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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Benghazi Reflections: Left to Die

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.

33 comments:

  1. What about Petraeus?

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    1. Yes, I mention him. He is proving a disappointment. I think he will regret getting into bed with the Obamistas.

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    2. I'm increasiingly hesitant to rely on the leadership and judgement of far too many of our top military folk. Too career careful to be counted on to do the right thing. Not the same thing with our mid-level commanders. They rock.

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    3. Our top echelon military commanders in recent decades operate more like politicians than military leaders. I've noticed a discouraging default "talking points" (or perhaps PowerPoint is more apt) mentality, whereby "bullet point" thinking takes the place of actual historical military study. We get asinine "shock and awe" and "winning the hearts and minds" fobbed off on us by a willing, clueless media, who take every word uttered by the ever present cadre of retired military mouthpieces each network hires as irrefutable truth. Same said mouthpieces get their "talking points" straight from the central planners in the Pentagon.

      GEN Petraeus comes from this PC military culture and has risen to the top by avoiding challenging the PC tropes his political bosses hand him. He's loyally carried water for every failed Obama military misstep thus far and his reward is his current cushy CIA directorship, so I don't expect him to suddenly behave like more than a loyal Obama yes-man.

      -libertybelle

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  2. Watched the report just now and had to read your take. If we had a senator that cared, I'd ask them to hold an "NCA you suck" hearing, but neither Feinstein nor Boxer have the guts or ethics to rock that boat.

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    1. One thing that was mentioned in the report which I have not heard highlighted was the extraordinary courage of the DS agents. I might go back and insert that into my post as I should have from the start.

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    2. Would love to read the survivor's after action reports - before "sanitization", that is.

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  3. Really Destructive Maniacs
    04/2012 - Dr. Sanity  [edited, rearranged, emphasis added]
    === ===
    The compassionate type of narcissist is more subtle and equally destructive. He pursues an aggressive idealism/utopianism despite the misery it causes in other people's lives, and despite the dead bodies left behind. This malignant narcissism is always justified because it is for "your own good", or "the common good", or "to make people better".

    The selfish narcissist is preoccupied with "Me, Me, Me" and uses others for his own aggrandizement and reward. Both he and the compassionate narcissist ("Look at how wonderful I am for making you better!") do not see other people as distinct individuals with needs and desires of their own, but only as fodder for the expression of some ideal, or as pawns to achieve the utopian fantasies of their own ideology.

    Both types think they are superior and know what is best for all. If they happen to personally benefit financially, socially, and culturally, then all the better! They deserve it for their extraordinary compassion and good works.
    === ===

    EasyOpinions.blogspot.com

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  4. One question I'd like answered is what the "facility" in Benghazi actually was. It definitely wasn't a consulate. Did the department purposely avoid labeling it a consulate to avoid the administrative costs (financial and otherwise) that came along with it? Aside from a visit on 9/11, what was the goal of even having a presence in Benghazi? It's not like we have thousands of people there begging for US visas or thousands of American citizens living in the area that need help.

    -Scott

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  5. Is it just my wishful thinking, or did Romney set Obama up for a major fall during debate 2? Think about it...Romney had Obama repeat several times that he claimed this was an act ot terror on 9-12 when Obama and his minions had been declaring for weeks that this was anything but. Now we head into debate 3, the foreign policy debate. Obama made the UN ambassador a cabinet level position (a president's option), therefore Rice reports to and takes her talking points from Obama. How is Obama going to spin the lies and get out of this one without being totally covered in the stink of this massive failure of leadership?

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    1. The way I saw it, Romney was blindsided by Obama's insistence that he had called it an act of terror in the Rose Garden on the 12th. Romney, unaware of that fortuitous choice of words by Obama (even though it was a generic comment about terror and was clearly NOT tied to al Qaeda or other terror groups) was caught off guard. Obama knew, in fact, that he had caught Romney off guard (hence his repetition of the formulation "please continue, Governor"). I agree with you, though, this is an opening for Romney to say Monday "Hey, you told us it was an act of terror but you didn't pursue any terrorists" or some such zinger.

      But all of this is a minor part of the larger issue: Obama has failed at international affairs. His apology tour to the ME was seen as weakness and things have gone downhill since then. He is the classic bumbler, out of his depth and trying to cover for that ineptness with clever words. It works insofar as the legacy media will support him.

      I'm visiting Athens, OH, right now: a super-liberal corner of the state where I have lived for short stints during the past 30 years. To my wondering eye there are Romney lawn signs around town, a Republican county commissioner who has just been endorsed by the ultra-leftist Athens News, and I'm wondering how many in the traditional media are beginning to see that their torrid affair with our affirmative action president has turned sour. I sense a shift in the wind.

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    2. Oh, how I hope you're right, F.

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  6. 1) We may never know. Hints seem to point toward an intelligence use. Even so why would that bring an esssentilly unguarded ambassador there.

    2)I can understand why it might be difficult to get real help there in time. But where did that drone come from? Was it military, CIA, States', whose?

    3)These people do remind me so much of the old Soviet Politburo, cold, calculating, but surprising inept. A tragic and inexcusably inept combination. As you probably surmise they don't give a damn about people.

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  7. Re the purpose of the "consulate" in Benghazi, this Business Insider article suggests the connection between the consulate and Amb Stevens had to do with shipments of weapons obtained from Quadaffy's stockpiles, to rebels in Syria. (A nice way to dispose of excess inventory, but a relatively complicated logistics move compared to sources contiguous to Syria itself.)

    Aside from Business Insider, the Wall Street Journal also has information on Syrian rebel weapons.

    Some Syrian rebel factions have obtained advanced portable antiaircraft weapons, according to rebels and regional officials, a development that could alter the Syrian war's trajectory and fan U.S. concerns that such weapons could end up in the hands of anti-Western Islamist militias.


    But to be honest, I cannot assign a credibility rating to the WSJ reporter: Nour Malas. She may be a great and extremely credible A-1 source, I just don't know.

    I'd like to draw your attention to World Net Daily's article: This is what Benghazi 'consulate' really was.

    Stevens served as a key contact with the Saudis to coordinate the recruitment by Saudi Arabia of Islamic fighters from North Africa and Libya. The jihadists were sent to Syria via Turkey to attack Assad’s forces, said the security officials.

    The officials said Stevens also worked with the Saudis to send names of potential jihadi recruits to U.S. security organizations for review. Names found to be directly involved in previous attacks against the U.S., including in Iraq and Afghanistan, were ultimately not recruited by the Saudis to fight in Syria, said the officials.



    From my perspective, the Benghazi "consulate" story seems to be increasingly pointing toward some sort of forward coordination base for recruitment of fighters for and logistics coordination for the Syria effort. I think Benghazi had very little, if anything, to do with matters internal per se to Libya.

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    1. Occam's Razor says the simple explanation is likely the correct explanation.

      Everything the administration is doing revolves around Obama retaining power. Everything.

      Stevens going into Benghazi was about the reelection of Obama. That covers the "why." Now for the who, what and when.

      -Blake

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  8. As soon as I saw only those two, Obama and Clinton, in that preposterous Rose Garden speech, I suspected how it was going to go. This was an act of war: no DOD, no CIA. Blood on their hands, both of them.

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  9. Unfortunately, the "most transparent" Administration evah, is really a dot-to-dot administrstion. In order to see the big picture, you have to connect all the the little dots. During the 2008 campaign season, we were exposed to only the rock star, never all the backstage people that put him in the spotlight. Had we been, perhaps Americans would have chosen differently. But they didn't, and it is what it is and we will suffer for years for the foreign policy of the Poseur Of The United States.

    That said, I think it is important to connect the dots, and to do that, DiploMad, we have to go back almost four years. Obama campaigned on foreign soil for one reason; to give a war weary nation the impression he was the answer to our weariness and that he would be a foreign policy guru. He enjoyed speeches in Berlin and campaign call banks in Palestine. What a guy. But the first rattle out of the box gave us a look at what that foreign policy would be, the wrong side. Anyone remember Honduras? We also seem to forget that the first person Obama called as the newly installed president was not Tony Blair, or the PM of Canada, the PM of Israel or even the head of the EU. The first person Obama called was the PM of Turkey. Obama was playing off the "My Muslim father, my Muslim 1/2 sister, my childhood in a Muslim nation" as proof that he was going to be a savior for the the Middle East. Being the anti-colonialist that he is, Obama thought his glowing personality would woo the Islamists into coming into the 21st century. Political correctness would reign, and his sympathies toward Muslim nations, who he felt had been oppressed by the UK, would dampen their desire to reinstate a centuries old war. Benghazi was the culmination of that foreign policy. But to really know the truth of Benghazi, you have to go back a year and a half and look at what was going on.

    The UK Independent reported that Obama was trying to get the Sauds to arm the Libyan rebels. Some here were screaming that we didn't really know who those rebels were and where their alligences were. It was a beautiful plan; we sell arms to the Sauds, the Sauds arm the Libyan rebels and Obama would have plasible deniablity if it turned out the Libyan rebels were AQ sympathizers. But the Sauds balked, and so (I believe) a clandestine operation to arm the rebels was undertaken by Obama, via Chris Stevens. Gadaffi was ousted, and Syria became a hot spot. The next step was to arm the Syrian rebels, and what better way to do that but through Turkey. Again, enter Chris Stevens. The Sauds were now willing to play ball and pay for those [captured Gadaffi] arms to be shipped to Syria. The fly in the ointment was the British press.

    U.S. agencies had to do everything they could to keep under wraps how Stevens was facilitating not only the Libyan rebels, but now the Syrian rebels, who are rapidly deserting the FSA and turning to al Qaeda. In order to do that, the administration had to limit the eyes, and ears, of American personnel in Benghazi, where Stevens cut the deals. Each set of boots on the ground provided two more ears, and two more eyes, to see what was really going on. Just as the Obama administration had armed the Mexican drug cartels for the purpose of trying to clamp down on the 2nd Amendment, arming the rebels of these nations had to be done to acheive the goal of deposing the current dictators of those nations. A liberated Middle East was going to be Obama's legacy. It was the same mindset Carter had when he turned his back on the Shah of Iran.

    Please, feel free to change my mind.

    Zane

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    1. Barry Rubin at Pajamas Media reports information along the same lines: "If [Stevens] was, as accounts by sources in the U.S. intelligence community suggested, negotiating with a terrorist, anti-American group to obtain the return of U.S. weapons provided during the civil war, that would have been a much higher-priority matter. I have been asked by sources not to reveal the specific weapons system that was Washington’s highest priority to buy back, but the details make sense. The fact that the ambassador was not accompanied by a delegation of foreign aid experts to evaluate these alleged projects shows that the reason for the ambassador’s presence in Benghazi is being covered up. This situation transcends State Department jurisdiction and brings in the CIA and higher-level national security officials. The plan would have been in the presidential briefing and it is quite conceivable he would have been called on to approve of it."
      http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/2012/10/17/the-murders-in-libya-the-presidential-debate-and-the-pattern-of-obama-foreign-policy/

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  10. There is a report that goes out immediately in times of crisis
    called "critic" which goes to the Situation Room in the White House, CIA headquarters, Bureau of Intelligence and Research in
    the State Department, etc. It is the first communication made
    by staffers of an embassy, consulate, etc. when under attack.
    They send the report out and it hits the desk of all these departments at the same time. They do not have to wait for a
    phone call, email or text thread to take place.

    Three retired CIA officials made this claim on Jeannine Piero's
    Fox show recently.

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    1. Yes, "Critic" is the most urgent label on a cable. It is for matters of war and attack. With the highly sophisticated commo available, even on Benghazi, all parts of the NCA could follow along in real time what was happening.

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  11. "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?"

    DiploMad, aside from this situation in Libya (which you weren't there so I don't expect you to be able to answer), just how much leeway does an ambassador (and those below him/her) usually have in this type of situation? How damaging to one's career could it be to push back, especially on something as sensitive as security?

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    1. The Ambassador has considerable leeway if he wishes to use it. Unfortunately, many are rather timid.

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  12. One thing I have not seen is any report of weapons being fired by our people, or any of our people or the attackers being wounded or killed by weapon fire. Were our people even allowed to fire their weapons?

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    1. Not clear. I suspect, however, that our people were very lightly armed and would probably have concentrated on escape rather than engaging with a much larger and much better armed force.

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    2. Even so, it is clear that the story that the consulate had diesel poured all around it and then torched has been proven false due to the photos of the consulate in the days following the attack. It is clear, and was made clear by the [female] CNN reporter who confiscated Chris Steven's personal diary, that the building had been torched from the inside.

      I cannot believe that two former Navy SEALs would not had at least a few bullets hit their mark as they tried to protect the interior of the consulate. But there is no evidence of any dead jihadists. Or is the ensuing fire fight we are told those SEALs engaged in another story and the truth of the matter is that they, like the dead soldiers of Fort Hood, were unarmed due to an Administration edit?

      Zane

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  13. There is a survivor of the final attack on the CIA annex. His name, while it escapes me, was told on the Fox special. He had climbed to the roof and finally managed to get out with others. He was there from the git-go. So where is he? It was reported he suffered from smoke inhilation but according to a friend of mine who is a firefighter Captain that teaches at a major city's academy, smoke inhilation is usually treatable with the patient being released in a few days, unless there is major soft tissue damage in the lungs.

    Why have we not heard more about him? Is the administration keeping him under lock and key? Has he been ordered silent by his superiors or this administration?

    Zane

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    1. There are a number of witnesses aside from that security agent. We haven't heard from any of them. I suspect that many if not all were not State.

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  14. On a different chat-board I've been arguing that we should have tried to support the rescuers with everything possible. They've now gone to we might injure nearby non-combatants argument. I've tried to find a picture or map that shows everything around the consulate but I have failed so far.

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  15. Thank you for this Diplomad, It needed to be said, both your point about Stevens' judgement and the question about rescue. I'm a former FSO who worked in a danger-pay post, and perhaps for that reason my 89-year-old father is outraged that no effort was made to rescue our people in Benghazi. He thinks there should be much more outrage about this point.
    Noteworthy that Obama's response to the Libya question in the second debate completely skipped over the question of aiding those under attack. He said as I recall that his response was to order an investigation and order those responsible "brought to justice" or whatever, but nothing about the issue during the attack--to send help. Maybe once the group got to the CIA building, they felt safe enough until they could be pulled out in the morning? Hard to believe, considering the numbers involved on the consulate attack and the fact that the ambassador was still missing. More likely, there was some sort of overflight permission required to send help and Obama and company were stymied or didn't want to make waves that might suggest larger trouble with their Mideast policy. Their pusillaninimity may be one of the things they are covering up.
    Another question: Where is the DAS for mideast affairs in this? We never hear from the people under Hillary who run things day to day.

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  16. Yes, NEA has been silent,as has P.

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  17. I saw the movie Argo over the weekend (and recommend it highly). It brought back some very frustrating memories about the similar situation in Iran. With respect to why the Seals did not shoot, if they didn't, the movie suggests an answer: in that case, at least, the order was given to the marine gurd not to shoot becasue if they did shoot, it was assumed that the militant Iranians would immediately kill everyone in the embassy. Instead, the marines used tear gas and other devices in an effort to slow the crowd down and keep it out.

    Obviously, the logic of that decisioon collapses when the first member of the embassy is murdered, but at that point it also may be a question of whether there is still accesss to amunition and/or weapons.

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  18. Under Carter the ROE for Marine guards was no shooting. That changed when Reagan came in.

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