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Monday
May062013

Benghazi Primer: ‘Long Ago,’ but transparency due on Big Oil and Libya war 

Benghazi is back in the news again as the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform After President Obama's reelection, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton asked what difference it made when it came to disclosures about Benghazi. (Screen snip; C-SPAN)prepares for a hearing on Wednesday. Three witnesses are named in an announcement at the committee website.

Benghazi happened ‘a long time ago’

President Barack Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney took a dim view on Benghazi when asked about the new hearing—“It happened a long time ago.”

Carney’s view is fairly typical among others like him who have worked in media like ABC, Time magazine and CNN in various capacities.

That view, however, is not shared by many everyday Americans who have received incomplete information about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, a time period when Obama was conducting what must have been an exhausting campaign for reelection. Legacy media weren’t very eager to report in depth about Benghazi, and that reluctance drew charges of political pandering from many independent media including The US Report.

The official narrative from the Obama administration, that the consulate was attacked because an amateur filmmaker had created a movie that defamed a Muslim prophet, satisfied no one outside the Democrats’ party. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did bring up questions about the First Amendment, but many Americans had no idea what was at stake and they still don’t.

For raising questions about Benghazi, Romney was attacked by Democrats and media.

The filmmaker went to prison on a technicality. No one else has been charged with a crime in the deaths of four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Justifying the Libya War

Little was said by alphabet networks from the moment Obama decided to intervene in Libya without asking Congress. Democrats justified the action because Obama opted to rely on a United Nations resolution to justify the action. That argument didn’t satisfy many, however.

Foreign Policy said:

He [Obama] was elected in reaction to the unilateralist assertions of John Yoo and other apologists for George W. Bush-era illegalities. Yet he is now moving onto ground that even Bush did not occupy. After a lot of talk about his inherent powers, Bush did get Congress to authorize his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, Obama is putting Bush-era talk into action in Libya -- without congressional authorization. [March 24, 2011]

Obama promoted the theme of intervention on humanitarian grounds, but the issue of oil as well as political sentiment within Libya were key factors. A major breakdown occurred for unknown reasons, although it could plausibly be attributed to lack of planning. Although the president came up with funds, even sending $15 million in “humanitarian aid” in March, 2011, Obama pledged there would be no “boots on the ground.”

As early as April, 2011, Ambassador Stevens talked about “financial needs” for the Transitional National Council, the official name for the opposition movement to then-president Muammar Gadaffi. The World Socialist website noted the visit of a U.S. delegation after the French and British Ambassadors had visited. In April, 2011, WSW said:

The US envoy, Chris Stevens, the former number-two official at the now-closed embassy in Tripoli, is to discuss, among other matters, “the financial needs of the council” and “how the international community can assist,” an administration official told the Associated Press. No doubt, such “assistance” will be tied to lucrative contracts for the American branch of Big Oil.

Around the same time these visits occurred, the Italian oil company ENI made it clear that Libya oil was important to profits. WSW pointed out:

The company, which has been active in Libya since 1955, is the top foreign oil operator and the country’s largest foreign investor, having reached a $28 billion deal with the Libyan government in 2007 to extend its contracts for oil production until 2042.

As the war progressed, after Gaddafi’s death, companies like BP resumed operations, announcing plans to drill 17 new wells. Between 2007-2011, BP spent $900 million in Libya; the company said future investments could be as much as $20 billion over the next two decades.

It's not likely, despite the fact that transparency is long overdue, that questions will be raised about Big Oil in the forthcoming hearing.

Benghazi Breakdown

It would make sense for a president who took steps to engage in war independent of Congress to take precautions for security. That wasn’t the case. By the time of the September 11, 2012 attack, it was obvious there were insufficient resources allocated to protect American interests in the city where the so-called revolution had begun.

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton managed to dodge criticism for her actions, giving the impression she was too busy to read all the cables that went back and forth between U.S. interests in Libya and the U.S. State Dept. in Washington. Clinton is rumored to be considering a White House run in 2016, and her media initiative rested on distancing herself from criticism she knew would come.

By October, 2012, it was obvious to anyone outside Washington that a serious coverup had taken place, with legacy media complicit. Hearings held before Congress reflected serious questions about Clinton’s leadership as well as the president’s.

International media had reported Libya was “awash in weapons.”

Democrats, however, opted to blame Republicans for lack of security, claiming there were insufficient funds. Yet Obama had issued a presidential directive calling for more consular offices in Brazil and China; the State Dept. had spent a great deal of money refurbishing properties in those countries.

An activist for African causes—not a conservative by a long stretch—raised numerous questions about Libya, recalling that the U.S. had actually praised Gaddafi even when Stevens was Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya before the war:

He [Stevens] had served as a 'Special Representative' to the Libyan Transitional National Council from March 2011 to November 2011 during the NATO intervention. Prior to this period he had served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya from 2007 to 2009. At that time, Stevens described Gaddafi as an 'engaging and charming interlocutor' as well as a 'strong partner in the war against terrorism.'

Non-Intervention blogger Michael Scheuer, the former CIA Bin Laden unit chief, delivered scathing criticism, saying publicly that Democrats were “good at watching Americans die.”

Overlooked during the Benghazi controversy was a significant attack on another U.S. interest, Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

Three days after the Benghazi attacks, the camp was attacked despite Obama saying on the campaign stump that al Qaeda was on the path to defeat. One defense expert, John D. Gresham, writing for Defense Media Network, called the Camp Bastion attack “arguably the worst day in USMC aviation history since the Tet Offensive of 1968” because of the significant destruction of aircraft. Gresham said, “The nearby Marines at Camp Freedom are now without effective fixed-wing air support.”

Clinton and Carney’s downplayed significance of Benghazi

Carney’s glib comment about Benghazi happening “a long time ago” was in line with Sec. Clinton’s comments during the first hearings about the attacks. Questioned about the timeline, Clinton screeched, “What difference at this point does it make?”

Aside from the transparency Americans deserve when their country is engaged in war, we can assume Benghazi mattered very much to the families of the four dead Americans.

Eight months after the attacks, Americans still haven’t been given a legitimate explanation for what happened, why it happened and who was responsible.

Meanwhile, an amateur filmmaker sits in a federal prison, scapegoat for an administration that was so fixed on winning reelection that Benghazi and other vital matters simply slipped through the cracks, at least for those who didn’t count the dead among their families or loved ones.

In 2012 the Government Accountability Office prepared a report that disclosed the difficulty in recruiting personnel for hardship posts like the post Stevens held in Libya.

Hearings will stream live

The hearings titled, “Benghazi: Exposing failure and recognizing courage” will be held Wednesday, May 8, at 11:30 AM in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building. The hearings will be streamed live on the Web at oversight.house.gov.

Witnesses named are Mark Thompson, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State; Gregory Hicks, Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’Affairs in Libya (U.S. Department of State) and Eric Nordstrom, Diplomatic Security Officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya for the State Dept.

Libya still volatile

The Tripoli Post reported on April 27:

Four days after the French Embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli was targeted by a car bomb, on Saturday morning, another explosion rocked the country's eastern city of Benghazi. This time it hit the city's police station causing extensive damage to the building.

 

(Analysis by Kay B. Day/May 6, 2013)

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