It always will be part of the long list of Obama Administration scandals. Decades from now, we’ll still see it there alongside the NSA, Fast and Furious, Solyndra, the EPA using fake names, the IRS harassing political enemies, the HHS soliciting contributions for its ObamaCare “education” programs, the harassment of James Rosen and his octogenarian parents, and hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted at government conferences – as if all of them were equal.
But they are not equal. Benghazi, truly three scandals in one, (Why didn’t we protect our embassy? Why didn’t we respond that night? Where on earth did this video story come from?) does not fit with the others. The other scandals are run-of-the-mill type problems – overreach by the overzealous (IRS, Rosen, AP monitoring), cronycare (Solyndra, ObamaCare, etc.), and misguided Machiavellianism (NSA, Fast and Furious). The other side can dismiss these investigations as politically motivated.
But Benghazi is different. It forces us to confront a question as disquieting and troubling as any we’ve ever faced as a country. Did an American president abandon his personnel on the night of Sept. 11, 2012? Did he turn his back on the brave soldiers and Ambassador Chris Stevens and leave them to die in a far-off land?
The Benghazi scandal goes beyond politics. Americans always have done whatever was needed to extricate our soldiers and civilian leaders from danger. Clearly, we held back in Benghazi. Why?
Bret Baier of FOX News says the president learned of the attack in a meeting that began that afternoon at 5 p.m. in the White House with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The incident had begun just 30 minutes earlier at that point. We don’t know whether Panetta or Dempsey laid out possible responses, but we do know President Obama did not order any response nor speak with Panetta or Dempsey the rest of the evening.
He did talk to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He called her at 10 p.m., and they talked for eight minutes, after which Clinton issued a statement through the State Department that acknowledged the attack and said it was related to a video on the Internet that made fun of the prophet Muhammad. The two would repeat this story for weeks, until it became so discredited they had no choice but to abandon it.
Within an hour of the onset, attackers had breached the mission walls, Ambassador Stevens was holed up behind a steel door, terrorists were using diesel fuel to set fire to the compound, and a State Department drone was overhead. Plenty of help, enough to have saved at least two of the four Americans killed that night, was less than an hour’s flight away. It was not summoned.
Two hours later, 30 Americans arrived and retook the compound. Three hours after that, the terrorists attacked again with mortars. Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods of America’s Special Forces died in this phase of the attack.
We’ll never know what those two thought as they crouched, exhausted, on the roof of the CIA annex waiting for what they had to believe was an inevitable rescue.
If they had had time to think about it, they might have guessed no support would arrive. Because this president helps you only when he is fairly certain helping you will help him.
Ask those who were poised to overthrow Iran during the Green Revolution of 2009. Millions risked their lives for freedom. President Obama turned his back. Ask the Russian people. Their leader, Vladimir Putin, has taken his place beside the most undemocratic leaders in their nation’s post-revolutionary history, and President Obama has ignored it to further his failed “reset” policy.
Ask the Iraqis, whom he has abandoned to Iran. Ask the people of Poland, the Czech Republic, who stuck out their necks to provide sites for anti-ballistic missile devices only to have the president pull the plug with no warning. Ask those in Sub-Saharan Africa, where massacres in Congo, Darfur, and elsewhere have gone unnoticed in Washington.
We need to understand what happened here. There must be more to this. (The latest theory is surface-to-air missiles housed there have fallen into wrong hands, and we’re laying low to try to recapture them.) If there is, we need to hear it. Because the alternative – that our president abandoned soldiers and diplomats in the line of fire – is, if true, a dereliction of duty of which no president ever has been guilty before.
Edward Dent, an investments and management expert, served in the Nixon campaign, both of President Reagan’s White House campaigns and with the group that developed the Strategic Defense Initiative. He is an expert on defense and judicial issues.