The Edmond Sun

August 23, 2013

Hold someone accountable for Benghazi

Mike Hinkle
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — An item in the news this week has me reflecting on the term “whitewash.” The dictionary defines whitewash as “… Anything, as deceptive words or actions, used to cover up or gloss over faults, errors or wrongdoings, or absolve a wrongdoer from blame … An act or campaign to cover up something bad.” As early as 1591, the term appears in print to describe a cheap white paint used to cover up some architectural defect.

Apparently, unscrupulous property owners who didn’t want to incur the time, trouble and expense necessary to fix their problem would simply cover them with cheap paint to deceive anyone who might be interested in the building’s condition. Whitewash is a cheap effective way to conceal troublesome facts, as long as no one bothers to find out what’s under the painted surface.

Why are we thinking about whitewash this week? On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf announced the four State Department employees suspended in the aftermath of the attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi last year have been cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to service in the State Department somewhere.

To date, not a single employee of the State Department has been “held accountable” for any aspect of the tragedy in Benghazi. There are three possible explanations: everyone in the State Department executed their responsibilities in a perfectly competent fashion and, there’s no reason to call anyone to account. Or, these four acted appropriately and the real culprits are sure to be found out and exposed. Or, this is a shameless whitewash and those responsible are being protected by a cloak of cowardice, dishonesty and shameful disloyalty.

Let’s take a moment to review. In the months, weeks and days prior to the attack, our ambassador and others took affirmative unequivocal steps to notify Washington that the Benghazi facilities were vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Ambassador Chris Stevens went through correct State Department channels to ask that someone in Washington approve a request for additional security personnel. These requests were denied.

When our diplomatic facilities came under attack, Ambassador Stevens and others notified Washington and requested assistance. The messages went through and were, presumably, heard loud and clear at the highest levels of our government. These calls for help, tragically, went unanswered.

Ambassador Stevens died early in the attack. After a firefight lasting at least seven hours, three more brave Americans died. At some point early in the attack, reinforcements were notified of the situation and prepared to pull out all stops to get fighting men on the scene in order to support our people who were battling for their lives. Someone ordered those fighting reinforcements to “stand down.” Help never came in time.

On the night of the tragedy, our president, we are told, was being kept informed of the situation. Apart from “being informed,” we have no idea whether he actually did anything.

We do know he left the next day for a fundraiser in Las Vegas.

The State Department knew from the outset this was a terrorist attack planned, coordinated and executed by Al Qaeda affiliates. When Susan Rice, on the president’s behalf, spoke to the American people, she portrayed the attack as a consequence of demonstrations prompted by a video that got out of hand. This was a patent distortion of the truth. To date, not one person has been held accountable for the decision to substitute a bogus narrative rather than tell the American people the disturbing facts. There are two possible explanations; the real decision-maker is so camouflaged in thick layers of “CYA” bureaucratic shenanigans that his or her identity will never be discovered. Or, the State Department and the administration are well aware of exactly who made the decision but the embarrassing truth is being covered over by whitewash.

Let’s look beneath the whitewash and demand some responsibility. Whoever made the decision to deny the request for additional security at Benghazi breached a duty to Ambassador Stevens and the others who died that night. Someone must be accountable.

Whoever made the decision to order life-saving reinforcements to “stand down,” may have breached a duty to those who died late in the siege. The families and the American people are entitled to know the facts so we can determine for ourselves whether someone should be held accountable.

There is no doubt, in the aftermath of the attack, the American people were intentionally misled about the nature of that attack. Someone must be accountable. If the American people passively permit these politicians and bureaucrats to get away with it, we too are participants in the whitewash.

I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.


MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.