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Friday, April 11, 2014

Benghazi:  Common Sense Slowly Prevailing

Trying to get to the bottom of what happened at Benghazi on September 11 2012 is Congress's responsibility, and as citizens we should be gratified it has taken this seriously.  The Republicans have not been inordinately preoccupied with Benghazi. 

That said, I do not see a conspiracy here either to abandon the base under attack or to cover up the aftermath.  Ignorance, poor analysis, bureaucratic stumbling, and basic ass-covering probably are the main drivers here.

Some have blamed Ambassador Chris Stevens for his foolhardiness in going to Benghazi at that time.   Ambassadors are on the front lines every day, or should be.  They have to take some risks to promote and defend American interests.  Stevens may have been an idealist, but by visiting Benghazi he was operating in tthe best tradition of the Foreign Service.

I don't know why senior State department officers who had decisionmaking responsibility for the security of the mission facility (it wasn't a consulate; it don't know what to call it) in Benghazi have been reinstated in their jobs.  That no one was fired over these lapses is a travesty.

All the fuss over "talking points" is a distraction.  The CIA clearly didn't know what was going on.  It was still locked on to the idea that this was a "demonstration" by "extremists" over a youtube video insulting the Prophet.  State department thought the same thing.  Probably this flaccid analysis was due to lack of any decent intelligence whatsoever. Susan Rice should have known better than to be still hawking this flawed line of analysis days after the attack, and it rightly cost her the Secretary of State job.  (One good thing came out of Benghazi, at least.)

The Pentagon may be off the hook for the Benghazi lack of response, but its whole "rapid reaction" force approach to security emergencies at embassies has been exposed as inherently flawed.  The response after the event was weak and ineffective.  (No airlift was available for the Marines, among the many issues.)

Was this a mission by Al Qaida to kill Stevens?  Doubt it.  AQ as we once knew it know longer exists.  Groups aligned to its ideology do.   To me the link between the demonstrations at the Embassy in Cairo and the Benghazi incident seems strong.  But the attackers at Benghazi seemed to be improvising.  It is unclear if they knew they had killed Stevens.  They didn't try hard to look for him and verify if they were successful. 

In the end, like the Kennedy assassination, the truth probably won't be clearer over time.  And likely the killers will never be brought to justice.  But bad guys are getting killed in Benghazi and nearby areas all the time, wasted by other bad guys.  So we might take some solice in knowing that some of them are probably dead already.

Here's a link on a good summary of the Benghazi investigations.

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