Time To Move On From The Obama Benghazi Scandal Hunt

Associated Press story dated November 21, 2014:

A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

The AP story went on to say that the latest Benghazi investigation was “debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies.”

Although this investigation was the seventh launched by Republicans, none of which have identified any wrong doing, that apparently is not enough. The eighth has already been authorized by Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner. A case, I suppose, of “if at first you don’t succeed…”

After seven investigations, still no scandal

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton addressing the Benghazi attack

Speaking of the never-ending series of congressional probes led by Republicans seeking to find an administration scandal in the tragic events of Benghazi, President Obama dismissed their efforts, saying “there’s no there, there.” So far, after the intense scrutiny of seven investigations led by politicians who are highly motivated to pin a scandal on the Administration, no one has proved him wrong.

The Oxford Dictionaries define scandal as, “an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.” Although media personalities habitually speak of the “Benghazi scandal,” no evidence has so far been revealed proving legal or moral wrongdoing; and certainly, to this point, widespread public outrage has yet to appear.

To see why the Benghazi attack does not qualify as a real scandal, let’s look at what is currently known about this incident.

Serious errors were made at Benghazi

There’s no dispute that grossly inadequate security contributed to the deaths of four Americans attacked by militants in Benghazi. That is the conclusion of an investigation by the independent Accountability Review Board chaired by highly respected Retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen.

Concluding that “systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” of the State Department lead to an inadequate security posture on the ground, the ARB issued 29 recommendations for changes. Then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, supported by the President, pledged that all would be implemented.

The Administration admits the errors and pledges to correct them

President Obama himself pledged that there would be no attempt by his administration to evade responsibility for the errors (the ARB found no evidence that any official deliberately failed to act responsibly). “We’re not going to be defensive about it,” he said. “This was a huge problem, and we’re going to implement every single recommendation that’s been put forward.”

No deliberate wrongdoing relating to the attack has so far been uncovered

The fact that serious mistakes contributed to a tragic outcome does not indicate scandal, but human fallibility. So far, no evidence of deliberate or culpable malfeasance by administration officials has be put forward by anyone, and the administration has moved quickly to correct the errors that were made.

That there is no scandal to be found in events surrounding the actual attack seems to be conceded by Republicans in that they have focused very little of their investigatory effort on the attack itself, and almost all of it on the talking points put forward by the administration after the attack occurred.

Republicans see a cover-up in the Administration’s talking points

The point of contention is whether the administration engaged in a cover-up by not initially publicizing the fact that the attack was not a spontaneous mob action, but a well planned assault by organized militants. This supposedly deliberate misrepresentation by the administration is claimed to have been motivated by fear that the knowledge that four Americans had been killed by terrorists would have hurt the president’s chances for reelection.

No evidence proving a cover-up has ever been found

The problem for scandal seekers is that even after investigations by multiple GOP-led congressional committees, testimony by numerous State Department staffers, including the Secretary of State, and the release and examination of thousands of administration email communications, no credible evidence of the supposed cover-up has emerged. Even Republicans are beginning to urge that it’s time to move on.

For example, Ed Rogers, writing in the Washington Post under the headline “Enough Benghazi already,” observed, “We (Republicans) also need to recognize that we aren’t impressing anyone — except maybe a small subset of our base — when we see things that no one else sees and declare any fact that is inconsistent with the narrative we want to be wrong, manufactured or somehow previously unknown and explosive.”

It’s time to admit that Benghazi was a tragedy from which we must learn lessons to prevent it ever happening again, but not a scandal that merits investigation after investigation at the expense of attention to other public issues.

 

Photo credit: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson via Wikipedia (public domain)


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