As Hillary Clinton has evolved from Secretary of State to presidential candidate, questions have arisen about her incompetence relating to her performance in the former role.
These questions are especially relevant, particularly as they regard the scandal and coverup surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2012 on the American consulate at Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including American Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. As head of the State Department at the time of the attacks, Clinton bears responsibility not just for accurate reporting of the facts of the incident, but for the appalling lack of security that enabled them to happen in the first place.
As has been revealed in the years following the attack, emails and communications within the State Department acknowledge facts contrary to what was reported initially in the wake of the incident. They also reveal that in the highest levels of the State Department, it was common knowledge that security at the consulate was weak and that leadership knew paramilitary threats were strong.
Earlier in 2012, the British had withdrawn from Benghazi due to the deterioration of the security situation. A local militia group, Ansar-al-Sharia, ostensibly allowed to operate to provide “security” for the area, had been formed in the wake of the Libyan revolution that overthrew former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
That a patently dangerous group was allowed to freely roam the streets of the city and that their interests were questionable was well-known to the American diplomatic community in Libya. As if to confirm this fact, two years later, in 2014, this group was formally listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
A question remains: what was America trying to do in Benghazi? Why were we trying to establish an outpost there? What were we trying to accomplish? According to some investigative journalists, the sole purpose of the American consulate in Benghazi was to provide support to an arms smuggling operation to the Syrian anti-Assad rebels (elements of which later formed what is ISIS today). What the American ambassador was doing there is unclear; officially, the State Department has claimed it was trying to build bridges to the local community and modernize a hospital in the area.
What is clear, however, is that both the ambassador and State Department were attempting to keep the American presence in the area “low-profile,” and security had purposely been reduced to accomplish this.
The official embassy in Libya was not in Benghazi; it was in Tripoli, Libya’s capital. Ambassador Stevens was in the Benghazi compound with just six other Americans on the day of the incident, which took place on the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. The minimal security for the compound was provided by the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), a security and law enforcement arm of the State Department. There was also a CIA presence in the area, based at an annex compound less than a mile away, which was itself attacked the same night.
Incredibly, despite the 9/11 anniversary date, not one defense aircraft in the region had been on high alert and the closest fighter jets (which were unarmed) were on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea, in Aviano, Italy. Heavily fortified AC-130 gunship aircraft were only deployed to the area 19 hours after the attack.
According to State Department and White House spokespeople the next day, the attacks were responses to an anti-Islamic video entitled “The Innocence of Muslims,” created and distributed by a manipulative Egyptian film producer in California under the alias Sam Bacile. The State Department claimed that worldwide protests, including a peaceful one just outside the gates of the consulate building in Benghazi, spontaneously caused the attack on the consulate.
Oddly enough, the security camera footage of the grounds outside the compound at this time has been classified Top Secret. It is now known that there was no protest whatsoever, and a guard stationed outside the compound described the exterior environment prior to the attack as desolate, stating, “there wasn’t a single ant outside.”
For two weeks following the incident, State Department and White House spokespeople and even President Obama himself continued to claim that the video they described was at least partially responsible for the attack and that the incident was in response to it. There was a denial that the attack was premeditated, that it had been organized in advance and that it was connected to terrorism.
Only later, after the Libyan government made statements to the opposite effect just days after the attack, calling it a preplanned, premeditated offensive, did the State Department reverse itself and admit that it appeared to be the work of terrorists involved with al-Qaeda. By not immediately accepting the Libyan version of the events, the State Department embarrassed the new Libyan president, Mohamed Magariaf, and more deeply embedded itself in a quagmire that is only just beginning to be clarified.
It is now apparent from White House and State Department emails that any acknowledgment of the attack on the compound as the work of an al-Qaeda affiliate was going against the administration’s official narrative of al-Qaeda in the region dwindling in size and strength.
On September 15, the Obama administration removed talking points connecting the attacks to Islamic extremism from their official press communications. They also removed them from materials given to Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, prior to her appearance on Sunday morning talk shows following the attacks.
After reviewing Rice’s materials before her appearance on those programs, CIA Director David Petraeus was quoted as saying that he thought they were not factual and “useless.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland later admitted to making many of the talking point changes in order to essentially take the blame heaped on Secretary Clinton by Congressional Republicans.
On December 20, the same day that Clinton delayed her testimony to Congress on the Benghazi events due to a concussion sustained in a fall, the State Department’s Accountability Review Board released a report on the incident.
It stated, “Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department … resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”
A later investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee declared, “there was a high risk of a ‘significant’ terrorist attack on U.S. employees and facilities in Benghazi in the months before the September 11, 2012, assault on the Mission, and the State Department failed to take adequate steps to reduce the Mission’s vulnerability.”
In August 2013, CNN stated that as many as 35 CIA staffers were based in Benghazi on the night of the attack and that most of those were located at the annex compound building, the site of the second attack. Why they were stationed there is still unclear, but CNN asserted that survivors of the attack had reported intimidation from the CIA and said that discussion of their role and the events of that evening with the media would risk termination of their careers with the government agency.
In the light of new information about the attacks, it seems that Congress to date did not have all the facts about the purpose and scope of the Benghazi mission and that previous investigations ended too soon.
It should be patently clear that Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State at the time of the incident, needs to bear full responsibility for what happened and for any attempts to twist the truth afterward.
She has used the fact that her political ally Obama is still in office to shield herself from more stringent inquiries than those that have taken place thus far. And if that isn’t enough, in the meantime, she has become embroiled in still other scandals (such as the use of a private mail system for her government emails — tens of thousands of which were deleted, against government protocol).
These events are just more knots in a long string of affairs demonstrating her leadership incompetence and her obfuscation of the truth for political gain. Fortunately, most Americans can see her machinations for what they are, and her chances of winning the presidency now appear slim at best.