Quote of the Day: Robert Gates on “Cartoonish” Views of the Military

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From former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on the endless speculations about what the military could have done to stop the Benghazi attacks:

It’s sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces.

I guess Gates is no longer on Darrell Issa’s Christmas card list. But if you want to know just how cartoonish most of this stuff has been, consider the infamous “stand down” theory. This is the suggestion that there were military forces available to send to Benghazi, but they were told by President Obama to stand down. The motivation for this is always murky, but presumably based on political considerations of some kind.

But the real giveaway about this whole thing is that it keeps changing whenever it’s debunked. Originally, the story retailed by Charles Woods, the father of Benghazi victim Tyrone Woods, revolved around the notion that Obama had a live video feed of Benghazi and refused to let a fast-response team deploy even though he knew they could get there in time. That wasn’t true, so another story developed that General Carter Ham was ready to send in a team, received an order to stand down, and was going to disobey orders and send them in anyway. But then his second in command apprehended him and told him that he was now relieved of duty. That wasn’t true either. So then we got a story about a team in Tripoli that Obama refused to deploy. Then a story about a C-110 team in Croatia that could have gone in but wasn’t allowed to. And finally, last week, a different story about a different team in Tripoli that could have gone in the next morning but didn’t.

In other words, “stand down” has referred to at least five different things over the past several months. It doesn’t matter if any of it is true. It doesn’t matter if Obama was involved. It doesn’t matter why the military made the decisions it did. If one story falls, there’s always another “stand down” conspiracy theory to take its place. Cartoonish indeed.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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