Friday, October 23, 2015

Libya And The Hillary Select Committee Showdown

OK, so now we have had the long awaited showdown between Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi Select Committee, which looks to have been a triumph for Hillary, especially with Joe Biden deciding not to run and her surprisingly good debate performance last week (not unconnected with Biden deciding not to run).  She managed to finally have good hair for both performances, with the most important element being her keeping her cool and looking competent, aka "presidential," in both.  The latter was more of a challenge, not because she was really seriously challenged by much new from the committee, which seemed obsessed mostly by silliness and her emails, but that the thing went on for 11 hours, with her never cracking or making a slip, while they degenerated into increasing apoplexy at their inability to either nail her or get her to provide a good gotcha for later use.

That said, they did get one item out, and based on what the GOP prez  candidates are saying as well as such party warhorses on Fox News as Sean Hannity, it does look like they will continue a pile-on, mostly based on untruths.  Their one new item is the email Hillary apparently sent to a leader in Egypt the day after the Benghazi attack saying that it was planned and not tied to the video, in contrast to what she was saying publicly.  Nailed her!  Well, there have already been complaints about confused stories on this, and the hard fact is that while there had clearly been planning for an attack on US facilities in Benghazi, the video reportedly did provide the excuse and trigger, especially after the rioting in Cairo and attack on the embassy there erupted in response.  I think we are going to hear a lot about this supposed gotcha lie by her.

I note the following total nonsense items that Hannity repeated endlessly, and that I am sure we shall continue to hear repeatedly.

1)  There was a "stand down" order from Hillary to security people in Benghazi.  Hannity claims to have interviewed people who received such an order, however all the previous committees have supposedly shown that this claim is false. There was no such order, and Hillary denied it again at this hearing, almost certianly factually.  But Hannity repeated his claim last night several times. This dog is going to continue to run, even if it is a ghost hound.

2) The facility in Benghazi was a "consulate." Marco Rubio said this, and so did many on the committee.  But this is simply false.  Apparently Amb. Stevens wanted to have it upgraded to being one, which would have led to it having more security, and he had used it as a de facto embassy to the rebels against Qaddafi during the uprising.  But it was nothing at all, merely a facility, being used for nearly nothing and with nothing to secure there, except for Amb. Stevens showing up for a  couple of days to hang out there, unfortunately at the wrong time (it remains unclear if the attackers knew he was there or not before they attacked). 

3)  There were 600 requests for increased security in Benghazi, which she ignored.  Now it may be that some of these requests got to her, but the detail mostly ignored is that this list included requests for more security in all of Libya, with the top priority being to secure the embassy in Tripoli, where classified documents were located, unlike the facility in Benghazi, and with the situation in Tripoli at least as dangerous as that in Benghazi.  We do not in fact have a count of how many of those requests were related to Benghazi. In any case, as a mere "facility" rather than a consulate, it was at the lowest priority for those under Hillary who made these security decisions in terms of allocating personnel.  And, of course, in the height of hypocrisy, Congress has been steadily cutting State Department security budgets while demanding that more secuirity should have been placed at the Benghazi facility.

So, I now want to focus on the bigger picture regarding Libya, with Hillary on the one hand saying she did a good job (in the debate, not at the hearing), while her critics say she was awful, but with not any really serious discussion of what went down there in general or is going down there now by anybody concerned.  Indeed, I think that as the leader of the hawks in the Obama administration to get the US to support the Arab League and British and French campaign to support the rebels in Libya against Qaddafi (when we "led from behind"), she does bear much responsibility for the mess that has arisen since, although arguably the problem was not helping with a proper follow-through to get a functioning government there.  I note that the Republican position on this then and since has simply been incoherence, with people like Lindsey Graham at the time within the space of a single sentence declaring that we should do nothing and go into there full force with "boots on the ground."

So, I shall now brag about my own prescience on what would go down in Libya.  Back in March, 2011, when all this was getting going, I predicted that the ultimate result of this would be a partition of Libya into its eastern and western halves, the former long knows as Tripolitania and the latter long known as Cyrenaica (Roman provincial names), with almost no history of them being unified and with ethnic and religious differences between them.  That forecast was made here and I followed it up this past February to note that it had in fact happened here.  Given that between these two I provide most of the details, let me simply add three further points that remain relevant now, although not discussed at all in this showdown hearing (or much otherwise in most media).

1)  In the east-west divide, the one that the US recognizes as the legitimate government of Libya as a whole is the one based in Benghazi in the east, not the one in the official capital of Tripoli.

2)  This past week there was an effort led by the US to cobble the two together into a unified government, but it failed. The de facto partition remains in place, and I suspect it will for some time come.

3)  As a final complication, in both locations neither of these "governments" is at all secure, being simply the leaders of the most powerful militias, with competing militias and groups contesting them for power, some of these groups tied to various branches of international radical Islamist groups, with even the awful ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daech showing up in the eastern part fairly recently to commit some violence and make it known that they are around, if not all that important.   All of this makes it even more likely that Libya will remain a failed state that is even only barely divided into its eastern and western halves, if not effectively subdivided much furher, something that has also happened in both Iraq and Syria.  But none of this is of concern to the committee aside from attempting to blame Hillary for the whole mess

Barkley Rosser

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