Don’t tune out the newest Benghazi developments
Why is Benghazi important to Americans?
You’ll hear a lot about Benghazi in coming days and you’ll hear the familiar screeching of partisan politics, now that House Speaker John Boehner has decided to convene a select committee to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack in that dusty fly-bitten town in Libya.
If the past is any guide, you’ll hear Republican righteous vindictiveness and Democratic mockery and defensiveness. There will be so many politicians jabbering into microphones, so many practiced mouths curled into what is supposed to look like spontaneous anger, that you’ll see right through much of it.
And then many of you will be tempted to turn away and tune out. That’s to be expected. Some of the politicos are counting on just that. They’re betting on it, and you should probably figure that some of the screaming isn’t designed to inform but to turn you off to the whole thing.
One of the problems is that many Republicans have used Benghazi as a club. And many Democrats have shrieked that it was all about nothing. So much noise.
So little light, until very recently, when a few previously hidden White House emails were made public and things changed.
But first, remember that four Americans died there in Benghazi: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, U.S. State Department computer specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
They weren’t murdered because they were Democrats or Republicans. They were murdered because they were Americans.
And even that might not move some of you. Thousands of Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the political arithmetic is hideously understandable. Democrats howled about those wars, and Republicans fended off the criticism by questioning critics’ patriotism. Now Republicans are howling about four dead in Libya, and Democrats are holding them off, accusing them of being opportunists.
So in the minds of some, four more dead are just four more dead. Of all the good people we’ve lost overseas in recent years, all of those who were the best of us, you could say, what’s four more?
All of that has been set out for you as a rationale not to care about the issue of Benghazi. But consider that in recent days, a rock was moved and something was found.
White House emails were uncovered — after much pushing by the conservative group Judicial Watch — about the White House posture shortly after the attack.
Remember that the attack in Benghazi took place on Sept. 11, 2012, just as President Barack Obama was beginning his final push toward re-election. The Democratic National Convention had just ended, and the message was: Obama had killed Osama bin Laden, and terrorism had been caged.
The terrorist attack in Benghazi was immediately characterized by the White House as spontaneous protests, prompted by a crude anti-Islamic video on the Internet.
That wasn’t the case. There was nothing impromptu or spontaneous about the attack that killed Ambassador Stevens and the three others. It was a planned terrorist strike.
And still, even though this was known, the White House sent then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice out on the Sunday talk shows to sell the video story and set that false version in the public’s mind.
Why? My take is because to talk about a planned terrorist strike — rather than a spontaneous uprising over a ridiculous video — would have directly undercut the president’s politics and his message that al-Qaida was dead.
And getting re-elected was more important to the Obama White House than telling the truth about four dead Americans.
Former CIA official Mike Morell, testifying recently before Congress, said the U.S. intelligence community knew it was a terror attack from the start.
“The analysts said from the get-go that al-Qaida was involved in this attack,” Morell said.
And last week, Judicial Watch obtained key White House documents through the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier documents, released by the Obama White House to Congress, were redacted.
The new emails were written by White House deputy strategic communications adviser Ben Rhodes, whose brother is president of CBS News.
One Rhodes email to Rice, dated Sept. 14 at shortly after 8 p.m., was intended to prepare Rice for her appearances on those Sunday shows.
Rhodes emphasized that one goal of Rice’s appearances was to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”
And even more cynically, Rhodes offered Rice the argument that she would use, that the video was “disgusting and reprehensible,” that “there is absolutely no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence. And we are working to make sure that people around the globe hear that message.”
For days afterward, the message from President Obama, Rice, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others was: the video, the video, the video.
By not releasing the Rhodes emails fully to Congress, the Obama White House clearly showed its contempt for the House. And depending on your politics, you might agree with the strategy. It got Obama through his roughest debates and helped confuse the issue enough that he was re-elected.
But if we allow our nation’s leaders to let politics obscure how our government works, we are making a fatal mistake. That’s how fools lose the Republic.
And those four in Benghazi weren’t fools. They died for our country, and years of political cover-up can’t obscure that.
Again, their names were Stevens, Smith, Doherty and Woods.
They didn’t die for politics.
(John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also hosts a radio show on WLS-AM. His e-mail address is: [email protected], and his Twitter handle is @john_kass.)