Blaise Pascal, PenseĆ© 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Asked and Unanswered: The Libya Question

In last night's 2nd Presidential Debate, a man named Kerry Ladka asked the following question:

Q: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?
Here was President Obama's answer:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me, first of all, talk about our diplomats, because they serve all around the world and do an incredible job in a very dangerous situation. And these aren’t just representatives of the United States; they’re my representatives. I send them there, oftentimes into harm’s way. I know these folks, and I know their families. So nobody’s more concerned about their safety and security than I am.
So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions. Number one, beef up our security and — and — and procedures not just in Libya but every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure that folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this, and we are going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.
Now, Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release trying to make political points. And that’s not how a commander in chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue, certainly not right when it’s happening.
And people — not everybody agrees with some of the decisions I’ve made. But when it comes to our national security, I mean what I say. I said I’d end the war in Libya — in Iraq, and I did. I said that we’d go after al-Qaida and bin Laden. We have. I said we’d transition out of Afghanistan and start making sure that Afghans are responsible for their own security. That’s what I’m doing.
And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable, and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there, because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home, you know that I mean what I say.

 The first thing to notice is that Mr. Ladka's question was never answered. The question wasn't whether security at other embassy's was beefed up after the attack. It was, "Why did the State Department refuse additional security after the embassy had requested it?" We can only hope that the main stream media starts to do its job and repeat that question until it gets answered. And if the media doesn't do its job, which is only too possible, that Romney keeps asking the question.

I wish that after the Obama response Romney had just asked Mr. Ladka to repeat the question, because it would have become quite clear that the "answer" had just evaded it. This is a question we all want the answer to.

Here was Romney's response, which wasn't all that bad, but could have been much better:

MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, I got to move us along. Governor?
MR. ROMNEY: Thank you, Kerry, for your question. It’s an important one. And — and I — I think the president just said correctly that — that the buck does stop at his desk, and — and he takes responsibility for — for that — for that — the failure in providing those security resources, and those terrible things may well happen from time to time.
I — I’m — I feel very deeply sympathetic for the families of those who lost loved ones. Today there’s a memorial service for one of those that was lost in this tragedy. We — we think of their families and care for them deeply.
There were other issues associated with this — with this tragedy.
There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration or actually whether it was a terrorist attack. And there was no demonstration involved. It was a terrorist attack, and it took a long time for that to be told to the American people. Whether there was some misleading or instead whether we just didn’t know what happened, I think you have to ask yourself why didn’t we know five days later when the ambassador to the United Nations went on TV to say that this was a demonstration. How could of we not known?
But I find more troubling than this that on — on the day following the assassination of the United States ambassador — the first time that’s happened since 1979 — when we have four Americans killed there, when apparently we didn’t know what happened, that the president the day after that happened flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, another political event, I think these — these actions taken by a president and a leader have symbolic significance, and perhaps even material significance, in that you’d hoped that during that time we could call in the people who were actually eyewitnesses. We’ve read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear this was not a demonstration. This was an attack by terrorists.
And this calls into question the president’s whole policy in the Middle East. Look what’s happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya. Consider the distance between ourselves and Israel, where the president said that — that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel. We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb. Syria — Syria’s not just the tragedy of 30,000 civilians being killed by a military, but also a strategic — strategically significant player for America. The president’s policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes.
Romney is certainly right. Unfortunately, he got detoured in what followed next into a much less important question: whether the attack on the embassy had been characterized by Obama as a "terrorist" attack. Even an attack by a mob might, by a stretch of the word, be considered "terrorist," and this is how the issue got muddled, because President Obama, in the Rose Garden, did say generally, after the attack, that the United States would not put up with terrorism.

But Romney was right in saying that we were told, for 12 days after the attack, that it was spontaneous mob action in response to a video. Susan Rice, our UN Ambassador, when on five TV shows the following Sunday just to emphasize that story again and again. We now know that the attack was a very coordinated military assault that went on for about 6 hours--and that the State Department was listening in in real time! See this link: Murder and Lies in Libya and Washington. So the next important question which Romney rightly raises is why were we not told the truth? Did the State Department not know what happened? If it didn't, why didn't it, given the information they got as the assault took place? If it did, why the story? Was the State Department negligently ignorant, or lying?

Here is some of what Susan Rice said the Sunday after the attack on September 11. 

Here is how the rest of the debate went on this question:

MS. CROWLEY: Because we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly. Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president. And I’m always responsible. And that’s why nobody is more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I did (sic).
The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror. And I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime. And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.
And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander in chief.
MS. CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to reply just quickly to this, please.
MR. ROMNEY: Yeah, I — I certainly do. I certainly do. I — I think it’s interesting the president just said something which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror. You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed.
MR. ROMNEY: Is that what you’re saying?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.
MR. ROMNEY: I — I — I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Get the transcript.
MS. CROWLEY: It — he did in fact, sir.
So let me — let me call it an act of terrorism — (inaudible) —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Laughter, applause.)
MS. CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.
MR. ROMNEY: This — the administration — the administration — (applause) — indicated that this was a — a reaction to a — to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
MS. CROWLEY: They did.
MR. ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group and — and to suggest — am I incorrect in that regard? On Sunday the — your — your secretary or —
MR. ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador to the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and — and spoke about how this was a spontaneous reaction.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Candy, I’m — I’m happy to —
MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me — I —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m happy to have a longer conversation about foreign policy.
MS. CROWLEY: I know you — absolutely. But I want — I want to move you on.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: OK, I’m happy to do that too.
MS. CROWLEY: And also, people can go to the transcripts and —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I just want to make sure that —
MS. CROWLEY: — figure out what was said and when.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: — you know, all these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some — their questions answered.
I hope these "wonderful folks" do get their questions answered. They weren't answered last night.

Mainstream Media, where are you?

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