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Benghazi probe didn't have to come to this

Published: Friday, May 16, 2014 10:12 p.m.CDT

Many Democrats have a hard time understanding why Republicans want to keep investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Some see the GOP trying to score partisan points for this November’s midterms. Others see a plot to undermine Hillary Clinton’s 2016 prospects. Still others see Republican psychosis, the Benghazi variant of Obama Derangement Syndrome.

In fact, the Benghazi controversy, rather than being an all-out political war, is a limited conflict in which some parts of the administration have cooperated with Congress while others haven’t. Republican sources on Capitol Hill say that in general, the Pentagon’s cooperation has been a model of how to deal with such an investigation, while the State Department and White House have been models of what not to do.

If the rest of the administration had followed the military’s example, the Benghazi controversy would likely be over by now.

The probe started with three questions. One, was the U.S. adequately prepared for possible trouble abroad on the anniversary of Sept. 11? Two, did the government do everything it could to try to rescue the Americans who were under attack for seven and a half hours? And three, did the Obama administration tell the straight story about what happened?

Responsibility for answering the first and third questions fell heavily on the State Department and the White House. In general, their response has been incomplete, unreliable, confrontational and deeply frustrating for investigators trying to piece together the Benghazi puzzle.

But responsibility for answering the second question, about the immediate response to the attack, fell mostly to the Pentagon. And that has been an entirely different story.

The military side of the investigation was done mostly by the House Armed Services Committee. The interim report from majority Republicans on the committee, released in February, found that the military response to Benghazi was severely hampered because every significant U.S. military asset was out of position to respond on Sept. 11.

Nevertheless, the committee concluded the Pentagon did everything it could with what it had. “The regional and global force posture assumed by the military on Sept. 11, 2012, limited the response,” committee Republicans wrote.

The Obama administration’s stance long ago exhausted whatever patience existed among Hill Republicans.

But it didn’t have to be that way. The rest of the administration could have cooperated like the Defense Department. If it had, Washington would be talking about something else now.

• Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

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