By John Hayward
The WikiLeaks dump of those very expensive speeches Hillary Clinton fought to keep secret from the public for so long include some remarkable comments on Libya and Benghazi.
These comments offer a damning indictment of Clinton’s leadership, because it is clear that she and Barack Obama were completely wrong about what would happen to Libya after they toppled dictator Moammar Qaddafi.
For example, she told the Boston Consulting Group in 2013:
So what happened? Well, Khadafy is gone. They start to organize. They had one of the best elections that any of these new countries had. They did not elect extremists. They had a very good outcome of people representing the various factions, but they didn’t – they don’t have a military. They can’t provide security as we found much to, you know, our terrible experience in Benghazi, but we see it all over the country. So the jury is out but it is not for lack of trying by the people who have inherited the positions of responsibility.
The jury wasn’t “out” then, and it is not out today. Clinton and Obama caused a horrific global crisis with their Libyan adventure, and they were completely unprepared for what happened in Benghazi. It’s clear from Clinton’s remarks that she completely misunderstood the security situation.
In the same speech, she explained that now she understands how thoroughly Libya’s “institutions” were “destroyed” by Qaddafi’s rule, and violent overthrow, but sadly for Ambassador Chris Stevens and those who died with him, Clinton did not listen to anyone who tried to warn her about the danger prior to 9/11/2012:
You have a country that had been under the thumb of Khadafy and his henchmen for 42 years. All institutions were destroyed. There was not even a military because he didn’t trust anybody since he had been a Colonel who had done a coup, so he had mercenaries, there were African mercenaries and some European mercenaries that were in his direct pay. They had really just conducted themselves as if the entire Libyan oil fortune was personally theirs.
In a Cisco speech in August 2014, she called the Benghazi attack her “biggest regret,” and repeated her observations about how inadequate the security situation was, as if someone else had been Secretary of State at the time:
Of course it was just devastating that there was this attack on our post and on our CIA annex, which I can talk about now, because it’s all been made public. And that the kind of reliability that governments have to count on from the governments in which they operate, like we’re responsible for the security ultimately of every embassy in Washington.
Well, the Libyan government has no capacity to deliver and the people that we had contracted with were incapable or unwilling to do it. So that was a deep regret.
And you learn from these events, just as we have over the last 30-plus years, where embassies have been attacked or taken over, or the terrible events in Beirut in 1983-84. You learn from them, but it always comes down to this very hard choice, should American civilians be in dangerous places?
What’s especially galling about Clinton’s 20/20 hindsight is that Democrats have long made the same argument about Iraq, and Clinton claims to have accepted those arguments after mistakenly voting to authorize the invasion.
In the later years of the Bush presidency, Democrats claimed it was patently obvious, in retrospect, that Iraq wasn’t ready to deal with the savage post-Saddam era, because decades of brutal personality-cult dictatorship had destroyed the institutions upon which democracy depends. Supposedly everyone outside of the Bush Administration could plainly see that nation-building was a doomed enterprise.
But here’s Clinton asking us to pardon her while she learns the same horrible lesson from her own nation-building project. Why should anyone give President Obama and his Secretary of State a total pass for not understanding what would happen after Qaddafi was gone, when so many people outside the Administration were yelling those warnings from the rooftops? Who was responsible for understanding that security situation and taking appropriate precautions, if not the Secretary of State?
Clinton boasted about the wonderful Libyan elections in several of her speeches – “one of the best elections in the whole region after the fall of Qaddafi,” as she put it to Hamilton College in October 2013 – but such arguments cut no ice with Democrats after the liberation of Iraq. It wasn’t long before they were waving off those “purple finger” photos of Iraqi voters as irrelevant.
“You try to help, you try to create relationships, and, you know, the hard guys with the guns have a different idea. So if you don’t have overwhelming force, it’s difficult,” Clinton observed to General Electric’s Global Leadership Meeting in 2014.
How can anyone be surprised that “the hard guys with guns” have undue influence in the Middle East? How can anyone with even a cursory understanding of the Middle East in general, and Libya in particular, reinforced by the grim lessons of Iraq, have imagined anything less than “overwhelming force” would be required?
Clinton told the Global Business Travelers Association in 2013 that it was “just a terrible crime” Ambassador Stevens was killed “doing what was really in the best interests of both the United States and Libya.”
On that, we can all agree, but that’s not how Clinton talked during the crucial days after the Benghazi attack revealed she and Obama had no idea what they had done to Libya, and no contingency plan for coping with a terrorist strike on the anniversary of 9/11.
During those vital days of Obama’s re-election campaign, Clinton and Obama pretended Benghazi was a bolt from the blue, a stunning “video protest.” She blamed the man who created the video, not these militia groups and terrorist gangs she now claims to be a keen student of. There’s no way to honestly square what Clinton said in these speeches with the Obama Administration’s conduct in September and October 2012.
Clinton’s speeches in 2013 and 2014 are further evidence, if any were needed, that she and President Obama lied to the American people, and to the Benghazi families, about the attack. They were disastrously wrong about Libya, from the minute Clinton talked Obama into toppling Qaddafi.