I watched with great interest the questioning of State Department Under-Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy by members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about the disaster in Benghazi. I never knew Kennedy personally, but by reputation he was highly thought of and that was attested to by his rise to his current position through Administrations (and Secretaries of State) of both parties. His performance before the House Committee, however, was disappointing, if not unexpected.
When I say disappointing, I mean he was telling big fat fibs and adding almost nothing to the exposure of the truth behind the Benghazi disaster. Kennedy danced all around the issue of Secretary Clinton’s responsibility for what happened, trying to suggest that what was done to those Foreign Service Officers singled out for the role of scapegoats was plenty harsh. What he did not say was that they shouldn’t have been punished at all. Not that he gives a hoot, but he would have gained a lot of respect among the viewing public if he had just spat it out. “You’re right, Congressman, we’re going after the wrong people. These people are victims of Benghazi in their own way. They didn’t pay with their lives, but they have – fired or not – paid with their careers. All they were doing was what they were made to understand was what the Mightiest of the Mighty wanted doing. They were only following orders.” Just thinking about it makes me want to stand up and applaud, and then I realize I’ve made it all up in my head. In reality Patrick Kennedy, like Victoria Nuland before him, kept his lips zipped and protected his career, what’s left of it anyway. Loyalty to institution precluded any loyalty to the truth or to his country or even to his colleagues who died, abandoned, in Libya’s version of the first circle of hell.
The one bit of information that Kennedy offered that perhaps will keep him from hissing at himself each time he looks in the mirror is that the security provided in Benghazi was “sub-standard.” That’s like saying that Donatella Versace is no Lana Turner, but as far as the Benghazi “seal of silence” goes, it was an earth-shaking glimpse at the truth. And Kennedy, of course, is the sap whose signature went onto the damning documents that allowed the establishment of an essentially unsecurable post with sub-standard security in that gun-running hidey-hole. He’ll have to live with that for the rest of his life, and I can only hope he has enough of a conscience that it proves a burden to him.
But in reality, even Kennedy was not ultimately responsible for the utter stupidity and egotism that went into the decisions on security in Benghazi. Not one professional Foreign Service Officer of any rank would willingly and on his own say-so have denied maximum security for a place where Americans’ lives weren’t worth a nickel. I’ll go even further and say that no career Foreign Service Officer, all of whom have done at least one stint in a scary place abroad, would have approved of opening anything with a State logo on it in Benghazi. Because Benghazi was Death Central. The Americans who were hanging out there were busy handing out death in the form of high-power weapons for the non-existent moderate Syrian opposition, and the Libyans and other Arabs hanging around there were a motley crew of dubious allegiance entirely inclined to strike out at the Americans on the slightest pretext.
Going to Benghazi was a suicide mission, even if those who were there didn’t know it (and obviously some of them did know it, including the Ambassador). How were they, after all, to realize that someone of unbridled ambition whose initials are Hillary Rodham Clinton would think she could bulldoze a path to glory by putting their lives on the line to prove how beloved she was? What sane and stable person would think it was okay to leave Americans like staked goats for the murderous fanatics of jihad as a way to prove her own vision? And just think what she would have boasted if everything had gone swimmingly, with nobody so much as insulted, and if it was all done with nothing more than a pointed finger in a pocket to scare off the bad guys. She would have said, “See how beloved I am around the world? See how they venerate the woman who liberated them from the monstrous Qaddafi? See how unnecessary weapons are?”
If there is a member of the State Department elite who should be made an object of public censure for dereliction of duty, his name is Thomas Pickering. He did not make the decision to leave Americans in the maw of death, unprotected and inconvenient. But he was the man Hillary Clinton chose to offer up a bogus “investigation” that she knew would leave her untouched by the stain of stupidity, incompetence and arrogance. Because she knew he was her man, a man of monumental ego, almost as monumental as hers, and she knew he had high hopes of being the Secretary of State under a second Clinton president. In this matter she was absolutely right. Pickering abdicated his responsibilities to truth, to the victims of Benghazi, to those hapless State bureaucrats being hounded in the House of Representatives, and to America as a nation when he refused to dig into the truth of Benghazi. Instead he chose to lie by omission rather than offend the woman he hoped would crown his bald head with the laurels of diplomacy by giving him the position every Foreign Service Officer covets. It was his decision to side-step every important issue and to issue a report that was pure whitewash and he did so deliberately to protect Mrs. Clinton from the just rewards of her incapacity as Secretary of State (or Commander in Chief). If there were still guillotines, I would sit there knitting happily as the blade dropped on Pickering’s neck, allowing his clueless head to plop onto that of Hillary Clinton.