I hope you will pardon my temporary departure from the normal fare of writing in this forum. Since the election of Barack Obama as President, I have watched closely his behavior and actions related to our service men and women in the armed forces. The office of the President of the United States carries with it the sacred duty of Commander-in-Chief under the U.S. Constitution. I harbor strong opinions about Obama who became President without any real leadership experience, but I will here stick to the facts related to his responsibility as commander-in-chief, as I have observed. Mr. Obama lost almost all of my respect following the raid to kill Bin Laden, but not because of its outcome.
The hunting and killing of Bin Laden was impressive, as was the rescue last week of Americans in Somalia by our special operations personnel. I credit the leadership of Admiral William H. McRaven and other service personnel with these successes over any leadership provided by Obama. As a boy, I grew up near the El Toro Marine base and I have lived most of my adult life near the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and Camp Pendleton. Those who protect our nation are truly a special breed — I know them well. All of them serve with honor, dignity, and with a team mentality.
Every aspect of a military operation, especially those involving special operations personnel, can and should be kept strictly secret before, during, and after every mission. It is the responsibility of the commander-in-chief to prevent leaks of any kind that could endanger future missions. Obama broke that trust last year and I believe he is exploiting our service personnel to promote his political fortune by allowing details of highly classified military missions to be leaked. In my opinion, President Obama has broken a sacred trust that, in fact, has endangered the lives of many Americans who have spent years training to be the best of the best.
Yesterday, former Navy SEAL officer, Leif Babin wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal that is outstanding, titled “Obama Exploits the Navy SEALs.” In classic disciplined, military form, Mr. Babin’s writing is measured and muted, masking what I believe is disgust with the Obama administration. I am most grateful to Mr. Babin for his service to my country and my family and for his courage to write this article and articulate what I have felt for so long:
America’s premier Special Operations force is once again in the headlines after a team of Navy SEALs rescued two hostages from captivity in Somalia last week. Elite U.S. forces have carried out such operations periodically over the past decade, always with skill and bravery. The difference in recent months is that the details of their work haven’t remained secret. On the contrary, government officials have revealed them for political gain—endangering our forces in the process.
The floodgates opened after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May, and the Obama administration’s lack of discretion was on display again at last week’s State of the Union address. As President Obama entered the House chamber, in full view of the cameras, he pointed to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and exclaimed: “Good job tonight, good job tonight.” Clearly something had happened that he wanted the world to know about.
There was no hesitation by the Obama administration to publicly expose details of this latest operation, as with the Bin Laden mission:
Sure enough, shortly thereafter, the White House announced the successful rescue of the hostages in Somalia by U.S. Special Operations forces. Vice President Biden appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to highlight the success the next morning, and Mr. Panetta also publicly praised it. Then came the “anonymous U.S. officials” to provide extensive details of who conducted the raid and how. As with the bin Laden operation, the top-secret unit that carried it out was again front-page news, as were its methods and tactics.
Our special operators do not welcome this publicity. In fact, from conversations I’ve had in recent days, it’s clear they are dismayed by it.
To save space, I am editing out much of this outstanding article by Mr. Babin.
It’s difficult for military leaders to enforce strict standards of operational security on their personnel while the most senior political leadership is flooding the airwaves with secrets. The release of classified information has also opened a Pandora’s box of former and retired SEALs, special operators, and military personnel who have chosen to violate their non-disclosure agreements and discuss intricate details of how such operations are planned and executed.
We’ve already begun seeing specific examples of strategic harm from the post-bin Laden leaks. In June, Pakistan arrested several individuals who allegedly provided information to the CIA in advance of the raid. One of those charged with treason was a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi. This Sunday, Mr. Panetta confirmed to “60 Minutes” that Dr. Afridi had provided “very helpful” intelligence to the CIA. That may have condemned Dr. Afridi to death or life imprisonment.
Such disclosures are catastrophic to U.S. intelligence networks, which often take years to develop.
Proof of the complete disregard of honored military discipline as commander-in-chief (vis-a-vis Obama’s staff):
A week after the bin Laden raid, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed dismay about Washington’s loose lips, telling a town hall meeting of U.S. Marines at Camp Lejeune: “Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday—the next day.”
Do the president and his top political advisers understand what’s at stake for the special-operations forces who carry out these dangerous operations, or the long-term strategic consequences of divulging information about our most highly classified military assets and intelligence capabilities? It is infuriating to see political gain put above the safety and security of our brave warriors and our long-term strategic goals. Loose lips sink ships.
It is difficult for me to express how upset I am with the current occupant of the White House and his administration. He has within his power of authority to maintain strict secrecy of every aspect of any and all classified military operations. The fact that he allows details of select missions to leak out and then expresses no concern whatsoever at their disclosure is nothing short of despicable. Not only does the man lack any real leadership ability or experience, he has broken the sacred trust of all Americans.
President Obama is responsible — for this alone in my opinion, President Obama must be soundly defeated this year and he must relinquish his duty as our commander-in-chief.
Thank you to Mr. Babin for your service to our nation.
“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” — Colin Powell