Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From Debate Moderator-Approved to Four Pinocchios

I sometimes felt a little worried that my interest in finding out what really happened at Benghazi on September 11, 2012 was shaped by politics more than I wanted to admit. I like to believe I discuss Obama administration policies with as much objectivity that I can muster. Now I don't worry. My gut instincts were correct in the face of massive media dismissal.

Four deaths in Benghazi are the fault of the jihadis. I'm not prone to blaming the administration for those deaths than I am for our deaths in Afghanistan for the last four years. We fight a war and casualties result.

My main concern has always been that I doubt the administration really feels we are fighting a war. As long as we are trying to win a war we are fighting, I can excuse mistakes. That's war. The Benghazi episode has highlighted all my concerns in a small incident.

The deliberate obfuscation of the reason for the attack is mostly a political question. While that is important, my blog interest in this aspect is restricted to a few points.

One, how the majority of the press could so easily ignore the issue is beyond me; and two, the question of whether the administration actually believed the fantasy video tale they spun while throwing our freedom of speech under the bus. I'd actually be relieved if it was election politics.

Well, the press corps of professionally trained journalists is finally catching up with the fact that there is a problem with what happened and the administration narrative:

Given the facts, the Obama administration's bizarre claim that a sacrilegious Internet video had inflamed peaceful Libyan demonstrators -- and in an outburst spurred by overwhelming theological pain, this moody crowd murdered our unfortunate ambassador -- just didn't wash.

As for passing major media smell tests before the 2012 presidential election? Of course the blarney passed 'em! But eight months after the attack and six months after the election, even President Barack Obama's chief media enablers have begun to acknowledge the video-did-it propaganda tizzy the administration orchestrated was stench itself.

And orchestrated propaganda it was, with the video-did-it narrative hedged by presidential statements calculated to slyly finesse terrorist complicity in the attack.

Glenn Kessler, who writes the Washington Post's fact-checker column, now informs his readers that the president's claim he called the Benghazi attack an "attack of terrorism" rates four Pinocchios. That's Kessler's cute way of calling our president a complete and thorough liar.

Was it really that long ago that Candy Crowley vouched for the president's truthfullness during a debate?

This is an important change in narrative. And evolving to my concerns. But most of all, I really want to know why--when the duration of the crisis was unknown and when the fate of a couple dozen Americans on the ground was in doubt--we did not try to send military assets toward Benghazi to intervene. Our Cold War 6th Fleet is now a phantom limb largely sustained by transiting warships going to and from CENTCOM. That's fine. I'm not complaining. It isn't a vital area as it was in the Cold War. With fewer ships we have to make choices. I wouldn't routinely station naval forces there at the expense of other areas.

And we do have land-based aircraft in Europe that could reach Benghazi quickly.

We also have plenty of ground troops in Europe, from a couple Army brigades, to Military Police, to Base Security and special forces.

The idea that we couldn't send forces into Benghazi without advanced planning and more information is contradicted by the fact that we rushed tiny para-military forces into Benghazi without advanced planning and more information--and those defenders allowed survivors of the consulate attack to escape to the annex, and allowed almost all the Americans under siege at the annex to escape.

Remember, anybody defending the lack of military response to the consulate (not really, but it is convenient shorthand to call it that) attack because there was too little time and therefore there was nothing to be done, is conflating the consulate attack with the annex attack. From early on I've agreed that once the attack started, the consulate was a goner. But the annex siege was many hours in the future at that point. That's where the question of time, distance, and the appreciation that we are at war come in.