Feature

Benghazi: Did Clinton and Obama hide the truth?

New information shows that the White House and/or the State Department withheld facts about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility.

Until this week, the Republican obsession with Benghazi seemed to be nothing more than a partisan witch hunt, said Alex Koppelman in NewYorker.com. “But now there is something to it.” New information emerged last week that shows that the White House and/or the State Department deliberately withheld facts about the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Libya for political reasons. In testimony before a House committee, State Department “whistle-blowers” said they’d told higher-ups right after the Sept. 11 assault that it was planned and led by Islamic terrorists. But for days, White House spokespeople described the attack as an outgrowth of a supposedly “spontaneous” demonstration over a YouTube video that was insulting to Muslims. ABC News revealed last week that the talking points used by the White House to explain the attack to the American public went through 12 tortured iterations, with the State Department and the CIA fighting over the wording. References to a specific Islamic extremist group taking part in the attacks were cut out. It’s now clear why, said Ron Fournier in NationalJournal.com. The leaked documents show that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said her “building’s leadership” was not happy with the talking points, and the reference to a specific Libyan terrorist group. Why? They would enable Congress to, in her words, “beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings.”

This is a major scandal, said Deroy Murdock in NationalReview.com, and it points directly at President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Four Americans died in Benghazi, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. But with November’s election looming, the White House talking points were edited to fit Obama’s “campaign theme” that he’d destroyed al Qaida by killing Osama bin Laden. That’s why Obama and Hillary Clinton piled up “lies and obstruction” to prevent the truth about Benghazi from coming out. Indeed, one State Department whistle-blower, Gregory Hicks, testified last week that he was strongly chastised for talking to congressional investigators about the attacks, and then demoted. Now it’s time for Congress to launch a select committee to investigate further, and fully expose what “may be the biggest federal cover-up since Watergate.”

“What, exactly, is the scandal?” said Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post.Yes, the talking points were watered down due to an inter-agency dust-up between State and the CIA, each of which was trying to dodge blame for the attacks. But all 12 of the talking point drafts say that the attacks were “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” That later turned out to be wrong, but in the confused aftermath of the attacks, that was “the initial intelligence assessment.” The lack of security in Benghazi is a real issue, but it was partly caused by Republican cuts to the State Department’s budget. The GOP is only interested in “frog-marching White House staffers in handcuffs.” The real target of the “demonization machine” is Clinton, said Andrew Sullivan in Dish.AndrewSullivan.com. Republicans fear her as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, so they’re farcically trying to turn Benghazi into a combination of Watergate and Iran-Contra. The edits to the CIA talking points aren’t flattering, but all they reveal is fairly typical Washington spin.

A little history puts Benghazi into proper perspective, said Bob Cesca in HuffingtonPost.com. During George W. Bush’s presidency, there was not one, but 13 attacks on U.S. consulates and embassies, which left dozens of Americans dead. To list just a few: the 2002 attack by an Islamic extremist on the U.S. Consulate in Calcutta, India, which killed five; the suicide bombing at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, which killed 12 and injured 51; and the 2003 assault by al Qaida terrorists on the diplomatic compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which killed nine Americans. How come Republicans so outraged by Benghazi didn’t protest those attacks? Where were the hearings into who was at fault?

Don’t ask for perspective from Republicans suffering from “Benghazi syndrome,” said Richard Cohen in The Washington Post. The party’s attack dogs think that because the Obama administration originally put out a misleading statement about what happened there—either because it was “unsure of the facts, or simply didn’t like them”—they can get Obama impeached, and destroy Clinton’s presidential prospects. Watergate, my friends, was a crime. “Fudging a press release is not.”

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