A great deal has been written and said about the disaster in Benghazi. Even the mainstream media has begun gradually and reluctantly to realize that it is a big story when an American Ambassador--the President's personal representative--and his staff are murdered, and then to have the White House and the top political leadership of the foreign policy apparatus engage in weeks of lies and cover-up. This humble blogger, too, has posted steadily about the Massacre in the Magreb as a glance through the archives reveals.
Over the weekend, FOX News, one of the very few big media outlets that consistently and accurately has covered this scandal, ran an excellent special report on the murders. That report, by the way, did a very nice job of highlighting the courage and skill of the DS agents in that compound on that night. I have to admit it was tough to watch the FOX special all the way through; I kept getting up and storming out of the room. Having spent thirty-four years in the Foreign Service, most of it in the "hard countries," the whole thing just hit too close to home. The difference between when I served and now was simple: We didn't mind going into harm's way when Reagan or the two Bushes were in the White House. We knew that we had a National Command Authority (NCA) that had our backs. We had our doubts about Carter and Clinton, but I never experienced anything like what we have now. Those going into danger for our country, civilian and military, know that with this President, his laughing hyena side-kick, and his empty pant-suited foreign policy chief your six is definitely exposed.
We all have heard about the disastrous decision-making at State that left the Benghazi facility exposed. I am sure we will hear much more about the Keystone Cop-like atmosphere at State, CIA, and the NSC. The leaks are beginning and, as I have noted many times, the career people at State and CIA are not going quietly into the night: They will not take the rap for Ambassador Rice's lies, nor for those of the President and the Secretary.
That said, we come around to a few issues not being well covered, or even mentioned. There are some rather large elephants in the room, and some smaller ones, as well. Let's go elephant hunting in North Africa:
1) What the hell was Ambassador Stevens doing in Benghazi on 9/11? Opening an "American corner"? Really?
I very reluctantly mention this: It will appear insensitive, but one must, must question Ambassador Steven's judgement. His patriotism, dedication to duty, and personal bravery are not in doubt, but his judgement and bureaucratic courage and skills come into question. As we have seen, there was a chorus of requests by his staff, his predecessor, and him for additional security resources in Libya, and in particular in Benghazi. Unlike the White House, the Embassy had no illusions about the growth of Al Qaeda affiliates and the deteriorating security situation in the eastern part of Libya, most notably once the Muslim Brotherhood obtained a secure operating platform in Egypt. After Embassy requests for more security were denied or only partly honored, why did Stevens leave the facility in Benghazi open? What was so important about that facility that its operation under miserable security conditions made it a risk worth taking? Or is this just a horrid example of cognitive dissonance? If he knew, as apparently he did, that security in Benghazi was deplorable, why did he go there on 9/11, and announce the opening of an American Corner? Why bring additional attention to the place especially after the British and even the International Red Cross (IRC) had abandoned Benghazi, and after our facility there suffered two prior attacks? Could the President's personal representative not say no to the American Corner, no to traveling there on 9/11, no to the facility itself? As noted, I am sorry to raise these matters of judgement and common sense, but four Americans lost their lives, not just one.
2) What was the response of the NCA?
The attack began after 9 pm Libya time; it lasted at least six hours. The attack, therefore, took place from about, say, 3:30 pm to about 9:30 pm Washington DC time on a regular work day, a Tuesday, and on a day, September 11, during which the capital is particularly attentive to reports of terror activity. The DS reps have testified that they knew about the attack almost immediately, and, thanks to the very expensive and elaborate DS op center, followed the attack in "near real time." So what happened? What did Secretaries Clinton and Panetta, CIA Director Petraeus, DNI Clapper, NSA Donilon, AFRICOM, SOCOM, and President Obama do? Somebody sent a slow flying UAV that managed to get there in time to monitor at least part of the attack. There apparently was a hastily put together rescue effort launched by the Embassy in Tripoli which encountered stiff resistance. But what did the NCA do? There are reports that the Pentagon determined that it would take 24 hours to get a rescue team on the ground in Benghazi. So? Why wasn't it launched? Nobody apparently knew that the Ambassador already was dead. One thing I have learned from years in the "hard countries": Do not let the creeps think they can get away with something. They should always fear an immediate and devastating response. American warriors on the ground with blood in their eyes would have sent a powerful message to the jihadis. The British ran the raucous North West Frontier with a handful of Political Agents (PA) who bribed the tribes and made it clear that a PA could conjure up the British Army if things got out of hand. Is it true that the President did not summon his national security team? That he just noted the information and then went off to Vegas on a fund-raiser after giving a vacuous speech at the Rose Garden?
3) Was the cover-up really motivated by the need to protect the misadministration's liberal delusions about their successes in the Middle East?
Is it really that simple and despicable? Do these Obama people really have no shame? Are they really that sociopathic? They are willing like some sort of Mafia-chieftan or vile totalitarian to allow the lives of their subordinates to be snuffed out as part of some great political chess game? I ask but fear I already know the responses.
Better stop here. It is not polite nowadays to target elephants.