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AND DOES THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA KNOW THE DIFFERENCE?
by Sharon Rondeau
On October 18, 2012, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that Gen. David Rodriguez was nominated to replace Ham as AFRICOM commander. On April 5, a formal announcement was made that that change of command took place, but Ham was not said to be “retired,” and his biography posted at AFRICOM does not say he is retired.
An outdated military biography states that Ham is still commander of AFRICOM.
Ham’s reported “decision” to retire was said by the Defense Department to have been a “personal” one, although many said that Ham’s departure from AFRICOM was unexpectedly early given the customary time frame for an individual to hold the position.
In late October, The Washington Times and other outlets reported that Ham “got the same emails requesting help received by the White House, put a rapid response team together and notified the Pentagon it was ready to go. He was ordered to stay put.” Ham reportedly did not follow the “stand-down” order and was then relieved of his command.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz told Fox News that Ham had told him that he had never been asked to provide assistance on September 11, but military sources say that Ham was told not to send assistance by means of the stand-down order.
Gen. Ham’s Linked-In profile does not indicate that he is retired, but rather, that he holds, or once held, the position of “Army Commander at U.S. Army Security Assistance Command” in the Virgin Islands. His command of the AFRICOM division is noted on his biographical sketch.
In a report dated July 20, CNN described Ham as “former head of U.S. forces in Africa,” “former Gen. Carter Ham,” and “the former chief of U.S. Africa Command, commonly known as AFRICOM.” However, Ham is not a “former” general; he retains his rank regardless of the duties he is performing.
On April 8, Sen. John McCain lauded Ham as “an exceptional warrior” and wished Ham and his wife “fair winds and following seas.” But April 8 might not have signified Ham’s official retirement date.
Following the attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, The Washington Times reported that military sources said that Ham had refused to follow a “stand-down” order and that he was subsequently relieved of his command by Rodriguez, who was AFRICOM’s second-in-command at the time. CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III told The Post & Email that Ham was effectively “cashiered.”
Fitzpatrick said that he has seen no evidence that Ham has retired. “The April 8 dinner could have been a ‘farewell’ dinner, given with the knowledge that Ham would be retiring at some point in the future. That ‘hail and farewell’ is not the moment in time when Ham left active duty. We don’t have his retirement date; it indicates he is in his last job and the next thing for him is retirement. There is an actual event when retirement begins; when that moment happens, it is memorialized.”
Ham has made what could be considered conflicting statements about the events in Benghazi on September 11. In March, TIME reported that Ham had said, “I would make different decisions based on what I know now, as opposed to what I knew then.” However, CNN reported that while at a conference on security held July 17-20, 2013, Ham said in response to the questions as to why he did not “scramble a jet” to respond to the attack, “To do what? It was a very, very uncertain situation.”
Contrary to Ham’s statement, retired military officers have insisted that their expectation would have been for the military to send assistance as soon as it was known that the ambassador and his staff were under attack.
On October 18, Panetta had said that he, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Ham had agreed that military intervention after the Benghazi attack would not have been wise. Ham has also been quoted by Rep. Jason Chaffetz as having said that he was not consulted or asked to provide assistance despite the fact that the U.S. had had “assets” and “proximity” in the region.
Another retired military member told The Post & Email last week that his best assessment was that Ham had not been part of the decision-making the night of the attack. Various experienced military officers have affirmed that contingency plans are always in place for emergencies such as Benghazi.
“Ham could be making the coffee for four-star Gen. Martin Dempsey or acting as an executive assistant for the Chief of Staff of the Army. He’s just no longer commander of AFRICOM,” Fitzpatrick said.
Defense Department spokesman George Little said in a report from last October “that Army Gen. Carter Ham’s planned departure was ‘an entirely personal decision’ and “He will continue to lead Africa Command and he is on the job, doing it effectively. We expect him to do so until he retires.”
As is customary, multiple bloggers repeated the claim that Ham was retiring last fall based either on a lack of clarity from the news media or a misunderstanding. However, The Washington Times concluded its October 29 article with, “No word yet on when General Ham’s rotation or retirement take effect.”
Fitzpatrick added that Ham could be on “administrative leave” or “terminal leave” until his retirement. An individual on “administrative leave” must check in daily with his superiors, while someone on terminal leave does not.
Col. George Bristol was said to have “retired” and therefore difficult to locate for the purpose of testifying before Congress about Benghazi, but late last week, various reports confirmed that Bristol was still on active duty and would testify. The Post & Email based its earlier reports of Bristol’s status on mainstream news reports published at that time.
Prior to press time, The Post & Email checked with a military spokeswoman on Gen. Ham’s status and referred us to another officer from whom we are awaiting a response to our question.
Update, July 22, 2013, 11:04 EDT: The U.S. military’s response to our inquiry reads:
> Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
> Caveats: NONE
> GEN Carter Ham is officially retired.
> Jeanne E. Bankard
> Deputy Chief, General Officer Management Office
> Office of the Chief of Staff, Army
> 200 Army Pentagon Room 2A476
> Washington, DC 20310