Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Foreign Policy (page 1 / 6)

Veterans Day Is Not a Christian Holiday

I've been growing and evolving my religious beliefs and political positions over the past 15 years. I may have changed the most in my attitude towards the American military and the hero worship that American evangelicals have for our military. I grew up in a conservative household, in a Navy town. I was surrounded by active duty and retired members of the military, both in my extended family and among my friends' parents and my parents' friends.

Our church was typical of many. Every July 4th, we'd celebrate America and its armed forces. Representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines would carry their service's flag down to the front of the church, as the service's march was played. The American flag would be prominently honored as well. Every Veterans Day Sunday, we would ask all members of the military to stand, to be honored for their service. I thought this was only just and right, as America was a Christian nation and these men and women protected us and helped to enact America's will and — by extension — God's will.

That's all changed. I can't abide churches mixing the worship of God and the worship of American military might. Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our first allegiance should be to God. If He is a jealous God, as we say He is, we shouldn't be bringing other powers into His church, to praise, honor, and venerate. God's house should be holy — set apart to God and God alone.

I've also become a peacenik. I no longer see American military might as a good thing and I no longer see the demonstration of American power as something to desire. Violence is violence and we should always mourn it and do everything we can to prevent it. In Foundation, Isaac Asimov's character Salvor Hardin says that "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent". I'm idealistic enough to believe that's true. I haven't become a full-fledged pacifist, but I do believe that we should avoid military force unless we've truly exhausted every other solution and we have no choice.

In that light, I read Brian Doherty's recent article for Reason.com, "No More Vietnam Syndrome". Here, he's talking about the results of America's military efforts since 9/11.

After September 11, 2001, the U.S. military fully re-entered the world stage. The last 17 years have seen a variety of wars, quasiwars, and ongoing interventions with a mix of shifting rationales, from revenge for the attacks to spreading peaceful democracy in the Middle East to targeting specific bad actors to simply helping our Saudi allies as they work to reduce Yemen to a charnel house. None of these more recent efforts have worked out well on a geopolitical level. Meant to end Islamic terrorism worldwide, our post-9/11 warmaking multiplied it. A 2007 study by NYU researchers found that the average yearly number and fatality rate of terror attacks rose by 607 percent and 237 percent respectively after we entered Iraq in 2003. If you exclude violence in that country, the increases were still 265 and 58 percent; most jihadis in subsequent years were radicalized by the invasion itself.

Meant to crush Al Qaeda, our interventions have expanded its breadth and numbers; meant to create stable democracies in the Middle East, they've helped reduce Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen to the same sort of chaos that bred the terror in Afghanistan that began this whole bloody, pointless process.

These various post-9/11 foreign policy failures have cost our debt-riddled nation at least $1.5 trillion in direct costs, according to a recent Defense Department report, and more than $5 trillion in ancillary costs—such as interest and future veterans expenses—according to a 2017 analysis by the Watson Center at Brown University. In constant 2018 dollars, the Defense Department will spend this year in excess of 50 percent more than it did in 1968.

But the more hideous cost—especially poignant for those who remember the cries of "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"—is in lives. That same Watson Center study estimates that there have been 370,000 deaths from direct war violence since 2001; 200,000 civilian deaths; and over 10 million people displaced by the harm to property and municipal functionality. Alas, this human and social misery is obscured by consistent, deliberate use of bloodless rhetoric. American foreign policy professionals and pundits somehow manage to look at our costly failings and the world's suffering—all that money, all that death—and think the answer is that the U.S. military should have done more, and smarter, and harder.

If only the lessons of Vietnam, or even of Iraq, would actually stick. We can't expect the aftereffects of this century's foreign policy sins to be short-lived. Laos still suffers dozens of deaths a year because of 80 million unexploded bombs left behind by the Vietnam War. The casualties of our drone wars may be their own variety of unexploded ordnance, as generations grow up in the literal and figurative shadows of insufficiently discriminating robot death machines in the sky, courtesy of the United States.

As a Christian — not as an American, but as a Christian — are you proud of these results? Can you truly look at them and say that America was "doing the Lord's work"? I can't. I supported the Iraq War in 2003, but I don't support it now. There is nothing to cheer in the ongoing military operations in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria, and in Yemen. And there's certainly nothing Christian in what the U.S. military is doing around the world today. Let's stop pretending that there is, let's stop treating Veterans Day as a church holiday, and let's stop confusing patriotism with religious devotion.

No, Iran is Not a Democracy

No, Iran is Not a Democracy →

Before you get too excited about "moderates" winning Iranian elections, you might want to remember how one becomes a candidate in an Iranian election.

Elections in Iran are rigged even when they aren’t rigged.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hand-picks everybody who runs for president. Moderates are rejected routinely. Only the less-moderate of the moderates—the ones who won’t give Khamenei excessive heartburn if they win—are allowed to run at all. Liberal and leftist candidates are rejected categorically.

Imagine Dick Cheney as the overlord of America allowing us to choose which one of his friends will be in the co-pilot’s seat. That’s not democracy. That’s not even a fake democracy.

​What about the elections for the Assembly of Experts? Doesn't that give moderate reformers a chance to gain power?

Everyone who gets to run in the election for the Assembly of Expert will be hand-picked by the Supreme Leader. And every single one of them will be an Islamic theologian. That’s what the Assembly of Experts is. A theocratic institution of Islamic theologians.

None of the “experts” are atheists. None of them are secularists. None of them are agnostic. None of them are liberals under any conceivable definition of the word liberal. Certainly none of them are Christians, Jews or Baha’is. They’re all Islamic theologians or they wouldn’t even be in the Assembly of Experts.

​Iran is a theocratic dictatorship, wearing the trappings of democracy. Under the current system of government, there will be no moderate leaders. There cannot be.

The Sydney Gunman's Failed Message

The Sydney Gunman's Failed Message →

When Michael Totten talks about the Middle East, I listen.

When the Australian gunman forced his hostages to hold that flag up to the glass, he was identifying himself as a Salafist. But no one in media seemed to know what that flag is. Reporters just described it as “a flag with some Arabic writing on it,” as if it’s just some random flag from anywhere that could have meant anything.

The guman sent a message, but it wasn’t received. And we know he was monitoring the news in real time. He was directly across the street from an Australian news channel. He wanted attention, but he was not getting the attention he wanted. Reporters couldn’t even figure out who he was when he clearly identified himself and his ideology.

Hours into the standoff, he demanded an ISIS flag in return for the release of one of the hostages. CNN anchors wondered aloud why, if he wanted an ISIS flag, he didn’t just bring one with him in the first place. But he did bring a Salafist flag. He must assumed that at least somebody would recognize it and explain it to the audience. I recognize it because I’ve been working in the Middle East for ten years, but news anchors are generally not experts in anything in particular except presenting information on television. They’re generalists.

Would the standoff have ended better if the man had more quickly succeeded in delivering his initial message without all the mounting frustration of being misunderstood? Probably not. Obviously, since he took hostages at gunpoint, he was not from the non-violent wing of the Salafist movement. Nevertheless, it’s time for Westerners who aren’t Middle East experts to know who the Salafists are and what they’re insignia looks like. They’ve been at war with us now for a long time.

The important thing for me, is that certain groups in the Middle East consider themselves to be at war with the West. It does no good for us to pretend that it's just random violence from some kind of a lost generation. That will only make us feel better until the time that they show up in our cities, bringing the war to us. As happened in Sydney.

Surprising: The U.S. Already Exports to Cuba

Surprising: The U.S. Already Exports to Cuba →

I did not know this.

With the debate over U.S. policy toward Cuba raging, I came across this information from my friend Steven Hill this morning. He makes a few important points:

Keep in mind that the broad commercial embargo is codified in law and would require a Congressional enactment to undo. At the same time it’s interesting to note–and many people do not realize this–the US is actually one of the largest importers into Cuba, mostly agricultural, pharmaceutical, and medical devices that can be exported via carve-outs that Congress created in 2000. That’s probably why there has been no great commercial lobbying pressure to do away with the embargo.

Review: Nixon and Kissinger

Nixon and Kissinger Cover Art

Nixon and Kissinger
by Robert Dallek

My rating: ★★★☆☆
Read From: 30 July 2013 - 6 September 2013

I have a few thoughts after reading this book.

  1. It felt really long. Obviously, it was long. But some long books feel short and some short books feel long. This book felt really long.
  2. How in the world did we manage to elect a neurotic, insecure, narcissistic man like Nixon to the Presidency? Especially one who would work in close partnership with another thin-skinned neurotic, in Kissinger? Sure, Johnson was also a power hungry manipulator. But he wasn't actually mentally unstable the way that Nixon appears to have been.
  3. Why does Dallek always refer to Nixon as "Nixon" but mostly refer to Kissinger as "Henry"? It seems very odd.
  4. It's a wonder that the U.S., and the rest of the world, survived the Nixon / Kissinger partnership as well as they did. Between Chile, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pakistan War, it was pretty bad. But it could have been a whole lot worse.
  5. The book was aptly titled. It was entirely about situations that involved both Nixon and Kissinger. Dallek focused exclusively on foreign policy. He entirely excluded domestic policy from the book. Aside from the inescapable inclusion of Watergate during the last 6 months of Nixon's Presidency, you could be forgiven for forgetting that anything outside of foreign policy even happened between 1968 and 1974.
  6. Even Nixon himself disappeared from the pages of the book when he wasn't dealing with foreign policy. Dallek focused almost exclusively on Kissinger's actions during the last 6 months of Nixon's presidency.

If you want an overview of the Nixon presidency combined with his partnership with Kissinger, I can't recommend this book. If you're interested in the detailed day by day account of Nixon and Kissinger's foreign adventures together, this is the book you've been looking for.

John Yoo on the Manning verdict

Last weekend, Bush torture lawyer John Yoo wrote about his disgust with the Manning verdict.

Bradley Manning caused one of the most harmful leaks in American history. He released into the public eye the identities of foreigners helping the U.S. in war zones, the means and methods of U.S. military operations, and our sensitive diplomatic communications with other nations. Lives — American and foreign — no doubt were lost because of the leaks. If anyone can think of a more harmful blow to U.S. intelligence in our history, let’s hear it. 

I've heard other people refer to the Manning leak as one of the most harmful in American history. But I don't think I've ever seen anyone offer any proof for that assertion. John Yoo needs to do something to prove that it was the most harmful leak in American history. Where's the evidence?

Manning published data that supposedly contained the names and identities of various American (and allied) agents who were working undercover. The data also allegedly contained the names of various Iraqis and Afghanis who were helping us, against the terrorists and the Taliban. I've seen people allege that our enemies would use that data to punish our friends.

It seems like it would be pretty easy to quantify how deadly this leak was, if it was deadly. Which agents and allies, named in the leaked documents, have since been killed, terrorized, or harmed by our enemies? Whose lives were lost because of Manning's leak? If this was a deadly leak, wouldn't that be dramatic proof? Wouldn't something have come out in a Congressional hearing, Department of Defense or Homeland Security press release, or presidential interview? Wouldn't the Administration and its allies constantly trumpet how harmful Manning's leak was?

Unless I've completely missed it, no one has done anything of the sort. I'm not convinced that Manning's leak was the most harmful in American history. And I'm not inclined to take the bald-faced word of a lawyer who thinks that the Constitution places no restraints on the President's powers to order people tortured.

What if North Korea is Serious?

What if North Korea is Serious? →

Michael Totten asks the question that I've been wondering about:

Kim almost certainly isn’t serious, but what if he is? How would we know? His attention-seeking theatrics are identical to the behavior of a lunatic hell-bent on blowing the region apart. If war breaks out next month, everyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the Korean Peninsula will slap their forehead and see, with the clarity of hindsight, that every warning we could possibly need, want, and expect was right there in front of us.

After listening to the latest Common Sense podcast, I don't think Kim is serious. Totten doesn't either. But then, no one thought Hitler was serious either (except Churchill).

Im trying to avoid invoking Godwin's Law on myself. However, I have been reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and it does give you that extra bit of horrified paranoia. They're probably not serious. But what if they are? Of such thoughts are neoconservatives made.

Who Is Fethullah Gulen?

Who Is Fethullah Gulen? →

Claire Berlinski takes an in-depth look, in the City Journal at a man that I'd never heard of, but who appears to wield a tremendous amount of influence.

Controversial Muslim preacher, feared Turkish intriguer—and “inspirer” of the largest charter school network in America.

.. Yet there is a bit more to the story. Gülen is a powerful business figure in Turkey and—to put it mildly—a controversial one. He is also an increasingly influential businessman globally. There are somewhere between 3 million and 6 million Gülen followers—or, to use the term they prefer, people who are “inspired” by him. Sources vary widely in their estimates of the worth of the institutions “inspired” by Gülen, which exist in every populated continent, but those based on American court records have ranged from $20 billion to $50 billion. Most interesting, from the American point of view, is that Gülen lives in Pennsylvania, in the Poconos. He is, among other things, a major player in the world of American charter schools—though he claims to have no power over them; they’re just greatly inspired, he says.

Even if it were only for these reasons, you might want to know more about Gülen, especially because the few commentators who do write about him generally mischaracterize him, whether they call him a “radical Islamist” or a “liberal Muslim.” The truth is much more complicated—to the extent that anyone understands it.

This is long, but it's worth reading.

The Islamist Threat Isn't Going Away

The Islamist Threat Isn't Going Away →

Michael Totten, speaking from experience on the Middle East.

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney wrapped up their trilogy of presidential debates on Monday this week and spent most of the evening arguing foreign policy. Each demonstrated a reasonable grasp of how the world works and only sharply disagreed with his opponent on the margins and in the details. But they both seem to think, 11 years after 9/11, that calibrating just the right policy recipe will reduce Islamist extremism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. They're wrong.

The Middle East desperately needs economic development, better education, the rule of law and gender equality, as Mr. Romney says. And Mr. Obama was right to take the side of citizens against dictators—especially in Libya, where Moammar Gadhafi ran one of the most thoroughly repressive police states in the world, and in Syria, where Bashar Assad has turned the country he inherited into a prison spattered with blood. But both presidential candidates are kidding themselves if they think anti-Americanism and the appeal of radical Islam will vanish any time soon.

First, it's simply not true that attitudes toward Americans have changed in the region. I've spent a lot of time in Tunisia and Egypt, both before and after the revolutions, and have yet to meet or interview a single person whose opinion of Americans has changed an iota.

Second, pace Mr. Romney, promoting better education, the rule of law and gender equality won't reduce the appeal of radical Islam. Egyptians voted for Islamist parties by a two-to-one margin. Two-thirds of those votes went to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the other third went to the totalitarian Salafists, the ideological brethren of Osama bin Laden. These people are not even remotely interested in the rule of law, better education or gender equality. They want Islamic law, Islamic education and gender apartheid. They will resist Mr. Romney's pressure for a more liberal alternative and denounce him as a meddling imperialist just for bringing it up.

Anti-Americanism has been a default political position in the Arab world for decades. Radical Islam is the principal vehicle through which it's expressed at the moment, but anti-Americanism specifically, and anti-Western "imperialism" generally, likewise lie at the molten core of secular Arab nationalism of every variety. The Islamists hate the U.S. because it's liberal and decadent. (The riots in September over a ludicrous Internet video ought to make that abundantly clear.) And both Islamists and secularists hate the U.S. because it's a superpower.

Everything the United States does is viewed with suspicion across the political spectrum. Gamal Abdel Gawad Soltan, the director of Egypt's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, admitted as much to me in Cairo last summer when I asked him about NATO's war against Gadhafi in Libya. "There is a general sympathy with the Libyan people," he said, "but also concern about the NATO intervention. The fact that the rebels in Libya are supported by NATO is why many people here are somewhat restrained from voicing support for the rebels." When I asked him what Egyptians would think if the U.S. sat the war out, he said, "They would criticize NATO for not helping. It's a lose-lose situation for you."

So we're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't. And not just on Libya. An enormous swath of the Arab world supported the Iraqi insurgency after an American-led coalition overthrew Saddam Hussein. Thousands of non-Iraqi Arabs even showed up to fight. Yet today the U.S. is roundly criticized all over the region for not taking Assad out in Syria.

Totten concludes with this.

It's not his fault that the Middle East is immature and unhinged politically. Nobody can change that right now. This should be equally obvious to Mr. Romney even though he isn't president. No American president since Eisenhower could change it, nor can Mr. Romney. We may be able to help out here and there, and I wholeheartedly agree with him that we should. But Arab countries will mostly have to work this out on their own.

It will take a long time.

A ‘War on Women’?

A ‘War on Women’? →

Republican Congressional candidate Martha McSally recently spoke out about the true war on women. Ms. McSally is running for Gabby Giffords' old Congressional seat. Oh, and she's also the first woman to fly a fighter jet into combat.

Why Romney’s Right: Many Cheap Ships Safer Than Few Expensive Ones

Why Romney’s Right: Many Cheap Ships Safer Than Few Expensive Ones →

I think Bob Owens makes a lot of sense, in this post. (And Romney needs to do a better job of explaining his positions. I didn't have any idea that this was a plan, when I watched him debate President Obama.)

We’ve sunk — pardon the term — literally trillions of dollars into the development of nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered carrier strike groups and ballistic missile submarines, but the loss of a single one would be an overwhelming blow from which it would take years to recover.

We’ve created a Navy that is “too big to fail,” in terms of the importance and capital investment we’ve placed on just eleven ships — an incredibly short-sighted position. We’ve made similarly bad investments in the gee-whiz technology of the F-22 Raptor, where every accident or combat loss costs $150 million each, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will cost (if they are ever fielded) as much as a quarter-billion dollars each to replace for the Navy and Marine versions. We’re creating planes and ships that are too expensive to risk losing in combat. These technological marvels are backed by systems and support elements that are 50 years old, being used by the grandchildren of the men that built and used them.

It’s absurd.

What Mitt Romney has proposed is a shift in our way of thinking about the military that a community organizer simply can’t grasp.

Romney has proposed a Navy of lighter, more numerous, less expensive, and more deployable multiple-role ships that can be better geographically dispersed around the globe to more quickly respond to need, instead of having less than a dozen carrier strike groups chasing problems around the world.

Romney’s plan to use COTS (commercial off the shelf) technologies across the entire military may not be as sexy as spending billions to mount futuristic lasers and rail-guns on ships, but what it will do is put more ships and sailors on the water.

It’s a stunning turnaround offered by one of America’s best turnaround artists. Romney proposes to toss the bureaucratic dead-weight out of the military, out of the Pentagon, and replace them with real war-fighters and practical weapons.

It's a fairly fundamental issue. Do we want a Navy that has few ships that are each massively powerful and massively expensive? The downside is that it would be disastrous both economically and militarily to lose even one ship. Or do we want a Navy that has many, cheap ships that are each relatively weak? The upside is that we could afford to lose a few ships without crippling the Navy or the budget. Romney is in favor of the latter while Obama is in favor of the former.

Key task force not convened during Benghazi consulate attack

Key task force not convened during Benghazi consulate attack →

It's crystal clear to me that President Obama is definitely the right man to lead our national security apparatus. #sarcasm

CBS News has learned that during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Obama Administration did not convene its top interagency counterterrorism resource: the Counterterrorism Security Group, (CSG).

"The CSG is the one group that's supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies," a high-ranking government official told CBS News. "They were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon."

Information shared with CBS News from top counterterrorism sources in the government and military reveal keen frustration over the U.S. response on Sept. 11, the night ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other Americans were killed in a coordinated attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

... Absent coordination from Counterterrorism Security Group, a senior US counterterrorism official says the response to the crisis became more confused. The official says the FBI received a call during the attack representing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and requesting agents be deployed. But he and his colleagues agreed the agents "would not make any difference without security and other enablers to get them in the country and synch their efforts with military and diplomatic efforts to maximize their success."

Another senior counter terrorism official says a hostage rescue team was alternately asked to get ready and then stand down throughout the night, as officials seemed unable to make up their minds.

... The Administration also didn't call on the only interagency, on-call, short notice team poised to respond to terrorist incidents worldwide: the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST). FEST's seasoned experts leave within four hours of notification and can provide "the fastest assistance possible."

FEST Teams deployed immediately after al Qaeda bombings of US embassies in East Africa in 1998, and the USS Cole in 2000, but were not used for Benghazi, to the chagrin of some insiders. It's likely that the CSG task force, if contacted, would have recommended FEST aid.

"First a tactical response was needed," says a senior U.S. counterterrorism official, "and while that was being implemented, the holistic response could have been developed and deployed within hours" which could have allowed the FBI investigate safely on site well ahead of the "24 days it took."

New Details on Benghazi

New Details on Benghazi →

On the night of the 9/11 anniversary assault at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, the Americans defending the compound and a nearby CIA annex were severely outmanned. Nonetheless, the State Department never requested military backup that evening, two senior U.S. officials familiar with the details of military planning tell The Daily Beast.

In its seventh week, discussion about what happened in Benghazi has begun to focus on why military teams in the region did not respond to the assault on the U.S. mission and the nearby CIA annex. The only security backup that did arrive that evening were former special-operations soldiers under the command of the CIA—one from the nearby annex and another Quick Reaction Force from Tripoli. On Friday, Fox News reported that requests from CIA officers for air support on the evening of the attacks were rejected. (The Daily Beast was not able to confirm that those requests were made, though no U.S. official contacted for this story directly refuted the claim either.)

... But military backup may have made a difference at around five the following morning, when a second wave of attackers assaulted the CIA annex where embassy personnel had taken refuge. It was during this second wave of attacks that two ex-SEALs working for the CIA’s security teams—Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods—were killed in a mortar strike.

Normally it would be the job of the U.S. ambassador on location to request a military response. But Stevens likely died in the first two hours of the attack. The responsibility for requesting military backup would then have fallen to the deputy chief of mission at Benghazi or officials at the State Department in Washington.

“The State Department is responsible for assessing security at its diplomatic installations and for requesting support from other government agencies if they need it,” a senior U.S. Defense official said. “There was no request from the Department of State to intervene militarily on the night of the attack.”

The president, however, would have the final say as to whether or not to send in the military.

'Troubling' Surveillance Before Benghazi Attack

'Troubling' Surveillance Before Benghazi Attack →

More evidence of crappy security in Benghazi.

More than six weeks after the shocking assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi -- and nearly a month after an FBI team arrived to collect evidence about the attack - the battle-scarred, fire-damaged compound where Ambassador Chris Stevens and another Foreign Service officer lost their lives on Sept. 11 still holds sensitive documents and other relics of that traumatic final day, including drafts of two letters worrying that the compound was under "troubling" surveillance and complaining that the Libyan government failed to fulfill requests for additional security.

When we visited on Oct. 26 to prepare a story for Dubai based Al Aan TV, we found not only Stevens's personal copy of the Aug. 6 New Yorker, lying on remnants of the bed in the safe room where Stevens spent his final hours, but several ash-strewn documents beneath rubble in the looted Tactical Operations Center, one of the four main buildings of the partially destroyed compound. Some of the documents -- such as an email from Stevens to his political officer in Benghazi and a flight itinerary sent to Sean Smith, a U.S. diplomat slain in the attack -- are clearly marked as State Department correspondence. Others are unsigned printouts of messages to local and national Libyan authorities. The two unsigned draft letters are both dated Sept. 11 and express strong fears about the security situation at the compound on what would turn out to be a tragic day. They also indicate that Stevens and his team had officially requested additional security at the Benghazi compound for his visit -- and that they apparently did not feel it was being provided.

One letter, written on Sept. 11 and addressed to Mohamed Obeidi, the head of the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs' office in Benghazi, reads:

"Finally, early this morning at 0643, September 11, 2012, one of our diligent guards made a troubling report. Near our main gate, a member of the police force was seen in the upper level of a building across from our compound. It is reported that this person was photographing the inside of the U.S. special mission and furthermore that this person was part of the police unit sent to protect the mission. The police car stationed where this event occurred was number 322."

The account accords with a message written by Smith, the IT officer who was killed in the assault, on a gaming forum on Sept. 11. "Assuming we don't die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police' that guard the compound taking pictures," he wrote hours before the assault.

... It is not clear whether the U.S. letters were ever sent, and if so, what action was taken before the assault on the evening of Sept. 11. But they speak to a dangerous and uncertain security environment in Benghazi that clearly had many State Department officials worried for their safety.

Fox News Finds Benghazi Smoking Gun, Raises Serious Questions

Fox News Finds Benghazi Smoking Gun, Raises Serious Questions →

James Carafano builds off of Fox New's recent report and asks five good questions.

The cable concluded that the consulate could not withstand a “coordinated attack.” Further, the cable identified terrorist groups that were operating in the area. The existence of this document raises some serious questions.

  1. Why was the cable kept secret for so long?

  2. How could anyone rule out a terrorist attack? In the days following the attack, some senior Administration officials insisted the assault on the embassy was a spontaneous act. This assessment, they claim, was based on the view of the intelligence community. How could intelligence agencies not have access to this cable? If they did, how could they rule out the possibility of a terrorist attack? It just doesn’t add up.

  3. Why didn’t the Administration provide any interim findings of their investigation into the Benghazi attack?

  4. Why wasn’t a coordinated rapid response force ready to go? Given this assessment, it is difficult to understand why an appropriate response force for exactly the kind of attack that happened wasn’t ready to launch at a moment’s notice—and if there was such a capability, why it wasn’t used.

  5. How long do we have to wait to get answers to obvious questions? Nothing the Administration has said to date adequately addresses the issues raised by this cable. The Administration has had more than a month to reflect on this evidence. They ought to be able to comment on it and explain how it squares with what Administration officials have said in the last weeks—and they ought to be able to do it right now.

Classified cable warned consulate couldn't withstand 'coordinated attack'

Classified cable warned consulate couldn't withstand 'coordinated attack' →

The U.S. Mission in Benghazi convened an “emergency meeting” less than a month before the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, because Al Qaeda had training camps in Benghazi and the consulate could not defend against a “coordinated attack,” according to a classified cable reviewed by Fox News.

Summarizing an Aug. 15 emergency meeting convened by the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, the Aug. 16 cable marked “SECRET” said that the State Department’s senior security officer, also known as the RSO, did not believe the consulate could be protected. “RSO (Regional Security Officer) expressed concerns with the ability to defend Post in the event of a coordinated attack due to limited manpower, security measures, weapons capabilities, host nation support, and the overall size of the compound,” the cable said.

According to a review of the cable addressed to the Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Emergency Action Committee was also briefed "on the location of approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi … these groups ran the spectrum from Islamist militias, such as the QRF Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia, to ‘Takfirist thugs.’” Each U.S. mission has a so-called Emergency Action Committee that is responsible for security measures and emergency planning.

The details in the cable seemed to foreshadow the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. compound, which was a coordinated, commando-style assault using direct and indirect fire. Al Qaeda in North Africa and Ansar al-Sharia, both mentioned in the cable, have since been implicated in the consulate attack.

In addition to describing the security situation in Benghazi as “trending negatively,” the cable said explicitly that the mission would ask for more help. “In light of the uncertain security environment, US Mission Benghazi will submit specific requests to US Embassy Tripoli for additional physical security upgrades and staffing needs by separate cover.”

They never received that extra security.

CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack

CIA operators were denied request for help during Benghazi attack →

Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command -- who also told the CIA operators twice to "stand down" rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

... they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood, though, denied the claims that requests for support were turned down.

"We can say with confidence that the Agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi," she said. "Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.

Hhhm. If no one "in the CIA" told anybody not to help those in need, who did? I notice that Ms. Youngblood didn't say that there was no order to stand down. Merely that the CIA didn't give the order.

The Three Benghazi Timelines We Need Answers About

The Three Benghazi Timelines We Need Answers About →

James Rosen, writing in the Wall Street Journal.

Any coverup is attended by competing timelines: the acts of transgression, and the subsequent efforts to conceal or mislead or delay knowledge regarding those events. A famous theme of the Watergate hearings was the quest of investigators into the coverup to find out, as the saying became, what did they know and when did they know it?

The Benghazi episode is best viewed as a series of three timelines. When fully exposed, the facts of the "pre" period before the attacks will tell us how high up the chain, and in which agencies, fateful decisions were made about security precautions for the consulate and annex in Benghazi. We also stand to learn how the planning for the attacks could have been put in motion without being detected until too late.

Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb, who oversees diplomatic security, testified before the House on Oct. 10 that she and her colleagues had placed "the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of 9/11 for what had been agreed upon." While not the stuff of a perjury charge, this testimony cannot be true, given the known outcome of the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate and the pleas for enhanced security measures that we now know Foggy Bottom to have rebuffed.

The second Benghazi timeline encompasses the five or six hours on the evening of Sept. 11 when the attacks transpired. A State Department briefing on Oct. 9 offered an account that was riveting but incomplete. When all of the facts of these hours are compiled, we will have a truer picture of the tactical capabilities of al Qaeda and its affiliates in North Africa. We will also learn what really happened to Amb. Stevens that night, and better appreciate the vulnerabilities with which our diplomatic corps, bravely serving at 275 installations across the globe, must still contend.

The third and final Benghazi timeline is the one that has fostered charges of a coverup. It stretches eight days—from 3:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, when the consulate was first rocked by gunfire and explosions, through the morning of Sept. 19, when Matthew G. Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, publicly testified before the Senate that Benghazi was a terrorist attack.

Mr. Olsen's testimony effectively ended all debate about whether the attacks had grown out of a protest over an anti-Islam video. Three days before Mr. Olsen put a stop to the blame-YouTube storyline, U.N. Amb. Susan Rice, echoing Mr. Carney, had gone on five Sunday TV chat shows and maintained that the YouTube video has spurred the violence.

If the Obama White House has engaged in a coverup in the Benghazi case, the ostensible motivation would bear some similarity to that of all the president's men in Watergate. Mr. Obama faces a rendezvous with the voters on Nov. 6, and in a race much tighter than the Nixon-McGovern contest of 1972. In such a circumstance, certain kinds of disclosure are always unwelcome.

As with the Watergate conspirators, who were eager to conceal earlier actions that related to the Vietnam War, the Obama team is determined to portray its pre-9/11 conduct, and particularly its dovish Mideast policies, in the most favorable light. After all, no one wants to have on his hands—even if resulting from sins of omission and not commission—the deaths of four American patriots.

Who knew the truth about the attack? When? And who decided to try to obfuscate the fact that it was a terrorist attack?

What's the big deal about Benghazi, anyway?

What's the big deal about Benghazi, anyway? →

Come on, you guys. It’s only an American ambassador and three other Americans who served their country, murdered by Islamic terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11. In a country our president invaded unilaterally and, arguably, illegally.

And our government only ignored the copious warnings of an impending terrorist attack on the consulate in Benghazi, and actually reduced security there, despite the since-murdered ambassador’s entreaties.

And our president has only been lying about it for over a month because it reflects very badly on his self-evidently disastrous foreign policy.

It’s not like it was a hotel break-in.

Ouch.

Who's Responsible for Benghazi?

Three weeks ago, I was predicting that Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton would fight to the death, trying to pin Benghazi on each other. For instance, What Happened In Benghazi

The State Department has released a transcript of a briefing that two high-ranking department officials gave to a number of reporters via conference call on October 9 (Tuesday). I am not certain about this, but I believe the transcript was only made public today. You should read it in its entirety; it is the most detailed description I have seen of the events in Benghazi on September 11.

While this is by no means clear, it appears that the State Department may have released the transcript as part of the escalating conflict between Barack Obama and Joe Biden and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. In their desperation to avoid responsibility for the Benghazi debacle, Obama and Biden have pointed fingers in two directions: at the intelligence community for reporting incorrectly that the incident was a protest over a YouTube video clip, and at the State Department for not providing adequate security for the Ambassador.

But then, Mrs. Clinton took responsibility for the event.

Clinton: I’m responsible for diplomats’ security – CNN Security Clearance - CNN.com Blogs

"I take responsibility" for the protection of U.S. diplomats, Clinton said during a visit to Peru. But she said an investigation now under way will ultimately determine what happened in the attack that left four Americans dead.

Clinton said President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are not involved in security decisions.

"I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha," she added, noting that it is close to the election.

After thinking about it for a few hours, I saw one possible motivation for this: make the the President look bad by showing up his attempts to duck responsibility. It's possible that the President agreed.

Obama Camp: On Libya, President ‘Takes Absolute Responsibility’

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton said, “I take responsibility” in reference to the Benghazi attacks. But in an interview today, Obama campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki stressed President Obama accepted responsibility.

“President Obama takes responsibility for the safety and security of all diplomats serving overseas,” Psaki told Fox News Channel’s Studio B with Shepard Smith. “Secretary Clinton, of course, has a great amount of responsibility as Secretary of State and she was doing interviews yesterday as she often does on the first day of a foreign trip and said look we do own, the State Department does own decisions around funding for diplomats.”

But there's something else to notice: Mrs. Clinton took responsibility for the safety of the diplomats. She didn't say anything at all about the ensuing "it was the video!" cover-up attempt. She's more than happy to let the President explain that one himself. What's more damaging, when it comes to politics: the lapse or the cover-up? Mrs. Clinton may be betting that it's the cover-up.