Streetwise Professor

October 31, 2012

Unarmed by Choice

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 2:21 pm

The lame-and anonymous-defense of the failure to come to the defense of those under assault in Benghazi continues.  Yesterday another anonymous official (or the same-how could we know) offered this condescending justification of the failure to dispatch an armed drone to Benghazi at the height of the attack:

“While some may think that armed drones could have made a difference in Benghazi, that’s altogether unclear,” a senior defense official tells Fox News. “You need good intelligence to drive the use of armed drones. It’s not like you can just send hellfire missiles into a relatively crowded area when you don’t know precisely where the enemy is.”

One big problem with this ex post rationalization.  The drone dispatched was unarmed.  Dispatching it armed with Hellfires would have preserved the option to use them if that Predator, or other sensors, or other sources of information, or the ex-SEALs on the spot had provided precise information on where the enemy was.  Indeed, there are reports that one of the people defending the consulate annex was in fact designating targets with a laser.

But by putting up the Predator with no weapon on board, that information could not have been acted on.  Whoever dispatched that drone made it impossible to use it to attack the enemy.  We were unarmed-and hence unable to act if the information to use the arms came into our possession-by choice.

In other words, whoever ordered that Predator to be dispatched unarmed wasn’t going to take yes for an answer.

And a question.  This administration uses drones to launch attacks quite promiscuously, and brags about it.   There have been civilian casualties that have resulted from these attacks.  They have, at times, made attacks on “relatively crowded areas” in Yemen and Pakistan.  What’s different about those cases?

Returning to the “we didn’t receive any requests for aid,” there are leaked reports that those on the ground in Benghazi were “begging for help.”  That makes sense: it makes no sense that those under attack wouldn’t be screaming for help, though that’s merely a common sense inference.  I of course have no idea whether it’s  true  that there are recordings of their pleas.  There is a leak war going on, with anonymous sources exchanging fire.

Obama says he is all about ending wars.  Well, this is a war that Obama could end in an instant, by telling us what he knew and what he did, and ordering others to do the same.

But instead, The Most Transparent Administration in History (TM) in history is doing Nixon proud.

Responsibility to Protect, Then and Now

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 1:58 pm

In his televised speech announcing US military action in Libya in 2011, Obama embraced the concept of “responsibility to protect,” the doctrine that evolved post-Rwanda and post-Bosnia that the US and other nations had a responsibility to intervene to prevent humanitarian crises:

For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom.  Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges.  But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act.

. . . .

Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians.

. . . .

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and -– more profoundly -– our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are.  Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries.  The United States of America is different.

Would that Obama’s “responsibility to protect” had extended to besieged Americans in that same country 18 months later.

October 30, 2012

An Anonymous Denial on Benghazi That Fails the Smell Test, But Passes the BS Test With Flying Colors

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 8:37 pm

An anonymous senior defense official in the Pentagon has denied that DoD rejected requests for military assistance from those under attack in Benghazi:

“The Pentagon took action by moving personnel and assets in the region shortly after it learned of the attack on the Benghazi consulate,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There was no request made for military intervention in Benghazi. To be successful, such an operation, if requested, would have required solid information about what was happening on the ground. Such clarity just wasn’t available as the attack was unfolding.”

Three comments/questions.

First, why is this coming from an anonymous source?  Why don’t Panetta or Dempsey-or Obama-make this statement in public?  If they can back that up, why don’t they say it publicly?

Second, this stretches credulity to a breaking point.  “There was no request.”  Does this anonymous individual expect us to believe that two CIA agents who were also ex-SEALs, while defending a US government facility and numerous civilian employees against an attack by a much larger force equipped with heavy weapons would not make a request?  They just figured: “Well, we’re on our own.  Might as well not even bother asking for help.”

Spare me.  They would have been requesting help loud and clear and often.

I just find it completely incredible that they didn’t ask for help.  Assuming that they did, for the Pentagon not to receive the request, someone in the communications chain between those in Benghazi and the Pentagon would have had to have decided not to pass on the request, or there would have had to have been a communications breakdown.  I also consider these alternatives highly unlikely.

Thus, I consider it virtually impossible that there was no request.

Third, note the repetition of the “we needed more information, more clarity” theme that Panetta advanced as a military principle last week.  It’s no more plausible now that it was then.  It’s also a weasel formulation: we didn’t get a request, but if we did, we wouldn’t have responded anyways.

I called BS on this “principle” last week, and I’m not alone.  From Blackfive:

Got an email from the retired former Delta operator in the Benghazi post.  And yes, he mis-spells the SecDef’s name on purpose.

This is about doctrine, specifically the Obama Administration’s doctrine, and how it doesn’t work in the real world:

Leon Penetta is Either a Dumbass or a Liar

The Secretaryof Defense, in his most determined way, continues to try to protect the President from the fiasco in Benghazi.  So desperate to shield the President he announced what will be forever remembered as the Penetta Doctrine:

“(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Panetta told Pentagon reporters. “And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

Of course, in the circles that I ran with, it will be forever labeled “The Dumbest Shit I Ever Heard Doctrine”.

Exactly. But that’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.  And they will for the next 7 days.  At least.

Why is Edith O’Brien Still in Legal Limbo?

Filed under: Clearing,Commodities,Derivatives,Economics,Exchanges,Politics,Regulation — The Professor @ 8:20 pm

Mere days after the collapse of MF Global, I was told by someone who would have reason to know that the key to unraveling the MF mystery was Edith O’Brien, the firm’s assistant treasurer.  A year later, Ms. O’Brien is still in limbo, refusing to testify without immunity from prosecution.

The likelihood that Ms. O’Brien would have conceived of and executed a massive fraud-the looting of MF Global customer segregated funds-is close to zero.  If there was a crime, it would have been conceived of and directed by someone far higher in the firm than Ms. O’Brien.

Prosecutors routinely give immunity to low-level employees in order to build a case against higher executives.  Prosecutors in the MF Global matter seem to be deviating from that routine.  This raises questions, the most notable of which is: are they departing from SOP because the individual who could be implicated is a well-known and highly connected Democratic politician, a former governor and senator, and bundler for Obama?

Maybe there’s a different explanation, but I’m hard pressed to think of one.

Jon Corzine, Victim

Filed under: Clearing,Derivatives,Economics,Exchanges,Politics,Regulation — The Professor @ 12:02 am

How dumb does Jon Corzine think we are?

The WSJ has this hanky puller on his struggles to move on from the wreckage of MF Global:

And the 65-year-old Mr. Corzine is struggling to figure out what comes next for himself, according to friends and former coworkers.

I can hardly type through the sobs.

Stand at LaSalle and Jackson or 10-30 S. Wacker and see how much sympathy you get, Jon.  I’d bring bodyguards.

But here’s where Corzine insults our collective intelligence:

Allegations from shareholders and bondholders that he hid problems or committed fraud at the brokerage firm make “no sense” because he had “no motive,” Mr. Corzine’s lawyers said in a court filing, citing his ownership of 441,960 shares in MF Global. The stake includes 50,000 shares bought shortly before the bankruptcy filing.

Uhm, equityholders in firms teetering on insolvency, or which are insolvent, have a huge incentive to hide problems or commit fraud or take huge risks.  It’s called gambling for resurrection.  Fraud or concealment permit the firm to survive-and maybe it will get lucky.  If things get worse-that hurts only the bondholders, who lose more when the firm loses even more value.  The stock was already worthless.  Ditto with taking on risk: if the insolvent firm’s bet turns bad, that just deepens the bondholders’ losses without hurting the equity holder, but if the bet turns out well the equity profits disproportionately.

Most frauds and concealment of losses are carried out by shareholders.  These are ways of stealing from bondholders.

The only thing that makes no sense is Corzine saying he had no motive.  And he expects us to believe that.

Corzine’s other defense is that MF Global’s failure was due in large part to its completely deficient accounting and control systems.  But that throws him into the Sarbanes-Oxley fire, for he signed off on the soundness of those systems.

Corzine is obviously ginning up the PR machine to try to build sympathy and lay the groundwork for a comeback.   Don’t do the world any favors, Jon.  You’ve done quite enough already.

October 29, 2012

Sounds Familiar

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 2:27 am

SWP on October 26:

To reprise some famous questions: what did [Obama] know and when did he know it?  To which I add: and what did he do about it?

John McCain on Face the Nation on October 28:

What did the president know? When did he know it? And what did he do about it?

October 28, 2012

President Panetta?

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:28 am

The White House adamantly denies Obama refused to dispatch military aid in response to desperate requests from those under assault in Benghazi:

“Neither the president nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News by email.

Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard asked several questions similar to the ones I posed.  Vietor pushed back hard on one:

But Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, in a post published Friday, doubted Panetta’s explanationand said the fault must lie with Obama himself. “Would the secretary of defense make such a decision on his own? No,” Kristol wrote. “It would have been a presidential decision.”

“He’s wrong,” said Vietor.

So the White House denies turning down requests for relief.  The CIA also denies.   Putting the ball squarely in the Pentagon’s court.

This leaves three alternatives, it seems to me.

First, there were no requests. I find this completely implausible.  People under siege are going to be screaming for help-and rightly so.

Second, these requests were rejected at a relatively low level of the chain of command, and not passed on to higher authorities.  This too is utterly implausible.

Third, the buck stopped with Panetta.  Panetta has admitted that he decided not to commit US forces due to the uncertainty of the situation on the ground. He did not explicitly state that he had received pleas from those under attack in Benghazi and decided not to respond to them.  But given that it is almost certain that those under attack were screaming for help, and that those who received those desperate requests would have passed them up the chain, the inference is clear: Panetta received the pleas and declined them, on his own.

That’s if you believe the White House denial.

I don’t necessarily believe the denial.  But there’s not going to be any way to go over, under, or through that stonewall anytime soon.

But let’s stipulate that it’s true.  Think of the implications.  The President-the Commander in Chief-was not the ultimate authority when deciding whether to commit US forces to respond to an assault on American diplomatic and intelligence personnel in Benghazi.  He delegated the decision to the SecDef.  Then went to bed to rest up for a grueling trip to Vegas for a fundraiser.

Puts the whole new “gutsy call” persona in a whole new light, eh?  It also suggests extreme dereliction of duty on behalf of the President.  Buck passing, not buck stopping.

But there are still too many unanswered questions to accept this highly damaging and disturbing interpretation, even though it squares with the public statements of the principals.  Questions that don’t require an investigation-just answers from Obama himself.  What was Obama doing during the seven hours? Whom did he speak to?  What did he tell them?  Specifically, what communications did he have with Panetta-who has said he took the decision not to dispatch military assistance?

In the end, we are left with two possibilities.  First, the White House is lying about Obama’s role in the decisions on 11 September.  Or, second, Obama was derelict in his duties as Commander in Chief, and made Leon Panetta President for a Day.  I don’t see any other alternatives.  Requests for help had to have been coming fast and furious from Benghazi.  No help was dispatched.  Either Obama made the decision to withhold assistance-making the White House statement false and implying that Obama is attempting to conceal that decision-or he didn’t-meaning that Obama shirked his responsibilities as C-in-C.

He has to answer for his actions on 11 September.  In person, before the country.  Before the election.  What happened in the White House can’t stay in the White House.

Any system requires accountability to function.  The accountability mechanism in our political system is elections, and to work, the electorate must be informed about the actions of those who face popular election.  This particular issue lies at the heart of the President’s Constitutional responsibilities, and holding him to account on these matters is of paramount importance.  Doing so requires we know what he did.  Or what he didn’t do.

We’ve heard a lot of “B” words from him of late: Binders, Big Bird, Bullshitters, and Bayonets.  But not Benghazi.  This is inexcusable, and sufficient to disqualify him from holding the awesome office he now occupies.

October 26, 2012

Mr. Gutsy Call?

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 7:11 pm

A Democratic president once said “the buck stops here.”  A Democratic presidential candidate once said “a fish rots from the head.”  Barack Obama seems hell-bent on denying the first adage and personifying the second.

When he was asked-finally!-whether those under siege in the consular annex in Benghazi were denied armed support (e.g., AC-130s, drones, special forces), Obama resorted to the oldest and most disgusting dodge in the book: we need to wait on an investigation.

President Obama told KUSA-TV’s Kyle Clarke large that “we want to make sure we get it right, particularly because I have made a commitment to the families impacted as well as to the American people, we’re going to bring those folks to justice. So, we’re going to gather all the facts, find out exactly what happened, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again but we’re also going to make sure that we bring to justice those who carried out these attacks.”

Clark pressed again.

“Were they denied requests for help during the attack?” he asked.

“Well, we are finding out exactly what happened,” the president again said. “I can tell you, as I’ve said over the last couple of months since this happened, the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we’re going to investigate exactly what happened so that it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice. And I guarantee you that everyone in the state department, our military, the CIA, you name it, had number one priority making sure that people were safe. These were our folks and we’re going to find out exactly what happened, but what we’re also going to do it make sure that we are identifying those who carried out these terrible attacks.”

Earlier today, Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reported that CIA agents in the second U.S. compound in Benghazi were denied requests for help.

What makes that dodge even more egregious is the hiding behind the families of those killed.  Some of whom, by the way, have been outspoken in demanding answers NOW, and who have been extremely critical of the way that Obama-personally-treated them.

But it gets worse.  Obama actually did an OJ imitation:

“Nobody wants to find out more what happened than I do.”

This is quite simple.

  1. Did Obama make the decision not to dispatch military relief to the beleaguered in Benghazi? (I note that CIA head David Patraeus denies that the CIA made any such decision.  Clearly putting the ball in Obama’s court.)
  2. If yes, no investigation is necessary.  Just tell us what the decision was, and the rationale.  Or does it take him 45 days to investigate himself?
  3. If no, who did?
  4. If no, why did Obama delegate the decision to someone else?
  5. What did the designee report to Obama?  Again: does it take him 45 days do establish who in the chain of command made the decision and why?

Again: why doesn’t he know already?  If he doesn’t know, he’s totally out of the loop.  If he does know, and isn’t saying, he’s covering up something.

Hard to decide which is worse.

To reprise some famous questions: what did he know and when did he know it?  To which I add: and what did he do about it?  What was he doing during the 7 hours of the assault?  Was he in the White House situation room?  If not, why not?  If not, who was?  Was he in communication?  What decisions did he make? What was his reasoning?

The answers to these obvious questions don’t require him to await the completion of an investigation.  They require him to open his mouth and tell the country what he knew; what he did; and why he did it.   President, investigate thyself.

The guy who is in love with first person pronouns (have any doubts about that, check out the transcript of the last debate) loves to talk about himself and his wonderfulness.  Why so shy now?

I think I know exactly why.  He is running as Mr. Gutsy Call, the guy who made the daring decision to take out Osama.  If it turns out that he made a not so gutsy call here, or didn’t make any call at all, that whole meme is shot to hell.  And other than that, WTF does he have to run on?

There’s a big difference between approving execution of a plan that has been meticulously crafted, critiqued, and practiced over a period of months on the one hand, and making a split second call in a fast-developing situation with less than perfect information on the other.  The real gutsy calls-gutsy in terms of courage, and in terms of having to rely on gut instinct rather than analysis and debate-are the split second kind.

It is an awesome responsibility to have to make either kind of decision, but especially the latter.  I think that people would be understanding if he could provide a reasonably defensible rationale of his decision.  There is usually a tendency to rally around the president, and to give him the benefit of the doubt about hard decisions, especially those involving combat: Jimmy Carter actually got a positive bump after the Desert One disaster.   If he truly thinks it was the right call, he should be able to defend it, and should have a receptive audience.

Which leads me to the following observation: his refusal to answer any questions about Benghazi means that he can’t defend his decision.

Leon Panetta Brings Friendly Fire Onto His Own Position

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 10:57 am

On 25 October, Leon Panetta stated:

“There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here,” Panetta said Thursday. “But the basic principle here … is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on.”

On 26 October, multiple sources from the military and intelligence agencies (almost certainly CIA) call BS on Panetta, providing chapter and verse on all the sources of real time information available to Panetta and the Pentagon, Patraeus, and the White House.  One of the sources was on the ground in Benghazi.

There were drones in the air.  There was a trained special operator on the roof of the annex lazing targets (while manning a machine gun).  CIA personnel were in constant radio contact with their commanders.  They were providing the coordinates of the mortars firing on the annex.

In brief, Panetta and others in DC had about as good real time information as you can possibly expect in a combat situation.  Certainty? No: that’s not possible.  But it is hard to imagine having better information.  So not “knowing what’s going on” is not a valid excuse.

Is it a coincidence that multiple sources unloaded these devastating details the day after Panetta spoke?

I think not.  The events themselves, the coverup (of which Panetta’s remarks are a part), and the attempts to pin blame on the intelligence agencies have no doubt made very many people very angry.  People who know things.

Count on more fire to come.

October 25, 2012

Modern Day McClellans: Profiles in Cowardice

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 4:21 pm

The administration’s efforts to escape accountability for the clusterf*ck in Benghazi on September 11 grow more disgusting by the day.  These efforts betray a nauseating combination of cowardice, dissimulation, and projection.

Yesterday, Hillary responded to revelations that within hours of the commencement of the assault, that the State Department, Pentagon, FBI, Intel agencies-and yes, the White House-had received an email stating that an Al Qaeda-linked group had claimed responsibility for the attack.  Hillary’s response?  How dare you-DARE YOU-“cherry pick” intelligence.

How’s that for projection, eh? What.  Fixating on the MoVid wasn’t cherry picking?  Really?  Look at all the revelations that have come out demonstrating that the State Department and the White House had numerous reports to the effect that this was a planned terrorist assault.  Yes, the evidence was conflicting.  But they decided to run with the MoVid story-even going to the extreme of recording a sick-making apology vid.  They picked the most rotten cherry from the bunch and went with that.  And they excoriate others for cherry picking-even when those others pick far better ones, plural.

Insofar as the intel agencies are concerned, consider this report they delivered to Congress in the aftermath:

One U.S. intelligence official said that during the first classified briefing about Benghazi given to members of Congress, officials “carefully laid out the full range of sparsely available information, relying on the best analysis available at the time.”

The official added, however, that the initial analysis of the attack that was presented to legislators was mixed.

“Briefers said extremists were involved in attacks that appeared spontaneous, there may have been a variety of motivating factors, and possible links to groups such as (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al-Sharia) were being looked at closely,” the official said.

Wow.  Way to take a stand there.  It seems that the only thing they ruled out is that the attack was carried out by Ninjas or space aliens.

Further proof we should rename the CIA the CYA.   And we should definitely-definitely-depend on the CIA to know the instant Iran will be ready to go nuclear. Totally.

This is also rich:

Intelligence experts caution that initial reports from the scene of any attack or disaster are often inaccurate.

1. No sh*t. 2. If that’s true, why did the administration rush out, with virtual metaphysical certainty, and pin the blame on a spontaneous riot that was a response to the MoVid?  They hide behind the fog of war now, but acted like it didn’t exist for weeks.

But bad as that all is, that’s not what is really setting me off.  (SWP?  Set off?  Go on!)  It’s this statement by Panetta:

In his most extensive comments to date on the unfolding controversy surrounding the attack in Benghazi, Panetta said U.S. forces were on heightened alert because of the anniversary of 9/11 and prepared to respond. But, he said, the attack happened over a few hours and was over before the U.S. had the chance to know what was really happening.

“(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Panetta told Pentagon reporters. “And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

An answer that would make George McClellan proud.

Fact: commanders never-NEVER-know what’s going on.  What separates real commanders from the McClellans of the world is the moral courage to “deploy forces into harm’s way” when you DON’T know WTF is going on.  You can always-always-find excuses not to act.  You can always say: “I don’t know exactly what is going on, so I’ll wait until I do.”  McClellan did.

War is chaos.  War is radical uncertainty.  Anybody who says “basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on” doesn’t know sh*t about war and has no business making command decisions.  None.  That’s not a principle at all.  It is an anti-principle.

You NEVER know what’s going on. If you wait to “know what’s going on” you never do jack.  And you lose.

And in this case, that meant losing four people in Benghazi.

Real commanders-real leaders-don’t use risk and uncertainty as an excuse for inaction.  They weigh the risks, accept the inevitable uncertainty, and act.

Another point.  The military signs up to go in harm’s way.  That’s their job.  State Department people take some risks, sure, but there’s a huge difference.  The military is there to risk their lives to protect the lives of civilians.  That’s what they sign up for.

Stevens and his people in Benghazi were at risk.  Obviously.  The choice wasn’t between lives at risk and no lives at risk.  It was between putting military lives at risk or State Department lives at risk.  Panetta chose the latter, and those lives were risked-and lost.  (And maybe it wasn’t even necessary to put lives at risk.  A high speed, low altitude pass by F/A-18s or F-16s could have been very effective: it’s worked frequently in Afghanistan.  First pass, just lay a sonic boom on them.  If they don’t get the hint, second pass, open up the M61A2 and lay some 20mm at 4k RPM on them.  And why couldn’t The Lord of the Drones used one of them?)

Given the human stakes-and the national security stakes-to hide behind uncertainty is unconscionable.  War is hell-and war is uncertain.  If you don’t get that, you have no business making the hard calls.

I am not a big Madelaine Albright fan, but she did have it right when she told Colin Powell (a modern day McClellan if there ever was one): “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Why not, Leon?

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