Global Independent Analytics
James George Jatras
James George Jatras

Location: USA

Specialization: Media and government relations

The Benghazi Hearing: What Neither Hillary nor the Republicans Want to Talk About

They new everything and did nothing.

As I write this, Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the House panel investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks that killed four Americans is still going on.  I wasn’t able to listen to all of it live, and will plow through the transcript in due course. 

Two things already are notable: one concerning the impact of the hearing itself – plus another aspect marked only by the sound of crickets chirping.

First, as one would have expected, the hearing has generated more heat than light.  As has been the case to date, Republican lawmakers seem mainly interested in granular details of the State Department’s bureaucratic handling of the Benghazi post’s requests for more security, what did then-Secretary Clinton know and when did she know it, whether help could have and should have been sent and who stopped any such attempt, whether prompt action might have changed the outcome, questionable claims regarding a movie riling up the Muslim rabble, Hillary’s reliance on the expertise (or lack thereof) of Sidney Blumenthal, and all the other back-and-forth that’s dominated the issue since the events in question. 

Democrats predictably shilled for her, the poor innocent victim of a GOP Star Chamber.

In short, nothing new. 

Hillary boosters will be reinforced in their conviction that the inquiry is a witch hunt to hurt political prospects of the still-presumptive (especially with “Uncle Joe” Biden’s declining to run) Democratic presidential nominee. In supporting that conviction, the ill-phrased comments of abortive House Speaker candidate Kevin McCarthy were a godsend.

Conversely, Hillary-haters (who outnumber her fans, according to polling) will be buttressed in their conviction that she’s a lying incompetent with the blood of four Americans on her hands.  (There’s nothing wrong with a witch hunt if you catch a real witch.)

Aside from digging Americans more firmly into the partisan points of view they already hold, little of importance is likely to result. 

Which is unfortunate, because the hearing could have been a watershed in American foreign policy if someone on either side of the aisle had wished to pillory Hillary on an issue that screams out for public answers.  But certainly no Democrat would do so for partisan reasons, and no Republican seemed to care.  (One can only wish that Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, or both, had been on that panel!)

That issue is what was really going on in Benghazi.  Unremarked upon from the lawmakers’ bench was Clinton’s admission that the post in Benghazi was not a consulate, as it is uniformly reported in the media.  She did refer several times to the CIA compound.

No Sherlock Holmes is needed here. The facts have been in plain sight for over three years.  As just one example, the following is a good summary from October 2012, barely a month after the murders of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans:

            ‘[T]here's growing evidence that U.S. agents — particularly murdered ambassador Chris Stevens — were at least aware of heavy weapons moving from Libya to jihadist   Syrian rebels.

In March 2011 Stevens became the official U.S. liaison to the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan opposition, working directly with Abdelhakim Belhadj of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group — a group that has now disbanded, with some fighters reportedly participating in the attack that took Stevens' life.

In November 2011 The Telegraph reported that Belhadj, acting as head of the Tripoli Military Council, "met with Free Syrian Army [FSA] leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey" in an effort by the new Libyan government to provide money and weapons to the growing insurgency in Syria.

Last month The Times of London reported that a Libyan ship "carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria … has docked in Turkey." The shipment reportedly weighed 400 tons and included SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. 

Those heavy weapons are most likely from Muammar Gaddafi's stock of about 20,000 portable heat-seeking missiles—the bulk of them SA-7s—that the Libyan leader obtained from the former Eastern bloc. Reuters reports that Syrian rebels have been using those heavy weapons to shoot down Syrian helicopters and fighter jets.

The ship's captain was "a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organization called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support," which was presumably established by the new government.

That means that Ambassador Stevens had only one person—Belhadj—between him and the Benghazi man who brought heavy weapons to Syria.

Furthermore, we know that jihadists are the best fighters in the Syrian opposition, but where did they come from?

Last week The Telegraph reported that an FSA commander called them "Libyans" when he explained that the FSA doesn't "want these extremist people here."

And if the new Libyan government was sending seasoned Islamic fighters and 400 tons of heavy weapons to Syria through a port in southern Turkey—a deal brokered by Stevens' primary Libyan contact during the Libyan revolution—then the governments of Turkey and the U.S. surely knew about it.

Furthermore there was a CIA post in Benghazi, located 1.2 miles from the U.S. consulate, used as "a base for, among other things, collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles" ... and that its security features "were more advanced than those at [the] rented villa where Stevens died." 

And we know that the CIA has been funneling weapons to the rebels in southern Turkey. The question is whether the CIA has been involved in handing out the heavy weapons from Libya.’

[“How US Ambassador Chris Stevens May Have Been Linked To Jihadist Rebels In Syria,” Business Insider, by Michael B Kelley, October 19, 2012]

In short, to an extent still undisclosed to the American people, U.S. agencies (and specifically the CIA) were at least aware of – and almost certainly complicit in – a pipeline to ship weapons from Gaddafi’s captured stocks to jihad terrorists in Syria seeking to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.  The key actors were jihadists, including elements of al-Qaeda, that NATO had assisted in overthrowing Gaddafi.

Shockingly, such savages don’t always remain on the leash and sometimes bite the hand that fed them.  In a word, the Benghazi debacle was blowback from a “regime change” operation in which our allies and clients were the very terrorists we’ve been told for 14 years by both parties are the greatest threat to Americans’ lives and freedoms.

It’s then clear why Republican Congressmen declined to grill Hill’ on the details of our canoodling with terrorists: to do so would be to call into question the bipartisan penchant for supporting jihadists in multiple conflicts.  Perpetuating a pattern established no later than the 1980s in Afghanistan (under Ronald Reagan, when at least Cold War vicissitudes could be considered a partial excuse), terrorists inspired by Saudi Wahhabist ideology were “our guys” in Bosnia and Kosovo (under Bill Clinton) and in Libya (under Barack Obama).

While the presidents in the post-Cold War cases were Democrats, most Republican criticism was not that supporting people of that ilk was a bad idea but that, respectively, Clinton or Obama wasn’t moving decisively enough to empower the terrorists.  Hence, the familiar refrain that Obama was “leading from behind” in Libya.  If only we had moved faster, critics claimed, pro-American, democratic “moderates” might have gained power ...Sure.

The same pattern continues today, in Syria.  Just this week, in light of Russia’s airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh), the al-Nusra Front (the official al-Qaeda affiliate), Ahrar al-Sham, and other jihadists, the Obama administration boldly responded – with arms drops to “trusted” terrorists.  Having been up to their elbows in supporting jihad in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the Gulf States are now doubling down on their aid to terror groups in Syria, while publicly members of the U.S.-led “anti-ISIL coalition.” Some allies.

And where is the GOP?  Aside from a few noble exceptions, Republicans are faulting Obama for not providing more help to the jihadists, even joining with none other than Hillary Clinton in calling for a no-fly zone.  How little we’ve learned.

Other angles could also have been explored at the hearing, such as Hillary’s faux Caesaresque cackle regarding Gaddafi’s murder: “We came, we saw, he died!”  One yearns to ask her if extrajudicial murder of foreign heads of state is now official U.S. policy, or is that just her private peccadillo?  Can she suggest a list of other countries’ leaders who, without benefit of trial, should have a knife shoved up their rectum, then get shot in the head

Inquiring minds want to know. 

 

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