In the midst of the mayhem of World War I, Canadian Lt. Colonel John McCrae, M.D., penned the poem “In Flanders Fields.” The poem suggests why today’s service men and women and our veterans are so insistent on a full accounting about what took place in Benghazi, Libya, during nine hours of intense combat on September 11-12, 2012. Colonel McCrae’s poem should provide inspiration for the soon-to-be-appointed House Select Committee on Benghazi:
“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
Substitute Benghazi for Flanders and you understand our military’s dismay that 34 Americans were left to die in Benghazi’s fields and that their pleas for rescue were answered by an order from someone, yet unknown, who directed readily available rescue forces to “stand down.” Someone broke faith with the men and women in our armed forces, in the State Department, and in the Central Intelligence Agency. Four Americans were killed.
A nation that depends on volunteers to serve in harm’s way can ill afford to destroy the morale and esprit-de-corps of those who serve or might serve in the future. Myopic partisans will claim the House Select Committee on Benghazi is about a presidential election decided 55 days after the Benghazi attacks. No. That is past history. The purpose of the House Select Committee should be to establish how our troops came to be abandoned in Benghazi’s fields so that it never happens again.
Post-Benghazi, enlistment and retention rates have plummeted. Especially among Navy SEALS and the other “rough men” George Orwell said “stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.”
The U.S. military has then combatant commands, each commanded by a four-star general or admiral. Public Law 99-433 prescribes that unless otherwise directed by the President, the chain of command to the unified or specified combatant commands runs from the President to the Secretary of Defense and then to the commanders of the combatant commands. In the case of Benghazi, U.S. Africa Command.
If the “stand down” order originated with someone not in the official chain-of-command, then every American should be concerned about the world’s most lethal military machine being commanded by some unelected, unaccountable person operating outside the law.
With only one-half of one percent of our population on military active duty, harping on the “stand down” order may seem of little importance to the vast majority of Americans; however, for the many veterans who have lived under the ideals of “duty-honor-country,” finding out what actually happened in Benghazi’s fields is of paramount importance.
The last line of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” comes to mind, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” So far, the current has been running against those seeking the truth about Benghazi. Now, in the weeks ahead, the current may well reverse.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame.