It’s time for another Saturday Morning Cartoon! This week, Ramirez drew this brilliant cartoon criticizing Hillary Clinton for her wording during the Benghazi testimony the other day. The names on the gravestones are, of course, those killed in Benghazi, and he’s trying his hardest to imply that she’s saying their lives don’t matter. She’s dismissing them as she sits atop their dead bodies. Not only that, though, but the bottom line implies that it was directly responsible for their death, that their lives could have been saved if there had not been confusion over what happened.
Instead, if you just see or hear the full context of that quote, it brings things into a completely different light. “We were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that” Ron Johnson (a man who didn’t even go to the Benghazi briefing) had accused her at the hearing, “and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact.”
This was her full response to that:
With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator. (Video 2 on this page)
As you can see, she very much believes that those four dead Americans matter. You can hear her voice crack as she speaks of their funerals and talking with their families. They do matter to her, and the heart of the real fight right now, for her, is making sure that it doesn’t happen again.
What she’s saying is that it doesn’t matter whether the motive was the video, or whether terrorists decided to kill Americans for no concrete reason. The end result is exactly the same in either case. People died, and security and protocol should be examined. She’s doing just that in making sure we implement all 29 of the Accountability Review Board’s recommendations. She turned those recommendations into 64 actions, and 85% of them are scheduled to be finished by the end of March. That’s good leadership there. When a problem happens, you get to the bottom of why and reform things. You can read the entire ARB report here.
Realistically, this semantics discussion has never mattered, and certainly hasn’t lead to anyone’s death. Republicans seemed to have latched onto it from the very beginning to try and beat Obama, first in the election, and now just so they don’t lose their foreign policy credibility to him and his administration. Mitt Romney came out hours after the events, before really knowing anything, and was already criticizing the administration. Luckily, he absolutely bombed that. Then, it was used in the debates, ultimately leading to Obama’s famous “look at the transcript” line. It became a case where if you repeat a lie for long enough you begin to believe it. Obama is soft on terrorism, so it it must be true. Obama didn’t call this an act of terrorism. That also must be true.
The critique of this specific incident seems to morph as time goes on, and, despite the realization that he really did call it an act of terror, the “we were misled” rhetoric still continues. Not only are they saying that things were wrong, but that the administration purposefully got them wrong. What’s odd is that if you look at the information you can tell that things weren’t all that wrong, and there’s very little chance or motive for the administration to purposefully get them wrong.
Most of this centers on Susan Rice and her comments on the Sunday News shows. Well, here’s exactly what she said on Meet the Press:
Well, let us– let me tell you the– the best information we have at present. First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing. And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired. But putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of– of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video. What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode. Obviously, that’s– that’s our best judgment now. We’ll await the results of the investigation. And the president has been very clear–we’ll work with the Libyan authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
First off, she carefully says before each one of these shows that this is the best information that they have at present, and that there’s an investigation. Right off the bat she’s admitting that things could be wrong and there absolutely isn’t a definitive word yet. The best conclusion at that time, though, was that this happened as an opportunistic response somewhat like what happened in Cairo, and extremists took over a protest. Now we know that there wasn’t ever a “peaceful” protest there, but that’s not really a huge mislead, and it’s certainly an easy mistake to make in this circumstance. As you should know a relatively peaceful protest in America is generally done weapon free (unless you’re a part of the Tea Party, I suppose). A protest in a country like Libya which had just experienced a rather large revolution and weapons of all kinds were freely available to anyone a protest, even just against the video, might look rather different.
According to a senior intelligence official, the conclusions on the attackers were based on the fact that the attackers had watched the protests in Cairo and talked about them beforehand, and this connection was reiterated in a report for the House intelligence committee. He described the events like this:
The attackers were disorganized; some seemed more interested in looting. Some who claimed to have participated joined the attack as it began or after it was under way. There is no evidence of rehearsals, they never got into the safe room . . . never took any hostages, didn’t bring explosives to blow the safe room door, and didn’t use a car bomb to blow the gates.
And he described the attackers as a flash mob with weapons Another article says it was carried out with a minimum of planning and describes the crowd as follows:
Libyan guards who served as the security force at the U.S. compound said the mob was made up of disparate types, some who appeared to be experienced fighters and others who were not. There were long-bearded men whose faces were obscured by scarves in the style of practiced militants and called each other “sheik.” But there also were younger men, some who looked like teenagers with wispy beards on their uncovered faces.
Those aren’t exactly light years different from what Susan Rice was telling us on the shows, are they? The connections are just a bit looser and our normal imagery of what constitutes a protest might be part of what is misleading us, too. You could realistically just take out the line, “almost a copycat of– of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video,” from what she said and it would be pretty much true. Horrible events in our own country often get conflicting reports until after an investigation is done, and often that investigation still has holes in it. The fact is that this was a jumbled event in a chaotic post-revolutionary country. A flash mob of people came, attacked the embassy, and killed people. The end result in either scenario is also the same. We find and bring to justice those who perpetrated the attack, whether they were doing it alongside some spontaneous protesters or just taking a walk and deciding to kill Americans.
The response in real time, also what really matters, saved people’s lives. As Clinton pointed out in her testimony, the review panel said that the response saved lives, and there were “No delays in decision making. No denials of support from Washington or from the military.” That’s great, and it’s also reassuring. Realistically you can’t hang your hat on nothing ever happening, especially in some of these volatile countries. We will be attacked, and people will be killed. As Clinton put it:
Of course, the list of attacks foiled, crises averted, and lives saved is even longer. We should never forget that our security professionals get it right 99 percent of the time, against difficult odds all over the world. That’s why, like my predecessors, I trust them with my life.
All that doesn’t stop Rand Paul from blowing things greatly out of proportion. No, Rand Paul, Hillary shouldn’t have been fired for this, and this wasn’t the worst tragedy since 9/11, either. As Rick Ungar points out rather well in his OP/ED for Forbes, we’ve had 4,488 casualties in Iraq since that war began. That’s a war that was at least partially built on misleading the American public. As I said before, even if you buy that we were misled on Benghazi, the results of that misleading aren’t a whole lot different than the results would be otherwise. The results of being misled on Iraq, however, lead to the deaths of four thousand people. What’s the greater tragedy? And yes, I’ve heard a few Republicans speak up about Iraq, but not with the sort of spit and fervor that Benghazi seems to bring out. It’s obviously political, and it’s obviously partisan. At this point, too, it’s pretty obviously sickening.
The difference between life and death is using this incident and these 4 dead Americans to figure out what went wrong, and changing the bureaucracy, policy, and security to try and make sure that this doesn’t happen again. The difference between life and death is not delving into borderline conspiracy theories on the off chance it’ll pull your political opponents downward and restore your own credibility. These partisan critics need to quit their “Monday Morning Quarterbacking,” especially since now we don’t even trust most them to do the real quarterbacking.