What Doesn’t Matter to Hillary Clinton


“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, which left U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith and Glen Doherty dead. “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”

It matters because a protest gone wild or Libyan guys out for a walk require a very different response — better perimeter security — than a planned armed terrorist attack. A premeditated attack would show that Foggy Bottom was blindsided. A premeditated attack would mean that the administration probably ought to change the way it thinks.

It matters because news reports place some of the Benghazi thugs in Algeria, where their corpses were found after an attack that left 38 hostages dead, including three Americans. The New York Times reports that Algeria captured three Egyptian militants who where involved in both attacks.

I agree with Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who said, “Barack Obama was not responsible for the Benghazi attack any more than George W. Bush was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.”

But if there is evidence that the overthrow of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi — however well-deserved — has destabilized North Africa to an extent that endangers America’s national security, the Obama administration would do well to confront that possibility. Mayhap this administration should be more circumspect before further fertilizing the so-called Arab Spring.

The Senate and House hearings Wednesday were not particularly illuminating on that score. For the most part, Democrats fawned over Clinton, while Republicans bloviated when they should have been pressing for specific information.

Republicans resumed their tireless efforts to get the Obama administration to come clean about the thinking behind U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s appearance on “Meet the Press” and other Sunday shows Sept. 16. Rice said, “What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted” by an anti-Islam video. She also claimed there was no evidence the Benghazi attack was “preplanned.”

It is clear today that the administration preferred to blame an American-made video rather than well-armed al-Qaida-inspired terrorists; the election was less than two months away.

Now the election is four years away. Still, Clinton refused to acknowledge that the video didn’t cause the attack, one that clearly was planned by terrorists. “We don’t know all the motivations.”

So here’s what matters. It matters if al-Qaida-inspired terrorists planned this attack. It matters if the same group was involved in the Algeria killings. It doesn’t matter if a few guys angry about a video somehow found themselves in the company of armed militants intent on killing a U.S. ambassador.

Email Debra J. Saunders at: dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.

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