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A Benghazi inconsistency
The Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta has said that we didn't send in troops to help the American Ambassador because we didn't have enough intelligence on what was going on.
This contradicts President Obama's comments that at the time of the attack he thought the attack was the result of a mob going out of control. If the Ambassador was under attack by a mob the chances of an ambush or other major risks to US forces would have been very low. A mob does not plan but a terrorist group could have an ambush in place to attack any first responders.
Only if the military, and hence the President, knew during the attack that they were potentially dealing with a coordinated attack by terrorist or paramilitary forces would they have been concerned about the level of intelligence available to them.
Additionally it seems clear that it was not the military that made the call to abandon Americans to terrorists.
The US military has often had to go into places with less than complete intelligence. The risk of casualties is higher but that's what American soldiers train for; the fog of war is never completely lifted.
If the military had no intelligence about a US consulate being visited by an American Ambassador in a strife torn country with a strong terrorist presence then someone had really dropped the ball. Perhaps as a result of guidance from the top that with Obama as President US facilities would no longer be targeted by Muslim radicals.
On 9/11 the military should have had a contingency plan in place to deal with a violent attack on any US facility in the Middle East. While it might be understandable that no one developed a contingency plan to deal with a terrorist attack on say, the US consulate in Japan on 9/11 it is hard to believe that no one was concerned enough about potential threats to the US facilities in Libya to have developed a contingency plan.
So the lack of intelligence must be referring to a detailed understanding of what was going on on the ground in real time. But the military knows how to advance quickly but cautiously in that sort of circumstance. Unless they were expecting their transport planes to be shot out of the sky when approaching the airport the worst case scenario would be that the troops would be forced to slowly advance towards the Ambassador.
But the troops weren't even sent, according to Panetta, to see if they could reach, and save, the Americans who were under attack.
When American lives were on the line the soldiers who liberated Iraq, stormed Fallujah, and go on dangerous patrols every day in Afghanistan would not say no way just because they didn't have a complete picture of the situation. They might have advanced slowly but they wouldn't recommend sitting it out while their compatriots were murdered.
But a man who considered trying to kill Osama a "hard" decision might.
What President would have to think for more than a few seconds about authorizing a strike against a non-military compound where the monster responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans was hiding?
If Osama had been in a fortified military base with hundreds of guards the President would have had to weigh the probable costs in American soldiers who would die, if Osama had been in a high rise apartment building the President would have had to weigh the potential for innocent civilians being killed; but a raid against a lightly defended compound in a civilian area with widely dispersed houses was unlikely to result in a huge risk to the highly trained team that executed the attack or to innocent civilians.
Obama was probably worried that if Osama wasn't at the compound there would be a political cost. Or perhaps he was worried about the political impact of a failed raid; even Obama has to have noticed the similarity of his Presidency to Jimmy Carters.
A few weeks before an election which Obama was, at the time, sure he'd win would be a very bad time for American soldiers to be killed in Libya; there was the potential for a very real political cost.
Perhaps Obama thought that if he could blame the Ambassadors death on the Arab street rather than terrorists he could keep the whole thing out of the news; not hard with the main stream media on his side.
But if a bunch of American soldiers were killed the whole situation would change. Any deaths of American troops would make it impossible to claim that the whole thing was a spontaneous event due to some obscure film on YouTube.
If Obama said that elite American soldiers were killed by an unarmed mob he'd look like a fool. But if he said that they were killed by terrorists then his whole claim to having eliminated the terrorist threat to America would be shown to be untrue.
In that situation it is not hard to imagine that the President latched on to the honestly expressed risk factors presented by the military as an excuse to do nothing.
Obama probably wasn't intentionally abandoning the Ambassador. Obama was probably thinking that he could protect the lives of American soldiers while still being able to keep the disaster in Benghazi from hurting his reelection chances.
The question then becomes do we want a President who will let American civilians die rather than prudently risk military casualties; and political fallout?
In our troubled world we need a President who can make the hard calls based on what's best for America and not on what's best for his political career.
You can find more of Tom's rants here
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