7 Troublesome Facts about the Benghazi Investigation
May 15, 2013 Leave a comment
Right-wing commentators have sought to demonstrate an extensive “cover-up” by the Obama administration of the Benghazi attacks in Libya last year. Fox News alone has devoted hundreds of hours to this supposed scandal in which 4 Americans, including the American Ambassador, died.
After 5 committees, 9 investigative hearings and 2 reports on the Benghazi events, Republicans are still looking for something conclusive to pin on the Obama administration. Here is what we have discovered so far:
1. The facts do not support claims of a cover-up.
Thomas Pickering, the co-chair of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board on the Benghazi terror attacks, stated last week that the notion of a cover-up by the Obama administration “has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it.” The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) also spoke out last week against the various conspiracy theories saying, “I feel like I know what happened in Benghazi. I’m fairly satisfied.”
2. The rhetoric is overblown.
Last week Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) stated in an interview, “Of all the great cover-ups in history — the Pentagon papers, Iran-Contra, Watergate, all the rest of them — this … is going to go down as most egregious cover-up in American history.” However, we should keep in mind that Watergate dealt with actual crimes committed by a president, and the Iran-Contra scandal dealt with the illegal sale of arms to Iran to finance a covert war in Nicaragua. These events are hardly comparable.
3. The investigation has become a political witch-hunt.
The Benghazi attack occurred in the closing days of the 2012 Presidential campaign and Republicans quickly used the incident to discredit Obama’s leadership. But the public did not abandon Obama as they had hoped and he was re-elected. Conservatives are still trying to use the incident to engineer Obama’s downfall.
Last week Senator Inhofe echoed the hopes of many Republicans when he suggested the Benghazi investigation would lead to Obama’s impeachment. And former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee stated on his radio show that President Obama “will not fill out his full term” due to his role in the “cover-up.”
These claims are ill founded. As Eric Boehlert has commented,
[The investigation] isn’t just about Benghazi, or the four Americans who died in the attack or the dozens more injured. It’s about Obama and a blinding, uncontrollable anger that fuels his most dedicated foes, and their relentless, futile search for the American “aha” moment.
4. The criticism is heavily partisan.
American embassies were attacked by terrorists 11 times while George W. Bush was president, yet there were no outcries of unpreparedness or cover-up. In fact, US diplomatic missions have been attacked 44 times in the last 52 years with multiple American fatalities. There has never been furor like that directed against the Obama administration.
5. They are quibbling over details.
The repeated investigations have uncovered no major scandals. Republican efforts at faultfinding have been reduced to minor issues such as pouring over leaked “talking points” and language. It turns out that ABC’s reporting on the emails leaked to its reporter was based on inaccurate and misleading summaries rather than the originals (which their reporter neglected to read). The original emails are much less controversial.
As for the debate over language, on Sunday Senator John McCain (R-AZ) asserted that right after the Benghazi attacks “The President didn’t call it an act of terror,” he only condemned “acts of terrorism.” This is mere quibbling and hardly the stuff of a major scandal.
6. The investigation is creating collateral damage.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that House Republicans are turning their attention to Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen in a campaign to discredit their non-partisan report on the Benghazi attacks. But as Frank Hagler reports,
Republicans must be careful to not overstep their bounds in questioning the integrity of Pickering and Mullen. … [They] both have impeccable reputations. Pickering holds the personal rank of career ambassador, the highest in the United States Foreign Service, and has served for over 40 years under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Mullen is the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and served as the top military adviser to Obama and President George W. Bush. Any attempt to besmirch the reputation of these career heroes will surely backfire.
7. The long-range target is Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Democrats have been quick to recognize that the investigation seems squarely aimed at damaging the former Secretary of State’s political future, particularly with regard to her possible run at the presidency in 2016. Ms. Clinton is currently the person most favoured to receive the Democratic nomination and is thought by many to be able to defeat most Republican candidates. The ploy that was unsuccessful in trying to ruin Obama’s chances of winning in 2012 is being retrained on Hillary Clinton and the 2016 elections.
As Frank Hagler writes,
Republicans run the real risk of overstepping their reach in this investigation. They believe they smell political blood in the water, but as they found out in the 2012 election, if they overreach and don’t focus on what’s important they run the risk of turning this into nothing more than a political circus. They need to slow down, rein in the loose cannons, take a deep breath, and be reminded that the goal is to bring the perpetrators to justice and implement solutions to prevent it from happening again.