Benghazi Probe Must Focus on WH

Tuesday, 16 Oct 2012 07:03 PM

By Joseph E. Schmitz

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent acceptance of responsibility for the Benghazi tragedy begs a more pressing question: What happened in the White House after Benghazi?

This is the second in a series of articles that looks beyond the issues of rude interruptions, smiles, and body language in the vice presidential debate to explore profound substantive differences between the two vice presidential candidates — and by proxy, their respective presidential running mates.

hillary-clinton-on-10-16-12-ap-peru.jpg
Hillary Clinton has taken responsibility for the Benghazi tragedy but many questions remain.
(AP Photo)
The first article contrasted the candidates’ views on core values through the prism of what C.S. Lewis called the “Principle of First and Second Things.”

The core problem with the administration is that its leaders repeatedly put “second things” before their respective oaths to support and defend the Constitution. Plato wrote in 360 B.C.: “there are two different kinds of good things, the merely human and the divine; the former are consequential on the latter. Hence a city which accepts the greater goods acquires the lesser along with them, but one which refuses them misses both . . . .”

This article further contrasts the candidates’ views, and suggests that there are only two questions that matter to the American people between now and the election about intelligence failures behind the recent “pre-planned assault by heavily armed men” on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, during which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed:
  • Who drafted the portion of the president’s September 25 speech to the United Nations, through which he misled the American people (and the world) about the cause of the Benghazi attack on the 11th Anniversary of 9/11?
  • Who in the intelligence community, if anyone, signed off on that portion of the president’s U.N. General Assembly speech, which amounted to a worldwide misinformation campaign?
All the other questions can wait until after the presidential election.

During the debate, Vice President Biden blamed the “intelligence community” when asked by Martha Raddatz: “Why were people talking about protests [over a film trailer on YouTube]? When people in the consulate first saw armed men attacking with guns, there were no protesters. Why did that go on for weeks?”

According to Biden, “The intelligence community told us that. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment. That's why there's also an investigation headed by Tom Pickering, a leading diplomat . . . from the Reagan years, who is doing an investigation as to whether or not there were any lapses, what the lapses were, so that they will never happen again.”

Ryan, the challenger, in contrast, called it as he saw it — as did many if not most other Americans:

“When you take a look at what has happened just in the last few weeks, they sent the U.N. ambassador out to say that this was because of a protest and a YouTube video," he said. "It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack. He went to the U.N. and in his speech at the U.N. he said six times — he talked about the YouTube video. Look, if we're hit by terrorists we're going to call it for what it is, a terrorist attack.”

Moderator Martha Raddatz persisted with the vice president: “And they wanted more security there,” to which the vice president replied: “Well, we weren't told they wanted more security again. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view. That's why I said, we will get to the bottom of this.”

If the vice president meant what he said (which he claimed during the debate is always the case), here are a few battle-tested suggestions from a former Inspector General on how best to “get to the bottom of this.”

The key is to focus on facts, and on individual accountability.

Of course there were “lapses.” Otherwise, Secretary Clinton would not have made a formal announcement to the American People on Sept. 12, the day after the Benghazi attack, suggesting that, “the [amateurish YouTube] video has led to protests.”

Otherwise, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice would not have announced on Sept. 16, that the attack in Benghazi was “not an expression of hostility in the broadest sense towards the United States or U.S. policy; it’s proximately a reaction to this video . . . .”

Otherwise, why would the President on September 25, 2012, announce to the General Assembly of the United Nations that, “There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.”

Otherwise, why would the vice president say during the Oct. 11, vice presidential debate that, “that's exactly what we were told . . . by the intelligence community.”

We the People now know, based on sworn testimony before a congressional committee on Oct. 10, that U.S. intelligence agencies had enough evidence within 24 hours of the Benghazi attack on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, to conclude that it was a pre-planned terrorist attack, not a protest gone awry over a film trailer on YouTube.

According to the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the day before the Oct. 10 hearing, “the State Department began the process of coming clean about what occurred in Benghazi. They made two witnesses available for interviews with this committee and, for the first time, publicly acknowledged the truth many had long suspected. Contrary to earlier assertions by administration officials, there was no protest. The attack had nothing to do with a video made in California. The attack was a brutal and coordinated assault by terrorists on the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.”

So who will take responsibility for misleading the American people about the cause of the Benghazi attack for weeks after the Sept. 11 attack on our American consulate? Who will be accountable for the first killing of an American ambassador on American sovereign territory in the history of the United States?

In addition to the first two questions mentioned above, the third pressing question is related to the first two, and was implied by Ryan during the vice presidential debate: How long did it take for the president of the United States to figure out what he refused to admit publicly as late as Sept. 25 – and that many Americans knew instinctively on the day of the attack — i.e., that Ambassador Stevens and the three other Americans were killed in a terrorist attack on the 11th anniversary of 9/11?

Beyond these two most pressing questions, of course, there are myriad of other questions of accountability that can and perhaps ought to be investigated sooner or later.

The American people deserve to know the answer to at least these two questions of public accountability, and they ought to know the answers before the presidential election.

There is no need for a drawn-out “investigation” to answer these basic questions. It is unfathomable that the president himself does not already know the answers. If the Obama administration won’t come clean about the misinformation campaign carried out by the president on its own, Congress should insist on full transparency and immediate accountability.

Any Inspector General worth his or her salt should be able to shed light on these basic factual questions before the presidential election. The American people should demand no less.

Joseph E. Schmitz served as inspector general of the Dept. of Defense from 2002-2005 and is CEO of Joseph E. Schmitz, PLLC. Read more reports from Joseph E. Schmitz — Click Here Now.




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