The Benghazi Report: Political Posturing + Bureaucratic Bumbling = Tragedy
As our U.S. diplomatic personnel fought for their lives in a jihadist-infested hellhole, Obama administration officials bickered over what clothes potential rescuers should wear, worried about how not to offend the Libyans, and began crafting a narrative to pin the Benghazi attack on a video-inspired protest in direct contradiction to the facts being reported from the ground.
That is just one of the revelations from House Select Committee Report on the Benghazi terror attack released Tuesday morning, an 800-page report that represents two years of research.
Elements of the U.S. military leadership come in for criticism, as do the Obama administration’s actions before, during and after the September 11, 2012 attack that left four Americans, including ambassador Christopher Stevens, dead.
The New Information
Democrats were quick to paint the work as partisan and devoid of new information. That’s far from true, said committee chairman and former prosecutor Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. Among the never-before revealed facts cited by the committee from the night of the attack alone:
- Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began. “Not a single wheel of a single U.S. (military) asset had turned toward Libya,” Gowdy, told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference. “Think about that for a second.”
- With Ambassador Stevens missing, the White House convened a roughly two-hour meeting at 7:30 PM, which resulted in action items focused on a YouTube video, and others containing the phrases “[i]f any deployment is made,” and “Libya must agree to any deployment,” and “[w]ill not deploy until order comes to go to either Tripoli or Benghazi.” Meanwhile, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who typically would participate in such meetings, skipped the meeting to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries at his home.
- A Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) sat on a plane in Rota, Spain, for three hours, and changed in and out of their uniforms four times.
- None of the relevant military forces met their required deployment timelines.
The new information paints an even clearer picture of the dismaying lack of military action taken as the attack was underway, and it suggests at least part of the reason. According to Gowdy, the U.S. was slow to send help to the heroic Americans “because of an obsession with hurting Libyans’ feelings.” The Defense Department also had in its head that our personnel were being evacuated and that the attack threat had diminished. “Washington had access to real-time information,” said Gowdy, “yet somehow they thought the fighting had subsided.”
Five Damaging Take-Aways
The Washington Post lists what it says are the five most serious allegations contained in the report:
- The State Department (led by Hillary Clinton at the time) failed to protect U.S. diplomats in Libya. Requests for additional security were ignored or denied. Even the Democrats describe security in Benghazi as “woefully inadequate.”
- The CIA missed warning signs. According to the report, the Central Intelligence Agency underestimated the danger in Libya. As noted by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “One section of the report seems to allege that U.S. officials fundamentally misunderstood who their allies were at the time.” U.S. personnel were largely abandoned by the militias that had been engaged by the State Department and CIA for security. Instead, the investigation reveals a fascinating bit of irony: U.S. personnel were aided and evacuated by former Gaddafi loyalists, the very leader who had been deposed by the Obama administration.
- The Defense Department failed to rescue Americans in time. There was the eight-hour delay getting assets moving, but the Post relates another jaw-dropper involving the most powerful and advanced military in the world: “U.S. military forces did not reach Benghazi until 2 p.m. the day after the initial attack on the diplomatic compound.” This, on the anniversary of 9/11, when protests had already broken out in Cairo and other spots in the Middle East.
- The Obama administration “stonewalled” the investigation. “The report says the State Department, Pentagon and CIA refused to turn over all the agencies’ records and delayed getting others to Congress, a process that Republicans said delayed their investigation by months.” Then there’s the matter of Hillary Clinton’s private email system, the breadth of which was only discovered by the Benghazi committee. Clinton did not reveal the private server and had the opportunity to delete 30,000 emails she designated as private. It is also worth noting that the National Security Council stopped any questions involving the allegations that the Obama administration was running weapons through Libya, and that questions the committee have for President Obama himself remain unanswered.
- A Clinton aide shaped the State Department’s review. As noted by Politico, the report accused Cheryl Mills, Hillary’s longtime friend, fixer, lawyer and chief-of-staff, of heavily influencing the State Department’s internal review of Benghazi. Mills had a hand in the Accountability Review Board’s make-up, interviews, information gathering and drafts. Hillary Clinton and the Clinton campaign repeatedly refer to the findings of the ARB when insisting she’s been cleared of any wrongdoing.
President Obama — MIA
Not mentioned by the Post is a stunning revelation buried in the report and brought to light by The Weekly Standard: President Obama, America’s Commander-in-Chief, “skipped his daily intelligence briefing” the day after the Benghazi attacks. That word came directly from the executive coordinator of Obama’s presidential daily briefing. What’s more, we still don’t know much about what Obama was doing throughout the terrorist attack. As The Weekly Standard reports, “The White House has provided little detail on Obama’s activities throughout the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath, refusing to answer questions from journalists about the president’s whereabouts, and actively working to keep information from investigators with the Select Committee.”
Blame the Video
The Select Committee discovered that in that newly revealed 7:30 meeting, as the violence and threat continued in Benghazi, five of the ten action items focused on the obscure YouTube video mocking Mohammed even though “no direct link or solid evidence existed connecting the attacks in Benghazi and the video at the time the meeting took place.” All of the information from the ground was indicating this was an attack, not a protest over the video gone awry. Keep in mind, too, that the attack occurred on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
As had already been revealed, Hillary Clinton had emailed daughter Chelsea that Benghazi was a terrorist attack and she would tell Egypt’s prime minister the same thing the next day. Her precise words were, “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack — not a protest.”
Despite Secretary of State Clinton’s clear understanding that it was a premeditated terrorist attack, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes — the same guy who admitted to The New York Times Magazine that he’d crafted the Obama administration’s misinformation campaign about the Iran nuclear deal — was already pushing the video angle. He held a conference call to ensure all those speaking on Benghazi were on the same page. And he and David Pouffe briefed Susan Rice before her notorious appearance on five Sunday morning shows, where she energetically peddled the video protest story.
As the Select Committee noted, even the State Department was dumbfounded:
Susan Rice’s comments on the Sunday talk shows were met with shock and disbelief by State Department employees in Washington. The Senior Libya Desk Officer, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, State Department, wrote: “I think Rice was off the reservation on this one.” The Deputy Director, Office of Press and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, State Department, responded: “Off the reservation on five networks!” The Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications, Bureau of Near East Affairs, State Department, wrote: “WH [White House] very worried about the politics. This was all their doing.”
America was less than two months from a presidential election. President Obama was touting that “Bin Laden is dead, and al-Qaeda is on the run.” The overthrow of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi had been Hillary’s baby. As the Committee uncovered, pal Sidney Blumenthal had pushed Clinton to boast about the supposed success. In fact, the investigation uncovered that Hillary had been planning to go to Libya in October of 2012. Unfortunately, the security situation had deteriorated. Even more unfortunately, requests for more security were ignored. A larger American footprint had to be avoided.
And when the terrorist attack happened — on the 9/11 anniversary no less — the Obama and Clinton narratives were destroyed. The best they could hope to do was spin the attacks as a flash protest that unexpectedly spiraled out of control. If successful, this would render the administration’s lack of security preparations in Benghazi marginally less idiotic looking than if the attacks were understood to be what they were: a premeditated terror attack on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 in a country the US had destabilized and one rife with Muslim jihadists.
Hillary “Never Personally …”
On Monday Democrats issued a sort of counter-report trumpeting, “Secretary Clinton never personally denied any requests for additional security in Benghazi.” The “never personally denied” even made it into headlines.
Of course, a Secretary of State ignoring a request has the same effect as denying a request. Also, those who did deny the requests were acting as her representatives. They were under her charge. “The Buck Stops Here,” a Democratic President once said. That was then.
In their effort to protect Hillary from the fallout over the main Benghazi report, the Democrats mentions Hillary Clinton more in its 339-page report than the Gowdy report does in 800 pages. The Democrat report also mentions Donald Trump more often than it mentions the two heroic Navy SEALS who died in the attack. In 2012, Trump wasn’t part of the state department or the defense department. Indeed, he wasn’t part of the Obama administration or on any congressional committee. He was in a boardroom with Clay Aiken and Arsenio Hall on Celebrity Apprentice.
Trey Gowdy, in his press conference Tuesday, rejected reporters’ attempts to paint his effort with a political brush, and urged reporters to read the report themselves and draw their own conclusions. He emphasized that the Select Committee report is not primarily about Hillary Clinton, but about the four men who lost their lives serving their country: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Steve Smith, Glen Dougherty and Tyrone Woods.