Hillary Clinton Struggles to Escape Benghazi Scandal
by Nina Taneja on Thursday, March 10th, 2016
Following Super Tuesday and primaries all over the United States, the presidential race is reaching extreme heights of competition. Hillary Clinton finds herself in bitter contention with other Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders. For some voters, Clinton’s involvement with Libya could be her biggest fault.
Libya is described by many as a “failed state” due to its abundance of terrorist groups (namely ISIS), economic crises in oil, and government instability. The situation in Libya relating to Clinton is complex, to say the least. The story began with the Arab Spring in 2011, starring Libya’s ruler Muammar el-Qaddafi facing a revolt against his 42-year dictatorship.
On February 27th, 2016, the New York Times published a two-part piece discussing Clinton’s responsibilities and actions in Libya. It stated, “France and Britain were urging the United States to join them in a military campaign to halt Colonel Qaddafi’s troops, and now the Arab League, too, was calling for action.”
President Obama delegated Clinton, his Secretary of State at the time, to travel to Tripoli, Libya for one day to meet with leaders of the Libyan opposition. Philip H. Gordon, one of Clinton’s assistant secretaries, described in the aforementioned Times article that these leaders said “all the right things about supporting democracy and inclusivity and building Libyan institutions…They gave us what we wanted to hear. And you do want to believe [what they said is true].”
Having been convinced that landing American forces in Libya was the right decision, Clinton was deemed partially responsible for Obama’s decision “to join allies in bombing Colonel Qaddafi’s forces.” After the death of Qaddafi upon attacks from Libyan rebels, she famously exclaimed, “We came, we saw, he died!”
Clinton is also thought to have dropped the ball during the Benghazi attacks. This terrorist act occurred on September 11, 2012, in which four Americans were killed in the American embassy in Libya; the embassy lacked security, which Clinton’s department did not provide.
Following these attacks, Libya underwent a period of extreme political turbulence. The country now has a population less than that of Tennessee and is a “terrorist haven” for the Islamic State, which numbers between 5,000 and 6,000 fighters in Libya, the New York Times reports. A CNN article published on December 2nd, 2015, says that, excluding Syria and Iraq, Libya has “proved to the most promising ground for ISIS expansion with the group entrenching its control of the former Gadhafi stronghold of Sirte…and over a hundred miles of coastline bordering the city.”
Clinton’s critical role in the Libyan intervention is often thought of as her most important and influential decision as Secretary of State, and has the potential to ruin her campaign. But her choices may also reflect how she would act as president. Anne-Marie Slaughter, Clinton’s Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, told the New York Times that Clinton is “very careful and reflective, but when the choice is between action and inaction, and you’ve got risks in either direction, which you often do, [Clinton] would rather be caught trying.” This same article continues that in situations like Libya, Clinton would rather “be criticized for what she has done than for having done nothing at all.” Clinton’s approach to the U.S.A.’s biggest issues appears to be more action- and intervention-based than Obama’s.
But what is Clinton doing to alleviate tensions regarding Libya now, as her campaign grows stronger? Following the attacks in Benghazi, Clinton was questioned seven times by Republican-led probes, the latest one lasting 11 hours, in which she respectfully took responsibility for her actions regarding security in Benghazi. However, she also said the decisions regarding the embassy never reached her. She described in a BBC article published on October 23rd of 2015 that before she “left office, [she] launched reforms to better protect our people in the field and help reduce the chance of another tragedy happening in the future.”
Regardless of Libya’s current state, America’s intervention has demonstrated Clinton’s stance on American presence in other countries and how she handles difficult choices. As Clinton prepares for a slew of primaries and caucuses, it is almost definite that the tensions in Libya will be a topic for conversation in the coming months.
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