Hoping to turn the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya into a Watergate-like cover-up, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell poured cold water on the GOP’s plans to roast Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton when she testifies Jan. 22 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When al-Qaeda-like terrorists lashed out Sept. 11, 2012 killing 52-year-old U.S. Amb Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blasted 47-year-old U.N. Amb. Susan Rice for saying on Sunday Morning talk shows that the attack was due to rioting, when, in fact, it was a carefully planned terrorist operation. Rice’s public remarks disqualified her from replacing Hillary as Secretary of State. After withdrawing her name Dec. 13, 2012, Barack nominated Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) Dec. 23, 2012.
McCain and Graham were quick to find scapegoats for Benghazi. When they couldn’t hurt Obama politically before the Nov. 6 election, they turned their ire on Clinton. When Clinton took the heat Oct. 16, it worked politically but unfairly put the blame on the State Department. When Hillary fired three State Department employees Dec. 19, it was an admission that more security work was needed to reinforce the Benghazi consulate and CIA headquarters. When asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” today, Powell defended Clinton. “I think she’s had a distinguished record,” Powell told David Gregory. Rebuking Clinton’s GOP critics, Powell said no one could have stopped the attacks. Powell knows better than most: He was Secretary of State on Sept. 11, 2001, the day that Bin Laden’s programmed assassins flew airliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon
Powell remembers well that no one in Congress blamed him, former President George W. Bush or anyone else for leaving the country undefended. While Sept. 11 killed 2,997 innocent victims, Democrats in Congress refrained from blaming the Bush White House. Yet McCain and Graham lashed out at Obama, Clinton and the State Department, pointing fingers at almost anyone. Powell emphatically told Gregory that things happen and people die. “Somebody gets killed, something gets blown up. And then the after-action reports start and everybody wants to know who was at fault. Who was responsible? . . . “ said Powell, putting Clinton’s GOP critics on notice that you can’t blame her for terrorist attacks. Ranking Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) wants to get to the bottom of why the Benghazi consulate was left vulnerable to a terrorist attack.
When Clinton faces the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jan. 22, her former GOP colleagues will ask her why Amb. Rice told the news media that the Benghazi attack was blamed on rioting from a defamatory U.S.-made video on Islam. McCain, Graham and other want to know who wrote Rice’s memo and who specifically deleted any references to al-Qaeda. White House officials have attributed any revisions to Rice’s talking points to the “intelligence community,” specifically the CIA. When acting CIA Director Mike Morrell testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Nov. 29, 2012, he blamed Rice’s talking points on the FBI. Two hours later, Morrell retracted his statements. Whoever told Rice what to say on Sunday, Sept. 15, the savvy U.N. diplomat should have known better. Withdrawing her name Dec. 13, Rice admitted she loused up the Benghazi message.
Clinton walks a tightrope admitting blame, on the one hand, and telling the committee, as Powell suggests, that no one could have prevented the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack. When Yemen’s No. 2 al-Qaeda Said al-Shehri was killed by a U.S. predator drone Sept. 10, 2012, no one knew when and where al-Qaeda would strike back. They’ve threatened to hit fresh U.S. targets after Yemen’s No. 1 40-year-old, U.S.-born al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki was killed Sept. 30, 2011 and when U.S. Navy Seals got Bin Laden May 1, 2011. Crippled by Sept. 11 standards, al-Qaeda still mounts nuisance attacks like the one in Benghazi, Sept. 12, 2012. Clinton fell into the same blame-game firing three State Dept. employees to satisfy Capitol Hill’s bloodlust. Instead of answering questions on Benghazi, Hillary should answer why she scapegoated her own employees.
Speaking out against a Republican Party that’s moved too far to the right, Powell knows firsthand what it’s liked to be blamed. After Powell testified Feb. 5, 2003 before the U.N. Security Council about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, few people know better that Powell what it’s like getting blamed. While Powell’s never blamed Bush or former Vice President Dick Cheney for setting him up to start the Iraq War, he’s been critical of the GOP since retiring as Secretary of State Jan. 26, 2005. When Powell threw his support to Obama in 2008, it was the beginning of rebuilding his otherwise impeccable reputation. Defending Clinton or Barack’s pick of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for Defense Secretary marks Powell’s efforts to reestablish his nonpartisan credibility. Whether liked by the GOP or not, Powell speaks the truth when given the chance.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.