23 November 2014

Benghazi - What Difference, at this Point, Does it Make?

The seventh - or eighth, who can keep track? - congressional investigation into the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya released its report on Friday evening in typical weekend-news-dump style, designed to be buried, forgotten, and not transmitted to a wide audience - although the two mentions of the report on Fox News through Sunday morning still beat the zero mentions of Jonathan Gruber on NBC Nightly News these past two weeks.

The report swept away all of the conspiracies concerning possible failures of intelligence, inadequate security, stand-down orders, and the like.


These were all canards.  Foolish assertions that smacked of blaming-the-victim, and not conducive to finding answers to the questions that still trouble many Americans two years later.

So, in the words of Hillary Clinton, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"   Isn't it just all about politics now?

Well, yes.  But it's been about politics since the day after the attack. And the day after that.  And for weeks and months, and now years later.

This is what Hillary Clinton said when she testified before congress in January 2013, four-and-a-half months after the attack:
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 that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?            

The difference it makes is that the attack was neither of those things.  It was not a violent protest in reaction to an anti-Muslim video.  It was not a random act by "guys out for a walk".  It was a premeditated, well planned terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9-11.

In the days after the attack, the State Department edited intelligence community talking points, deleting all references to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.  This allowed a new narrative to take shape - the narrative of the YouTube video, the spontaneous protest.

The reluctance of the Obama administration to call it what it was - from the day after the attack when the president broadly mentioned "act of terror", but blamed the video, to appearances on talk shows, where he blamed the video, to Susan Rice's Sunday show appearances, where she blamed the video, all the way up through Clinton's congressional testimony, the public was continually misdirected away from "terrorist attack" towards "YouTube video".  President Obama even went to the UN two weeks after the attack and once again blamed the video.

Why?  Politics.  In the weeks and months before the election, the Obama administration would not allow that a terrorist attack had taken place.  Not while Osama bin Laden was dead and Al Qaeda was "on the run".  It would have destroyed the narrative.

The entire sad episode is shameful.  But as long as we still value the idea that there can be virtuous people in government service, it still matters when we look around and don't see any.

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