An old proverb warns: “Lies will carry a man around the world, but they can never bring him back.” I thought about this proverb as I watched Jay Carney struggling to explain why the recently released email linking the White House with a demonstrably bogus story wasn’t really a lie.
Everyone in America knows that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was chosen to be the face of the administration for the story attributing the Benghazi attack to an out-of-control demonstration protesting a video.
There was no demonstration at the Benghazi facility that night. The CIA section chief in Libya knew it. Witnesses on the ground in Benghazi knew it. The Africom intelligence director monitoring the situation in real time from the joint operations center in Stuttgart knew it. But the nonexistent demonstration remained the core of the White House story anyway.
Where does this leave us? With all the intelligence assets we possess, with all the powerful IQs working on the problem, with all the combined years of military, intelligence and diplomatic experience at the White House’s disposal, the administration decided to “shoot its mouths off” without confirming the facts. Either they lied, or they committed one of the most grossly amateurish intelligence/diplomatic/military/political blunders in American history.
But hey, anyone can make a mistake.
Then there’s the question of Islamist extremist involvement. Rice assured the American public that the best available evidence countered the idea the attack was preplanned. We know the Department of State knew better. Beth Jones, Secretary Clinton’s Chief of Staff, on the morning after the attack, informed the Libyan ambassador that the Al Qaeda affiliate, Ansar Al Sharia, was involved.
Before Rice stepped before the cameras, deputy CIA director Mike Morrell intentionally omitted the word “Islamist” from her talking points. As a consequence, information known to the CIA and the Department of State about the involvement of Al Qaeda affiliates in the attack didn’t make it to the storyline Rice fed the American public.
This omission might have been a cynical maneuver to detract American voter attention away from the truth that Al Qaeda and its minions were thriving, growing and looking for opportunities to make war on America wherever they could. On the other hand, this may be, as the White House insists, an innocent failure to fully inform the public. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt again. Maybe they weren’t — strictly speaking — deceitful. Maybe they were just a little tongue-tied.
Whatever the explanation; betrayal, cynical elevation of politics over fidelity to duty, gross ineptitude, amateurish error, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Then there’s the question of documents. As the truth began to kick down the flimsy façade of the administration’s story, some began to suspect nervous politicians had a hand in “crafting” the story to shield the president from fallout that might rain down if the voting public knew Al Qaeda was back on the scene in a bloody way. Congress requested documents that might shed light on this possibility.
The White House begrudgingly responded to these requests continually bemoaning the “phony” scandals and dismissing the inquiry insisting “there’s no ‘there’ there.” A year after the attack, the president assured us the White House had turned over everything relevant to Benghazi.
This week, a federal judge ordered the White House to respond to a Freedom of Information request. And, what do you know? A document surfaced that the White House had withheld from Congress. This was an electronic email authored by Ben Rhodes, a highly placed White House insider who copied prominent State Department officials along with some of President Obama’s closest advisers.
The document was dated Sept. 14 — one day before Rice took center stage to speak to the American people. By then, no responsible intelligence representative, no informed State Department representative, no important member of the military chain of command — none of them — believed the Benghazi attack was the result of a protest that got out of hand. Even so, Mr. Rhodes insists that explanations of Middle East unrest should be centered on that videotape.
Really, there are only three possible ways to process the situation.
We can learn to love the blindfold and swallow the administration explanation whole.
We can embrace the disheartening prospects that this is the most inept administration in America’s history.
Or, we can conclude that we are witnessing a demonstration of dishonesty beyond anything we’ve ever seen in the White House.
I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.