Remember when folks were saying that Rep. Ann Wagner (R-2) was the GOP anti-Akin – that is to say a respectable face for the GOP as opposed to the Akin-style looneytunes? Such observations, alas, are always relative. Wagner may not be quite as stupid as Akin, but she’s still a good little GOP trooper and will toe the crazy line when required and when the opportunity offers – and most recently that means getting in on the Benghazi pileup.
In a recent interview on the Dana Loesch show (where else can Missouri pols so easily lie with impunity?), Wagner claimed that the “stand-down” order that putatively prevented a team of special forces servicemen from coming to aid the embassy in Benghazi would have had to come from none other than the President. Although she doesn’t make the link herself (at least so far as I could determine), rightwing conspiracy buffs, who have been all over this otherwise ignored statement during the past few days (just google “Ann Wagner” and “stand down”), are treating her statement as authoritative based on her stint as Ambassador to that major hot spot, Luxembourg.
Alas, Wagner is either wrong or incompletely representing the chain of command to suggest something that she does not want to state directly:
— First of all, there was no “stand-down” – a stand-down implies a cessation in offensive activities that were already underway. However, even the GOP star witness, Gregory Hicks, who was supposed to finally blow the “cover” off the Obama administration’s alleged failures, admitted during the latest round of House Benghazi hearings that this just wasn’t so (in fact, congressional Democrats had to demand that Hicks’ testimony, which actually supported the administration narrative, be included in the record in its entirety):
During questioning, Hicks confirmed that the team was ready to be deployed – not to join the fighting at the CIA annex – but “to secure the airport for the withdrawal of our personnel from Benghazi after the mortar attack.” Hicks also confirmed that it was the second such team to be readied for deployment, with the first having proceeded to Benghazi earlier. Despite the second team not deploying, the staff was all evacuated first to Tripoli, then to Germany, within 18 hours of the attack taking place.
— Second, is it really true that an order to stand-down would have to be issued by the President? Nobody else, including plenty of folks who could be expected to be “in the know” seems to think that’s the case – which is why conservative condemnation has been aimed at Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. While searching for some information on military protocols, I came across this statement from a person claiming to be a retired army officer which suggests that tactical decisions such as those governing the deployment of special forces need not go all the way to the top:
Since most of you guys have never worked in a TOC (Tactical Operations Center), let me fill you in on who gives the orders to ‘stand down’.
We have SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that we follow when an Embassy, a Base, or a Post is being attacked. Part of those procedures do NOT include calling the White House to ask for advice or permission to take action.
The Battle Captain in that TOC makes the initial call to alert the QRF or CIF. Once the immediate chain of command is notified, a Colonel or a General (as in this case) will make the final decision as to ramp up, execute, or stand down. Again, we don’t ever call the White House to ask for permission or guidance in these matters. That’s why we have Colonels and Generals.
High ranking officers get paid the big bucks to make these type of decisions on the battlefield and I hate to break it to you guys but the President is NOT part of that decision making process. The President and high ranking officials like Hillary, Panetta, and Petraeus are eventually notified of situations like this and updated thereafter. However, it’s the Combatant Commander that is responsible for that area who makes the final call to execute mission or ‘stand down’. In this case, the AOR (Area of Responsibility) was AFRICOM and the Combatant Commander for AFRICOM was GEN Ham.
I haven’t verified this description of standard procedure, but it rings a lot truer to me than the statements of a retired Ambassador to Luxembourg – an assignment, incidentally, routinely given to big campaign donors and supporters because it’s so insignificant that it’s hard to endanger any important U.S. foreign relations (although recent Obama appointee Cynthia Stroum managed to mismanage internal embassy operations so badly that she was recalled). This account of emergency procedure also jibes with statements by both critics and supporters of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi incident.
— Third, if one carefully parses Wagner’s statements, you will notice that she does not say that the President ordered the special forces to stand-down:
Rep. Wagner did not actually claim that Obama had ordered a “stand down” and there has been no evidence presented that President Obama ever gave a “stand down” order during the Benghazi attack.
Many accounts noted that Wagner’s smug suggestion had gone unnoticed. Part of the reason for this lack of attention may have been the venue – Loesch is, by any definition, a small-time player on the fringe of the fringe and garners little interest outside her chosen milieu. But it is also quite possible that Wagner’s dog-whistle to the legions of obsessive rightwing Obama haters has been ignored because it reflects an exaggeration of the real way that things work and, as such, would only serve to further discredit the already tattered Benghazi non-scandal. Her willingness to dance the GOP crazy tango should, however, be of interest to Missourians who thought that they had at last put the embarrassment of Todd Akin behind them.
UPDATE: Wagner’s even worse than I thought. Here’s more Ann Wagner Benghazi misrepresentation from Twitter:
Ann Wagner @RepAnnWagner 16 May
The #Benghazi emails directly contradict what @PressSec told the American people and I’m appalled at the lies that were told.
This in spite of CBS’s revelation that the release of the emails proved that the GOP altered the content of White House Benghazi emails they had seen in order to serve their efforts to trump-up a scandal.