Truth and Consequences for Benghazi (2024)

The only real accountability for the Benghazi scandal will have to come in2016.

Reading through the competing partisan reports and listening to thecongressional testimony of various officials this week, it seems fair tosay that no actual crimes were committed (though you never know what youdon't know).

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There were, in at least a figurative sense, criminal lapses in judgment bysenior officials. Many of those lapses are recounted in the AccountabilityReview Board report. It found "systemic failures and leadership andmanagement deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the StateDepartment" that "resulted in a special mission security posture that wasinadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attackthat took place."

Translation: U.S. officials were caught by surprise by a terrorist attackon 9/11 in a country where our ambassador had repeatedly warned hissuperiors -- including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- thatsecurity was grossly inadequate. That ambassador, Christopher Stevens, wasvindicated in a pyrrhic sense when he was murdered by well-organizedterrorists.

Clinton picked four of the five members of the "independent" board, andthey were kind enough to show her a draft before they released it toCongress. The ARB assigned all meaningful blame to some mid-levelofficials. ARB members declined to interview Clinton because, according totestimony Thursday by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral MichaelMullen (the chairman and vice-chairman of the ARB), they determined at theoutset that it wouldn't be necessary. None of the people who wereinterviewed for the report were under oath.

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For those who followed the still-unfolding scandal at the IRS, this mightbe significant. Initially, IRS official Lois Lerner tried to pin all ofthe blame of some low-level employees in Cincinnati. When employees werequestioned by congressional investigators -- away from their bosses andunder oath -- evidence was found to help prove Lerner's account awell-orchestrated lie.

Congressional Republicans would like to get relevant witnesses to testifyunder oath, but they claim that the State Department and CIA are blockingthat. CNN has reported that many potential CIA witnesses have beensubjected to "frequent, even monthly" lie detector tests to discouragethem from leaking information. One insider told CNN: "You have no idea theamount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of thisoperation," Said another: "You don't jeopardize yourself, you jeopardizeyour family as well" if you talk to anyone about what happened.

That's all very ominous, and I'm at a loss as to why it's outrageous forCongress to try to get to the bottom of what happened. But to listen todefenders of the administration and a lot of allegedly neutraljournalists, this basic exercise in congressional oversight is a derangedand entirely fabricated partisan witch hunt. It's an odd charge given thatthe only obvious fabrication in the whole affair was the relentless effortto cast the attack that killed four Americans as a spontaneous reaction toan obscure and shoddy YouTube video.

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But we probably know what happened. In the midst of a hard-foughtpresidential election, the administration, and specifically the president,was caught embarrassingly flat-footed by a terrorist attack. And even whenit knew the attack was still going on -- without any possible knowledge ofwhen it was going to end -- it still failed to send any help. The ARBestablishes that much.

In their testimony Thursday, Pickering and Mullen softened that criticismby noting that the U.S. military can't be expected to defend everydiplomatic outpost everywhere in the world all of the time. Fair enough.But maybe it's not unreasonable for the military to be ready for an attackin, say, the Middle East on Sept. 11? Particularly in a country whereofficials knew security was a huge problem?

At the time, the Obama campaign had been touting its success in the war onterror. The last thing it wanted less than 60 days before the election wasto lose that issue. So, afraid of the political fallout, the White Houseand the State Department circled the wagons.

Hillary Clinton is a master of the passive-aggressive art of dragging outinvestigations until the press and public lose interest and spinners canuse abracadabra phrases like "it's all old news," "let's just move on"and, most famously, "what difference does it make?"

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The irony in this case is that it's precisely that tactic that has nowturned a political problem for Obama into a political problem for Clinton.And unfortunately, the only real accountability we can hope for onBenghazi will come when she runs for president herself.

Truth and Consequences for Benghazi (2024)

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