The most shocking thing about today’s House hearing on the sacking in Benghazi wasn’t the bloodlessness of a couple of State Department bureaucrats while they described the events in Benghazi on 9-11-12. It wasn’t the lies that two witnesses may have told to the members of Congress questioning them. It wasn’t the fact that for the most part, the Democrats on the committee either tried to blame budget cuts for the attack or contented themselves not to ask any serious questions.
The most shocking thing is that we still don’t have the answer to the most crucial question: Why did the Obama administration blame a terrorist attack on an obscure YouTube clip? None of the four witnesses could answer that question. To be fair, two of them were not there to answer that question. They were present to detail their requests for more security help as the situation worsened, and to detail how and when those requests were denied. The other two, Ambassador Patrick Kennedy and Assistant Director for International Programs Charlene Lamb, were, but they did not. Ambassador Susan Rice, who spearheaded that charge on Sept 16, wasn’t even asked to testify so she wasn’t present at all.
But of the four witnesses who were present, two painted a bleak picture of how their requests for more security were denied time and time again.
The former regional security officer in Libya, Eric Nordstrom, recalled talking to a regional director and asking for twelve security agents.
“His response to that was, ‘You are asking for the sun, moon and the stars.’ And my response to him – his name was Jim – ‘Jim, you know what makes most frustrating about this assignment? It is not the hardships, it is not the gunfire, it is not the threats. It is dealing and fighting against the people, programs and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me. And I added (sic) it by saying, ‘For me the Taliban is on the inside of the building.’”
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, the commander of a Security Support Team (SST) sent home in August – against his wishes and, he says, the wishes of the late Ambassador Chris Stevens – said “we were fighting a losing battle. We couldn’t even keep what we had.”
Nordstrom agreed, saying, “it was abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. And the question that we would ask is again, ‘How thin does the ice need to get until someone falls through?’”
As an example, earlier Nordstrom had said he was “specifically told, ‘You can’t request an SST extension. How I interpreted that was there was going to be too much political cost.”
The political cost outweighed the human cost in some minds, and here we are.
We still need to know why the Obama administration blamed a video that up to that point, hardly anyone had ever heard of. How did Rice and Clinton and Obama all know about it? Where and when did they hear of it? Why did they blame it for an “instantly recognizable” terrorist attack? Why did the administration then publicly identify the filmmaker, haul him in for midnight questioning, and why are they now holding him in jail?
There is something very strange about that sequence of events, in light of the 230 security incidents in Libya that led up to the 9-11 assault. Very strange indeed. And we’re not getting answers.
It’s evident that at a minimum, Ambassador Rise and Secretary of State Clinton must be compelled to testify under oath. They’re unlikely to offer any straight answers, but the spectacle of the pair of them dodging simple questions may point at the source of the video fable. Who came up with that crock? When did they come up with it? For what purpose? Who knew what about the movie conspiracy, and when did they know it?