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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi Investigation.

Link: Email controversy and Benghazi continue to haunt Hillary Clinton.

It is beginning to seem as if the House of Representatives Committee investigating the Benghazi tragedy in which four Americans were murdered will never end.  The House Select Committee on Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi was initially proposed by then-House Majority Leader John Boehner.  The first hearing held by the committee was in September 2014, which, when I make use of my superior math skills, means we have been subsidizing this investigation for over one year.  One year doesn't seem to be that long in my mind, compared to some of the other committees we have watched evolve on Capitol Hill, but I am curious what goal this particular committee is trying to reach.  It would seem to me that we know the pertinent details regarding the events of the Benghazi terrorist attack, including what occurred in the hours beforehand.  For many months, various different and often false versions of what occurred that night in Benghazi have been disseminated by the mainstream press both in the United States and abroad.  Unfortunately, even today, most people don't know even the basic facts regarding what transpired that evening.  Here are those facts, at least the ones that I'm comfortable saying are accurate.

The 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack involved two separate locations.  The initial attack was directed at the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi, and the second attack occurred at an Annex that was utilized by the CIA, who had the largest contingent of U.S. personnel in the city.  The attack began just after U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, had concluded a meeting with a Turkish diplomat.  Just prior to the assault on the compound, Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Scott Strickland noted to himself that the streets outside the Consulate seemed very quiet and empty.   Unexpectedly, the Consulate compound was quickly assaulted by armed groups, and the complete lack of a sufficient number of State Department Security personnel became obvious.  At the time of the assault, Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Scott Strickland directed Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith, an Information Management Specialist, to utilize the main Consulate building's "Safe Haven".  Safe Havens are areas particularly designated for shelter and safety in just such a situation.  S/A Strickland stayed with Stevens and Smith in the Safe Haven, while a few other security personnel left the main building to retrieve their M4 rifles and other equipment.  The attackers entered the main building, and after unsuccessfully attempting to break into the Safe Haven, began to pour petrol on the floor and set fires.  Strickland decided it was best to leave the building, and instructing Stevens and Smith to follow, climbed out a bathroom window.  As the smoke intensified, Strickland waited for both Stevens and Smith, neither of whom followed.  Strickland proceeded to the roof of the Consulate and attempted to radio other State Department security officers.  Later Smith's body was discovered, as he had apparently succumbed to smoke inhalation.  Stevens was discovered by friendly locals, who transported him to the hospital in the hope of saving his life.  Although the locals claim that Stevens was alive when he was discovered, the Hospital staff declared the Ambassador deceased as a result of smoke inhalation, after ninety minutes of attempted resuscitation.  As for the various rumors that persist regarding the possibility that Stevens was physically assaulted before his death, I have no comment.

The second incident occurred at an Annex roughly a mile from the Consulate compound, which was being used by the CIA.  Just after midnight, the Annex came under attack.  Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, CIA contractors hired as security personnel, were at the Annex.  They defended their position for hours from the roof, before a mortar round hit in close proximity and killed Woods.  As Doherty attempted to take cover, another round, part of the same barrage, killed Doherty instantly.  For many months I lived under the incorrect assumption that the four heroes who died in Benghazi had perished together, in the same location.  Actually, the incidents that took the lives of Stevens, Smith, Woods and Doherty, occurred at two separate locations and at different times.

Immediately following the tragedy, the Obama Administration was heavily criticized for blaming the attacks on a "spontaneous demonstration of anger as a result of the U.S. distribution of a film which some Muslims believe to be sacrilegious".  Allegedly, regular citizens of Benghazi, angered by the release of this film (assuming, of course, that the Muslim population of Benghazi is pious), spontaneously retrieved automatic weapons, machine guns, and grenade launchers, and rushed out to attack the U.S. Consulate, and later the Consulate Annex.  The obvious question the morning after the attack, is why didn't the State Department have more security personnel in place, and second, why weren't additional military resources brought in?  The Administration, by blaming the attack on the unexpected release of this film and the "spontaneous" expression of anger on the part of Benghazi Muslims, wanted to avoid blame for not having adequate security measures in place.  In other words, "people died because this movie really pissed off the Muslims, who unexpectedly sacked the Consulate; it had nothing to do with not having a valid security plan."  Actually, Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi on that particular day to review plans for a new cultural center and to modernize a hospital; he was also tasked with preparing a report on security issues related to the transition of the Consulate from a temporary facility to a permanent one. 

The reason why Hillary Clinton has been her own worst enemy throughout this Benghazi crisis is her apparent inability to accept blame for anything.  It will eventually be her political undoing.  Most Americans, myself included, waited to hear the Secretary of State hold a news conference to discuss Benghazi.  The American people wanted to hear Hillary comment that a terrible tragedy had occurred which resulted in the painful loss of four American heroes.  Hillary needed to assure the American people that no stone would go unturned to locate and bring to justice the persons responsible and that a full investigation would take place to make sure this terrible event would never happen again.  She needed to say, "but regardless of the particular details, I am Secretary of State, and the responsibility for those people who lost their lives rests with me."  Instead, we got distraction, diversion, and pointed fingers.  The American people wanted to know why an American Ambassador was running around in a warzone without adequate security.  They want to know why U.S. Consulate employees (Sean Smith) were working in a hostile warzone without the necessary protection.  We've heard a few attempts at answers, and not surprisingly one of the excuses laid the blame at the feet of President George W. Bush.  As for the committee itself, there can be no doubt that the GOP is using this investigation to drill as many holes into Hillary's presidential ambitions as possible.  The real damage may not come from Benghazi, but from a tangential issue that popped up during the committee's investigation: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private server to conduct official business, and, at times, pass confidential information.  I think we can expect to see the Benghazi investigation begin to fade, as the "emailgate" springs to life.

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