By Paolo von Schirach
May 11, 2013
WASHINGTON – Democrats may argue, with cause, that the new set of House hearings on the Benghazi tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2012 are politically motivated. Yes, the mean spirited Republicans are trying their best to dig damaging dirt. They want to damage Obama and, as they are at it, smear the reputation of would be president Hillary Clinton, as she was Secretary of State at the time of the tragedy.
Yes, all this is true. There is a political aim here. That said, these new hearings revealed in a rather clear manner that the Obama administration treated this attack resulting in the death of 4 Americans, including the US Ambassador to Libya, not as an issue of US foreign policy but as an unwelcome political problem that might have had a negative impact on the upcoming elections.
In other words, the President behaved as a candidate who is trying to manipulate the facts to his political advantage, as opposed to being first of all the Chief Executive and the Commander in Chief. And this is a lot worse than a bunch of Congressmen making a fuss. Indeed, the President and all his aides, in dealing with this tragedy, have shown that their primary –in fact only– concern was to obfuscate this matter, an issue of US foreign and security policies, so that it would not tarnish Obama’s image just two months before a crucial election.
And so, practically from day one, they dished out their “the-anti-Muslim-video-made-by-a US-based-fanatic-caused-the attack” politically convenient narrative via a robust public relations campaign, featuring among others US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice. As we know, Rice was instructed to repeat the video story on several TV shows. It is quite clear now that the Obama camp did not want anybody to think that what turned out to be a deliberate terror attack could be used as evidence that the administration had in fact not defeated al Qaeda. Remember that, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, the official position was that al Qaeda was practically dead. It would appear that no one in the White House wanted this “truth” to be challenged by Mitt Romney, just a few weeks before a national election.
Digging deeper, we see even worse stuff. And this is not about dark conspiracies. It is about sheer incompetence. It is clear that US diplomatic personnel in Libya was not adequately protected. The record shows that additional protection was requested but denied. Now, while this incompetence does not constitute an indictment of the totality of US foreign policy, it is nonetheless a significant failure.
So, the long and the short is this. Due to incompetence and bureaucratic resistance, the US Government exposed its people to a dangerous security vulnerability in Benghazi. Muslim extremists took advantage of the opportunity. They planned and executed an attack against a poorly protected diplomatic mission. They destroyed it and in the process they killed a few Americans, including the US Ambassador. This is not the end of the world. But it is serious stuff.
It is all about politics
That said, instead of admitting policy error and taking the blame, the administration invented the convenient story of the sudden popular outrage caused by the infamous “anti-Muslim video”. By now it is clear that this manipulation was deliberate. Their story at the time was that nothing whatsoever could have been done to defend the US Consulate in Benghazi against a massive “anti-video” demonstration that unfortunately turned violent. With a US Ambassador and three other Americans dead this official “explanation” whose objective was clearly to obfuscate was pretty callous.
And so, what do we make of all this? It may sound silly to complain that –Oh Gosh– everything in Washington is twisted for political gain. After all, isn’t it true that “Everybody Does It?”. Yes, it is true. Republicans in power on balance are just as guilty as the Democrats. But this sad truth does not make this particular Benghazi instance, under President Obama’s watch, any prettier.