Thursday, March 10, 2016

Benghazi In Perspective


Generally not fond of abbreviations and disliking jargon, I've avoided IOKIYAR. Until now.

In September, 2012 four Americans were murdered in an attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Because it occurred during the 2012 general election campaign, the Obama Administration generally was blamed for, as Mitt Romney alleged at the time, choosing "to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions."  Sometime after the election, blame shifted to Secretary Clinton.

In the debate in Miami Wednesday night, Jorge Ramos asked Mrs. Clinton about Benghazi, introducing the topic by playing a video clip of the mother of one of the victims, stating "Hillary and Obama and Panetta and Biden and all of -- and Susan Rice, all told me it was a video, when they knew it was not the video. And they said that they would call me and let me know what the outcome was." Later that night, as Ramos pointed out, Clinton would send an e-mail to her daughter blaming terrorists for the attack.

The Secretary replied that, as she had testified to the House committee investigating the attack they all "were scrambling to get information that was changing, literally by the hour. And when we had information, we made it public. But then sometimes we had to go back and say we have new information that contradicts it."

After further remarks, it got juicy when Clinton noted

And this is not the first time we lost Americans in a terrorist attack. We lost 3,000 people on 9/11. We lost Americans serving in embassies in Tanzania and Kenya when my husband was president. We lost 250 Americans, both military and civilian, when Ronald Reagan was president in Beirut.

And at no other time were those tragedies were they politicized.

In May, 2014, after another round of GOP-inspired and led congressional investigations into Benghazi was announced, investigative reporter Jane Mayer recalled

Around dawn on October 23, 1983, I was in Beirut, Lebanon, when a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with the equivalent of twenty-one thousand pounds of TNT into the heart of a U.S. Marine compound, killing two hundred and forty-one servicemen. The U.S. military command, which regarded the Marines’ presence as a non-combative, “peace-keeping mission,” had left a vehicle gate wide open, and ordered the sentries to keep their weapons unloaded. The only real resistance the suicide bomber had encountered was a scrim of concertina wire. When I arrived on the scene a short while later to report on it for the Wall Street Journal, the Marine barracks were flattened. From beneath the dusty, smoking slabs of collapsed concrete, piteous American voices could be heard, begging for help. Thirteen more American servicemen later died from injuries, making it the single deadliest attack on American Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Six months earlier, militants had bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, too, killing sixty-three more people, including seventeen Americans. Among the dead were seven C.I.A. officers, including the agency’s top analyst in the Middle East, an immensely valuable intelligence asset, and the Beirut station chief.

Eleven months after the first, and five months after the second, attack, CIA's station chief in Beirut was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. Three months prior, Mayer notes, Congress had issued a constructive bipartisan report citing "very serious errors in judgement" throughout the military command.

Neither President Reagan nor Secretary of State Schultz was hounded for years afterward, even after a US government outpost in Beirut was bombed in September, 1984. In one presidential term, 305 Americans serving their country were murdered by terrorists in Beirut in security lapses, to which President Reagan reacted “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.”

That was then, this is now, Mayer recognizes. The difference, however, goes beyond that. Democrats chose not to make this failure of a Republican president into a partisan issue because, in the end, it's O.K. if you're a Republican.

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