By Michelle Zook / 31 October 2012 / 40 Comments
It’s all over Fox News, Twitter and Facebook but most of the MSM is quiet about it. This close to an election, with a massive storm that has all but demolished the East Coast, is it still worth mentioning? And, as a mother with two little ones who could one day join the military, I have to ask myself: if anyone of those four men were my child, how would I want this handled?
Regarding Trayvon Martin, President Obama once famously said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.” And as I look at the pictures of the men who died at the consulate in Benghazi, part of me can’t help but think, “That could have been my husband. That could one day be my son (or my daughter).”
So as a military veteran, as a military wife, and as a mother: yes, Benghazi still matters. It matters because it shows that while Joe Biden — and the rest of this administration — may claim that al Qaeda is dead because Osama Bin Laden is dead, they are naïve (to put it politely) and dead wrong (to put it bluntly). It matters because as more and more reports come out, by all accounts, our president left four Americans to die so he could get a good night’s sleep and campaign the next day.
Because the TV reports show the attack happening at night, it’s easy for most Americans to forget the time conversion and think it was night in DC as well. The attack started at approximately 9:40 PM the night of September 11th, making it approximately 3:40 PM in Washington, DC. The White House was informed of the attack within two hours of the start — or approximately the time President Obama was returning to the White House from Walter Reed and meeting with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. As of 5:16 PM, however, Libyan officials had already informed the AP that the Libyan consulate had been breached. Either way, the president would have been notified immediately. By 7:41 PM, the stunning news came that at least one American was dead.
During the initial stages of the attack, two former SEALs heard the call for help at their compound a mile from the attack. They were told to stand down — which makes sense. If you have CIA assets who are former SEALs, they’re high value assets. You wouldn’t deploy them unless you absolutely needed to or were sure that they wouldn’t be wasted. Fair enough, except this presupposes a couple of conclusions: first, that the ambassador and his remaining staff, along with any sensitive material, couldn’t be extracted safely, and secondly, that any additional assets would die along with the ambassador. In other words, when the order to stand down came, at some level, the United States government had already written Ambassador Stevens and the staff off for lost. Particularly damning is the news that someone was lasing a target, which means there had to be a gunship on-station that could sync up or that it was a last ditch effort in the hopes that help was on the way and they would see the targets as they were inbound.
So someone had decided that the US ambassador and his staff weren’t worth saving. But why write off an ambassador that quickly? Even with the time-line crunch, even absent rules of engagement and special instructions for pilots operating in the theater, why not treat this as a point defense engagement instead of an urban close air support request? This way, American forces might could quickly have been deployed, terrorists scattered with a few bursts from an AC-130 and American property respected.
And, even if it was the insistence of SECDEF that it be treated as urban CAS, then SPINs and ROEs from the previous Libya engagement could have been utilized, or AFRICOM could have tasked a couple of their pilots and a JAG officer or two to gin some up quick enough to save lives. Even if a few terrorists were maimed/killed/otherwise inconvenienced in the attack and American lives saved, this would have only been good press for President Obama at home. He could tout how strong he was on terrorism, how he made the decision to protect American lives, and how this behavior would not be tolerated — in short, we would see the post-bin Laden football spiking all over again.
Instead, there was confusion. There was a video, there wasn’t a video, it was a terror attack but not really, there was the arrest of a guy who had violated his parole and incidentally posted a video on YouTube for saying mean things about Islam, there was a speech in the Rose Garden, and then there was a campaign trip off to Las Vegas. And in the midst of it all, when the dust settled, there were four dead Americans that didn’t have to die.
It’s worth repeating: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods didn’t have to die. Someone made the decision that they weren’t worth saving. Someone, for whatever reason, decided that it was more worth it to take a public relations hit for four dead Americans than risk saving them or (and here’s the tin foil hat part) risk having whatever Ambassador Stevens knew come out in public.
Someone broke faith with Americans that, when trouble happened, American forces would be there to protect them. And that’s why Benghazi matters—not just for this election, but for America, because the next time this happens, it could be my husband, your son, or any other American serving in harm’s way. Don’t let these men have died in vain.