The special State Department report on Benghazi (known as the Accountability Review Board) released on Tuesday offered a blistering critique of mid-level State Department officials but left Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama relatively unscathed. The report contains no mention of the State Department Rules of Engagement for Libya believed to have been signed off on by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton some time in 2011. These restrictive rules prohibited the stationing of Marines anywhere in Libya for the purpose of defending American diplomatic facilities, and set the untenable “no bullets for local guards” security policy that contributed to the weak Benghazi defenses prior to the attack on September 11, 2012.
The report was a deft political shifting of blame offered by a committee led by two old hands at the Washington game–career diplomat and retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen. Many military and foreign policy experts, however, were not fooled. As Colonel David Hunt, a FoxNews contributor, told Breitbart News:
It is impossible except in Washington DC, to declare a system failure which results in the deaths of four Americans, the looting of a U.S. consulate, and the closing of an operational CIA base, but hold no one responsible for that failure. The buck passing starts at the desk of the President of the United States then quickly travels down to the Secretary of State and to the Secretary of Defense. We have a total breakdown of security preparation and reaction to a terrorist attack and a series of disinformation messages and outright lies with no one in our government being held accountable. The reaction continues to be ‘ please move along, nothing happening here….move along.’ (emphasis added)
The report fails to address reports from multiple sources that the decision not to station Marines in Libya prior to the Benghazi attack was made by Secretary of State Clinton. Improbably it credits the same State Department that had opposed stationing Marines in Libya as the initiator of its recommendation that Marines should be stationed there in the future:
The Board supports the State Department’s initiative to request additional Marines and expand the Marine Security Guard (MSG) Program – as well as corresponding requirements for staffing and funding. The Board also recommends that the State Department and DoD identify additional flexible MSG structures and request further resources for the Department and DoD to provide more capabilities and capacities at higher risk posts.
The report concludes by painting the root causes of the failed response to the Benghazi attacks as budgetary constraints and poor middle management decision making rather than incorrect and ill-advised policies originating with Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama:
For many years the State Department has been engaged in a struggle to obtain the resources necessary to carry out its work, with varying degrees of success. This has brought about a deep sense of the importance of husbanding resources to meet the highest priorities, laudable in the extreme in any government department. But it has also had the effect of conditioning a few State Department managers to favor restricting the use of resources as a general orientation. There is no easy way to cut through this Gordian knot, all the more so as budgetary austerity looms large ahead.
Breitbart News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the State Department on September 15, 2012 to obtain a copy of The State Department Rules of Engagement for Libya, but the State Department responded in late October that the document won’t be released for another six months or longer.