Benghazi in context and perspective

BenghaziThe Rush Limbaugh of The Republic, Doug MacEachern, simply regurgitates the right-wing noise machine talking points he internalizes from listening to talk radio and FAUX News all day, while surfing right-wing web sites on the “Internets.” Emails, shmee-mails: What did Obama do that night?

I can’t believe that a major publisher like Gannett actually pays this guy to do this. MacEachern degrades the credibility of The Arizona Republic as a legitimate news source. He puts The Republic in the disreputable company of World Net Daily, The Daily Caller and The Drudge Report. Give him his gold watch and retirement party — now.

The State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) investigated Benghazi and found an opportunistic attack that should have been prevented but was not due to poor intelligence, inadequate security on the ground, and inadequate information sharing between the U.S. military, the State Department and the CIA. There was no military response that could have been launched in time to save Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. And there was no cover up by the Obama administration.

The House Armed Services Committee report released in February was the first of the Republican-led investigations into the attack and its aftermath that absolved the military of acting improperly during the assault. “Given the military’s preparations on September 11, 2012, majority members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack,” the report concludes. The same document also contradicts the idea, deeply entrenched on the right, that any sort of “stand-down” order was given to the military urging them to not respond to the assault.

The New York Times did a six-part, multimedia report that was not only the most exhaustive account of the tragedy published by a major news organization, it was also completely apolitical. It refuted all the right-wing conspiracy theories advanced by Doug MacEachern in The Republic over the past two years.

For context and perspective, Steve Benen today has this timely reminder about how Congress used to function before the rise of the conservative media entertainment complex and its steady diet of conspiracy theories and partisan grievances dialed up to 11 business model. A tale of two terrorist attacks:

A terrorist attack on a U.S. outpost in the Middle East. Americans killed. Congressional hearings. Evidence that the administration failed to take security as seriously as it should have.

It was over 30 years ago that a terrorist attack on a U.S. Marine compound in Beirut killed 241 American servicemen, which came just six months after militants had bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans. Jane Mayer, who covered the attack in Lebanon at the time, reflects today on the domestic political environment — and how much it’s changed.

There were more than enough opportunities to lay blame for the horrific losses at high U.S. officials’ feet. But unlike today’s Congress, congressmen did not talk of impeaching Ronald Reagan, who was then President, nor were any subpoenas sent to cabinet members. This was true even though then, as now, the opposition party controlled the majority in the House. Tip O’Neill, the Democratic Speaker of the House, was no pushover. He, like today’s opposition leaders in the House, demanded an investigation — but a real one, and only one. Instead of playing it for political points, a House committee undertook a serious investigation into what went wrong at the barracks in Beirut. Two months later, it issued a report finding “very serious errors in judgment” by officers on the ground, as well as responsibility up through the military chain of command, and called for better security measures against terrorism in U.S. government installations throughout the world.

In other words, Congress actually undertook a useful investigation and made helpful recommendations. The report’s findings, by the way, were bipartisan. (The Pentagon, too, launched an investigation, issuing a report that was widely accepted by both parties.)

Six months after the terrorist attack, militants struck American officials in Beirut again, killing the CIA’s station chief. This happened during an election year, but I can find no evidence of any federal politician using this in television attack ads.

And six months after that, terrorists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut once more — in the middle of Reagan’s re-election campaign. The then-president conceded at the time that repairs at the U.S. embassy annex were behind schedule, telling the public, “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.”

Again, no hearings. No attack ads. No select committee. No subpoenas. No organized conspiracy theories pushed by members of Congress or their media allies. No talk about impeaching the president.

I’m trying to imagine what would happen if, in today’s climate, terrorists struck repeatedly at U.S. installations in a Middle Eastern country, killing hundreds of Americans.

Given the zeal with which Republicans are exploiting the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi nearly two years later, it’s an unsettling thought experiment.

Mayer’s conclusion rings true.

If you compare the costs of the Reagan Administration’s serial security lapses in Beirut to the costs of Benghazi, it’s clear what has really deteriorated in the intervening three decades. It’s not the security of American government personnel working abroad. It’s the behavior of American congressmen at home.

The story in Beirut wasn’t over. In September of 1984, for the third time in eighteen months, jihadists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut yet again. President Reagan acknowledged that the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the U.S. embassy annex that had been hit. The problem, the President admitted, was that the repairs hadn’t quite been completed on time. As he put it, “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.” Imagine how Congressman Issa and Fox News would react to a similar explanation from President Obama today.

I can appreciate why it’s tiresome and off-putting to hear talk about how much better the political system used to be in some bygone era. In general, much of the talk sees history through rose-colored glasses – the reality is the parties have always fought; there have always been ideologues and hardball tactics; there have always been fringe figures with extremist ideas; there have been prolonged periods of legislative gridlock.

But I continue to believe what we’re seeing now just isn’t normal. Comparing the congressional reactions of the Beirut attacks 30 years ago to the Benghazi attack in 2012 helps reinforce just how severely House Republicans are embarrassing the institution with their ugly schemes.

And of course there is the rank hypocrisy of many of these same Republicans and the right-wing noise machine that defended every failure of the Bush-Cheney regime, from ignoring the presidential daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” that led to the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history and 2,977 dead; and the worst “intelligence failure” (falsified intelligence) in U.S. history that allowed the Bush-Cheney regime to lie this country into an unnecessary and illegal war in Iraq, with  3,527 American service members killed in combat and more than 32,000 wounded; and the bungling of Tora Bora and the war in Afghanistan.

rice.cheney.bush.rumsfeld

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, an aid to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, gets it exactly right: “I find it an enormous problem that they go after something like this, Benghazi – tragedy that it was – and they don’t go after something that is a colossal tragedy like the war crimes of Richard Bruce Cheney.” Republican Colonel Blasts GOP For Focusing On Benghazi Instead Of Cheney’s War Crimes.

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show put this in context and perspective, as only he can, as well. Jon Stewart’s brilliant takedown of right-wing’s hypocritical Benghazi “outrage”.

6 responses to “Benghazi in context and perspective

  1. AZ BlueMeanie

    The fact is that you are trolling over a graphic and are not responding to anything in the post. If you cannot differentiate between make believe movies and reality — I have not threatened anyone, it is you who suggests it — then you have a problem I can’t help you with.

    • Doug Sanders

      The fact is that your graphic is an integral part of your post; otherwise, you would not have used it. Therefore, I am indeed responding to something in your post. Do you truly believe that your chosen graphic–with a bold caption “SAY BENGHAZI AGAIN, I DARE YOU” that depicts an obviously angry man pointing a pistol at somebody– is not a threat? I still suggest that it is.
      In my several emails to you, I have attempted to respond to your post. You on the other hand have accused me of having no sense of humor, of being a member of the PC police, and of being unable to distinguish between reality and make believe. I fail to see the relevance of your ad hominem attacks on me. The question I raised was the appropriateness of your illustration. I still think it was inappropriate and inflammatory. You have said nothing that defends the graphic.

  2. Doug Sanders

    Ironically, your lead article in today’s blog had the banner line ” Maddy Urken noted that over 900 people were killed in by guns in Arizona in 2013.” Yet you use an illustration glorifying gun violence.

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      The PC police don’t have a sense of humor and can’t appreciate a riff on a line from Pulp Fiction?

      Jules: Describe what Marsellus Wallace looks like!

      Brett: What?

      Jules: Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!

      • Doug Sanders

        I have no idea why my sense of humor or your accusation that I am a PC policeman is of any relevance to my suggestion that gun violence is an inappropriate solution to political questions. Indeed, I find your reply to me even more puzzling since it suggests that anyone who says “Benghazi” is a motherfucker who will be shot. Gun violence is endemic in America. Our local, state, and national governments are under the control of the NRA’s 2nd amendment agenda. Guns are used to slaughter and intimidate thousands of people every year. Armed vigilantes currently patrol the highway at Cliven Bundy’s. There are now over 2,000 organized and armed extremist and hate groups with twenty being tracked here in Arizona. I simply believe we should do nothing that makes intimidating others with gun violence seem like a normal response to a disagreement.

  3. Doug Sanders

    I find your illustration objectionable. Pointing a pistol at political opponents is inflammatory.