Trying To Get To The Bottom Of Benghazi

Congressional hearings are underway into the storming of the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the killing of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.  The hearings are interesting — both for what they are telling us about what happened in Libya and within the U.S. government itself as the attacks unfolded, but also for what they are telling us about the twisted, hyper-partisan world of Washington, D.C.

During yesterday’s testimony, which the New York Times described as “riveting,” a veteran U.S. diplomat named Gregory Hicks gave a detailed account of the night of the attack.  Hicks, a 22-year Foreign Service veteran, became the head State Department official in Libya after Ambassador Stevens was killed.  He testified about how a Special Operations team wanted to fly to Benghazi to help but was overruled by officials in Washington, who concluded it could not arrive in time to help.  Hicks also described being “stunned” and “embarrassed” when Administration officials, including UN Ambassador Susan Rice, initially portrayed the attack as a response to a YouTube video and how such comments angered the president of the Libyan National Assembly, who had called the attack a preplanned terrorist act.  Hicks testified that the Libyan government’s feeling of being undercut may have delayed their cooperation with Americans investigating the incident.  Furthermore, he said that when he raised questions about Rice’s comments, he was effectively demoted and led to understand that he should stop asking questions.

The testimony of Hicks and two other officials, Mark Thompson and Eric Nordstrom, indicate that there is still information to be uncovered and lessons to be learned about Benghazi.  When four Americans, including an ambassador, are killed, their deaths deserve a detailed inquiry and a careful evaluation, at the congressional level.  Such an evaluation should determine whether changes in law, security arrangements, staffing, or emergency response procedures are needed to prevent such an incident from ever happening again.

Unfortunately, in our modern government, things are never quite that simple.  The Times story linked above reflects that unfortunate fact, because much of the article is devoted to the “politics” of what should ideally be an apolitical, objective fact-finding exercise.  It’s ludicrous, and disheartening, and it is happening on both sides of the aisle.  Republicans should stop portraying every incident as “another Watergate”; it just allows their opponents to dismiss hearings such as yesterday’s as a politically motivated witch hunt.  And Democrats should stop trying to downplay the significance of Benghazi and resist every inquiry about why four Americans died.  That much, at least, is owed to the memories of those four Americans — and to the many other Americans who serve their country in diplomatic posts in dangerous parts of the world.

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5 thoughts on “Trying To Get To The Bottom Of Benghazi

  1. Hmmmm, Bush: over 3,000 killed in 2001 and from 2001-2008 there were 60 people killed in embassies…. Hmmmm…. Just sayin’

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    • The September 11 attacks were exhaustively analyzed by Congress and others, and to my recollection that was managed without overt politicization from either side. As for other attacks on embassies that you refer to, I’m not sure who was killed or under what circumstances — but I’m pretty sure that none of those incidents involved the killing of an ambassador and security personnel in a mass, preplanned attack.

      I’m not trying to blame anyone here, or smear anyone, and I don’t think the Benghazi attack should be portrayed as “worse than Watergate.” I just think that when an American ambassador is murdered, and it appears that there were intelligence and operational failures that contributed to his killings, Congress should be able to conduct a meaningful investigation, make recommendations about things we can do to avoid it happening again, and do so without it becoming a partisan political circus. I don’t think that is an unreasonable or unfair expectation.

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  2. Do you really think this is a good use of Congressional time?
    No, because this is yet another try to discredit Mrs. Clinton and the President. Once again, Fox News controls the agenda…..

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