We have been listening to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform hearing on the Benghazi, Libya attack on September 11, 2012 that cost the lives of our Ambassador and several security personnel. For over 3 hours, and the hearing is continuing as we write this article, both Democrats and Republicans have tried to determine what was known about the attack, what indications were known ahead of time, and why the American people were misinformed as long as they were.
At this point it has become abundantly clear that the statements from the White House and Ambassador Susan Rice that the assessment that the attack was based on a film that negatively portrayed Islam, were false and likely known as false between 24 hours and 3 days after the attack occurred.
The hearing has brought to light that there were over 230 incidents that occurred prior to the attack in Benghazi. According to Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who is testifying at the hearing, he instantly recognized the attack as a terrorist act. Mr. Eric Nordstrom, Regional Security Officer for U.S. Department of State also at the hearing, has directly stated
“There was a complete and total absence of planning after 60 days. There was hope things would get better in Libya, but no plan.”
Further, Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management of the U.S. Department of State, speaking at the hearing noted that he himself believed that this attack was an act of terrorism within 24 hours of the attack.
As troubling as these statements are, that there was an apparently willful misleading of the public as to the motivations and threat in Libya, the hearing has brought even more issues to light. The implications are that, as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) stated, Ms. Charlene R. Lamb Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, Bureau of Diplomatic Security at U.S. Department of State and her superiors were either incompetent, or scrooges.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) laid down a scathing assessment of the failure of the State Department to act on requests from Mr. Nordstrom and Lt. Col. Wood requesting additional security personnel – denied by members of the State Dept. that had never been to Benghazi. Rep. Kucinich went even further, highlighting the unilateral decision by President Obama to enact war on Libya without consent of Congress and that the resulting attacks were a direct response of this bad foreign policy decision.
Throughout the hearing, there were attempts to make political points for both political parties – requests to see if there was a connection to the White House or Secretary Clinton (none exist), and blame for budget cuts made by Republicans (which were not a cause of the denial of request for support). Even so, the ultimate observation is that rather than increase support in Benghazi, the hazard duty pay was increased. Indicating as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) stated, a direct acknowledgement that while a threat was known, nothing would be done.
Perhaps the most telling statements in the 4 hour hearing were: 1) the attempt of Ambassador Patrick Kennedy trying to deny providing the Committee documents that were clearly unclassified because they were somehow classified in unison. This action smacked of an attempt to cover up some aspect of what happened and why, but was thwarted by an unnamed whistleblower who had already provided the Committee with the requested documents.
2) Lt. Col. Wood stated that
“The U.S. was the last flag in Benghazi. We were the last target to be removed.”
In addition he stated, and was confirmed by the other witnesses at the hearing, that Al Quida is fast growing and likely exceeds the U.S. presence in Benghazi, if not the country.
3) Again the statement by Mr. Nordstrom that there is no plan to the foreign policy in regard to Libya beyond the fact that the goodwill generated from bombing the nation to help oust former leader Muammar Gaddafi would be sufficient.
At no point was credible evidence of the film cited by the White House on September 11 – 16th found to be a catalyst or cause of the attack in Benghazi. In fact, it was credibly presented that terrorist groups acting in the region used a similar cover – an anti-Islamic film – to attack the Tunisian Embassy months earlier.
In summary, the hearing provided an insight into the current foreign policy of the United States, at least in regard to this one part of the ‘Arab Spring’. There is no functional or systemic plan apparently in place, with little concern to hear and abide by requests of the personnel on the ground. Further, the White House is apparently willing to misdirect the attention of the public to the causation of this attack, potentially for political reasons, while obscuring its own inadequacy in providing proper plans and defenses.
In conclusion, we are left with the reality that the instability created in Libya, partially from the actions of President Obama without support of Congress, have created an access point for Al Quida and other organizations that have ill-intentions towards the U.S. This is complicated by the lack of concrete plans, and an apparent over anticipation of support to a U.S. presence in the nation. Lastly, the disregard for on the ground observations in preference to Washington based directives indicates a breakdown of the chain of command and identifies a serious potential danger to U.S. operations throughout the Middle East and possibly across the globe.
Therefore Libya has proven to be a fiasco of foreign policy. We can only hope that bringing this to light prevents even more American deaths that can be averted.