Hillary book chapter on Benghazi wonders why people are still talking about Benghazi
posted at 8:01 am on May 30, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
In other words, What difference at this point does it make? Politico gets the first look at the Benghazi chapter in Hillary Clinton’s memoir, Hard Choices, a 34-page regurgitation of Clinton’s attempts for most of the last two years to insist that the debate should remain on improving diplomatic security, rather than the decisions and lack of action that left the consulate undefended and the military unable to respond in the failed state created by US intervention in Libya. Hillary holds up the laughable work of the Accountability Review Board as her vindication, claiming that they could have asked her and her political appointees anything they wanted, but, er … her hand-picked panel just chose not to talk to her. Anyone demanding accountability for the failure and the false narrative pushed by the Obama administration in its aftermath is just interested in partisan politics. And so on.
Clinton’s response on the lack of action during the attack, as described by Politico’s Maggie Haberman, should raise some eyebrows:
Clinton addresses lingering questions about how military assets were deployed to try to rescue personnel at the under-siege compound, writing that Obama “gave the order to do whatever was necessary to support our people in Libya. It was imperative that all possible resources be mobilized immediately. … When Americans are under fire, that is not an order the Commander in Chief has to give twice. Our military does everything humanly possible to save American lives — and would do more if they could. That anyone has ever suggested otherwise is something I will never understand.”
Well, perhaps it’s because no one staged a rescue. Only hours later did an evacuation take place, long after the attack, in order to get CIA personnel and the survivors out of Benghazi. In fact, the State Department and the Department of Defense have insisted that no help was mobilized and ready to respond — even though State and Defense had been warned for months about terrorist networks operating with impunity in Benghazi and eastern Libya since central control had collapsed with the fall of Moammar Qaddafi in 2011. All other Western nations had left Benghazi due to an escalating series of terrorist attacks in the city, and even the Red Cross had left. The American consulate remained open even after being the target of a terrorist bombing earlier that summer. It was the anniversary of 9/11 in the middle of Terrorist Central, and yet State kept turning down security requests, and the DoD wasn’t mobilized for readiness on a day that a child could have guessed that terrorists might strike.
Speaking of security requests, Clinton uses the ARB as a shield again and says that wasn’t her responsibility:
Clinton also highlights some of the findings of an Accountability Review Board investigation into the attacks, including that there had been security upgrades to the Benghazi compound but that they were “simply inadequate in an increasingly dangerous city.” She notes that Benghazi compound personnel told the Review Board that they felt their requests for additional security were not given adequate weight by the embassy in Tripoli, a point Republicans have in the past argued does not absolve Clinton since those officials report to the Secretary.
Clinton reiterates a point she made during congressional testimony last year: that she never saw cables requesting additional security. The cables were addressed to her as a “procedural quirk” given her position, but didn’t actually land on her desk, she writes: “That’s not how it works. It shouldn’t. And it didn’t.”
Actually, those were the direct responsibility of her lieutenant Patrick Kennedy, whom the ARB also didn’t bother to interview. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the attack, also asked to keep their US military security in place on July 9, so Tripoli wasn’t entirely silent on the issue, as Clinton suggests. Kennedy refused the request, in part because State wanted the military personnel in the area to train Libyan militias rather than get caught up in diplomatic security. While Clinton denies that these issues reached her level, her Defense counterpart Leon Panetta ended up signing off on the order to pull that team away from the consulate.
How could Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not have been part of that decision? And how did Clinton not know about these decisions made by her aide? This is nothing more than a shabby attempt to avoid responsibility for the decisions made under her command at State. It’s the latest in a series of absurd dodges, and one that Clinton no doubt hopes the media will project as definitive so that continuing questions will continue to get the what difference at this point does it make treatment.