Update, 2:30pm 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.
The full text of the memo is at the bottom of this post.
Early this 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.
The sole source for this assertion was “Nightwatch”—a conservative “intelligence” blog written by former Defense Department analyst John McCrearyand 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 UN 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.”
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.”
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.