Sunday, November 23, 2014

How the Facts about Benghazi Bring an End to the Republican Lying Game

by Nomad

After two long years of investigating the Benghazi incident, the Republicans were forced to admit that all of the slanderous claims made against Obama and his administration were, in fact, untrue.
Nobody wants to talk about holding anybody to account now.

This week the last chapter in the pathetic Benghazi attack saga was finally written.
After years of constant (some said faked) outrage about the tragic events in September 2012, the final report by the Republican Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was very quietly released. It should have been big news. The mainstream media however barely reported it. 
That's not a surprise perhaps since this report- direct from the Committee itself- absolutely vindicated the Obama administration's version of events.

The investigations really started on that night with presidential candidate Mitt Romney's famous smirk. For a president seeking re-election, the timing of the Libyan event couldn't have been worse. The tragedy allowed the Republicans to paint the entire administration as incompetent, careless, and able to react to an unfolding crisis. Weak leadership, in a word.

Unfortunately, Romney overplayed his hand and his opportunism backfired miserably, leading one commentator to call the candidate's press conference   "one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign." 
Fox News however called Romney's remarks about the Benghazi attack a demonstration of his "Reaganesque commitment to American resolve in our might."
On that night, the battle lines were drawn.

For two years, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Darrell Issa, Republican Representative from California, virtually single-handedly led the crusade to get to the bottom of the so-called Benghazi scandal.
He issued subpoena after subpoena, demanding State Department officials appear before the committee. At times, he became hostile not only to witnesses but to other members of the Committee. 
Those memories of the fruitless search for a smoking gun must be bittersweet now.

CNN reported a summary of the final report issued this week:
The final report, from Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, concludes there was no intelligence failure prior to the attack, no stand-down order to CIA operatives trying to go assist at the besieged consular building and found conflicting intelligence in the wake of the attack about the motive and cause, which were reflected in early public comments by the administration.
This definitive statement refutes point by point nearly every allegation made in an earlier interim report by the  Republican majority staff. That report was heavily criticized at the time by Democrats as a "partisan Republican" work that was "unnecessarily politicizing our national security."
That was an understatement.

Interim Report
A total of five different House committee inquires were established to investigate the Benghazi incident  (Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform). 
On April 23, 2013, the Republicans delivered their conclusions in an interim report. An interim report is supposed to reflect the facts that have been uncovered in an ongoing investigation. 
That is not what the Republicans produced and leaked to the press. 
Although it was treated as factual, it was actually signed by only by the five Republican chairmen of those committees. It was by no means as conclusive as they suggested at the time.

Since this report was never officially adopted by any of the committees and the report itself states that it may not  necessarily reflect the views of their Members, it is hard not see it as a purely partisan attempt by the Republicans to attack the president.

What other purpose did it serve except to sound official without being official? Some could claim that it was a clear abuse of the investigatory powers of Congressional committees.

Among the so-called findings of that report, the House Republicans claimed that top State Department officials were aware of the threat to security, yet withdrew security.
During the investigation, Issa claimed that Hillary Clinton gave the order to stand down. However there was absolutely no substance to that claim since as Secretary of State at the time, she was not in the military chain of command. In other words Issa's claim was completely false.

Other claims in the interim report are proved false. In the latest (and last) report states that there was no credible evidence of that anybody in the administration was aware of impending attack. No evidence of any intelligence failure at all. The report also found that the CIA had provided sufficient security to the consulate compound, personnel and equipment under the circumstances, Moreover there was no evidence that CIA had  turned down requested for further security.
Indeed, decisions were made according to the best intelligence available about the ongoing attack. The tactical decisions made by CIA personnel "appropriately made" by senior officers on the ground.

Misleading the Public
The Republicans claimed also that the Obama administration intentionally mislead the media, the public and Congress. Yet a release of White House emails last year, clearly showed that there had been no effort to shape the narrative in a devious manner. 

Contrary to the interim report, the final report states that, while certain agencies might have been slow to respond to Committee requests, all executive branch agencies cooperated fully. Furthermore, the report found that there was no evidence whatsoever that any officer of these agencies was in any way intimidated or prevented from speaking to the Committee.

Media outlets like Fox News had claimed that the CIA was shipping arms out of Libya to Syrian rebels. Porter Goss, a former CIA Director stated on Fox News that there was no question some of the weapons that flooded Libya during the uprising are making their way to Syria.

The final report, after reviewing thousands of pages of classified documents, found no evidence to support the claim that the CIA was involved in any secret arms shipping. All witnesses stated that nothing besides standard issued weapons were found at the Annex. Another red herring.

According to the findings in the report, CIA was collecting intelligence only. In fact, CIA was, the final report notes, collecting intelligence on groups who were running guns to Syrian fighters. 
Therefore the claims made by the news media, inspired by the Republican claims, could potentially have jeopardized US intelligence-gathering capabilities.

Al Qaeda Links that Never Were
Allegations that Al-Qaeda was involved were, according to the report inaccurate.  Chairman of the House Intelligent Committee, Republican Mike Rogers actually appeared on  Fox News to claim categorically    
“It was very clear to the individuals on the ground that this was an al-Qaeda-led event."
 (Roger's own report now refutes this claim.)

While there was marginal evidence that some members of the attack had Al-Qeda connections, the report found that the attackers in fact were a diverse bunch and also included former Kadaffi supporters. There was no formal organization and it certainly wasn't led by Al Qaeda, as Rogers claimed.

Actually, last year, even at the time Rogers was making those claims, The New York Times had already blown that Al Qaeda allegation apart.  The article cites intelligence officers who said that Benghazi was not infiltrated by Al Qaeda and the attack did not appear to have been meticulously planned, but "neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs."

That's not remarkable since Libya was at the time in the middle of a civil war. It was the anniversary of the 911 attacks and Christian extremist had ill-advisedly- posted a provocative anti-Islamic video on YouTube. Nevertheless, despite those warning signs, there was no specific intelligence of any attack.  
Despite the Rogers remarks, the intelligence suggests Al Qaeda was as surprised as anybody else by the attacks.
The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda. But when the friend heard the attacker’s boasts, he sounded astonished and had no prior knowledge of the assault.”
The NYT investigation supports the idea that the attack was much more of a spontaneous event than a terrorist operation. The violence on that night erupted as a result of the YouTube video, as well as false fast spreading rumors. Looters and arsonists joined in and pillaged the compound following the initial attack. In short it was a riot, something that can easily happen in any country where law and order are practically non-existent.
Even after this information was made public, Republicans continued to assert that the deaths of American diplomats in Benghazi were are result of a "carefully planned assault by al-Qaeda."

To this day, despite the House Committee report, an official website by the House Republicans continues to support this false narrative. The website praises 
..the Committee’s efforts have continually advanced the understanding and raised new questions about the lack of security in Benghazi, an inadequate military response, and why Administration officials continued to publicly press a narrative of a public protest when eye witnesses knew no such event occurred.
Those statements, in fact, defy their own final report findings.

Throughout the investigation, Republican committee members could not find their alleged links to Al Qaeda  as hard as they tried. That didn't stop them from attacking Susan E. Rice's assertion that the attacks were inspired by “spontaneous street protests that got out of hand as a result of the video denigrating the prophet Mohammed.”
(Even that very early remark by Rice was prefaced with "according to the best evidence we have at the moment..." Republicans purposefully took it as a statement of fact.) 

Due to their relentless condemnations of Rice- again all without any real evidence- she was forced to withdraw her name from from consideration as President Obama’s Secretary of State and her reputation based on a long career of service was pointlessly trashed.

Slanders on Clinton and Obama
Republican attacks did not stop with Rice. Hilary Clinton was also targeted. Former vice president Dick Cheney appeared on "Fox News Sunday" as late as May of this year, to add his two-cents. In an interview that the Secretary of State was to blame for the  outrage:
"I think she clearly bears responsibility for whatever the State Department did or didn't do..I don't think we've heard the last of it yet."
In 2013, former Florida Rep. Allen West - never one to miss an opportunity- used the names of those that died in the attacks to attack the president directly in a statement to
“As we begin our march to honor the four Americans who lost their lives on [Sept. 11, 2012] in Benghazi, let us never forget some ran to the sound of guns, while others ran to bed.”
(This is a reference to the Fox News allegation that the President went to bed on the night of the Benghazi attacksAllen also added:
“To this day, Congress and the media have failed to hold the Obama administration fully accountable for its failures leading up to, during and after this deadly assault. The administration’s perpetually changing narrative deserves merciless scrutiny, and President Obama must be held accountable for what he has cynically dismissed as a ‘phony’ scandal.”
Accountability: A Double-Edged Sword
Of course, accountability works both ways. Especially when it comes to "phony scandals."

Now that the House Committee has finally released its conclusions, 
  • Shouldn't there be an apology for the years of slander against the administration?  
  • Who will take responsibility for the misrepresentations and misleading remarks?
  • Shouldn't any of these people who were once so loudly denouncing every statement from the White House (but who are now so silent) offer a public retraction? 
  • What about the families of those that died, don't the Republicans owe them an apology for using the deaths of their loved ones in such an unscrupulous way?
  • Isn't it time to investigate how the Republican-majority House conducted this investigation? 
  • Why it was allowed to spin so wildly out of control? 
  • How can the Congressional investigation process be reformed to prevent such abuses of power?
During the Bush administration, there were 11 attacks on US consulates around the world. All but three resulted in the deaths of security personnel and one attack, a bombing in Karachi Pakistan, resulted in the death of a US diplomat, David Foy

Yet none of these events excited the same amount of Republican outrage as the Benghazi attacks. None of them required five inquiries or produced so many unfounded accusations against the president or any in his administration.

At the very least, questions need to be asked about the wisdom of Representative Issa regularly making baseless claims on Fox News about an ongoing Congressional committee investigation. Somebody needs to explain why the interim report which was so full of inaccurate statements was allowed to be passed off as the truth.

In the end, Issa and the other Republican Committee members wasted three  two years and millions of dollars of taxpayer money (some claim up to $14 million) . All to search for a scandal that simply wasn't there. 
In doing so they made a mockery of the tragic deaths of 4 dedicated American diplomats who died on that September night in 2012. Now they expect the public to forget about it as if none of it ever happened.

For a full copy of the final report in pdf form: