In general I believe the Senate should confirm a president’s nominees, but not in the case of Susan Rice. In my view Rice would be a disaster as Secretary of State.
The Benghazi incident where al Qaeda terrorists killed four Americans including the Libyan ambassador deeply troubles me. The incident is a combination of three failures, each of which Rice had a hand in. First the ambassador asked for better security for State Department workers in the country and was turned down by the administration. Second, when the ambassador and his security detail came under attack communications broke down and prevented an effective rescue from being mounted. Finally, ambassador Rice took to the airwaves for weeks denying the nature of the attack, blaming an Internet video instead of acknowledging it as a terrorist attack against the United States that resulted in the death of four Americans, including the loss of its first ambassador in over 30 years.
In 1994 and 1995 I lived in a national park Tanzania. To get there I had to fly through Nairboi Kenya and spent over a week there on the way in and another on the way out. During my stays in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam Tanzania I visited the US embassy in both cities to check in and get information on the area. On my visit to the embassy in Dar I learned that the low profile building on the outskirts of the city had once held the Israeli embassy before the Israelis built another more secure compound elsewhere in the city. At the time I thought nothing of it, nor did I question the location of the US embassy in a poorly built highrise in downtown Nairobi.
Three years later both embassies would be destroyed by simultaneous truck bombs engineered by al Qaeda. The attacks killed 224 including 12 Americans and wounded over 4,000. Prior to these attacks the Kenyan ambassador had pleaded with Secretary of State Madeline Albright for better security at the facility in Nairobi but was ignored. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has raised suspicion over Susan Rice’s involvement in the failure to secure the embassy because at the time she was the Assistant Secretary of Affairs in Africa. “What troubles me so much is the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on those embassies in 1998, when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department. In both cases, the ambassadors begged for additional security,” Collins said. Administration supporters counter this, saying Rice had “no direct role” in the scandal at the African desk, with the Soros funded political action committee ThinkProgress saying Collins stance against Rice was “hypocritical.” The problem with attacking Collins is that she is not considered by members of either party as an extremist, and if anything sides with the Democrats on many issues against the will of her party. If the administration can’t count on the support of Collins, they know they can’t count on anyone with an “R” behind their name, as well as a few conservative-leaning “D”s.
The similarities between Benghazi 2012 and East Africa 1998 are eerie enough without Rice’s presence, but to those of us who take a hardline against Islamic terror both events are connected by Democratic administration that failed in their sworn duty to protect the citizens of the United States. President Clinton’s response to the attack was to launch cruise missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan that destroyed a powdered formula factory but did little damage. The weak response by the USA gave credence to Osama Bin Laden’s narrative that the United States was a “weak horse” whose back would break when enough pressure was applied.
Why Sudan? The attack on Sudan ties the embassy bombings and Rice to an even bigger intelligence failure, Susan Rice’s thwarting of Bin Laden’s capture in 1997 – a year before the embassy attacks and a full four years before 9-11. In the book “Losing Bin Laden,” author Richard Miniter describes the primary role Rice played in convincing President Clinton to rebuff Sudan’s offer of handing over Osama Bin Laden who lived there at the time. She argued that Sudan was bluffing and Clinton shouldn’t take it seriously. Bin Laden evidently thought otherwise, left the country and moved to Afghanistan where he plotted the attacks that led to the death of 3,000 Americans four years later.
So on one hand we have senior State Department official (do mid-levels meet with the President and offer him advice?) in two intelligence failures prior to 9-11 and one after. What is common between these incidents is a failure to appreciate the depth of hatred for the USA and the danger presented to it by Islamic terrorism, a failure that was on display in Susan Rice’s performance after Benghazi denying it was a terrorist attack.
Is this the person we should have as the head of our diplomatic corps?
The likely nominee is John Kerry. While I believe he was unfit as Commander in Chief and do not have much respect for his behavior during the Vietnam War, and while I think he might be a wealthy weasel for basing his yacht in Rhode Island to avoid taxes, I do not view him with the same level of concern as I do Susan Rice and would not actively oppose his nomination as Secretary of State. But Susan Rice? Either the woman has bad luck by being party to the greatest intelligence failures since World War 2 or she is actively causing these failures. Either way she does not belong as head of Foggy Bottom.