Clearly Present Dangers

by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer

Sometimes life imitates the movies, or so it seems.

Tom Clancy’s 1989 political thriller novel, Clear and Present Danger, was made into one of those rare movies (1994) which is better than the book.

While the star of the movie, according to the marquee, is celebrity Harrison Ford, the real star (according to me) is Henry Czerny, who plays the role of the villainous, cowardly and backstabbing, but highly placed government official, Robert Ritter. Other officials are equally cunning and duplicitous, but Czerny’s cold blooded character is easier to hate, a tribute to his acting talent.

Henry Czerny as Robert Ritter in Clear and Present Danger

As I watched this movie (again) recently, I picked up snippets that I had either missed or forgotten in the original, clues as to how the convoluted twists and turns of the plot work together to illustrate American government at its darkest.

The movie ends with heroics, but in real life, it is not always so. Fictional depictions of American soldiers murdered in Colombia by the drug cartel, with American government complicity, remind me of the real life murders of American heroes in Benghazi,Libya. The fictional treacheries of White House officials in the movie are tragically paralleled by the calculated betrayals that cost the lives of loyal Americans in Libya.

As a twenty-year military veteran, I recall one detail from all the reporting about Benghazi that stays with me years later. That detail proves to me that, imitating the movie, the dead Americans were betrayed by their government, abandoned and left to die, rather than to cause political inconvenience to the president and secretary of state.

The real life detail is this: while American fighting men defended their station from terrorist attackers, one of them got on the radio and frantically asked, where is the Specter? Based on that single remark, most infantry veterans will instantly recognize that the American defenders fully expected air support—and they expected it only because they had been promised it.

The Specter is an Air Force plane capable of delivering precise, devastating gunfire in close-in support of ground operations. One of its most famous uses was in the defense of the governor’s compound on Granada when in 1983, Cuban soldiers tried to storm it. American forces defending the compound called for, and were aided by, the Air Force gunship, which destroyed the attacking Cuban force, which was within feet of the Americans, and did so without hitting any Americans.

It is inconceivable that the American fighters in Libya would have deliberately exposed themselves to enemy gun and mortar fire, lasering the intended enemy target, unless they had been instructed to do so with the expectation that the laser targeting would be used by the Specter to hit the enemy from the air.

When the expected air support did not materialize, the dying cry came forth, where is the Specter?

One must wonder how high into the upper reaches of government, knowledge of this treachery extends. The state department was well aware of the dangers in Benghazi, well aware of the requests for security which it had denied, and well aware that the US ambassador would be vulnerable to attack. Government and military officials were well aware that at least minimal air support should be made available, and well aware that a simple flyover might have frightened off the attackers. Despite all these many factors, no help was sent.

There is no doubt in my mind that some low level military men, who have knowledge of this, have since been warned to keep quiet, and that high ranking military officers obeyed orders to stand down, orders that they well knew would at the least endanger their comrades.

Congressional inquiries have been stonewalled for years, and not one person has been held accountable in the incident.

Claims by the government blaming the murders on an offensive movie which supposedly sparked a “demonstration” are clearly ludicrous, yet were adhered to for days after the attack. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed her culpability in these murders with her now infamous flippancy, what difference does it make?

Sometimes life imitates the movies, but sadly, without the heroic ending.

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