ROBINSON: Benghazi scandal looks like a witch hunt

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON -- Those who are trying to make the Benghazi tragedy into a scandal for the Obama administration really ought to decide what story line they want to sell.

Actually, by "those" I mean Republicans and by "the Obama administration" I mean Hillary Clinton. The only coherent purpose I can discern in all of this is to sully Clinton's record as secretary of state in case she runs for president in 2016.

That's not a particularly noble way to use the deaths of four American public servants, but at least it's understandable. Attempts to concoct some kind of sinister Whitewater-style conspiracy, however, don't even begin to make sense.

The hearing convened Wednesday by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., produced a riveting narrative of the chaotic events in Libya last September. But what was the supposedly unforgiveable crime?

Did Clinton's State Department fail to provide adequate security for the U.S. consulate in Benghazi? In retrospect, obviously so. But the three diplomats who testified at the hearing gave no evidence that this failure sprang from anything other than the need to use limited resources as efficiently as possible.

House Republicans who voted to cut funding for State Department security should understand that their philosophy -- small government is always better -- has consequences. Bureaucrats have to make judgment calls. Sometimes they will be wrong.

Is the scandal supposed to be that a four-man Special Forces team was not sent from Tripoli to help defend the Benghazi compound? This is a decision that clearly still haunts and enrages Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, who sat helplessly in the capital while Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were being killed at the consulate 650 miles away.

But the decision not to dispatch troops was made by the military chain of command, not by Clinton or anyone who reported to her. Superior officers decided this team was needed to help evacuate the embassy in Tripoli, which was seen as a potential target for a Benghazi-style attack.

The Pentagon has concluded that the team, in any event, could not have arrived in Benghazi in time to make a difference. Hicks testified that he disagrees. It is difficult not to feel his pain. But it is also difficult, frankly, to believe he knows more about deploying troops than do the professionals.

Well, then, maybe the transgression is that administration officials, for some unfathomable reason, willfully lied when they said the attack was in reaction to an anti-Islam video produced in the United States and disseminated on the Internet.

The problem is that there were, in fact, tumultuous anti-American demonstrations taking place in cities throughout the Muslim world because of the video. President Obama labeled the Benghazi assault an act of terror almost immediately -- as Mitt Romney learned in the second presidential debate -- but it was hard to imagine that the attack was completely unrelated to what was happening in Cairo, Tunis, Khartoum and Jakarta.

The Obama administration was eager to make clear, as George W. Bush tried to do many times, that the United States is not fighting a war against Islam. The administration was slow to recognize that the uproar over the video, at most, provided the opportune moment for a well-planned, highly organized terrorist attack involving heavy weapons. This was an error, but it makes no sense as a deliberate attempt to deceive. What would be the motive? To cover up the facts and maximize the administration's embarrassment once the truth finally came out?

Maybe that's it: a cover-up. Perhaps the administration conspired to hide Clinton's failure to protect our diplomats overseas. But she commissioned an independent report by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering that said -- well, I'll just quote Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House intelligence committee:

"The Pickering Report appears to make clear what we already knew, that there was strategic warning from the intelligence community of a dangerous security environment in Benghazi and that our diplomats were failed by the bureaucracy at the State Department."

Some cover-up.

Was Hicks "demoted" for blowing the whistle on Benghazi, as he testified? He asked to come home, understandably, and the department parked him in a desk job -- with the same pay and rank -- until something more to his liking comes open. Has he been muzzled? Hardly, as evidenced by his testimony Wednesday.

I can only hope that Issa's witch hunt leads to better security for our brave diplomats. Even the cheapest political stunt can have a silver lining.

Eugene Robinson is an associate editor and columnist for The Washington Post. Email him at eugenerobinson@washpost.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/eugenerobinson.


JV 2 years, 3 months ago

Eugene Robinson is a liberal ideologist who is very protective of the President. He writes as if he is the sole defender of the administration. In his writings as the one above he ignores that the hearings on Benghazi were fact finding and very non-political on the Republican side. However the Dems to a person had to take shots at Issa and the GOP, which cheapened their professionalism in reaching out to the truth. Robinson on every occassion has championed the Democratic Party line and talking points. He is simply a lapdog of the left.


Haughton 2 years, 3 months ago

Robinson, et al. can continue with their same old worn out recording. They are like children that need repetition to make them feel secure and confident, ignoring BHO's downward spiral. Robinson, et al. are bringing down their own reputations with BHO. The Associated Press and journalist integrity are sinking with the BHO ship. When you have practically the entire media machine on your side the fall from grace will be mighty and hard.




FordGalaxy 2 years, 3 months ago

So, desiring to know the truth of how our embassy was attacked by Islamic terrorists, and how our ambassador and others were killed, while the administration lied and covered up the truth is only a means for Republicans to smear Hillary Clinton?

The embassy was attacked. It was not attacked because of a youtube video. It was attacked on the anniversary of 9-11. Ambassador Stevens was killed and God only knows what all happened to his body. Meanwhile, the administration tried desperately to convince the world that all of Islamdom was ticked off about a single youtube video. Meanwhile, soldiers were kept from saving the embassy, drones were ordered to stand down, and the administration began seeking a means of damage control during an election cycle.

One of these days liberals wil be honest and admit that Barack Obama is far better at being elected than at being President. Of course, according to Hillary Clinton, what does it really matter at this point? Who cares about Chris Stevens and the others who died? If only some random guy hadn't made a youtube video everyone would still be alive...


notblind 2 years, 3 months ago

The truth is that to 51% of the electorate nothing matters but the [D].


JV 2 years, 3 months ago

We seemed to be missing the usual lefties here. Jan, Why Not. Say that Again. Where are you? Oh... ABC one of the original left wingnut liberal MSM now seems to take an interest. Never mind.

“White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.”



kevin 2 years, 3 months ago

The GDP would sell a lot more papers if they got a different person than Robinson to write in this space every week. I just draw a simile-face over his weekly article and move on to something else. His articles should be put on the "Cartoon" section of the paper.


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