The Truth About Benghazi

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The Republicans have two goals with the whole Banghazi "investigation"; to embarrass Democrats and to find someone to blame.

Bill O'Reilly said the other day: "The Republicans want to get the truth about Benghazi because it embarrasses Democrats."  Really? I thought they said they wanted to "get to the truth" and "prevent this from happening again."  How does embarrassing Democrats do either?

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA/Chair, Oversight and Government Reform Committee) held a hearing on what happened in Benghazi and appeared on Meet the Press (MTP) to talk about it.

"A jury trial is about assigning blame.  Santiago's dead. They want to know who's to blame."  Daniel "Danny" Kaffee, A Few Good Men.

(All of the rest of the quotes are from the MTP transcript from May 12, 2013.)

But that's not how Issa sees it.  He seems to want to find someone to blame.

"But one of the problems with this ARB report is, it doesn’t seem to find anybody at the high level of state department or anyone else to have failed. And I’m going to tell you something. Certainly, Under Secretary Kennedy who has not been held accountable-- three of his people have been held supposedly accountable, but he was getting the facts on a daily basis and one of the questions is, isn’t this career professional of 34 years or more-- isn’t there some accountability? We certainly think that it needs to be asked."  Rep. Issa

Later in the interview:

GREGORY: "You’ve got Republicans talking about this being Watergate. One Republican raising the specter of impeachment. Conservative groups raising money off of the Benghazi story. Are you hurting your own credibility and your own find-- fact-finding mission by politically overreaching?" (emphasis added)

REP. ISSA: "Well, if I was, then I would be. But I’m not. (emphasis added) You know, I-- I investigated the mineral management service and made strong recommendations to the Bush administration that it needed real change because it was a dysfunctional agency. And I’m sad that I didn’t stay on top of it more tenaciously because ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico got filled with oil because that agency wasn’t doing enough of its job of making sure the oil companies did their job. So I can never again look at something where four men died and I believe needlessly and then say, well, I’m going to just say they’ve taken care of it, it won’t happen again. No. Congress has an obligation to say, what did you do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? And Charlene Lamb and other low-ranking people being reassigned to other jobs. That’s not going to prevent these three separate mistakes from happening again."

The Accountability Board Report (ARB) investigated the incident and found some serious problems with how this was handled and made suggestions but there was a big disconnect for me because Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who is the Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs/Chair, Accountability Review Board on Benghazi was on the show.

REP. ISSA: You know, let’s not blow things out of proportion. This is a failure, it needs to be investigated. Our committee can investigate. Now, Ambassador Pickering, his people and he refused to come before our committee that…(emphasis added)

AMB. THOMAS PICKERING (Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs/Chair, Accountability Review Board on Benghazi): That is not true. (emphasis added)

GREGORY: All right. We’re-- we’re going to get to Ambassador Pickering.

REP. ISSA: We have-- we have it in-- we have it in writing, we have White House correspondence. It may not have been the Ambassador’s decision but it was the White House decision. That has been reversed. We’re inviting him on Monday along with Admiral Mullen to come, to go through, with his papers, a private deposition so we can get the facts in a nonpartisan way.

GREGORY: Right.

REP. ISSA: We’ll have Republicans and Democratic…

GREGORY: Well, all right. Ambassador Pickering, you-- you just jumped in here. You’re willing to appear?

AMB. PICKERING: Of course. I’ve said the day before the hearings, I was willing to appear to come to the very hearings that he disclu-- he excluded me from. The White House told me back that he said…

REP. ISSA: One second. Please-- please don’t tell me I excluded you. (emphasis added)

AMB. PICKERING: Well, the-- the majority was-- we were told the majority said I was not welcomed at that hearing. I could come at some other time.

REP. ISSA: Well, as-- as the ambassador just said, the day before the hearing, if the White House said we’d like to have him, there’s a procedure. He could have been the Democratic witness. And we would have allowed him. The Democrats requested no witness. The fact is, we don’t want to have some sort of a stage show. We had fact witnesses. They testified. We have the Ambassador and-- and Admiral Mullen who conducted and oversaw the ARB. We’re inviting them on Monday. We’ll go through, not in front of the public but-- but in a nonpartisan way questions and answers and then obviously…

GREGORY: All right.

REP. ISSA: …a hearing to follow at an appropriate time. I’m delighted to have a long-serving career diplomat willing to come before us. I don’t think it was his decision to say no. But we were told no until just before the hearing

Truthfully, I have two serious questions about what happened that night and a strong opinion about one thing.  Question 1: Who put that crazy story about a protest into the official talking points?  Opinion: that person or those people should fired.  Not for conspiring about anything but for being stupid.  I get it, the truth went against the narrative.  A better answer would have been, "We have been attacked by terrorists but like Osama bin Laden, we will get them."  We all know we live in a dangerous world and can handle the truth even when it is horrible.

More important question 2: on 9/11, why was this area left so exposed on a day like this?  The military response troubles me.  There was nothing close enough to get there in time.  That is inexcusable.  From what I heard in the hearing and have read, the military did not have any way to get, say a jet in from Aviano Air Force base in Italy because there were no tankers for it to refuel in the Mediterranian.  I am not a military or intelligence expert but having our ambassador in that position seems really irresponsible.

This was a tragedy and mistakes were made but it was not a coverup. I don't oppose the idea of hearings if they are there to actually learn something but I cannot support a witch hunt.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, Chair, Intelligence Committee)put it best:

"Well, I disagree with the conclusion. We have held six separate hearings. We have interviewed every intelligence head. We have read the e-mails. We sent a subs-- spent a-- a considerable amount of time with David Petraeus when he was director of the agency with the CIA, analysts involved. We will shortly be producing what I hope will be a bipartisan review. You know, what-- what I hear being assessed is all kinds of ulterior motives, and I don’t believe they existed. And I have looked through all of the intelligence proceeding, Benghazi. There was no tactical intelligence, but there was intelligence to the effect that there had been prior attacks, that this was a dangerous area. You can say the security was inadequate. It was. But it was-- this was not a consulate or an embassy, therefore it did not have marines. You can question whether it should have been there in the first place. But I don’t think you can question that there was malevolence on the part of the president, on the part of the secretary of state or anyone else. It was a very unfortunate incident that turned in to be, I think, a great and very painful learning experience.

…well, let-- let me-- let me say this. I think the talking points were wrong. I think the talking points should not be written by the intelligence community. I think the intelligence community should not be doing talking points for members of Congress and our report will in essence say that. Talking points can’t be done by committee either. And these were. They were passed from one to the other to the other. And changes were made. The White House made virtually no changes. The word “consulate” was changed to “mission” and John Brennan made a change in syntax of one sentence. That was it."

This was much longer than I intended.  I still have a fantasy that I can be fair and impartial so I put more of the transcript in to make sure I wasn't just putting the parts that I think show my point.  If anyone from Congressman Issa would like to respond, please do.  And while I am being honest, my first job out of college was in Senator Feinstein's office.

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