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Wednesday, 07 May 2014 07:04

Republicans Didn't "Benghazi" Ronald Reagan Over Hundreds of GI Deaths in Lebanon

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BeirutbarrMore than 240 GIs died in the 1983 Beirut barracks attack under Ronald Reagan (Photo: Wikipedia)Republicans and the right wing are adept at turning untoward incidents into multi-year propaganda tools to wound the effectiveness of Democratic presidents. This was the modus operandi with the effort to impeach Clinton - which began in concept before he was even inaugurated - and it is the case with the never-ending strategically obsessive focus on Benghazi.

This is a partisan plan to use the media to taint Democratic initiatives and accomplishments. It is abetted by a media ravenous for the whiff of scandal - even if the Benghazi attack (which occurred on September 12, 2012) had been thoroughly examined long ago. What the Republicans do - and what Boehner is continuing to do with the announcement of yet another investigative committee on Benghazi - is a detriment to resolving the grave issues facing the nation.

Suppose we create this analogy: The Republicans are your doctors. You visit your general practitioner and he or she thoroughly examines you and puts you through diagnostic tests. The next week you return for the results.

The doctor says, "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you have a hangnail that is going to require aggressive long-term treatment by a team including me and my colleagues. The good news is that you have pancreatic cancer that will go away without any medical intervention. So we will immediately begin a multi-year medical effort to get to the bottom of your hangnail." (Please note that the hangnail analogy is not meant to diminish the loss of four lives in Benghazi; it is meant only to symbolize its relativity to the other solemn issues raised.)

Jane Mayer - New Yorker columnist and author of the invaluable "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals" - wrote a May 6 commentary on the GOP flogging of Benghazi: 

Ever since militant jihadists killed four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador, in an attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in that remote Libyan town two years ago, House Republicans have kept up a drumbeat of insinuation. They have already devoted thirteen hearings, twenty-five thousand pages of documents, and fifty briefings to the topic, which have turned up nothing unexpected. Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, has already accepted responsibility for the tragedy, and the State Department has issued a critical independent report on diplomatic security, resulting in the dismissal of four employees. If the hearings accomplish nothing else, it seems that they promise to keep the subject on life support at least through the midterm congressional elections, and possibly on through any potential Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign. The word “impeachment” has even been trotted out by Obama opponents in connection with this non-scandal.

What brings the Republican hypocrisy on Benghazi glaringly to the forefront is Mayer's passage that shortly follows the paragraph above:

Around dawn on October 23, 1983, I was in Beirut, Lebanon, when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with the equivalent of twenty-one thousand pounds of TNT into the heart of a U.S. Marine compound, killing two hundred and forty-one servicemen. The U.S. military command, which regarded the Marines’ presence as a non-combative, “peace-keeping mission,” had left a vehicle gate wide open, and ordered the sentries to keep their weapons unloaded. The only real resistance the suicide bomber had encountered was a scrim of concertina wire. When I arrived on the scene a short while later to report on it for the Wall Street Journal, the Marine barracks were flattened. From beneath the dusty, smoking slabs of collapsed concrete, piteous American voices could be heard, begging for help. Thirteen more American servicemen later died from injuries, making it the single deadliest attack on American Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Six months earlier, militants had bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, too, killing sixty-three more people, including seventeen Americans. Among the dead were seven C.I.A. officers, including the agency’s top analyst in the Middle East, an immensely valuable intelligence asset, and the Beirut station chief.

Notice the security lapses, even though Reagan had sent the Marines into a high-risk volatile war zone of feuding Lebanese armed factions, most of whom were opposed to US military intervention.

But it got worse, as Mayer who was a journalist there at the time, recounts:

In March of 1984, three months after Congress issued its report [recommending security improvements to protect US personnel in Lebanon], militants struck American officials in Beirut again, this time kidnapping the C.I.A.’s station chief, Bill Buckley. Buckley was tortured and, eventually, murdered. Reagan, who was tormented by a tape of Buckley being tortured, blamed himself. Congress held no public hearings, and pointed fingers at the perpetrators, not at political rivals.

If you compare the costs of the Reagan administration’s serial security lapses in Beirut to the costs of Benghazi, it’s clear what has really deteriorated in the intervening three decades. It’s not the security of American government personnel working abroad. It’s the behavior of American congressmen at home.

The story in Beirut wasn’t over. In September of 1984, for the third time in 18 months, a US government outpost in Beirut was bombed yet again. President Reagan acknowledged that the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the U.S. embassy annex that had been hit. The problem, the President admitted, was that the repairs hadn’t quite been completed on time. As he put it, “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.” Imagine how Congressman Issa and Fox News would react to a similar explanation from President Obama today.

"Saint" Ronnie was given a free pass from Congress for the lapses in Lebanon that resulted in hundreds of deaths, a tortured and killed CIA chief, and other bombings. It appears that throughout the disastrous Reagan engagement in Lebanon, security precautions were not ramped up to the recommended or required levels in a war zone.

However, it isn't the US loss of life that the Republicans appear concerned with, regarding Benghazi. Returning to the earlier analogy, if a Republican causes pancreatic cancer, that person gets a pass on scrutiny and treatment - but the hangnail gets an emergency room alarm if there's a Democrat in the White House.

The months-long Republican exploitation of Benghazi as a political diversionary issue to taint President Obama and the Democrats as a "brand" on national security is harmful to the interests of the nation and its citizens. After all, the dire threat of climate change (as a government report released yesterday again indicated); the growing gap of income inequality; the continued negligence of our poor urban and rural areas; the ramping up of the surveillance and police state; and the ongoing abuses committed by unprosecuted Wall Street banks - among other issues that need vital attention - all must take a second or third seat in the headlines to "the latest Benghazi revelation."

Furthermore, there are serious public policy issues to be debated, many of which both the Republicans and the Democrats deserve to be challenged on: drone assassinations, for example.

Meanwhile, the nation continues its degradation as its pancreatic cancer progresses - untreated - while the GOP is relentlessly regurgitating the Benghazi affair.

If any further proof were needed of this double standard of Republicans not holding presidents accountable for disastrous outcomes in foreign policy, we just need mention the Iraq War to seal the point.

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