By Nick Gier
The GOP House Select Committee on Benghazi has interviewed 100 witnesses, spent $7 million of its own funds, and has forced other agencies to spend an additional $13 million. The Defense Department is at its wit’s end and is rightly accusing the committee of making frivolous requests.
Letters from Gen. Dana Chipman, the committee’s own former chief counsel with 33 years’ military experience, have been now released. In one to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chipman states: “I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi.” Contrary to the right-wing press, there were no orders for those forces to stand down.
One of the most inflammatory charges made against Hillary Clinton was that she dismissed the Benghazi deaths by saying “What difference does it make”? In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1/23/13), the gravity of this loss is clear: “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”
There is also the accusation by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa that Clinton had “personally signed” a cable requesting reduced security in Benghazi. Fact checkers at the Washington Post awarded Issa four Pinocchio’s (a Whopper) for this lie. The fact is that every cable from the State Department has the Secretary’s signature renders its author unidentifiable.
GOP Sen. Rand Paul charged that Clinton “was asked repeatedly to provide security in Benghazi on several occasions, including direct cables.” Investigators at Politifact have judged this claim “mostly false.” They state that “no one has shown Clinton willfully ignored the cries for help from Libya. Paul’s office didn’t provide evidence linking requests for security directly to Clinton.” All cables to the State Department cables are addressed to “SECSTATE” in “WASHDC,” but only a select few ever reach the secretary.
On the October 15, 2012, Fox New’s Sean Hannity claimed that “somebody at the State Department was watching the attack in real time” via video, and therefore should have known exactly what was happening.
First, there was of course no live video feed from Libya to any government office; and second, Hannity may have misunderstood Charles Lamb’s testimony that Clinton was in telephone contact with state department officials in Libya as if it were “almost in real time.”
Clinton’s critics apparently did not realize that this claim of real time contact contradicts their accusation that Clinton and Obama were “unaccounted for” during and after the attack. Not only was Clinton in constant telephone contact with the deputy chief of mission in Libya, but she was also speaking directly with national security advisor Tom Donilon, President Obama, and other administration officials.
With regard to the cause of the attack, UN Ambassador Susan Rice has been rightly criticized for blaming it on an anti-Islamic video that caused protests in Egypt but not Benghazi. From the very beginning, however, Clinton was sure it was a terrorist attack.
On the day after the attack, September 12, 2012, she called the Egyptian prime minister stating that “we know it had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest.” On September 21, 2012, Clinton declared: “What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack, and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans.”
Critics have charged that at a ceremony honoring the Benghazi victims, Clinton told their family members that the video caused the attack. But Jan Stevens, father of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Cheryl Bennet, Tyrone Wood’s mother, and Barbara Doherty, Glen Doherty’s mother, each said that Clinton did not mention the video in conversations with them. Only Charles Wood, Tyrone Wood’s father, recalled that Clinton referred to the video.
Allegations that Clinton ordered the “scrubbing” of Benghazi documents, that she blocked a whistle blower from coming forward, that she was silent about Benghazi attack for weeks, and that she did not take responsibility for the attacks have all been found to be false.
When she was Secretary of State Clinton’s approval ratings were 70 percent, but the fact that they are now at 45 percent is primarily due to this dark cloud of lies hanging over her head.
Nick Gier of Moscow taught philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read all of his columns on the 2016 election at www.NickGier.com/Election2016.pdf.