Posted Online: Dec. 03, 2012, 6:00 am
The autumn fall of the generals
Comment on this story
By Col. (Ret.) Dave Shaver
With the scandal sheets steaming about the physical and fantasy "zippers down" activities of Gen. David Petraeus, former CIA director and Gen. John Allen, head of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, there may be more here to look at than just another story of powerful men at play.
While some military writers have chosen to use these scandals to show how the military's top leaders have a proclivity for hypocrisy by demanding perfect, alcohol-free behavior from our troops during this war, (General Order No. 1), while the generals slip away to Europe and the states for "rest and recuperation," I am beginning to see a less obvious pattern in the Big Picture.
Petraeus and Allen were not the only generals in big time trouble since the murders of our ambassador to Libya and three other brave Americans in a most dangerous environment.
At least three other top-flag officers found big-time trouble with this administration at about this same time.
Gen. Carter Ham, commander-in-chief of U.S. Africa Command, was relieved of command because he disobeyed an order from the Pentagon "to stand down and cease preparations and expedient planning for a defensive attack on the Al Qaeda terrorists" during that now-infamous seven-hour attack in Benghazi.
Nearly simultaneously Rear Adm. Charles Gaouette, commander of Aircraft Carrier Strike Group 3 in the Mediterranean Sea, was relieved of his command by President Obama while serving on a battle deployment -- something, I'm told, seldom happens until the battle group returns home.
This relief of command was officially reported to be for the admiral's "inappropriate leadership judgment" when he disobeyed his orders and ordered his forces on Sept. 11, 2012 to "assist and provide intelligence for" American military forces ordered into action by Gen. Ham.
The old "connect the dots" approach to piecing together what may have happened during this crucial seven hours may help us understand the Benghazi catastrophe caused by some gutless wonders in thePentagon.
I could not find any evidence that another general, four-star Kip Ward, a former commander-in-chief of Africa Command, was involved in providing support to Ham, but we may find a link in the future.
Gen. Ward has also been relieved of his current duties during this same time-frame, and may be reduced in rank for misappropriating thousands of dollars in travel and other expenses. Perhaps all three -- Petraeus, Allen and Ward — provided some unwanted "help" to Ham's plan. Perhaps not, but it seems like a lot of flags hit the deck during the same time-frame.
Some or perhaps all give of these flag officers were fired, or nearly so, because of their role in trying to help those who were killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2012. Five men. Eighteen earned stars of rank.
It's hard to remember when a nation relieved or punished this many senior officers at the same time for differing inappropriate action in wartime. It begs the question: What is the new relationship our top military field officers have with their commander-in-chief?
I don't think the Republicans in Congress are wrong for pressing all those involved for the truth. We may come to remember the Autumn of 2012 for far more than the Fall of the Generals.
Col. Dave Shaver is a retired U.S. Army officer and former tenured faculty member of the U.S. Army War College, where he held the General MacArthur academic chair of research; firstname.lastname@example.org.