Monday, May 13, 2013

What is the Benghazi Scandal About?

According to Politico, House Speaker John Boehner is so obsessed with the Benghazi affair that he is ignoring everything else to focus on it. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe says Obama may well be impeached over it.

Can I just say that I have no idea what this scandal is about?

As I understand it: on the night of September 11, 2012, four American diplomats in Benghazi were killed in an attack by Islamic radicals. The first statement to the public from the State Department, read by Susan Rice, said that the attack was triggered by the same anti-Muslim video that touched off riots around the Middle East on the same day. This, it seems, was not true. Recently released emails show that this statement was disputed between State and the CIA, which wanted different wording. The compound where the diplomats were attacked was run by the CIA; although the first news reports called it a "consulate," this ruse was eventually dropped.

In October, Fox News reported that some military asset -- possibly CIA agents, possibly a Delta Force team -- that wanted to go to the aid of the attacked compound was told to "stand down." This allegation has been rebutted up and down the military chain of command and by the CIA, but somehow it refuses to die.

At various times, various people in the administration have said things about this incident that are not entirely true.

So far as I can tell, that's it.

If Obama were to be impeached over this, what would the charge be? Saying not entirely true things about a diplomatic screw-up? If that is a "high crime," there has never been an innocent politician. And why is Speaker Boehner obsessed with this? What does he hope to gain by talking non-stop about a minor tragedy in a CIA compound in Libya? Is it just that he wants to make Obama and Hillary look bad, or does he really think there is a great constitutional issue somewhere underneath all the confusion?

If there was an evil plan to sacrifice these men by delaying aid, what was the purpose of the plan? If there was a "cover up," what has been covered up? It seems to me that all the real news about the attack was released within a few weeks, which is no longer than it usually takes to get a straight story on complicated events. No doubt the emerging story was distorted because some people were more interested in covering their asses than telling the whole truth about an ambassador's death; that's news?

I ask these things in puzzlement. I work hard to understand the people I disagree with; I think I have some understanding of young earth fundamentalism and gun mania and laissez faire economics. But I do not understand what this Benghazi business is about.

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