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Benghazi

Benghazi: It’s not the crime; it’s the cover-up.

The facts are undisputed. On September 11, 2012, a consular annex—not the US Embassy itself—in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by Islamic terrorists in a pre-planned, well-coordinated assault which resulted in the death of American Ambassador John Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic personnel.

However, that is not what Americans were initially told. The Obama Administration told the deliberate lie that the death of our ambassador and his compatriots was the result of a spontaneous demonstration protesting an obscure Youtube video—a demonstration which either subsequently got out of hand or was joined by radical elements who then took advantage of the situation to kill Ambassador Stevens. Although of course some leeway must be given to Obama Administration officials for operating in the “fog of war”, the Obama Administration knew they were lying to the American people. The Obama Administration was engaged in a deliberate cover-up.

In claiming that what happened in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous demonstration or some such, the Obama Administration could plead ignorance or incompetence for saying so in the immediate aftermath—hours or a day or two. Fairly quickly—only two days—after the attack, private media sources were reporting (correctly) that the attack was just that: an attack, deliberate, pre-planned, and successful. However, the President himself and others down the chain of command, for days and weeks after the attack continued to cling to the fiction that Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous demonstration. Famously, Susan Rice went on three talk-shows claiming that an obscure Youtube video was responsible for a spontaneous demonstration which got out of hand and resulted in a dead ambassador.

This in itself is not damning. It is quite possible Susan Rice was not kept abreast of rapidly unfolding events and is only guilty of spouting talking points outdated by several days (and untrue). If it was a deliberate cover-up, the Obama Administration may have had good, perhaps even legitimate reasons to engage in a cover-up: protecting sources or buying time for people in hiding in Benghazi after the attack or otherwise trying to obfuscate what Stevens (and other American assets, viz. the CIA) was doing in Benghazi.

The question of whether an American president is ever justified in deliberately misleading and lying to the American people is one worth asking, but one that is beside the point in this instance.

The question that needs to be answered in this case is this: was the Obama Administration engaged in a deliberate cover-up (as opposed to a shambolic, inept response to a tragedy and outrage), and if they were, who was involved and why?

That is what a decent investigation should drill down upon. Unfortunately for the American people (and my people: historians) the truth is unlikely to emerge from our existing investigatory process, which is immutably political and politicized from the outset. That the Benghazi Hearings are just part of the usual Washington Political Circus is undeniable; the tragedy is that this will enable criminals in the government of both political parties to escape justice.

Today it’s the Democrats who are accused of wrong doing, but tomorrow it is equally likely the Republican president will be attempting to stonewall and obfuscate his way out of a scandal. The one thing which (perversely) gives me hope is that the absurdly biased “mainstream” media (we need a better term, but that will have to suffice for now) is so hopelessly in the bag for the Democrats that they will at least hold a Republican president to account for his various crimes and lies.

However, the charges in this particular case probably won’t stick; the Democrats will claim that it is merely the Republicans trying to make political hay (which is true) and that there is no real substance belying the sound and the fury (which is false). The gullible idiots (and the willing fifth columnists) in the media will repeat this untruth and the gullible idiots we call voters will buy the oft-repeated lie. Of course there is also the substantial portion of the population who are already in one camp or the other who are already convinced either that Hillary Clinton is a murderous criminal whose haughty laugh is worthy of a Bond villain or else a saintly figure being unfairly persecuted by the Evil Republicans. Indeed, I’m doubtful there is even a single Democratic voter who has been persuaded that Hillary Clinton has done anything wrong regarding the Benghazi Attacks.

As a result, the dance moves of both dance partners are entirely predictable since both sides know that they cannot possible persuade anyone of the other side (or convict anyone of wrongdoing and send them to jail), and instead they are all simply pandering to their respective bases. The Republicans are trying to destroy Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions; hence why Mrs. Clinton is receiving a disproportionate share of attention in the matter when really the entire Obama White House, not just the State Department, should be held to account and examined closely. The Republicans have no real interest in discovering the truth, or, if they do, it is a secondary consideration to tarnishing Mrs. Clinton to the best of their ability.

Of course the Democrats know this and so Mrs. Clinton will do her best to come off as an entirely reasonable (and innocent) figure being attacked by the entirely unreasonable, evil Republicans. Her opening statement was a masterful exercise in obfuscation, misdirection, and blame shifting, and a marvelous example of how to knock down straw men of one’s own construction. In particular, she skillfully crafted a narrative that would suggest the reason for the lasting brouhaha over Benghazi is the question “What got Ambassador Stevens killed?” rather than “Why did Obama and Clinton lie about it?”

Indeed, while her opening statement made a valiant argument for sending Americans into harm’s way while decrying “boots on the ground”, lambasted the adventurous foreign policy of previous administrations while simultaneously declaring that “retreat from the world is not an option”, made clear that the Libyans are an honorable people who are not murderous anti-Americans, did much to praise Ambassador Stevens’ personal bravery and the value of the work he was doing (without explaining precisely what that work was or why it was valuable or why it was an ambassador who had to do it, let alone how), she said virtually nothing about her own role in his death, other than to say that she was the one who sent him to Libya.

She spent a good deal of time laying out arguments that diplomacy is a dangerous business but one the US must engage in. Why she spent any time at all to address this is beyond me, because no one denies that diplomats are sometimes in danger but that is a duty they must fulfill. Moreover, that line of argument is irrelevant in this particular case. No one is arguing that Benghazi was too dangerous for Stevens to be there; rather, it is suggested that in light of Benghazi’s dangerous atmosphere (and Stevens’ concerns for his security), the Obama Administration should have taken greater precautions to protect the ambassador.

She also put forward the argument that there have been dozens of deaths of diplomatic personnel and hundreds of attacks on America’s diplomatic facilities, thus calling into question by implication why the attack on Benghazi should receive so much attention. This of course ignores the fact that the Benghazi attack was a particularly successful attack, one which may have been preventable, and one which was subsequently covered up by the White House or State Department, or both (that latter reason being very much worthy of investigation).

In her entire opening statement (all 16 minutes of it), she never once touched on her role in the reaction subsequent to Stevens’ death. In so doing she answered to many accusations no one has made and quashed many arguments no one put forward while ducking the single most important question: was there a cover up and why?

If anyone wants to understand why Americans have such low opinions of politicians, one need look no further than Hillary Clinton’s opening statement, in which she solemnly declares that she “took responsibility” in the midst of a lawyerly, 16 minute speech explaining why she isn’t responsible for anything. It is however a sickening display of brilliance—in setting up a very obvious and seemingly stalwart defense on these issues, Mrs. Clinton is drawing attention away from her role in the cover up and is instead inviting her opponents to attack her constructed defences on the issues which she wants to talk about, rather than the issues she leaves unmentioned (out of sight, out of mind).

Meanwhile, the House Democrats on the Committee will do their best to attack the legitimacy of the hearing while, at the same time, working as hard as possible to slow down the proceedings and ensure that the Committee achieves nothing. Of course they will never admit to their obfuscating tactics and stonewalling because, if they did, it would beg the question: if the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton are entirely or even mostly innocent, why not then let the Hearing proceed unhindered and uninhibited? Surely if there is nothing for the Hearing to uncover then there is no danger in it being allowed to go forward at full throttle, to question any witness, to subpoena any document, and generally to get to the bottom of things as best it can.

The only person in all this mess who comes across as an honest broker in this would seem to be the Hearing’s chairman, Mr. Trey Gowdy. I believe Mr. Gowdy to be an honorable gentleman who is genuine in his efforts—though perhaps that makes me a gullible fool. I believe he is merely trying to find the truth and hold someone responsible for something which is an obvious fuck-up, one which got four Americans killed. Sadly though, I suspect that—as is the case with most government fuck-ups—no one will be fired or held to account. I would say ‘no one will go to jail’ but already someone has gone to jail—the wrong man.

While perhaps guilty of being a terrible filmmaker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (among his other aliases) is not guilty of any serious crime. He is technically guilty of parole violations resulting from the production of the loathsome video “Innocence of Muslims”, however it is highly questionable whether these violations would ever have come to light were it not for the Obama Administration scapegoating the video (and its creator) as the cause of the Benghazi attacks.

It is perhaps an overstatement to say that Hillary Clinton threw Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in jail as part of a campaign to mislead the American people in the run-up to a Presidential election (though not much of an overstatement). Nevertheless, the fact remains that he was used as a scapegoat by the Obama Administration to deflect attention from their own failures and to obfuscate the truth: that Ambassador Stevens was not the result of a riled up crowd angry over a Youtube video but rather was assassinated in a deliberate, planned attack.

That is the truly outrageous part of this entire scandal. The Obama Administration lied to the American people and—worst of all—condemned a largely blameless man to prison. They also threw freedom of speech under the bus as well, but thankfully that right and principle is made of sterner stuff than the Obama Administration. It is one thing to let an American Ambassador die at the hands of America’s enemies, and while lying about it and misleading the American people is unseemly it is possible the Obama Administration had good cause to do so (not that that would necessarily make it okay), condemning a blameless man and throwing him in jail (and trashing freedom of speech) as part of one’s effort to mislead the public is in my estimation unjustifiable and unforgiveable.

People make mistakes; people in government make them alarmingly frequently. Sometimes these mistakes kill people. Tragic though this may be, it is sometimes acceptable, especially if the people killed were fully aware of the risks and believed in the cause for which they died. Although the Obama Administration should not be excused for getting Ambassador Stevens killed, if Ambassador Stevens was on some worthwhile mission, one he knew to be dangerous but accepted the risks all the same, a mission vital to American national interest, then perhaps we can accept that his death as a result of mistakes made, while tragic, is not criminal. In the context of the Libyan debacle, that seems rather unlikely.

What cannot be excused or justified, however, is engaging in a willful cover-up, one designed to fool the American people for purely political ends. The assassination of Ambassador Stevens came mere weeks before Election Day. With a president running for re-election on a platform that consisted substantively of the idea that America’s enemies—Islamic terrorists—were in shambles and on the ropes, the murder of one of America’s ambassador’s by Islamic Terrorists in a country in which the US had intervened—for rather murky reasons—would be a great embarrassment at best. At worst it could cost the president the election.

So, in order to make sure the American people didn’t suddenly think that what the President was saying—that Al-Qaeda and other Muslim terror groups were on the run—was untrue, the President orchestrated a cover-up that would obfuscate what really happened, would repeat lies and would jail an innocent man as part of the charade (and would then run interference and do everything in their power to slow down or disrupt attempts to find out what really happened).

I am not saying that is definitely what happened. I do not know what really happened or why. And that is precisely the reason why I have such a passionate, continued interest in the Benghazi attacks, as do many others. Of course, there are some dishonest brokers in this who merely see the Benghazi Scandal as a means of damaging Obama and ruining Hillary’s chances in the coming election, but that does not mean that this investigation is entirely without merit.

I want the truth. I want to know. I want to know what happened, how, how the Obama Administration reacted and why they did so. Perhaps it would emerge that the Obama Administration was largely blameless for the death of Ambassador Stevens (though the facts which have thus far emerged would suggest otherwise) and that they had very good reasons for what they subsequently did—reasons good enough even that it would be worth lying to the American people—reasons which, once revealed, would quickly ensure that Benghazi and Ambassador Stevens would become little more than a footnote in history.

Or perhaps it would emerge that a combination of incompetence and neglect bordering on dereliction of duty in the State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon (combined with either a disinterested or a disconnected President) resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including an Ambassador, despite their pleas for added security and warnings that they were in danger. Then the President and his subordinates lied to the American people in an unashamed attempt to retain their power and that of the President’s party by obfuscating or concealing outright what had really happened to Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi, and—once this initial cover up had been unraveled—further covered up the true role and actions of the President’s Secretary of State—his likely successor and guarantor of his legacy—so that she would not be tarnished by the scandal and win the 2016 election.

That, however, would probably be more than the bumbling Obama Administration is capable of. But why don’t we find out?

-SL

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