The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

May 15, 2013

Benghazi: We need the real truth

By BOB HARPER
FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER

TARBORO — The American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, in Libya, was attacked on Sept. 11, 2012 by a heavily armed group.   The attack began during the night at a compound that is meant to protect the consulate building.   A second assault in the early morning the next day targeted a nearby CIA annex in a different diplomatic compound.   Four people were killed including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.   Ten others were injured.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s immediate response was, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”   Well, perhaps it makes a lot of difference to a lot of people.   It certainly makes a big difference to the families of those victims, and it should make a big difference to all of us, especially to our leaders in Washington.

We need to find out exactly what went wrong and how and why?   We need to do all we can to see that this type of thing does not happen again.   The finger pointing has begun and it should begin.   Not just finger pointing, but evidence should be gathered, witnesses should be heard and listened to, and objective decisions should be made that will guard against this from occurring again.   And if there has been some kind of ‘cover-up’ to protect anyone from taking responsibility, then they should be un-covered and be made to pay for their incompetence.

Charges have been made that leaders in Washington actually blocked rescue efforts and issued orders to “stand down” when those in danger virtually begged for help.   Now, an investigation is being conducted (to some degree) to find out what did happen and what can be done.   I say ‘investigations’ are being conducted, but not everyone in Washington is happy about any investigation being carried out.

The Dems say it’s all just a political ‘witch hunt’ and the hearings and investigations should just stop.   Maybe what has upset them so much is what sworn testimony has revealed so far.   Career diplomat Gregory Hicks has been testifying about what did and did not happen in Benghazi.

    Hicks said that U.S. Air Force jets based in Italy could have reached the consulate in “two to three hours” but were blocked, out of fear of offending the Libyan government.   A response was that there was a refueling problem.   Was it a refueling problem or was our government really concerned about the feelings of the Libyan government?

    Hicks also said that four Special Forces soldiers were “furious” when they were told by superiors in Washington that they could not join a relief flight to Benghazi hours after the initial attack.   Mark Thompson, a former marine who heads the foreign emergency support team, also alleged that the White House blocked his efforts to dispatch a specialist group from the US that is designed to respond to incidents such as the Benghazi attack.   With the speed of our jet planes they could have been on the scene very quickly.   If this effort was refused by the White House, then something is certainly wrong with their failure to respond.

    Mark I. Thompson, the former deputy coordinator for operations in the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau wanted to see his Foreign Emergency Support Team sent to the scene and could not understand why his superiors did not agree.   Perhaps the strongest charges come from retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom Mclnermey who says, “This is far worse than Watergate because this cuts across the whole national security apparatus, where people were lying and covering up.   Mclnermeny says, “… the President talked to the Secretary of Defense and knew about the ‘stand-down’ order.   The president then left for a fundraising campaign in Las Vegas.   General Mclnermeny, who flew F-16s, said that they could have flown to Benghazi.   “They could have dropped their wing-tanks and recovered at a nearby Italian air base.”

    Eric Nordstrom and official in the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security felt that the administration’s official investigation was inadequate.   “They stopped short of interviewing people who I personally know were involved in key decisions.” Nordstrom said.

    There are those who want to know more about who knew what when, etc.   House Speaker John Boehner has already demanded officials turn over emails pertaining to the “talking points”.   One of the requested emails allegedly depicts the White House and State Department pressing lower-level officials to remove references to terrorism in talking points about the attacks.   It has been suggested that Hillary Clinton should be subpoenaed if necessary.   And why shouldn’t she?

    After all of this one would expect that the courage that Gregory Hicks has displayed in his testimony in Washington should somehow be rewarded.   Nope, afraid not.   Since all this Hicks has been demoted.   Hicks said, he’d been told he could expect a “good level of assignment” in the wake of his performance in the Libyan tragedy.   Instead he’s been returned to Foggy Bottom and given a desk job as a foreign affairs officer.

    “Foreign affairs officer’ is a designation that is given to our civil service colleagues who frankly are desk officers…So I’ve been effectively demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer,” says Hicks.   Whistleblowers will not go unpunished.

(Bob Harper is a retired Tarboro businessman who writes a column of general interest twice monthly.)