During the recent “whistleblower” hearings before the House Oversight Committee, information rendered by non-partisan, career diplmats (now referred to as “the Benghazi Whistle-Blowers”), Gregory N. Hicks, Deputy chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya; Mark I. Thompson, Counterterrorism Bureau Deputy Coordinator for Operations; and Eric Nordstrom, Libyan Regional Security Officer; starkly contradicted the version of events presented and perpetuated by the State Department and the White House. The aftermath of these hearings and the associated contradictions has seen rousing verbal volleys and aspersions cast from all sides of the political aisle. In its own odd way, this visceral melee suggests that the matter at hand warrants fighting about.
In this post I consider the event only by means of the statements that have come directly from the people who were there or otherwise intimately connected to what happened that day, and who have waited a very long time to tell their version of events.
I mentioned in my previous post that by means of incremental postings (3) I want to make the case that “what happened” in Benghazi matters, and more to the point, what did not happen, also matters. These convictions arise not from political suasion, but upon moral grounds. Members from both political parties are raising alarm about ongoing revelations.
Jon Stewart, on his show (May 8), made the point that between 2001 and 2008 there were numerous attacks on diplomatic posts during the Bush Administration that went unheralded and aroused little or no indignation. I am willing to be convinced that those who currently express outrage about Benghazi have been remiss in our absence of outrage pertaining to these events, if indeed these incidents carried similar outrageous elements:
- Were the Americans on the ground prior to these incidents ill-equipped to defend themselves? Did they know they were ill-equipped and had they requested more support, and were these requests denied? Were the few assets they had forbidden to defend these facilities? Did people die as a direct result of this ill-preparedness?
- Were primary witnesses and appropriate operatives isolated and shunned in the immediate aftermath and their version of the events ignored and changed?
- Was the redacted version perpetuated internationally? Did it compromise subsequent conditions and actions on the ground at the time?
If the above criteria defined the incidents cited by Jon Stewart, then he is right to call to task those who cry foul at Benghazi but who have dismissed other instances under the Bush Administration. If all the international incidents he cites carried the same elements as did the incident at Benghazi–it suggests concomitantly that abandoning diplomats and operatives who are under attack in hots spots where they serve, is standard operating procedure. And if we shrugged at those, we ought to join Mr. Stewart in a collective shrug regarding Benghazi.
I am willing to go out on a limb and suggest that the various attacks on diplomatic facilities, which Stewart cites, do not fit the same criteria that have defined the Benghazi incident. But, as I said, I am willing to be proved wrong.
Two weeks after the Benghazi attack, Barbara Walters asked the President during his visit to The View (Sept 25) about it. The President said the matter was “still being investigated” and that what really happened still wasn’t known.
We know now this answer is wrong, as it was wrong then. Those on the ground who witnessed and endured the attack on September knew exactly what happened and had made it clear beyond any doubt on September 12. They made desperate attempts to save their colleagues, without support from American military, but failed to save them. More Libyans died trying to save the Americans than Americans did.
Trained forces already in Libya on the ground in Tripoli were anxious to jump in to save these people, yet orders came down telling them not to. Career civil servants were left to fend for themselves. Then, once it the seven-hour attack finally ended, the narrative inexplicably changed.
Hillary Clinton’s question remains: “What difference, after all this time, does it make?”
Who “did this” matters, of course. But what matters more in this case are the actions, or non-actions, of those who did not do it: of those who could have prevented it but did not do so. Who did it wouldn’t matter if security had been robust enough to thwart any attack from happening at all, but it wasn’t robust. In fact it had been diminished. And once the attack was in play, those who were waging it might have been stifled, their efforts squelched and casualties averted, if, at the very least, dispatched U.S. forces had tried to save these people. Trying would have been enough–even if these doomed people perished anyway. But they didn’t try. Orders came down to abandon this battle and people died.
Thus the story had to be made to look like something else.