Terrible failures of judgment led to the deaths of four Americans at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, eight months ago. But the Obama administration’s failure to give a complete — and honest — account about what went so tragically wrong before, during and after that terrorist attack is as troubling as that series of awful mistakes.
Simply put, the evidence points to a calculated betrayal of the public trust. Testimony to a House committee on Wednesday made a persuasive case that the administration engaged in a deliberate campaign of deception for two weeks after last Sept. 11’s terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate.
The administration repeatedly — and evidently knowingly — misrepresented the facts about the attack, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
On Wednesday, Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of the U.S. mission at the embassy in Tripoli, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the U.S. personnel at the Benghazi facility rapidly — and accurately — concluded they were under terrorist attack. He said that reality was quickly reported to the powers that be in the State Department.
Yet Mr. Hicks added that five days after the attack he was “stunned” and “embarrassed” by United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice’s false assertions, on five Sunday television news shows, that it was the result of a “spontaneous” protest of a “hateful video” that mocked Islam.
Mr. Hicks testified that when he contacted Beth Jones, acting assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, to object to Amb. Rice’s bogus story, her “tone” indicated “that I should not proceed further.”
Mr. Hicks also told the panel that when U.S. forces at Aviano (Italy) Air Base and a team of special forces in Tripoli were told to stand down rather than rush to the Benghazi rescue, the military personnel were “furious.”
Keep in mind, any attack on a U.S. diplomatic installation is tantamount to an attack on the United States itself.
Mr. Hicks testified that he was instructed by superiors at State not to meet with a congressional delegation investigating the Benghazi attack — and that Cheryl Mills, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, later told him the secretary was “upset” that he had done so.
Mr. Hicks, a 22-year State Department veteran, was subsequently demoted from deputy mission chief to “desk officer.” However, by Sept. 25, the weight of obvious truth forced the administration to concede that the terrorist attack was, well, a terrorist attack.
Still, the administration has remained less than forthcoming on important details about Benghazi — including who gave the orders for our military teams to stand down, and who was responsible for the creation and perpetuation of that initial, phony “protest” narrative.
White House spokesman Jay Carney even summoned considerable gall Wednesday to chastise GOP lawmakers for trying to “politicize” the topic.
That’s rich, coming from an administration that concocted a self-serving fiction about a terrorist attack that occurred eight weeks before voters decided whether to give the president another term.
As for former Secretary Clinton, during her own testimony before a Senate committee in late January, she memorably expressed frustration about the outrage in Benghazi: “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”
She did continue with this answer: “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”
Yes, it is.
It’s also the job of Congress to facilitate that task — and to keep demanding the full truth about not just what happened before and during that terror attack, but after it.