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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Benghazi, By Golly

Perhaps I'm missing something--it's been known to happen--but I don't understand all this ongoing congressional drama over Benghazi.  Yes, what happened was horrible, tragic: Four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya, were killed last September 11 when terrorists attacked the consulate in Benghazi.  In the heat of the moment, when events were still unfolding, UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on the Sunday morning news shows and said the attacks were a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islamic video.  Subsequently, the official story changed, and the incident was classified as a planned terrorist attack by an Al Qaeda offshoot.  This has since become the accepted version of events.

Now, Congress can--and should--investigate any intelligence failures that led up to the attack.  They should demand to know whether the attacks could have been prevented, as well as whether the responses to the attacks were as effective as they could have been.  The US should do everything possible to ensure the safety of its citizens, particularly its diplomatic corps and particularly in hostile territory.  But such reasonable concerns don't seem to be the focus of the seemingly endless congressional investigations that have been going on for the last eight months.  Rather, the Congressmen--well, let's call a spade an idiot, the Republican Congressmen--seem fixated on the fact that the Obama administration initially declared the assault a spontaneous demonstration of popular unrest rather than a coordinated terrorist attack.  Why is this so scandalous?

Let's take the worst-case political scenario for the Obama administration: Let's say President Obama and his inner circle knew immediately that the attack was the work of an Al Qaeda splinter group, but they didn't want to admit this in the heat of an election campaign, as it would undermine President Obama's major accomplishment in the war on terror, namely, the elimination of Osama bin Laden.  So Obama ordered his staff to put out the word out that the source of the attack was unknown, but that, in the initial moments, they thought it was just a street protest that got out of hand.  Let's say that these Congressional investigations somehow lead to the revelation of this fact.  Well. . . so?

I mean, yes, the revelation of such naked politicking in the aftermath of such senseless violence would be offensive to say the least.  It would certainly create (or, for some, reinforce) the image of Barack Obama as nothing more than a venal politician, willing to go to great lengths to gain political advantage.  But would it really rise to the level--as some GOP inquisitors have claimed--of Watergate-plus?  Hardly.  Because when all is said and done, all that these hearings are investigating is what happened in the wake of an attack--not whether the President or his subordinates allowed an attack to happen.  I mean, it's not as if there exists some memo stating in plain English something to the effect of "Al Qaeda determined to attack in Benghazi."

Just sayin'.

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