Trust – but Verify – Governmental Statements and Actions

May 10th, 2013

By Dan Miller

If verification is not seriously attempted, lies will go unnoticed. More lies will follow. That’s one difference Benghazi makes now.

Clinton testifies

What difference does it make?

On May 5th, President Obama delivered an address to the graduating class at Ohio State University. The following was included in his remarks.

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works.  They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.  You should reject these voices.  Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted. (Emphasis added.)

As many have already noted, “tyranny is always lurking just around the corner” along with its handmaidens — lies, disinformation and cover ups.

That leads us to the Benghazi kerfuffle.

It is one more in a long series of governmental lies, too often reported by the “legitimate media” as the unvarnished truth when told and then, as little pieces of truth escape, reported as having been told initially due to something resembling the fog of war. That’s sometimes a good excuse — fog often does make it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Often however, the fog is in the minds of those who find it difficult to distinguish what is true from what is politically convenient; they frequently select the latter as their talking points.

Benghazi is now being discussed with varying degrees of attention and animation in efforts to learn — or alternately further to conceal or at least to diminish in significance — what happened when and why. It has belatedly become publicly apparent that the Obama Administration made multiple efforts, long effective, to conceal and to spin the facts. An ABC News report, published on May 10th, is titled Benghazi Talking Points Underwent 12 Revisions, Scrubbed of Terror Reference. Persuasive, it relies heavily on versions of the talking points provided here in timeline form as well as White House e-mails. BBC World News has cited the ABC report favorably, as the first real news indicating that there was, in fact, a cover up. According to the BBC commentator,

This is the first hard evidence that the state department did ask for changes to the CIA’s original assessment.

Specifically, they wanted references to previous warnings deleted and this sentence removed: “We do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.”

There’s little doubt in my mind that this will haunt Hillary Clinton if she decides to run for president, unless she executes some pretty fancy footwork.

See also this article by Ron Radosh at PJ Media. Or was it just this, as claimed by Mother Jones?

[A] little bit of unseemly bureaucratic squabbling combined with the usual mushiness that you get when an interagency process produces a series of drafts of sensitive information for public consumption.

It strikes me as a (big) tad more than that; the White House now appears to be “circling the wagons.” According to Politico,

The White House held an off-the-record briefing with reporters on Friday afternoon to discuss recent revelations about the Benghazi investigation, sources familiar with the meeting tell POLITICO.

The meeting began around 12:45 p.m. and postponed the daily, on-the-record White House press briefing to 1:45 p.m. White House press secretary Jay Carney did not respond to a request for confirmation of the meeting.

The off-the-record session was announced to reporters in the wake of an ABC News report showing that White House and State Dept. officials were involved in revising the now-discredited CIA talking points about the attack on Benghazi.

Emails obtained by ABC News show that State Dept. spokesperson Victoria Nuland requested that the CIA scrub references to an Al Qaeda-linked group, which, Nuland told White House officials, “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings.”

As noted by Bryan Preston at PJ Tatler, also on May 10th, there were never serious reasons to conclude that the demonstrations in Cairo or, as claimed the attacks in Benghazi, had anything significant to do with the little watched YouTube video thought to have disparaged Islam.

For going on eight months now, we’ve pointed to one of our own posts as evidence that the Obama administration never should have believed that a YouTube movie had anything to do with the terrorist attack in Benghazi. That post, by Ray Ibrahim, pointed to a report in the Egyptian media published on September 10, 2012, that demonstrators would be converging on the US embassy in Cairo not to protest a movie, but to apply pressure and demand the release of Islamist terrorists who have been tried in American courts and/or are held in American prisons. Chief among them is Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Rahman is currently in federal prison in North Carolina, for his role in that first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. (Emphasis added.)

The September 10 post, republished in its entirety here, was a warning regarding riots that would take place the following day in Cairo, Egypt.

Jihadi groups in Egypt, including Islamic Jihad, the Sunni Group, and Al Gamaa Al Islamiyya have issued a statement threatening to burn the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to the ground.

According to El Fagr, they are calling for the immediate release of the Islamic jihadis who are imprisonment and in detention centers in the U.S. including Guantanamo Bay: “The group, which consists of many members from al-Qaeda, called [especially] for the quick release of the jihadi [mujahid] sheikh, Omar Abdul Rahman [the “Blind Sheikh”], whom they described as a scholar and jihadi who sacrificed his life for the Egyptian Umma, who was ignored by the Mubarak regime, and [President] Morsi is refusing to intervene on his behalf and release him, despite promising that he would. The Islamic Group has threatened to burn the U.S. Embassy in Cairo with those in it, and taking hostage those who remain [alive], unless the Blind Sheikh is immediately released.”

Bear in mind, we posted this on September 10. Neither the riot in Cairo nor the attack in Benghazi had happened yet. One of many warnings of attacks and threats in the Middle East, it went online with little notice.

The post constitutes proof that the Cairo riot was not about a YouTube movie. It was about jihadist groups organizing together to get incarcerated Islamist terrorists released from our jails. Those jihadists used the movie to stir up anger and turn out a crowd, but the movie was not the cause of the Cairo riot. (Emphasis added.) …

The warning regarding Cairo is salient to understanding the nature of the attack in Benghazi. If the Cairo assault had originated from a protest about a movie, then the attack in Benghazi could plausibly be believed to have a similar origin. But if Cairo itself had nothing to do with a movie, then the likelihood that Benghazi was sparked by a movie is drastically diminished.

According to career diplomat Greg Hicks, who assumed command in Libya upon the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens on the night of September 11, the YouTube movie “was a non-event in Libya” and had nothing to do with the pre-planned and organized terrorist assault on the US compound in Benghazi. In its talking points, the CIA agreed  — until political officials at the State Department had the agency change those talking points.

According to Peggy Noonan, writing at the Wall Street Journal,

The Obama White House sees every event as a political event. Really, every event, even an attack on a consulate and the killing of an ambassador.

Because of that, it could not tolerate the idea that the armed assault on the Benghazi consulate was a premeditated act of Islamist terrorism. That would carry a whole world of unhappy political implications, and demand certain actions. And the American presidential election was only eight weeks away. They wanted this problem to go away, or at least to bleed the meaning from it. …

Why couldn’t the administration tolerate the idea that Benghazi was a planned terrorist event? Because they didn’t want this attack dominating the headline with an election coming. It would open the administration to criticism of its intervention in Libya. President Obama had supported overthrowing Muammar Gadhafi and put U.S. force behind the Libyan rebels.

Now Libyans were killing our diplomats. Was our policy wrong? More importantly, the administration’s efforts against al Qaeda would suddenly come under scrutiny and questioning. The president, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, had taken to suggesting al Qaeda was over. Al Qaeda was done. But if an al Qaeda offshoot in Libya was killing our diplomats, the age of terrorism was not over.

The Obama White House didn’t want any story that might harm, get in the way of or lessen the extent of the president’s coming victory. The White House probably anticipated that Mitt Romney would soon attempt to make points with Benghazi. And indeed he did pounce, too quickly, the very next morning, giving a statement that was at once aggressive and forgettable, as was his wont. …

All of this is bad enough. Far worse is the implied question that hung over the House hearing, and that cries out for further investigation. That is the idea that if the administration was to play down the nature of the attack it would have to play down the response—that is, if you want something to be a nonstory you have to have a nonresponse. So you don’t launch a military rescue operation, you don’t scramble jets, and you have a rationalization—they’re too far away, they’ll never make it in time. This was probably true, but why not take the chance when American lives are at stake? (Emphasis added.)

Why, indeed, were the jets not scrambled and other steps not taken? When did it become too late and in view of the alleged prescience of the Obama Administration, when was that known as fact rather than as a convenient excuse to be offered later as needed?

What has been the nature and extent of President Obama’s role?

Note that Ms. Noonan refers to the Obama Administration and to the White House rather than to President Obama personally. Was he active or passive in trying to understand what was happening in Benghazi or in masterminding the cover ups? That remains to be seen, but this quote from Bertrand Russell’s 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech titled What Desires are Politically Important may suggest a pertinent question worth asking. The compulsion to gain and keep political power is the most important of all political motives. However, those with the most political power are not necessarily those holding political office.

Napoleon had, I think, no ideological preference for France over Corsica, but if he had become Emperor of Corsica he would not have been so great a man as he became by pretending to be a Frenchman. Such men, however, are not quite pure examples, since they also derive immense satisfaction from vanity. The purest type is that of the eminence grise – the power behind the throne that never appears in public, and merely hugs itself with the secret thought: «How little these puppets know who is pulling the strings.» Baron Holstein, who controlled the foreign policy of the German Empire from 1890 to 1906, illustrates this type to perfection. He lived in a slum; he never appeared in society; he avoided meeting the Emperor, except on one single occasion when the Emperor’s importunity could not be resisted; he refused all invitations to Court functions, on the ground that he possessed no court dress. He had acquired secrets which enabled him to blackmail the Chancellor and many of the Kaiser’s intimates. He used the power of blackmail, not to acquire wealth, or fame, or any other obvious advantage, but merely to compel the adoption of the foreign policy he preferred. In the East, similar characters were not very uncommon among eunuchs. (Emphasis added.)

Does President Obama rely on an eminence grise or several of them? If so, who are he, she or they and why? Valerie Jarrett? Hillary Clinton perhaps? She is well known and respected by many as a stellar political figure and as the probable Democrat presidential candidate for 2016. While not exactly fitting Lord Russell’s description, she seems a possible candidate. I don’t know who it might be or if President Obama even has one or more; but it would be fascinating to learn.

Is anybody there? Does anybody care?

After 1776, America became a free and independent republic. Historically, she was unique in many respects. She has lasted longer than many, probably even her founders, expected. Does anybody care whether she still a free and independent republic? If the Benghazi ball of twine lies, deception and cover ups and their successors are not unraveled the prospects are increasingly dim that she will remains so. Some are paying attention but not enough.

The nascent emergence of some of the legitimate media from their Washington Insider cocoon may augur that more will pay attention, perhaps even some “low information voters;” they tend not to pay much attention, at least until after their spirits have been aroused.

Might there be, somewhere, another Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519 BC – 430 BC) who represents the rejection of power for its own sake and the acceptance of public office only temporarily? As noted at Nebraska Energy Observer in an article by Jessica Hoff, a Brit, titled Civic virtue and the Republic,

Your American history has many such men, from the great George Washington, through Jefferson and Lincoln and into more modern times, a man like Eisenhower or Truman. These were men of almost Cincinnatan virtue. They were men who gave to the State and asked for little and ended by being loved by the people.  Has there been one such since Ike?  And if not, is that not a sign of something? …

I don’t recall Washington, Jefferson, Truman or Ike cashing in on their time in office; I can’t recall many recent presidents who haven’t once they retired.

The chances of another Cincinnatus emerging are very slim. Ike had been a career soldier before becoming President. Truman had been a career politician before becoming Vice President and then President. We have to do the best we can with what we have. Even without a clone of Cincinnatus, we should be able to do pretty well. Will we? Only if enough of us care enough. Whose land is the United States? Isn’t it up to us?

Update 1:

The press conference noted at Politico finally began. Press Secretary Carney’s ears turned red as he tried to defend the position of the Obama Administration on the Benghazi cover up. At least the color is appropriate.

Update 2:

Here’s a YouTube video of Press Secretary Carney’s remarks at the press conference.

Oh well. Someday, he may find a new job as a whirling dervish in a minstrel show.

Update 3:

It’s all due to that nasty Romney for politicizing Benghazi. Thus spake Carney.

Update 4:

Press Secretary Carney’s session did not seem to go over well, even with the “legitimate media.” According to this post-conference article at PJ Tatler,

Carney does not represent the historical value of the event – you should be wise to forget his performance, and instead take note that he was flanked by the entire room, without exception.

Do not underestimate the significance: the Obama administration has not faced such an onslaught of truth-seeking since he took office in 2008, and further, no Democratic administration has been charged from all sides like this in recent memory.

That press conference was unthinkable just days ago.

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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