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While Benghazi burned … and an election approached.
The late Ted Kennedy became known as “the Hero of Chappaquiddick” for leaving a young lady to die after accidentally driving his car off a bridge on the night of July 18, 1969. Kennedy, who swam free, said nothing to police until 10 a.m. the following day.
In the subsequent inquest, John Farrar, a professional diver and the captain of the Edgartown Fire Rescue unit on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, discovered the body of Mary Jo Kopechne in the well of the backseat of the overturned and submerged car. He said in his testimony:
It looked as if she were holding herself up to get a last breath of air. It was a consciously assumed position.… She didn’t drown. She died of suffocation in her own air void. It took her at least three or four hours to die. I could have had her out of that car twenty-five minutes after I had the call. But he (Ted Kennedy) didn’t call.
President Barack Obama deserves similar obloquy as “the Commander-in-Chief who went AWOL” on September 12, 2012 — during the eight-hour siege in which heavily-armed terrorists burnt the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
To be sure, there are major differences between the two events. Unlike Kennedy, the president did not directly endanger the life or lives of others. Like Kennedy, however, he went missing when he could have tried to mount a rescue mission, or at least weighed the options and seriously considered doing so.
If nothing else, Obama is guilty of excessive passivity … indeed, dereliction of duty … on the night of Sept. 11, 2012. And so, too, were others high in the administration, including three outgoing members — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Joint Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey — along with the Chief of Naval Operations (responsible for the deployment of FAST anti-terrorist teams), and the head of the Special Operations Command.
Though the details were spare, after months of stonewalling by the Obama administration, the testimony given by Secretary Panetta and Gen. Dempsey late last week was dramatic.
They told how they had spent a half hour meeting with the president on Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. Washington time briefing him on the mass demonstration at the Egyptian embassy and the beginning of an all-out attack (then 90 minutes old) on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Through their testimony, we learned of the strange indifference of the president to the events that were unfolding on this obviously historic date for America and its sworn enemies (the eleventh anniversary of Nine Eleven 2001). According to Panetta, the president told them that the response to the attack was “up to them.” And that was it: According to Panetta and the general, they had no further contact with the president (or, for that matter, Secretary Clinton) the rest of the evening or night.
Two other important details from the Panetta and Dempsey testimony: They knew full well that it was a terrorist attack. Despite that, neither the president nor they felt compelled to reestablish contact over the next several hours. There were no phone calls from the president to the defense secretary to check up on the situation later that evening or night. Nor did he or Dempsey communicate with Clinton.
None of this seemed important enough for any of the principals — starting with the president — to think of calling for brainstorming and battle planning in the White House Situation Room.
A month and a half after the attack (and a couple of weeks before the Nov. 6 election), Panetta claimed:
The basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having real-time information about what’s taking place.… And as a result of not having that kind of information … (we) felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.
But that is far from being any kind of a basic principle. In this case, the “fog of war” seems to have much less of a factor than the deliberately contrived “fog of cover-up.” As George H. Wittman described in a detailed article on this page yesterday, there were, in fact, a number of military options available that could have been used to deliver potentially decisive military force to the besieged embassy within a matter of a few hours. Many other experts in addition to Wittman have made the same point.
Nevertheless, the Obama administrative slept — or, if it stayed awake, it was for a completely different purpose than saving American lives far away from home: It was to save their own necks and reputations over the course of the upcoming election.
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Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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