While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boozes it up in Australia and the Pentagon grapples with more floozy eruptions, outraged military families are still waiting for answers about the forgotten 9/14 attack on Camp Bastion.
Muckrakers and distraction engineers are having a front-page field day with the so-called “sex scandal.” But for surviving relatives and colleagues of heroic Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, it’s the national security scandal at Afghanistan’s Camp Bastion that deserves headline coverage.
There’s been a virtual blackout of the alarming story in the national press. As I reported last month, the meticulously coordinated siege by 15 Taliban infiltrators — dressed in American combat fatigues and armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons — resulted not only in two deaths, but also in the most devastating loss of U.S. airpower since Vietnam. Six Harrier jets were destroyed; three refueling stations were wiped out; six hangars were damaged.
The attack came exactly six months after a failed suicide attack targeting Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and three days after the deadly attack on our consulate in Benghazi.
Yet, on Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that President Obama is standing by beleaguered Marine Gen. John Allen. He’s the four-star general and lead U.S. commander in Afghanistan who is now entangled in former CIA Director David Petraeus’ sexcapades soap opera. Allen reportedly exchanged hundreds of “flirtatious” emails with Petraeus family friend and married Florida socialite Jill Kelley. Kelley is the alleged “other other woman” who told the FBI she was harassed by alleged Petraeus mistress and biographer Paula Broadwell.
While Petraeus stepped down, Obama “has faith in Gen. Allen, believes he’s doing and has done an excellent job” overseeing security in Afghanistan, Carney said.
Are families of our Marines at Camp Bastion happy with Allen and the Obama administration? Donella Raible, widow of Lt. Col. Raible, was blunt. “I’m not,” she told me Tuesday afternoon by phone. “I’m mortified. It shows the corruption in the whole Washington/Arlington culture.” Mrs. Raible, who is now raising three children (ages 11, 9 and 2) on her own, said, “I couldn’t sleep at night if I were (Obama). If they’re happy with things in Afghanistan, they should come look at the faces of those left behind.”
If not for the heroism of Lt. Col. Raible, Sgt. Atwell and their fellow brothers-in-arms, the entire Harrier squadron and a barracks-full of sleeping Marines could have been lost. Another Camp Bastion Marine wife and mother of two told me: “My husband survived, and I am so grateful, but I am also heartbroken for those who died. … There is no excuse for this. We are the United States of America and supposed to be the badass of all badasses, and we are constantly made out to be fools and caught off guard. … I blame this administration for these recent preventable losses of life.”
Deborah Hatheway, aunt of Sgt. Atwell, said the family received a standard-issue condolence letter from the White House last week. “That means nothing. This was not supposed to happen,” Hatheway told me. She blasted the “negligence, irresponsibility, incompetence and plain ignorance” that led to her nephew’s murder, and she believes the failures in Benghazi are tied to the fate of the fallen at Camp Bastion.
Off the record, several family members of Camp Bastion Marines have voiced persistent concerns about security in what was touted as one of the safest places to be in Afghanistan. “It is not a matter of if, but when” the compound is attacked again, one told me. Another relayed how a few weeks before the 9/14 attack, razor wire on the perimeter kept disappearing — but Marine sentries were barred from firing on suspected thieves to avoid causing civilian casualties. Others wondered why security hadn’t been stepped up given the public threat by the Taliban on September 10 to kill Prince Harry, who was stationed at Camp Bastion.
“And after the incident with Panetta, the security should have been so tight there that even a suicide mouse couldn’t get through,” Hatheway told me. “How could they let this happen? Someone has to speak up.”
Obama’s military leaders were asleep on the job — or sleeping with others instead of doing their jobs. Who will answer for this deadly disgrace?