Longtime readers of the blog know that I have a series that I like to call “Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs.” Today we’re going to look at the question of Benghazi. This would be the 9th installment in that series. Tomorrow we will be looking at the question of Hillary Clinton’s email server, which will be the 10th installment.
What Happened in Benghazi?
Back on September 11 of 2012, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by a sizeable number of Islamist radicals. The Diplomatic Compound in Benghazi – not to be confused with the Embassy in Libya – was not protected by regular United States military, but largely by a group of about a dozen ex-military CIA contractors. During the attack, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith were killed. Subsequent thereto, a 2nd attack was launched on the Security Annex, about a mile away from the Diplomatic Compound, where two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty, were also killed. The remaining Compound and Annex staff were safely evacuated from Benghazi after heroic efforts by the security team assigned to protect the compound.
Initially, the CIA and the Obama administration believed that the Benghazi attack was the consequence of a spontaneous protest triggered by an anti-Muslim video, the Innocence of Muslims. This video was a 14-minute piece that had been uploaded to YouTube, that had indeed caused spontaneous outrage in Egypt.
It turns out that the attack on Benghazi had been planned before the release of the Innocence of Muslims, although the release of the video provided extra incentive to the attackers.
During the attack, the members of the security team deployed at the Security Annex were delayed for about 20 minutes by the local CIA station chief, because the station chief wanted to determine whether or not the Libyan security forces were going to join in or even take the lead in defending against the attack. To be clear, there is no evidence that Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, or Leon Panetta, who was then the Secretary of Defense, were participants in any way in the decision to delay 20 minutes while seeking out the involvement of the Libyan military. It’s not even clear that either were notified.
The delay in protecting the Diplomatic Compound may have been decisive in the failure to rescue Ambassador Stevens and Officer Sean Smith. Or maybe not. It’s speculative, although the delay certainly didn’t help. The entire sequence of events has been cataloged in agonizing detail, including through a book written by the Annex Security Team itself, with assistance from Mitchell Zuckoff.
The attack on the compound occurred on a Tuesday night and lasting until early Wednesday morning. On the subsequent Sunday, the Obama administration sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice out to the Sunday political talk show circuit. At that time, Ambassador Rice argued that the attacks were a response to the video the Innocence of Muslims. This turns out to have been mostly incorrect. However, there is also no evidence that this was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Administration to mislead the Congress or the American public. Rather, it seems to reflect the fact that at the time there was some genuine confusion in the intelligence services and in the administration about what the cause of the attack actually was.
How Often was this Investigated?
The Benghazi attacks have been investigated approximately ten times, including six times alone by the House of Representatives. This includes:
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation;
- The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence;
- The House Committee on Armed Services;
- The House Committee on Foreign Affairs;
- The House Committee on Intelligence;
- The House Committee on Judiciary;
- The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform;
- The State Department Accountability Review Board;
- The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs;
- The House Select Committee, chaired by Trey Gowdy.
The attack in Benghazi is certainly something that should have been investigated. Maybe once or twice. But ten times? And six times by the Republican House? Four people died in this incident, including the Ambassador, which is something that should have been of serious concern to everyone. On the other hand, four people die in Iraq just about every day, if not a lot more than four. Unfortunate as it was, this is not an event that in any way jeopardized the security of the United States. It was a small tragedy in a very violent area of the world, a place where bad things happen to good people all the time.
Why do the Republicans Think this is a big Scandal?
So why do Republicans think this is such a gigantic scandal? This, frankly, is a matter of great mystery. Initially, no one denies that security at the Compound was inadequate, something that Ambassador Stevens was well aware of. He chose to travel there anyway. Nevertheless, Republicans apparently believe that Hillary Clinton should be held personally liable for the deaths that occurred there, even though there is essentially no evidence that Hillary had any responsibility for what happened there. The Republicans seem to have two lines of attack:
- First, they seem to believe that blaming the attack on the video, the Innocence of Muslims, instead of being a planned terrorist attack connected to Al-Qaeda, was an attempt by the Obama administration to “spin” the story to their advantage during Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Why this would be to Obama’s advantage still remains a mystery to this day.
- Second, the Republicans seem to think that Hillary is somehow personally responsible for the inadequate security at the Benghazi compound, even though making decisions around embassy security is not a function of the Secretary of State. Not when that Secretary was Madeleine Albright, or Colin Powell, or Condoleeza Rice, or most recently John Kerry.
Requests for more security personnel on the part of the American diplomatic team in Libya were not addressed directly to Hillary Clinton. Instead, they were cables sent to the State Department and handled by those administrators who are normally in charge of making these kind of administrative decisions. In fact, Ronan Farrow, the activist son of actress Mia Farrow, has pointed out that it was Congress that had not fully funded the Obama administration’s request for security at embassies around the world.
The One Thing that Did Come Out of the Investigations
There is one thing that did come out of the investigations: the discovery that Hillary Clinton used a private email server while she was Secretary of State. This will be the subject of tomorrow’s edition of Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs.
 Both apparently died of smoke inhalation while hiding in a portion of the compound after it was set on fire.
 It turns out that one of the people involved in planning the attack, captured suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala claimed that the assault was indeed in retaliation for the video Innocence of Muslims.
 The Libyan security forces were known as the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, and were financed by the Libyan Defense Ministry. They were essentially the surrogate of the Libyan armed forces in that part of Libya at the time.
 The attack began roughly around 9:00 p.m., which would have been about 3:00 a.m. in Washington D.C.
 The name of the book is 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, and the book is very sympathetic to the Annex Security Team and very admiring of their courage in defense of the Annex and Compound. I read the whole book back in 2014, shortly after it was published.
 Rice appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation and ABC’s This Week. Although Rice said that the attack “began spontaneously”, but qualified her remarks about the attack, saying, “We’ll want to see the results of an FBI investigation to draw any definitive conclusions.” She made similar statements on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Meet the Press, State of the Union with Candy Crowley, and Fox News Sunday. Subsequently, on November 19, 2012, ninety-seven House Republicans sent a letter to President Obama to say Rice’s statements were “misleading” and that she should accordingly not be considered as a candidate to succeed Hillary Clinton in 2013 as Secretary of State. Rice subsequently explained that her statements about Benghazi were based on information approved by United States intelligence services.
 The entire timeline of the investigations into Benghazi is set forth here.
 Ambassador Stevens was, as is generally acknowledged, a friend of Hillary Clintons. Not a “I’m inviting you over to the house for dinner” friend, but a friend nonetheless. The mother of Ambassador Stevens has pointedly asked the Republican party to stop using her son’s name to score political points.
 The American Embassy as in Tripoli, not in Benghazi, and Ambassador Stevens travelled to Benghazi and the understaffed compound for a mission at his own discretion.
 It was in this context that Hillary Clinton asked “what difference does it make“ for why the militants attacked, which is indeed a very good question. Naturally, the Republicans tried to spin her question into making it appear that Hillary was indifferent to the deaths that took place there, which is completely untrue. All evidence points to the contrary. It appears that Hillary actually took it pretty hard.
 It should be noted that Politifact has disputed a number of Farrow’s accusations. In particular, Politifact maintains that while it’s true that Congress has chronically underfunded the President’s requests in these areas, this is not that unusual and did not begin with the Obama administration. In addition, they argue that embassy funding was substantially increased after 9/11 and that the compound in Benghazi was intended to be a temporary facility, and that is part of the reason it did not have proper security.
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