Monday, October 8, 2012

Key Clue About Benghazi Attack Ignored By Obama, MSM

As I was fading into the Wilderness a few weeks ago, a still-fresh topic then was the recent attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the subsequent murder of the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, one of his aides, Sean Smith, and two former SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.  The news as I heard it then was chattering about the inane fourteen-minute video that was supposedly the primary if not sole reason for the Benghazi assault and the dozens of other incidents that took place throughout the Middle East and beyond, subsequent to the anniversary of 9/11.  In fact, Susan Rice, our ambassador to the UN, had completed a whirlwind tour of the MSM talk shows in which she "absolutely" insisted upon it, and that the claim that the attack was provoked by US policies was "just false".  She insisted that the attack was a "spontaneous reaction" and was "not a pre-planned, pre-meditated attack".  Obama press spokesman Jay Carney said essentially the same thing, including among other comments that the administration had no evidence to indicate that the attack was "pre-planned or pre-meditated".


It was obvious from the beginning that automatic weapons and RPGs were used in the attack that overran the consulate grounds, razed the buildings, and murdered the four Americans, citing the idea that there were so many weapons available because of the hostilities of the Libyan civil war that a sudden mob action could take place.  But as I was checking off the net in the Sierra Nevada, I heard the words that I had been listening for: "indirect fire" and more specifically, "mortars".  That cinched it for me.

Soviet-era 82mm mortar used by Libyan rebels

Those of you with a military background, particularly associated with the combat arms, know about the employment of mortars, a high-angle artillery piece that lobs rounds on top of the target, as opposed to cannons and howitzers with a flatter trajectory.  For Americans, small mortars – 60mm in calibre – can be located with infantry units by way of weapons platoons or weapons companies.  Slightly larger calibres, such as the 81mm mortar, are found at battalion level, and a 120mm mortar is vehicle-borne.  Other countries have variations on this same idea, but the most common found among insurgents are the thousands of cast-off ex-Soviet (or current Russian) 82mm mortars.

The key factor about mortars is that their use adds a degree of complexity that belies a mob-style 'crime of passion' that the administration insisted upon.  Can one man fire one mortar?  Yes, one time typically, but understand that the mortar system is broken down into component features, which includes a mortar tube, the base plate, and the tripod and sight unit.  The US 81mm tube weighs about 35 pounds, the base plate 29; together, the whole system weighs in at 91 pounds.  These features, due to weight and size, are broken down in order for at least three soldiers to be able to transport them, or to be able to put them in a vehicle for transport, and re-assemble them when the system is needed.  The next question would be the availability of the rounds, which necessitates other soldiers to carry them, considering that each high explosive (HE) round comes in at just under ten pounds.  A standard US mortar crew is five soldiers, with the expectation that our vaunted logistics system is nearby and funneling more ammunition as needed.  The 82mm system typically available (as in Libya) weighs about the same as our 81mm, but some older models weigh as much as 120 pounds.  I hope that this explanation is sufficient to demonstrate that one does not simply pick up a mortar (not to mention all the necessary rounds) and spontaneously attack a target.

Even if the mortars were packed around in pickup trucks, which is not unlikely, one has to consider their employment.  A mortar is a stand-off weapon, not employed in a direct assault (which explains the quip attributed to the famous Marine Chesty Puller when he first examined a mortar: “Where do you put the bayonet?”).  In an attack, the mortar (ideally, several of them) is set up in a way to support the assault by the infantry, which requires communication and coordination with the attacking force, so that the infantry can tell the mortars when to commence fire, adjust fire (onto the target), shift fire (to another target), and cease fire, as well as providing specific data about targeting.  After all, shelling your own troops is considered bad form.

We have seen this administration horribly botch its attempt to flagrantly exploit the information about the bin Laden raid, and we see the same blithering reaction in this case as well.  The mortar portion to this story is not the linchpin of the case, but one would expect that someone who knows what he is talking about would have tapped, say, Jay Carney on the shoulder and explained the simple facts, which include, we now know, several attempts and attacks on the consulate compound, including a bomb that blew a hole in the compound wall last June, and an attack on the British ambassador's motorcade.  Another little-known fact is that there were actually two such compounds, about half a mile apart, that were attacked, again making it less likely to be a spontaneous happening.

The administration’s case continues to unravel with the realization that the two ex-SEALs killed in the assault, despite the implications of early official reports, were not assigned to provide security to the ambassador and his party at all, but were in fact part of a security contractor force at a separate location.  The two responded to the attack voluntarily, 'running to the sound of the guns', which makes their sacrifice all the more poignant and the explanation by the State Department all the more suspect, begging the question about whether any security was provided at all.  We know that requests for security enhancement were denied (reminiscent of the events leading up the 'Black Hawk Down' incident in Somalia in 1993).

To discredit the administration still further, the attack was internally declared to be a terrorist event within 24 hours in order to dispatch the security elements that were previously denied, and an investigative team from the FBI, which still had to wait weeks to arrive on the scene due to the "dangerous" nature of the area, though this didn't deter reporters from CNN and the Washington Post from picking through the ruins well prior to their arrival and subsequent departure within 12 hours.  A high-level State Department Under Secretary, a respected non-partisan holdover from the previous Bush administration, also briefed congressional staffers the morning after the attack, in some detail, about how this was a terrorist assault.

The administration rolled out the standard ploy for covering up information – declare that the situation is ‘under investigation’ and is thus not sufficiently formed to give an adequate answer, or that an answer is legally constrained and withheld during the course of the investigation (sufficient to stonewall in the case of Solyndra and Fast & Furious, for example).  The results of the investigation, of course, will not be available until after the election. 

A hearing on this issue by the House Oversight Committee is scheduled shortly, and despite the sequestering of State Department officials (because, you know, there is an investigation), the committee has called the leader of a Special Forces security team that had been in-country for six months, until August, to testify about security concerns.  (Another item to consider is that a military deployment overseas is often cut short at the six-month point because of funding considerations, which apparently were more important than the security concerns.)

What was infuriating for me, then, after Susan Rice’s stark declarations (called to account by John Bolton, her predecessor, who stated that such comments were "not in her wheel house" and they were a "facile lie") and Hillary Clinton’s parsing of the mission of Woods and Doherty, was Jay Carney’s quip aboard Air Force One on 20 September that it was "self-evident" that it was a terrorist attack, after Matt Olson, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to his credit, broke from the White House party line and told a Senate hearing that it was indeed a terrorist attack (for a fairly comprehensive timeline of the administration's 'evolving' handling of the story, see the Washington Post).  If it was so self-evident, then why the desperate demands for days that it wasn’t so?  And if the administration's current story is that there wasn't sufficient information at the beginning to arrive at a conclusion that this was a terrorist attack, then where did it gleen the information to baldly state that it wasn't?

This particular attack, in addition to the events and general feeling in the Muslim world, flies in the face of an administration that declares that bin Laden is dead and thus we can pack our military bags and retreat from the war against the Islamic Supremacists.  Expect to hear more such dissembling of the truth about the failure of Obama’s al-Azhar policy. 

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