Despite any talk to the contrary, Benghazi matters.
All the President’s men and a hurricane force spin machine are feverishly working to protect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes, urging the public to interpret Wednesday’s congressional testimony by high-level career State Department diplomats and security personnel as part of an effort by Republicans to “politicize” a non-event.
[pullquote align=”right”]The questions themselves concern constitutional duties that have no partisan distinction. After all, there aren’t two Article IIs in the Constitution, one for Democrats and another for Republicans…[/pullquote]White House spokesman Jay Carney has suggested the 8-month-old Benghazi incident be regarded as “ancient history.”
But disposing of Benghazi is not so easy. The Benghazi affair is not a sex scandal, or an affair involving personal financial dealings, or even political intrigue about partisan and divisive policy goals. Middle America has a three-stage reaction to those kinds of blatantly partisan mudfests – shock (immersion in obsessive media coverage), talk (sharing of outrage with friends and co-workers) and yawn (for example, Sanford’s mistress was sooo yesterday).
But in order for the efforts by Democratic shepherds to prod journalists and the public to move along – “nothing to see here” – they must overcome five looming realities that are not grounded in politics, but in national security.
- On Sept. 11, 2012, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by more than 100 heavily-armed Islamist militiamen.
- High-ranking State Department personnel testified Wednesday that the last person to speak with Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, state department foreign service officer Greg Hicks, personally briefed Clinton by phone at 2 A.M. Benghazi time and described the attackers as “terrorists.”
- No order was given to send armed reinforcements to extricate the U.S. personnel from the embattled consular compound. (Testimony given Wednesday reaffirmed the possibility that a request for support was made and denied.)
- Four U.S. government personnel, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed in the attacks.
- In the days after the attacks, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, Pres. Barack Obama and other administration officials made repeated statements claiming or implying the attacks grew out of a spontaneous demonstration relating to an anti-Islamic film.
Learning everything about what happened in Benghazi is no more a political exercise than was the work of the blue ribbon 9/11 Commission convened after the horrific terrorist attacks of 2001. The current case, though not politically-motivated, could have devastating political consequences. The questions asked in today’s hearings concern constitutional duties that have no partisan distinction. After all, there aren’t two Article IIs in the Constitution, one for Democrats and another for Republicans, and while the actions of high-level Democratic officials are undeniably the focus of scrutiny, the controversy is over whether the Pres. Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his senior advisors took seriously enough an attack against U.S. property and personnel, and if not, whether they sought to disguise their failure in a costume of lies.
Still, one can hear the hypnotic chant from a partisan chorus of naysayers and down-players, an echo of Clinton’s feisty retort from House hearings on the matter last year: “What difference does it make!”
Why is it important to get all of the facts about how Clinton and other officials in the Obama administration responded to the Benghazi attack? For one reason, because we are still at war; we require leaders who are able to acknowledge and respond to the threat.
In the early hours of the attack, Hicks described the attackers as “terrorists” during his 2 A.M. phone briefing to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Days later, when the bodies of the dead arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Clinton was on hand to offer a promise of vengeance to Charles Woods, father Ty Woods, a former Navy SEAL also killed in the Benghazi attack. Clinton assured him that the U.S. government would “make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted,” parroting the story told to the media by former United States ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
Meanwhile, the actual war against Islamist elements raged on.
Diplomats and overseas personnel, soldiers, sailors and airmen, are each taking risks as part of a global mission to protect American interests. They do not expect a risk-free workplace, only that when those same American interests are attacked, the decision-makers in Washington, D.C. will be equal partners in the overall mission. From what we have learned about Benghazi, the Obama administration was not.
Yes, Benghazi matters. Benghazi matters a great deal.