Sam Smith – Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who headed the the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, appeared on Mark Thompson’s Sirius XM show during my slot there, and I asked him a question that has been troubling me: if the people killed in Benghazi had just been privates or low ranking civilians would this incident have been handled differently by the media. Pickering thought not, because the murder of foreign service officers was news regardless of rank although he admitted that having Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State made a difference in coverage.
There wasn’t time to delve into this further, such as the 13 attacks on embassies and consulates since 2001 (not including numerous and fatal attacks on the US Embassy in Bagdad during the Iraq war) or the enormous number of non-battlefield attacks on American troops and civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.
For example, in 2013 USA Today reported:
Somewhere between more than half to two-thirds of Americans killed or wounded in combat in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been victims of IEDs planted in the ground, in vehicles or buildings, or worn as suicide vests, or loaded into suicide vehicles, according to data from the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization or JIEDDO. That’s more than 3,100 dead and 33,000 wounded. Among the worst of the casualties are nearly 1,800 U.S. troops who have lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the vast majority from blasts, according to Army data.
If you classify the Benghazi attack as a non-conventional military exercise, then clearly our obsession with it is related more to the rank of the victims and to who was Secretary of State than to an effort to figure out how to deal with non-traditional warfare.
And while it is understandable why the Republicans made such a big thing of this incident, what is not clear – nor defensible – is why the media played so deeply into the GOP strategy including eleven hours of live coverage of the party’s political attack on Hillary Clinton. This is not the business of the media.
As for the incident itself, I was reminded while watching the Benghazi coverage, of a friend who had fought in the World War II Battle of the Bulge. He told me once that he had great sympathy for those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Why? Because, he explained, when he left the battlefield he and his fellow troops were safe. Now there is no end to the battlefield.
And no one gives these troops eleven hours of coverage to find out whether their conditions were handled right, let alone whether they should have been in that country in the first place.