What difference does it make? That’s the provocative question former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton posed late last year to members of congressional committees that were investigating the 9/11/12 terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed four American diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.
Well, Ms. Clinton, it makes a lot of difference to all of us U.S. Foreign Service officers, active or retired, who serve or served at dangerous posts like Benghazi in war-torn countries such as Libya. In fact, Benghazi remains one of the most dangerous Foreign Service posts in the world, and the diplomats serving there rely on the State Department to keep them safe. Clinton was secretary of state when the Benghazi terrorist attack occurred; therefore, the deadly outcome was (and is) her responsibility, even though she tried to talk her way out of it. “Mistakes were made,” etc. etc. — the usual bureaucratic gobbledygook.
I raise this issue again in the wake of two conflicting reports about what really happened in Benghazi, one by The New York Times and one by the Democrat-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee. To me, the Times’ investigative report, authored mainly by Cairo Bureau Chief David Kirkpatrick, appears to be an attempt to absolve President Obama and Ms. Clinton, the Democrats’ leading 2016 presidential election candidate, from blame in the deaths of those four American diplomats.
That’s his story, but the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee reached a far different conclusion, asserting that well-trained terrorists stormed U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi in a well-coordinated attack that had nothing to do with an obscure anti-Islamic video that had been used by Ms. Clinton and State as a cover story. Were the terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida? “General (David) Petraeus ... said very clearly that al-Qaida elements were involved,” Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told Bob Schieffer of “Face the Nation.” Whom do you believe, Gen. Petraeus or Kirkpatrick? Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), a former FBI agent, has consistently pointed to al-Qaida ties among the Benghazi attackers.
The Senate report also blamed the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Bureau for bad management and/or mismanagement. Take your pick. Senators said the Benghazi attack could have been prevented with better intelligence and security operations, and better coordination between State and the CIA, and noted that State was unresponsive to the ambassador’s repeated requests for enhanced security.
I won’t stop writing about Benghazi until my questions have been answered. I’ll ask the first question: What was the ambassador doing in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks? I suspect he was coordinating arms transfers to the Libyan rebels. Following are some additional questions that deserve answers:
What did President Obama know, and when did he know it? And where was he on the night of the attack?
What did Hillary Clinton know, and when did she know it? And why did she reject her ambassador’s repeated requests for enhanced security?
Where are the Benghazi survivors, and why aren’t they testifying publicly?
Those are a few of the Benghazi questions that deserve answers. My guess is that we’ll be subjected to more stonewalling, and no one will be held accountable. Just business as usual in Washington, D.C.
Guy W. Farmer is a retired diplomat.