Aside from the ongoing assault by Hurricane Irma, today is also the sixteenth anniversary of the September 11th 2001 attacks on America, and the fifth anniversary of the September 11th 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi. Later today I'll be hosting another live audio edition of our Clubland Q&A, taking questions from Mark Steyn Club members around the planet - at 4pm Monday US Eastern Time (see below for other times). I expect both Irma, Benghazi and 9/11 to crop up, but you're free to raise any other subjects, too. Here, though, we're focusing on Benghazi:
In Sir Henry Wotton's famous formulation, an ambassador is a man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country. In the case of Susan Rice, a UN ambassador is a broad sent to lie to her country for the good of her man — President Obama. Happily, it worked. Nine months after going on five Sunday talk-shows and pinning Benghazi on some unseen YouTube video, Miss Rice was promoted to National Security Advisor. The Administration's designated fall-guy, the director of that unseen video, was thrown in jail for a year, and now lives in a homeless shelter.
My own view of Benghazi has been consistent since my column of September 14th 2012, three days after the attack and two days before Susan Rice peddled to the nation an agreed story she and the President and the Secretary of State knew was utterly false. Unlike her September 16th TV appearances, my September 14th column still holds up:
As I say, I'm inclined to be generous, and put some of this down to the natural torpor and ineptitude of government. But Hillary Clinton and General Martin Dempsey are guilty of something worse, in the secretary of state's weirdly obsessive remarks about an obscure film supposedly disrespectful of Mohammed and the chairman of the joint chiefs' telephone call to a private citizen asking him if he could please ease up on the old Islamophobia.
Forget the free-speech arguments. In this case, as Secretary Clinton and General Dempsey well know, the film has even less to do with anything than did the Danish cartoons or the schoolteacher's teddy bear or any of the other innumerable grievances of Islam. The 400-strong assault force in Benghazi showed up with RPGs and mortars: That's not a spontaneous movie protest; that's an act of war, and better planned and executed than the dying superpower's response to it. Secretary Clinton and General Dempsey are, to put it mildly, misleading the American people when they suggest otherwise.
One can understand why they might do this, given the fiasco in Libya. The men who organized this attack knew the ambassador would be at the consulate in Benghazi rather than at the embassy in Tripoli. How did that happen? They knew when he had been moved from the consulate to a "safe house," and switched their attentions accordingly. How did that happen? The United States government lost track of its ambassador for ten hours. How did that happen? Perhaps, when they've investigated Mitt Romney's press release for another three or four weeks, the court eunuchs of the American media might like to look into some of these fascinating questions, instead of leaving the only interesting reporting on an American story to the foreign press.
But the court eunuchs never did take an interest, and it would be foolish to expect them to now. Nevertheless, if Washington had a healthy media culture, the Ben Rhodes email outlining the Administration's four goals for Susan Rice's telly marathon would be devastating:
*To convey that the United States is doing everything that we can to protect our people and facilities abroad;
*To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy;
*To show that we will be resolute in bringing people who harm Americans to justice, and standing steadfast through these protests;
*To reinforce the President and Administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.
All four "goals" are bunk, but the second was an explicit lie.
Who was this colossus of Rhodes? He's not part of the State Department or the "intelligence community"; Ben Rhodes was a political guy in the White House. And it was the political guys who called the shots, rather than the diplomats or spooks or military or anyone else who knew what actually happened that night in the Libyan town of Benghazi, as opposed to the stage-set "Benghazi" the White House constructed and dressed with lies. Rhodes & Co "politicized" Benghazi because that's all these fellows know how to do:
To 'politicize' means 'to give a political character to.' It is a reductive term, capturing the peculiarly shrunken horizons of politics: 'Gee, they nuked Israel. D'you think that will hurt us in Florida?' So media outlets fret that Benghazi could be 'bad' for Obama — by which they mean he might be hitting the six-figure lecture circuit four years ahead of schedule. But for Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods, it's real bad. They're dead, over, gonesville. Given that Obama and Secretary Clinton refer to Stevens pneumatically as 'Chris,' as if they've known him since third grade, why would they dishonor the sacrifice of their close personal friend by peddling an utterly false narrative as to why he died? You want 'politicization'? Secretary Clinton linked the YouTube video to the murder of her colleagues even as the four caskets lay alongside her at Andrews Air Force Base — even though she had known for days that it had nothing to do with it. It's weird enough that politicians now give campaign speeches to returning coffins. But to conscript your 'friend"s corpse as a straight man for some third-rate electoral opportunism is surely as shriveled and worthless as "politicization" gets.
In the vice-presidential debate, asked why the White House spent weeks falsely blaming it on the video, Joe Biden took time off between big toothy smirks to reply: 'Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community.' That too is false.
That's from my column of October 11th 2012, after an extraordinary month in which the three most senior figures grew ever more brazen in their dishonesty, President Obama shoring up his fake narrative by warning the UN General Assembly that the future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam. The future's in no danger of belonging to him: that guy's in a California jail cell. The night of September 11th in Benghazi didn't belong to him, either - until Obama and Clinton decided he deserved the credit.
At 8:30 p.m., when Ambassador Stevens strolled outside the gate and bid his Turkish guest good night, the streets were calm and quiet. At 9:40 p.m., an armed assault on the compound began, well planned and executed by men not only armed with mortars but capable of firing them to lethal purpose — a rare combination among the excitable mobs of the Middle East. There was no demonstration against an Islamophobic movie that just got a little out of hand. Indeed, there was no movie protest at all. Instead, a U.S. consulate was destroyed and four of its personnel were murdered in one of the most sophisticated military attacks ever launched at a diplomatic facility.
This was confirmed by testimony to Congress a few days ago, although you could have read as much in my column of four weeks ago. Nevertheless, for most of those four weeks, the president of the United States, the secretary of state, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and others have persistently attributed the Benghazi debacle to an obscure YouTube video — even though they knew that the two events had nothing to do with each other by no later than the crack of dawn Eastern time on September 12, by which point the consulate's survivors had landed safely in Tripoli.
But anybody who was actually on the ground in Benghazi was now irrelevant to the story - unless you were in a casket. For the scene of their most shameless act of misdirection, the President and Secretary of State needed some extras. Non-speaking roles, of course:
In the most revealing glimpse of the administration's depravity, the president and secretary of state peddled the lie even in their mawkish eulogies to their buddy "Chris" and three other dead Americans. They lied to the victims' coffins and then strolled over to lie to the bereaved, Hillary telling the Woods family that 'we're going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.' And she did. The government dispatched more firepower to arrest Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in Los Angeles than it did to protect its mission in Benghazi. It was such a great act of misdirection Hillary should have worn spangled tights and sawn Stevens's casket in half.
As I wrote a week before the 2012 election:
And so Ty Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Chris Stevens were left to die, and a decision taken to blame an entirely irrelevant video and, as Secretary Clinton threatened, 'have that person arrested.' And, in the weeks that followed, the government of the United States lied to its own citizens as thoroughly and energetically as any totalitarian state, complete with the midnight knock on the door from not-so-secret policemen sent to haul the designated fall-guy into custody.
Decency, I argued, required that Obama & Co be voted out of office as an urgent act of political hygiene. The electorate felt differently. Democrat spinners openly giggle when a TV interviewer uses the word "Benghazi": It's a big nothingburger; the American people have, in that Clintonian formulation, "moved on"; this is the tired old "partisan politics as usual..."
The dying Los Angeles Times reported this story on its homepage (as a sidebar to 'Thirteen Great Tacos in Southern California') under the following headline: 'Partisan Politics Dominates House Benghazi Hearing.' In fact, everyone in this story is a Democrat or a career civil servant. Chris Stevens was the poster boy for Obama's view of the Arab Spring; he agreed with the president on everything that mattered. The only difference is that he wasn't in Vegas but out there on the front line, where Obama's delusions meet reality. Stevens believed in those illusions enough to die for them. One cannot say the same about the hollow men and women in Washington who sent him out there unprotected, declined to lift a finger when he came under attack, and in the final indignity subordinated his sacrifice to their political needs by lying over his corpse. Where's the 'partisan politics'? Obama, Clinton, Panetta, Clapper, Rice, and the rest did this to one of their own. And fawning court eunuchs, like the ranking Democrat at the hearings, Elijah Cummings, must surely know that, if they needed, they'd do it to them, too. If you believe in politics über alles, it's impressive, in the same way that Hillary's cocksure dismissal — 'What difference, at this point, does it make?' — is impressive.
But the embassy security chief, Eric Nordstrom, had the best answer to that: It matters because 'the truth matters' — not least to the Libyan president, who ever since has held the U.S. government in utter contempt. Truth matters, and character matters. For the American people to accept the Obama-Clinton lie is to be complicit in it.
In that sense, this week's emails are superfluous. The facts about Benghazi have been clear to anyone willing to see them, as those Autumn 2012 columns of mine illustrate. But the American people were disinclined to see them - like the dysfunctional rural family in that Sam Shepard play where everyone knows there's a baby buried in the backyard but they've all agreed not to talk about it.
Well, Benghazi's a long way away. Who cares? It's not like Washington's Libya policy makes any difference to the average guy in Des Moines, is it? Ah, but if you swallow Benghazi you're not really in any position to complain about the IRS or if-you-like-your-plan-you-can-keep-it or whatever's next down the pike, are you? Healthy political cultures punish the first lie - because otherwise it never stops.
And this wasn't a small lie. It was a bold, audacious lie on a date the American people are supposed to hold in sacred memory: 9/11. Nixon lied about a "third-rate burglary". But, as I told Hugh Hewitt earlier today, nobody died at Watergate. There weren't four bodies left on the floor. And the Administration didn't attempt to pin the quadruple murder on some other fellow entirely.
But that's exactly what the Obama crowd did.
Was it worth it? Silly question. For these guys, it's always worth it.
'Greater love hath no man than this,' quoth the President at Chris Stevens' coffin, 'that a man lay down his life for his friends.' Smaller love hath no man than Obama's - that he lay down his 'friend' for a couple of points in Ohio.
~Mark has more to say about Benghazi in his review of the film 13 Hours.
Later today he'll be hosting another live audio edition of our Clubland Q&A, taking questions from a Mark Steyn Club members around the planet - at 4pm Monday US Eastern Time/1pm Pacific. That's 9pm in the British Isles, 10pm in Europe, 11pm in the Middle East, the wee small hours (alas) for our Asian members, bright and early on Tuesday morning in Australia, and a somewhat more civilized hour in New Zealand and the rest of the Pacific. Do check back with our home page and have your questions ready to go when we go live, and Mark will try to get to as many as he can.
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