Benghazi: The fundamental question that still hasn't been answered

The Benghazi Committee set out to investigate why four Americans died in Benghazi September 11, 2012, not to damage a presidential candidate. Rightly or wrongly, their credibility has been called into question, including by statements from fellow Republicans.

What I’ll be watching for on Thursday is not questions about Hillary Clinton’s emails; but the fundamental question:  What were the Americans doing in Benghazi in the first place?  Consulates and embassy annexes are where diplomats issue visas and find lost luggage, and that’s clearly not what former special forces Americans were doing.

Who was Ambassador Stevens supposed to meet in Benghazi, and who was responsible for his security?

Which Libyan militia groups were we partnering with and who vetted them?

The committee should focus on what happened in the weeks leading up to the Benghazi attack. They should ask why Ambassador Stevens’ repeated calls for more security were ignored.

For over a year there have been unconfirmed reports that the Benghazi was a gun running operation to take Qaddafi’s abandoned weapons and turn them over to Syrian rebels. Is this what the American contractors were doing – running guns?

Were we working with and arming Libyan rebels who turned out to be Al Qaeda-type terrorists?  If that’s true, then not only was this foolish, it was illegal.

Some have said that all of this is reminiscent of Watergate. And yes, Secretary Clinton worked House Judiciary Committee as a 27-year-old staff attorney during the Watergate investigation.  But these are echoes not of Watergate, as some have claimed, but of the Iran-Contra affair.

The committee should focus on what happened in the weeks leading up to the Benghazi attack.

They should ask why Ambassador Stevens’ repeated calls for more security were ignored.

They should question why there was no rescue mission mounted while our men were under attack.

And, yes, they should ask who decided to lie about the events on September 11, 2012 being a planned terrorist attack and instead of using the lame excuse that they were the result of a YouTube video sparking a demonstration that got out of hand.

These questions have all been asked before but they have never answered.

Now, fast forward to October 22, 2015, the committee has new evidence, including Ambassador Stevens’ own emails. This time it will be difficult for any witness to keep dodging the questions.

Finally, and perhaps the most fundamental question of all – was the fiasco of the Libyan war another example of the Obama administration’s love affair with moderately radical Islamists? Has the Obama administration been willfully blind -- from the start -- to the dangers posed by all radical Islamists in Libya, in Egypt, in Syria, in Iraq, in Iran?

There is an overwhelming temptation for any politician in today’s Washington to be partisan.  But it was the same forty years ago during the Watergate scandal.

I know because I was there, working for Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger as a young aide in the West Wing.  It was a dark time not just for the Nixon team, but for the country.

The nation’s business was put on hold for well over a year while we investigated the president and his closest associates.

In the end, the system worked. Nixon resigned, a new president was sworn in and the rift was healed. It was due in no small part to the integrity of the Watergate Committee members – both Republican and Democrat.

Most of them were able to rise above politics and serve the nation’s business. A few, however, learned a different lesson – not the lesson that no one is above the law, but as long as you don’t get caught…

Was Secretary Clinton trying to hide something with her private email system? Perhaps. But that’s for the FBI to decide, not the House Republicans.