The Republicans are determined not to let their trumped up, clearly partisan-based outrage on the attack on the Benghazi consulate go down the memory hole, like so many of the Republican failures of the last dozen years. Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Rep Darrell Issa promised brand new information to CBS News on Benghazi attack.
So the CBS News breathlessly brings on Issa to deliver this new information which will implicate the Obama administration in this great conspiracy that will no doubt bring the presidency down.
This great new information? It's testimony from US deputy chief of mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks. The problem? Hicks wasn't in Benghazi at the time of the attacks and has no actual idea what happened. Everything he testified about was his suppositions based on reports. The same reports that have issued forth in the months after the attack.
"I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning," Greg Hicks, a 22-year foreign service diplomat who was the highest-ranking U.S. official in Libya after the strike, told investigators under authority of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Hicks, the former U.S. Embassy Tripoli deputy chief of mission, was not in Benghazi at the time of the attack, which killed Chris Stevens - then the U.S. ambassador to Libya - and three other Americans.
When he appears this week before the committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Hicks is expected to offer testimony at odds with what some American officials were saying in public - and on "Face the Nation" - just five days after the attack. Benghazi whistleblowers have rallied attention to discrepancies among the administration's reaction to the attack, which The Weekly Standard suggests was frayed by ever-evolving talking points that sought to remove references to al Qaeda.
On Sept. 16, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice hit the media circuit, appearing on all five Sunday talk shows to dispel the notion that the strike was a premeditated terrorist act and to perpetuate the case that it began "spontaneously" out of protests in Egypt. Rice's spot on "Face the Nation" that day was preceded by the new President of Libya Mohammed al-Magariaf, who said his government had "no doubt that this was preplanned, predetermined."
"For there to have been a demonstration on Chris Stevens's front door and him not to have reported it is unbelievable," he said. "I never reported a demonstration; I reported an attack on the consulate. Chris - Chris's last report, if you want to say his final report - is, 'Greg, we are under attack.'
"...I've never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career, as on that day," Hicks continued in his interview with investigators. "The net impact of what has transpired is, [Rice,] the spokesperson of the most powerful country in the world, has basically said that the president of Libya is either a liar of doesn't know what he's talking about. ....My jaw hit the floor as I watched this."
Though the White House has said it was in contact with officials in Libya the night of the attack, Hicks said in the days following, he was never consulted about the talking points. One day after Rice's Sunday show blitz, Hicks said he called Beth Jones, acting assistant secretary for near eastern affairs at the State Department, and asked, "Why did Amb. Rice say that?" The tone of her answer - "I don't know," he said - indicated that "I perhaps asked a question that I should not have asked."
The net impact of Rice's statements, Hicks said, was "immeasurable." On top of his personal belief that "the reason it took us so long to get the FBI to Benghazi is because of those Sunday talk shows," he said, Magariaf lost face "in front of not only his own people, but the world" at a time of democratic transition in his country. He added, "I have heard from a friend who had dinner with President Magariaf in New York City that he was still angry at Amb. Rice well after the incident."
Notice anything particularly evidentiary about Hicks' testimony? It's "unbelievable" that Stevens didn't call in a demonstration? Rice's statements have caused "immeasurable" damage? Um, hearsay anyone? Why is Hicks' opinion any more compelling than anyone else not actually there?
You know what I noticed didn't get mentioned in Schieffer's interview of Issa? The seven other attacks on US consulates between the years of 2002 and 2008 that haven't got Republicans' collective knickers in a bunch:
Benghazi was not unique. There have been eights attacks on six different U.S. consulates in and around the Mideast since the 9/11 attack. They include:
And what role Congress itself played:
Congress also shares a portion of the blame for the fate of Ambassador Stevens and the three others killed:
The State Department is still reeling from deep cuts made by Senate and House appropriations panels to the Obama administration’s budget requests for next year, with some officials warning of national security risks. (2011-10-01)
The quote seems particular damning, but read the whole article. There was an 22% across the board cut, but a separate request for spending on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan was approved. Including the separate request the State Department budget was still down $3.5 billion from the prior year, a very short sighted move given that Arab Spring was only ten months old at the time the decision was made.
Three autocratic governments blown away, two countries sliding into sectarian conflict, two others facing massive protests, and four that were compeled to introduce reforms by their restive population. And the response from Congress to this seismic shift? Budget cuts.
But yes, let's all wring our hands over Gregory Hicks' feelings and assumptions. It's so much easier than taking an honest look at Benghazi.