TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather
Friday, Aug 01, 2014
Editorials

Truth catching up with Obama administration

Published:

We wonder how the election would have turned out if diplomat Gregory Hicks had testified before Congress about Benghazi last fall.

His dramatic testimony to Congress on Wednesday made clear the Obama administration mishandled the crisis from the start.

Once the tragic debacle occurred, officials were more concerned with damage control than the truth.

Republicans have been making this accusation all along, but Hicks was the No. 2 U.S. official in Libya at the time of the attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. This is no political hatchet job.

Quick decisions in frenzied situations are easy to second guess. Even so, Hicks’ chronicle puts the administration, particularly former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a very bad light.

Hicks believes the administration could have done more to scare off the attackers. The military disputes that, but there can be no disputing that Hicks and other Americans knew almost immediately that terrorists were behind the Benghazi attack. It was not a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video, as the administration originally claimed.

Hicks was in Tripoli the night of Sept. 11 when Stevens was killed. He said Stevens called and told him, “Greg, we’re under attack.” Stevens and an aide would soon be dead. Two more Americans, former SEALS working as security contractors, were killed in a second attack later that night.

Hicks believes that second attack could have been prevented if U.S. jets had flown over Benghazi to intimidate the terrorists. The Pentagon says no planes were available. Military officials also say there was no time for a security detail at Tripoli to make it to Benghazi in time to stop the attack.

Both matters deserve more scrutiny. It is curious Americans would be allowed in harm’s way in such a volatile country without the nation being prepared to come to their aid.

More damming is Hicks’ testimony that he briefed Secretary Clinton the night of the killings, when it was already evident terrorists were behind the attack.

Yet United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice was still blaming an anti-Islam video five days later on TV interview shows.

Hicks told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that when he heard Rice, “I was stunned. My jaw dropped, and I was embarrassed.”

And as The Wall Street Journal points out, Clinton later promised the father of one of the victims that the filmmaker would be arrested and prosecuted — when she should have been fully aware the video played no role in the attacks.

This looks to be a cynical and cruel deception.

Indeed, Hicks’ testimony suggests Clinton’s agency scrambled quickly to keep the truth under wraps.

Hicks says State Department brass ordered him not to talk with a visiting Republican congressman (Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah). When he did anyway, he was dressed down by Clinton’s chief of staff.

Now, Hicks says, he has been essentially demoted to a desk job, something the department disputes.

Clinton’s fingerprints look to be very close to — if not all over — this disaster.

When questioned by Congress last January about when the administration knew terrorists were behind the attacks, Clinton disdainfully said, “What difference at this point does it make?”

The truth always makes a difference, particularly when four Americans are killed serving their country.

Congress should continue the investigation. Americans may be forgiving of any misjudgments during a night of chaos and violence. They are unlikely to be as tolerant of self-serving deceptions.

Comments