Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took “responsibility” for the Benghazi attacks. In one sense, she is right, of course. Four of her people were killed. Her department denied them additional security. But to what extent is she responsible for:
The failure to recognize that Libya had become a dangerous hotbed of jihadists? Certainly the intelligence community, the national security adviser and the president himself should have recognized the deteriorating situation, especially when the International Red Cross pulled up stakes. Yet they continued to turn a blind eye toward the descent into chaos.
The remarks of the White House press secretary on Sept. 14, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s five TV appearances on Sept. 16, the president’s Sept. 20 Univision interview and the president’s Sept. 25 United Nations speech in which the false narrative that the attacks were spurred by an anti-Muslim video was propounded? Now, Clinton or her department might have been a participant in vetting and preparing for these (we don’t yet know). But she was not the sole person, obviously, available to vet a presidential speech or alert the White House that the best intelligence after just a day or so pointed to an organized al-Qaeda operation. Indeed because so many people would be involved in such efforts, we have to believe that everyone got it wrong for a very long time, unless the White House decided to perpetuate the least damaging explanation for the attacks it could muster (until Election Day, at any rate).
The Libya “lead from behind strategy” which left the war-torn country in chaos and at the mercy of jihadists? Clinton is the least culpable on this one. She was one of the principal figures pushing the United States to do something about Libya. But the foot-dragging, the decision to off-load decision-making to the Arab League and delegate operations to NATO were all part of White House policy that wanted to diminish U.S. involvement and leave the heavy lifting to others. As a result, al-Qaeda was much better “established” in the country than the United States, according to Lt. Col. Andrew Wood in his sworn testimony before a House committee.
Touting that we had al-Qaeda on the run, and the war on terror was effectively over? Clinton, in my recollection, did little or none of this exaggerated puffery. It was the president and his political spinners who concocted the argument that the assassination of Osama bin Laden was tantamount to the destruction of al-Qaeda.
The media and the public love when someone finally steps forward to shoulder blame. But let’s be clear, Clinton ONLY said: “I take responsibility. I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision.”(Emphasis added.)
Others are responsible as well for the fiasco, most especially the president. It’s not enough for him to generically say “Yes, the buck really does stop with me and not Hillary.” He should tell the country what he knew, when he knew it, what decisions he made that affected the fate of the American diplomats, why he continued to perpetuate a fake explanation for the attacks and whether he still considers Libya to be a success in “leading from behind.” Fortunately, we have two national debates in which he can do all that.