Sunday, May 18, 2014

What Really Should Be Done About Benghazi

Not holding another hearing in the US House of Representatives to investigate who determined or approved of Susan Rice's talking points for a Sunday morning TV talk show in Fall 2012, which represented CIA views, and which in fact were pretty close to the facts, that the attack on the State Department building (not really a consulate) and the CIA building there was inspired by the video that had set off riots in many other Muslim cities around the world, most dramatically in Cairo a few hours earlier.  It is taken for granted by those on the committee, and even many Democrats, that this claim was false, but it now appears to be substantially true, although the CIA and Ansar-es-Shariah had been engaging in a covert battle for some months in the city, which the CIA wished to cover up at the time of Rice's testimony (the anger over which led to being removed as a candidate to become Secretary of State due to Congressional opposition).

So, out of all the many hearings on Benghazi, I have lost count, what has Congress done?  They have cut funding for security at US diplomatic facilities around the world.  Can anybody justify this?  No.  They have also made it virtually impossible for the US to aid either the central government or the authorities in Benghazi itself in any substantial way whatsoever, because of, well, Benghazi!  This in spite of the fact that both the central Libyan government, such as it is, and the local government in Benghazi, are massively pro-US, among the most pro-US in the entire Arab world.  But neither has effective control, not the central government over the nation nor the local government in Benghazi over the groups that in fact carried out the attack on the US facilities there.  We cannot help them because, well, Benghazi!

I recognize that it is far from clear that the US government handled the Libyan situation correctly.  In the end, the Obama admistration effectively took a middle of the road stance with its "leading from behind" strategy there, with Republicans criticizing the administration both for doing anything at all as well as not for going in full force in a "leading from the front" approach, with certain politicians (Sen. Lindsey Graham comes to mind) actually making both criticisms within the same paragraph of a given speech.  It is easy to forget that the US did not initiate the movement against Gaddhafi, who had become much friendlier to the US in  recent years after giving up his nascent nuclear weapons program a decade or so ago.  The impetus came from the Arab League, led at the time by Amr Moussa of Egypt, a fan of the now defunct "Arab Spring," who was hoping to ride this to the presidency of Egypt, something that did not remotely come to pass.  But with the Arab League going after Gaddhafi, that got the UN Security Council on board, with Russia and China abstaining on the anti-Gaddhafi resolutions, which were followed by the active military involvement of Britain and France, along with some token input from a few Arab nations such as Qatar, and backup support from the US.  One can argue that later there was not enough security provided in Benghazi, but it can also be argued that there was not (and still is not) enough security provided for the much more important embassy in Tripoli.  Who knows?  But if there was not enough security (which clearly there was not), Congress's subsequent cutting of funds for diplomatic security have not helped at all.

In the meantime a local military leader in Benghazi, Khalifa Haftar, is leading a Libyan National Army group (an old rebel group) against Ansar-es-Shariah and other Islamist groups in Benghazi, but without the support of the central government, and with the Speaker of the Parliament accusing him of wanting to foment a military coup.  Up to 43 people have died with the fighting in Benghazi, which is still going on, with apparently little to zero input from either the US or Tripoli.  Certainly the forthcoming hearings, apparently designed mostly to try to embarrass Hillary Clinton, will be completely irrelevant to whatever ends up happening on the ground in the actually existing Benghazi that is there beyond the imaginings of Fox News and others who are now so obsessed with the idea of the place, Benghazi!

Barkley Rosser

1 comment:

Seth said...

Welcome to th Barnum & Benghazi Circus!