BA on Assignment

May 30, 2013

The Benghazi Aftermath

The U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked on September 11, 2012. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was killed. An information officer and two security officers were also killed. As of this date, we are still discussing who, what, why and how this happened.

It is completely understandable that our leaders continue to investigate the details of this attack. There were deaths. But, that’s not what’s happening…

Our leaders have spent the last nine months attempting to place blame and pointing fingers. At least that’s what we’ve seen. My hope is that while we’re watching the bad behavior between partisan leaders, the true work of the investigative process is actually moving forward. I think this went bad based on a few things…

First, the definition of what happened. Originally, this was defined as a reaction by Muslims to a video. Then it was defined as a protest that went bad. Eventually, it was identified as a planned attack. The Libyan government has denounced the attacks and the people of Libya has been clear that they considered Ambassador Stevens a dear friend.

Second, the U.S. response to what happened. President Obama said it was a response to the video and slid in a comment about possible terrorism. UN Ambassador Susan Rice said only that it was a response to the videos, but, made no mention of terrorism. This is where it really started going wrong. However, let’s be clear – this is not a cover-up. Some mis-statements… maybe. But not a coverup.

Ambassador Rice was serving as a spokesperson only. I watched several of the Sunday morning shows that are the subject of her witch-hunt. When she spoke about the attack, I knew then that she had no idea what actually happened. Having been a professional spokesperson before, it was clear to me that she was given talking points – maybe not far enough in advance to be convincing – and put in front of a camera. I was not convinced.

Hillary Clinton should have been doing the talking… Susan Rice should have been next in line.

But, what I find really curious is that, Republican leaders have been blaming Rice for the entire of the mis-definition and eventual mis-communication. How long have they been doing this?

In a political reaction/protest/attack like this, any information that’s put out before a thorough investigation is speculative and should be taken as such. But, that doesn’t suit the Republican’s who need to find any and every reason to impugn the current administration’s credibility.

The current Administration should have put out a statement saying:

“The violence in Benghazi was tragic and under investigation. We don’t know the origins of this violence and are still sifting through the facts, but, plan to mount a full and thorough investigation to pinpoint the exact cause. Until then, we really just want to take this time to mourn the loss of 4 U.S. citizens.”

How long have they been doing this?

I think Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State should have been the person on the Sunday morning shows making a statement about the violence. If she wasn’t available, it should have been deferred to President Obama to hold down the fort on the subject until she could get in a position to speak about the department she was running.

When I was a tobacco spokesperson, depending on the subject matter, the only people who were allowed to speak publicly were the lawyers. This was a big enough deal that only the highest level people should have been able to make official responses. While Susan Rice was a relevant official to this topic, it seemed like she was just a substitute.

Republican’s could see this as well, but, instead of chalking this up as a PANIC by the Obama administration and being reasonable, they decided to blame Rice for the mis-information – as if she made it up on her own. Even after it was revealed that she got ALL of her information from the CIA and NSA. Their intent was to contain panic by being close-to-the-vest with information. The word is that the talking points were edited several times. That’s routine. So, there’s some disagreement about whether the CIA got it wrong or Rice got it wrong. I think they could have both managed the communications better.

So, we continue to hear about Susan Rice’s mis-statements, but, hear little about the ongoing investigation into the attack. For instance, have we confirmed who attacked the post?

We’ve heard that the consulate had asked for additional security, but, that never happened. Why didn’t it happen? Typical government backlog?

In a violence-charged country like Libya and for most of the Middle East, security requests should take priority. This can’t be like my application for a passport that got lost in a pile of other applications because the processor was on vacation. Lives are at stake.

This is where the State Department and its ultimate leader have to accept full responsibility for any adverse reactions on the international stage. I think there were some extenuating circumstances, but…

So, I keep having questions and as a journalist, I continue to search for answers that confirm what happened on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya. With any luck, at some point, our elected leaders will turn the focus from political attacks to fact-finding and transparent communication…