Peter Brookes: Painful lessons to learn from Benghazi



It’s certainly not a fluffy novel suited for summer beach reading. Rather, it’s an intense accounting of war and politics perhaps best left for a time with fewer distractions than those found on a long holiday weekend.

What I’m referring to is the deeply troubling tale of the deadly attacks on the U.S. consulate and CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, at the murderous hands of al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.

You, of course, are well aware of the general story.

But getting answers to numerous unanswered questions left by Team Obama in the aftermath of Benghazi had to be done for the families of those who were lost (including a U.S. ambassador), were hurt, or were there – and, not least, for the American people.

That task was left to the congressional Republicans on the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi, an effort led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), which has now compiled some 800 pages on the events in Libya.

While digesting the entirety of the report will take some time, just the contents of a press release and letter to the House speaker from the committee are troubling enough.

  • No military response: “Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began.”
  • Misleading talking points: Then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was briefed by White House “communication experts,” not “subject matter experts” (that is, terrorism analysts) before her now-infamous five Sunday news show appearances where she blamed an anti-Islam video for spurring the attacks.
  • A terror attack: Regarding who was responsible, on “The night of the attacks the Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] sent an email to a family member acknowledging that the attacks were by an ‘Al Qaeda-like group.’

Also worth reading are the “additional views” of U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.). It’s quite hard on Team Obama and includes a couple of redactions to their text.

Some have said that there’s nothing new in the committee’s work. In fairness, it seems that some of what is in the final report made its way to the press during the course of the investigation. The report thankfully pulls it all together in one place at one time.

We know more about the Benghazi tragedy due to this report, but not everything. For instance, some committee members claim the White House didn’t help close knowledge gaps by providing critical information, likely exercising executive privilege.

There are clearly painful lessons to be learned from the Benghazi tragedy and from Team Obama’s mishandling of Libya, a country now in chaos – and a North African home to ISIS and other bad actors.

This Republican committee report, which will be voted on next week by the full Benghazi Select Committee, also includes recommendations. It’s definitely an important part of getting it right should there ever be a next time – God forbid.

This article first appeared in the Boston Herald.  Dr. Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a Fort Valley resident. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter. Email: BrookesOutdoors@gmail.com.