A few days ago, I shared with you HERE a detailed account of last month’s deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Today, I give you THIS EXPLANATION of Republican efforts to turn the Benghazi tragedy into a scandal for partisan purposes shortly before the presidential election.
A few excerpts:
If you had been listening to Republicans or watching Fox News in recent weeks, you knew that what Romney said [at Tuesday night's debate] wasn’t simply an off-the-cuff or clumsy error. For weeks now, opponents of the administration have been trying to paint the Benghazi attack not just as a possible security or intelligence failure that resulted in the deaths of Americans abroad, but as a scandal that the Obama administration tried to cover-up. And a key part of the Benghazi cover-up theory is the suggestion that the administration made a political decision to avoid or delay calling the assault on the consulate “terrorism,” and to resist the possibility that the attack was planned.
People with experience in intelligence and national security who spoke with TPM this week downplayed much of the debate. They said they see nothing unusual or nefarious in the official story having evolved over time. In fact, they said, it is all but expected that the first official account of a complex and fast-moving event will turn out to be wrong or incomplete.
“Sorting out what happened — in terms of the source of the attack, who knew what before the attack — is a very difficult, complicated, time-consuming process,” Vicki Divoll, former general counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told TPM. “And it is legitimate for it to take several weeks or even longer before you have the answers you need.”
Jonah Blank, a former staff member with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pointed out that to this day, there is no settled explanation for the death of the last U.S. ambassador to die in office: Arnold Raphel, the ambassador to Pakistan, who in 1988 was flying with Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, then Pakistan’s president, when their plane went down.
Paul Pillar, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University and a former intelligence officer, told TPM the debate over the Benghazi attack “has been blown up for the obvious political reasons.”
“I didn’t think it would drag on this long and this hard,” Pillar said. “But I guess in the midst of the last three weeks of a presidential election campaign, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a shame.”