Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Midnight In Benghazi - What Really Happened
The recent Benghazi hearings before the House Oversight Committee were extremely valuable in that America (or at least that part of America that was paying attention) heard three courageous whistle blowers testify as to the events on the ground as they happened. Even if it merely confirmed what a lot of us knew beforehand,it had value that these unimpeachable witnesses confirmed it. And also let the nation know the kind of pressure they were subjected to by the State Department and the Obama Administration to keep their mouths shut.
It's been said that the problem with Benghazi is that the whole affair is now so convoluted that the average person has trouble following all the threads. There's some truth in that, and the lack of dinosaur media coverage that would have been wall to wall if this were a Republican administration involved has aided and abetted that confusion. The one most honorable exception has been Sharyl Attkisson at CBS, and her honesty and conviction is likely to cost Ms.Attkisson her job, because she's been a little too good at it.
Perhaps what's really needed is a short summary that tells exactly what happened in Benghazi, to make it easier to follow.
What happened is that an American ambassador, Chris Stevens was stationed in the Benghazi consulate for some unknown reason, even though the British and the International Red Cross had already pulled their people out because it was too dangerous. The consulate was left without adequate security, even though Ambassador Stevens begged for it. On September 11th, 2012, that consulate was attacked by al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood forces armed with heavy weapons from Libyan government arsenals that the attackers obtained thanks to American aid in overthrowing Libyan dictator Moamar Khaddaffi. Four Americans died in the attacks, which were spread over nine hours. Even though there were ample security resources on the ground who could possibly have saved those four dead Americans, someone gave them the order to stand down. Instead, carefully edited talking points were concocted by the Obama Administration and an entire narrative was fed to the nation via a cooperative media that the attacks were a spontaneous protest over an obscure YouTube video, and that nothing could have been done to save the ambassador and the others whom were murdered.
The Obama Administration deliberately lied about what happened and has been trying to cover that up ever since.
That's essentially the basic summary of what happened. Or for those of you whom need a slogan to chant , here's an even simpler one:
"Obama Slept and Hillary Lied
About how four Americans died"
The media is still very much involved in trying to bury this. Here's the amazing testimony of Greg Hicks, a career diplomat and Ambassador Chris Steven's Deputy. This is probably the biggest national scandal since Watergate, yet wasn't carried on any major news outlet in full except FOX:
Among other things, Greg Hicks revealed that he called Hillary Clinton at 8PM EST that night to tell her that the consulate was under attack by al-Qaeda terrorists and that Ambassador Stevens was now missing.He called again at 9PM after he received a call from the then–Libyan prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, informing him that Ansar al-Sharia had brought Stevens' mutilated body into a hospital and that the ambassador was dead. was dead. Hicks immediately called Washington. Secretary Clinton wasn't available..just not taking calls. And not only didn't she call Hicks back that evening, but she didn't bother getting in touch with him the following day. And President Obama? He dropped out very early in the proceedings, after he was briefed 5 PM EST by Leon Panetta. He had a campaign fundraiser to attend and decided to go to bed early.
It's important to remember the time frame here. The attack was spread over nine hours, and no one in Washington knew how long it was going to last. We're not talking about a game of basketball here, where the clock runs for a certain period and the action stops.The Obama Administration made a conscious decision not to get involved, so the nonsense peddled about 'not having security assets who could get there in time' is a despicable lie.
As Hicks testified and others have confirmed, Lieutenant Colonel Gibson had a special forces team in Tripoli that twice suited up to go to Benghazi to rescue the Americans under siege and twice got stand down orders. Meanwhile, back in Benghazi, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty held off the numerically superior jihadis for hours virtually alone before dying on a rooftop while waiting for back-up that never came.
Again, this is not some DC-based functionary. This is Ambassadors Stevens' deputy, his second in command, the man who took over the Libya station after Ambassador Stevens was murdered before he was demoted for not keeping his mouth suitably shut. And he says his jaw literally dropped when he heard Hillary and Susan Rice blaming this on a video.
No one should be under the assumption that this ends with Secretary Clinton either. One of President Obama's first acts as president was to remove the post of UN Ambassador from the authority of the Secretary of State and to make it a full cabinet post under his direct orders that reported to him.So if Ambassador Susan Rice was making the rounds of the Sunday shows lying about how the attack on our embassy was caused by an obscure video, she was not doing it without President Obama's full knowledge and consent.And someone gave the orders to our military not to go in. That ordinarily would be a presidential prerogative - unless President Obama was AWOL again.
One of the most despicable scenes in American history was played out at the funerals of the murdered men, where the president and Mrs. Clinton acted as though 'Chris' was their best friend. This was the same woman who lied repeatedly about 'Chris's' death, who denied she'd received cables from him desperately asking for more security and even had the heartlessness to lie to the the Woods family about how Tyrone Woods died, telling them at the funeral that “we’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.'
Okay, that's the what, at least so far. Some aspects of 'who' are still in the process of being discovered. So let's get to the far more important question, 'why'.
I fully admit that here we get into some elements that are difficult to source on record. And I also wanted to dig a little bit further and get some additional information, which is why I've been content not to write about this in depth yet. But at this point, given what I've learned, what follows holds together quite well.
The 'why' is the key to understanding what really happened.
The first thing we have to look at is why a U.S. Ambassador was there in Benghazi in the first place. He was there as an envoy to Ansar al Sharia and the other jihadist groups that ruled Benghazi, and his assignment, according to what I've been able to find out, was to make a deal over the heavy weapons they had pilfered from Khaddaffi's armories thanks to President Obama's ill advised intervention in favor of the rebels. Stevens, who was intimately familiar with Libya, was there to purchase as many of these arms as he could outright to ship them to Ansar al-Sharia's al-Qaeda comrades in arms in Syria without the president having to inform congress. The idea was to help take out Basher Assad's regime covertly without the necessity of committing US forces, and as a secondary goal to dispose of as many of the arms as possible, buy off the Benghazi rebels if possible and cover up what a huge mistake the Obama Administration had made by getting involved in Libya. There was absolutely no other reason for Ambassador Stevens to be in such a dangerous location virtually unprotected, except as an envoy to the jihadist forces controlling Benghazi.
An envoy in the Arab world has a very carefully defined position. He relies on the age old rules of Arab hospitality, comes unarmed to his enemy and throws himself on their protection. And if the negotiations fail, especially if a state of war exists, his life can be forfeit. That's why not only was Stevens denied more security, but most of what he had was taken away, even when it became plain to him (if not to the Obama Administration) that the deal had failed and he and the rest of the Americans were in mortal danger.
Needless to say, the approach to Ansar al-Sharia and the other Muslim Brotherhood groups involved had to be off the radar. For it to come out publicly during an election that the Obama Administration was dealing with one al-Qaeda affiliate as a middleman to ship arms to another al-Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood group in Syria was not something that would have gone down well with either the American electorate or with the Russians, with whom the president was working on a diplomatic solution - at least officially.
The Saudis and the Qataris are the ones bankrolling the jihadi Sunni rebels in Syria, so it was their money that was involved.
The murder of Stevens and the subsequent mutilation of his body (something that was carefully hidden and unreported by the U.S. press, but was widely reported overseas) was the classic Arab negative response to the deal the Obama Administration was trying to achieve. It was an unmistakeable message. When Ansar al-Sharia was finished with him, it was they who took the body to a hospital under their control. And those Libyan arms wound up being used in places like Mali, Algeria and Sinai, as well as helping Ansar al-Shariah and their friends keep control of Benghazi.
Stevens likely wasn't rescued for two reasons. First,because the president was AWOL and no one else wanted to take responsibility for giving the order to send our forces in. It was Mrs. Clinton's '3 AM phone call' ad on steroids. And second because the way things went down, it would almost certainly have raised a number of awkward questions in the middle of an election campaign that had President Obama's supposed foreign policy expertise as a major talking point.
In the end, Ambassador Stevens was far more useful as a dead martyr and photo-op than as a live ambassador subject to inconvenient congressional questioning.The talking points, of course, had to be constructed in such a way to lead as far away from the real story as possible, a story we now know they were fully aware of. The Obama Administration was primarily concerned with protecting the president politically in the middle of his re-election campaign, and felt that by sequestering the survivors under pain of prosecution, classifying all the documents, videos and phone logs as top secret and relying on a compliant media to spread the narrative the Administration came up with they could make it work.
Even if we give the people in Washington responsible a pass and say they simply weren't sure what to do, just fumbled badly and then worked to cover it up for political purposes, (which is what I personally think happened) it is a disgraceful and dishonorable performance that ought to at the very least lead to the firing or impeachment of every one involved, if not worse.
If nothing else, the ongoing strategic fallout is intense.
As one of my notorious Lil' Birdies who is definitely in a position to know told me, among other things the attempt by the Obama Administration to buy Libyan arms and ship them to jihadis in Syria was seen as a major double cross of Israel. The weapons included shoulder fired missiles not only capable of taking out Basher al-Assad's Russian-built helicopters but commercial airliners, including those landing in Israel. When the Israelis found out about a plot to have weapons like this shipped to their northern border without their knowledge, they were absolutely livid. So were the Iranians, who use commercial airliners to ship fighters and weaponry to Syria to bolster Basher Assad's forces.
The Israelis and the Iranians know the true story, and both have their own reasons for keeping quiet about it. The Iranians would rather not take the risk of embarrassing Obama and forcing him into taking real action against their illegal nuclear program, and the Israelis have apparently made a decision to use this as leverage for a quid pro quo in other areas while helping both their own interests and that of the Obama administration by doing some of the heavy lifting in Syria so the president needn't be tripped up by his usual chest pounding rhetoric about 'red lines' and chemical weapons.
The Russians, for their part, were outraged at what they considered Obama's duplicity and have doubled down on their support for Assad, even moving substantial naval assets into the Eastern Mediterranean to prevent any attempts at establishing a no fly zone or otherwise intervening. More and more it appears that Syria will eventually end up fracturing along ethnic lines after a prolonged struggle, as I predicted some time ago.
In the end, I think it's doubtful the whole story on Benghazi is going to go public for a long time, if ever. While Mrs. Clinton and others may end up suffering some damage, not even Rep. Darrel Issa or the Senate Republicans are going to want to take this to the ultimate end and reveal this as the major fiasco of U.S. foreign policy that it is. Nor, for various reasons are they going to want to cripple a sitting U.S. president, particularly this one, for reasons that I'm sure are obvious.
In the end, this has turned out to be another sleazy, ill thought out gun running scandal... Fast and Furious, the Middle East edition, with less deaths involved but much greater strategic consequences.