October 11, 2012

Botched, Bungled & Butchered

Wednesday’s Congressional hearings on the Libya debacle “brought greater clarity," according to a WSJ editorial, entitled “Botched in Benghazi” (see below).

Botched in Benghazi is right, although “botched” appears to be the overall state of our national security and foreign policy today, throughout the world. 

On the Libya debacle, we're still trying to figure out why the State Department is the one that decides security arrangements for embassies/consulates abroad? Is security another one of State's areas of expertise?

And if the FBI is a domestic law enforcement agency that collects intelligence related to domestic security; and the CIA is an international intelligence agency that collects intelligence related to U.S. national security, why was the FBI sent to investigate the Benghazi attack? [Never mind it took three weeks for FBI investigators to get to Benghazi, or that after finally arriving there, they spent only a few hours on the ground.]

The Wall Street Journal  |  October 11, 2012

Botched in Benghazi
New evidence on the Libya debacle and false White House spin.

Benghazi-US consulate burning.jpg
A Libyan man waves his rifle during attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images; Courtesy:

At Wednesday's House oversight hearings into the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, Democrats protested loudly about a GOP political witch hunt. If only such alleged partisanship were always so educational. The Congressional investigation has in a few hours brought greater clarity about what happened before, during and after the events of 9/11/12 than the Obama Administration has provided in a month.

Among the revelations:

• There was no public demonstration whatsoever against an anti-Islam video, or any other grievance, outside the consulate in Benghazi the night of the attack.

"There had been nothing unusual during the day at all outside [our emphasis]," a State Department official told reporters in a Tuesday night briefing hastily organized before the House committee session. Only at 9:40 p.m. on September 11 did a large pack of armed men storm the compound, firing guns and grenades and eventually setting buildings on fire. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were murdered.

For more than a week afterwards, Obama Administration officials said the attacks were the result of a demonstration triggered by anger over a YouTube video, as were protests earlier in the day in Cairo. "What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on September 16 on NBC's "Meet the Press."

On Tuesday night, a State Department official said, "That was not our conclusion."

• The frontal attack by an extremist militia group with links to al Qaeda was recognized as such by some Obama Administration officials within 24 hours. Testifying on Wednesday, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, a Utah National Guard Green Beret who commanded a 16-member security team in Tripoli, said the attacks were "instantly recognizable as a terrorist attack. . . . I almost expected it to come."

• The State Department denied repeated requests to improve security at the Libyan mission. It kept the consulate in Benghazi open after Britain and the Red Cross had pulled out of the city after security deteriorated this year. No special security measures were in place for the anniversary of 9/11.

Lt. Col. Wood said he had argued to extend his team's tour in Libya but was pulled out in August. The State Department approved a 30% "danger pay" bonus for Americans working in Libya, but it turned down an Embassy request to keep a DC-3 plane in the country for security support.

Eric Nordstrom, a State official who was the regional security officer in Libya until June, told the committee about a "complete and total absence of planning" for security. The U.S. was relying on a Libyan government that was "overwhelmed and could not guarantee our protection," according to an October 1 memorandum written by Mr. Nordstrom.

Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa has forced the Administration to start to answer for this stunning and deadly assault on U.S. sovereign soil in Libya, but a lot of questions demand further investigation. Were warnings of an imminent threat ignored? Was incompetence or a systemic failure to blame for the security lapse?

The most immediate question concerns the Administration's response, and this is where electoral politics deserves to come in. Ms. Rice has defended her false and misleading statements by saying she was reading off a script prepared by U.S. intelligence—apparently a script not shared with the State Department she formally reports to.

It'd be instructive to know who provided her this script, and whether or not she spoke to White House political aide David Plouffe or the Chicago campaign office as she prepared for her Sunday TV show appearances on September 16.

Ms. Rice's Sunday story happened to fit the narrative offered by White House spokesman Jay Carney two days earlier that a rogue video had caused the anti-American demonstrations, which also fit the Obama campaign narrative that the President has made the U.S. more popular and that terrorism is on the wane in the world. A terror attack that killed Americans in Benghazi blows up that happy tale.

In a campaign speech Monday night, President Obama kept at it, saying that "al Qaeda is on its heels and Osama bin Laden is no more." The second half of the sentence is true. But the more we learn about what happened in Benghazi, the more the first sounds like fantasy, and the less Americans can trust this White House to tell them the truth.

Original editorial here.


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