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“Asked And Answered”: Hey, Benghazi-Heads, You Stand Down!

Let’s redirect our attention back to Benghazi. When is that special Benghazi committee in the House of Representatives going to get cracking, you may have wondered? Good question. It hasn’t been announced yet. But here’s a better question. What, now, is it going to investigate?

While we’ve all been focused during the past week on the border, there was a pretty major news development on Benghazi that got buried and is in need of a little sunshine. Last week, the Associated Press reported on transcripts of hours of closed-door interviews with nine U.S. military leaders that had been conducted by two House committees, Armed Services and Oversight (the latter is Darrell Issa’s committee). Those military leaders agreed on a, or maybe the, central point as far as this continuing “investigation” is concerned: There was no stand-down order.

The stand-down conspiracy has been a central right-wing talking point virtually since the tragic storming of the consulate, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The idea is that our heroic men and women in uniform could have saved the quartet, but President Obama and Hillary Clinton didn’t want them to, because they’re weak and they want America to fail.

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz has been among the most vocal and direct Republicans on this point, saying last year: “We had proximity, we had capability, we had four individuals in Libya armed, ready to go, dressed, about to get into the car to go in the airport to go help their fellow countrymen who were dying and being killed and under attack in Benghazi, and they were told to stand down. That’s as sickening and depressing and disgusting as anything I have seen. That is not the American way.”

Issa has made similar comments. South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who will chair the special committee once it does get off the ground, has never been quite so matter-of-fact as Chaffetz, but he too has performed the stand-down Fox trot, in a slightly more glancing way back in early May. “Well, Greta, your viewers would still have the same unanswered questions as we have: why our security profile was so low on the anniversary of 9/11; why we didn’t have any assets moving during the siege itself; and why the government can’t be trusted to answer your questions completely and accurately in the aftermath,” he said. “The jury that I’m interested in are reasonable-minded, fair-minded people, like your viewers.” The key phrase there is “why we didn’t have any assets moving,” which means “military people dispatched.”

The transcripts show that that question was answered—back in March—behind closed doors by the two military officials responsible. The senior military officer who issued the “remain in place” order to troops based in Tripoli, 600 miles away, and the detachment officer who received the order both told the House it was the right decision. A four-member team that included the detachment leader, a medic, and two others was told to remain in Tripoli because the determination was made, according to the AP’s reporting on the transcripts, that there was simply no way the team could have reached Benghazi in time to make any difference. The mayhem had already taken place.

If and when these ridiculous hearings happen, I’d wager that you’re going to be hearing Republicans wailing about when the “remain in place” phone call was made. On that question, there is some dispute. It might have happened as early as 5:05 a.m., or it might have happened as late as 6:30 a.m. So that’s a pretty large time window during a crisis for the GOP to exploit. But remember as you hear all this: It doesn’t matter. The second attack at Benghazi happened around 5:30 a.m. and lasted 11 minutes. It takes 90 minutes to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi. So it was completely physically impossible for the team to get there, unless its members had the power to spin the world backward and reverse time, like Christopher Reeve did to bring Margot Kidder back to life.

The officer who gave the order concluded that given that reality, the team would be better off in Tripoli, where the embassy was being evacuated in the aftermath of the Benghazi consulate attack. Some three dozen Americans were being taken from the Tripoli embassy to a classified location outside the city. And lo and behold, the medic who stayed behind in Tripoli saved one American life during the evacuation, according to the report. So according to these officials, the United States suffered one less death because the “remain in place order was issued.

Remember, this testimony is old. March. It was given behind closed doors, so we didn’t know about it. But Darrell Issa, and one has to assume John Boehner, did know. And still Boehner empaneled this committee. Yes, I suppose there are other questions the committee can pursue. But the public-interest question is whether anything more could have feasibly been done to prevent those four deaths in Benghazi, and nine military leaders have said no, it couldn’t have. The other questions are just the usual political ones—can they find some flimsy basis for impeachment, and can they hurt Hillary Clinton. Our troops didn’t stand down then, but someone sure should now.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 14, 2014

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Darrell Issa, House Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whoops, No One Told The Right That Their Libya Talking Point Doesn’t Work Anymore

It’s obviously premature to celebrate “victory” in Libya when no one knows what will happen next, or how difficult and bloody the process of state-building will be. (And Gadhafi is not yet actually gone.) But the news is good, and Obama’s strategic approach to the conflict — allowing France and NATO to take the lead to minimize the chance that America was seen as leading another Iraq-style war of aggression — seems to have been the right one. (Strategically. Not necessarily legally.) As Steve Kornacki wrote this morning, this should be the end of the “Obama is too weak to lead” talking point from the right. It should be, but … it isn’t.

Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial page takes a break from excusing the criminality of the executives in charge of its parent company to deliver an official house reaction to the developments in Tripoli that starts off cautious and then just descends right back into the exact same lame arguments it’s been using for the last six months:

Having helped to midwife the rebel advances with air power, intelligence and weapons, NATO will have some influence with the rebels in the days ahead. The shame is how much faster Gadhafi might have been defeated, how many fewer people might have been killed, and how much more influence the U.S. might now have, if America had led more forcefully from the beginning.

Planning for this moment is precisely why we and many others had urged the State Department to engage with the rebels from the earliest days of the revolt, but the U.S. was slow to do so and only formally recognized the opposition Transitional National Council in mid-July. The hesitation gave Gadhafi hope that he could hold out and force a stalemate.

Libyans will determine their own future, but the U.S. has a stake in showing the world that NATO’s intervention, however belated and ill-executed, succeeded in its goals of removing a dictator, saving lives, and promoting a new Libyan government that respects its people and doesn’t sponsor global terrorism.

I’m not sure how long the editors of the Wall Street Journal think your average revolution lasts, but assuming Gadhafi’s hold on power is as weak as it appears today, I would argue — as a layman, of course — that NATO’s intervention seems neither “belated” nor “ill-executed.” (I mean, it seems well-executed, in the sense that it seems to have accomplished its goal?)

But it’s the line about America leading “more forcefully from the beginning” that the neocons and GOP hawks will continue to cling to no matter what actually happens in Libya. It’s the same argument BFF Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham used in their joint response to this weekend’s developments: “Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.”

All-out war! From day one! With the full force of American airpower! One definite way to make a civil war faster and less bloody is for a foreign country to enter it fully, right? (It tends to unite the populace, for one thing!) And conflicts are always less bloody when America drops more American bombs. That’s how we won Vietnam!

There’s no point in countering McCain and the Journal’s arguments with reason, of course, because these are not actually fact-based responses to news, they’re just rote recitations of Republican dogma: Obama weak! (Except domestically, where he is an autocrat.)

And this is the “respectable” Republican talking point. The line from the real nuts — I’m guessing something along the lines of “radical Obama allows Muslim Brotherhood to seize control in Libya” — will begin bubbling up from the sewers to talk radio and Fox News and Michele Bachmann’s campaign soon enough.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon War Room, August 22, 2011

August 23, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democrats, Foreign Policy, Gadhafi, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Libya, National Security, Neo-Cons, No Fly Zones, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Revolution, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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