January 19, 2014

IT'S THE BELTWAY, JAKE:

Derailing the GOP Jihad (David Ignatius, January 19, 2014, Washington Post)

Driving the Republican jihad was a claim, first reported in October 2012 by Fox News, that CIA personnel had wanted to respond more quickly to the Benghazi attack but were ordered to "stand down," perhaps by political higher-ups. Although this claim was promptly rebutted by CIA officials, it was repeated by Fox at least 85 times, according to a review by the liberal advocacy group Media Matters. This barrage fueled Republican charges that the Democrats were engaging in a cover-up.

The Senate Intelligence report addressed this inflammatory charge head-on. "The committee explored claims that there was a 'stand down' order given to the security team at the annex. Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the mission compound, the committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the chief of [the CIA] base or any other party."

The Senate panel also rejected the insinuation, made repeatedly by Republicans, that the Obama administration failed to scramble available military assets that could have defended the Benghazi annex and saved the lives of the four American victims. "There were no U.S. military resources in position to intervene in short order in Benghazi," the report says flatly. "The committee has reviewed the allegations that U.S. personnel ... prevented the mounting of any military relief effort during the attacks, but the committee has not found any of these allegations to be substantiated."

These are bipartisan findings, mind you, endorsed by the panel's Republican members as well as Democrats. [...]

The Republican tirades about Benghazi were unfortunate not just because they were based on erroneous speculation but because they distracted policymakers from the real challenge of framing coherent policy in the Middle East. Sometimes, it seemed as if Benghazi finger-pointing was the only issue that leading Republicans cared about.

In fact, the Senate Intelligence report echoes many of the themes of the earlier report by the Accountability Review Board, which noted "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies." Warnings about deteriorating conditions in Benghazi were ignored; proposals to add additional security there were rejected; even as evidence mounted of al-Qaeda's growing power in Benghazi, the State Department failed to respond adequately. The Senate report makes clear that some important security mistakes were made by Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the courageous but sometimes incautious diplomat who was among those who died in the attack.

Why improve national security when you can score political points with your base?
Posted by at January 19, 2014 10:23 AM
  
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