This morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is having to go before the Republicans in Congress and help them in their grandstanding efforts with regard to the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. It’s the second set of hearings on this issue; the first round happened just before the election, when several Republicans thought they could help Willard Romney win the election by making Obama look bad. These hearings, on the other hand, are an attempt to make themselves look important, because we all know they’ll probably be no more productive than they were during the last session of Congress.
This morning’s pageant has featured Rand Paul suggesting that Mrs. Clinton would have been fired if he was president, an occurrence that, thankfully, will never happen. He also cited the Benghazi attack as the “greatest tragedy since 9/11.” Apparently, losing a few thousand troops in an unnecessary war in Iraq wasn’t a tragedy to him, but ask the families of the soldiers about that.
But the best exchange of the morning – the one that shows just how shallow and pointless these hearings are, came when Secretary Clinton schooled Senator Ron Johnson on what really matters here. He was all over the Republican talking points, all of which have been shown to be false. He starts with Susan Rice supposedly lying on “all the talk shows,” which has been proven wrong. After Secretary Clinton explains the State Department’s priorities in the wake of the attacks, Johnson then proffers the “simple phone call” talking point. AFTER she had explained why she did what she did. She thought getting medical help for the injured and letting the FBI investigate first was more important. and she’s right. Four people are dead, and even now, no one knows everything that may have happened. It often takes years to sort these things out. To imply that the State Department should have known every detail within days is ludicrous. It’s the Republican Party attempting to score political points and nothing more.
Here is the exchange between Secretary Clinton and Sen. Johnson. It’s so obvious he’s thinking of his party first:
We have to be sick of this by now, don’t we?
It is morally and ethically repugnant that a major political party would use such an attack to score political points against the other party. This is the United States of America, and they work for us. As Secretary Clinton said, there are ongoing investigations. When problems are found, we should address them, so that we can prevent it from happening the same way again. But as of this date, no one really knows what happened, and they certainly couldn’t have known within the first few days. One or two people who happened to be there cannot tell you everything that happened. One hundred people can see the same event and give one hundred different accounts. That’s why we investigate things. These Senators who think they know what happened, and can speak about it authoritatively are lying.
To make political hay out of such a tragedy is about as low as politics can go. To turn the tragic deaths of brave men and women working in service of their country in order to score a few political points is despicable.
It’s also unprecedented. Has a major political party ever used something like a terrorist attack on a US Embassy as a political football, and use it to gain political power? Such a thing used to be unthinkable. Even after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, we saw Bush’s approval ratings go into the 90s, and everyone supported the guy. That is how rational people react to a national tragedy.
Did you know there were eleven such attacks during George W. Bush’s term? It’s true. And Democrats didn’t hold hearings, to gain political points. Surely, if one embassy attack in four years is a sign of “weakness” on Obama’s part, one would think the eleven embassy terror attacks on American embassies while Bush was president should make Republican hypocrites sick to their stomachs. Four of them occurred during his first term alone; one would think they would have tried to prevent his reelection. Rand Paul certainly should have been upset about it, one would think.
Here are the eleven terrorist attacks on US Embassies and other outposts for American diplomats and others working in service to their country. And in eight years, there was no reaction from a Democratic politician expressing anything but sorrow for the loss.
(I’ve seen several versions of this list, but a lot of them are incorrect. I’ve corrected errors and provided sources for each.)
On June 14, 2002, the terrorist group Al Qanoon, which was suspected to be an al Qaeda branch, sent a suicide bomber into the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 12 people and injuring 51 others. Nearly a year later, four were convicted of plotting the bombing, which blew in windows and left body parts all over the sidewalks near the embassy. (Source)
On February 28, 2003, Gunmen on motorcycles attacked the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing two police officers and wounding five other officers and a civilian in front of the consulate. (Source)
Late in the evening of May 12, 2003, gunmen entered Al Hamra Oasis Village in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a compound known to be inhabited by Americans and other Westerners. (Source)
On July 30, 2004, three suicide bombers targeting the Israeli and U.S. embassies in Taskkent, Uzbekistan managed to kill two and injure nine others. (Source)
On December 6, 2004, terrorists stormed the heavily guarded U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, occupying it and taking 18 hostages for a time. When the incident was over, they had killed nine people, including four security guards and five staff. (Source)
All of that was before the end of Bush’s first term, yet there are no accounts of John Kerry or other Democrats using the incidents to attack the president, or to suggest the United States was weak, or to insult the dead in any way.
Then came the second term:
On March 2, 2006, just two days before President Bush was scheduled to visit Pakistan, a suicide bomber targeted the U.S. consulate in Karachi, killing four, including a US diplomat believed to be the target, and as many as 50 others. (Source)
On September 12, 2006, four armed gunmen stormed the U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria. In the 20 minute attack, they threw grenades and fired automatic weapons at guards. In the end, one person was killed and 13 wounded. (Source)
On January 12, 2007, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the US Embassy in Athens Greece. Thankfully, it was early morning, and the building was empty and no one was injured. (Source)
On July 9, 2008, men armed with a shotgun and pistols stormed the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. At the end of the five-minute battle, three Turkish policemen were killed. (Source)
As a side note, I can find no account in which Bush Administration officials referred to these attacks using the terms “terrorist attacks” or “acts of terror.”
In 2008, there were two attacks on the U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen. The first was a mortar attack on March 18, that missed the embassy and hit a nearby girls’ school, injuring 13. (Source)
But the biggest attack came on September 17, 2008, when terrorists dressed as policemen attacked the embassy with RPGs, rifles and grenades. There was also a car bomb. In the end, 16 were killed and many more were injured. (Source)
There you have it. Eleven confirmed attacks, and at no time did anyone on the Democratic side treat any of them as anything other than tragedies that took the lives of Americansor people from foreign countries who were protecting Americans. Such attacks are not political footballs, to be used to give yourself an advantage, because you have nothing else.
What’s happened in the wake of the Benghazi incident is nothing short of disgusting, and Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. Diplomats and diplomatic security are there to serve their country and to protect us, not to give Republicans a better chance of winning elections.