Posts tagged with Iran
Reporters covering the investigation of the major al Qaeda victory at Benghazi should ask themselves: "what would Walter Cronkite do" if he were covering the story.
Let's consider the facts. Most people familiar with the War on Terror knew in September, 2012, that there was a heightened risk of an al Qaeda attack in the U.S. or at American installations outside the U.S. on or about the anniversary of the original 9/11 attack.
The danger was particularly high at American facilities in Libya because of the very unstable situation there and the presence of al Qaeda personnel who were trying to take over the country. Military and CIA personnel in Libya should have been on a high state of alert and prepared to back up personnel at any facility that might be attacked. Their orders should have been to respond immediately to any attack without requesting authorization from Washington. Security should have been particularly tight in Benghazi with the Ambassador in the building.
With modern cell phone technology, personnel should have been calling the State Department as they took cover, grabbed weapons, etc. Both the Secretary of State and President should have been notified immediately. State Department protocol should have required the Secretary, or least the top undersecretary for the region, to monitor the situation using both audio and video from the site, possibly using devices such as smart phones . If a satellite was in position to monitor the situation someone in Washington should have monitored its video. Keep in mind the government has better quality cameras than Google on its satellites.
The Obama administration's initial claim that the facility fell to a rag tag mob of demonstrators implies the facility essentially had no security. Any decent security protocol should have been prepared for the type of attack that Iranian students had used to take over the American embassy in Tehran during the Carter administration. An attack by trained military personnel would have been more easily explained, although security personnel should have been prepared to handle such an attack.
Determining the significance of the successful al Qaeda attack is difficult because of the nature of the War on Terror. Significant battles haven't involved large groups. Although the American casualty toll in the 9/11 attack was high, barely a dozen men conducted the attack. A similar sized American force killed Osama bin Laden. Much of the killing by both sides is done by remote control. Americans use aerial drones. Al Qaeda uses road side bombs.
The attack is at least as significant as the temporary Viet Cong capture of the American embassy in Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive. The attack indicates that al Qaeda has successfully broadened the war and is now able to defeat the Americans in Libya and possibly elsewhere. The size of the victory isn't as important as the fact that the attack was an al Qaeda victory. Al Qaeda may not be "winning" the war yet, but as a football sportscaster might say, al Qaeda "has taken the momentum", as demonstrated by the recent successful bombing of the Boston Marathon. Al Qaeda can use its success as a recruitment argument.
The failure of the Americans to come to the rescue during the attack could be interpreted by al Qaeda as proving bin Laden was right when he said the Americans would eventually tire of the fighting.
Walter Cronkite began questioning the American handling of the Vietnam after the attack on the American Embassy in Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive. I'm sure he would have asked questions about the War on Terror after the fall of the American consulate in Benghazi, particularly considering the allegations that someone in Washington prevented sending a rescue force. Cronkite knew that Presidents are sometimes mislead by their subordinates and it is the duty of journalists to learn the truth.
I learned about the 9/11 attack a little later than most people. I worked second shift and usually got up around 10:30.
When the clock radio came on the announcer wasn't making much sense to a brain that wasn't completely awake. He was saying something about the Pentagon and Vice President Cheney with the word "unprecedented" being mentioned. I thought at first that something had happened to Cheney.
I went into the living room and turned on the television to one of the news channels. With the frequent replays of the morning's events it took some time for me to determine what had already happened and what was happening at that time.
I was glad that ABC New Commentator Paul Harvey had returned to work by 9/11. He had been off for an extended period due to a throat problem, but had returned in August. Harvey had a positive attitude and frequently reminded his listeners that whatever the situation was it wasn't as bad as it seemed. He recognized that emphasizing the negative made the situation seem worse than it was.
I wasn't surprised that something like the 9/11 attack had happened. I wasn't expecting anything of that scale, but I was expecting more terrorist attacks such as those that had been happening against American interests elsewhere in the world
The media had been reporting lapses in airline security for some time, so I wasn't surprised that terrorists might hijack airplanes. There had been movies about terrorists using aircraft in this manner. I wouldn't have expected President George W. Bush to anticipate such a possibility but the people at the FBI and the CIA should have.
U.S. support for the tyrant known as the Shah of Iran had led to an attack on the American embassy in Tehran after the Iranian people overthrew him.
After I learned the identities of the suspected hijackers I realized I was right that the decision to base American forces in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War was a very bad idea. Western nations, including the U.S., have been pushing around Middle Eastern countries for too long.
The basing of American forces in what Muslims regard as their Holy Land may have been enough to push some Saudis over the edge and provoke them to commit suicide by flying planes into various American buildings. The U.S. had ignored the significance of a previous attack on American forces in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government might have welcomed American bases to protect them from Iraq, but may of their citizens viewed the bases as the home of an foreign occupation force.
American leaders often seem ignorant of the fact that members of other cultures sometimes view the world and military conflicts differently from Americans. The failure to recognize this difference in viewpoint hampered the U.S. war effort in Vietnam.
I learned from one of the recent broadcast 9/11 related documentaries that Osama bin Laden had wanted the U.S. to invade Afghanistan because he believed the U.S. would lose. Bin Laden may not have contemplated a traditional military victory. Instead of a traditional victory he may have been thinking in terms of dragging out the fighting until Americans got tired of the battles and left like they did in Vietnam.
North Vietnam never won a major battle in Vietnam until two years after American forces left. The Tet offensive was not a communist victory because they couldn't keep any places they took and much of the Viet Cong was destroyed. When the U.S. left Vietnam its allies were in charge of the government that controlled South Vietnam which was the American goal in Vietnam. However, the American media had previously decided the war was lost because it lasted so long.
Bin Laden may have been hoping for a similar outcome. Dragging out the fighting until Americans decided they couldn't "win" would allow him, or his successors, to claim they had defeated the "Great Satan" and use the "victory" as a recruiting tool.
The 9/11 attack was the start of a war that is continuing. We cannot afford to abandon the war effort just because the war appears to be endless. Americans often mistakenly claim that the Vietnam War was the nation's longest war. Actually Vietnam was merely a conflict within the long running Cold War, as was the Korean War. America stood firm in the Cold War and eventually the enemy quit.
We must continue to stand up to the terrorists because if we don't take the war to them, they may bring the war back to us. One of the reasons the terrorists haven't launched another major attack on the U.S. is because they are busy fighting our army.