Who’s Minding The Military?: Obama abandons his post
By: Daniel Clark
If outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s testimony on the Benghazi attack is to be believed, President Obama abandoned his post as Commander-in-Chief, even as the lives of ambassador Chris Stevens and several others hung in the balance.
Panetta met with Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, around 5 o’clock on the day of the attack, which would continue until about seven hours later. He says the president told the two of them, “to do everything we needed to do to try to protect lives there,” and that they received no further communications from him for the rest of the day. Obama is known to have spoken with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for an hour that night, but other than that, nobody seems to know where he was or what he was doing while the crisis in Libya was unfolding.
This illustration of Obama’s neglecting his military duties raises questions about the recently leaked Justice Department “white paper” setting the administration’s policy on drone strikes. Although the white paper has been the subject of outrage, it is for the most part unremarkable. Its main purpose is to establish that the legal authority for the strikes comes from the declaration of war (sorry – “authorization for use of military force”) against al-Qaeda that Congress passed in 2001. (You know, the one that Ron Paul voted for. Look it up.)
The peculiar part is that a declaration of war authorizes the president to act, whereas the white paper finds a drone strike lawful if “an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” Furthermore, it explains that the word “imminent” in this clause does not literally mean “imminent,” but instead is a murky concept that is more broadly and subjectively defined.
In keeping with the declaration, it ought to be the president who, having informed himself, makes that determination. In fact, last May, the administration planted a story in the New York Times that presented Obama as an omnipotent figure, who determines the fate of terror suspects by deciding which ones are placed on a drone “kill list.” So why has Obama’s own Justice Department assigned that responsibility to unspecified individuals farther down the chain of command? Perhaps he has appointed an Imminence Czar to make such decisions in his stead.
Obama tried to portray himself as being in total control of the bin Laden raid, also, but he couldn’t even pull off a convincing publicity photo. The picture that the White House released depicted the president as the one person least likely to have been in charge. Observing from the periphery, while dressed in a golf shirt and a Nike windbreaker, he looked as if he’d been brought there for Take Your Child to Work Day.
There’s no such photographic evidence of his presence during the Benghazi attack, of course. Whenever there’s nothing to take credit for, the president remains as invisible as a shovel-ready job.
If there was any reason to doubt Panetta’s testimony, it should have been dispelled five days later, when Obama paraphrased him during his State of the Union Address. “As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad.” How interesting that he shifted from a singular to a plural pronoun mid-sentence.
You may remember that he performed a similar grammatical evasion last month, when he was asked directly whether he had any personal experience with firearms. “Yes,” he said. “In fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.” His answer to a follow-up question revealed, however, that he was referring to guests who do the shooting, and that the “we” he’d mentioned didn’t necessarily include himself. In the context of his “do everything we need to do” order regarding Benghazi, it is clear that the “we” from his address means the same thing.
That Obama would hand off these responsibilities as if he were giving his car keys to a valet is only consistent with his dismissive attitude toward attacks against America, from his categorizing the Benghazi killings as “bumps in the road,” to his cold estimation that we could “absorb” another 9-11 attack, to his reducing the Fort Hood massacre to just another talking point in an otherwise lighthearted monologue. How many more examples do we need before we’re willing to draw the obvious conclusion that he simply doesn’t give a damn?
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.