Friday, May 27, 2016
Hillary And Benghazi
Ah, yes, the Benghazi scandal. What else but four Americans getting killed on Hillary's watch could possibly fire up such opposition to her in the general election, and even the primary?
Except it wasn't a scandal. And far from Hillary having the blood of four Americans on her hands, her brightest shining moment came in her sworn testimony to the House Select Committee on Benghazi back in October of 2015, where she took the worst accusations that were possible from the Republicans and not only withstood them, she beat the right-wingers hands down, making them all look stupid. The result was Hillary soaring in the approval polls, and Bernie Sanders was barely a blip on the radar.
My, how times have changed in only several months.
My defense of Hillary on this is quite simple. The attack on Benghazi was a sucker punch. A sneak attack. A blindside. One doesn't blame FDR for Pearl Harbor, and most reasonable people don't blame George W. Bush for the attacks on September 11, 2001 (certainly no one on the Republican side does!). By the same token, one can't blame Hillary for the attack on the consulate at Benghazi. She doesn't have direct control over the defenses of every consulate, and even if she did, she doesn't have a functioning crystal ball to allow her to see into the future. If she had such a pallantier, she would most certainly have used it.
Blaming Hillary for the attack on the Benghazi consulate is like blaming the turnstile attendant at the Ford Theater for not stopping John Wilkes Booth before Lincoln got shot.
That would be enough of a defense right there. But, as usual, I need to not only score the touchdown but spike the football several thousand times in the end zone before people realize I really did put six points on the goddamned board. So, let me spike on.
The Benghazi incident generally resolves itself into three separate conspiracy theories regarding Hillary Clinton. here they are:
#1) Hillary is responsible for leaving the Benghazi consulate under-defended.
As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, the Secretary of State is not the person who calls the shots regarding the defense of American diplomatic consulates around the globe. That person is the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, who serves as the head of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. At the time of the Benghazi incident, the person serving in that role was Eric J. Boswell. His deputy, a woman named Charlene Lamb, rejected repeated requests from U.S. Security Officer Eric Nordstrom to send additional security to Benghazi. Her thinking at the time was that it was better for the American presence to keep a low profile, and that meant no visible displays of additional soldiers at the embassy.
After the Benghazi incident, Charlene Lamb testified just once at the House Select Committee, and was not summoned further. Lamb had been placed on leave after the Benghazi incident, along with her boss, Eric Boswell, but both were reinstated by Secretary of State John Kerry.
That's right, the doofus who left Benghazi under-defended, the name we clearly have in our hot, little hand, Charlene Lamb, was let go without even a slap on the wrist, given her old job back so that she could muck it up even further, and nobody has said anything!
Except Hillary Clinton. On the witness stand. With all the goddamned cameras watching.
She told us pretty much what we already knew. And Republicans still didn't listen. "The specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi," she said, "were handled by the security professionals in the [State] Department. I didn't see those requests, I didn't approve them, I didn't deny them."
No. Charlene Lamb did. Or rather, didn't. We should hang her out to dry. We could attack the current Secretary of State John Kerry for reinstating her.
But still, we go after Hillary Clinton.
This is a little bit like blaming Barack Obama for allowing the Bears to lose to the Redskins. But, of course, there are Republicans who do that sort of thing, too. The main reason we aren't sending this particular Lamb to the slaughter is because she's not running for president. And so, believing that they have a bigger fish to fry, they let the guilty party go free, and go after the innocent.
That's right. The "innocent" is really Hillary Clinton. Right? I know! How about that!
#2) Hillary didn't respond quickly enough to the threat to save American lives.
The reason that Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team were not rescued right away was because the top CIA officer stationed in Benghazi ordered the security contractors to stand down. Eventually, those men ignored the company man's orders and staged a rescue attempt anyway.
Again, we have a guilty culprit responsible for the delay in the form of the unnamed CIA official. Again it was not Hillary. And again, this individual is ignored in favor of going after Hillary anyway.
But that's not all, say Hillary's critics. As Secretary of State, Hillary had the power to push for a rescue of Americans in Benghazi. She didn't. The Americans were left to fend for themselves without help. Four Americans died as a result.
This, essentially, is the not-too-subtle message of the Michael Bay film, 13 Hours. For the duration of the siege on the consulate in Benghazi, and on the covert CIA base located nearby, American paramilitary fighters were left to fight on their own against Islamic militants apparently loyal to Daesh (ISIS). And why? Because, say Hillary's critics, the then Secretary of State thought it was more important to respect the sovereignty of Libya than to aid Americans in dire need of help.
Hillary was not named in the 13 Hours movie. She didn't have to be. Michael Bay and many others blame her for abandoning American special forces caught in the line of fire.
But the Secretary of State does not make the calls when it comes to military extractions and/or incursions. That call is made by the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They, in turn, recommend a rescue op to the President, who gives a go or no-go. The most that the Secretary of State can do in such a situation is talk to the SOD or the Joint Chiefs and try to persuade them to do something. By all accounts, that's what Hillary did.
Whether her efforts in that regard did any good, we'll never know. In the end, the timeline passed, and the need for an American incursion into Libyan territory was solved by the burgeoning Libyan government getting the Americans out themselves.
The decision to honor Libyan sovereignty was not popular here at home, but the Libyans loved us for it. In fact, they still do. Libyans love and respect the United States. How many Muslim nations can we say that of?
But let's not blame the CIA, or the Joint Chiefs, or the Secretary of Defense. Let's blame Hillary anyway. Why? Because that's the thing to do, apparently.
#3) Hillary called the incident a "planned attack" in at least two official e-mails before the revelation came about afterward that the attack had been a planned assault and not part of an official protest. The reason Hillary withheld that the attack was a terrorist assault was because she wanted the situation in Libya to be seen as a success for the Obama administration after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
This may be the only conspiracy theory with some plausibility to it. Hillary's response to this line of questioning in 2013 was to lose her cool and say, "What difference does it make?" But in the 2015 hearings to the House Select Committee, she stayed calm and pointed out that it was a fog of war situation, with lots of things happening at once. There were suspicions that the attack had been planned, and certain of her e-mails reflected that suspicion. So when the official press release through the White House Press Secretary was made, it reported that the attack had been part of the protest stemming from an apparent anti-Islamic YouTube video. In fact, that turned out not to be the case, and the official statement was revised according to the known facts on the ground. Representative Jim Jordan, who questioned Hillary in October of 2015, felt strongly that Hillary was deliberately covering up knowledge that the attack had been done on purpose, and not as some spontaneous protest. Hillary rightly countered that drawing such conclusions when the situation was one involving the "fog of war," was irresponsible.
Which side is right? Frankly, Hillary was quite correct the first time. It makes no difference. Even if she covered up the initial truth in an attempt to make Obama's administration look better, it was a temporary reprieve at best, and made Obama look only marginally better, even if such misinformation held over a lengthy period of time. So the accusation that Hillary was deliberately hiding something is ludicrous.
I'm sure that Hillary has covered up a great deal in her political tenure. Just not this time.
So, when it comes to Benghazi, the only scandal is that Republicans still think there is a scandal!
On the other hand, better for your opponents to be fixated on a fake scandal than a real one.