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Author Topic: Benghazi - Just the Facts, Ma'am
Wayward Son
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Since the "No Bovine Feces" thread has deteriorated to--I don't know what [Eek!] --I thought I'd start a new thead on Benghazi, one specifically to address OSC's Civilization Watch column of Nov. 1.

quote:
Here is what we know for a fact about the attack on the U.S. Consulate on 11 September 2012:

1. There was no demonstration beforehand.

2. There was a live internet feed to the White House situation room, showing the attack from beginning to end.

3. The consular officials sent repeated emails and other communications asking for help; the State Department, the CIA, and the White House had full knowledge of the nature and progress of the attack from beginning to end.

4. The attack lasted for seven hours.

5. There were military forces in Italy and elsewhere that could have put boots on the ground within two hours.

6. There were jets that could have provided pinpoint air support to suppress enemy fire within twenty minutes' flying time.

7. There were trained U.S. Navy Seals and other combat-capable persons within walking distance of the U.S. Consulate, who were issued direct orders to stand down and not aid the Americans who were under attack.

8. Two of those Seals disobeyed that order, and died defending the consulate: Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty.

9. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and Foreign Service information officer Sean Smith were killed in the attack.

10. American consuls and embassies are, by international law and treaties, American soil, and we do not need permission from the local government or the cooperation of allies to have the right to defend them with all necessary force.

11. Only one person has the authority to authorize sending additional military forces in such a situation: the President of the United States.

I haven't been following the scandal, so I'm wondering, with what we know now, how many of those facts are still true?
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TomDavidson
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#11 is completely false. #1, #2, #3, and #10 are partly false.

Of course, the conclusions OSC drew from those "facts" are not materially affected by those changes. But then the conclusions he drew from the remaining facts do not follow as a logical necessity from those original facts, either.

[ November 27, 2012, 12:25 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Pyrtolin
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As I understand, 7 and the relevant part of 8 are also false, and in fact those two were part of the teams that were sent to assist the embassy in response to the attack. (Meaning 5 is certainly true, though the implication that such forces were not deployed is actively false)
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TomDavidson
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I left those as "true" because AFAIK it's technically true that they were ordered to stand down, and did die after not standing down. They were sent by another agency to defend the consulate, and the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing in that case.
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DonaldD
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#4 is also mostly false - there were either 2 or 3 separate attacks (depends on how you count) with several hours between the second and third attacks.

#6 is pretty optimistic - I suppose it is possible for military aircraft to have been given a green light to strafe targets in a foreign city.

#7 and #8 taken together are false on a couple of accounts - that order, such as it was, was given by the local cammander, and only in so far as to attempt to organize support from local friendly militias. After failing to organize additional support, the team left the CIA annex, without disobeying orders, within 25 minutes. Doherty, on the other hand, flew in from Tripoli with five other CIA team members, and died almost immediately upon arriving at the CIA annex during the 3rd attack - there was never any suggestion that this team was disobeying orders.

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kmbboots
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I am not sure how #11 is relevant because the President did authorize "all available" resources to assist the forces already there.

As for #7 and #8, technically, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were not serving as Navy Seals. They were former Seals who were contractors with the CIA.

#2 The surveillance drone arrived about 90 minutes after the attack began. Surviving US personnel were evacuated about 20 minutes after that.

According to the Pentagon, Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith were likely killed in the initial assault. Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in a later attack in the early hours of the next morning on a different US facility.

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Greg Davidson
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I've actually gotten to hear OSC talk several times at a local independent bookstore over the past year, and he has seemed much more reasonable than some of his political writings indicate.

But what does it mean if he can make assertions such as these and then not take moral responsibility for for the errors that he has asserted? Either he finds lying morally acceptable, he is uninterested in determining the veracity of what he has written (which is close to believing lying is morally acceptable, but not quite there), or he does not agree with even one of these counter-arguments.

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Wayward Son
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Or he hasn't read this thread. [Smile]
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kmbboots
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I am pretty sure that the Benghazi attack is being discussed elsewhere. If someone is passionate enough about it to rant in a column, shouldn't he being willing to check a few facts?
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Viking_Longship
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quote:
Originally posted by Greg Davidson:
I've actually gotten to hear OSC talk several times at a local independent bookstore over the past year, and he has seemed much more reasonable than some of his political writings indicate.

But what does it mean if he can make assertions such as these and then not take moral responsibility for for the errors that he has asserted? Either he finds lying morally acceptable, he is uninterested in determining the veracity of what he has written (which is close to believing lying is morally acceptable, but not quite there), or he does not agree with even one of these counter-arguments.

Professional pundits by and large don't retract or appologize for their mistakes, so I suppose amatuers don't think they have to either.
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Wayward Son
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Well, one problem is knowing when you've made a mistake.

From OSC's last two Civ. Watch articles, it is plain that he doesn't trust the MSM. So he will probably discount any information that may be disseminated through them.

So he has to rely on Fox and/or the pundits for the corrections. And, as Viking pointed out, the pundits are loath to admit they are wrong, and he may miss Fox's corrections (if they emphasize them at all).

You can't correct yourself until you know you made a mistake. And how can you find out about mistakes when you are given unreliable news? (Something we all have to worry about.)

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kmbboots
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He doesn't have internet?
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Wayward Son
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He doesn't trust (most) everything he reads on the internet, like all of us.

It all comes down to who you trust.

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kmbboots
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That isn't really a good way to get at truth.
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Wayward Son
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How do you do it (as I derail my own thread [Frown] )?
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kmbboots
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Check a bunch of sources. Look for primary sources (the Pentagon for example). See where sources agree or conflict. Use my judgement about the agenda the different sources might have and who is likely to have first hand knowledge.

For starters. Isn't that what most reasonable people do?

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AI Wessex
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Relying on primary sources is the best course, but often impractical. How do you stay on top of domestic and international politics, diplomacy, armed conflict, not to mention sports, science and entertainment, all while actually living your own life? You have to take shortcuts, and you have to know who are the most reliable sources, whether primary or secondary.

I find that if I read multiple independent media/news sources the cross section points out major points of agreement and identifies the dissonance about things. I also have my favorites who have a track record of being right. And quite honestly I go to sites/sources that I *know* are biased or often wrong (like FOX, of course, but also MSNBC to some extent) so that I get a set of contrasting perspectives that I can use to examine my preferred sources and question my own point of view. It all adds up to enough for me to think I know what's going on without pretending to be any sort of subject matter expert. And when all else fails, I come here for the real troof! [Smile]

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kmbboots
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I said "look for them". Often they aren't available. In this case, it wasn't too hard to find at least what the Pentagon released.
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Wayward Son
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quote:
Check a bunch of sources. Look for primary sources (the Pentagon for example). See where sources agree or conflict. Use my judgement about the agenda the different sources might have and who is likely to have first hand knowledge.
This is what OSC himself says in a recent essay.

quote:
First, Shirer [author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich] constantly refers to and evaluates the sources of his information. Sometimes two different diaries tell of the same account, while a memoir and contemporaneous notes offer competing versions. Shirer will typify a source as "usually reliable" or "often self-serving," as "designed to defend himself at Nuremberg" or astonishingly candid.

I have spent the rest of my life reading history in exactly the same manner, constantly asking myself, How could the writer possibly know this? What was the source he relied on for this conclusion?

But then he add a second level of skepticism:

quote:
Second, Shirer constantly shows us the contrast between Nazi propaganda and the actual events, and reminds us that incredible as the Nazi version was, the German people believed the propaganda...

Even though he detested and feared Hitler, he still took many government lies at face value, unable to conceive of a government lying on such a scale. He was only able to find out the truth about many things after the war, when the whole archive of the Third Reich was laid open for examination.

Because of his account of Nazi propaganda, I have remained skeptical my entire life, realizing that I am rarely being told the whole story and assuming that stories are always being spun or outright lied about. Thus I have watched for the signs that should have told the German people they were being lied to.

This is part of the problem. Governments can, and do, lie. And, as he said in the original essay, he fully expects the Obama Administration not to provide a full and clear account of what happened.

So, while he can look at the Pentagon report, he can easily dismiss it as being a cover-up.

What bothers me is that the sources he lists in the original essay are the usual conservative echo chamber: Fox News, Justice with Judge Jeanine, and an interview that includes Ann Coulter. (I haven't been able to view any of them, since this stuff is blocked at work. [Frown] ) Assuming he dismisses the rest of the news media, what other conclusion could he come to?

And would he be justified in doing so? [Exploding]

So OSC may still believe everything he said in the original essay based on what he knows. If he believes there is a cover-up, why should he believe those who would be covering it up? [Wink] And if you discount all those people, you are pretty much left with those who will tell you it is a conspiracy and what really happened (whether they know what really happened or not).

It's a trap that either the Left or the Right or both have fallen into. And I'm not sure how one can escape from it.

Or, as OSC puts it:

quote:
Still, writers who have a particular worldview will inadvertently or deliberately "bear witness" to the beliefs that they have in common with their intended readers. When I see writers "bear witness" to global warming, to hating George Bush, to the evils of the Patriot Act, or to this or that shibboleth of their thoughtgroup, I may shake my head in despair; but I must also suspect that I am no less likely to be bearing witness to my biases in ways I do not see.

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Viking_Longship
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Honestly I think the biggest problem with OSC's political writing is that he usually writes in a tone of complete outrage and that doesn't lend itself to a careful parsing of the facts.

As to his sources he considers The Weekly Standard to be an example of reasonable journalism if that tells you anything.

Now having said that I remember how The Economist covered the takeover of Turkey by the AKP and its assurances that the party was nothing to be worried about,( after all its so pro-business) so even if you have what seems like a responsible source it can still be very wrong.

OSC is mostly a bookworm, he's never held (or to my knowledge run for) political office his sum total of living abroad was his time as a missionary in Brazil, and never served in the military. Thus a lot of his political writing is based on his opinions of things he hasn't experienced.

His tone should be more humble, but since he's politically just one more blogger (and boy did he get the potential audience and influence of bloggers wrong) it's not a big deal.

(I have the utmost repect for OSC as a writer of fiction and as a reviewer of books, films, ect.)

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seagull
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quote:
That isn't really a good way to get at truth.
quote:
How do you do it (as I derail my own thread )?

May I suggest talking to an intelligent person who grew up in Russia (getting their news from Pravda) or an Arab country. They never had any illusion that what they hear on the news is true and they have learned to develop fascinating skills for extracting truth from propaganda.
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Wayward Son
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quote:
They never had any illusion that what they hear on the news is true and they have learned to develop fascinating skills for extracting truth from propaganda.
But how well do those skills work?

If you never know what the actual truth is, how can you gauge how well you can discern it? [Wink]

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seagull
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I'm an Israeli, I did not grow up in either of these countries. When I was growing up in Israel, Israeli media did not dare to lie or spin very much. Even when it came to military secrets, they would either tell the truth or remain silent. The main reason was that it was such a small country that if they lied, most of their audience would know someone who knew someone who knew the truth first hand. Rumor mills moved faster than the news and credibility was important to them in those days.

Please note that I was using the past tense.
I might be nostalgic, but the media in Israel today spins and lies almost as much as the media in the US [Frown]

There is an interesting skill set that I do not have myself but which I can still identify when I see it used effectively by my friends in Israel who are immigrants from the former Soviet Union and from Arab Countries, as well as among my Arab friends in the US.

I am not sure how they do it. It probably has something to do with years of experience and practice. But, I have often noticed that they can call a media lie weeks or months before it is exposed as a lie. It happens too often to be a coincidence.

The closest I ever came to that kind of skill was in 1993 when I heard that (link): "the United Nations declared the besieged enclave of Srebrenica in the Drina Valley of north-eastern Bosnia a "safe area" under UN protection". I was living in the US at the time and told anyone who cared that these poor Bosnians were going to be massacred (before it happened) and that the UN will not lift a finger to stop it.

Most of the people who heard me say that (except my Arab friends) thought I was crazy and that I had some grudge against the UN (which is true but does not make me wrong). Very few of them bothered to ask me later how I knew it was going to happen and only two (that I know of) actually followed up on what I told them and changed their views about the UN.

I do talk to my Russian and Arab Friends and try to learn the skill, but asking and learning are different things. They can not always explain how they know, they just do.

[ November 28, 2012, 08:27 PM: Message edited by: seagull ]

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Viking_Longship
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The Soviet Press was a wing of the state. There was no real separation between news and propoganda. I find that Russian journalists often carried that tradition forward and that non-Journalists in Russia are usually aware of that. Their op/ed writers also often argue passionately about things they wish were true as if they were true.

Unfortunately this makes getting a good idea of what's actually happening in Russia a little muddy if you aren't actually there.

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hobsen
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OSC writes his columns for The Rhinoceros Times, which describes its target audience as follows:
quote:
Rhino Reach: The Rhino reaches over 40 percent of Guilford County adults 18 and older.
Our target readers are educated, affluent adults; homeowners, business owners, parents of school-aged children. The Rhino's hard hitting investigative journalism is appreciated by those who love to read and want to know what's going on in their community. While daily newspapers suffer dramatic losses of 30 percent or more, local community newspapers like The Rhino are still going strong. We have the news people are hungry for – and starving for if they read the daily newspaper.

As it seems to me, the best that can be said for OSC's column is that he wrote it when the facts were extremely unclear - I did not know what had happened either - and Rhino Times readers probably learned what facts were wrong later from other things disclosed in the paper. In this case I am not sure that an admission by OSC that some of what he had said was wrong would have enlightened readers much, since they knew that if they had been paying attention.

It would be unfair to say that everyone writing for the Rhino Times - particularly OSC - thinks that Guilford County residents who are black, poor, Democrats, or lack a college degree would be better dead, but the description of its target audience does suggest the newspaper is aimed at white Republicans, and does not intend to be more "fair and balanced" than FOX News.

[ November 29, 2012, 02:46 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
Since the "No Bovine Feces" thread has deteriorated to--I don't know what [Eek!]

according to this source, bovine feces deteriorates to 21% total nitrogen products (including 7% Ammonium products), 14% Potash (P2O5), 23% K2O, and 52% Dry Matter. Which would explain why the discussion was so devoid of humor.
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AI Wessex
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But makes good fertilizer and has helped this thread to grow.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Rhino Times readers probably learned what facts were wrong later from other things disclosed in the paper.
Heh. No, that's quite unlikely.
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DonaldD
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quote:
In this case I am not sure that an admission by OSC that some of what he had said was wrong would have enlightened readers much, since they knew that if they had been paying attention.
I wouldn't hazard a guess at how much attention Rhino Times readers might or might not be paying to the larger world, I think it would behoove OSC to walk back some of what is pretty clearly libellous statements on his part.

Now, whether the president of the country will spend a lot of time defending himself from libel in the blogosphere and community newspapers is an open question...

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Viking_Longship
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quote:
I think it would behoove OSC to walk back some of what is pretty clearly libellous statements on his part.

I'm not holding my breath. I doubt no matter how wrong he turns out to be he'll even believe those statements were libellous.
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hobsen
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quote:
Heh. No, that's quite unlikely.
That is a good question, TomDavidson. Since OSC does write for the Rhino Times, it will be a good idea for me to visit that site now and then to see just what they do cover. Since it is a local newspaper serving fairly affluent and educated communities, I should presume it would report world events, even if the spin it adds tends toward the right. After all, even FOX News does report what is happening, even if those who comment on events may interpret them in a way which is fanciful.
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AI Wessex
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Another high-level casualty from the attack, Susan Rice:
quote:
I am highly honored to be considered by you for appointment as secretary of state. I am fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively in that role. However, if nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy disruptive and costly— to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country. ... Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.

The position of secretary of state should never be politicized. As someone who grew up in an era of comparative bipartisanship and as a sitting U.S. national security official who has served in two U.S. administrations, I am saddened that we have reached this point, even before you have decided whom to nominate. We cannot afford such an irresponsible distraction from the most pressing issues facing the American people.


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hobsen
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We shall be hearing a lot more about Benghazi, because Republicans think Hillary Clinton is a likely candidate for President in 2016. Attacking Obama over this occurrence never made much sense, as the President has a lot of other things on his mind besides the security of over 300 diplomatic posts around the world. But Hillary Clinton was responsible for making them secure, or at least for screaming loudly about the Army failure to keep supporting forces close at hand. She did not do that, and Republicans will surely try to take advantage of the attack to discredit her. I do not know how effective such arguments will be, but we are going to hear a lot more than we want to know about what was undeniably a disaster for this country.
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Pete at Home
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Seagul, when the UN declares an area safe, that's kind of like when a cop says move along nothing to see here. You know there's something to see you there.
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AI Wessex
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"She did not do that, and Republicans will surely try to take advantage of the attack to discredit her."

Hobsen, that's 4 years down the road. I imagine this will a tarnished goods by the time 2016 rolls around. FWIW, I'll offer the contrarian opinion that if Bader-Ginsburg retires this year Obama might offer her the seat. I think Hillary takes the long view and would like to be measured for how she changes the framework that future generations would grow up and live within.

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Greg Davidson
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Can anyone counter the following assertion:

Taken in its totality, the US intervention in Libya under the Obama Administration has been a more successful exercise of American power to promote regime change (in terms of loss of life, cost and outcome) than any similar effort in the past 30 years.

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Pete at Home
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Grenada?

Regardless of whether your comparative statement is true, I have and will continue to praise Barry's support of the European action in lybia. It was 1 of those situations where is the best thing you can do as a world leader.

The result seems to be a free and independent Lybia that shares many of our interests and ideals -- and not our puppet.

But what does that have to do with the Benghazi snafu?

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AI Wessex
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I think it's a retroactive mistake to measure what we do by an outcome we really can't control. But if we do, should we do it now or wait 10 or 20 years to decide? From my perspective the whole of the Mideast is extremely volatile. Each generation may see an overthrow of what came into being not so long ago.

Our abject support of regimes that are the supposed enemy of our enemy is sometimes a worse problem. Pakistan is a bizarre case of us supporting a regime that has been actively underwriting the enemy they're supposed to help us defeat. How much have we gained compared to what it has cost us?

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hobsen
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Yes, it makes sense to wonder whether helping Pakistan has done us more harm than good.

But Pakistan has as I remember more than a hundred million citizens, some of whom support the Taliban. The national government really wants U.S. support because it has good reason to fear a conflict with India, which has more nuclear weapons and better ones. That does not mean the government of Pakistan has full control even of its own employees, even apart from a natural reluctance to take actions in support of the United States which will enrage a significant number of its supporters. The shelter given to Osama bin Laden illustrates the difficulty - some but not all members of the government probably helped protect him, and active Pakistani cooperation by the government in bringing about his death would have risked both popular dissent and terrorist strikes in retaliation. No government is going to want that.

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noel c.
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1. There was no demonstration beforehand. (True, what the heck does "partly" false mean?)

2. There was a live internet feed to the White House situation room, showing the attack from beginning to end. (From beginning to end... no. Why would Obama be watching a live feed in anticipation of an attack? Panetta's office knew within 50 minutes of the assault, and met shortly thereafter at the White House with Obama (briefly), and top military advisors. A drone was already on station, and transmitting. Three to five hours later, he had still taken no action.)

3. The consular officials sent repeated emails and other communications asking for help; the State Department, the CIA, and the White House had full knowledge of the nature and progress of the attack from beginning to end. (This "beginning to end" canard is getting a little obvious. Consular officials *had been* sending requests to the State Department for increased security over the previous months, stating that they could not "withstand a coordinated attack". The most recent was the day of the attack, and the ambassador was aware of surveillance by Libyan law enforcement from upper story windows across the street into the compound. His requests were denied. Once the attack began, he called the CIA annex for aid, and this also went to NATO command in Europe. The Benghazi station chief *did* tell his crew to stand down three times. His later explanation was that the 20 minute delay was to bolster security personnel by recruiting local militia; sixteen of which did eventually accompany the security detail of six ex-seal contractors.)

4. The attack lasted for seven hours. (True, there were periods of calm, but only an idiot would use that as a rationale to divide the attack into *separate* events.)

5. There were military forces in Italy and elsewhere that could have put boots on the ground within two hours. (There was a quick-response group assigned to Italy that was within two hours of Benghazi. In the wisdom of military planners, the unit was on rotation to the U.S., and the relief group was not in place. Truth be known, Panetta owns this screw-up)

6. There were jets that could have provided pinpoint air support to suppress enemy fire within twenty minutes' flying time. (This refers to fighters based in Italy. If we no longer have any, it is news to me.)

7. There were trained U.S. Navy Seals and other combat-capable persons within walking distance of the U.S. Consulate, who were issued direct orders to stand down and not aid the Americans who were under attack. (True, read above)

8. Two of those Seals disobeyed that order, and died defending the consulate: Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty. (This is just plain stupid. Where did you get it from? They died on the roof of the CIA annex following the rescue of embassy personnel seven hours into the attack.)

9. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and Foreign Service information officer Sean Smith were killed in the attack. (You really doubt this?)

10. American consuls and embassies are, by international law and treaties, American soil, and we do not need permission from the local government or the cooperation of allies to have the right to defend them with all necessary force. (True, the catch is that defense must come from within the embassy. As noted earlier, requests to supplement security capabilities were denied. In fact, troops were actually removed from Libya over the period in question at the direction of the State Department. You may be thinking about the "right" to cross international borders in defense of an embassy. Technically permission must be granted by a host country. This is the reasoning employed by Hillary for a delayed response when her requests to the Libyan "government" were ignored. I would have said screw'em., She should have said the same thing.)

11. Only one person has the authority to authorize sending additional military forces in such a situation: the President of the United States. (True, unless authorization is granted to military personnel to act as they see prudent. A wise commander in chief will do this in an emergency situation... not go on a campaign swing through Las Vegas.)

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