In “Hard Choices,” Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, the former secretary of state attempts to answer the critics of her handling of the Benghazi scandal.
Yet she completely fails to do the one thing that might have help lay the controversy to rest: express personal remorse and a sense of responsibility.
Clinton’s account of the fateful night of Sept. 11, 2012, when terrorists overran and demolished the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, is full of calls, meetings and speeches, but mentions little effective action. This will probably not surprise students of the Clinton-Obama foreign policy.
“When Americans are under fire that is not an order the Commander-in-Chief has to give twice,” wrote Clinton. “Our military does everything humanly possible to save American loves – and would do more if they could. That anyone has ever suggested anything else I will never understand.”
No one doubts the dedication of the U.S. military to protect American lives. Yet the mismatch between Clinton’s Benghazi policy, and the quantity of military resources to support it is glaring, even in this self-serving account.
On learning of the attack in progress, Clinton wrote, “My thoughts went immediately to Chris [Stevens]. I had personally asked him to take on the assignment of Ambassador to Libya, and I shuddered to think that he and our other people on the ground were now in grave danger.”
Yet anyone could have seen it coming. Indeed, Stevens saw the growing threat and had pleaded in cables and reports for additional security in Tripoli and Benghazi. Yet, during the summer of 2012, military security personnel at U.S. facilities in Libya were reduced from 30 to nine.
Clinton never spoke to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta about what could be done to assist the Americans under attack. She knew that chances of any outside assistance was negligible. As she herself said, “Unlike, Europe and Asia, the U.S. military footprint in Africa is nearly nonexistent. Additionally, our military is not deployed globally with the mission of maintaining forces at the ready to defend diplomatic posts.”
The tragic mismatch of mission and resources underlies Clinton’s account but is never openly acknowledged.
Instead, Clinton clings still to the false narrative of the demonstration being allegedly whipped up by an anti-Muslim video. Clinton herself was the first to propose the video as a cause, quickly shifting blame from her own devastating failure of judgment as department head. Embassy staff in Tripoli knew the video story wasn’t true; the CIA station chief in Libya knew it wasn’t true.
In the weeks that followed, Clinton herself and President Barack Obama repeated time after time that the video was to blame. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes directed in his now-infamous talking points memo that the administration should “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not in a broader policy failure.”
Despite the title of her book, Clinton did not make the “hard choices” to protect her people properly.Instead, she worked to avoid the blame.