Peggy Noonan goes full wingnut in her Wall Street Journal column this morning, asking if the White House's response to the Benghazi attack “cost American lives.” The argument she lays out is that President Obama and his team, faced with the death of an ambassador and three other Americans, deliberately scuttled any sort of military response to keep the story from looking bad.
All of this is bad enough. Far worse is the implied question that hung over the House hearing, and that cries out for further investigation. That is the idea that if the administration was to play down the nature of the attack it would have to play down the response--that is, if you want something to be a nonstory you have to have a nonresponse. So you don't launch a military rescue operation, you don't scramble jets, and you have a rationalization--they're too far away, they'll never make it in time. This was probably true, but why not take the chance when American lives are at stake?
Mr. Hicks told the compelling story of his talk with the leader of a special operations team that wanted to fly to Benghazi from Tripoli to help. The team leader was told to stand down, and he was enraged. Mark Thompson wanted an emergency support team sent to the consulate and was confounded when his superiors in Washington would not agree.
Was all this incompetence? Or was it politics disguised as the fog of war? Who called these shots and made these decisions? Who decided to do nothing?
Again, Peggy Noonan is arguing that the intent of the Obama administration was to leave Americans in harm's way after four had already been killed in order to make the whole thing a “nonstory.”
That is insane, and I'll let Marc Ambinder at The Week explain why:
One of the reasons why Americans aren't outraged about Benghazi is that the event is a series of tragedies in search of a unifying explanation, and one that “Obama is evil” doesn't cover. Because really, to suggest that the Pentagon or the White House would deliberately -- and yes, this is EXACTLY what Republicans are suggesting -- prevent special operations forces from rescuing American diplomats BECAUSE they worried about the potential political blowback because they KNEW exactly who was behind it (al Qaeda) is --well, it is to suggest that Barack Obama is simply and utterly evil.
As for who decided not to send the Tripoli special forces and other military assets Noonan acknowledges couldn't have made it to Benghazi in time to make a difference, one of the vaunted “whistleblowers” from Wednesday's House Oversight Committee hearing on Benghazi testified that the special forces team were ordered to stand down by Special Operations Command Africa.
But what do they know? Had Gen. Peggy Noonan been in command that night, she obviously would have “taken the chance.” Hindsight being what it is and all.