From the outset of the House Oversight Whistleblower hearing today, it was apparent that Democrats want to forget everything either leading up to, or occurring immediately after the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. And at times, the line of questioning today fell nothing short of partisan politics.
Congressman Darrell Issa started by laying the groundwork for asking the big questions: what was the setup for security before the attack, was there a stand down order for military intervention and how was the event handled, after the fact?
Minority leader, Elijah Cummings then laid out the democrat talking points in his opening remarks with a statement that all but said, “whatever the men before the committee today have to say, is nothing short of false.” In fact, the first & second Democrats questioning Gregory Hicks (Deputy to Chris Stevens), Mark Thompson (Director of Counter-Terrorism, State Dept) and Eric Nordstrom (Regional Security Officer assigned to Libya) used the very talking points laid-out by Cummings, in order to badger the witnesses on their veracity. But the opening statement from Gregory Hicks was a powerful & moving account of the night of Sept 11, 2012.
Hicks clearly laid out the timeline of events in both Tripoli and Benghazi, and set the stage for some very succinct questions. Clearly, if help had arrived more might be alive. But as the hearing drew on it became apparent that the questions that needed to be answered, seemed to eclipse the answers provided. Here are the questions that come to mind.
1) Why was embassy security cut (or outsourced) in Libya, prior to the attack?
The democrats latched onto budget-cuts like a pitbull, but as Chairman Issa pointed out, State Department official Charlene Lamb already testified “funding was not an issue.” Mr. Nordstrom was forced to operate under a bad plan by the State Dept., and use local militia for Embassy security. As was pointed out later in the testimony, the tactic of inter-force operations is not going so well in Afghanistan either.
Mr. Hicks did however make an intriguing statement, about making Benghazi a “permanent US location.” This seems to be an alarming issue, as Libya at the time, was not completely stable.
2) Who is responsible for doctoring the talking points, incorrectly citing a spontaneous demonstration turned bad, result of a youtube video?
Mr. Hicks made clear with his own comments that “no demonstration was reported in Benghazi, it was an attack.” Hicks was also clear that he never reported any demonstration. How would it come to be that a senior representative of the government go on national talk shows and tell the world that this was not a terror attack but a spontaneous uprising from a demonstration of a little watched YouTube video. There was a demonstration in Cairo, for which the Muslim Brotherhood blamed a video, but there was no demonstration in Benghazi.
Both Hicks & Stevens were cognitive of the earlier event in Egypt, and would have mentioned a protest because, per Hicks, they have “procedures to follow in case of a protest.”
3) Why were Special Force operatives in Tripoli told to stand-down from reinforcing the annex under siege in Benghazi?
Mr Hicks alluded to a compliment he received from the commander of the Special ops group tat was preparing to go relieve the people who were in the heat of battle in Benghazi. Mr. Hicks under direct questioning inadvertently revealed the compliment. In essence he said that it was the first time in his military experience where a diplomat had more balls than his leadership. Somebody did tell that group to stand down, but who was it?
The military does not order itself to react or not. We do not have a rogue military force.
4) If we have a group within the State Department, whose purpose was to respond to crisis quickly (FEST Team), why were they not deployed?
Since the formation of the Foreign Emergency Support Team(FEST) in 1995 the counter terrorism group has responded to 20 incidents involving foreign attacks on American Embassies or facilities. Mark J Thompson sat before congress today and told them he could have deployed his team in Libya within hours. This is the group that begs the question, why where they not utilized?
5) Why were the Democrats so steadfast in not worrying about the pre-attack scenarios except a budget issue, that Ambassador Lamb testified had nothing to do with Benghazi security?
In order to understand the failings of Benghazi we must go back to the beginning and evaluate what we had in place and what moves were made beforehand. It seemed the democrats were either instructed or colluded to obfuscate the situation in Libya before the attack and used the hearings for nothing more than a political attack. While you could argue the Republicans have an agenda also, at least the were asking questions pertaining to the lead up and the event and the post attack response.
There is little doubt that the hearing before the Reform committee was spotted with interesting revelations and political drama. Chairman Issa summed it up best way he said the hearing was closed but the investigation continues.
For the good of the country let’s hope so