By Stephen C. Webster on February 11, 2014

A report issued Monday (PDF) by the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Republicans, puts to rest many popular conspiracy theories about the attack on America's embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

In a rather amazing admission, the report concludes that no "stand down" order was ever given to military personnel as the attack was ongoing -- a key talking point for Republicans, Fox News and other rightwing media outlets.

"There was no 'stand down' order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi," the report says. "However, because official reviews after the attack were not sufficiently comprehensive, there was confusion about the roles and responsibilities of these individuals."

Instead of a conspiracy to reshape the events to suit the political needs of President Barack Obama, as many conservatives have alleged, the report reveals there was no intelligence suggesting an attack was imminent. It also admits that Obama gave the Department of Defense a wide berth, letting the military handle the situation as its commanders saw fit.

Those commanders had to make a series of tough calls that night, and the House Armed Services Committee report says they opted to keep a team of special forces soldiers stationed at the embassy in Tripoli out of fear that there could be a follow-up attack there. This is what Fox News and rightwing talking heads would ultimately distort into a "stand down" order broadcast by the White House, based on the testimony of State Department whistleblower Gregory Hicks.

Hicks clashed with Army Lieutenant Col. S.E. Gibson, according to the report, who made the decision to divide his small contingent of soldiers between Tripoli and Benghazi. "He said his decision was based on consultation with two other officers and the three had 'about 90 years of collective Special Operations experience' between them," the report explains.

However, when Hicks testified to Congress in May, 2013, "he did not object during the hearing when the soldier's instructions were categorized as orders to 'stand down,'" the report adds. "This led some to conclude erroneously that inaction rather than an alternative warfighting posture was ordered for Lieutenant Colonel Gibson's four men."

Republicans have relied upon that erroneous belief to keep the Benghazi story alive since the Sept. 11, 2012 attack, using it as a political truncheon bludgeon Obama for allegedly orchestrating a cover-up of the events. Their theories have run the gamut, with most conservative conspiracy theorists concluding that this alleged cover-up was meant to protect Obama's reelection chances from the political fallout of a terrorist incident on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Even Robert Gates, the former defense chief appointed by President George W. Bush, criticized Republican scandal-making over Benghazi last May, calling their ideas of the military's capabilities "cartoonish." Gates said that special forces were hours away when the attack began, and even the notion of flying some jets overhead was far-fetched due to the threat of it being shot down. "The one thing our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way, and there just wasn't time," he told CBS News.

Ultimately, responsibility for the lax security in Benghazi lies with Republicans in Congress, who imposed significant cuts on embassy security budgets in the years leading up to the attack, and with the State Department, which did not divide its shrinking resources more carefully despite requests for more security in Benghazi.

Despite all the evidence debunking their claims, it seems likely that Republicans will continue talking up the attack in Benghazi, due at least in part to a painfully obvious fear of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions.

Just for fun, here's a long list of rightwing talkers who have over the past year and a half repeated the utterly bogus allegation that a "stand down" order came from the Obama Administration. We're not exactly hopefully that these folks will issue the necessary corrections, so their faux scandal will just have to make itself at home on this page. (For the record, Media Matters recorded at least 85 different primetime segments on Fox News that mentioned a "stand down" order -- and that total was as of last June.)

Here's the "breaking" report from Fox News:

Fox News contributor Peter Johnson Jr. claiming that Obama "sacrificed Americans":

And Sean Hannity sounding very certain:

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee jumped onboard too:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) talking up some salacious Benghazi "rumors":

Shock jock Rush Limbaugh repeating gibberish from a rightwing blog:

Fox "News" personality Bret Baer stretching for controversy:

And finally, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) telling rightwing radio host Dana Loesch that Obama did it:

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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