By John F. Di Leo -
The Administration disapproves of the House Select Committee, chaired by Congressman Trey Gowdy, chartered to investigate the events surrounding the September 11, 2012 attacks on the United States mission (essentially a branch office, a sub-embassy) at Benghazi, Libya, in which the complex was attacked, robbed, and largely destroyed, and four US government employees were killed by Al Qaeda-connected militia.
Now, it is understandable that the Administration disapproves of such an investigation. They haven’t responded to the dozens of church bombings all over Africa in recent years… they haven’t responded to the thousands of Christians killed in the ongoing islamofascist attacks from West Africa to Sudan… they haven’t raised a murmur about the return of crucifixion as a Syrian terrorist technique. They don’t mind a millions abortions a year in their own country; why should we expect them to be concerned about four deaths abroad? Perhaps our expectations of humanity from the current Administration really are too high.
But that doesn’t mean that we should disregard the issue. If the Administration – even the entire Democratic Party – doesn’t think the Benghazi attacks worth studying, perhaps we need to remind them what the events surrounding the attacks really were all about. Because, while those four lives were indeed important, and worthy of better treatment than this Administration gave them, under any measure, the fact is that Benghazi is also about many, many other things besides these four tragic deaths.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked, in answer to an early barrage of unanswered questions on the subject, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Well, we owe it to the American people, and to the employees of the United States federal government, to delve into these matters, and to explore, once and for all, just what difference it does indeed make.
Four Americans, Undefended
Contrary to the claims of the partisan Democrats, who fear any truth that might reflect poorly on their political party, the Benghazi inquiry doesn’t lead up to the four victims of the 9-11-12 attacks; it only begins with them.
When the mission reported to Washington that they were under attack, a decision had to be made: what kind of support to give them? But that decision wasn’t made at all. Instead, a decision was made to abandon them, to send no aid at all. In fact, American forces in the area who offered to help were specifically directed, multiple times, to stay put and render no assistance. Why?
With the obvious exception of military personnel in combat zones, American government employees normally have a right to assume that they are reasonably safe when on US government ground anywhere on earth, and that their government will protect them if attacked. This investigation is therefore not just about these four American government employees stationed abroad who died; it’s about all other American government employees, the tens of thousands of other embassy personnel, commercial and Customs service agents, and so many other federal employees who work overseas at any given moment.
What changed? Since when are our civil servants left on their own when in danger abroad on government business?
Distress Calls, Unanswered
The Administration’s claim throughout has been that no help could have arrived in time. That was certainly possible.
We now know that the attacks went on for many hours, at least seven. In retrospect, we can look back and calculate flight times by helicopter, by plane, by humvee, and determine what we could or couldn’t have done in that time frame.
But not then! At the time of the event, there was no way to know how long the attack would last, how long Ambassador Stevens and his staff could have held out in a safe area. It might have just been another hour; it might have been another day.
There is therefore every possibility that help could have arrived in time, because it is impossible to tell in advance, in a situation like this, how long you’ll have. You have to move fast, try your best, and hope.
Why didn’t they? Why didn’t they try?
Requests for Security, Denied
The Benghazi mission was a lovely country estate. Long low walls, buildings visible from the road, a fine estate for an ambassador in a peaceful country. But an utterly idiotic, indefensible choice for an embassy in a war zone, particularly an embassy of one of the countries most hated by one or more branches of the insurgencies.
The Al Qaeda-related and Muslim Brotherhood-connected rebels of Libya were well known to be active in the Benghazi area; it was in fact a hotbed of militant activity. The security forces both employed by and on loan to the Benghazi mission all agreed that this site was utterly indefensible and should be relocated or at least better defended.
Again and again throughout 2012, staff experts issued request after request for additional security forces. Again and again, in the spring and summer leading up to the attacks, these pleas for support were refused.
In fact, in mid 2012, the U.S. State Department pulled some of their security; faced with a stack of requests for additional personnel, the administration instead rendered them even weaker! Knowing their situation, having received these desperate communiqués, the State Department cut their security.
Now, we don’t need a massive security detail in every embassy; many of our embassies around the world have minimal security, because they’re in safe areas, and we can count on their host governments to protect our people, as they protect everyone on their respective “Embassy Rows.” But this was Libya, during a civil war, in an area in which the government held little authority, and the enemies had more.
So of all the places in the world to cut back on security, why did Hillary Clinton’s State Department deny this site even the most basic protective measures, as frequently and desperately requested?
An Illogical Location, Unjustified
One of the telltale signs of a brewing civil war is that many neutral nations begin closing their embassies. They recall their ambassadors, lock up the buildings and fly their staffs home for the duration - sometimes temporarily, sometimes for years, until things settle down.
In 2011 and 2012, during a horribly misnamed period known as the Arab Spring, a series of revolutions threatened and in some cases overturned Middle Eastern governments. These rebellions, partially local and partially fueled by outside or global organizations, had a variety of secular and Islamist cores, but under no stretch of the imagination could they be viewed as the kind of honorable, courageous freedom fighters that we associate with the bold Czechoslovakian moment some 45 years earlier, commonly known as the Prague Spring. It is an insult to their memory to even make the comparison.
In view of the fighting still going on in Libya at this time, why did we keep multiple embassy locations in place? Even if the main embassy in the north – in a much safer city – was to be retained, why on earth would America maintain a second embassy at an indefensible location in a hotbed of terrorist activity known to be anti-American in nature?
This question goes beyond the question of why the Administration didn’t provide adequate security; what we must discover is why on earth the US government kept this satellite embassy in the south of the wartorn nation at all. As far as standard diplomatic protocol is concerned, considering the situation in Libya that year, there was no justification for this site’s existence.
Is there some good reason why we kept this location open under these conditions? Some reason that the Administration just doesn’t want us to know about?
Correction: There can be no good reason. So what is the bad reason? The taxpayers who funded all this do indeed to know.
Rumors of Illegal Arms Supplies, Unsettled
It began with rumors – that the approval to kill Osama Bin Laden was an exception to official policy, that this White House was in fact no longer opposed to the organizations that attacked the USS Cole and the World Trade Center, bombed the Kenyan and Tanzanian U.S. embassies, perpetrated the Riyadh and Casablanca bombings, and have claimed responsibility for so many, many other lethal attacks.
The rumor was that the Administration would eventually float the balloon that our enemy wasn’t Al Qaeda at all, but just Bin Laden himself and a few others we had caught or killed… that now, Al Qaeda allied groups were perfectly legitimate organizations with whom to dialogue, negotiate, even finance.
Amazingly, the rumor developed that perhaps the Benghazi mission was a poorly disguised front for a weapons program in which the United States was colluding to provide weaponry to rebels – not just any rebels, but members of groups on American sanction lists, groups considered so foul that it is illegal for American businesses to transact business with them. A private manufacturer would risk jail or multimillion dollar fines if he knowingly sold these people a bicycle, but the rumor has it that the White House was happily shoveling millions of dollars’ worth of high-tech weaponry their way, in blatant disregard of America’s own Denied Parties lists.
Some theorize that the weapons were intended to move from Benghazi through various conduits to illegal recipients in Syria, but Al Qaeda engineered this attack specifically to steal this cache of weapons away from them while still in the impotent control of the USA.
Such rumors were disregarded at first, by the majority of watchers, but since that time, we have seen the administration donate billions of American dollars, in both cash and weaponry, to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and to groups known and unknown in Syria. Knowing this, how hard is it to believe that these rumors were true?
Can this administration prove its innocence of the charge of violating the ban on supporting these terror groups, a charge that looks more likely to have been correct every day?
The Lies, Unbelievable
As we now know from public e-mails, there was never any doubt about the perpetrators or their motives. The White House received intelligence that an attack by Al Qaeda on Sept 11 was likely, and as the news came in that Benghazi was under attack by people with sophisticated weapons, the intelligence confirmed that it was indeed Al Qaeda, exactly as suspected.
The administration instead released statement after statement that the villains were locals participating in a spontaneous demonstration. Even after the facts were indisputable, the administration spun and spun, changing their story about whose information they had, who they were listening to, when the news came in… they claimed they didn’t know who was responsible until long, long after, though evidence proves that they knew they were lying all along.
One of the worst of these lies was that the straw that broke the camel’s back, causing this Sept 11 demonstration, was an amateur YouTube video by some minor American minister, a video that was somehow insulting to the followers of Muhammed. The government arrested the heretofore unknown producer of this heretofore unknown video – which had clearly never been seen in the middle east – and locked him away, out of reach of investigative journalists or the news consuming public.
The President and the Secretary of State then filmed a video of their own, an apology for the alleged anti-islamic bigotry in America, and bought airtime to run this video all over the middle east.
Countless millions of US tax dollars were thus spent in a repeat of the President’s 2008 “Apology Tour.” Instead of reacting to an act of war as strong governments ought to do, America apologized for having perhaps offended the poor murderers.
When was the lie about the video concocted? When was the “apology commercial” really taped – was it really quickly thrown-together after the attacks, or was it already filmed, awaiting a moment like this, prepared by a team that knew that, one day, they would need to implement a distraction?
And what is the real timeline of the changing stories, “who knew what when,” as they say, and who made each decision to knowingly lie to the American public about all this?
The Partisanship, Unprecedented
A president who had spent four years presiding over ever-worsening statistics – home foreclosures, joblessness, plummeting new business startups, cripplingly high costs of energy, food price inflation – was desperate for good news on the foreign policy front to make up for it, and terrified of bad news from abroad that would worsen his polling.
The administration had built a narrative around the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, claiming that his death was the effective end of Al Qaeda, that they were now toothless and lost, impotent on the world stage.
The administration could not allow a true story about a still-powerful Al Qaeda’s successful destruction of a US embassy to see the light of day, so shortly before the president’s reelection, so they marshaled all the forces of the executive branch, to bury the truth and continue to claim that Al Qaeda “was on the run” as he had long claimed.
Just how much of our intelligence network was forced by this administration to lie, to follow up blind leads and to neglect legitimate ones, until the real trail was far too cold to hope for success, all in the service of the president’s reelection?
And what should be the punishment for such misuse of resources, such intentional misdirection of investigators, such an abandonment of the cause of truth and the nation’s security?
An Act of War, Unaddressed
This was the first time in three decades that a United States Ambassador was killed in the course of duty. Worse still, it happened at a place he and his staff should have been safe: on the grounds of an embassy of the United States government.
The media hasn’t always stressed or explained this point, but it is critical to remember: an embassy is the sovereign territory of the government it represents, no matter how far away it is from home.
For this reason, a responsible country does what it can to ensure the security of the embassies on each capitol’s “embassy row” – a government allows the embassy its own security force, and provides the full police support of local law enforcement, just in case it’s ever needed. It never should be, of course, but the public has to know that a demonstration that turns violent could easily by met by deadly force by their own government, to prevent the domino effect begun by an attack on its guest.
The host government knows that an attack on an embassy is an attack on a foreign nation. If committed with the knowledge and approval of the host government, it is an act of war.
Even so, the United States of America, attacked thusly, did not respond. We suffered the attack, the destruction and looting of our property, the murders of four of our nation’s representatives.
What has this event done to the security of our other embassies, our other missions, our other government offices across the world?
If this property could be violated, if this building could be ransacked and torched, if these four Americans could be tortured and killed this way, are any of our other thousands of other government personnel stationed overseas to be considered in any way safe, in a manner befitting the representatives of the world’s greatest superpower? And what should we think of a nation’s leadership that would allow them to be put in jeopardy like this?
The Suicide of a Superpower
Perhaps if this event were taken on its own, it might not be so lethal to the nation. But it cannot be viewed on its own.
This administration has presided over the gradual weakening of American authority, respect, and security in the world. We have watched for five-plus years as our borders have grown ever more porous, as our troops abroad have been rendered impotent with rules of engagement that limit their ability to do their job, as our continued economic downturn has eliminated any reason for other countries to fear our power or honor our leadership.
Taken in this context, the Benghazi attacks of September 11, 2012 were worse, far worse, than even the first glance could ever indicate. These attacks were a microcosm of everything that is wrong with this administration’s foreign policy.
And this nation does deserve – and truly need – the truth and background to every aspect of this nadir of American strength. We need to know just how bad it really is – and who exactly is responsible for every mistake, every diversion, every crime, both those that took place in Libya and those that took place here, in the United States.
Will the president and his administration survive this committee’s work, politically speaking?
That shouldn’t even be our concern. We just need the truth.
Copyright 2014 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance trainer. A former county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, his columns are found regularly in Illinois Review.
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