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Will Benghazi be Watergate 2013?

November 11, 2012 12:10 am


Envoy Chris Stevens was 'left behind' after requesting assistance from an attack on the consulate in Libya. edwals12.jpg

Graffiti mars the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were slain in September.

IN THE WAKE of Sept. 11 this year, Benghazi has taken on new meaning in American foreign policy. No longer is it merely a geographical location in far-away Libya; it now represents an abysmal failure in leadership and an astonishing, jaw-dropping breach of trust between the president and those charged with protecting the lives and security of our country.

This Veterans Day, we remember the heroes who wear our country's uniform with the full knowledge that they may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. To them, and to their families, who give themselves for the protection of our nation and our freedoms, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude that can never fully be repaid.

Never should there be a moment when service members doubt that if indeed they are sent in harm's way they will be left behind to the wolves. "I got your back" is not a game of political cowardice.

There are few things more galling than abandonment of men in the field by their leaders. The commander in chief bears the incredible responsibility for the safety of the country and his troops. Speaking, perhaps in a Freudian slip, on a recent campaign stop at the Red Cross in Washington, President Obama remarked, "We leave nobody behind." But he did in Benghazi. Instead of the White House, maybe the consulate should have called the Red Cross.

MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews once characterized President Obama's visit to Afghanistan as a "touch of Barry in the night," evoking imagery from Shakespeare's "Henry V," "a little touch of Harry in the night." Nothing could be further from Henry's famous "band of brothers" speech than the brother who leaves them to die. Kenneth Branagh's powerful portrayal of Henry V makes the comparison even more incongruous.

It is inconceivable in this technological world that the president did not know the embassy was under attack for eight interminable hours. Ignorance of such an attack would be dereliction of duty. Think of how long those eight hours must have been for those brave Americans on foreign soil, surrounded by smoke and fire, clinging to the hope that someone must be on the way at any moment if they could just hold on long enough. Except that not only was no one coming, those that might were directed to stop rescue efforts.

It doesn't stand to reason that anyone else would want to ultimately take the heat for making such a cataclysmically terrible decision. It's tough to find a fall guy for dereliction of duty; maybe that's why the administration came up with the "blame the YouTube video" strategy. A consulate under siege clearly rises to the level of presidential attention. The president had to know about it--no other scenario is credible.

Undoubtedly, there will be hearings and testimony in the coming days. Watergate will look like a Boy Scout picnic. The question isn't so much "Did he know?" but "What did he know, and when did he know it?" Why were warnings ignored, requests for assistance denied, and troops and our ambassador left to die a fiery death?

The pain of loss is palpable for Charles Woods, father of slain former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods. Watching an interview with him searching for answers about his son's death made my heart ache. Death compounded by cover-up provides no sense of closure for military families or the American people. Our veterans deserve better; their families deserve better.

Adding yet another bizarre twist to the Benghazi affair was the choice of words used by the vice president in speaking to Charles Woods at the funeral: an inappropriate comment in words not suitable for a family newspaper. (If you are not aware of what he asked Charles Woods about his son, I'm sure you can find it on the Internet.) The vice president, when giving messages of consolation, should strive to remember that a funeral is no place for boorish and vulgar comments, especially when attending funerals is virtually the only obligation of his office.

On Veterans Day, I will be thinking about all the fine young men I have seen grow up and enter the service. I will be thinking of the dear friends I have known who have given so much energy and dedication to our country.

Thank you for your honor and courage, your dedication and commitment. Your sacrifices are not in vain. We will remember those who defend our freedom in our thoughts, in our prayers, and at the ballot box.

Every man who died in Benghazi belonged to someone. He was someone's father, brother, son, or husband. Their deaths are not mere statistics on a spreadsheet of failed foreign policy. Their loved ones grieve for them, as does our nation, not in sadness only, but with the sick feeling that, as Shakespeare would say, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

Undoubtedly there will be hearings and testimony in the coming days. The silence from the White House is deafening: the type of silence that you hear before someone utters the Fifth Amendment.

Mary Walsh is a freelance writer who lives in Spotsylvania County.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.