On October 4th, 2017, four Americans, including two Green Berets, along with two Nigerian soldiers, were killed in an ambush in Niger. The story of what happened has developed in the weeks since, and we’re sure to learn more in the future.
First, I’d like to review Benghazi. There is the story of what actually happened and then there is the political game of chess that happens afterward. What happened is that four Americans died partially due to being outmanned and outgunned in a raid with backup too far to away help in time. What happened next is that Republicans stood in line to go before cameras and microphones to yell and scream about how Obama, Susan Rice, Hillary and whoever else was to blame. They held hearing after hearing and investigation after investigation and it was confirmed that there was no stand-down call and different agencies had competing talking points out of self-interest in the aftermath. No matter, Republicans from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones all rallied behind #Benghazi! and twisted it into something that it was not. Because Republicans play hardball.
Here’s what we know so far about the tragic deaths of Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Sgt. La David Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright :
There were roughly 50 lightly armed American and Nigerien service members on patrol in jeeps when they identified and possibly pursued some number of enemy “insurgents” on motorcycles before said insurgents later returned and ambushed.
Air support was provided by the French who did not have authority to fire, so the fight on the ground which killed three Americans and two Nigeriens continued until helicopters controlled by private contractors finally arrived. The patrols were flown from the area by the private contractors but no headcount was done and Sgt. La David Johnson was left behind.
His body was recovered 48 hours later. It was so mutilated that his funeral was closed-casket.
When the casket arrived Trump was golfing. When the press asked if he’d yet spoken to the family he lied and accused previous presidents of not consoling Gold Star families. When Trump was finally pressured by the press into calling the window and family of Sgt. Johnson they were left feeling disrespected. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who had mentored La David Johnson since elementary school, was in the car with the family when the call was on speakerphone. The Trump White House bragged to the press that he had finally made the call so they asked the Wilson about it and she relayed the feelings of the family and later added that the widow was left crying in the fetal position as result of the president and his behavior on the call.
Trump of course lashed out at the Wilson and dragged Chief of Staff General John Kelly, himself a Gold Star father, into the fray. Kelly proceeded to repeatedly diminish Congresswoman Wilson as an “empty barrel” while completely fabricating statements that she had supposedly made in a speech in 2015 at the opening of a building she was instrumental in having named after two slain FBI agents.
Video of Wilson's speech emerged which proved Kelly had lied and when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was pressed about General Kelley’s comments she asserted that is was “highly inappropriate” to question a general. (Before, of course, Trump tweets doing just that in the past were found.)
On top of all of the shenanigans of the Trump White House we’ve learned that the FBI, our domestic law enforcement agency, is assisting in the military’s investigation into the ambush and subsequent deaths in Niger. Why are we using French air support if they can’t fire? Why are we using private contractors at all? How is it that Sgt. Johnson was left behind? What in the world are we doing in Niger in the first place? (And why is Rachel Maddow seriously trying to blame Trump's unconsitutional Muslim travel ban?)
Senator John McCain has called for congressional investigations with subpoena authority to get to the bottom of what lead to the deaths of four American (and two Nigerien) service members.
Where are the Democrats?