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The Real Blame for Deaths in Libya

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Cross-posted from Consortium News


Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight.

If you prefer charade to reality, inquisition to investigation, trees over forest -- the House Government Oversight Committee hearing last Tuesday on "Security Failures of Benghazi" was the thing for you.

The hearing was the latest example of the myopic negligence and misfeasance of elected representatives too personally self-absorbed -- and politically self-aggrandizing -- to head off misbegotten wars, and then too quick to blame everyone but themselves for the inevitable blowback.

The problem? One is that the partisan one-upmanship of committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, and others soft-pedaled the virtual certainty that the murder of four American officials in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, was a harbinger of more such killings to come. Worse still, few of the committee members seemed to care. "So what's the problem?" a friend asked, as I bemoaned the narrowly focused, thoroughly politicized charges and counter-charges at the hearing. "It's just a few weeks before the election; it's high political season; I found the whole farce entertaining."

As I listened to the inane discussion, I wanted to shout: "It's the policy, stupid!" The tightest security measures reinforced by squads of Marines cannot compensate for the fallout from a stupid policy of bombing and violent "regime change" in Libya and elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, one of Issa's top lieutenants, stated his "personal belief" that "with more assets, more resources, just meeting the minimum standards," the lives of the Americans could have been saved. Unfortunately for Chaffetz and Issa, their star witness, State Department Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom, shot a wide hole, so to speak, into Chaffetz's professed personal belief.

While joining with others in bemoaning State's repeated refusal to honor pleas from the field for additional security in Libya, Nordstrom admitted that, even with additional security forces, the attack would not have been prevented. Nordstrom, a 14-year veteran of State's Diplomatic Security Service, was quite specific:

"Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra half-dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault. The ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time in the Diplomatic Security Service."

For any but the most partisan listener this key observation punctured the festive, Issa/Chaffetz carnival balloon that had assigned most of the blame for the Benghazi murders to bureaucratic indifference of State Department functionaries in Washington.

Also falling rather flat were partisan attempts to exploit understandable inconsistencies in earlier depictions of the Benghazi attack and twist them into a soft pretzel showing that the Obama administration is soft on terrorism or conducting a "cover-up."

There is also the reality that diplomatic service in hostile parts of the world is never safe, especially after U.S. policy has stirred up or infuriated many of "the locals." For decades, as populations have chafed under what they regard as U.S. military and political interference, U.S. embassies and other outposts have become targets for attacks, some far more lethal than the one in Benghazi.

To recall just a few such incidents: Iranian resentment at longtime U.S. support for the Shah led to the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran under President Jimmy Carter; anger at U.S. involvement in Lebanon led to bombings of the U.S. Embassy and a U.S. Marine barracks killing more than 300 under President Ronald Reagan; U.S. embassies in Africa were bombed under President Bill Clinton; and the violence was brought to the U.S. mainland on 9/11 and also against numerous U.S. facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush.

John Brennan, the Avenger

However, in this political season, the Republicans want to gain some political advantage by stirring up doubts about President Barack Obama's toughness on terrorism -- and the Obama administration is looking for ways to blunt those rhetorical attacks by launching retaliatory strikes in Libya or elsewhere.

Thus, it was small comfort to learn that Teflon-coated John Brennan, Obama's counterterrorism adviser, had flown to Tripoli, hoping to unearth some interim Libyan government officials to consult with on the Benghazi attack. With the embassy's help, he no doubt identified Libyan officials with some claim to purview over "terrorism."

But Brennan is not about investigation. Retribution is his bag. It is likely that some Libyan interlocutor was brought forth who would give him carte blanche to retaliate against any and all those "suspected" of having had some role in the Benghazi murders.

So, look for "surgical" drone strike or Abbottabad-style special forces attack -- possibly before the Nov. 6 election -- on whomever is labeled a "suspect." Sound wild? It is. However, considering Brennan's penchant for acting-first-thinking-later, plus the entree and extraordinary influence he enjoys with President Obama, drone and/or special forces attacks are, in my opinion, more likely than not. (This is the same Brennan, after all, who compiles for Obama lists of nominees for assassination by drone.)

If in Tuesday's debate with ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Obama is pressed, as expected on his supposed weakness in handling Benghazi, attacks on "terrorists," real or "suspect," become still more likely. Brennan and other White House functionaries might succeed in persuading the President that such attacks would be just what the doctor ordered for his wheezing poll numbers.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of (more...)
 
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