As the Benghazi Plot Thickens, Congress Must Not Get Sidetracked
CBS News is reporting that it was the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that purged references to "al Qaeda" and "terrorism" from talking points given to Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Rice used those talking points to promote the lie that the Benghazi massacre resulted from a spontaneous mob protest rather than a planned terrorist attack. CBS adds that the CIA and FBI signed off on this false version of events.
This is all farce, of course. There being no more honor among con-men than among thieves, there comes a time in all busted conspiracies when the conspirators start pointing fingers at each other. With their guy safely reelected, this spectacle has finally drawn the Obamedia's attention to the president's Benghazi travesty. Let's not get lost here. It is critical to step back and bear two things in mind:
(a) All of the players here, including Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (both of whom the CBS report purports to absolve), are guilty of conspiracy -- in this case, to mislead Americans about the cause of the attack and to aid the administration's Islamist allies, whose objective is to impose sharia blasphemy standards on our country (a project on which the Obama administration has been colluding with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation since 2009). It was not for their own benefit that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Rice were, respectively, doctoring talking points and using them to create a false impression. Obama was the intended beneficiary. Patently the White House -- which pitched Rice to the Sunday shows because Obama wanted to get the Mohammed-movie talking points publicly aired -- was in the loop.
(b) Given that the conspiracy is a cover-up, there is the more salient matter of what is being covered up? The brain-dead mantra in Washington is always -- all together now -- "The cover-up is worse than the crime." That is not true here. To be sure, it is very serious that Rice was sent out to trumpet the false narrative; that Clapper apparently orchestrated the purge of information about al-Qaeda's complicity; and that a compromised General David Petraeus appears to have knowingly misled Congress (that's a felony) in his initial briefing about Benghazi on September 14. They and others involved in the cover-up should have a day of reckoning. But vastly more significant is what the administration was and is so desperate to obscure by the cover-up.
There are three areas of great concern:
1. The Benghazi attack was the natural result of Obama's Libya policy.
Four Americans were killed in Benghazi as a direct result of President Obama's unprovoked and, I believe, unconstitutional war in Libya. This foolish gambit had the easily foreseeable result of empowering Islamists, very much including violent jihadists who now have access to much of the Qaddafi arsenal, in addition to other arms and training they received from the U.S. and NATO in the mission to overthrow Qaddafi (then, an American ally).
When the subject of Ms. Rice's fitness to be secretary of state arose during last week's press conference, the president summoned up some faux bravado, daring two Rice critics, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, to "go after me," not the gracious Madame Ambassador, if they wanted a fight. (Obama's indignant performance was a cheap knock-off of the key scene in one of the Left's favorite movies, The American President. There, the suave progressive president (Michael Douglas) defends the honor of his green-lobbyist paramour (Annette Bening) against offensive insinuations by The Evil Republican (Richard Dreyfuss). It's not the first time Obama has gone Hollywood in this fashion.)
It is no surprise that Obama is feeling his oats at the prospect of a show-down with McCain and Graham -- the senators were even hotter for Obama's Libya war than Obama was. But most conservatives were not. Congressional Republicans shrank from taking on McCain and mounting a meaningful opposition to Obama's Libya war, but many of them rightly believed the policy was disastrous. The Mohammed-movie cover-up is a blatant attempt to avoid much-needed scrutiny of that policy.
Senators McCain and Graham are to be applauded for what they've done over the last two months. Maddeningly, the Republican Party's most visible figure, its presidential nominee Mitt Romney, went silent on the Benghazi massacre in the campaign stretch-run despite the commander-in-chief's shocking failure to defend Americans under attack (more on that in a moment). In my humble opinion, it cost him the election. Unlike Romney, the senators have demanded accountability for what happened on September 11, 2012. They've also been admirably strong in raising the issue of Ms. Rice's lack of qualifications, and in not backing down when the president did his impassioned-defense-of-the-woman-scorned routine.
Nevertheless, the conditions that catalyzed the Benghazi massacre arose out of what my recent book calls "Spring Fever": longstanding administration policies regarding the "Arab Spring" generally, and Libya in particular. The senators were and apparently remain ardent supporters of those policies. Conservatives and others opposed to the government's "Islamic democracy" project -- its knowing empowerment of Islamists hostile to the West -- should not cede leadership on Benghazi to that project's proponents. If you want to get to the bottom of why the massacre happened, you cannot rely on the people who supported the strategy of which the massacre is a foreseeable result.
2. The commander-in-chief's dereliction of duty during a 7-hour siege.
The jihadist siege against the American installation in Benghazi lasted for over seven hours. The commander-in-chief knew the attack was underway while it was happening -- which is obviously why he won't answer questions about when and how he learned of it. He had military assets in proximity to Benghazi that could have come to the aid of the besieged Americans. Yet, Obama failed to take meaningful military action, an inexcusable dereliction of duty. Then, he told the American people he had done all he could do to protect those who were killed and wounded, an inexcusable betrayal of trust. Both counts of malfeasance are impeachable offenses. Rice's false statements, Clapper's purge, and Petraeus's contradictory statements to Congress do not erase any of that. Obama has far more to answer for than anyone else in this debacle, and it is imperative that he be held accountable.
3. What on earth was the administration up to in Benghazi?
The U.S. installations in Benghazi were not a consulate. Consular functions in Libya are carried out in Tripoli. Petraeus described Benghazi's ostensible State Department compound in Benghazi as a "consulate," but that description has been retracted: the administration now calls it a "diplomatic facility." There doesn't appear to have been much diplomatic action there, though. The other relevant compound was a CIA facility for ... well, we don't know. No explanation has been forthcoming from the administration, and notwithstanding the media's preternatural interest in CIA facilities during the Bush years, the American press (Fox News honorably excepted) does not seem especially curious this time around.
Both Fox News and Paula Broadwell (Petraeus's mistress) have claimed that the CIA was detaining Libyan jihadists in Benghazi. The CIA appears to deny that allegation, but the denial seems awfully lawyerly.
As Fox reports, the agency says, "The CIA has not had detention authority since January 2009, when Executive Order 1349 was issued [by Obama]. Any suggestion that the agency is still in the detention business is uninformed and baseless." (Emphasis added.) The assertion that intelligence agents did not have authority is not a denial that they detained prisoners without authority. We already know they lacked authority -- that's why the allegation that they detained prisoners is controversial in the first place. And the reference to "the detention business" obviously relates to post 9/11 CIA practice, under which the agency was systematically detaining terrorists. It is not necessarily a denial that they ever detain anyone under any circumstances. You could easily imagine a slippery government spokesman rationalizing that the systematic "detention business" would not apply to a one-off detention episode in Libya; therefore, saying you're out of the former does not necessarily mean you refrained from the latter. Besides, the Rice fiasco reminds us of the Obama administration penchant for having forceful statements issued by people who have no idea what they're talking about. So until someone with competent knowledge specifically and convincingly denies that the Benghazi facility was used for detention, this is an open question.
It has also been suggested that the U.S. facilities in Benghazi were the hub for an Iran-Contra-style program to gather weapons from Libyan jihadists for shipment to Syrian jihadists trying to overthrow the Assad regime. The latter are being given safe haven by the Islamist government of Turkey, where the CIA covertly steers arms to them, according to the New York Times. Lo and behold, Turkey's consul general was -- for some reason -- meeting with U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens shortly before the September 11 siege began and Stevens was murdered. What on earth was going on here? The State Department's explanation that Stevens convened a night meeting with a Turkish official in an enormously dangerous place (which had previously been attacked) on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities in order to have a "diplomatic meeting" he could easily have held in Tripoli is, to be generous, dubious.
Conclusion: The false Mohammed-movie narrative: discredited yet still working.
The false Mohammed-movie narrative is working. No, nobody any longer maintains or believes that the obscure movie caused the Benghazi massacre -- that misdirection effort has been blown out of the water. But a three-ring circus has been erected around the false video narrative, with the Petraeus/Rice/Clapper follies detracting attention from the three essential issues: the Obama administration's disastrous Libya policy, the president's dereliction of duty on September 11, 2012, and the troubling goings-on at the Benghazi consulate that wasn't a consulate.
The cover-up here is not worse than the crime. Congress must not allow itself to get sidetracked. What matters most is what the administration is hiding -- not the fact that the administration is hiding it.