It’s been a long eight years of hibernation for the “Grim Milestone Media,” but it appears they have awoken.
All week the media has been on the attack against President Trump, rightly or wrongly, over his condolence calls to families of the four U.S. special operations soldiers who were killed in an ambush in Niger near the border with Mali on October 4.
— CNN International (@cnni) October 19, 2017
As is the case following fatal incidents, the Pentagon has opened up an investigation into the Niger ambush.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 20, 2017
The FBI has joined the investigation into how a group of militants killed four American soldiers in Niger https://t.co/zGgoKzAqvx
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) October 20, 2017
Details about the mission are beginning to emerge while the Pentagon investigation continues.
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) October 19, 2017
The media and members of Congress, who are already politicizing Trump’s condolence calls to the families, have begun taking a new tack over the past 24 hours — trying to make the Niger ambush Trump’s Benghazi.
MSNBC’s chief special operations analyst, Rachel Maddow, sent out the bat signal to the media yesterday, trying to drum up the “Trump’s Benghazi” narrative.
Maddow: Trump not wanting to talk about what happened in Niger makes me really want to know what happened in Niger. https://t.co/ukIrrCjs81
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) October 19, 2017
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 19, 2017
And the media have responded to her call:
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) October 19, 2017
— CNN (@CNN) October 19, 2017
— Esquire (@esquire) October 19, 2017
But the “Trump’s Benghazi” narrative is already providing some awkward media moments.
— SE Cupp Unfiltered (@UnfilteredSE) October 19, 2017
Sen. Inhofe to S.E. Cupp: Comparing Niger to Benghazi ‘Makes Me Physically Sick’ | Mediaite https://t.co/mDYyUwImrw
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) October 20, 2017
One of the leading conspiracy theories being pushed by Maddow is that the Niger ambush is related the withdrawal of troops from Chad, purportedly because Chad had been included in the expansion of Trump’s travel ban. This despite the fact that no Chad official has actually said so.
— Raw Story (@RawStory) October 20, 2017
But as one Central Africa expert has noted, the Chadian troops fighting against Boko Haram in Niger were stationed nearly 750 miles from the ambush site near the border with Mali.
Chadian forces that withdrew from Niger were stationed in Diffa, a region of Niger that has suffered greatly at the hands of Boko Haram. 3/n
— Laura Seay (@texasinafrica) October 20, 2017
Tongo Tongo is 733 miles from Diffa (as the crow flies). By road, that's at least a 24-hour journey. 8/n pic.twitter.com/PQKPlOsIqJ
— Laura Seay (@texasinafrica) October 20, 2017
Politico tried to gin up another controversy yesterday by reporting that the National Security Council had prepared a public statement for Trump to read on October 5, the day after the ambush, expressing sorrow for the loss of three of the special operations soldiers but it was never read.
— POLITICO (@politico) October 18, 2017
The media spin on this is that Trump was indifferent and wanted to remain silent on a military failure.
But the evident explanation is that another soldier, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, remained missing and a massive search by multinational forces was underway. Sgt. Johnson’s body was recovered a day later.
As the Politico article notes, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders did make a statement on the death of the three soldiers on October 5 but it fails to mention that the search for Sgt. Johnson was ongoing at the time.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 5, 2017
Which raises the third line of media attacks: that contrary to the U.S. military ethos, Sgt. Johnson had been “left behind.”
But Marine Lt. Gen. McKenzie shot that down during the Pentagon press briefing on Thursday, saying that multinational forces were in the battlespace constantly from the time of the attack, and the search for Sgt. Johnson didn’t stop until he was found.
Pentagon: US/French/Nigerian forces "never left the battlefield" until 4th US soldier found. "No one was left behind," says Lt Gen McKenzie
— Elizabeth McLaughlin (@Elizabeth_McLau) October 19, 2017
Perhaps the most unhinged attacks (so far) are the newly minted military media experts questioning why U.S. troops are even in Niger.
This includes Harvard Law School’s top military geostrategist:
So, @POTUS, what’s our mission in Niger, why were our 4 soldiers killed, what went wrong, why so silent about this, what are you hiding?
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) October 19, 2017
And other media military analyst luminaries:
My question to General Kelly: why were we even in Niger? If you honor the lives do not spend them without cause. We deserve to know why!
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) October 19, 2017
Again: why are US troops in Niger? And why haven’t the relevant Republican committee chairs scheduled hearings? https://t.co/bvEwDcKLWE
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) October 19, 2017
But a quick Google search reveals that U.S. troops were sent to Niger by Barack Obama in 2013.
A small number of US forces have been in Niger since 2013. It's been discussed at last 4 AFRICOM posture hearings. https://t.co/laQlajySaE
— John Noonan (@noonanjo) October 19, 2017
As ABC News explains, there are currently 800 U.S. troops in Niger, most of whom are there building a drone base for operations in the area:
How many U.S. troops are there in Niger?
About 800, but the vast majority of them are construction crews working to build up a second drone base in Niger’s northern desert. The rest run a surveillance drone mission from Niger’s capital of Niamey that helps out the French in Mali and other regional countries in the fight against Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and now ISIS. A smaller component, less than a hundred, are Army Green Beret units advising and assisting Niger’s military to build up their fighting capability to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS. There are an additional 300 U.S. military personnel in neighboring Burkina Faso and Cameroon doing the same thing. They are there as part of what’s known as the mission in the Lake Chad Basin.
Needless to say, some former special operators are taking issue with the media’s attacks, including Kris Paronto, one of the CIA security contractors who was abandoned by Obama and Hillary Clinton in Benghazi:
Rachel Maddow's comments about our SF soldiers in Niger are gross and uninformed. She is completely embarrassing herself on MSNBC tonight.
— Jack Murphy (@JackMurphyRGR) October 20, 2017
And Defense Secretary Mattis pushed back hard on the media today:
Mattis Discusses Niger Operation, Asks Media to Stop Second-Guessing https://t.co/hI3Tsz8uzG
— James A. Garamone (@GaramoneDODNews) October 19, 2017
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 19, 2017
In fairness, I was critical of the Obama administration’s handling of several fatal military incidents, such as the Extortion 17 shoot-down and the Kabul Airport green-on-blue attack in Afghanistan.
But in both those cases, I and many others at least allowed the Pentagon to conduct their investigation and gather some of the facts before criticizing the Obama administration’s policies and handling of the incidents.
In this case, the media aren’t even allowing the bodies of the soldiers to be buried before initiating their attacks.
It bears reminding that the media criticized then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney for speaking out so quickly after the Benghazi attacks.
With that in mind, did I miss Rachel Maddow’s or Joy Reid’s investigations following the deaths of three U.S. special operations soldiers killed in a car crash in Mali in April 2012 while traveling with Moroccan prostitutes?
For the “Grim Milestone Media,” some American service member deaths warrant more investigations than others depending who was in the White House, apparently.
Funny how that happens.