Benghazi: Incompetence, but No Cover-Up
There was tragic incompetence, plainly, in the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks, and even possibly some political calculation. It is a record that may well come to haunt Hillary Clinton, the first Secretary of State to lose an ambassador in the field in more than three decades, if she runs for president in 2016.
But the obvious Republican effort to turn this inquiry into the Democratic (Obama) version of the Iraq intelligence scandal that has tarred the GOP since the George W. Bush years — led by that least-credible of champions, the almost-always-wrong Darrell Issa — is just not going to amount to much.
The testimony Wednesday by three highly credible witnesses before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee added to the serious questions that have been raised for months about Benghazi. Last December, Clinton’s own “Accountability Review Board” —- chaired by two major national-security figures, retired Amb. Thomas R. Pickering and Adm. Michael Mullen—detailed a broad failure of U.S. intelligence and policy-making over the deaths of Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Statements and testimony in recent days from the three State Department officials, led by Stevens’ former deputy in Libya, Gregory Hicks, only appeared to underline the administration’s failure to take action, futile though it might have been, to save the lives of its emissaries. Hicks, in prepared testimony, said the U.S. military turned down his request for help during the attack, both special operations troops and F-16 fighters. Another witness, Mark Thompson, the deputy coordinator for operations at the State Department, was expected to say that Hillary Clinton sought to cut her department’s counterterrorism bureau out of the chain of decision-making, suggesting that she was downplaying the rise of terrorism in keeping with the administration’s political line during the 2012 presidential campaign (which Clinton has already denied). The last witness, Eric Nordstrom, the diplomatic outpost’s former chief security officer, has said that the Benghazi compound failed to meet security standards despite serious security threats.
The most moving — if still-not-quite scandalous — testimony came from Hicks