Saturday, May 4, 2013

Thoughts on Benghazi

Background: I left the Foreign Service in 2007 to take care of my growing family and because I'd been told my career would be harmed if I didn't do a dangerous, unaccompanied tour in Baghdad or Kabul. I was told this while a breastfeeding, working mother doing all I could to meet both family and work obligations. In joining the State Department, I signed up for a civilian job, not to work in a war zone. I accepted "worldwide availability" and served with a good will in two polluted, high-crime cities during my time with the State Department. In my resignation letter to Secretary Condoleezza Rice, I noted that Foreign Service career requirements were no longer within the bounds of what one expects in a civilian job. State's bureaucracy chose to categorize my resignation as "for family reasons" and not deal with my complaint about sending diplomats to overly dangerous areas.

Forward to six months ago: We had State Department personnel in an under-protected consulate in Benghazi, Libya who were attacked, and we lost some dedicated people. For some unknown but likely political reason, administration spokespeople (specifically Susan Rice from State) tried to blame the attack on a spontaneous crowd protesting a video on YouTube rather than telling the truth about it having been terrorism (on September 11th...imagine that...). The previously unknown maker of that video was quickly arrested and is still sitting in jail in the USA for a probation violation.

Few in the mainstream media have kept talking about what happened in Benghazi because it is clear that the Obama administration doesn't want to talk about it. A White House spokesperson recently said "it happened a long time ago" (six months), and Hillary Clinton in January passionately said in a Congressional hearing, "What difference at this point does it make?" (right after again downplaying the terrorism aspect of the attack by trying to make the Benghazi attack sound as though it could have been spontaneous). I admit to having started to think that maybe those still talking about Benghazi were just doing it for political reasons. I was wrong. Benghazi is a big deal in that it reveals 1) ineptitude and dishonesty at the highest levels of the current administration, and 2) a lack of courage at the highest levels of the current administration when faced with an urgent need and then a failure to protect individual Americans at our diplomatic posts abroad.

My change of mind on Benghazi came from reading this CBS article from November 1, 2012. No, this isn't Fox news or Glenn Beck. Yes, somehow, I missed it back in November. Apparently, we had an interagency task force designed to deal with events like the attack on our Benghazi consulate. But it wasn't convened. Apparently, we had an ability to send a rescue team to the consulate within four hours, but we didn't use it. Instead, the administration dithered. Apparently, counterterrorism officials knew almost immediately that the attack was a terrorist attack, but Susan Rice fed the nation a lie about it being a spontaneous crowd reaction to a video.

I have many former colleagues whose service in dangerous areas I respect and honor. I fear that our President and his highest officials do/did not similarly honor them. They have shown they cannot make tough decisions quickly to protect State Department civilians under attack. They have shown that they will lie about the circumstances of such attacks to the nation. The State Department definitely leans left and Democrat, but that didn't get its employees treated right by Obama or H. Clinton when it really counted. Of course, our executive branch should meet its responsibilities to all its employees, no matter their political leanings, but if even a supportive department like State gets its employees abandoned during a terrorist attack and then is used to disseminate lies domestically for political reasons, the current Presidential administration deserves to be the recipient of greatly diminished trust in its integrity and abilities.

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