What happened in Benghazi, Libya, was unarguably tragic. There is no excuse for the sort of violence that took place at an embassy outpost whose purpose is to promote peace and encourage international harmony. Those who lost their lives were sacrificed for a pointless expression of hostility that benefits no one.
Sadly, the tragedy has been compounded by conservative blowhards, led by Fox News, who can’t seem to resist their compulsion to politicize anything they think will tarnish the reputation of President Obama. Even though survivors of those killed have begged politicians and the media to refrain from such politicization…
Ambassador Chris Stevens’ father: “It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue.”
Navy SEAL Glen Doherty’s mother: “[Romney] shouldn’t make my son’s death part of his political agenda.”
…Fox News ignores them and persists with their flagrant exploitation. They have turned their network into a 24 hour Benghazi scandal sheet that trumpets rumors as fact and brazenly disrespects the victims and those endeavoring to find the truth. Their goal is to construct a scandal from scratch where none exists. Then they get pissy when the rest of the media demonstrates that they aren’t stupid enough to buy into Fox’s falsehoods.
The effort to create a false narrative around these events is well coordinated. Pundits and politicians have taken to referring to the affair as Benghazi-Gate, despite the fact that there is no remote connection between it and the corruption of Watergate. But even we look at just the allegations presented by Fox, many of which are pure conjecture without evidence, it is possible to build a scenario that is starkly different than the one Fox News is peddling.
The outrage at Fox centers around the allegation that the Obama administration knew of the imminent danger at the Benghazi compound and explicitly denied help, even after it was requested. That, Fox says, was an irresponsible abdication of duty and sealed the fate of the victims. But even accepting the premise, which is a stretch, it is just as likely that the Obama team did exactly the right thing and saved lives as a result. Here’s the alternative scenario:
There were hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters in Benghazi who were advancing on the compound. At least some of the protesters were armed with military style weapons (mortars, grenades, etc.). Those inside were protected by a small security contingent. Remember, embassy facilities are not army posts. They were never meant to be fortresses with soldiers in abundance and stockpiles of munitions. Their mission is to encourage diplomatic engagement with the local residents and assist traveling Americans.
When news of the attack got back to State Department security personnel there were likely to have been calls for assistance. But the active monitoring of the assault may have revealed that it was too dangerous to send others into the fray. They would have been outnumbered and overcome. There were reports that drones were flying over the scene and would have been able to relay this information with video demonstrating the foolishness of ordering more Americans into a chaotic situation that would likely have resulted in more fatalities.
This may be when two members of the security team, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, sought permission to leave the CIA safe house and attempt to help those at the embassy compound. When superiors, who were better informed of the nature of the risk, told them to stand down, they chose to disobey orders and go anyway. At the compound they were met with gunfire and worse. They were unable to save Ambassador Stevens, so they returned, under fire, to the CIA annex. In effect, they led the terrorists back to the CIA safe house that was previously secret. That endangered the lives of those at that location and it is where Woods and Doherty themselves were killed.
In this scenario it is clear that the correct decision was to stand down and wait until a sufficient force was deployable to fulfill their mission. The officers, and possibly administration officials in Washington, were right in their assessment and very likely saved lives. The outcome could have been much worse if troops were sent on what might have been a suicide mission without proper support and reinforcements. And while the intentions of Woods and Doherty may have been admirable and heroic, their disobedience may have cost them their own lives and the lives of others. There is a reason that officers, with a view of the bigger picture, are the ones who make command decisions. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, summed it up saying that…
“There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here. But the basic principle here … is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on.”
The not “knowing what’s going on” is key to this situation. Decisions had to be made instantaneously with a severe lack of hard data. Given what was known at the time, had the Air Force swooped in to randomly drop bombs on the scene they might have just killed dozens of rowdy protesters. It wasn’t until much later that any reports surfaced of physical assaults or fatalities. Indiscriminate bombing without solid intelligence that it was warranted could have irreparably damaged relations with the new Libyan nation and destroyed the goodwill of the people who were grateful for our help in toppling the dictator Gaddhafi. Proof of that goodwill came in subsequent days when tens of thousands of Libyans took to the streets to express their regrets for the loss of the American lives.
Much of the above scenario is conjecture, but no more so than what Fox News is broadcasting as fact. At least I acknowledge that the investigations into what occurred are ongoing and we don’t have all the facts yet. Fox pretends to know what happened based on speculation, and unreliable sources. What’s more, they weight their reporting in favor of their preconceived notions. They interview relatives of victims who are angry with the President, but have never invited the relatives quoted above to come on and give their opinions. That is repulsively disrespectful to the people who are actually suffering through this on a personal level.
Fox News doesn’t give a shit about the people who died in Benghazi. All Fox cares about is bashing Obama, and they will use and abuse anyone to that end – even dead American heroes. The narrative that they are pushing is wholly unsupported by reality. The narrative I’ve proposed here makes far more sense. If people are interested in jumping to conclusions, I believe they have a much better chance of being right if they adopt this scenario wherein the Obama administration saved lives by responding to an unfolding crisis in a responsible manner. And I challenge any of the liars at Fox to present a coherent argument that their bullshit is any more probable than my logical explanation.