After Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein’s despotic misrule, critics denounced the then-incumbent president with the charge that “Bush lied, people died.” It never ceases to amaze that among the most prominent of those making this slanderous accusation were past and current Democratic legislators who had publicly pronounced exactly what George W. Bush did: Saddam possessed — and used — weapons of mass destruction (WMD). They, like Mr. Bush, had every reason to think and did think that such weapons, or worse, might be used again unless his regime were overthrown.
Put simply, there never had been any conscious or deliberate effort to deceive the American people. Neither did Mr. Bush seek to deflect responsibility for his actions. To the contrary, his top political adviser, Karl Rove, subsequently acknowledged that his greatest mistake — at least, until he made a centi-million-dollar hash-up of campaign 2012 — was preventing any official effort from being mounted to counter the calumny that Mr. Bush lied about Iraqi WMD, with the predictable effect of allowing the credibility of the Bush-43 presidency to be destroyed.
By contrast, people did die in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, owing to President Obama’s policies, and he lied about it, repeatedly and knowingly. This scandalous reality has come to be popularly known as “Benghazigate.”
If we don’t find out what led up to, occurred during and happened afterward — and the role played by the president and his senior subordinates throughout — there will certainly be more lies and may be more American deaths.
Despite several hearings held by assorted congressional committees, we are today no closer than before to knowing the answers to myriad questions that require urgent and authoritative answers. Among them are the following:
What role did the Obama administration’s assiduous cultivation of relations with Islamists play in the creation of the State Department’s so-called special mission facility in Benghazi? What was the true purpose of that facility, and who was assigned to staff it, with what roles?
Where are those people now and why have they not been made available to congressional investigators of the Benghazigate affair? How many of them were injured in the Benghazi attack, and what is their current status?
What caused U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens to consider it necessary to be at that facility, which he had formally complained was dangerously insecure, especially on Sept. 11, a day that al Qaeda has long sought to make open-season on Americans?
Specifically, what was the urgency of Stevens’ last official act — an evening meeting with the Turkish consul general?
Were the special mission facility and the nearby CIA annex involved in a covert operation to collect small arms, surface-to-air missiles or other weapons? Were any of those weapons being secretly made available — directly or indirectly — to the Syrian opposition, a group known to include al Qaeda elements?
If weapons secured in Libya for this purpose were transferred to the so-called Syrian rebels, was there a presidential finding authorizing such activities? In that case, had any congressional leaders been duly notified?
The public record suggests that Mr. Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were inexplicably disengaged from the time they learned of the attack until their joint appearance the next morning in the Rose Garden. Where were they, and what were they doing during that period?
What orders were given and by whom with respect to the organization and execution of a rescue operation or other assistance to the Americans under attack? If no such orders were issued, was there direction to do nothing, and on whose authority?
Precisely who was involved in the so-called “Deputies Committee” efforts to rework the CIA talking points that were used to brief lawmakers and give the public a false narrative that an offensive video, rather than an act of terroristic jihad, was the catalyst for the attack? In particular, what role did John O. Brennan play in that disinformation?
Why did the president insist for as long as two weeks after the episode that the video was involved, prompting him to declare — among other troubling statements — at the United Nations on Sept. 25, “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam”?
Is such presidential guidance the reason why the Obama administration appears to have followed through on the stated intention of Mrs. Clinton to prosecute and jail the maker of that video — with ominous implications for freedom of expression in America?
Unfortunately, even now — six months after the murderous attack in Benghazi — these and many other aspects of this scandal so redolent of the Obama administration’s penchant for putting politics before public safety still cry out for proper investigation.
The current congressional committee structure has proved unable to undertake the necessary accounting, which cuts across various command structures, operational responsibilities and the conduct of numerous agencies, both civilian and military. If anything, the multiple standing House and Senate committees, with their stove-piped jurisdictions, have actually impeded the required, comprehensive determination of the facts.
Consequently, 15 prominent conservatives — many with long experience in national security policymaking and practice — recently called for the creation of a new select committee — at a minimum in the House, but ideally a bicameral one — to get to the bottom of the Benghazigate scandal. It is the only hope for establishing why we were lied to and minimizing the chances that it will happen again, possibly at the cost of far greater loss of American lives.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. formerly acted as an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. He is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the syndicated program Secure Freedom Radio.