Former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi yesterday. Aside from the partisan nature of many of the Representatives’ remarks (of both parties), today’s questioning in the morning session was handicapped by a limited scope — events in Benghazi and the State Department in the months leading up to the attack. But despite the narrow focus, a few useful things were brought out in the questioning, if not in the answers.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) tried to get to the big picture: why the U.S. was involved in Libya in the first place? Why the regime-change policy there? But even here, the question was too narrow, allowing Clinton to get away with her now-standard story line about Qaddafi’s threats to exterminate those opposing him, then Europeans and Arab leaders imploring the U.S. to stop him, and President Obama’s decision to support “our European allies.” The proper starting point is not Libya, but at least President Obama’s 2010 speeches in Cairo and elsewhere about authoritarian Muslim leaders being out of step with history, and the Obama Administration’s support for “civil society” organizations which drove “Arab Spring.” Thus Clinton could start her story with Qaddafi’s threats against the opposition, without the prior chapter telling how the “civil society” cannon fodder was set to take the casualties against dictators, yielding a “bloody shirt” to wave at the bad guys.
Roskam persisted, to his credit. After Clinton’s description of the Administration’s heroic effort, he asked Clinton about the significant opposition to a Libya intervention from people within the State Department, citing in particular Steven Mull, Executive Secretary of the Department of State, having said that even with the best of intentions, such military interventions rarely work out favorably for U.S. interests. Roskam continued that line of questioning, painting Clinton as having successively overcome such opposition at State, the White House (citing Biden, Gates, and the NSC), the U.N. (preventing a Russian veto), and the Arab League (with her recruiting the head of the League to her cause).
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) pointed what is actually Obama’s criminal responsibility for the Benghazi killings, by showing that a person, Wissam bin Hamid, described in a 9/11/12 cable from Amb. Stevens as having met with State’s representatives in Benghazi within 48 hours of the attack to discuss their security, had been described in a U.S. government report a month before as having fought in Iraq for al Qaeda.
Not stated was that this al Qaeda leader was the had of the Obama-supported group (Ansar al-Sharia) purportedly providing security to the US Embassy.
Also of note was the questioning of Clinton by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), beginning with his assertions that in the early hours of the attack, there were no references in U.S. government documents to a video, no mention of a protest demonstration in Benghazi. Jordan asked rhetorically, where did the fake narrative start? He noted that Sec. Clinton had made a statement at 10:08 pm on the night of the attack, about a video. Clinton’s explanation was, that the demonstrations and attacks at the Cairo and Tunis embassies that day were explicitly about the blasphemous video, and her statement was intended to put government leaders across the region on notice that they should not allow the video to be used as an excuse for further attacks on U.S. embassies.
Not satisfied this was the whole story, Jordan displayed and read some of Clinton’s emails from the night of 9/11/12, to her family, to the President of Libya, and the Prime Minister of Egypt, which variously said that these were planned terrorist attacks and/or citing al Qaeda involvement. Five days later, Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk shows asserting that it all grew out of a demonstration in Benghazi against the video. Clinton gave a “fog of war” answer, about different information having been received and investigated by the intelligence community, without explaining her apparent certainty in the emails about what had happened in Benghazi. Rep. Jordan gave his hypothesis that what was going on with the public statements was driven by the importance to the Obama Administration, in the middle of a re-election campaign, of its supposed success in Libya.
The climax of this line of question was later, when a Congresswoman asked Hillary whether she had spoken to Obama that evening. “Yes,” she responded. She refused to answer the next question: “What did he say to you?”