We conservatives are fond of attacking Hillary Clinton over the tragedy that was Benghazi and the death of four Americans at the hands of terrorists, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. That is one side of the story, but it goes much deeper than Benghazi and the ensuing cover-up (more on this is a bit).
In reaction to the US-led operation in Iraq, the Libyan strongman dictator had given up his infant nuclear and WMD program. In the aftermath of 9/11 there were also reports that Libya was actually cooperating with US intelligence in the war on terror. So why the US intervention?
All reports indicate that Obama and several high-ranking national security advisers were against any military intervention in Libya. They were issuing warnings before a single Tomahawk cruise missile was launched that the US would be lurching into an area where unintended consequences would take over. We knew little about the opposition although we knew that Egypt and Qatar had been shipping weapons to rebels in Libya with the blessing of the US State Department.
France and Britain were pushing hard for a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya. National security adviser, Susan Rice, had been pushing back against such a move arguing that if it came to pass, the US would be obliged to support the Franco-British “shitty war” in Libya. She reiterated that the US had no stomach for this.
But this underlies another weakness in Clinton and Obama’s national security team. In short, they misunderstood America’s commitment to allies. The US is not obliged to support every military adventure by its allies. However, there was one hurdle to overcome a UN Security Council resolution and that was Russia. Enter Hillary Clinton who assured her Russian counterpart that the purpose of any action was to ensure Gaddafi would not slaughter his own people and the goal was not regime change. With those personal assurances, Russia abstained and the Resolution passed giving legal justification for the bombardment by NATO forces on Gaddafi’s forces. This was more than merely establishing a no-fly zone.
Just nine days after the action began, Obama himself declared that the action would last days (it took seven months) and that regime change was not its goal. He claimed that the US was playing a limited role (a lie) and that it was a NATO action (only eight of NATO’s 28 members participated). This was followed up with the same assertions the next day when State Department officials testified before the Senate.
After Gaddafi was deposed, a triumphant Hillary Clinton visited Tripoli and declared, “I am proud to stand here on the soil of a free Libya.” It certainly was “free-” an open and free invitation to terrorists, including ISIS. When chaos ensued, we abandoned our embassy in Tripoli where today terrorists still seek refuge from the heat in the embassy’s pool.
Like Bush in Iraq- something Clinton criticized the former President over- there was no post-Gaddafi plan. The rebel groups were never properly vetted. And this is where Clinton’s actions consummate the adage that two wrongs do not make a right.
In the chaos after Gaddafi’s brutal death, it became apparent that terrorist groups were infiltrating Libya to take advantage of that chaos. Chris Stevens, the ambassador to Libya and employee of the State Department who answers to the Secretary of State, had issued several warnings and sought increased security. Some of those warnings went unheeded where Clinton later blamed Republican budget cuts. Besides, there was something more important to worry about. This is where a scheme was hatched to kill two birds with one stone.
Demonstrations in Damascus and throughout Syria were being met with brutal repression by Assad and the so-called Arab Spring in Syria had broken out into civil war. Asserting that Assad must go, the US quietly was supporting rebels in Syria through intermediaries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates who were bankrolling arms purchases. Those arms were coming from Libya.
With the situation spiraling out of control in Libya, officials in the US, based on reports from Stevens, became concerned that terrorists who had totally infiltrated the anti-Gaddafi forces would get their hands on the decimated Libyan military’s weapons. What better way to arm the rebels in Syria than spiriting those weapons out of Libya to the rebels? The point man for these weapons purchases and transportation was none other than Chris Stevens. Since Benghazi was the only workable safe port for these purposes, the CIA assisted in these efforts which explains why there was a CIA complex in Benghazi. Ships were loaded and sent to Turkey or Qatar and then transported into Syria mainly through Turkey, but also Jordan.
On the day Stevens was killed, he had met with the Turkish ambassador to Libya to facilitate a $200 million arms shipment. Now comes Hillary Clinton’s biggest, most audacious lie; she claimed no knowledge of the arms transfers arranged by her employee, Chris Stevens.
Admittedly, the CIA is a powerful organization but those powers are limited. Considering that Stevens was a career diplomat within the State Department, it is ludicrous to suggest that something as big as a $200 million arms shipments was done without the knowledge of the Secretary of State. By denying any knowledge of these now well-documented shipments, Clinton was suggesting that Stevens was “going rogue.” That is beneath contempt to throw a dead ambassador under the bus in such a manner.
Not only did she lie to the families of the four slain Americans in Benghazi, but she was also lying about any State Department knowledge of the actions of a high-profile, experienced, and well-liked career State Department employee.
Performing her best impression of Julius Caesar, despite the denials that regime change was the ultimate goal in Libya, she gloated “We came, we saw, he died” in reference to Gaddafi. Yes- he was a dictator, but the United States has dealt with dictators in the past, including less cooperative ones. What Clinton created was a vacuum in Libya that allowed it to become an oasis for terrorists who behead Christians on the beaches. It also created a humanitarian crisis and a refugee crisis miles from the shores of Italy and Europe.
It is easy to criticize the opposition for failure to pay heed to the law of unintended consequences as Clinton did with Bush and Iraq. But whereas Bush acknowledged failure and took action to correct that “wrong,” Clinton cut and ran from Libya leaving it the mess it is today. And unlike Bush, Clinton lied the whole way through this sordid affair.