Guest post by Roger Aronoff
The Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi (CCB) started off with a powerful message: “We are here and planning on staying until we get the answers we’re seeking.” But, some in the media just don’t get it. Dana Milbank of The Washington Post delivered one of his Dennis the Menace, snarky rants about the view of “Benghazi, as seen from the grassy knoll.” Yes, Dana Milbank is calling this group of patriotic Americans who have given so much for this country a bunch of lunatic conspiracy theorists.
To Milbank, Benghazi is, to quote the administration talking point, a phony scandal: “It’s a pity that those seeking answers on Benghazi can’t focus on what really matters: Could anything have been done to prevent the deaths of the four men lost in Benghazi that night? And what can be done to make sure such a thing never happens again?”
While those are certainly important questions, and need to be addressed, that’s not enough. That sounds like it would make for a nice conference hosted by the Center for American Progress, Media Matters, and the primetime line-up of MSNBC. But how about holding people accountable for their actions and inactions that could have saved four lives, and for lying to the American people in an attempt to sweep it under the rug?
Sure, who cares that Hillary Clinton’s State Department ignored the requests to beef up security, and refused to withdraw our personnel, as the Brits and the Red Cross had done? Wouldn’t that send the wrong message?
Wouldn’t it have said that Libya was a mess, run by jihadists and al-Qaeda affiliates after the great liberation of 2011? After all, al-Qaeda flags were flying in Benghazi just days after the “liberation” of Libya. We wouldn’t want to mess up the President’s narrative in the middle of a presidential election by asking the tough questions, now would we?
Remember, bin Laden is dead, GM (and Detroit) are alive and booming, and al Qaeda is on the run. Obama reiterated that in a speech last month to Marines at Camp Pendleton in California:
“Because of you, the 9/11 generation, we are accomplishing what we set out to do,” the President said. “The core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the way to defeat. We are going to make sure that Afghanistan is never again a source of attacks against our country.”
What is often forgotten is a point made by former CIA director James Woolsey a few years back: “Al-Qaeda is both an organization and, in a sense, an ideology. And I think we’re having better luck dealing with the top level of the organization, particularly after the Afghan war, than we are with the ideology.” That remains true to this day.
Milbank is the reporter the Post usually sends out to cover events where conservatives gather so he can offer his sarcastic little commentaries to belittle the people involved. Take a look at the bio of Milbank: Skull and Bones at Yale—part of the elite—plus a career working mostly for left-wing publications and TV shows, like Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” when it was still on MSNBC.
Now take a look at the biographies of the people on the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, people who Milbank delights in belittling: people like Clare Lopez, a long-time CIA officer. The commission also includes people like Admiral James Lyons (Ret.) and Retired Generals Tom McInerney and Paul Vallely. There are 13 of us altogether, including 12 who were either top CIA agents, or high-ranking military officers, collectively with hundreds of years of service to the security of this country.
Milbank came up to me at the conference and asked how we were approaching this topic. What areas were we looking at as scandals? Was it the security failures in advance of September 11th of last year, the day-of failure to deliver military assets, or the cover-up—though he didn’t call it that? I told him yes to all three, but there was a fourth area as well—the media coverage. He didn’t want to go there. Was there a main angle, he asked. I told him that what I thought mostly motivated these retired admirals, generals, colonels, and CIA agents was the failure on the day of the terrorist attack to attempt a rescue. That is the point that Paul Vallely made to Milbank in a one-on-one interview that at least, to his credit, Milbank found reasonable.
Of Vallely, Milbank said, “At least one participant at the Heritage gathering seemed to have the right perspective. Retired Gen. Paul Vallely wasn’t concerned about after-the-fact talking points or al-Qaeda conspiracies or whether Clinton signed diplomatic cables about security requests. He wanted to know why the U.S. military didn’t at least try to get reinforcements to the besieged Americans in Benghazi.”
Milbank quoted Vallely: “‘Obviously there was not even an attempt at a rescue,’ he told the 40 people in the audience. ‘That’s the bottom line of it all.’ Vallely, a frequent critic of President Obama, said he doesn’t believe administration claims that there wasn’t enough time to send help to Benghazi.”
Milbank’s friends at Media Matters, the even nuttier left-wingers, the George Soros wing of the Obama protection squad, couldn’t abide that and criticized Milbank for straying from their talking points, which they often coordinate with the White House.
Watch Wayne Simmons, for example, a CIA agent for 27 years, talk about the men who died during the terrorist attack in Benghazi, and why he is involved with the commission: “So you can only imagine, I suspect, how I must have been feeling and guys like me must have been feeling when we were reliving and continue to relive what we know in our heart of hearts, what the final moments were like for these guys to go through. Because if they were close enough to each other at some point, those warriors turned and looked into each others’ eyes and they knew it was over. That tears my heart out, angers me, disgusts me, knowing that there were decision makers in the United States at the very highest levels, including the White House, that had an opportunity, we believe, to change that course. To have that look that those men gave each other, be saved for another day, and maybe never. But it didn’t work out that day for those guys. They realized they were sold out. They knew help was not coming. It is absolutely the most horrifying thought you could ever imagine.”
But there was also some real journalism that related what went on at the conference. World Magazine, Breitbart and The Washington Free Beacon covered it. “A CIA employee who refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement barring him from discussing the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi Libya has been suspended as a result and forced to hire legal counsel, according to a top House lawmaker,” reported the Free Beacon. “The CIA reiterated its denial in a Tuesday call to a Free Beacon reporter, calling [Rep. Frank] Wolf’s allegations ‘categorically false.’”
But reporting what actually went on there was not how the Post, nor the Soros controlled left-wing attack machine, viewed their job. They are there to put up phony arguments to defend the indefensible positions and policies of this administration. Milbank went after Clare Lopez for asking, “Are we involved in the Middle East to help the forces of Islam, of al-Qaeda, of the Muslim Brotherhood, of jihad and sharia?”
Apparently in Milbank’s world, that is a controversial view, even in light of Obama’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and at home, and now his efforts to get involved in Syria, which could potentially help al-Qaeda linked rebels. Presumably Milbank wasn’t aware of President Obama’s plan to sign a waiver of “a provision of federal law designed to prevent the supply of arms to terrorist groups to clear the way for the U.S. to provide military assistance to ‘vetted’ opposition groups fighting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
Related: The Complete Benghazi Timeline in Spreadsheet Format.