Secretary of State Clinton declared that she “took responsibility” for the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four American diplomatic personnel including Ambassador Christopher Stevens were killed. She went on to explain that there are over 60,000 State Department personnel, and she sees them all as “family.” That’s a really big “family.” I hope it’s not her turn to make Thanksgiving dinner.
Secretary Clinton declared that it is unreasonable to expect the president and vice president to be aware of security problems in the State Department, which are dealt with by “security professionals.”
No, actually. Security duties are carried out by security professionals, but decisions on how much security is needed are made by high State Department officials. Diplomats in Libya repeatedly asked for more security after recent attacks. But they were turned down by State Department officials, who instead spent money on sending Chevy Volts and a charging station to our embassy in Vienna to show how “green” we are.
In fact, this is a case of “blame the victim.” The security professionals risk their lives on the ground. In addition to Ambassador Stevens and his aide, two security professionals – former Navy SEALs – were killed. But it was the politicians in Washington who decided not to reinforce them.
What people consider important reveals a great deal about them. Appearing “green” is now more important to politicians than protecting the lives of diplomatic personnel for whom they are responsible. There’s that word again – responsible. To some it has real meaning. To others it’s just a word.
So what did Hillary mean by “taking responsibility”?
● The president and vice president can’t know what all 60,000 State Department personnel are doing, so how can I?
● I feel all of them are “family,” and since feelings are more important than actions, that’s all that really matters.
● I leave security decisions to security professionals, so it’s their problem. I’m off to a meeting on women’s empowerment.
● Now where’s my plane to Peru?
In short, Hillary’s “taking responsibility” means absolutely nothing, except: Don’t blame Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and don’t blame me, either. Just get over it.
What “taking responsibility” surely does not mean is: (a) specifying what she did wrong; (b) describing what she will do to prevent a recurrence; and (c) enumerating what she will do to help the survivors of the four American diplomatic personnel who were killed.
But all this raises a fundamental question: What does it mean to “take responsibility”?
The United Kingdom and many other nations have a parliamentary system. While I prefer our system of divided powers, their system has some advantages. For example, the prime minister and other government ministers are all members of parliament and responsible to it.
If a serious problem occurs in a department, the minister who runs that department can resign – but still retain a seat in parliament. Then, when the problem fades from public memory, the person can be appointed to run another department. Resigning the ministerial post is still a setback, but not career suicide. Firing a minister is a slap in the face, but not a fatal blow.
Here, on the contrary, if a Cabinet secretary resigned after a scandal, it would probably be a career-ender, so it rarely happens. But as a result, “taking responsibility” often means nothing at all.
Remember Janet Reno, Bill Clinton’s attorney general? Remember Waco? A bizarre but nonviolent cult, the Branch Davidians, lived in wooden buildings near Waco, Texas. The media referred to it as a “compound,” as if it were fortified. They were accused of having illegal weapons. The local sheriff knocked on the door, asked to look around, found nothing illegal, and went on his way.
But that didn’t satisfy the feds. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms thought the case would make a media event to support increasing their budget. Yes, that’s the same BATF that caused Randy Weaver’s dog, son, and wife to be shot (in that order). That’s the same BATF that illegally ran hundreds of guns across the border to Mexican drug cartels, resulting in the death of at least one Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, as well as the deaths of many – perhaps hundreds – of Mexicans.
The BATF didn’t knock on the door. They didn’t detain David Koresh, the Davidians’ leader, on one of his frequent trips to town. They costumed themselves in black clothes and ski masks, then burst through a second-floor window. As a result, four federal agents and six Davidians were killed.
The FBI took over the case. After a prolonged siege, an assault was made with tanks. CS tear gas was discharged through breaches in the walls. The electricity had been shut off, so candles and lanterns were in use. Concentrated CS gas is flammable if there is an open flame, and fire broke out. When heated, CS degrades into cyanide gas.
In the end, 84 Davidians were killed – including 26 minors who were by definition innocent hostages. Note that the Davidians used a flag with the Star of David, they observed the Sabbath on Saturday, and they did not eat pork. If gassing and incinerating an unpopular religious group like that does not remind you of the Holocaust, you need a history lesson.
After this unmitigated disaster, Attorney General Reno appeared before Congress and tearfully “took responsibility.” She then remained in office and suffered no negative effects whatever. A decent person would have really taken responsibility. She would have resigned, withdrawn from public life, and devoted her remaining years to raising money to help the families of the 84 dead.
Nevertheless, Janet Reno’s “taking responsibility” was not entirely meaningless. It took the blame off President Clinton, who no doubt gave final approval for the murderous assault. The siege was on TV news every night, and he could not possibly have been “out of the loop” in such a high-profile case.
Similarly, Hillary Clinton’s “taking responsibility” is also not entirely meaningless. It takes the blame off President Obama, who may – or may not – have been aware of the dangerous situation in Libya. He seems to show little interest in international affairs, except to apologize for supposed misdeeds committed by America in the past.
After the Benghazi attack, Obama condemned in the harshest terms the brief, amateur YouTube video that was the excuse – but not the cause – for the attack on our consulate in Libya. The producer of the video is in jail for alleged violation of his parole on federal charges.
It remains to be seen whether the producer, whom I hold in contempt, is really in jail to show Muslim extremists that we punish those who insult Muhammad. If this is the case, the First Amendment is now an endangered species. But will it receive the protection we so lovingly accord to the delta smelt and Stephens’ kangaroo rat? Don’t bet on it.
Our current notion of “taking responsibility” is to mumble a few nice-sounding words, but then to slough off responsibility and go thoughtlessly on our way. Can we survive as a nation if no one in the government is responsible? Don’t bet on that, either.
Life is about choices. We must choose which life is more worthy of protection: the life of the Stephens’ kangaroo rat, or the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens. Our leaders have made their choice. And on November 6, we will make ours. If our current leaders do not take seriously their responsibility to protect American lives, we must replace them with leaders who do. That is our responsibility.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.