Yes, Mr. President. Benghazi Matters.
Hillary Clinton asked a darn good question during her January 2013 testimony about the Benghazi terrorist attack:
“What difference does it make”?
This question has been in search of an answer for eight months and was perhaps best addressed by Eric Nordstrom, the State Department’s regional security officer assigned to Libya. This is what he said in his congressional testimony:
“It matters to me personally and it matters to my colleagues at the Department of State….It matters to the American public for whom we serve, and most importantly it matters to the friends, the family.”
Benghazi matters and for reasons beyond red and blue.
Foreign Service personnel often put their lives and families at risk in the host countries where they serve. Their hazard pay can never fully compensate them for the dangers they face. Their only comfort rests in the accumulation of reliable intelligence and the promise of evacuation in a crisis..
Except for Congressional Republicans and non-mainstream journalists, Benghazi was largely ignored by the press and given short shrift by the very Administration that assured the families of the forgotten four—over their caskets—that they would apprehend the killers..
The families know no more today than they did on September 12th. No one has been arrested, and the Administration has not been transparent in answering “was this a terrorist attack or demonstration gone awry, when did field personnel and Washington know this, what was their response, why wasn’t additional security provided given past breaches, and why wasn’t the military deployed”?.
Greg Hicks testified that the Cairo video protest was a non-event in Libya. They knew almost instantaneously the attack was terror-related and involved Ansar al Sharia. Ambassador Stevens told Hicks “We are under attack” and the Libyan PM linked the attack to terrorists. Neither mentioned a video or demonstration..
The Administration was fully aware of this: the original CIA talking points contained multiple references to the attacks being terror-related, all of which were eliminated by the State Department and replaced with the video fiction. .
Nonetheless, Susan Rice repeated the video fairy tale on Sunday morning talk shows, as did Secretary Clinton and President Obama in their Pakistani public service messages. Obama also said it in his UN address and Hilary said it over the four caskets. Susan Rice’s video assertions were so far-fetched that Hicks testified “I was stunned” and “My jaw dropped.” .
Benghazi matters because families deserve to know (1) why the fabrications and no rescue attempts; (2) why repeated requests from security experts in the field were denied; and (3) why the military team in Tripoli was twice told to stand down when they could have deployed to Benghazi within the hour?.
Would this have been tolerated if it were George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice? Where is Code Pink? Why no public outrage akin to Abu Ghraib? Are the murders of Daniel Perlman and Nick Berg worthy of more fury than the Benghazi Four?.
No foreign service officer in a high risk location can ever rest easy knowing that his Benghazi counterparts didn’t matter and were abandoned by decision-makers in the comfort of their DC offices. Or that the press—the ultimate check on our government—let the story languish while reporting on women in binders, Snookie, and the best jokes at the correspondents dinner..
Some Congressional Democrats have seen the light and have called for further investigation and some in the press are waking up. Yes, this happened a long time ago, Jay Carney, but Benghazi still matters to the families who need answers, to the public who no longer trusts the government and to those in the field who need reassurance that when trouble arrives, they won’t be left behind.