Wednesday, October 31, 2012

President Obama, Libya, and the Situation Room

    The release of two photos of President Obama in the Situation Room of the White House during Hurricane Sandy and the aftermath generated renewed speculation about what took place in the Situation Room during the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.  Today, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard speculated, or at least raised questions, about what was known that night, what was communicated to the president and by whom, and what was the president's response:
[Secretary of State Leon] Panetta's statement [that "you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on"] only makes sense if there were those in the military or elsewhere who considered or urged deploying forces into harm's way, and that those individuals were overruled because of the lack of real-time information...
What did President Obama do that evening (apart from spending an hour on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu)? What did he know, and what did he decide, and what was the basis for his decisions?
    In an eerie coincidence, as the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi was still raging, Vanity Fair posted the following article summary promoting a profile of the president that would appear in the upcoming October issue of the magazine.  The summary focused on a parallel situation from more than a year before: President Obama in the White House Situation Room making a life and death decision about an escalating crisis in Libya.
Obama ‘Went Off Road Map’ in Libya   Michael Lewis’s new profile of Barack Obama in the October  issue of Vanity Fair provides a rare insider look at how the president makes his decisions. The main focus of the profile are the days leading up to his secure of a U.N. resolution to take “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, and then “use American airpower to destroy Qadaffi’s army.” A source who was in the Situation Room when the decision was being made tells Lewis that Obama “went off the road map,” summarily shooting the two options given to him by the Pentagon: Establish a no-fly zone, which advisers admitted would not end the massacre, or do nothing at all. On why he balked at the idea of not intervening: “That’s not who we are.”
Read it at Vanity Fair    September 11, 2012 10:45 PM
Photo: Mustafa El-Shridi/Reuters
    If Michael Lewis's telling of the March 2011 Situation Room incident is accurate, the president overrode his military advisors and went off the map to send US armed forces into Libya to rescue innocent Libyan civilians.  Once the facts come out about that fateful evening of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, how ironic it will be if it turns out the president once again overrode his advisors, but this time choosing not to send assistance to our own ambassador and those trying to protect him.  What would that say about "who we are"?

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