Wednesday, June 04, 2014

My View: GOP stirs Benghazi pot for politics

Tom Maertens
June 4, 2014
The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counterterrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11.

On April 18, 1983, a suicide truck bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut killing sixty-three people including 17 Americans; on Oct. 23, 1983, a second suicide bomber struck in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. Marines. The congressional investigation ordered by Speaker “Tip” O’Neill recommended major security improvements.

Eighteen months later, on Sept. 20, 1984, a third attack occurred in Beirut, killing 24 people at the U.S. Embassy.

It turned out that the security measures Congress directed had not been completed. Ronald Reagan’s explanation was a version of, well, stuff happens: “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.”

In the interim, five more people were killed in the Dec. 12, 1983, attack on the American Embassy in Kuwait.

Under George W. Bush, sixty people died at U.S. missions overseas, including 16 U.S. diplomats, from attacks at Kolkata (Calcutta), Islamabad, Istanbul, Tashkent, Damascus, Saudi Arabia, and two each in Sana’a and Karachi. There were no Congressional investigations.

There have been 521 attacks on U.S. missions abroad since 1970 — roughly one per month — according to State Department figures. Of the 500 Americans who died in dangerous parts of the world in recent decades — plus 4,500 Americans who died in Bush’s Iraq fiasco — Republicans seem obsessed only about the four victims who died in Benghazi, Libya: eight congressional committees have already conducted thirteen hearings.

House Speaker John Boehner has convened yet another investigation — a “trial” the chairman called it — to determine whether violent protests were “rooted in an Internet video, not a failure of policy,” as administration talking points declared. The video in question was “The Innocence of Muslims,” made by an Egyptian Christian extremist in California. One Republican after another has declared the explanation a lie.

An Internet search shows photos of riots or demonstrations in Cairo, Gaza City, Kashmir, Kuwait, Istanbul, Mombasa, Jakarta, Doha, Khartoum, Dhaka, Yemen, Iraq, India, Tunisia, Teheran, Kabul, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Jordan, and many other cities around 9/11. Maps posted by the Atlantic and others show dozens of protests around the world that night.

The New York Daily News said “The Muslim-mocking clip caused violent protests across the Arab world and may have been the impetus for the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi;” the International Business Times reported that “As many as 19 people have been killed in Pakistan amid violent protests over anti-Muslim film ‘Innocence of Muslims’”; Sky News reported that 60 were injured in Peshawar and over a hundred in Karachi; France shut down its embassies in 20 countries because of protests; over a dozen were injured in Bangladesh; the BBC reported over 100 people were injured in Cairo due to “protests against an anti-Islam film.”

Reuters reported that seven Egyptian Christians were sentenced to death in absentia for their role in “The Innocence of Muslims;” and, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri urged Muslims to wage holy war against the U.S. and Israel over the “The Innocence of Muslims.”

A January 2014 report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) also suggested that the attacks were influenced by violent protests against an inflammatory video, and cited demonstrations in Cairo and approximately 40 other cities that night. Besides Benghazi, there were attacks on U.S. missions in Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia.

Adding to the frenzy about Benghazi was Fox News’ bogus claim that the military was told to “stand down” during the attack. That and other conspiracy theories were broadcast in more than 1,100 segments by Fox about Benghazi last year, according to Nexis.

The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon, concluded there is “no evidence that Department of State officials delayed the decision to deploy what few resources DoD had available to respond.” Separately, a Pentagon statement said that “U.S. military forces could not have arrived in time to mount a rescue of those Americans who were killed and injured.”

The Benghazi hysteria is being stirred up by Republicans for political purposes. The National Republican Congressional Committee has boasted that its Clinton/Benghazi fundraising page was the most successful in its history.

Several Republicans claim they have enough votes to impeach Obama, except they can’t find any evidence of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” despite their scandal-mongering over “Fast and Furious” and the IRS. Now they are betting on Benghazi.

But Benghazi was a tragedy perpetrated by jihadists in Libya, not by Obama, Clinton or diplomats in the State Department.

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