Patraeus, Benghazi, Rice, and More Questions

Predictably on a Friday, retired General and ex-spymaster Patraeus testified on Capital Hill behind closed doors regarding what the CIA knew about the attack on the consulate in Benghazi and the death of our ambassador and 3 CIA operatives. There is expected to be further testimony from him in the future.

What we found out from the hearings so far is basically we were not told the truth from the beginning. The administration’s opinion on what its opinion was at one point has shifted over time. The basic truth is that this wasn’t acknowledged as a terror attack until more than a week later. Patraeus’ testimony this week shows that it was the initial assessment was that this attack was performed by Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates. This information was given to the administration that (for a period of almost two weeks) insisted this was a spontaneous demonstration-gone-bad and the Sunday within this period sent the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice out to all the major Sunday news talk show to distribute this fiction. 

What is not immediately clear is why this was done, who came up with this narrative, and why. Patraeus indicated that he does not know who edited/created this alternative scenario, only that this would be a decision that would have been made in the White House.

President Obama state that Rice is blameless and she was presenting the best information available to her at the time. This is not true, of course. If she was given only the White House’s opinion and ran with it, then she might have been telling us the truth so far as she understood it. She does have access to classified information, though, so she could have known the whole truth. Ultimately, this means that one or both people lied, and they both intentionally mislead the country for reasons that probably start with wanting to not poison the President’s election chances, but could be worse.

Why does this matter from here? We still don’t understand why we were lied to, and what else, if anything, might be beneath these lies. We do not know why Patraeus’ initial testimony was so at-odds with his more recent statements to Congress. Considering the recent events in his personal life, the investigation by the FBI, some have suggested he was leaned on. I’m not ready to jump to this sort of conclusion, but this would be a pretty serious crime if that was the case. There are lessons to be learned that cannot be learned if we do not understand what happened, and the administration’s willingness to acknowledging reality here and its seriousness leaves a lot to be desired. That makes life more dangerous for the other people who serve our country.

Also, Susan Rice is a candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. She will likely not be affirmed with this cloud hanging over her head. Also, there are very legitimate questions about her suitability if she honestly thought 5 days later this somehow wasn’t terrorism… on September 11th. The President does not think it is appropriate for people to come after her, and that if people are angry about what happened, they could come after him. Given what we learned this week, we can probably be assured that will happen for the foreseeable future.

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