The House Defective Committee on Benghazi!Benghazi!Benghazi! upchucks its "report," and Ambassador Chris Stevens's sister isn't impressed
Jeff Danziger [click to enlarge]
"It would be much more useful for Congress to focus on providing resources for security for all State Department facilities around the world—for increasing personnel, language capabilities, for increasing staff to build relationships, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East. I would love to hear they are drastically increasing the budget. . . .
"The only questions that I have are not answerable by anyone investigated or questioned by the committee. My questions are about why the militiamen attacked the compound in the first place. What were their intentions? It’d be interesting to know that. . . ."
-- Dr. Anne Stevens, sister of Ambassador Chris
Stevens, responding to the new House "report"
Stevens, responding to the new House "report"
Yes, there's plenty of blame for Democrats in the fine mess our government has devolved into, but the notion that there's anything like equal or equivalent blame with the Republicans -- who did it and they're proud -- seems to me dangerous nonsense, and nonsense that an understandably seething electorate may easily fall for. I doubt, for example, that there's going to be widespread understanding of the the Republican chickens that came home to roost this week.
I want to write about the Supreme Court and the two highly surprising "big" decisions it delivered in the rush to vamoose from this strange odd-man-down term, and the stark relief in which we can see the decades of legal rape and pillage performed by the judicial perverts stuffed onto the federal bench by anti-constitutional Republican presidents and Senate advisers-and-consenters. But that'll have to wait till Friday, so we can present this urgent bulletin regarding the finally disgorged "report" of the House Defective Committiee on Benghazi!Benghazi!Benghazi!, chaired by that imbecile and thug Trey Gowdy.
For starters, it would be nice if the Republicans on the Defective Committee were to into their pockets and put together some cash to reimburse us taxpayers for the mindless boondoggle they've perpetrated. This "report," after all, could have been written -- in fact, more or less was written without any of the "work" the committee pretended to do at taxpayer expense. It's the same farrago of innuendo and nonsense they were spouting chorally before the "hearings" began, which they tried to stick in the mouths of anyone who'd go along, with singular lack of success. But acknowledging this would have dragged them into the realm of facts and actual knowledge, a realm that makes them extremely uncomfortable, and where they consequently spend as little time as possible.
Second . . . well, what's the point? This is, after all, a Defective Committee that was out for blood for the horrible failure to protect our diplomats but that never troubled to ask the role of these very same Republican America-haters who quite consciously and systematically put those diplomats all over the world at increasing risk by failing to provide funds to protect them. You'd think that some of them, ill-fortuned enough to have a shred of conscience, would be falling on their swords, but if you think that, you don't know much about patriotism of the right-wing variety.
As regards the "work" of the Defective Committee, The New Yorker's Robin Wright found an excellent source in Anne Stevens, sister of the murdered ambassador, Chris Stevens. She notes that Dr. Stevens, who's chief of pediatric rheumatology at Seattle Children's Hospital, "has served as a family spokesperson" since her brother's death. They spoke, Robin writes in a post she put up yesterday ("Chris Stevens's Family: Don't Blame Hillary Clinton for Benghazi"), "twice in the past three days, including shortly after the House Select Committee report was issued."
Dr. Stevens recalled that her brother had been fascinated by the Middle East since childhood, when he dressed up as Lawrence of Arabia, with a towel and a pot atop his head. He served in the Peace Corps, in Morocco, before joining the Foreign Service, and he served twice in Libya before his final posting there, as well as in Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Riyadh.
Chris Stevens's brother Tom and sister Anne at a memorial
for the ambassador in San Francisco in October 2012
for the ambassador in San Francisco in October 2012
It may not come as a great surprise that Dr. Stevens doesn't think much of the committee's inquiry, or of the way cynical politicians have tried to hijack her brother's death.
Whom do you fault for the lack of security that resulted in the death of your brother, in Benghazi?
It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is underbudgeted.
I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.
What did you learn from the two new reports by House Republicans and Democrats?
It doesn’t look like anything new. They concluded that the U.S. compound in Benghazi was not secure. We knew that.
What did you think of Secretary Clinton’s conduct on Benghazi?
She has taken full responsibility, being head of the State Department, for what occurred. She took measures to respond to the review board’s recommendations. She established programs for a better security system. But it is never going to be perfect. Part of being a diplomat is being out in the community. We all recognize that there’s a risk in serving in a dangerous environment. Chris thought that was very important, and he probably would have done it again. I don’t see any usefulness in continuing to criticize her. It is very unjust.
After years of congressional investigations, do you feel that your brother’s death has been politicized in Washington?
Yes! Definitely politicized. Every report I read that mentions him specifically has a political bent, an accusatory bent. One point that seems to be brought up again and again is the accusation that the attack was a response to the video. I could understand why that conclusion would be made, because it was right after the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt. But, frankly, it doesn’t matter that that was the thinking, that night, about why the attack occurred. It’s irrelevant to bring that up again and again. It is done purely for political reasons.
It would be much more useful for Congress to focus on providing resources for security for all State Department facilities around the world—for increasing personnel, language capabilities, for increasing staff to build relationships, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East. I would love to hear they are drastically increasing the budget.
Did your brother ever talk about the risks in Libya?
Even before we had an Embassy in Tripoli, he fell in love with the land, the people, and the rich, rich history. He sent pictures. He saw the potential of Libya. When the revolution occurred, he was very optimistic about the future. He was happy to be involved, to be our special envoy in Benghazi for a year. He wanted to be part of this exciting prospect of a free Libya.
He did tell us about the dangers then. He told us about a car bomb that had shaken the hotel where he had offices in Benghazi. But, when he talked about incidents like that, he never showed any fear or reluctance to continue the work. He took danger in stride.
It was so important to have a U.S. presence in Benghazi and to show support for the American center being set up and other programs, such as the Benghazi Medical Center. We were helping them establish their new society. I don’t think we’ll ever know why he made the decision to take the risk of going to Benghazi, knowing there were multiple attacks. It was clearly a bad decision.
Did he ever talk about not having enough security?
He talked about his knowledge of the militias and the huge number of arms loose in Libya. That was one of his concerns and challenges. But he did not talk about that as a worry of his own security, which doesn’t mean he wasn’t concerned.
Are there any questions left in your mind about what happened, why the U.S. didn’t respond faster, why Washington didn’t do more?
The only questions that I have are not answerable by anyone investigated or questioned by the committee. My questions are about why the militiamen attacked the compound in the first place. What were their intentions? It’d be interesting to know that—and to hear what their views are and what they were thinking. It has nothing to do with what the State Department or the Defense Department was supposed to do that night. I think everyone did their very best in response to this event.
Do you think it’s fair to make Benghazi an election issue?
With the many issues in the current election, to use that incident—and to use Chris’s death as a political point—is not appropriate.
How would Chris have felt about this election?
I know he had a lot of respect for Secretary Clinton. He admired her ability to intensely read the issues and understand the whole picture.
[Robin Wright notes that her interview with Dr. Anne Stevens "has been condensed and edited for clarity."]