Thursday, May 8, 2014


I know next to nothing about Libya.  I mean, I can find it on a map, and I know it used to be run by Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi, whose name has so many different English spellings that spelling theorists do not expect to run out until 2204.  Ol' Muammar proved that he wasn't as egocentric as most evil dictators, since he styled himself a colonel instead of a general.

President Reagan hated Gaddafi so much that he sent bombers after him and killed his daughter.  But the feeling was mutual; Gaddafi was probably behind the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed a lot of Americans.  In the end, Gaddafi died at the hands of revolutionaries who hunted him down after driving him from power.

And there is one other thing I know about Libya.  Libya is where Benghazi is, and we're about to start hearing a lot more about Benghazi because the Republicans have literally nothing else to talk about now that Obamacare is proving to be a success.

Now, what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, is a tragic occurrence.  Armed militants overran the American facility there and killed four Americans, including the Ambassador.  It is true that the building was undersecured, and because of some communications confusion about what was going on, it took longer than it should have for American forces to respond.

Indeed, I think it's very appropriate to react with anger to what happened.  Diplomatic work is dangerous, especially when it is undertaken in countries with unstable political systems, in which terrorist organizations can operate more freely because of the breakdown in civil authority.  It would therefore make sense to spend money on making our foreign missions--embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic installations--as secure as we reasonably can, while recognizing that this work is both important and hazardous.

I point this out because one of the reasons why the facility at Benghazi--not a consulate, by the way, but an "annex" that was largely a CIA facility, and for which security responsibility fell largely to the CIA--was undersecured is a lack of funding.  The situation is more nuanced than a simple failure to fund.  It's true that the GOP-led House trimmed about $300 million from the State Department's proposed $2.15 billion budget for diplomatic security.  That meant that some facilities, particularly a "temporary" facility like the Benghazi mission, were not as hardened against security threats as they might have been.  The CIA, however, was the lead agency on security.

It's understandable why the GOP would want to talk about what happened.  They need fodder for the midterm elections, and Hillary Clinton, whom they (correctly) perceive is likely to run for President in 2016 (and win) was the Secretary of State during this tragedy.  It's a simple case of two birds with one stone.  But they also correctly perceive that the tragedy itself is unlikely to gain them any political traction.

What has the GOP up in arms is not what happened so much as what was said about it in the aftermath.  A few days after the incident, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk shows and said, among other things, that the best available intelligence indicated that the attack was spontaneous and ultimately motivated by a YouTube video, "The Innocence of Muslims," that had some very unfavorable things to say about Islam.

It turns out that the video had little if anything to do with the attack.  The video was the catalyst for some protests in Egypt around the same time, and for some protests in Libya, but the attack in Benghazi was itself an organized terrorist operation.

Which, by the way, is what President Obama called it a couple of days after the attack.

But that is not what the GOP is whining about.  It can't be.  The reason?  The day before Ambassador Rice went on the Sunday talk shows, the CIA issued a report saying that the best available intelligence indicated that the attack was spontaneous and motivated by the video.

In other words, what Rice actually said was exactly true.

But even if what she said had been false, so what?  What difference does it make?

Four separate congressional committees have looked into this issue.  There are more than 25,000 pages of documents that have been generated as a result of the inquiry.  But the GOP needs a campaign issue.  Because they were planning to campaign on how miserable a failure Obamacare is, and that has turned out not to be the case, they need something else to talk about, and Benghazi is it.

Never mind that [u]no one[/u] who thinks this is an important issue--not Benghazi per se, but whether the Obama administration's public statements were accurate or not in the immediate aftermath of the attack--would [u]ever[/u] consider voting for a Democrat in any election.
The purpose is to try to motivate the GOP to vote in November's midterm elections, and to score some pre-emptive damage against the Hillary Clinton juggernaut.

And they only need this because their sole legislative record over the last two years has been failing to repeal Obamacare--which becomes more and more popular as time goes on.  They have literally nothing to run on, so they are manufacturing an issue.

But, by all means, investigate away. 

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