By Paolo von Schirach
December 19, 2012
WASHINGTON – The attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya which occurred right before the November elections, (on September 11, as it were), resulting in the death of four Americans, including Chris Stevens, the US Ambassador, was immediately treated by the White House as a political problem.
A political problem
We know that there was a deliberate effort to muddy the waters by claiming that this attack had nothing to do with US policy failures. It was all about the now famous anti-Muslim ”video”. We also know that UN Ambassador Susan Rice who was dispatched by the White House to tell this unlikely story is now a political casualty of this spinning. Once it became apparent that she knew that what she was saying in public was not accurate, she lost her chance to become the next Secretary of State.
Secretary Clinton’s role
Still, it is amazing how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the cabinet officer in charge of all US diplomats, managed to avoid any political damage. At least until today. Now her responsibility in this sorry mess has been officially established.
Accountability Review Board
An Accountability Review Board, (appointed by Secretary Clinton herself), co-chaired by Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Thomas Pickering, formerly a high ranking US diplomat, found that the security arrangements in Libya were “profoundly weak”. The report also found “lack of proactive senior leadership” in managing security. In other words, nobody was minding the store.
The report goes into the details of how locally hired Libyan security firms were supposed to provide security for the US diplomatic facilities and personnel in Tripoli and how they failed to do their job. The report also indicates that it was believed by all that the US should not have more of its own security people on the ground because they could be perceived as hostile by the Libyans.
The report cannot state in a definitive way whether the attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi was indeed orchestrated by al Qaeda or not. It is still not clear who did what.
Clear finding: inadequate security
Be that as it may, it is now abundantly clear that the security arrangements in place at the US Consulate in Benghazi at the time of the attack were grossly inadequate. It is also clear that the Secretary of State, that would be Hillary Clinton, was and is responsible for providing adequate security for US diplomats stationed abroad. Therefore it should also follow that Clinton and her staff were grossly negligent and that this negligence resulted in the death of four Americans, including the US Ambassador to Libya.
Will Clinton be damaged?
At least in theory this should be enough to cause a major embarrassment for Clinton who is about to leave her job as Secretary of State with sky high favorable opinion polls. But may be she will end up avoiding blame after all.
So far Clinton managed not to testify on the issue. And now it looks as if she will not appear before Congress because…. she is sick. So, with this or that excuse, she may actually manage to avoid any direct questioning on the Benghazi disaster before she leaves office in January, with her reputation just a bit scarred; but still mostly intact.
Politicians always ahead
This Mullen-Pickering ad hoc Accountability Review Board was supposed to determine who did what and who in the end is “accountable”. So far, as a consequence of this scathing report, we have had only the resignation of Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell, and of his deputy. But it turns out that the expert politicians like Clinton are always a step or two ahead. Four Americans are dead due to major incompetence. And yet the Secretary of State –the person ultimately responsible for this security failure– most likely will leave the scene without a scratch.