Niger is Donald Trump’s ‘Benghazi’ scandal

When four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, Republicans moved quickly to politicize their deaths and to pin blame on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney accused the Obama administration only hours  after the incident in Benghazi of sympathizing with the attackers.

Republicans also accused National Security Advisor Susan Rice of misleading the public by saying on CBS’ Face the Nation and ABC’s This Week that the attack was a direct result of a “heinous and offensive video,” and was spontaneous, not a preplanned terrorist attack.

Congressional Republicans subsequently conducted seven congressional committee investigations and issued nine reports into the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. The final probe lasted more than two years and cost more than $7 million, as GOP lawmakers hoped to find misconduct by Obama, or more significantly Secretary Clinton. Those inquiries came up empty, but served Republican’s desired purpose of smearing Obama, Clinton and Rice within the epistemic closure of the conservative media entertainment complex feedback loop.

The Benghazi conspiracy theory, in a nutshell, was that: (1) the Obama administration prematurely claimed victory against al Qaida terrorist groups in Libya; (2) there was an intelligence failure that left U.S. diplomatic personnel vulnerable, and (4) the U.S. military was not in position to conduct a rescue operation.  (5) Republicans, of course, politicized the incident accusing the Obama administration of lying about what happened and what went wrong.

Donald Trump now has his own “Benghazi” scandal, in a remarkably parallel set of circumstances after an ambush killed four American soldiers in Niger on October4, 2017. Unlike Benghazi, hyped by the conservative media entertainment complex and the GOP during a presidential election year, this scandal has been slow to develop, but the media is now beginning to get up to speed.

Pematurely claiming victory over ISIS terrorists

On October 17, nearly two weeks after the deadly ambush of American servicemen in Niger, President Trump Spoke With Chris Plante on WMAL in which Trump took credit for ISIS ‘giving up’:

President Donald Trump took credit for the fact that ISIS is in retreat during an interview Tuesday, claiming that ISIS wasn’t on the run before because “you didn’t have Trump as your president.”

The comment comes as US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Raqqa said “major military operations” in the city have ended and that the jihadists have lost control of their self-declared capital.

American officials have not yet formally announced that the fight is won, but the development marks a significant moment for the war on ISIS.

“I totally changed rules of engagement. I totally changed our military, I totally changed the attitudes of the military and they have done a fantastic job,” Trump said on “The Chris Plante Show.” “ISIS is now giving up, they are giving up, there are raising their hands, they are walking off. Nobody has ever seen that before.”

When Plante asked why that hadn’t happened before, Trump took the bait.

“Because you didn’t have Trump as your president,” he said. “It was a big difference, there was a big, big difference if you look at the military now.”

When Trump is delusionally claiming that he alone is responsible for defeating ISIS, he cannot acknowledge a successful ISIS-affiliated attack against U.S. servicemen in Niger contradicting his magnifence and premature claim of victory.

In fact, Trump had not issued a statement or spoken publicly, or tweeted (shock!) about the ambush in Niger from October 4 until asked about it at an impromptou press conference last week. And even then he sought to avoid answering questions about the ambush by creating a grand distraction for the media.

On October 14, CNN reported Trump silent as questions remain over deadly Niger ambush:

[S]ince the ambush on October 4 in Niger, he has not commented publicly on the deadliest combat incident involving US troops since he took office.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did address the deaths on October 5, saying “our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the fallen service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of the freedoms we hold so dear.”

The Pentagon has not provided a detailed accounting of the ambush by 50 ISIS affiliated fighters which left four US soldiers dead and two wounded and has said the incident remains under investigation. But CNN has talked to half a dozen US officials who describe details of the chaos and confusion which led to the troops being left on the ground for nearly an hour before help could get to the remote area of southwestern Niger where they were operating. In addition, officials still do not know how Johnson became separated from the party only for his body to be recovered nearly 48 hours later.

Officials said the 12 man Green Beret-led team had just completed a meeting with local leaders and were walking back to their unarmored pick-up trucks when the unexpected ambush resulted in a firefight that lasted 30 minutes until French Mirage jets arrived overhead to fly low passes in an attempt to disperse the attackers.

The attackers had rocket propelled grenades and machine guns, while the US troops were armed only with rifles and were in unarmored trucks according to officials. It had been considered ‘unlikely’ they would run into opposition and initial reports being reviewed indicate some locals in the area may have known an attack was planned, two officials said.

* * *

Officials who have read the initial after-action reports say there was confusion and uncertainty on the ground after what was a completely unexpected attack. The team was particularly vulnerable because it was in two separate locations when the attack began.

On October 18, Steve Benen reported, Two weeks later, Trump still hasn’t addressed US deaths in Niger:

On Oct. 4, exactly two weeks ago, four American soldiers were killed in an ambush in northwestern Africa. Donald Trump, who routinely tweets a series of provocative thoughts in response to deadly terrorism said nothing. As the remains of the U.S. Special Forces soldiers started to return home, Trump again said nothing, golfing as the caskets arrived at Dover Air Force.

As the Washington Post reported today, the president has had plenty to say about a wide range of topics since the deadly attack in Niger – he’s apparently upset with protesting athletes, Democrats, the mayor or San Juan, and major American news organizations – but Trump has remained completely silent on the deadliest attack on U.S. military forces since he took office.

That seemed to change on Monday, when a reporter asked about his reticence, but even then, Trump’s answer covered a lot of ground – he’s impressed with his communications with family members of the fallen, and he’s taken some cheap and misleading shots at Barack Obama – without even trying to address the underlying question: Why did these four Americans die?

It’s not that the other questions are unimportant. When Trump lies about the records of his predecessors, it matters. When the president says he calls each of the families of those killed in action, but fails to follow through, it matters. When he clumsily tries and fails to bring comfort to those who are grieving, it matters. When Trump seems to exploit the memory of his chief of staff’s son, who died in Afghanistan, for petty political purposes, it matters.

Update: President Donald Trump’s boast that he surpasses his predecessors in consoling families of the fallen proved empty this past week as many stepped forward to say they’d never heard from him after losing their loved ones in military service. AP Fact Check: Trump on military deaths.

But we’re still left with the fact that the president, as The Atlantic’s David Graham noted today, has “pushed the conversation even further away from the actual question of the fallen soldiers.”

And there’s no reason anyone should consider that acceptable. How did ISIS-affiliated fighters ambush U.S. Special Forces in an area considered to be low-risk? Why did it take so long for help to arrive? Why did it take nearly two days to recover the body of one of the four Americans killed?

And why is Donald Trump willing to talk about practically every subject except this one?

Two weeks later, the commander in chief hasn’t even acknowledged what happened. The questions have been ignored and/or buried by a series of related distractions.

‘Massive Intelligence Failures’ left U.S. personnel vulnerable

NBC News reports, Niger Ambush Came After ‘Massive Intelligence Failure,’ Source Says:

A senior congressional aide who has been briefed on the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger says the ambush by militants stemmed in part from a “massive intelligence failure.”

The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said the House and Senate armed services committees have questions about the scope of the U.S. mission in Niger, and whether the Pentagon is properly supporting the troops on the ground there.

There was no U.S. overhead surveillance of the mission, he said, and no American quick-reaction force available to rescue the troops if things went wrong. If it weren’t for the arrival of French fighter jets, he said, things could have been much worse for the Americans.

Congress also has many unanswered questions about what happened, he said, including about the specifics of the mission that day and the accounts lawmakers have been given about the timeline of the attack and rescue.

* * *

A Pentagon spokesperson called the claim of an intelligence failure “speculation.”

“An investigation is underway,” said the spokesperson. “At the conclusion of the investigation, we will provide further details.”

* * *

On Friday afternoon, Defense Secretary James Mattis met with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to discuss the Niger raid.

Earlier this week, McCain said the committee had not been provided with the information about the Niger mission that it “deserves.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Friday that it’s too early to say whether there was an intelligence failure, “but that’s exactly the kind of questions we should be asking ourselves.”

“The war is morphing,” he said. “You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less.”

In that context, Graham said, “I will insist that Congress is informed more often and in more detail,” about military operations.

He added, “As the war expands, as the military had more authority, Congress is going to require more information.”

The New York Times reports that Conflicting Accounts in Niger Ambush Are Subject of Pentagon Investigation, and the Wall Street Journal reports, Death of U.S. Soldiers in Niger Sparks FBI Probe, Criticism.

U.S. military was not in a position to conduct a rescue operation

As noted above, “There was no U.S. overhead surveillance of the mission, and no American quick-reaction force available to rescue the troops if things went wrong. If it weren’t for the arrival of French fighter jets, he said, things could have been much worse for the Americans.”

CNN earlier reported Trump silent as questions remain over deadly Niger ambush:

The failure to anticipate an attack and the fact there were no US rescue and recover assets close by meant nearly an hour went by before the evacuation of the two wounded and three dead US troops by French Super Puma helicopters could be completed.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said the rescue was timely stating: “I completely reject the idea that that was slow.” But he did say an investigation will determine if changes are needed. “We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now? Should we have been in a better stance.”

* * *

While French helicopters were able to get the team to safety, the critical failure to find Johnson for another 48 hours has not been explained. His body was eventually found in a nearby area, but military investigators do not know why he was left behind during the French led evacuation and if he was alive even for a short period of time, US officials tell CNN.

Military officials have acknowledged that the incident is under investigation and that security procedures for teams operating in Africa are in the process of being reviewed. But it remains to be seen if Trump will choose to weigh in on the failings that led to the deadliest combat incident of his presidency so far.

As for the fifth parallel comparison to Benghazi, “accusing the Obama administration of lying about what happened and what went wrong,” the media here is accusing the Trump administration of not expalining anything at all about the mission in Niger and what happened and what went wrong.

Perversely, Donald Trump and his chief of staff General John “Mad Dog” Kelly have created the media distraction of the Gold Star Families scandal to avoid answering questions about the mission in Niger and what happened and what went wrong. The Gold Star Families scandal requires a post of its own.

22 Responses to Niger is Donald Trump’s ‘Benghazi’ scandal

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    Jeff Flake (I’m not a fan) gave a devastating speech on the Senate floor today, calling Trump out for the dangerous buffoon that he is.

  2. Off topic but ICYMI:

    Her Husband Made It the Perfect Day for Melania Trump to Speak Out Against Bullying
    LIZZIE CROCKER
    10.23.17 7:25 PM ET

    On a day President Trump was accused of a new low in his brand of bullying, using Twitter to accuse a dead soldier’s pregnant widow of lying, Melania Trump urged Americans to treat each other with “kindness and compassion.”

    The comparison between her husband’s behavior and the anti-bullying initiative Melania Trump was advocating could not have been starker.

    Mrs. Trump encouraged 7th and 8th graders at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Broomfield, Michigan, to “find a new friend and eat lunch with a new friend” for an anti-bullying, “No One Eats Alone Day” event.

    “By our own example, we must teach children to be good stewards of the world they will inherit. We need to remember that they are always watching and listening. It is our responsibility to take the lead in teaching children the values of empathy and communication that are at the core of kindness, mindfulness, integrity, and leadership.”

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/her-husband-made-it-the-perfect-day-for-melania-trump-to-speak-out-against-bullying

    • Well, the First Whatever is focused on childhood bullying, so she possibly thinks this lets her husband off the hook. And no one will notice the hypocrisy.

      But we did.

  3. Sen. John Kavanagh

    Snopes.Com says the suggestion that this is another Bengazi is not justified, as much as AZBlueMeanie wishes it to be, which is pretty sick. Playing politics on the bodies of dead soldiers is perverse.

    • Yep, almost as perverse as lying by omission about the situation. What Snopes said was the comparison was a bit premature. Not that the suggestion is not justified.

      https://www.snopes.com/was-niger-attack-worse-than-benghazi/

      But it’s OK to say anything so long as it serves your pres*dent, right Senator?

    • This is not Trymp’s Benghazi. And if the Dems treat it as such they are just as whorish as the GOP re Benghazi. Can we have a straightforward investigation without bending it towards a political end? Why are Americans in Niger? How and why do we lose 4 US Green Berets? These are legitimate questions.

  4. For Sure Not Tom

    This is NOT Trump’s Benghazi.

    There were over 20 hearings on Benghazi and no wronging was found. It was a pre-emptive politcal attack on a presumed POTUS candidate and it’s a shameful chapter in GOP history.

    It is NOT Trump’s Benghazi because while no actual scandal was found in all those thousands of hours of taxpayer funded politically motived hearings, there is an actual scandal with the Niger incident.

    And it’s Trump’s inability to simply say “I mean no disrespect, my tone and words were inadequate to console your grief and I apologize if I was misunderstood.”

    The scandal is that the corrupt GOP is so desperate to pass their agenda they’re allowing a petulant man-baby to disrespect a Gold Star widow, all while claiming to respect the military, veterans, and windows of brave soldiers.

    When the GOP holds hearings on the 60 embassy staff that lost their lived in attacks during the Bush administration I’ll take them seriously.

  5. ABJECT IGNORANCE – Part 1

    ”Donald Trump now has his own “Benghazi” scandal, in a remarkably parallel set of circumstances after an ambush killed four American soldiers in Niger on October4, 2017.”

    Bullshit! The two incidents are completely different. Your stating there are parallels displays both wishful thinking and profound ignorance of military operations in general, and what happened at Benghazi and Niger in particular.

    ”The Pentagon has not provided a detailed accounting of the ambush by 50 ISIS affiliated fighters which left four US soldiers dead and two wounded and has said the incident remains under investigation.”

    There is no surprise that the Pentagon has not provided a detailed accounting of what happened in Niger and that an “investigation” was ongoing. First of all, if they are doing their jobs, the Pentagon does not advertise details of such operations to anyone. The special operations missions in Africa are generally considered “black book operations” and the details of anything they do isclassified.

    ”…the troops being left on the ground for nearly an hour before help could get to the remote area of southwestern Niger where they were operating.”

    Do you understand the term “remote area”? Getting the evacuation helicopters to them within an hour is astoundingly good performance! You are talking about large tracts of jungle and long distances that do not make evacuations easy.

    ”In addition, officials still do not know how Johnson became separated from the party only for his body to be recovered nearly 48 hours later.”

    It is called the “fog of war” because many things happen in the midst of combat that are immediately understood. If you have never had RPGs and machine gun fire ripping all around you while you try and organize an effective defense where things you don’t expect happen then it is easy to assume they would know everything going on. It is easy for you (or your authors) because you haven’t got a clue. The unit should be commended for going back in the recover his body, not second guessed by a bunch of ignorant asses bent on making political hay out of the unfortunate deaths of four soldiers.

    ”Officials who have read the initial after-action reports say there was confusion and uncertainty on the ground after what was a completely unexpected attack.”

    Duh!! They call them ambushes because they are unexpected. Those after action reports reflect the confusion and mayhem going on in a pitched battle where individuals often can only report what they saw, did, and experienced in their small piece of the battle ground. Confusion and uncertainty are expected in the after action reports. They are written by a variety of people describing their individual actions with the intent of collating them and developing a clearer picture of what happened.

    ”Why did these four Americans die?”

    Because they were professional soldiers embarked on a mission that had serious potential for killing them. They were well trained and understood their mission. Dying in combat is always a possibility and you accept that or you find another job.

    • There was a “Part 2” my comments regarding this posting by AzBM, but after 3 attempts to post it, I had to quit. I guess it didn’t get through the editing process.

    • SECOND PART

      ”A senior congressional aide who has been briefed on the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger says the ambush by militants stemmed in part from a “massive intelligence failure.”

      Now there is a real military expert for you: ”a senior congressional aide”. There is no partisan “hackmanship” going on there, is there? He likely could not find a “massive intelligence failure” with both hands and a road map. What do you bet that this clown is a democrat spouting off at the mouth on something he knows nothing of?

      ”The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly…”

      Yes, cowards often speak off the record because they fear the repercussions if they miscalculate the effect of their “leaking” classified intelligence. Such cowardice is common in the halls of congress.

      ”There was no U.S. overhead surveillance of the mission, he said, and no American quick-reaction force available to rescue the troops if things went wrong.”

      There are no requirements for either “overhead surveillance” or “quick reaction forces” anywhere in the rules and regulations governing tactical planning…especially for non conventional special operations. If the mission requires such actions, then you arrange for them. But their absence means nothing in the scheme of operations.

      • There was a “Part 3” to my comments regarding this posting by AzBM, but, again, after 3 attempts to post it, I had to quit. I guess it didn’t get through the editing process, either. The reason my message was so long is that there is an astounding level of ignorance in this message and I felt it needed correction by someone who actually knows what goes on in this type of military operation. Most of my 32 year Army career was doing these type of jobs and I was good at them or I would not have survived 32 years, either professionally or physically. I realize in politics neither accuracy or honesty are valued commodities, but this matters to me.

      • Frances Perkins

        You know nothing about Niger. One thing, there is no jungle in Niger. In fact it look quite like low land Arizona, rolling desert hills, some flat land of desert and sand dunes. I have a female employee who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, before they were withdrawn, teaching public health at at, yes, a remote town. Tough duty for a woman in a sub Saharan, Muslim area, but she worked with local women. Stop spewing Fox News defense of the “greatest military mind” in history. Lincoln admitted he knew almost nothing about military matters, but he learned fast, the hard way. Draft Dodging Donald knows nothing, and is going backwards from there, he certainly does not have the humility of Lincoln on the subject.

        • Forget it Frances. People like Steve and his “pres*dent know everything and not much else.

          • ” People like Steve and his “pres*dent know everything…”

            As opposed to you, Wileybud? You seem to find it easy to pontificate on anything and everything when the mood strikes. And Trump is not my President…he is our President whether you like it or not.

          • Well Steve, I do try to stay informed though I would never consider a brief comment “pontificating”. A good definition of pontificating would be your long, tiresome, and usually wrongheaded screeds.

            True, your pres*dent was able to slither into the Oval Office while losing the popular vote and a now questionable (see Wisconsin) Electoral College victory. The same way your last pres*dent gained the same office.

            And it’s particularly appalling that Republicans loved to proclaim “Obama is not my president” while demanding that there be universal acknowledgment that his predecessor and successor is the president to all. Just by virtue of having an “R” after his name. Or have your forgotten how your cherished leaders such as McConnell took delight in trying to block everything Obama tried to accomplish, regardless of how beneficial to the nation those accomplishment may have been?

        • “Stop spewing Fox News defense of the “greatest military mind” in history.”

          Frances, have I ever even intimated that Trump is a great military mind? No, I haven’t. I have no evidence that he is learning the job, either. What I do know, however, is hat he does listen to his military people and that is a lot in itself.

          “You know nothing about Niger. One thing, there is no jungle in Niger.”

          If you go into Southern Niger, you encounter tropical forests and jungle. You are correct about the remainder of the country being desert like. The bulk of my commentary was not about the country of Niger, nor was it really about the details of the operation that took place. I don’t have the details necessary to comment on the operation. My point – that you obviously missed – was that AzBM, and his selected authors, were trying very hard to compare Benghazi with the operation in Niger and that comparison is ridiculous and demonstrates vast ignorance about how such operations are conducted.

  6. benghazi was bullsh*t and so is this. every time they show the “HAT” congresswoman from florida it reminds voters why they hate democrats. a bigger problem for democrats in 2018 is all the help wanted signs popping up! a person at the unemployment office was being interviewed saying we have thousands of jobs and most are low skilled jobs for a change. just because you now have job under trump that you didn’t have under obama is no reason to vote for republican racists! we will see if that works with arizona voters.

  7. john huppenthal

    One hour. How long were they fighting at benghazi?

    • For Sure Not Tom

      What were the outcomes of the Senate investigations into the 60 embassy staff that died in attacks under GW Bush?

      What is it with you and selective amnesia?

      And what were the findings of the thousands of hours of taxpayer funded GOP theater hearings into Benghazi?

      Please show your work.

      • Pick one out and I would be glad to take a look at it. You didn’t answer my question about Benghazi. Why did it take 13 or 14 or whatever many hours it was to get to them when it seemed that people were calling for help non-stop?

        60 hours of hearings? I’ve never heard the answer to that question.

        It took one or two hours to get to these guys at Niger. That makes sense.

        • For Sure Not Tom

          Hey Thuckles, sorry, I didn’t see this one, I don’t get the emails anymore showing a new post.

          Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said some Benghazi critics have a “cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces.”

          I think he’s talking about you.

          You really dodged the actual question, though, well done, it’s surprising your political career ended so soon with that kind of expert pivot ability.