Christian radio host Frank Pastore, at KKLA-FM in Los Angeles, falsely repeated the right wing bogus claim that the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, refused to allow U.S. marines to load their guns, even though the embassy was being threatened by protesters
(The “no live ammo” claim was created by right wing web sites and has been debunked, please see below.)
Pastore falsely claimed that “because she’s a lefty she didn’t want her Marines carrying live ammo.”
Not surprisingly, one of Pastore’s callers “Theresa” swallowed his lie and verbally attacked Patterson.
Pastore then said: “If you’re a liberal and you don’t want bullets in your Marine’s guns then get your own detail. Those of us who actually want Marines with guns and real ammo, we’ll use ours.”
“They always have these crazy policies that don’t put themselves at risk, but it puts other people…”
However, the entire claim made by Pastore was bogus. Pastore proudly claims to have a Christian worldview, but sadly his worldview doesn’t include reality.
Early Thursday morning, conservative military bloggers began to float reports that the US ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, did not permit US Marine security guards to carry live ammunition. Within hours, this “no ammo” rumor in response to the embassy attack in Cairo lit up right-wing social media, with the allegation unquestioningly blamed on the White House. Conservative thought-leaders and pundits led the charge.
he sole source for this assertion was Nightwatch—a conservative “intelligence” blog written by former Defense Department analyst John McCreary and hosted by a subsidiary of a defense contractors’ lobby group—which attributed the report to unnamed (and uncounted) “USMC blogs.” According to McCreary, Patterson—a career foreign service officer who was not a political appointee, and who served George W. Bush as an ambassador to the United Nations and to Pakistan—”did not defend U.S. sovereign territory and betrayed her oath of office.” And: “She neutered the Marines posted to defend the embassy, trusting the Egyptians over the Marines.”
hese claims were quickly perpetuated by the right-wing Washington Free Beacon and Fox Nation sites, despite never having been confirmed—and they are highly unlikely to be true. Patterson was in Washington at the time of the protests, leaving the deputy chief of mission in charge, and he would have had responsibility for issuing orders to guards, along with the embassy’s regional security officer, a specially trained State Department official. State’s own guidelines for Marine security guards (PDF) require that any duty assigned to them “shall not contravene established Department or Marine Corps policy and shall not unduly jeopardize the safety or well-being of any Marine.” That’s a pretty straightforward way of saying Marines don’t lay down their arms if danger is imminent, no matter what a diplomat says. Unless, of course, you’re willing to believe the worst about POTUS and his diplomatic corps.
Pentagon spokesman George Little dismissed the allegations Thursday afternoon. “With or without a weapon, Marines are always armed,” he told Time’s Mark Thompson. “I’ve heard nothing to suggest they don’t have ammunition.”
I reached McCreary by email but haven’t gotten any answers from him to my questions about where his information comes from; if he provides answers I’ll add an update. (I’ve also contacted the US embassy in Cairo for a response.)
Indeed, this appears to be the latest incarnation of a pervasive myth that military “rules of engagement” under Barack Obama have limited soldiers’ ability to defend themselves and defeat enemies—which is itself a variation on the old conservative canard that we’d have won Vietnam if only liberal peaceniks hadn’t gotten in the way of the warfighters. (In fact, there was some grumbling among troops about restrictive Afghanistan rules of engagement in 2009-10 under Gen. Stanley McChrystal—and his replacement, Gen. David Petraeus, reviewed the ROE and clarified them for rank-and-file combatants. In other words, while the president may call the strategic shots, the generals take care of front-line tactics.)
McCreary and his followers are playing to emotions surrounding the four American deaths in Libya, but they don’t bother to consider how the Marines might have actually used steel-jacketed, high-powered .223 rifle cartridges in Cairo, which was a different situation involving street protesters. Should they have gunned the protesters down? About the only thing the conservative blogosphere knows for sure is: Whatever happened, it must be the president’s fault.
Update, Thursday, September 13, 2:30 p.m. PDT: Mother Jones has obtained a memorandum from the Marine Corps’ congressional liaison confirming that the Marine guards at the embassy in Egypt were in fact armed with live ammunition, contrary to the anti-Obama conspiracy theory du jour:
The Ambassador did not impose restrictions on weapons or weapons status on the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) detachment. The MCESG Marines in Cairo were allowed to have live ammunition in their weapons. The Ambassador and Regional Security Officer have been completely and appropriately engaged with the security situation. Reports of Marines not being able to have their weapons loaded per direction from the Ambassador are not accurate.
(Source: Mother Jones and KKLA-FM)