Benghazi-gate Arguments Refuted

The American people and press have been slapping the suffix “gate” on any real or pretend political scandal since the famous political burglary at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. That “second-rate” burglary was followed by obstruction of justice in several ways; the payment of cash money from illegal campaign funds to silence the burglars hired by Nixon campaign officials, the attempt to have the CIA cut off the FBI investigation by claiming it was a national security operation arising out of the conflicts with Cuba, the destruction of investigative records by high officials of the FBI, perjury, and various other political dirty tricks in support of Nixon’s reelection in 1972. This led to Nixon’s resignation while articles of impeachment were being prepared.

One of the less known fall-outs from the initial “gate,” was that Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho, headed a committee to investigate the intelligence agencies of the United States. The Church Committee was wide-ranging and delved into and exposed such activities as attempts to poison Fidel Castro with his own cigars (like exploding cigars out of the Three Stooges) to the less humorous wire-tapping and letter-opening by FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover who tried to link the Civil Rights Movement to a world-wide communist conspiracy. The Church Committee was certainly controversial in many respects but it was also bi-partisan and investigated abuses in both Democratic and Republican Administrations. There are legitimate doubts as to whether the current House Committee on Benghazi has the same bi-partisan interest or possibly represents the political and constitutional threats of Watergate itself.

Let’s look at a couple of the issues:

The Republican critique of the Administration for not labeling Benghazi a terrorist attack immediately.

Terrorist crises tend to support the president politically. It is interesting that President Obama did not use this event as did his opponent in the initial hours after the attack on our Ambassador. The George W. Bush Administration’s gross mishandling of the Iraq war (and the GOP-controlled Congress’s lack of oversight) and the hyped intelligence case for invading Iraq was far more devastating to our country. Thousand of Americans died, tens of thousands disabled, and trillions of dollars were added to our debt. Many of the same cheerleaders of the War in Iraq are now cynically making a political issue of Benghazi.

Secretary Clinton testified previously, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton is right. Whether it was a terrorist group that plotted and planned the attack or a spur-of-the-moment idea of radical Islamist thugs, it was equally reprehensible. The effect is the same.

History has shown that with any such attack– like the ones on our embassies in Iran and Pakistan back in the 1970s, or the attack on our embassy in Cairo on the same day as the Benghazi incident– it’s important to verify facts when talking to the public.  Conflicting stories and blatant falsehoods come out in the initial hours and days following such events.  Initially, no organization claimed credit for the attack at Benghazi. Even if they had, intelligence reports require corroboration from multiple sources before they are considered reliable. So if one source tells you it was a terrorist attack, you can’t take that to the bank. You must find other sources that either confirm or deny the notion that it was a premeditated attack by Islamist terrorists, rather than a spur-of-the-moment attack like the US Embassy in Cairo.Leadership also has to be conscience of national security reasons, which prohibits full disclosure about the facility in Benghazi.

Was the administration wrong in saying Benghazi might be related to the anti-Islamic film that sparked protests across the Middle East including the assault on our embassy in Cairo? Yes. It turned out that the video protests were unrelated to this event. Ambassador Susan Rice spoke too soon and with limited information. In retrospect there were conflicting reports at the beginning. With the assault the same day in Cairo inspired by the protests against the film, it wasn’t a far stretch to surmise that Benghazi was motivated by the same thing. Why try to crucify Susan Rice over some talking points she gave to the media, which apparently were the best they had, or could explain at that point? The GOP politicized this attack immediately before it was even known that the Ambassador was dead to crassly score political points against President Obama.

The Obama Administration has been far more aggressive (and successful) in pursuing a counter-terrorism agenda than the previous administration (Bin Laden raid, scores of successful drone strikes taking out top Al Qaeda leaders, devastation of Al Qaeda ranks in Pakistan, and successful cooperation with other governments). Yet the public needs to understand that the fight against violent Islamic extremists (not the Islamic Faith) will continue for decades and terrorists will launch successful attacks. Bin Laden successfully launched a global jihadist movement and it is impossible to prevent all terror attacks. Yet we need to do what we can to minimize future terror attacks to diminish the ability of terrorists to conduct attacks, deny them safe havens, disrupt plots when we uncover them, capture/kill them when we can, and try to prevent radicalization of future violent jihadists by changing hearts and minds.

The GOP should focus their attention towards perpetrators and discuss support for eliminating threats, rather than scoring political points against the President. The Republican House voted to cut the State Department embassy security budget prior to Benghazi and ironically attack the administration for not providing enough security at diplomatic posts in Libya. The GOP’s support of sequestration weakens our military and intelligence capabilities and will directly impact our ability to find those responsible and prevent future occurrences. Furloughing personnel involved in these efforts will not help resolve Benghazi.

The Republican leadership alluding that the Administration withheld resources to assist Benghazi.

There was a first response security team at Tripoli that was dispatched immediately to provide additional security (see the timeline of the attack and U.S. response here). In addition to the Tripoli forces, embassy security is comprised of both U.S. and host-country security personnel. Host-country forces are always the first line of defense at every embassy. This is how diplomatic security works all over the world and it is unreasonable to think we can resource a large contingent U.S. troops at each embassy to protect them. Nor would it be necessary given the host-country forces.

Former Defense Secretary, Robert M. Gates, who served under several Republican presidents in various capacities including as Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush and President Obama, refuted the suggestion that the Pentagon could have scrambled jets or special forces during the attack as a “cartoonish impression of military capabilities.”

“Frankly had I been in the job at the time, I think my decisions would have been just as theirs were,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “Frankly, I’ve heard ‘Well, why didn’t you just fly a fighter jet over and try and scare ‘em with the noise or something?’ Well, given the number of surface-to-air missiles that have disappeared from Qaddafi’s arsenals, I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft over Benghazi under those circumstances. And with respect to — sending in special forces or a small group of people to try and provide help, based on everything I have read, people really didn’t know what was going on in Benghazi contemporaneously,” Gates added. “And to send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on on the ground, I think, would have been very dangerous.”

Republican administrations frequently deflect the constitutional principle of civilian control over the military to “rely on the generals on the ground.” Yet now, they tend to disbelieve the military explanations that there was no additional aid that could have come to Benghazi in time.

As Secretary Clinton said, “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”

Rather than politicizing the tragic event at Benghazi in an attempt to score points against the 2012 and potential 2016 Democratic candidates, it would be better for the GOP to work with Democrats to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.  Properly funding embassy security, conducting a bi-partisan investigation, ending sequestration, and preventing any further compromise of our national security is necessary to prevent further attacks on American targets across the globe. What we need are statesmen like Senator Frank Church leading a comprehensive and balanced approach which will save American lives and heal our political divide.

9 Replies to “Benghazi-gate Arguments Refuted”

  1. All good except Benghazi was not an Embassy..it was a Consulate. Less protection at Consulates compared to Embassies. Apparently Ambassador decided to go to this less secure consulate on a 9/11 anniversary. This “consulate” also was a front for some kind of CIA operation, so maybe he felt safe enough doing so.

  2. Grant, what an interesting interpretation of facts. Let me respond…

    You wrote, “History has shown that with any such attack– like the ones on our embassies in Iran and Pakistan back in the 1970s, or the attack on our embassy in Cairo on the same day as the Benghazi incident– it’s important to verify facts when talking to the public.” My response…While I could probably agree with the need to take sufficient time to speak the facts, that was not the chosen path this administration took. They, both Pres Obama and Sec Clinton, in addition to Rice, were quick and constant in blaming the video even though we now know that there were MANY that understood what had occurred and that knew immediately that the attack was in fact a terrorist attack. But even if they did not know (I am being kind here) they should not have stepped forward without verifying the facts blaming the video.

    You wrote, “The GOP should focus their attention towards perpetrators and discuss support for eliminating threats, rather than scoring political points against the President. The Republican House voted to cut the State Department embassy security budget prior to Benghazi and ironically attack the administration for not providing enough security at diplomatic posts in Libya. The GOP’s support of sequestration weakens our military and intelligence capabilities and will directly impact our ability to find those responsible and prevent future occurrences. Furloughing personnel involved in these efforts will not help resolve Benghazi.” My response…First, you earn a Pinocchio over your statement attributing the lack of security to Republican budget cuts. In sworn testimony State Dept. official Charlene Lamb clearly stated that funding was not contributory at all to their decisions to not increase security. Point two, sequestration was originally Pres Obama’s idea and he only screamed about the cuts when the right called his bluff.

    I tire of hearing this sound bite but you wrote, “Secretary Clinton testified previously, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton is right. Whether it was a terrorist group that plotted and planned the attack or a spur-of-the-moment idea of radical Islamist thugs, it was equally reprehensible. The effect is the same.” My response…When I first heard Sec Clinton utter with faux anger, I screamed that it makes all the difference, and that the left cannot see this explains everything about how they handle and approach terror. That a random attack by thugs in the street or an organized attack by an Islamic terrorist group could be viewed the same is frightening but it makes all the difference in explaining the Keystone Cop-like behavior of far two many.

    Finally, you wrote, “Ambassador Susan Rice spoke too soon and with limited information. In retrospect there were conflicting reports at the beginning. With the assault the same day in Cairo inspired by the protests against the film, it wasn’t a far stretch to surmise that Benghazi was motivated by the same thing. Why try to crucify Susan Rice over some talking points she gave to the media, which apparently were the best they had, or could explain at that point? The GOP politicized this attack immediately before it was even known that the Ambassador was dead to crassly score political points against President Obama.” The only conflicting reports that existed were those within the administration. The only side trying to garner political points was the administration in their now know 12 re-writes of the talking points to make what was said in the public not resemble the facts as they were then known by many in the State Department and White House.

    One thing that we do not know still these many months later is where in the world our president was. When there is good news to be had, as when the Seals killed Bin Laden, you would almost think that President Obama pulled the trigger himself by his description of the night. He was front and center and in full command. But his whereabouts that night are still a mystery, though we know where he was the next day; Las Vegas at a campaign event.

    1. Thanks, Jary, for your interpretations and nipping around the facts. But you have not addressed my main point that this is a partisan attempt without much substance to attack President Obama and Secretary Clinton (Republicans even misrepresenting emails: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57584947/wh-benghazi-emails-have-different-quotes-than-earlier-reported/) rather than a truly bi-partisan effort investigating across administrations of both parties as was the Church Committee. Criticize all you want, but Issa is no Statesman. And Republican hands are not clean.

  3. Grant, only the left would call what I did “nipping around the facts.” Why would anyone want to let the facts get in the way of good reporting? Sadly this has become a partisan issue because this administration and the left has attempted to cover and misrepresent what happen, evidenced both by the testimony of the whistle blowers and the now released emails. This email exchange, as they worked through trying to sanitize the initial talking points, shows that they either were not on top of things, though they quickly professed to know the so called cause of the attack (the video) or they were hiding what they knew. Left leaning journalists such as Kirsten Powers, certainly no right wing partisan, have been calling on the White House from very early on to come clean. There cannot be a bipartisan assessment of anything when only one side wants to get to the truth, and we can still see that is the case when as recently as just days ago Senators Reid and Boxer again falsely blamed the lack of adequate security on the Republican controlled house. Thankfully the Washington Post gets it right once in a while as they blast her nonsensical claim. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/barbara-boxers-claim-that-gop-budgets-hampered-benghazi-security/2013/05/15/d1e295cc-bdb0-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_blog.html

    So left, step up to the table and engage in a real bipartisan review of what happened that night in Libya.

  4. Grant, I am guessing that you will dismiss the source of this video but if nothing else, listen to Kirsten Powers. Again, she is no right wing ideologue at all. How can there be any bipartisan effort to get to the bottom of this when even the President misleads? That is according to the Wahsington Post not me. http://youtu.be/Kzf5XfMdADM

  5. “Cartoonish” seems more and more frequently to describe Republican thinking about the US military. Recently a Facebook friend said instead of prisoner swapping for Bowe Bergdahl, we should have sent Seal Team Six to pull him out.

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