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.

  • Alan Noble

    Thoughts on the recent NYT and WaPo articles which give a very different account of the event? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/02/world/africa/cia-played-major-defensive-role-in-libya-attack.html?_r=1&

    • David French

      That’s not a different account. It’s basically the same account the State Department originally gave, but clarifying who the various players were (i.e. bigger role for the CIA). My key questions relate to the decision not to bring in help from outside Libya, not to the actions of the out-matched and under-gunned force in Libya.

  • http://www.dregstudios.com Brandt Hardin

    The situation in Libya is being politicized and the victims and there families being instrumented as a ruse to create doubt of Obama’s leadership. Public access to real facts is being whitewashed by this rhetoric while conservative hands paint the Blackface on our President. Watch them mix and apply the paints to his face in a portrait of Obama being Bamboozed by the Far Right at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/10/bamboozling-obama.html

    • wisegal1958

      Obama’s leadership? Are you kidding? Obama watched these people being murdered by terrorists. Obama chose to ignore the Seals’ requests for assistance. Obama chose to order those in our Armed Forces who stood ready to respond with help to “stand down.” Those dead people are Americans and we frankly don’t what their politics were! Americans want to know why they were left to die! This goes beyond politics, this is a moral and ethical issue that affects Americans, regardless of party affiliation. And for your information, nobody has to “create” doubt about Obama’s leadership–he manages to do that all by his lonesome!

  • clydealan

    Cheap shot folks. Under George W. Bush 11 U S Embassies were attacked resulting in 53 deaths and 90 injuries. The assertion that anyone watched Bengazi and did not order help is idiotic.

    • David French

      Leon Panetta has already admitted that he recommended against sending military forces. Embassy attacks occur all the time (in fact, there had been two prior attacks at Benghazi itself). The issue is removing security as the situation deteriorated (over the objection of folks on the ground), failing to send the military as the undermanned civilian security fought and died, then blaming the whole thing on a video — repeatedly — well after this was a known terrorist operation and with real-time evidence it was a terrorist operation.

  • Thalia Taylor

    The most pernicious of all is that our own military under BO will just walk away and dissolve by attrition.

  • http://facebook donald reed

    I do not beleive anything coming out of obama`s Washington.
    Think of it, Washington was a soldier first.
    I like millions of others are veterans, we were all told, you do not leave a buddy behind to face the enemy by himself. Never leave a fallen buddy behind!
    The worst, most cowardly thing to do is to abandom a follow American to face torture and death by himself.
    That is exactly what obama did! To make it worse he sat in Washington and watch them die, and did nothing to save them. He had hours, even atleast a whole day to take action to save them.
    Calling him a coward is being nice, treason, murder, incompetence, and a liar fit him better.

  • glenda johnson

    this is so sad i can’t stop crying. how could he do this to our ambassador and men. he is their commander in chief. i had trouble from the start believing in him but i honestly tried to give him a chance . well, he more than blew it. he should be arrested and tried for treason. i have tried not to believe all the things you here about him, but i now no in my heart he is NO AMERICAN. i believe he is the muslim that he has been called and in fact not a citizen of this country. he is the biggest liar of all times. if not removed by vote tomorrow, he should be impeached and arrested.