Richland, Washington: Opinion by Frank Ellsworth Lockwood
On February 10, 2014, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation released its report on the DOD response to the Banghazi attack by terrorists on September 11, 2012. Predictably, the wording and the format were far from neutral. The report details six "Key Findings." What follows is my take on the committee's work to date.
"To undertake the ... committee staff has reviewed thousands of pages of ... (and) met with ... the entire chain of command in connection with Benghazi: from those on the ground at the time of the attack to the nation’s senior-most uniformed leader.
"While the committee’s inquiry continues ... (blaa blaa blaa).
"Based on its activities undertaken since the release of that report, majority members make the six findings listed below."
I. In assessing military posture in anticipation of the September 11 anniversary, White House officials failed to comprehend or ignored the dramatically deteriorating security situation in Libya and the growing threat to U.S. interests in the region. Official public statements seem to have exaggerated the extent and rigor of the security assessment conducted at the time.
(Of my take on this) This Republican smear campaign (that's what the investigation was) used the words, failed to comprehend, implying wrongdoing. A truthful statement would have admitted that the President did not know, rather than using the loaded phrase, failed to comprehend. The suggestion that the President ignored the security situation is patently false, as is clear from reading the transcripts. General Ham went to great lengths to explain the complexities of managing security around the world. Testimony also seemed to indicate that Ambassador Stevens was involved in some kind of secretive operation and may not have wanted to draw attention to what he was doing by bringing in a security force. In fact, he may have wanted to give the appearance that nothing was going on, but deliberately refusing offers to beef up security in view of security force agreements that had lapsed.
II. U.S. personnel in Benghazi were woefully vulnerable in September 2012 because a.) the administration did not direct a change in military force posture, b.) there was no intelligence of a specific “imminent” threat in Libya, and c.) the Department of State, which has primary responsibility for diplomatic security, favored a reduction of Department of Defense security personnel in Libya before the attack.
In this case, the opening sentence appears to be intentionally inflammatory. Use of the words woefully vulnerable are not doubt intended to wrongly implant the idea of incompetence to the followup words, that the administration did not direct a change of military force posture.
What the Republicans may or may not have realized is that their condemnation of the "force posture," if the accusation is accurate, would necessarily have to apply across the board -- to the military and CIA commanders and even to Ambassador Stevens himself, who had repeatedly rejected offers of security reinforcements.
I have to assume that Stevens, the military and the intelligence officers all had their reasons for leaving Benghazi unprotected. They took a risk based upon what they thought the situation warranted. For whatever reason, their plans failed.
There was an a, b and c in statement II, all three of which were true and accurate, but the opening sentence appears to be designed to re-cast the significance of the actual findings. Again, the frenzy of the Republicans trying to discredit the White House. They really do hate this present administration! Go to the State of the Union address videos and look at John Boehner's expression throughout. That tells it all. They are sore losers, but losers nonetheless.
III. Defense Department officials believed nearly from the outset of violence in Benghazi that it was a terrorist attack rather than a protest gone awry, and the President subsequently permitted the military to respond with minimal direction.
Item III is true so far as it goes. Too bad they neglected to mention that testimony from General Ham (and, I think, from others as well) reveal that no-one made it clear to the President early on that this was definitely a well-planned terrorist attack and not the result of an anti-Islam movie demonstration. The report also failed to apologize, or even to note that the Republicans had repeatedly maligned the President and abused the public with the idea that he was lying to the American public about this.
IV. The U.S. military’s response to the Benghazi attack was severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding. However, given the uncertainty about the prospective length and scope of the attack, military commanders did not take all possible steps to prepare for a more extended operation.
Item IV is also true so far as it goes, although the use of the word degraded should be taken advisedly, due to its double connotations. I would have used the word downgraded, not degraded. Given the authorship, one must assume that the use of this term is intended, not just to describe the findings, but also to deceive or mislead the public into accepting a partisan world view.
The military response was severely limited might have been a more appropriate term than what they used but, hey, it appears this is a Republican report, so I would take it just as advisedly as I take any other piece of Republican propaganda.
V. There was no “stand down” order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi. However, because official reviews after the attack were not sufficiently comprehensive, there was confusion about the roles and responsibilities of these individuals.
Finally, way down the list but the committee gets around to admitting the truth.
Not just what they write, but the order in which they write it reveals their hidden, partisan agenda. The notion of a "stand down," as if the President or his proxies had some kind of conspiracy going on to get Americans killed in Benghazi. Needless to say, nothing could be further from the truth. But in item V they admit, however unwillingly, that this was never the case, although the propaganda machine had been harping on this for an entire year. There was nothing to it, and now they have officially admitted that.
VI. The Department of Defense is working to correct many weaknesses revealed by the Benghazi attack, but the global security situation is still deteriorating and military resources continue to decline. Item VI finally gets around to the supposed point of the investigation. Here, when speaking of the DOD, the committee chooses to abandon the colored rhetoric and stick to the facts. Note that it is as if they are giving the DOD a pat on the back. They must have finally realized that there were implications, not just for the President and Mrs. Clinton, but for the DOD and, by implication, for the defense contractors who reward the Republican's so well. So now the tone is different, much changed from when the President is implied. The investigation has revealed DOD "weaknesses" (not degradation?) but they are "working to correct them." Well, good boys. But the report is not finished yet. The Republicans cannot help but put in a pitch for increased defense industry spending. "Military resources continue to decline." Nowhere do I see a mention that the United States spends more on "defense" than almost the rest of the entire world put together. [http://pgpf.org/Chart-Archive/0053_defense-comparison] But we are in such decline. Isn't that amazing?