Benghazi reactions: Commentary, opinion and analysis

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
–Abraham Lincoln, (attributed)

Commentary and Opinion on Benghazi

Jonah Goldberg (op-ed), “Benghazi’s smoking guns; There’s an arsenal worth, from testimony at congressional hearings to the State Department’s flawed internal review to the four dead Americans,” Los Angles Times, May 14, 2013.

Thomas Sowell, “Lies, darn lies and Benghazi,” The Patriot-News (Penn.), May 16, 2013 (updated May 16, 2013 at 8:16 AM).

Scott Wilson, “Benghazi e-mails released by White House,” Washington Post, May 15, 2013 (at 5:20 pm). The article contains a link to the e-mails that were released.

Peggy Noonan, “The Inconvenient Truth About Benghazi Did the Obama administration’s politically expedient story cost American lives?” The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2013 (Updated 6:41 p.m. ET).

Brett Stephens, “The Kissinger Question: Does America need a foreign policy? Obama thinks not,” Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2013 (8:35 p.m. ET)

Charles Krauthammer, “Redacted truth, subjunctive outrage,” Washington Post, May 17, 2013.

Analysis

The so-called “Benghazi talking points” are merely the symbol, the tip of the iceberg so to speak, for something much bigger.

Credibility

We now know that the Obama administration deceived the American people about Benghazi.

We now know how the Obama administration deceived the American people about Benghazi.

We now know that the initial deception, represented by Susan Rice’s talk show appearances on September 16, was followed by other deceptions, by a cover-up of the initial deception. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press, for example, that the White House made only one or two stylistic changes to the talking points, such as using another term instead of the “consulate” in Benghazi (there was no consulate, just a CIA black operation).

But we now know, from the e-mails regarding the Benghazi talking points that have been released, that the White House insisted that the State Department’s concerns be taken into account, that a Principals Deputies Committee meeting was held (under National Security Council procedures) on September 15, hours before the talking points were given to Susan Rice on the eve of her Sunday talk show appearances, that the State Department pushed hard for the elimination of any references to prior warnings about the tenuous situation in Benghazi, or to the involvement of terrorist organizations or al-Qaeda affiliates in the attacks, and that the talking points that emerged from that Deputies meeting adhered to the State Department’s demands.

We now know that the Obama administration employs the massive apparatus of the state to manage the news, subjecting something as straightforward as telling the American people why and how four Americans, including their Ambassador, were killed in Benghazi on September 11-12, 2013, to endless convolutions of negotiated texts which had as their aim to downplay or obfuscate the known facts: the attacks in Benghazi were carried out by terrorist organizations with links to al-Qaeda, including Ansar al-Sharia.

We now know that we cannot take anything Jay Carney or Barack Obama says at face value. We must examine the assertion further.

President Obama’s credibility is in a free fall, whereas that of his press secretary has already hit the earth, shattered. Obama doesn’t understand these facts. Until he does, and takes forceful corrective action, his presidency will be crippled.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Incompetence

Beneath this tip of the iceberg, the release of the e-mails reveals a shocking level of incompetence in the White House foreign policy team’s management of the Benghazi talking points and crisis. They were concerned about the the prejudicial impact of statements based on the talking points, for example, on judicial proceedings that might result from the FBI’s investigation into who was behind the attack!

Wait a minute!

Since when does the U.S. government ascertain who is behind events in foreign countries through an FBI investigation? Doesn’t the FBI investigate crimes within the U.S., and aren’t the CIA, other intelligence agencies, and the State Department responsible for reporting on the causes of events abroad? To be sure, the FBI may be called in when its special expertise is needed, as in the USS Cole investigation in Yemen in 2000, though in retrospect even that precedent raises serious questions.

But what utter incompetence and confusion can explain the fact that the Obama administration, in response to a terrorist attack on what was essentially a CIA operation in Benghazi, resulting in the deaths of four Americans including the Ambassador, assigned responsibility for ascertaining who was behind and participated in the attack to…the FBI?

With regard to Benghazi, we seem to have encountered the perfect marriage of supreme incompetence and politically motivated manipulation of the facts presented to the American people.

The situation is much worse than we thought.

Democrats Must Come Forward

This is not ultimately, or at least should not be, a partisan issue.

For the good of the Republic, one can only hope that Democrats will now come forward to force the president to look at and face the facts, as others see them (including impartial observers who have been paying attention to the details), and to quickly take whatever actions may be necessary both to organize his foreign policy team so that competent people are in charge, and to revamp his communications strategy and personnel in order to restore his credibility, starting by shooting straight with the American people.

The country needs a bi-partisan foreign policy. Attention to the details of the questions and the administrations’s responses should be the standard by which both the questioner and the administration are judged, not the party affiliation of the questioner involved.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.