benghazi truth

The Truth about Benghazi

Clinton/Obama Naysayers Have It Wrong

Background/facts: On September 11, 2012, terrorists storm the US mission in Benghazi, killed four US nationals including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.  Many initially think the attacks came from an angry mob protesting a viral video.  The next day, in a Rose Garden address, President Obama says, “The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. … no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” Later that day he says, “No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America.”
Only on September 20 did Jay Carney and other White House officials back away from the theory that the aforementioned video caused the attack.  While this may seem absurd, it’s a logical conclusion if we assume their information (or lack thereof) pointed to such a culprit.  It’s dangerous to immediately jump to the conclusion that a given attack was committed by terrorists.  That said, the Obama administration did move slowly to such a label.  A day later, Hillary Clinton echoes the terror attack rhetoric.

Claims versus Reality

Claim: Hillary Clinton lied about Benghazi, initially blaming the video for the attack despite knowing better and continuing this lie.

Reality: Clinton, in her first public statement on the day of the attack, did in fact cast blame on the video (which had caused protests throughout the Middle East).  That same day, she emailed Chelsea and said “an al Qaeda-like group” carried out the attack.  This came to light during the Clinton email investigation and only led to general distrust.  The next date, in speeches and a statement, Clinton made no mention of the video (in relation to Benghazi, though she mentions it in connection to Egypt, where the material did spark protests).  Not until September 21 did she call it a terrorist attack.  Why this delay?
It seems that in between her first statement on September 11 and the email she sent to Chelsea, a government agencies emailed top officials saying that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility for the attack.  I’m guesing she and the administration wanted to confirm that claim before presenting it to the American people (which is, admittedly, a generous concession, but also one of the simpler explanations.  The administration had little to gain from covering up the motives.  Obama faced reelection in two months and had little to gain by covering up facts that would obviously come to light, though he did have reason to “play down the possibility of a planned attack because that would raise broader questions about whether U.S. intelligence and embassy security in Libya were adequate.”).
Another explanation came to light in 2013.  I’ll quote the Washington Post (above link) in full:

This analysis first suggested that the core reason for the evolution of the talking points was a bureaucratic battle between the CIA and the State Department. We informed readers that although the ambassador was killed, the Benghazi “consulate” was not a consulate at all but essentially a secret CIA operation which included an effort to round up shoulder-launched missiles. U.S. officials had been constrained in discussing that fact, as the administration could not publicly admit that most of the Americans in Benghazi were involved in a secret CIA effort that had not even been formally disclosed to the Libyan government. State Department officials objected to the talking points, initially drafted by the CIA, as an effort by the spy agency to pin the blame for the tragedy on the State Department.

So, in short, there are many possible explanations for why Clinton and the Obama administration did not immediately label the Benghazi attack as a terror attack (and one last point: The Washington Post fast checking team gave Senator Marco Rubio two pinocchios for his claim that Clinton lied about the Benghazi happenings, saying there’s not evidence to support that claim).
Claim 2: Clinton told the false video story to Benghazi widows.
Reality: There’s no evidence to support this claim.  Clinton says she didn’t and 4 of 6 interviewed widows support her version of the story.  No transcripts support this claim, either.
Claim 3: Clinton’s inaction as Secretary of State led to mishandled consular requests for additional security, easing the attacker’s push into the consulate.
Reality: Security at Benghazi (and many other consulates) was lacking.  Here’s a quote from a State Department Accountability Review Board (the PDF link is broken, so I can’t supply it; the in-depth review largely exculpated Clinton and the administration):

“The number of Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) security staff in Benghazi on the day of the attack and in the months and weeks leading up to it was inadequate, despite repeated requests from Special Mission Benghazi and Embassy Tripoli for additional staffing. Board members found a pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the Special Mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security-related requests, especially those relating to staffing. The insufficient Special Mission security platform was at variance with the appropriate Overseas Security Policy Board (OSPB) standards with respect to perimeter and interior security. Benghazi was also severely under-resourced with regard to certain needed security equipment, although DS funded and installed in 2012 a number of physical security upgrades.”

Some quick facts from Washington Post that counter false narratives:
  • There were planes available for Special Ops forces
  • Clinton did not issue a stand down order to Leon Panetta
  • Clinton was not aware of requests for additional security.  Many consulates made such requests and mid-level staffers usually handled them
The last point is the most import.  There is no evidence that Clinton herself ignored security requests.  Ambassador Stevens also turned down offers of additional military security at the compound.  Clinton also did not sleep through the attack and worked throughout the entirety of the night, contrary to Donald Trump’s claims.  With the evidence available, the compound’s defensive shortcomings cannot be blamed on Clinton herself.
(As a side note, during a trip to a Marine consular defense center, I attended a lecture about the process of defending consulates and embassies.  One important note mentioned by a Marine pertained to the difficulty in bringing military personnel to such compounds because doing so requires permission from the host country.  We can’t just move members of the military into sovereign states will-nilly.)

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