The New York Times' Maureen Dowd captured the moment last weekend when she referred to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as "the midwife to chaos" in Libya. Dowd apparently came to that conclusion after watching Clinton bobbing and weaving and admitting and denying as she was confronted with the partial record of her failures and obfuscations as secretary of state, particularly with respect to Libya.
The public record is fairly well-known. In March 2011, President Barack Obama declared war on Libya. He did this at the urging of Clinton, who wanted to overthrow Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi so she could boast of having brought "democracy" to the region.
She and Obama conspired to do this even though former President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair had publicly praised Gadhafi as an ally in the war against terrorist groups and even though the U.S. was giving the Gadhafi government more than $100 million a year in foreign aid.
Obama did his best to avoid constitutional norms. He deployed American intelligence agents on the ground, not troops, so he could plausibly deny he had put "boots" on the ground. He did not seek an American national consensus for war because Libya presented no threat whatsoever to the U.S. He did not obtain a congressional declaration of war as the Constitution requires because he couldn't get one. And he did not seek United Nations permission, which is required to attack a fellow U.N. member.
He did obtain a U.N. embargo of the shipment of weapons into Libya, and he secured a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over portions of Libya. In order to enforce the no-fly zone, NATO sent jet fighters over the skies of Libya. The jets were guided and directed by American intelligence agents on the ground to bomb Libyan planes on the ground, which had been paid for by American taxpayers.
To pursue her goal of a "democratic" government there, Clinton, along with Obama and a dozen or so members of Congress from both houses and both political parties, decided she should break the law by permitting U.S. arms dealers to violate the U.N. arms embargo and arm Libyan rebels whom she hoped would one day run the new government. So she exercised her authority as secretary of state to authorize the shipment of American-made arms to Qatar, a country beholden to the Muslim Brotherhood and friendly to the Libyan rebels and a country the U.S. had no business arming -- unless the purpose of doing so was for the arms to be transferred to the rebels.
Once this plot was hatched, Clinton and her fellow conspirators realized that some of these rebel groups were manned by al-Qaida operatives; and selling or providing arms to them is a felony -- hence the reason for months' worth of missing and destroyed Clinton emails. How could someone running for president possibly justify providing material assistance to terrorist organizations in the present international climate?
Flash-forward to Clinton's public testimony before the House Benghazi Committee last week. Clinton had three audiences to address. Her immediate audience was the committee, whose members generally did not know how to ask questions of a witness trying to hide the truth. Her second audience was the American people, who will recall little more than 15-second sound bites and general impressions of her testimony. Her third (unseen) audience consisted of the FBI agents and federal prosecutors who are investigating her.
That audience was looking for perjury, misleading statements and what federal law calls "bad acts." Perjury is lying under oath. Misleading Congress is criminal and consists of testimony that employs deceptive language so as to create an untruthful impression. Bad acts constitute repeated behavior demonstrating moral turpitude -- usually a pattern of deception.
The FBI agents surely heard Clinton mislead Congress when she answered a hard question about arms going to rebels by saying "I think the answer is no" and again when she answered a question about arming private militias by saying it may have been considered but wasn't "seriously" considered. And they heard her directly commit perjury when she was asked whether she knew about our country's supplying arms to Libyan rebels directly or indirectly and she answered, "No."
How could she answer "no"? She not only knew about the sending of arms to rebels but also personally authored and authorized it. How could she answer "no"? The FBI and CIA advised her -- in documents that are now public -- that U.S. arms were making their way to known al-Qaida operatives. How could she answer "no"? This reached a crisis point when some of those operatives used their American-made weapons to murder U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Then the cover-up began. At the same time Clinton was telling her daughter and the Egyptian prime minister within hours of Stevens' death that al-Qaida killed him and after the CIA told her the plot to kill Stevens had been hatched 12 days earlier, she told the public that Stevens was killed by spontaneous demonstrators angered about a cheap anti-Islam video, the producer of which she vowed to "get." She later angrily dismissed questions over this cover-up by arguing, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
The difference it makes goes to the heart of the American electoral process. Every four years, we entrust awesome power to a person who swears to protect the Constitution. How could we give that power to a consistent public liar who, for personal political gain, midwifed terror and chaos in a country that was our ally and whose words and behavior have continually demonstrated that she is utterly unworthy of belief?
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