Scandal or something less?
June 3, 2013
"Scandal": A publicized incident that brings about disgrace or offends the moral sensibilities of society; i.e., a disgraceful or discreditable action or circumstance.
Our editor, Don Rogers, refers to Benghazi, the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS and the investigation into various reporters as "scandalettes." Perhaps Don is correct.
Arguably, the IRS' overreach in targeting conservative groups and the Justice Department's intrusive investigations into reporters are the biggest of the three issues facing the White House because they represent significant threats to our freedoms because of First Amendment implications.
But because of my background, the Benghazi story bothers me the most. It has really gotten under my skin.
Abu Ghraib "offended America's moral sensibilities," and we heard about it from the mainstream media for months. Recall the "liberal lion of the Senate," the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who said, "Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management: U.S. management," and The New York Times running 56 Abu Ghraib stories above the fold within 60 days of the story breaking.
George W. Bush was excoriated for the shameless acts that occurred there even though he couldn't have known about the matter while it was occurring or done anything to prevent it. But for those of us who believe the buck stops in the Oval Office, Mr. Bush was the commander-in-chief at the time, and his administration was correctly criticized.
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But the majority of the media doesn't display the same outrage over Benghazi even though four Americans were killed and the president was much closer to the matter in real time than George Bush was to Abu Ghraib. In fact, had the president issued the orders, he could possibly have made a difference in saving those Americans in Benghazi.
I was appalled when former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said of the attacks, "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."
With all due respect to our former defense secretary, I beg to disagree. Believe this: Butch Mazzuca is no hero. But I did fly 412 combat missions in Vietnam, almost a quarter of which involved some type of rescue or emergency extract.
Had Panetta's espoused doctrine been in effect during the Vietnam War, I doubt my squadron would have launched a single medivac helicopter because we seldom had real-time information about what was taking place. In most cases, all we were given were coordinates on a map and the knowledge that Marines were in a firefight.
Perhaps the rules of engagement and the military's code of honor have changed from the Vietnam War and it is no longer unwritten policy never to leave a comrade behind — but somehow I doubt it. I suspect Panetta fell on his sword for the administration.
We've heard Jay Carney tell us it was logistically impossible for assistance to arrive in time to aid the mission. But since the White House and State Department were notified within minutes of the attacks, how did they know in advance when the attacks would cease?
Americans should realize that when an alarm is sent (as it was from Benghazi), dozens of headquarters, such as AFRICOM and EUROCOM, are notified and immediately begin planning rescue operations even though these forces cannot execute this type of mission without the president's authorization.
It should be obvious that no general or admiral is going to risk a career because he undertook a mission that crossed an international border on his own authority. If the mission goes badly — i.e., turns into a "Black Hawk Down" affair — the Oval Office could blame the failure on "rogue officers" exceeding their authority.
Sending armed forces to rescue the Benghazi mission required well-defined and unambiguous orders from the National Command Authority, which is headed by the president. If such orders are not given, then the forces must stand down, leaving the besieged outpost to face the onslaught alone, which is exactly what occurred.
So is the Benghazi matter a scandal or a scandalette? I guess it depends upon your point of view.
If your "moral sensibilities are not offended" that a) the administration ignored more than 230 years of American tradition that "no man be left behind," and then intentionally misled the American people regarding the cause of the attacks and b) that Hillary Clinton unconscionably told Cheryl Croft Bennett, mother of Tyrone Woods (one of the two Navy SEALs murdered during the attacks) that his death was the result of a video when she knew otherwise, then I guess it's not a scandal. But I feel otherwise.
Quote of the day: "I will always place the mission first; I will never accept defeat; I will never quit; I will never leave a fallen comrade behind" — The Soldier's Creed.
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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