Fox News is suggesting that President Obama has broken a promise he made in March that he would not put boots on the ground in Libya. But as Fox itself is reporting, there are a total of "[e]ight boots ... belonging to four individuals" on the ground.
And those four individuals are “military personnel with expertise in explosives” and “general security” personnel advising the State Department on how to rebuild the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. So it sure does not appear that Obama has broken any promises not to put boots on the ground to fight in Libya.
Nevertheless, here's supposed “straight-news” anchor Jenna Lee beginning a report by claiming that “We've heard the president and others say that there will be no boots on the ground in Libya and now we know that there are boots on the ground”:
The story also made Fox's evening “straight news.” On The Fox Report, correspondent Jennifer Griffins' concluded a segment on “U.S. boots on the ground in Libya” by stating that “Both State Department and Pentagon officials today insist that this is not a breach of the president's promise not to place boots on the ground, a promise that he made back in March.” The host of the show, Shepard Smith, sarcastically replied to Griffin stating, “And they also insist it's not a war so there you go.”
An article on FoxNews.com parroted the same information in an article titled “U.S. Boots on the Ground In Libya, Pentagon Confirms.” The article stated that “Obama assured Americans in March when the bombing campaign over Libya began that there would be no boots on the ground. From the East Room of the White House on March 18, he said: ”The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya."
Reuters reported that the “eight boots on the ground” are a U.S. assessment team comprised of four military personnel that is surveying the damaged U.S. embassy in Tripoli. Moreover, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has dismissed claims that the assessment team is in violation of Obama's decision not to send U.S. ground forces into Libya, “When the president made his commitment no boots on the ground, that obviously had to do with entering into the fray between the Gaddafi forces and the Libyan freedom fighters and that's not what these guys are engaged in.” From Reuters:
The United States hopes to reopen its embassy in Libya within weeks, the State Department said on Monday after a U.S. assessment team including four military personnel surveyed the damaged Tripoli facility.
The U.S. team, led by the embassy's second-in-command Joan Polaschik, arrived in Tripoli on Saturday to look at ways to get formal embassy operations up and running, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“I think we're not talking months, we're talking weeks at this stage,” Nuland said, adding that while the embassy building had been cleared it remained to be seen whether it could still be operational.
U.S. officials said the four military members of the U.S. forward team were there under diplomatic direction and were focused on security for the diplomatic personnel.
“As I understand it the embassy ... was pretty well trashed and they're trying to go back in and see if that facility is still usable and if it is what needs to be done to bring it back online. If it's not, then what are the options beyond that,” Navy Captain John Kirby, a military spokesman, said.
He said two of the U.S. military personnel were explosive ordnance experts “because one of the concerns was ... whether there was a presence of any kind of munitions at the site or any kind of hazards in that regard.”
U.S. officials dismissed suggestions that the presence of U.S. military personnel in Libya should not be interpreted as a shift in the overall role the United States has had as part of the NATO mission for Libya.
President Barack Obama has ruled out sending U.S. ground forces into Libya, where a rebel force ousted longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi with the help of NATO air power.
“When the president made his commitment no boots on the ground, that obviously had to do with entering into the fray between the Gaddafi forces and the Libyan freedom fighters and that's not what these guys are engaged in,” Nuland said.
She added that the U.S. personnel were seeking to expand the range of diplomatic functions in preparation for the expected return of U.S. Ambassador Gene Cretz and the formal reopening of the embassy.
“We still have quite a bit of work to do to secure appropriate facilities for our folks. Some of the members of that team are sleeping three and four to a room at the moment as we try to establish a permanent place to be until we can get our facilities back together,” she said.
And it is important to have the U.S. military involved in embassy security. The U.S. embassy in Tripoli was evacuated in February when the United States “suspended all embassy operations effective February 25, 2011.” The evacuation had come after tensions between the Libyan and U.S. governments increased following the protests of rebel groups seeking to uproot then Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. At the time, the United States had to devise an elaborate escape route for its citizens and diplomats because it lacked the traditional Marine security personnel provided at most U.S. embassies -- a fact even Fox News' John Bolton has noted.
Moments after a plane took off from Tripoli on Friday carrying the last American diplomats out of Libya, the White House announced it was suspending its embassy operations and imposing sanctions on the Ghadafi regime.
The news came after American officials caught in an increasingly perilous position completed an elaborate evacuation from Tripoli.
“We had not the best security,” said Joan Polaschik, the embassy's acting head of mission. She spoke to CNN Friday night, shortly after a U.S.-chartered flight landed with evacuated American diplomatic personnel in Istanbul, Turkey.
Unlike most American diplomatic posts around the world, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli had no Marine guard presence. Instead, it relied on security guards provided by the Libyan government.
And while other American embassies and consulates have been substantially reinforced in recent years to protect against bomb and mob attacks, the embassy in Tripoli consisted of six villas in a poorly protected compound.
“The Libyans did not give the U.S. permission to build an embassy,” said another recently evacuated American diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Fox's suggestion that these boots on the ground are a violation of Obama's decision not to send U.S. military personnel to Libya, is not only inaccurate but threatens the security of American diplomats who will soon return to Libya. But this doesn't seem to matter to Fox. It has found yet another reason to baselessly criticize the Obama administration.
That's what counts.