Five Reasons Benghazi Wasn’t Hillary Clinton’s Fault

(By Juan Cole)

Republicans like Marco Rubio are making hay of a Senate report on the Benghazi attack on a US consulate that left 4 Americans dead, including Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, on Sept. 11, 2012. The report doesn’t seem to me very good. Some of its positions are contradicted by solid reporting from on the ground in Benghazi. It has been one of my disappointments in life since 2001 to discover that various organs of the US government don’t know very much about the rest of the world and aren’t very good at understanding it.

But here are some reasons that Rubio is wrong and what happened in Benghazi can’t be laid at Hillary’s doorstep.

The Senate report does not so much as mention Secretary Clinton, so it cannot be used to damn her.

1. The Senate report does not so much as mention Secretary Clinton, so it cannot be used to damn her.

2. Ambassador Stevens repeatedly asked that security not be increased at the Benghazi consulate. I know US diplomatic personnel posted to places like Beirut where the US embassy is a fortress and they just can’t very easily get out and mingle with Lebanese. They deeply regret the imposed isolation and feel it interferes with them doing their jobs as diplomats. But, well, security in Beirut for embassies isn’t always very good. I was in Libya in May-June 2012 and walked around without incident, and it just was not the case that the situation was Beirut-like at that time. Stevens had supported the Libyan revolution and valued his ability to move among Libyans, who loved him, and did not want to be isolated by security. The Secretary of State doesn’t micromanage these matters, an Stevens was rightly given control over this issue.

3. There was a CIA annex near the consulate, and it included former special ops guys that consular officials including Stevens saw as the “cavalry.” That group of operatives did play an important role in getting the remaining 55 consular personnel out of Benghazi but in the end could not protect Stevens. CIA safe houses are covert. The Senate report makes clear that the US military was not apprised of its existence. Very likely, Secretary Clinton was not told about it either. If she was not told the details of what security arrangements were in place, she would have had no basis for questioning them. That there was something covert about the entire US operation in Benghazi seems clear, which means that then CIA director David Petraeus was probably more involved than Hillary was, but the GOP never brings him up with regard to Benghazi.

4. The Senate report found that after the attacks “there was no cover-up.” Since the Secretary of State doesn’t actually make decisions about individual consular security arrangements, it was only after the attack that Secretary Clinton would have become intimately involved with the Libyan mission. She acted with probity in the aftermath, which is all you could ask. The senate report’s conviction that there were no demonstrations in Benghazi that day against the US based on an anti-Islam film made in the US is contradicted by eyewitnesses on the ground, including Libyans involved in them, and this talking point seems to have been some sort of concession to the Republicans on the committee by the Democrats; as often is the case, yielding to Republican weird convictions produces positions at odds with reality. If we listened to them, we’d have to give up evolution, minimum wages, separation of religion and state, and climate change, too.

5. While the Senate felt that the tragedy was “preventable,” hindsight is 20/20. There wasn’t any reason for Stevens (or Secretary Clinton) to fear that the revolutionaries whom he had aided would turn on him, and 99% did not. But a small radical group with old grievances against the US cut him no slack for his heroic role in 2011, and that could not have been foreseen. This small group was not an al-Qaeda affiliate and was not important in governing the city in 2011-2012.

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AFP reported on the Senate report:

The US government could have prevented deadly attacks on its mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi by fixing “known security shortfalls,” a damning Senate report concluded Wednesday. Four American citizens, including Ambassador Chris Stephens, died…
Benghazi attacks were preventable: US Senate report (via AFP)

The US government could have prevented deadly attacks on its mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi by fixing “known security shortfalls,” a damning Senate report concluded Wednesday. Four American citizens, including Ambassador Chris Stephens, died…

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Related video:

ABC reports:

9 Responses

  1. Dr. Cole states “It has been one of my disappointments in life since 2001 to discover that various organs of the US government don’t know very much about the rest of the world and aren’t very good at understanding it.”
    I suggest the issue is denial, not-wanting-to-know, starting with what 9/11 was about.

    • Denial, and/or “studied ignorance.” Coupled with deniability. Added to the idiocy that is our electoral system, in our post-even-pretextual-democratic Republic. The Game needs funding and Troops and “support” of other types, all of which depend on looking at everything through a very narrow slit. In politics, facts, writ large, are the enemy of “Victory.”

  2. Let’s face it Benghazi was an October Surprise gone bad. Talk about False Flag. I’m sorry, I just don’t trust David Petraeus, nor do I trust the republicans. For crying out loud we are talking about the US Presidential election, not to mention a 9/11 anniversary. This idea had to sound good on paper considering Mitt Romney was the republicans candidate. I mean that was the best the Repubs could do. They were stuck with Mitt…it was his turn!

    FOX should be ashamed of it self for being so unpatriotic. Isn’t FOX a good American network? They saw Benghazi as a 2-fear, Hillary & Barrack!!!

  3. I found then Secretary of State Clinton’s attitude in front of the hearing committee dismissive and arrogant. That aside in the Lara Logan 60 minutes report (yes we know Davies was a fraud) but there were two other U.S. government officials who stated that they had made many request that the U.S. State Dept “beef up” security at Benghazi. When you have several officials demanding that security be “beefed up” that go against what Ambassador Stevens was asking or demanding that they not be “beefed up”. Seems like that would line up in a category that would get special attention. We are watching fundamentalist so called progressive media outlets (Chris Matthews, Huff Po) go on a feeding frenzy for the truth in regard to Christie’s “Bridge gate” fiasco but these same outlets were not making those demands when it came to Clinton and Benghazi. The disproportionate “feeding frenzy” makes Huff Po, MSNBC look more and more like Fox News just the other end of the spectrum. Prof Cole do you make excuses for Clintons 2002 Iraq war resolution too?

  4. ” We are watching fundamentalist so called progressive media outlets (Chris Matthews, Huff Po) go on a feeding frenzy for the truth in regard to Christie’s “Bridge gate” fiasco but these same outlets were not making those demands when it came to Clinton and Benghazi.”

    No surprise there. MSNBC is to the oligarchs of the Democratic Party what Faux Newz is to their counterparts in the Republican Party. The Dems just wind up “Motormouth” and set him loose on Hardball to pitch softballs to the party puppets.

  5. At one of Cole’s links “That same month, 20 security incidents occurred in Benghazi.” Ouch

  6. Would folks say that the same investigative standards being applied to Christie’s “bridge gate” have been applied to Clinton’s Benghazi. Did the Senate Committee have access to all of Clinton’s communications having to do with Benghazi?

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