Not Benghazi, Again?
This week at the hump day salad bar, we are serving up a bowl of Benghazi Stew and a side order of faux outrage fruits. The right-wing is once again blowing the dust off a non-starter story…chanting Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed with four other people in the Benghazi terror attacks in 2012, twice declined a senior U.S. military official’s advice and offer to accept added security assistance.
Several commentators and analysts have said that it’s still unclear why Ambassador Stevens turned down the recommendations and offers.
The scandal agonizing reality regarding Benghazi is why Ambassador Stevens, a well-educated, well-seasoned and well-respected diplomat, fully aware of the risks involved, made a series of foolish and highly questionable decisions to decline repeated offers for additional security to protect himself, persons he was responsible for, and then travel to an unsecured consulate and high risk environment at Benghazi, Libya.
In August 2012, officials at the mission had drafted cables to Washington requesting “security upgrades, and staffing.” However, shortly after the cable was sent, Ambassador Stevens spoke by phone with Army Gen. Carter Ham, the then-chief of U.S. Africa Command, who personally offered additional security assistance – which Mr. Stevens declined.
Several weeks before the attack, Ambassador Stevens met face-to-face with General Ham in Germany where the general once again told Ambassador Stevens that he could provide him additional military security. It was during this meeting that Ambassador Stevens again declined the general’s offers of assistance.
Cue The Faux Outrage Fruits. Given that Ambassador Stevens’ death is somewhat fresh in our minds, there are those who will feign outrage once again using misinformation and twisted truths to achieve their political objectives. Time for a bite of Rand Paul, Rush Limbaugh and right-wing fruit salad…yummy.
In the weeks and months following the attack on the consulate compound in Benghazi, President Barack Obama’s administration, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, came under heavy fire for their handling of the Benghazi attack. Much of the criticism following this tragedy has been focused on the lack of security that was present at the time of the violence.
Initial reports claimed that the attack was a spontaneous response to an online preview of a movie considered offensive to Muslims, but the attackers' use of military-grade weapons and apparent knowledge of the locations of the secret safe house sites within the compound perimeter led to speculation that the raid was pre-planned.
Following a direct hit by a round from a rocket propelled grenade (RPG), which started a significant fire in the building, Ambassador Stevens apparently became separated from his staff while trying to escape to the roof and was ultimately overcome by smoke. Local civilians found him and transported him to the Benghazi Medical Centre in a state of cardiac arrest. Medical personnel tried to resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead at about 2 A.M. Libyan time.
According to The Daily Mail News Online, Ambassador Stevens had sent out a diplomatic cable expressing concerns, on the day he was killed, that security at Benghazi was compromised. To be clear, those cables were seen and acted on by State Department subordinates and did not go directly to Secretary Clinton’s desk, her smart phone or her email inbox.
Setting political ideology aside, looking for and looking at the facts, Ambassador Stevens was given two opportunities to upgrade security, with American forces, prior to the attack on September 11, 2012. Mr. Stevens repeatedly declined recommended security upgrades.
Having the diplomatic experience to know better, the ambassador made a fatal decision which resulted in the departure from a secured Embassy compound in Tripoli to an unsecured destination without requisite security accompanying him – or any idea of what would be waiting at and / or near the Benghazi consulate.
Update Using GOP Report. In a new report released on yesterday, the House Armed Services Committee concludes that there was no way for the U.S. military to have responded in time to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi to save the four Americans killed that night.
In doing so, the report debunks entirely a right-wing myth that says the White House ordered the military not to intervene.
For months after the attack that resulted in Ambassador Steven’s death, conservative media was awash in reports that on the night of the assault the Obama Administration at some point ordered the military not to take action that would have saved lives. This supposed “stand down order” led to a bevy of right-wing conspiracies about just why the president and his administration had let the Americans die.
“Who told the SEALs to stand down?” Rep. Steve King asked in Nov. 2012, in just one of many interviews with Republicans referring to the response to Benghazi as “worse than Watergate.”
Fox News cited reports of a stand-down order no fewer than 85 times during prime-time segments as of June 2013. As the new report — which the Republican majority of the committee authored – makes very clear in its findings, however, that no such order ever existed. “There was no ‘stand down’ order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi,” the report says, noting that the military was not positioned to respond to the attack.
“Given the military’s preparations on September 11, 2012, majority members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack,” the report concludes.
This report, produced by House Armed Services Committee Republicans, should finally bring an end to the politicization of the heinous attacks on brave Americans in Benghazi.
“It is time to move forward, take the real conclusions we have arrived at and establish how to best protect our citizens around the globe. It is our hope that today’s report, which was authored by Republicans, finally brings this attempt to manufactured scandal to an end." (From a statement by House Armed Service Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D., CA).
Sources and References:
 Majority Interim Report: Benghazi Investigation Update http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=C4E16543-8F99-430C-BEBA-0045A6433426