On the afternoon of August 17th, 2010, I had put my three-year-old down for a nap (which he was actually taking for once), and I, seven months pregnant and exhausted in the summer heat, was finally getting a nap of my own. It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when what sounded like an explosion rocked the house. A second one followed it, the sound going from the front of the house to the back (it’s amazing the details you remember when you’re terrified).
Half-awake and scared beyond rational thought, I called my husband, who was full-time National Guard, working in an Armory, to tell him about it and ask if he’d heard anything. Surely, if someone was blowing something up, the Army should know about it, right? He was in Intelligence. They should know something! We’re only having an apocalypse here, after all. I think I just needed to hear his voice. The fact that answered, completely calm and not knowing what I was talking about, helped me put things in perspective. But maybe Port Orchard had blown up, and he didn’t know anything about it yet?
Anyway, we had moved into the house, which was a new build, in May, and the cable company was taking its sweet time getting our internet connected (it would be another month before we finally had internet, and another four months before we got data plans for our outdated Blackberrys). I had no television and no internet. So, feeling a bit retro, I turned on the AM radio and hunted down a local station that had regular news broadcasts.
I found out moments later that a couple of fighter jets had been scrambled out of Oregon, because President Obama was in Seattle, campaigning for Senator Patty Murray, and someone had unknowingly violated his airspace. My husband, who had done an internet search at work, confirmed it a few moments after that.
Here is an article about it, in case you’re curious.
The sonic booms the F-15s created in their haste to protect the president from a little float plane that briefly touched down and flew away in the time it took to get the jets here (3 hour trip by car, 20 minutes by fighter jet!) threw the entire Puget Sound area into a tizzy for the rest of the day. 911 lines were completely jammed, people (like me) were sure someone was attacking any one of our local military bases. Someone was blowing something up. The “Big One” was finally hitting us (it registered on the Richter scale, for heaven’s sake!). Mt. Rainier was erupting! I wonder if people were having Mt. St. Helen’s flashbacks. It really was quite traumatic; I was shaking for an hour. Fortunately, it didn’t wake up my three-year-old, but I wasn’t going to get to finish my nap.
Now, for a little perspective, Seattle is a short distance by water from Naval Submarine Base Bangor (one of two Trident facilities in the country) to the west, and a Naval air station on Whidbey Island to the north. About two hours south by land (depending on traffic) are an Airforce base and an Army post (which are now combined — Joint Base Lewis McChord) and Camp Murray (the Washington National Guard state headquarters, across the highway from JBLM).
So, suffice it to say, there is a large, active military presence here in Washington, but the entire state is not a metro area, like Seattle. The people flying the float plane that landed on one of the lakes in the no-fly zone were coming in from Eastern Washington, where there is often little more than radio signal for communication (though cell service has come a long way in the past decade). How well was Obama’s no-fly zone advertised? I barely knew His Eminence was going to be in the state at all, especially since I didn’t have to participate in the hefty traffic jam his arrival would have created. I think I remembered being annoyed he was out here at all, because he was just coming from a vacation, or something, and here was, jetting off to campaign for our senator instead of taking care of business in DC. I imagine he had all the security he would ever need or want at his beck and call.
But I digress. I assume the jets were scrambled out of Oregon, rather than out of either of our air bases, because they were already in the air. Fortunately, the float plane had already left the no-fly zone, and did not need to encounter the hastily ordered F-15s.
The message: NOT TO WORRY! You might have been terrified for the afternoon, but THE PRESIDENT IS SAFE!! That dangerous little float plane can’t get him!
So you can see why — in view of such a rapid response to such a little incident on our home territory, which is by no means threatening or hostile (unless you consider the hipsters in Starbucks looking down their noses at you), in mid-day, in an area inundated by military presence, and quickly reported by local news — I can hardly say that I believe no one knew what was happening in Benghazi. It didn’t take a member of the “Intelligence Community” to know that Libya had become increasingly hostile territory, especially since we helped overthrow the last leader so he could be replaced by a worse one. If the general public didn’t know before the attack, we definitely knew immediately after it that the embassy had requested extra security several times for a few weeks before — and were denied. Several times.
I can’t fathom how we could possibly drop the ball on that. How could we even think about maintaining an embassy in hostile territory without arming it to the very teeth with well-equipped, trained military or even civilian security? Can you just see the leaders of our defense saying, “Naw, you don’t need those extra guns! What are we? Warmongers? The CIA’s just down the street. They’ll let you know when you’ll be under attack. You’ll be a’ight.”
And though I don’t place the entirety of the blame for the tragedy at Benghazi on our president’s shoulders, I do blame him for creating the kind of anti-military, false-peace, blame-someone-else atmosphere that our enemies are gleefully taking advantage of. They know Obama is a panderer (they saw him bow submissively to several foreign leaders and not meet their eyes in even the smallest show of conditional respect). They know that our desire for peace, friendship, happiness, and rainbows wins out over our squeamishness toward the violence (or even the show of violence) necessary to secure that peace. They know how Obama’s snubbed Netanyahu and shown deference to Palestine. They know they have an “in” with him. He doesn’t want us to talk badly about Islamic extremism.
Under Obama as a Commander in Chief of the military, gone are the days when the cornered good guys get to see the cavalry come over the hill to rescue them at the last second, even though the cavalry is ready and waiting a mile away. We basically just told our enemies that they can run us down and blame someone else, creating confusion and hostility in our own country, and we will totally let them win. As long as Obama is in office, our enemies have us where they want us.
That, or Someone In Charge had it out for Chris Stevens, and this was the best way to eliminate him and call it “the heat and confusion of battle”. I don’t dwell on that one, though, because it sounds too much like a conspiracy theory, and I’m really not that much of a wingnut.
I don’t know. I suppose it could have just been one big cluster that our leadership was unprepared for. You can see reports like this one, which could either be CIA CYA, or real facts about how inefficient our security truly is in hostile territory.
But the denial of extra security not once, but three (or more?) times is still pretty damning. The fact that we couldn’t even just stand up and beat our chests a little (send a couple F-15s!) means that our enemies know we’re not a threat. How many more embassies do we have to lose before we figure this out?