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May 11, 2014 2:31 PM Total Lack of Focus for Benghazi Committee

By Martin Longman

If the ostensible casus belli for creating a House Select Committee to investigate the attacks of September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya is the belated disclosure of a White House memo detailing talking points for Ambassador Susan Rice, then why is the focus of the committee going to be on the reasons why we had personnel stationed in Benghazi at all?

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said on Sunday morning that, as chair of the newly created select committee on Benghazi, one of the biggest questions he would like to ask former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is why the United States was still there.
“Why were we still in Benghazi? The British ambassador was almost assassinated. Our facility was attacked twice. There were multiple episodes of violence. We were the last flag flying in Benghazi, and I would like to know why,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

For one thing, this seems like a non-sequitur. I thought the investigation was supposed to probe the accuracy of the White House’s explanation for the attacks, including such gravely important semantic points as what exactly qualifies as terrorism and what is the exact definition of al Qaeda.

But Gowdy wants to explore the policy behind our presence in Benghazi, and Speaker Boehner says he wants to explore the lack of security.

Appearing on Fox News on Sunday morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took a slightly different approach. While he said the select committee should focus on the events leading up to the Benghazi attack, he specifically said that members should investigate “the number of requests for more security and why it was not provided.”

As Sam Stein of Huffington Post points out, these questions have already been asked and answered. There is certainly no need for a special investigative body to ask these questions again. In the latter case, I don’t think that Speaker Boehner wants to discuss Congress’s decision to deny the administration the full funding they requested for diplomatic security. A month after the Benghazi attacks, Rep. Jason Chaffetz explained that decision on CNN:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) acknowledged on Wednesday that House Republicans had consciously voted to reduce the funds allocated to the State Department for embassy security since winning the majority in 2010.
On Wednesday morning, CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien asked the Utah Republican if he had “voted to cut the funding for embassy security.”
“Absolutely,” Chaffetz said. “Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country. We have…15,000 contractors in Iraq. We have more than 6,000 contractors, a private army there, for President Obama, in Baghdad. And we’re talking about can we get two dozen or so people into Libya to help protect our forces. When you’re in tough economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.”

It seems like a fair point to me. I’d be willing to forgive the House Republicans for denying adequate security for our diplomatic officials serving in dangerous posts overseas. But they aren’t going to investigate themselves, are they?

Martin Longman is the Web Editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune. He has worked as a community organizer for ACORN/Project Vote and as a political consultant for Democracy for America.

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