The congressional hearings about Benghazi were largely what House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said they were, a partisan effort to bring down Hillary Clinton’s polling numbers.
The conservative Washington Times editorially lamented the manner in which the hearings were conducted: “The committee jumped from issue to issue, devolved into bickering, that left Hillary Clinton cackling with laughter and failed to provide a consistent and compelling assessment of what happened…The public is still in the dark…Chairman Trey Gowdy is a former federal prosecutor but his performance…hardly demonstrated that. The hearing was undisciplined in time and narrative.”
This does not mean that there are not serious unanswered questions about Hillary Clinton’s role in Benghazi and about the failure of her larger policy of overthrowing Muammar Gadaffi, with no plan whatever for what would come next. The chaos we see in Libya today and the growing refugee crisis in Europe is the result.
First, with regard to what happened in Benghazi, where four Americans were killed. A number of things are difficult to understand. Ambassador Christopher Stevens repeatedly told the State Department that security was inadequate and requested additional personnel. Not only were his requests denied, but Hillary Clinton never saw them and had delegated security concerns—-even in Libya which she joined in destabilizing—to others. The State Department’s own review of these events says that serious mistakes were made.
This should not be a liberal-conservative question. Many liberals have questioned Hillary Clinton’s role, as have her Republican opponents. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, for example, writes: “It remains hard to believe that Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other personnel could have been under attack at different facilities in Benghazi, Libya over a span of seven and a half hours without any nearby military bases ready and able to provide air cover. As Senator John McCain once put it on ABC, why didn’t Hillary see the cable that came to her office three weeks before the murderous siege that said the consulate in Benghazi could not withstand a coordinated attack, and where were the Department of Defense assets? ”
When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Hillary Clinton about why the State Department rejected the repeated requests for more security, she responded, “That was left to the security professionals.” She said it wasn’t the job of a Secretary of State to be “reaching down” and making these decisions. Yet, as she always does, she said she takes “full responsibility,” whatever that means.
Ignored in all of this is the fact that it was Secretary Clinton who led the campaign to remove Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi. Doing so, we now know, has led to Libya’s deterioration into violence and chaos. Evidently, the Secretary moved to remove Gaddafi, at that point no threat to the U.S., without having any idea what would come next. At the present time, two separate government’s battle for control of Libya. Islamists control the capital city of Tripoli and Islamic State militants are expanding their hold on cities and towns across the country.
After removing Gaddafi, Secretary Clinton removed our footprint in the country, even as the political and security situation deteriorated. The Obama administration has a “very hands-off policy in Libya now,” says Bill Roggio, an editor of The Long War Journal, published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The administration provided military assistance to overthrow the government in 2011 and has since provided nothing concrete to deal with the problems on the ground.”
The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was closed and all personnel evacuated in July 2014. Philip Gordon, who served as White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region from 2013 until early this year, says that Libya is now in a state of “disintegration. U.S. Intelligence officials express growing concern about the spread of Islamic State operations in Libya.”
There are unintended consequences of overthrowing governments, something which Secretary Clinton, who touts her years as Secretary of State as good preparation to be President, seems to have overlooked. The Brookings Institution reports that the “escalating crisis in Libya has gone overlooked…Human traffickers are taking advantage of the collapse of order in Libya, sending more and more boats across the Mediterranean filled with asylum seekers and migrants desperate to reach Europe.”
Even President Obama recognizes the failure of the administration’s policy in Libya. In his U.N. General Assembly speech in September he said that the U.S. and its allies “could have and should have done more to fill the vacuum left behind” in Libya after attacking the nation with air strikes and arming rebels who ultimately killed Gaddafi in October 2011.
Hillary Clinton may think her role as Secretary of State was a successful one, but the evidence for such success is difficult to discover. As Bill Roggio notes, “We overthrew the regime (in Libya), jihadists take control of various areas and the country becomes a basket case. It’s amazing how we’re now playing into those narratives that feed conspiracy theories that the U.S. actually supports the overthrow of governments and then supplants them with jihadist groups. They are conspiracy theories. What is truly going on is shortsightedness in U.S. policy and a failure to understand who’s who on the ground, which groups are operating, and then lack the political heft on the ground to get involved.”
The FBI is now engaged in a criminal probe of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. The House committee spent a lot of time discussing these e-mails, as well as the role played by Sidney Blumenthal.
Exactly how this helped to clarify events in Benghazi was never made clear. Whether Mrs. Clinton will be indicted because of the e-mails is yet to be determined. What the committee could have done is explore why Libya was in a state of anarchy and how the policies promoted by Secretary Clinton had led to this anarchy and the growth of terrorist groups which, in the end,
took the lives of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues.
Hillary Clinton seems to believe that her years as Secretary of State are a major qualification for the Presidency. Her record as Secretary of State should undergo careful examination. If her role in Libya is considered, Americans might come to quite a different conclusion. It is too bad that narrow partisanship and the hope to score easy points diverted Republicans from a thorough look at what was really going on in the Clinton State Department.