Like many, I was very interested in what would be said during Secretary Clinton's questioning at the Senate Foreign Relations committee last week. I had written about the Benghazi debacle before, and I was excited to see how much truth would be let out. Mostly, I was looking for answers that would put many of the conspiracy theories about sinister motivations to bed by the release of some truths.
For the record, I don't believe there was a callous disregard for the lives of those four Americans. Nor do I believe the answers are as simple as the truth of the situaion would have made the President or the administration look bad in the weeks before the election. Rather, I believe there were justifiable and necessary National security interests being protected.
That said, I am as unsatisfied after her appearance as I was before. Of all the questions still out there, the one that comes to mind first is a paraphrase of the one Mrs. Clinton now famously asked, What was the point? However, I’m asking what the point was for that piece of political theater.
I initially thought I must have missed something, so I downloaded and read the transcript of the proceedings. I also downloaded and read one of the reports repeatedly referred to during the proceedings, the ARB or Accountability Review Board report. After careful study, it turns out I didn’t miss anything, because there was nothing to miss.
Once the affected drama of the proceedings was over and I’d read and re-read the transcripts, I realized something I’ve long suspected but didn’t want to admit. These types of hearings are a complete waste of time and only serve the participants need to show their constituents back home that they are ‘doing something’. Perhaps it wasn’t always this way, perhaps there was a time when a Senate hearing meant something.
That’s not to say that these committees and sub-committees don’t do anything, just that whatever they do, whatever they discover will not be for public consumption. So, in the interest of saving tax payer dollars, from now on I would appreciate it if our elected officials would simply release a statement along the lines of,
“We are looking into this situation. We will find out the truth and determine the best course of action, in line with our National interests. But we’re not going to release any of the details. And we’re not going to tell what those details, reasons or interests are, either.”
That would be so much less insulting than what was done. Still, I guess there was some value because we did learn a few things despite everyone’s best efforts to the contrary.
So, what did we learn? Well, we confirmed that the Democrats love Hillary. We confirmed that both the Democrat and Republican members of the committee are aware of details they had no intention of addressing in this forum. And we confirmed that Hillary Clinton is a very loyal Obamist capable of staying on point while simultaneously taking responsibility and deflecting blame.
I know of no other way to interpret her statements of “responsibility for the failures that they (referring to the ARB) outlined was set at the assistant secretary level and below” and “I believe in taking responsibility and I have done so.”
What we didn’t learn was what actually happened in Benghazi. We didn’t learn why the President with the Vice President and Secretary of Defense in the room, watched real-time feed from a Predator drone, and did nothing, as was reported in Forbes and elsewhere. We also don’t know why, having seen this video feed, Ambassador Rice was told to go on national television five days later and tell a ridiculous series of lies and misdirections. Most of all, we didn’t learn the answer to that one, all important question, What was the point?
We do have many of these answers, and some from the participants of that charade. The fact that Susan Rice was directed to say what she did is incontrovertible. In response to Senator Flake, Secretary Clinton said:
“And we did not conclude, finally, that there were no protests at all until days after the attack.” and “Ambassador Rice and all the other administration officials were speaking off of what had been determined were the most acceptable talking points.”
The first above quote is very telling, a very carefully worded response. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Mrs. Clinton is very, very good at her job.
A few minutes later, in a response that should have been directly challenged, she said to Senator McCain:
“We had no access to the surveillance cameras for weeks, which helped to answer a number of questions.”
The disappointment here is not in her response, it is in Senator McCain’s failure to follow up considering he and Senator Graham issued a statement that said:
“A number of our constituents are asking what could have been done to protect our fellow Americans during the almost eight hour siege on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.” Part of that statement reads “We were told reconnaissance aircraft were sent, and that a surveillance drone had been repositioned in response to the attack.”
The question to the Secretary of State should have been, To which video surveillance are you referring? Some cameras in the area that may or may not have caught the scene, or the real-time video feed of the drone? Or are you referring to the high definition security cameras that had been shipped to Benghazi, but were still sitting in crates on the night of the attack, according to a New York Times report?
Another series of questions focused on the cables that were not read by Mrs. Clinton by her own admission that had there been action upon, may have prevented the attack. However, no mention was made of the widely leaked emails that were sent while the attack was unfolding. The fact of these mails is indisputable, and thanks to the guys over at SOFREP, I have permission to reprint one.
The most interesting email domain in the above is the ones that end with eop.gov. That is the email of the Executive Office of the President. Note also the pentagon.mil, ic.fbi.gov amongst all the state.gov recipients as well. While the text of this one email seems to say the attack is over, the live Predator drone feed, and the fact that at least one more missive was sent at the two-plus hour mark of the ongoing attack, shows this report was premature and overly optimistic. These emails were sent by someone in Tripoli who was getting reports of what was going on; information that was overshadowed both in veracity and scope by that which would have been had from the live video feed.
Another series of questions not asked revolve around the fact that our military was not sent to the aid of those brave men the White House was watching fight for their lives. The answers to these questions would undoubtedly lead to more questions about what was really going on at that compound in Benghazi.
Again, the fact it was something unusual or non-standard is alluded to in Clinton’s testimony. Senator Paul asked “…is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya? …it’s been in the news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons. And what I’d like to know is, the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included?”
Secretary Clinton’s response was “Well, Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex.”
This, to me, should have been a bombshell moment for everyone in the room. The Secretary of State is saying that the annex was not under the control of the State Department. Then, which agency was running it?
This is as close to the heart of the matter these proceedings came. This was not an attack on our official U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In fact, this compound was not even officially registered with the Libyan government, a fact that was brought up as part of the testimony, though it was directed at the idea that because the location wasn’t officially registered the Libyan government response was delayed.
The answer to the latter part of that question was simply that the Libyan government was not the source of the local security contracted. Mrs. Clinton said that the failure of the host country was not of willingness, it was of ability. It was because of this deficiency that the U.S. used militias; she specifically mentioned meeting with the February 17th Brigade and the Zintan groups in her testimony. Also within her testimony is reference to the insecurity of both the region as well as the specific location of Benghazi, recalling a bomb that was detonated in the parking lot of the hotel that Ambassador Stevens had been using in that city.
It was because of that and other attacks on Westerners the decision was made to set up this compound, a mile away from the Consulate in Benghazi. Calling it an Annex is somewhat misleading, as the word connotes a contiguous space. So, the fact that there was a need for a more secure space is admitted, yet Secretary Clinton’s saying “you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran that annex” seems to mean it was not an official State Department facility.
All of these pieces lead to further questions of what the facility was for and who was running it. These same questions also lead to possible answers as to why no military response was stood up, despite the reports that AFRICOM commander General Carter Ham had advised the Pentagon he had a QRF, or quick reaction force ready.
So, at the end of the day, all we know for sure is that we don’t know what really happened. We don’t know why the commander of AFRICOM was not allowed to send in help. We don’t know what was actually going on at that so-called annex in Benghazi. We also don’t know why the administration felt it necessary to mislead the American people in those first days and weeks. But, we do know there is more going on than we’ve been told. And we are left with the one question that overrides all the others, What was the point?