Political and Governmental Issues of the Benghazi Attack
Benghazi is a well-planned attack on the US government facilities which took place in 2012 in Benghazi, Libya. The attack was planned and executed by the Islamic extremist militant group. In the attack, the United States of America lost a highly valued diplomat – Christopher Stevens, the U.S ambassador to Libya, and three other American citizens. Initially, the government inaccurately described the attack not as a coordinated act of terror but a spontaneous violence to protest against the anti-Islamic video. However, it emerged that the then Hillary Clinton-led State Department had turned down the request to improve security at the consulate before the attack took place. Republicans in the House Committee investigating the Benghazi attack released a detailed report in which they criticised the government and military personnel for not responding in time to control the attack before getting out of hand. On the political front, the American Congress reduced spending on the U.S embassy. For instance, Congress cut over $296 million from the State Department’s budget for embassy construction and security with additional reduction in other State Department security spending (St John, 2016). This paper will endeavour to explore political and government issues that emerged as a result of the Benghazi attack.
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Before the attack, the U.S mission was being manned by unarmed contractor guards and one local militia. However, after it, the U.S government has increased securities details at diplomatic facilities all over the world. In the aftermath, the U.S military deployed a special marine team to Benghazi to evacuate U.S citizens and fortify the U.S. Embassy in Libya (“Libya: Benghazi Violence,” 2013). State Department personnel were later criticised for their failure to provide a proper security at the government facilities before the attack. Hillary Clinton, who was the Secretary of State at the time of the attack, took the full responsibility for drawbacks in the security. The Benghazi attack has subsequently come to hurt Hillary Clinton presidential bid. Her actions prior, during, and after the attacks have been closely examined and criticized by the media and the US House of Representatives which is Republican-led. The issue was often mentioned during the 2016 U.S presidential election where Hillary Clinton is a democratic candidate. Her political opponent, Donald Trump, frequently capitalised on the Benghazi attacks in his campaign against Clinton.
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The desire of the U.S government and State Department led by Clinton to keep a low profile on Benghazi attack has been indicated as the prime reason why the State Department contravened its own Overseas Security Policy on diplomatic security. In the aftermath, Hillary took responsibility for the security failure at Benghazi and tendered personal regret (St John, 2016). After the Benghazi attack, there have been at least seven investigations mostly led by Republican members of Congress. Hillary Clinton’s unofficial email account was central to the controversy of the Benghazi attack. The use of unofficial email accounts by Clinton and the State Department’s failure to detect the use of unauthorised accounts delayed and to some extent prevented the Congress select committee from having access to the records pertaining to the Benghazi attack. Hence, government agencies did not come clean on what transpired of the Benghazi due to political reasons.
Weeks after the attack, the U.S government was extensively questioned for its reaction to the terrorist attack. Many reports were debated on, among which there are conflicting reports from intelligence department. It was discussed what role extremist groups like al-Qaeda played in the Benghazi attack and how much the government knew about the outlawed group’s involvement (“Libya: Benghazi Violence,” 2013). Critics also raised questions about the competence of Hillary Clinton in handling the sensitive security docket. The State Department was also checked on how they could have better addressed security threats at the U.S. facilities before the attack. The debate got more political as time passed, and Republican leaders started speaking of cover-ups and conspiracy theories directed to Hillary Clinton who has the political ambition of becoming the president of the United States of America after Obama’s tenure.
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After the attack, Hillary Clinton convened an Accountability Review meeting to review the attack. The meeting’s report found no lapse in the State Department for the Benghazi attacks but acknowledged that there were “management deficiencies and systematic failures” that left the U.S mission at Benghazi vulnerable (Harp, Loke, & Bachmann, 2016). Following the attack, four State Department employees were temporarily suspended and later on assigned other duties within the department. The congressional committee investigating the attack considered a different perspective of the event. The Republican speaker John Boehner instructed the House Committees on Armed Services and Intelligence, Oversight and Government Reform, Foreign Affairs and Judiciary to investigate the issues within their mandates. All Congress investigations were led by Republicans including two bipartisan Senate Committees.
Hillary Clinton faulted the congressional republican for politicising the Benghazi attack where four Americans lost their lives. Republicans accused Clinton who was in charge of diplomatic security of the failure to take action despite being aware of the deteriorating situation in Benghazi, Libya (St John, 2016). The House Select Committee investigating the attack released a detailed account of the actors, events, conversations, and decisions before, during and after the attack. The report revealed the Obama’s government and State Department led by Clinton cynical concentration on politics at the expense of duty. In the report presented before Congress, these failures were dubbed as the “leadership and systematic failures of the Obama administration” (Harp, Loke, & Bachmann, 2016). Furthermore, Clinton was briefed on a daily basis on the rising extremist groups and responded with policies which she thought would give her political mileage.
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Despite the high-security risks, the United States of America’s mission was placed in dilapidated facilities that did not meet the required security standards. The mission’s request to beef security languished within the bureaucracy of State Department. During the attack, the U.S government was slow to respond to the crisis due to what the political analysts perceived as political considerations (Harp, Loke, & Bachmann, 2016). The government made no real effort to save American lives, evacuate survivors, and retrieve bodies of those who perished. The order to deploy rapid response teams by President Obama was also frustrated as high-ranking security officials deliberated on the political implications of marine security officers entering Libya. For instance, one rapid response team sat on a plane for several hours and changed their uniforms four times as the Benghazi continued.
After the attack, multiple authorities tried to unearth what happened; the Obama’s government frustrated the mission of getting to the root cause of the attack. With the 2012 presidential election in mind, the Obama government had every reason to prevent the public from getting to know the truth. The House Committes finally concluded that “the State Department’s failure to stick to their own policies record management and federal law significantly hampered the committee’s investigation.” According to Republicans, “most transparent government in history” had refused to cooperate with the select committee as it strived to do its duty (St John, 2016).
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In conclusion, it is true that the United States of America mission was placed in dilapidated facilities that did not meet the security standards. Despite several attempts by the U.S mission in Benghazi to have its security beefed, the State Department did nothing. The U.S government was slow to respond to the crisis due to political considerations. Government bureaucracy in the U.S State Department is also exposed. In comprehensive logic, the Benghazi attack generated more political and government-related issues rather than security concerns.