Under the guise of toughness, Republican members of Congress have used the Benghazi attack and nomination hearings for the leaders of the Defense and State departments and the CIA to re-adjudicate the war in Iraq, rehash personal disagreements, open old wounds and grandstand in service of presidential aspirations rather than focus on the myriad of relevant questions about current national security and defense issues.
At the same time, the implications of recommendations made by an independent investigation of the incident, led by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and conducted within weeks of the assault, have been largely ignored.
At least Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was finally honest over the weekend about his obsession with Benghazi talking points and willingness to hold up the nominations of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and John Brennan. As he indicated to Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” Sunday, he’s settling old partisan scores from the Bush administration, when Democrats held up the nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
“Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m going to ask my colleagues, just like they did with John Bolton. Joe Biden said no confirmation without information. No confirmation without information.” Graham said. He went on, “I want to know who changed the talking points. Who took the references to al Qaeda out of the talking points given to Susan Rice?”
But just like comparisons between Benghazi and the intelligence failures around the 9/11 attacks, which misled America into a now 12-year war that has cost more than 6,000 American lives, his comparison is yet another GOP false equivalency.
As has been discussed, debated and rehashed many times over, most recently in the hearings Graham demanded with Secretaries Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, we know there were legitimate national security concerns that played a role in what information could be declassified for talking points — concerns that included not letting our enemies in on what we knew at the time. And unlike opposition to John Bolton’s nomination to be U.N. ambassador or undersecretary of State for Arms Control, raised given his repeated hostility toward the work of the United Nations at a time when the United States needed to rebuild global alliances and due to his lack of support for treaties like the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, neither Brennan nor Hagel had anything to do with the Benghazi talking points.
As then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden commented, “I have always voted against nominees who oppose the avowed purpose of the position to which they have been nominated.” Unlike the additional documents congressional Republicans are seeking from Hagel in his confirmation hearings, which go beyond what has already been provided and has previously been required of nominees, the documents Democrats sought during the Bolton proceedings involved questions around his potential misuse of government intelligence.
By focusing on settling old scores, congressional Republicans — who are now threatening to walk out of the committee vote on Hagel — are putting politics ahead of our nation’s security interests.
At a time when the very nature of the conflicts we are facing, against enemies that are quick to adapt, requires America to think very differently about “war” and “national security,” we must be asking instead what resources are required. What changes — as both Clinton and Panetta noted — should be made in the coordination and complement of resources from our intelligence, State and defense capabilities in order to better address these changes?
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