the VA.

One important thing to take away from a lot of the gobilty gook is that not all, or even most of those 22 suicides a day are from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  A majority are actually coming from Vietnam and Korea veterans (the WWII veterans have been dying of old age at a rate of roughly a thousand a day for years, so there are fewer and fewer of them to commit suicide).  Despite this, the truth is that there are a painfully high number of veterans that are taking that final solution.  Worse the trending of the data suggests the rate is increasing.  If the rates were to suddenly drop again it would beg the question is it because the measures to prevent suicide are actually working, or are there just fewer veterans?

For the time being, the VA is in the process of transferring to a paperless system, and that might potentially increase the accuracy of the reporting.  Unfortunately this is slow going.  Worse still it seems that the DoD and the VA somehow got contracts for completely different systems that do not have the ability to talk to each other at all.  Add to that the the VA is dependent on the states to tell them if the suicides they have were veterans or not which means there may be a lot of unreported suicides.

Unfortunately this only deepens the need to talk to a representative from the VA.  There is only anecdotal numbers given.  If I say 22 veterans kill themselves a day that's going to produce a knee jerk reaction.  To be sure the backlog at the VA isn't helping, and there have been recorded cases of former service members killing themselves while waiting for the VA to enter them into treatment.  But is that the norm or the exception?  Are the suicides depression related, financial, or is there some other medical reason we may not know or understand?

There have also been accounts of veterans arrested, their guns confiscated and their property stolen as they are forced into psychiatric in patient programs against their will because of things said to the hotline.  It will take only one or two serious accounts of such a thing happening before the emergency hotline is viewed as the same kind of poison that going to mental health or not lying on the Post Deployment Health Reassessment (PDHRA) while on active duty.   Even rumors of some of the repercussions that can face a soldier or veteran if they admit to suicidal ideation can poison the well so to speak and may lead to many treatment options going unused.

What the statistics in the report don't say is one one of the most fundamental questions plaguing those left behind; why?  Why do they feel they had to kill themselves.  Was it depression, anger, hopelessness?  We're trying to fight this alarming rise in trends among the Active Guard and Reserve forces as well as the veterans, but we can't even really begin to do this until we have an accurate picture of what is actually going on.  As much as I truly want to start working on my piece, I can't until I get to talk to someone in the Veterans Administration that can give me a clearer picture.  As passionate as I and many others are on the subject we can not rely on anecdotes, rumors, and conclusions based on what we think is happening.  We have to take the utmost care with this issue.  In our haste to solve this problem we may actually exacerbate it.  This is the one issue that we can not get wrong.    

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Its a bad week to be the President.

Well it isn’t even Wednesday yet and already President Obama is having some serious migraines.  First there were the Benghazi whistle blowers (and apparently there are even more waiting in the wings) whose testimony is both scathing and damning.  Then there was the IRS scandal, in which the IRS targeted both conservative (specifically but not limited to the TEA party), and Jewish groups.  NOW there is news out of the Associated Press that they had tons of their phone records seized in an apparent dragnet to find leaks.  If he wasn’t already in hot water he sure is now, and the shuckin an jivin isn’t cutting the mustard that it used to.  Many of the journalists and news services that the Obama administration could count on as go to guys are starting to ask very tough questions.  Watching Jay Carney or the President’s most recent press briefings look down right uncomfortable.

Let’s deconstruct some of this real quick to see just how much trouble the President is in.  Let’s start with the big one last week; Benghazi.  At first glance it’s pretty straight forward, someone screwed up and people died.  Ask any Joe that ever had a 2LT call for fire and they’ll tell you it happens a lot more than we’d like to admit.  But there’s more to it than that.  We know for instance that Tyrone Wood’s team from Global Response Staff (GRS) were clearly aware of the attack at the consulate in Benghazi at 2140, and were ordered ordered by higher not to go.  They left anyway at 2205 local.  We know that Glen Doherty’s team was actually in Tripoli, and had to bribe or even hijack a plane to go to Benghazi.  We know that an SF LTC was ordered to stand down by higher (presumably AFRICOM) and said to the acting Chief of Mission “this is the first time the diplomats had more balls than the military.” 
We know that Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith were overcome by a petroleum fire in their safe room after the compound was breached, and we know both were dead by the end of the night.  The ride back to the CIA annex by Woods’ team was under fire and one of the vehicles had flat tires but nonetheless made it to the compound where they received sporadic fire all night.  At some point during this Doherty’s team managed to make it into the compound before the final assault which included mortar rounds began.  When it was over Woods and Doherty were dead.

What followed was undeniably a cover-up for political purposes.  A really shitty video was blamed and the denials for support were covered up.  UN ambassador Susan Rice became an unwitting pawn in this and went on all the Sunday talk shows with this truly ridiculous story, which we already knew was wrong.    From all that we’ve been able to glean they knew within 24 hours that it was Ansar al-Sharia, and they knew that this was specifically a terrorist attack.  White-wash or cover up, the American people were lied to, and they kept on lying to us.  Even now they’re making like this is all politics.  It begs the question if they’ve lied about this monumental goof, what else aren’t they telling the truth about.

And then there’s that IRS bit.  See this is actually the most serious for the President and his team.  Why?  Well look at the first bullet point of Article 2 of the Nixon Articles of Impeachment.  As Joe Biden might say “it’s a big F**king deal.”  The fact that he even joked about it in 2009, is all the more disturbing.  Asking a Jewish group “what you feel about Israel,” or asking a conservative group who their donors are is not only highly irregular, but flat out illegal.  The key words being used for this scrutiny should have everyone’s jaw dropping.  Giving undue haste to a group concerned our president is violating the constitution is extremely disturbing.  More than that we’re now learning that this wasn’t just a few low level joe schmos, but high level people were aware of this program, and if they did not encourage it they certainly did nothing to stop it.  Potentially the head of the IRS may have lied to congress in May of 2012.  The president is trying to downplay it saying that investigation is needed, but there’s already been one, and it’s pretty clear what happened if not whose behind it.

Then there’s that little bit about the AP.  Now as far as we know none of the phones were tapped, but as many as 300 reporters may have been effected.  In the journalist world nothing, and I mean nothing will make them go on the attack like even the insinuation that someone’s spying on them.  Keep in mind that this can not happen without the Attorney General, Eric Holder signing off on it.  This was all done in secret, without anyone at AP’s knowledge, and is potentially violating the First Amendment.  This is pretty important too, because if there has been one group covering for Obama more than anyone else, it has been the press.  Stories that might be considered embarrassing to the Obama administration have for years not received the full attention of the press with a few notable exceptions.  I truly think these days are over.  Whatever else happens from here on out the Obama administration is going to have a lot of explaining to do.

So where does that leave us?  Well Benghazi is most definitely not a “sideshow,”  and despite what some say, help could have been given, if the administration acted immediately after the first attack, and could have helped to fend off the final attack.  If there truly was no help available then why in the world were so many commands caught with their pants down when everyone on the ground clearly stated they needed more security not less?  With The IRS scandal, well need I remind you that is an impeachable offense (not making this up).  Will the president be impeached?  Probably not, but it is possible.  At the very least it will get congress off their asses and taking a close look at how the Gub’ment is being run.  We might have a very real, and practical example of Big Government being so big it literally does not know what it’s doing, or we might have the truly dirtiest part of Chicago politics at play.  Either one is not good for “We the People.”  Lastly we have the AP scandal.  While in itself this is perhaps a minor event in the era of the PATRIOT Act, do not be surprised if there’s serious push back on this one.  Nothing chills a reporter’s bones like the federal government scaring away their souses, and potentially censoring them.

In my personal humble opinion I think Obama is going to wish he hadn’t gotten reelected.  His second term is not starting off great, and his Dodge Dip Dive Duck and Dodge routine isn’t working anymore.  With Fast and Furious, a DOJ that suppressed a voter intimidation case, a DHS that refuses to enforce immigration, a total overhaul of health care that gives frightening powers to non-doctors, an AG that was held in contempt of congress (a first in history), A stagnant recovery, “Green Jobs” that are just a very expensive way to waste money, and a national debt that is not getting any better any time soon. . . Well to say that things are going to look pretty bad for his legacy is something of an understatement.  The word Impeachable is actually not out of the realm of possibility sadly enough.  Of course if that ever were to happen, Joe “fire a shotgun in the air” Biden will be our new president.  I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t trust that man to run a latrine detail.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Politics of the Federal Government

One of the things that this week has made painfully clear is that politics can play fast and loose with the rules for political gains.  It appears that the entirety of the Federal Government has been doing what it can to "make the boss look good."  Democrat, Republican, Liberal Conservative doesn't really seem to matter.   The executive branch of the federal government (basically the operations functions) will do all they can to protect first itself, then the "boss." 

 It's not really limited to Republican or Democrat.  The government covered for Kennedy, hiding all his sordid affairs (and the piss poor way he lead the country).  There was covering on Johnson when his grand war plan for Nam (as well as the impetus for actually getting involved) turned out to be so much hot air.  They covered for Reagan, who didn't technically authorize Iran-Contra, but nonetheless used the general "any means necessary" around a few too many subordinates.  It is clear that President Obama is added to this list of people that the government is covering for.

The clearest and most obvious example is Benghazi.  Point blank, State, DoD, and the CIA screwed the pooch.  The CIA warned that security was getting less secure, which State ignored (actually they drew down the security presence), and the DoD took away a number of Special Operations personell that might have aided the beleaguered CIA annex.  Why Ambassador Stevens was even in Benghazi in the first place had to do with a strong desire by State, to make the consulate a permanent facility by a certain date.  Really the more you read about the events leading up to and surrounding the September 11th 2012 attack the more it sounds like the key stone cops. 

One thing is clear, support was denied at various levels.  State failed to support their missions.  DoD failed to send a rescue or any relief.  The CIA failed to emphasize just how acute the threat was becoming.  Had everyone come out and admitted just how badly they'd screwed up heads might've rolled Obama might not have been re-elected, but the truth would have been known, and just perhaps we might implement measures that might prevent similar occurrences.  That is not what has happened.  Cover-up or white wash, it doesn't really matter the end result is that the State Department in effect lied to the American people for political reasons. 

If it ended there that's would've been bad enough but now the IRS is admitting that they held up the 501c status of nearly 300 groups, a majority of which had "tea party" or "patriot" in the title.  The irony is that this went of for years.  Conservatives were howling about it but most everyone put it off as a right-wing conspiracy.  As late as this week the head of the IRS had a press conferance to say that these allegations were untrue.  Only they were true.  the end result was that the federal bureaucracy put pressure on a political group during an election.  Agree or disagree with the tea party, this is a very big deal. 

That the harassment was borderline illegal and it has taken years to come to light should have everyone more than a little worried.  The IRS has a lot of power, and with the stroke of a pen (or a keyboard) can wreck lives.  Worst of all once the IRS wrecks lives or potentially sways an election (I use the word potentially for a reason, I don't think Romney would have won, but it is possible).  There's no taking it back.  There's no recompense for clerical errors the federal government makes.  Personally I think we should all be more than a little worried that a clearly political action happened at an agency that should have absolutely no business in, around, or in the same zip code, as politics.

The Federal Government is sadly almost tailor made for political abuses.  It doesn't really matter the party involved, the highly politicized legislature and executive branch have allowed their personal biases and feelings to sway the operation of many branches of our government.  The "boss" is often given undue deference, and in the case of "popular" or "historic" presidents, there are whole offices that are willing to blatantly break laws on "the boss's" behalf.  Regardless of party affiliation, or of political ideology, both the legislature and executive branches should always be on guard for governmental functions that are not strictly apolitical.  The function of the government in America is to do what We the People tell it to do through our duly elected representatives.  The second the machinery starts playing favorites, the Government stops being a servant of the people and starts becoming a menace to them. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Promise Its a Joke!

I'm not going to lie, when I wrote "Big Army's Latest FUBAR" I was kind of giggling like a school girl.  I thought it was so over the top that people would get it right away.  I mean likening the Army Service Ribbon to the Gay Pride ribbon?  Look we all joked about it but at what time was a "no butt hurt" policy for the "no homo" rule, but I thought people would pick that out right away and be like "AHHH you funny Mad Medic."  No, people are really pissed off. 

I'm not sure how to take it exactly, on the one hand there's a part of me that can't stop laughing like a kid that just set a flaming bag of dog poop on someone's doorstep and rang the door bell.  It's pretty funny and aside from a small fright, and perhaps extreme annoyance of the intended target, no permanent harm is done.   But then there's a part of me that's saying "oh shit dude, people are taking that seriously!"  I'm not going to lie, that's the part that I have the hardest time settling.

Satire, like A Modest Proposal, The Duffel Blog, or the Onion seem to fill a vital role in our society.  Its a way to point out inequity, and at the same time have a laugh at the ridiculousness of our beliefs or misconceptions.  The problem with satire is that you kind of have to be in on the gag, or have to be savvy enough to get it when they're being subtle.  One of the hallmarks of satire is that it will cause someone to flip their wig and go nuts reacting to what they read.  Of course it also holds true that that's half the reason to write satire.  Like I said there's a part of me that laughing hysterically at some of the comments people are leaving. 

I promise, the Army is not naming every soldier, Soldier of the Year.  The fact that everyone tends to believe it should tell anyone from Big Army reading it, that maybe they really ought to cut the "everybody gets a medal" bullshit. 

Still at the end of it all, it is a joke.  Please people don't go to the puzzle palace and demand the SMA stop being such a douche. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Cost of Politics

Not getting into Left Vs Right, Red vs Blue, or any of the other myriad of ways we've divided ourselves up as a country, we should be worried about Right vs Wrong.  You don't have to be GOP or DNC to have a monopoly on the discussion of Right and Wrong, but at the end of the day there is nothing surrounding the Benghazi testimony today that doesn't smack of plain wrong headedness. 

First off let's look at the prelude to the attack on September 11th 2012.  Why Ambassador Stevens was at the lightly defended consulate instead of the more heavily guarded embassy, is still debatable and we can't ask him.  What is not debatable is that the consulate and the embassy were one of only 14 critical risk posts of over 250 State Department posts, and yet despite that the secuirty was actually decreased despite repeated requests of nearly everyone who was there.    What is not debatable is the fact that the DoD could have responded in some fashion, even if they could not have prevented the first attack, they could have supported the CIA annex where Woods and Doherty were killed.  What's not debatable is that the administration, and the former Secretary of State attempted to downplay or shift focus away from the root causes of the attack, and attempted to mitigate the public outcry should a majority of the facts presented come to light. 

So here we are.  It is now May 8th 2013, almost 8 months later, and we're starting to find out some truly disturbing facts.  Namely that there were rescue attempts planned, but they were ordered to stand down by as yet unknown commanders.  We know that the security situation was well documented, and almost frantic e-mails were sent out to ask for heightened security presence.  We know that the Secretary of State herself had at leas some hand in the debacle.  But perhaps the most stunning thing of all is that despite the fact that there were some officers put on administrative leave (see: paid vacation) no one has been held accountable for the attack on September 11th 2012.  None of the terrorists, none of the beuracrats, none of the political apointees.  No one. 

To be honest when listening to the testimony I was stunned.  It was like listening to the idiocy of the Politburo from the Soviet Union.  the cold calculus that seems to have gone into this to avoid political fall out essentially boiled down to "do nothing and hope it resolves itself."  There is no other way to say this: we left our people to die.  It's all rather heartbreaking to a former service member to think that someone, could be left to the howling savages for political expediency, but this is where we are.

The worst part is that in a large part the political calculation actually worked.   Benghazi happened before the presidential election, and had the facts that are known now been known then I'm not sure President Obama would have been reelected.  The sheer scope of the cover up that has gone on since the attack should leave a lot of Americans wondering a lot of really painful questions about their government.  The continued white wash from the White House, and the emphasis that "it happened a long time ago" should have every American asking some serious questions about the man they elected to lead this country. 

But that's not what has happened.  Despite almost half of America thinking that there was a coverup or a flat out lie about what happened in Benghazi, most Americans are diverted by the trial of a woman so obviously guilty of first degree murder that we can't even really defend her.  America has become such an Attention Deficit nation that we have totally missed the horrendous mismanagement of our overseas diplomacy, and the war effort in Afghanistan.  We've totally ignored the continued slide of the economy, and the continued wracking up of a massive debt that would require serious curtailment of mandatory spending to fix.  We've totally ignored the heroes that walk amongst us, and more importantly the ones that are no longer with us.  America has its Idols.  If there is one thing that Benghazi has left me with aside from a further distaste for a media that refuses to cover important events, is the sure knowledge that the government is no longer of the People, because the People are too busy with twitter. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why Playing Politics with the FAA is Dangerous.

This rather amazing video shows what 24 hours looks like to the Air Traffic Controllers Around the world.   

That is A LOT of planes.  but this animation actually involves some explanation, and makes it clear just how crowded our airspace can get.

So why is having a few ATC controllers furloughed a big deal?  Well the simplest answer is the system is already overworked as it is.  I would invite you to go watch United 93.  The sheer chaos and confusion seen in the film as ATC operators try to grapple with a dynamic and escalating crisis makes it clear that they had little or no control over the situation.  There was actually a dramatic moment on September 11th were American 11 almost hit United 175.  Even if we were to proportionately lower the number of flights, the ATC system is still overworked as it is.

The good news is that even if the controllers are completely missing their screens, even if two planes are headed right towards each other in level flight, at altitude, there is a nifty devise called TCAS that will allow them to avoid each other.  It basically works with the radar in the plane and the transponders of the surrounding airplanes to give out a warning and an urgent command to any pilots that might be in danger of a collision.  The rather unfortunate bit about this is that not all planes have this system.  If say a Cessna were to stray into the flight path of say a 727, then no one would really have a clue until it were too late.  ATC is the last line of defense, to warn the pilots of the danger.  

But there's another thing that happens that has nothing to do with terrorists, and it has the potential to be lethal to a great number of passengers.  That threat is called runway incursion.   Runway incursion is simply a plane being on a runway that isn't supposed to be there.  There have been numerous accidents involved with runway incursion.  So many in fact, that it is considered the #1 cause of all air traffic accidents.  The deadliest crash in aviation history occurred because of runway incursion.  The scariest thing about runway incursions is that just like runway over runs, the number of incidents are increasing as the use of air travel has become essential to our economy.

The political calculations that lead anyone to think the sequester was a good idea have all been proven to be null and void.  The political calculation to make it hurt as much as possible should well be taken with care.  Politics has no place in public safety.  Reguardless of who said what, or when the bright idea was had to cut the number of ATC's on duty, the end result aside from the delays is a potentially fatal situation where and already overworked system is not being manned by enough eyes and someone makes an all too human mistake.  It has happened before, it most likely will happen again.  The question is how much will it hurt?    

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Obama's Watergate

on June 17th 1972, five men, James W. McCord Jr, Bernard Baker, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, and Eugnio Martinez broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex.  The story of how they got caught is actually a humorous tale in ineptitude, but the scandal that followed their arrest still scar this nation today.  What transpired were a series of cover ups, and conspiracies that went all the way to President Nixon.  The congress started holding hearings, and impeachment was highly likely.  Before the impeachment process could begin, the President resigned from office.  

What happened in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 is not so clear cut.  It appears as if an al Qaeda affiliated militia attacked the US Consulate, in the initial attack on the consulate a fire was started and the survivors became lost and separated.  Sean Smith died of smoke inhalation, and Ambassador Stevens was mortally wounded (he was later taken to a local hospital where he died).  A CIA team lead by Tyrone Woods a former SEAL violated orders to go and rescue the consulate, and evacuate them to the CIA annex which was easier to defend.  Glen Doherty, stationed in Tripoli lead his team, also against orders as they commandeered an small plane and flew to Benghazi to support the CIA annex, which was being attacked.  A full 7 hours after the first attack began, the dust settled and both Woods and Doherty were dead.

The glaring part of this narrative is that the only quick reaction forces (QRF) actually in Libya were ordered repeatedly to stand down, and only by violating orders did any of the consulate staff survive.  Whats even more disturbing is that just across the Mediterranean were several Tier I (Spec Ops teams) that could have been on station in less than seven hours. Even if there would have been issues with popping out a SOCOM team, why is the president who is apparently very comfortable with drone strikes, not calling in hellfire missiles on the crowd attacking the CIA annex?  Why is the Drone President who has no qualms in ordering hundreds of clandestine air strikes, queasy about rescuing personnel from another of his clandestine programs?

Worse still the question of who exactly had "eyes on" raises other questions.  The president was in the situation room for the Bin Laden raid but not that attack on the consulate?  Secretary of State Clinton has made it clear that she was in the State Department's situation room, but if that's the case how come none of the security contractors that the State Department was using to protect the embassy were deployed as a QRF?  The DoD certainly had assets available, and intel, as did the CIA.  So why weren't those assets deployed?  In a military that can get a birds eye view of almost anything on the planet, why did they apparently miss completely that the consulate was being overrun?

Even if we answer the famous line "who knew what, when?" we're still left with a very disturbing trend.  Woods' team at the CIA annex was told three times to stand down.  They eventually ignored orders and went anyway.  Doherty, was likewise ordered to stand down numerous times.  He also ignored these orders.      Whats even more disturbing is that General Carter Ham, commander of AFRICOM may have been attempting to deploy assets from his command center, when as rumor has it, he was relieved on the spot, and his vice commander ordered a stand down.  Unfortunately what exactly happened at AFRICOM headquarters at Stuttgart Germany is not clear and no one is talking, but if even a fraction of the rumors were true it would be almost unprecedented.  To leave troops in contact without doing everything possible to aid and support them is unthinkable.  

Now there are reports of aggressive efforts to silence whistle blowers in the State Department.  There are SPECOPS operators that are taking the rather extreme and flat out unheard of step of talking directly to the media about it.  Perhaps the most painful thing to reason away is that an administration that had no problem violating the sovereign airspace of Pakistan to kill Bin Laden has done almost nothing to "bring to justice" [plain language: kill] the people responsible.  It seems right from the start the entire policy regarding Benghazi was to hunker down and hope the whole thing would blow over.  Whether by neglect, omission, or intent, the administration left those men and women to die, and that is the only conclusion I have been able to come up with.

What is painfully clear, the more that is known about what happened the night of September 11th 2012 in Benghazi, the less the American news media wants to cover it.  Much like there were no questions asked about the destroyers USS Maddox, and USS Turner Joy getting into a two hour gun battle with radar phantom, no seems to bother questioning the official account here.  It seems that part of the problem is political, this president is after all on the "right" side of issues, but another very real part is that the news media as a whole had spent 8 years during the Bush administration chasing phantoms much like the Maddox, that now that there is a very real story they're doubting the news worthiness.  Perhaps it's even a conscious or subconscious decision not to do anything to tarnish the legacy of America's first black president.  With the number of news worthy stories that seem not  to get covered it is very hard to suspect anything other than blatant and rampant corruption on the part of the news media. 

I believe that the time will come where many hard questions will have to be answered by the president.  I believe that Mr. Obama has been playing fast and loose political games with a military he's always had a somewhat adversarial approach to.  I believe that he is using the powers of the presidency in such a manner that make all of the excesses of the Nixon administration look positively tame.  We are operating ever more vast and complex clandestine operations all over the world that no one seems to have oversight on.  If he did leave those people to die, then it begs the question how many others have been left to die.  Worst of all the lack of willingness to cover the story and follow it to its conclusion both by press and the American people signals a troubling apathy that might well breed the worst type of corruption the presidency can inspire.  Let us hope that this Watergate is exposed for what it is, before more people are left to die in far flung undeclared wars.