Ambassador Susan Rice has been charged by some Republicans with “lying” about the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. At issue is four sentences drafted by the CIA at the request of Congressman Ruppersberger and edited by the intelligence community — the standard procedure -— that Rice used on television.
By one accounting, she “lied” by calling the attacks spontaneous when they were actually premeditated. But The New York Times, the AP and others had reported that the attack originated as a result of a mass demonstration that suddenly turned violent. The press also reported that demonstrations occurred in 23 other countries because of an anti-Islamic video, which had to influence the intelligence community’s assessment.
The other principal claim is that Rice repeated talking points that she knew to be untrue. It sometimes takes weeks to put the facts together and sort out the conflicting claims. Pulitzer-winning author Thomas Ricks (“Fiasco”) explained it on Fox News, citing the hundreds of U.S. contractors who were killed in Iraq in small-unit firefights. In most cases nobody knows exactly what happened. This is the “fog of war.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is upset because Rice never corrected the record when more facts became available. Does anyone remember Collins asking the Neocons to correct their “935 False Statements” or apologize for the 4,500 dead and 100,000 wounded Americans in Iraq?
Why Rice would deliberately lie is not explained, but the conspiracy theorists usually tie her statements to the presidential election, suggesting she “politicized” the attack. But it was Mitt Romney who accused the Obama administration of sympathizing with terrorists five hours after the attack, before even the barest facts were known.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said that the Benghazi issue “may end up being the biggest coverup that we’ve ever experienced in history.” Inhofe is the same guy who has said that global warming is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people. He must have missed Republican governor Bobby Jindal’s statement that the GOP must stop being “the stupid party.”
As to the charges that threats had been ignored, security was inadequate, etc., such claims ignore the constant background noise of threats at U.S. missions around the world. There have been at least 42 attacks against American embassies in the last 50 years including the destruction of our embassies in Pakistan, Tripoli, Beirut, Nairobi and Tanzania, and attacks on embassies/consulates in Yemen, Cairo, Tashkent, Sarajevo, Damascus, Moscow, Kabul, Istanbul, Belgrade, Vienna, Jakarta, Rome, Kuwait City and others.
Lower-level threats are even more common. For example, colleagues stationed in Central America during the civil wars used to get death threats regularly; 52 colleagues were held hostage in Teheran; the DEA chief in Bogota was assassinated in his office; the ambassador in Bogota received pictures showing crosshairs on his children leaving school; the daily fighting around the consulate in Asmara that I witnessed in 1975 could have been another Benghazi, and so on.
There is another problem with the Republican finger pointing: House Republicans voted to cut $1.2 billion from State operations in 2009, including funds for 300 more diplomatic security positions; they also cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012.
For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $800 million less for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program than requested by the Obama administration. Under Paul Ryan’s budget, State Department funding would be slashed nearly 20 percent in 2014, resulting in $400 million more in cuts to embassy security. See a pattern here?
Then there is the strange case of John McCain, who has taken the lead in this witch hunt.
McCain has been called a hero so often that he apparently thinks that means he’s a military genius — another von Clausewitz. His weekly pronouncements on the Sunday talk shows (with their usual white male Republican guests) have criticized Obama for failing to intervene militarily in Libya and Syria, and for not attacking Iran.
In addition, he has provided essentially unqualified support over the years for every attack the U.S. and Israel have undertaken, including against Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, Afghanistan and Pakistan. See another pattern here?
Unlike McCain, however, Clausewitz emphasized the importance of focusing on political outcomes; McCain’s focus, like the other Neocons, is always on justifying another U.S. intervention.
Perhaps if Obama had intervened in Libya as McCain wanted, everything would be fine. Of course there would have been more than four dead Americans.
Tom Maertens describes himself as a political centrist who has worked in national security for both political parties in the White House and in the U.S. Senate. He is part of a Free Press team of readers from all political viewpoints asked to write columns.