Benghazi Committee: Clinton under attack
Today Hillary Clinton will be testifying before the House Select Benghazi Committee – finally. This hearing will further show the extent of partisanship in the creation of the committee, as well as present an opportunity for the former Secretary of State to present her side of the argument – again – in a case that some Republicans are trying to make a defining part of the 2016 election.
Written by Philip Chr. Ulrich
Recent statements from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has fuelled suspicions that the House Select Benghazi Committee is a purely political effort to hamper the Clinton-campaign in the run-up to the 2016 election.
And as the former Secretary of State takes her seat at a the committee hearing today, she will have the opportunity to fulfil two objectives:
Firstly, she can attempt to expose the committee as a partisan tool, and return their attacks by pointing to the fact that they are using a national security incident to make political hay. Secondly, she can use the opportunity to once again present her side of the story – the story of how the State Department was involved and acted in the run-up to the terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi on September 11. 2012. (Read more about the actual Benghazi incident on CNN From Benghazi to Capitol Hill and Vanity Fair – 40 Minutes in Benghazi)
Some republicans try to attack Hillary Clinton for not having done enough to defend the facilities, as well as being part of a subsequent administration cover up.
The attacks in Benghazi
The core of the matter is two attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, during which the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, as well as a State Department employee and two CIA contractors were killed.
Following the attacks, suspicions arose that the Obama-administration had not done enough to protect the U.S. personnel, and that it subsequently engaged in a cover-up. According to the theories, the purpose was to conceal the fact that it had received warnings prior to the attack and to downplay the role that an al Qaeda affiliated group played in the attack. This was meant to emphasize the progress in counter-terrorism that the Obama-administration had achieved in its first term. A coordinated attack against a U.S. diplomatic facility by an al Qaeda group would degrade this story.
The fact that the Obama-administration changed its story on who were behind the attacks, and the precautions taken before, did not help alleviate the theories.
However, the fact that the State Department did not actually have the biggest presence in Benghazi, as well as the fact that Hillary Clinton is the primary focus of the Select Committee adds to the suspicion that the committee is a partisan issue aimed at generating negative coverage of the Clinton-campaign.
Petraeus off the hook
Another member of the Obama-administration, who played a major role in the Benghazi affair, was CIA Director David Petraeus. The odd thing about the House Select Benghazi Committee is that it has hardly focused on the role that Petraeus played in the events. As head of the CIA, Petraeus was actually in charge of the largest U.S. presence in the city, and he played a key role in the subsequent disrupted stories of the events surrounding the attacks.
By being in such a position, Petraeus would have been an apparent subject of investigation. However, probably due to his status among leading Republicans, general Petraeus has evaded massive criticism unlike Hillary Clinton. The only criticism, which has been directed at the former Director of the CIA, came in 2012, when he testified for the House Intelligence Committee, but then it subsequently died down.
The lack of focus on a popular character with the Republican party, and instead focusing almost exclusively on the role played by the Secretary of State, does imply the partisan ambitions and motives of the House Committee.
At the hearing, Secretary Clinton will have the opportunity to engage the issues directly, instead of the continued clashes in the media with her Republican accusers.
Philip Chr. Ulrich holds an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Southern Denmark. He analyzes American foreign and defense policy for the Danish website Kongressen.com. He has previously worked as head of section at the Royal Danish Defence College, where he published several briefs on U.S. defense and foreign policy. He has also completed an internship at the Lessons Learned / Development Section at the Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence. He also has his own website and Facebook page where he makes updates and comments on current events in U.S. foreign policy. Find his website: www.philipulrich.dk and follow him on facebook.com/philipulrich.dk or on Twitter: @pc_ulrich