WASHINGTON – The much-anticipated appearance by Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and now leading Democratic Party presidential contender, before the House Committee on the Benghazi terror attack, has not added anything new.
I have seen nothing that makes me change my mind on what happened in Benghazi in 2012, on that unhappy anniversary of September 11, when the US Consulate was attacked by radicals, and 4 Americans, including Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador, were killed.
Here is the story
Here is my (perhaps) over simplified summary. The US Government, in this particular case the State Department led by then Secretary Clinton, did not appreciate that post-Gaddafi Libya was a very dangerous place. Indeed, requests for additional security made by the US Embassy, and personally by Ambassador Stevens, were not seriously considered. As a result the Libya posts had inadequate protection.
Sadly, when the Benghazi facility came under attack on September 11, 2012, insufficient American defenses were overwhelmed. People got killed.
Well, this is sad. Of course, in hindsight it is always easy to point fingers and conclude that then Secretary Clinton was and is responsible for these deaths. But this would be somewhat unfair. Hundreds, possibly thousands of possible threats to US diplomatic posts come in every day. Hard to respond to all of them. Hard to prioritize in the most appropriate manner.
In the case of Benghazi, it is obvious that everybody, including then Secretary of State Clinton, dropped the ball. They did not understand the severity of the situation, and they did not beef up security.
Well, what can we say. This was a huge mistake. But we are all human, and therefore fallible.
Here is the real story
However, this is not the real story.
The real story is about how the Obama administration –and this includes then Secretary Clinton– reacted to this tragedy. Indeed, after the news of the Benghazi attack came out, the Obama White House, fearful of the possible negative political repercussion on Obama –keep in mind that this happened just week before the November 2012 presidential elections– deliberately introduced a bogus explanation about what caused the attack.
Avoid political repercussions
It is clear that they desperately wanted to avoid any accusation that the Obama administration had under estimated the possibility of more terror attacks against Americans.
And why this concern?
Well, because President Obama had claimed that his administration had successfully decimated al Qaeda. The official narrative throughout the 2012 political campaign had been that, after the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 by US special forces, the terrorism threat was essentially gone –for good.
Therefore, one had to find an “explanation” for the Benghazi tragedy –clearly an act of terrorism– that would say that the attack was in fact about something else.
Nothing to do with terrorism.
Hence the introduction of the “video did it” bogus story. In order to muddy the waters, the Obama people came out with the clever explanation whereby the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous popular reaction to a video released in America that attacked Islam, and was therefore considered blasphemous by many believers in the Arab world, including Libya.
Ambassador Rice sent out to tell the bogus “video” story
This being “the truth” that they wanted American voters to believe –again, remember that all this occurred just weeks before the presidential elections– the Obama White House sent then UN Ambassador Susan Rice to appear on many TV programs, so that she could deliver this false narrative whereby “the anti-Muslim video caused the Benghazi attack”.
This was not said casually. This was carefully plotted. They all knew that they were telling a lie, with the obvious goal of protecting a President on the eve of a crucial vote. Once again, as the record of her public and private pronouncements indicates, Secretary of State Clinton, was a willful participant. She repeated the bogus story about “the video”, while she knew the truth, as her own e-mails –now public– revealed.
In my judgment, this is the real problem. Yes, we can all agree that Secretary Clinton and her staff showed poor judgement in handling the security of US posts in Libya. As a result, the US Consulate in Benghazi was not properly protected. This is bad. But it was an error. May be an egregious, unforgivable error. But it is still an error.
What followed instead was deliberate manipulation motivated by politics. This may have been clever, but it was and is morally reprehensible.
And this is the real problem. We cannot accuse Hillary Clinton of having deliberately overlooked the security situation of the US diplomatic posts in Libya. But she happily joined the conspiracy aimed at distorting what actually happened in the night of September 11, 2012 in order to help her boss, President Obama.
Again, all this is morally reprehensible. If we give Hillary Clinton a pass on this, by saying that “It is a well-known fact that all politicians lie or at least engage in willful distortions”, we are deliberately lowering our moral standards.
A democracy run by duplicitous liars is not going to be a healthy place. If we choose them as our leaders, whatever damage they will cause in the long run, will be our fault.