In truth, this is more an indictment against the State Department and Hillary Clinton than it is against Obama per se. Perhaps the worst that the White House itself is guilty of is the absurd political spin attributed to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi- namely, the infamous talking points memo blaming the attack on an Internet video.
Even still, the administration can claim some “innocence” here, although that “inocence” soon transformed into stupidity. It is a fact that there were spontaneous protests in other Arab countries against the video, the largest being in neighboring Egypt. The reason for those protests was never questioned. It is conceivable that in the confusion of the attack on the compound in Benghazi, administration officials reasonably believed that this was akin to the protests in Egypt and elsewhere. However, that line of analysis is somewhat diminished by the fact that soon after the “protest” or “attack,” it became clear that this was an organized terrorist action. Three days after the incident that left four Americans dead, including an ambassador, the White House- through their representative Susan Rice- still insisted on several Sunday news programs that the attack was motivated by the video in question. At that time, the administration knew, or should have known, that it was a terrorist attack.
But, is misrepresenting the truth on Sunday news programs a “high crime and misdemeanor?” Parsing Rice’s comments, one can make a case that there is enough qualification in her statements to answer in the negative. Instead, there are more pressing questions that implicate Obama, Clinton and another controversy where the administration tried to bypass Congress.
In a previous article entry awhile ago, I noted that the reason for Ambassador Stevens’ presence in Benghazi in the first place is the right starting point. There is ample evidence through news reports months prior to 9/11/12 that the port city of Benghazi was being used as a gun-running center for armaments to rebel fighters in Syria fighting the Assad regime. At that time, there was serious talk of arming the rebels with several hawkish Republicans arguing that we should be doing so. On the opposite side, others were arguing that we should not embroil ourselves in a civil war in Syria. This was prior to red lines and Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Regardless, we do know that a Turkish ship had loaded armaments from the collapsed Gadhafi regime and took them to Turkey where they then found their way into Syria. This was facilitated by CIA operatives in Benghazi who feared that these arms would fall into more militant Islamic factions operating in the mountains outside Benghazi. Instead of simply securing the arms, they were seen as a backdoor attempt to arm Syrian rebels. Thus, “securing” the arms meant getting them out of the country and into the hands of other fighters. There are also news reports that went largely unnoticed in the mainstream press at the time that Ambassador Stevens had gone to Benghazi to help facilitate such a deal and had done so in the past.
Despite his reasons for his being there- and it was most likely a covert arms shipment- he had on many occasions asked the State Department for additional security. Those requests apparently went unheeded. He further asked for an airplane which, in retrospect, could have come in handy on the night in question. In any case, the date September 11th- despite the year- should have rung bells and security should have been beefed up for all Americans- especially diplomats- operating in Arab countries. The situation was more stark in a country like Libya where there was a huge political vacuum created by the downfall of the Gadhafi regime and known terrorists were filing into the country to take advantage of that vacuum. Furthermore, an attack on the British ambassador previous to the attack in Benghazi should have rung even louder warning bells.
Clearly, this was a case of at least State Department ineptitude and ignorance. In its aftermath, the bigger audacity was blaming the lack of additional security on Republican budget cuts. Protection of American diplomats and citizens abroad should be the first priority of the State Department and here they clearly violated that dictum. There are reports that security at the American embassy in Belgium was greater than that afforded Ambassador Stevens.
Hillary Clinton’s rant before Congress aside, the better question is “Why did you not heed his calls for additional security?” rather than “What difference does it make? What can we do now?” Instead of accepting blame for every screw up in this administration, the response has been to blame the Bush administration, or to obfuscate the facts by, in essence, declaring that a costly lesson was learned and that we must now move on. By doing so, they never answer the most pertinent questions. It is one thing to lie to the American people on Sunday news programs and another to lie before Congress.
And what was Obama’s role in all this? Almost two weeks after the attack, he was still apparently under the impression that a protest gone awry against an Internet video was the reason for the death of four Americans. This was a 12-hour sustained attack on an American consulate in Benghazi. Obama’s response was to jump on an airplane and fly to Las Vegas for a fundraising event. Well, at least it wasn’t a scheduled golf outing.
Further, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, there were numerous inquiries and investigations, including a special commission set up by Congress. The Bush administration cooperated with these inquiries 100%. The Secretary of State did not testify, “What difference does it make?” Yet, in response to foot dragging and stonewalling by the Obama administration, a Congressional commission designed to get to the bottom of the Benghazi tragedy is dismissed as a “political football.” George W. Bush was held up to criticism for failing to act on an ambiguously worded intelligence finding prior to 9/11 and today is still the subject of conspiracy theorists and disdain by the Left. Yet, the Obama administration is given or expects a free pass when requests for additional security due to the deteriorating conditions in Libya were clearly unambiguous.
If not showing disdain for the Congressional inquiries, the administration is insulting the intelligence of the American people. These inquiries are clearly within the purview of Congress’ oversight powers. This happened two years ago; there are no vital national security secrets to protect. Many press accounts accurately chronicle what was going on in Benghazi (an arms trafficking operation) prior to these attacks. The main point is not the false controversy over “talking points memos;” it is over why the State Department and, by proxy, the Obama administration failed to act on those requests for additional security.
Clearly, for whatever reason, the non-action by the State Department illustrates ineptitude at the least and gross negligence at the most. Is Obama directly responsible? Probably not, but putting politics over the safety of Americans certainly does not bode well. But, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin from over 200 years ago, the action or inaction is certainly “obnoxious” at the least.