As Iraqi protesters battered the walls of the American embassy in Baghdad, pundits and commentators drew parallels with the deadly assault on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.
Protesters entered Baghdad’s heavily fortified ‘Green Zone’ on Tuesday, incensed at an american airstrike that left 25 members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia dead two days earlier. Embassy security resisted a barrage of stones hurled by protesters, firing tear gas and stun grenades. The State Department later said that the embassy itself remained secure, and would not be evacuated.
As Apache helicopters flew overhead, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the summoning of reinforcements to the embassy compound, #Benghazi trended on Twitter.
Trump’s opponents jumped on the hashtag to slam the president for golfing in his Mar-a-Lago resort while the embassy was pounded by protesters. After all, they argued, Trump had spent years excoriating former State Secretary Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama for their supposed absence while jihadists stormed US diplomatic and intelligence buildings in the Libyan city in 2012, killing four Americans.
For a party that screeched about Benghazi for the last 7+ years, smearing and investigating everyone, even though none were golfing at the time, the Republicans are awfully quiet about this and the fact that Trump is golfing in Florida while it’s going down. https://t.co/ZZCKn6Evad
— Bob Cesca (@bobcesca_go) December 31, 2019
However, every story is open to partisan interpretation.Trump’s supporters argued that by sending in US Marines to secure the Baghdad embassy, and demanding Iraq step up its security of the building, the president has already done more than Obama and Clinton did in 2012 to avoid disaster.
If you’re not following the events at our embassy in Iraq, you should be. Were it not for @realDonaldTrump and @SecPompeo acting swiftly and decisively, this could have been another #Benghazi. Had Hillary won in 2016, we know it would be.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) December 31, 2019
After the deaths in Benghazi in 2012, numerous Congressional investigations were convened, one of which found that no reinforcements were sent to aid the besieged Americans during the eight-hour jihadist attack. Furthermore, an additional House Intelligence Committee report found that Clinton’s State Department ignored warnings about the perilous security situation of American diplomats in Benghazi for months leading up to the attack.
In the aftermath of the attack, Clinton claimed that the attack was provoked by an anti-Muslim video that whipped an already angry crowd of protesters into a frenzy. However, Clinton revealed in private conversations with confidants and world leaders that she knew a jihadist group was behind the assault. A lawsuit then alleged that Clinton’s use of unsecure email server let militants learn the location of the US ambassador in Benghazi and plan the attack accordingly.
As Twitter bickered over Benghazi, a US Marine Air-Ground Task Force set off for Baghdad. With security bolstered in the compound, any discussion of Benghazi will likely remain a hypothetical and partisan affair. Still, with Trump and his administration blaming Iran for instigating the protests, the consequences of the airstrikes and embassy storming may yet be felt throughout the region.
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