Benghazi: But Is There Anything Left To Investigate?

LFU_PantsonFire_AshPile_vFDid you hear the one about the Benghazi talking points that talked too much? It’s a fascinating story. Actually it’s more like a book, but a very interesting one. The problem is readers can’t agree that the book is finished. Is there more to the story than has been written so far?


Chapter 1: Al Qaeda “On The Run”


The book opens in the United States in 2012, a presidential election year. There’s always a lot of puffing going on in election campaigns and this one was no exception. The incumbent, Barak Obama, boasted a successful foreign policy that allegedly put Al Qaeda on the run.


Chapter 2: Attack on Benghazi


The President was doing well in the polls when, on September 11, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked. The assault began at 2:30pm EDT and continued for eight hours. It took the lives of four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Stevens was the first American Ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.


Within minutes after the attack began, U.S. intelligence became aware that it was a coordinated terrorist operation. Reports were provided in real time to the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon. Administration officials at the State Department and in the Situation Room at the White House watched the assault unfold through a live drone video feed.


The New York Times reported the next day that Islamist militants armed with antiaircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenades assaulted the lightly defended compound.


Chapter 3: It’s the Internet Video, Stupid


On September 12, the Administration launched a two-week effort to blame the attack on spontaneous protests inspired by an anti-Islam YouTube video. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Press Secretary Jay Carney and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice repeated this mantra in a variety of public forums.


What about the video? It had been on the Internet for months without a peep of protest. Eight days before the September 11 anniversary, it was translated into Arabic to whip up anti-American sentiment. It succeeded. But, to say that the protests, even in Cairo, were spontaneous is foolish. They were orchestrated. To say that protesters in Benghazi just happened to have antiaircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenades is ridiculous.


To contend that the combined intelligence agencies of the United States and her State Department and White House were hoodwinked for weeks cannot be believed.


Chapter 4: Those Pesky Rice Talking Points


Congressional committees began investigating the attack in October 2012. Along the way, the committees were told of “talking points” prepared to shape Susan Rice’s statements in her Sunday performances.


Former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell testified last month that he initially put the talking points together and submitted them up the chain. However, Morell’s version did not include any reference to the Internet video nor did any other intelligence report.


Chapter 5: The Inconvenient Email


Also in April 2014, the State Department turned over a collection of Benghazi documents sought by a civilian group under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents included an email from White House Strategic Communications Advisor Ben Rhodes coaching Susan Rice on her Sunday talk show spiels.


Rice was to state that the attack was rooted in the Internet video and “not a broader failure of policy.” Rice did exactly as she was told and directed attention away from the President’s floundering strategies.


Chapter 6: How About These Talking Points


Last week, the Administration made up another set of talking points to downplay the significance of the Rhodes email:


  • 1. It doesn’t say what it says.
  • 2. It says nothing new.
  • 3. A Republican conspiracy is trying to make something out of nothing.
  • 4. It’s a Fox News distortion.
  • 5. Dude, this was like two years ago.


Epilogue: What Now?


The Rhodes email nails Rice’s account of the Benghazi attack as warmed over political hooey to preserve the illusion that Obama’s policy was successful. It worked. Obama was re-elected less than two months after the Benghazi murders.


But, does the Rhodes email add anything to this sorry tale of deceit for political gain? Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his intention to instantiate a Benghazi Select Committee to formally investigate the attack. The Committee cannot be justified merely to verify that deceit helped Obama get re-elected. If that’s all there is, Clinton’s complaint of “what difference at this point does it make” is on target.


Of course, both Clinton and Obama knew as the attack unfolded that it was a coordinated terrorist onslaught. Setting everything else aside, the U.S. Ambassador was missing in action. His body would not be located for almost twelve hours. It was early on a Tuesday afternoon in Washington D.C. when the attack began. The President was in the White House. That no one bothered to inform either Clinton or Obama is simply unbelievable.


That neither Obama nor Clinton had enough interest in Stevens well-being to watch the drone feed or receive briefings in real time is incredible. That they were not concerned about the degree of danger Stevens was in is utterly fantastic. The New York Times knew of the antiaircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers by the next day. Unless they had signs around their necks that read “Disturb Only With Good News”, Obama and Clinton had to know of them during the attack.


But, what difference does it make now to prove that point again? That politicians lie to get elected hardly needs Congressional verification.


The Committee’s strongest justification is to determine why no military rescue operation was even attempted. As the attack wore on hour after hour, the Pentagon waited for a signal to proceed to Benghazi that never came.


If a military rescue operation to save American lives was denied to keep the lid on what was really going on, Obama should be impeached. Lying to get re-elected is one thing. Walking away from lives in peril in order to stay in the White House is a deception of a different caliber.


The Committee should have been created in the fall of 2012 to investigate that possibility. Instead, for almost four years Boehner allowed a circus of Congressional committees to take largely ineffective pot shots at various witnesses and documents.


The Speaker’s deleteriousness is to blame for the nation’s Benghazi fatigue. It remains to be seen whether the Select Committee can re-energize the investigation so that the final chapter can be written.