This is one part of a two part series on Benghazi. The accompanying piece can be found here.
It was: Charlene Lamb & Eric Boswell, with a diplomatic cable (saying NO to security requests), in a corner office in Foggy Bottom. Did I win?
No one wins. The Benghazi Attack was no game. Benghazi was a preventable tragedy. It is deeply saddening that politicians in an election year treated it as a trivial matter. Benghazi was undoubtedly the low point of foreign policy under the Obama Administration.
The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was planned. The attack was successful perpetrated by individuals who demonize Islam just so they can rationalize murder. September 11th 2012 was a tragedy for the families of four brave Americans who put themselves in harm’s way day in and day out in Libya. Despite this tragedy there are still unanswered questions about who knew what and when. This lack of accountability was highlighted in Secretary of State Clinton’s now infamous response to Senator Ron Johnson’s questioning about Susan Rice’s talking points.
“Senator Johnson: No, again, we were misled that there were supposedly protests and that something sprang out of that – an assault sprang out of that – and that was easily ascertained that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days and they didn’t know that.
Secretary of State Clinton: With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again Senator. Now honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The IC has a process I understand going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But you know, to be clear it is from my perspective less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on the meantime. ”
Let me be clear, Secretary of State Clinton has been excellent overall. As Secretary of State, Clinton has always projected a positive image of the United States while abroad. It is thanks to her skilled diplomacy that Americans are treated more warmly across the world in comparison to their treatment during the Bush years. However, because of Benghazi, there is unfortunately a blemish on Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. In her Senate testimony, Secretary Clinton was being completely truthful and in part that is what was rather disturbing.
“What difference at this point does it make?”
It makes all the difference in the world! If an attack occurred because of a spontaneous demonstration getting out of hand (something which is hard to prevent) or because the attack was planned, this is an important distinction. Yes what is done is done, four Americans are dead, but this is an opportunity to prevent more tragedies. It is necessary to learn from deadly past mistakes such as Benghazi, to ensure a safer future for U.S. diplomatic personnel.
Senator Johnson’s line of questioning is to be commended for revealing how Secretary Clinton feels about Benghazi and the issue of accountability. However, it was Senator Rand Paul’s questioning which also touched on another important subject. Why is it that there is no Military Guard for the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli or the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi? Why is the U.S. presence in Libya not being treated the same way as the U.S. presence in Iraq? The issues raised by Senator Paul tackle the problems with the Obama Administration’s approach to diplomacy.
Why was it necessary and deemed to be of the utmost importance to reopen the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi? All U.S. diplomatic activities in Libya should have only been in Tripoli where the city is much more equipped to handle security matters. There is no merit or importance in trying to impress the Libyan people by having a consulate in Benghazi. There is no need for the U.S. to provide such formal recognition to the Libyans that it understands in which city the Libyan Revolution originated. U.S. and NATO allies participated in the Libyan Revolution. NATO actively supported the revolution through military force. French and British troops had just as much to do with the Libyan Revolution as Libyan revolutionaries. Therefore in a fragile post-civil war Libya, there was no need to put more U.S. diplomatic personnel at risk by having a consulate in Benghazi. Tripoli is still the capital of Libya and the U.S. Embassy is there for a reason.
The handling of the Benghazi Attack was disturbing. Yes there has been accountability for the attack through the Accountability Review Board. However this is not enough. U.S. Embassies and Consulates in places with fragile democracies such as Libya must have a Military Guard. Embassies are not supposed to be wonderfully open and welcoming spaces and thus, poorly secured. Embassies exist to provide services to their own citizens as well as the citizens of the country where they are located. Hopefully there will be no further need for desperate diplomatic cables begging incompetent bureaucrats for more security because it will already be there. That being said, the State Department does selfless work and has great people, a few bad apples by no means spoil the bunch. Let us hope Benghazi or anything like it never happens again.
To emphasize the dangers of incompetent bureaucracy and failure of leadership, C.S. Lewis put it best (as did Reagan when he quoted the following) when he wrote:
‘The greatest evil is not done now in those sordid `dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not even done in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.’