A Matter of Honor: The Profound Moral Failure in Benghazi

Amidst the discussion of the administration’s profound political, strategic, and tactical failures before, during, and after the Benghazi attacks, I fear we’ve overlooked perhaps the most consequential failure of all — the moral failure.Our peaceful, prosperous democracy exists in large part because a certain, small class of Americans voluntarily choose to forsake that peace and prosperity, to stand on the wall to guard us from those who seek not “merely” to kill us but to disrupt our way of life, to make us live in fear.  As George Orwell reputedly said: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

But it’s more than that, of course.  In the case of Ambassador Stephens, he risked his life not to stop our enemies with violence or the threat of violence but with the hope and promise of friendship.  Some of us may call that naive, but the fact remains that we need men like Ambassador Stephens, men ready to lay down their lives to create and build relationships.

We can never truly repay the men and women who lay down their lives for the rest of us (nor do they expect true repayment), but one thing we can do: Pledge they will never, ever be left behind.  This is the essence of the Soldier’s Creed; “I will never leave a fallen comrade.”  When I was in Iraq, none of us expected safety, but we all expected if we made a call for help, then help would come . . . or die trying.  It is difficult to overstate the sense of betrayal — of anguish —  if any soldier feels this sacred pledge is being violated.  Absent the most compelling of circumstances, if you violate that pledge, you commit a grave injustice.  If you later lie, seek to cover up your failure, or fail to “man up” and explain why you didn’t send help, then you have no shame.

If the most current reports can be believed, after depriving our men and women on the ground of the security they begged for, our leaders stood by and quite literally watched (via Predator drone) over the course of over six hours as a tiny band of courageous but out-gunned Americans gave their last full measure of devotion to try to save an ambassador, save their fellow diplomats, and save themselves against an overwhelming terrorist force.  It’s past time for the President to tell not just his fellow Americans but also members of our diplomatic, security, intelligence, and military forces overseas whether he made a decision not to assist, to leave men behind.  And if he made that decision, Americans need to know why.

It’s beyond politics . . . now, it’s a matter of honor.

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