Washington is notoriously a one-crisis town. And it may well be that the growing concern over Russian aggression in Ukraine and Vladimir Putin’s threats to other former Soviet-occupied areas in Central and Eastern Europe will soak up all the controversy oxygen in the U.S. capital.
But there is increasing evidence that the events of 9/11, 2012, in eastern Libya were extremely significant although any effort to elucidate them studiously has been ignored by the mainstream media.
They may, indeed, be an important marker in the longer term development of U.S. politics and American foreign policy and therefore of world peace and stability.
There are two overarching reasons why those events were significant:
An analysis of what happened there — when more facts are available — could well reveal the basis of the growing worldwide perception of the fundamental failure of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. That perception, whether a reflection of reality or not, is increasingly an ingredient in world politics given the central role of the U.S. since the end of World War II.
The Benghazi events could produce in more detail than has been otherwise available an evaluation of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, whatever veneer her frenzied activity of almost constant world travel has given it. If, as might be argued, the events at Benghazi and the conditions leading up to them were a product of Mrs. Clinton’s decision-making at State, even at second hand, they are important indicators of her executive ability. Until now that executive command had never been tested in any other venue since she has had no election to executive office.
What is already apparent is that there is a long list of questions without official answers to the tragedy of the death of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. None of them have been answered with specificity by either the White House or the State Department. However, there is circumstantial evidence and unverified reports which indicate not only the nature of the events there but how they reflect a much wider view of the Obama Administration’s policies and their formulation and, not least, Mrs. Clinton’s role in their execution.
The questions start, of course, with the whole state of security in the American presence in Libya before the events. We know that contrary to repeated requests for additional security in the face of a growing breakdown of the Libyan domestic scene, those requests were not only refused by Washington but in fact, security forces were downgraded. Why?
It is also apparent that there was no augmentation or particular attention to security concerns on the eve of the anniversary of the original 9/11 attacks despite numerous references to it in jihadist propaganda. What is the explanation for this obvious lack of common sense precaution?
What then was the mission in Benghazi of Ambassador Stevens, a veteran Arabist, on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary in an area already known as a fountainhead of jihadist cadre in both the Afghanistan war against the Soviets and subsequent Mideast violence?
What was the original mission of the CIA detachment in Benghazi, which ultimately (and it has been suggested against orders from its command in Washington) came to the aid of the Ambassador and others in the Consulate-General when they came under attack?
What was the extended deployment of American military forces in the region and the prospects of Africom, the joint military command with overall jurisdiction, to come to the aid of those under attack in Benghazi?
Given the general American military protocol of aiding those under fire, whether or not a rescue could be successfully achieved, were there orders from The Pentagon and the White House, or lack thereof, to Africom to stand down?
During the more than 10-hour attack, what was the disposition of the Secretary of State and the President in Washington, including activities in the Situation Room where we now have Congressional testimony from a former White House official present that the President did not appear?
Last but not least, why has the U.S. government not brought any of the terrorists involved in the affair to justice, despite repeated promises by the President he would do so, and media encounters with sources they have located who insist they personally took part in the attacks?.
As so often happens, particularly at the outset of a scandal or exposure of malfunctioning of a U.S. Administration, attention is now focused on the explanations given by Administration spokesmen during and immediately after the affair. And that could well be the case here. But it would be a mistake, if not a tragedy, to ignore the more fundamental underlying questions which are of the utmost importance to long-term policy.
Contradictory testimony has been presented that the Administration — including all the various branches of government involved — were unaware of the real nature of the attack. That is, the White House and State Department spokesmen continue to insist that Washington had a mistaken belief that the events in Benghazi were part of a general wave of anti-American demonstrations throughout the Arab/Muslim world, allegedly in response to a somewhat obscure video attacking Islamic values. They do concede that this explanation was false and that it was eventually judged that the attack did not arise “spontaneously”. Furthermore, there has already been an admission that the attack was a well planned, long-term, terrorist incident, calculated to exploit the anniversary of the original 9/11, and that it has resulted in an important propaganda victory for the jihadists in the Arab/Muslim world.
Former Secretary of State Clinton has rather famously gone on record in a statement to a Congressional committee that “what difference does it make” if there was an earlier mistaken evaluation of source of these events. She continued to insist that the reality is that four Americans were martyred in the event whatever the real explanation of the cause or that provided originally by government spokesmen. That, of course, is undeniable.
But it leads the argument back to the whole question of the competence and administrative acumen not only of the Administration in general but of Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State in view of a widely held belief that she could be a successful candidate for president in 2016.
* A version of this column will be published at http://yeoldecrabb.com Monday, May 5, 2014