Wingnuts, led as usual by Fox News, are flogging a brand new alternate history of the Sept. 11 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which Barack Obama knew exactly what was going on, refused to launch a rescue mission, ordered the CIA to “stand down,” and maybe shot Ambassador Chris Stevens to death himself. Appearing on Fox News, retired Army officers David Hunt and Anthony Shaffer told Fox’s Jeanine Pirro that two drones were providing a “live feed” of the attack and said that his sources tell him that the President “was one of those in the White House Situation Room in real time watching this” and that he could have approved military action to save the embattled ambassador, but chose not to. And the example proving that a rescue could have worked? Ronald Reagan’s successful 1983 Grenada operation, in which Reagan used a military invasion of a Caribbean island to rescue the news cycle from coverage of the deadly bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut.
Get ready to hear a lot in the next few days about this “live feed” that Obama was “watching” — obviously, it was just like on “24,” with everything clearly visible, all the people on the ground clearly identifiable and maybe even labelled — and not a grainy image from the air… at night… in a city… looking down at what’s happening outside and inside a building that’s on fire.
Hunt helpfully points out that President Obama “could have” had jets over the urban target within 20 minutes, and AC-130 gunships (which are really good at firing astonishing amounts of ammunition into ground targets — ideal for a nighttime raid in a crowded city!) within 2 hours, and maybe the Delta Force on the ground at some point. (Hunt says “two hours” as well, because why not? He’s a military expert!) Needless to say, in this fantasy of a perfectly smooth operation, nothing would have gone wrong, and there would not have been any chance of, say, an RPG being fired into one of the rescue helicopters, because that kind of thing only happens in movies, and never happens in reality.
In a surprising slip from message discipline, Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze” is simultaneously pushing the “Obama was watching the whole thing” narrative and also running another story saying that it’s possible that drones might have provided useful information if they were deployed at the right time.
As Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, the whole “Obama shoulda sent GI Joes to beat COBRA” scenario is purely speculative:
Let’s be clear: There is no indication — none — that U.S military officials advised the president or anyone in the administration that a rescue operation was possible, and that the administration ignored that offer. The evidence is entirely to the contrary.
As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained, “(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place. And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”
That would be Gen. Carter Ham, the head of U.S. Africa Command, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They are men of training and experience; they know where our military assets are located; they know their capabilities, and they know the difficulties involved in inserting and extracting an armed force into an uncertain situation in another country.
Even so, Internet Tough Guys and Fox News are preparing yet another treason trial for everyone in the Obama administration, because, after all, Grenada was a successful rescue operation, and no one at Fox can think of any differences between Libya and Grenada.
Oh yes, and Obama was in the Situation Room, “watching the attack.” Can you imagine what they would say if he hadn’t been?