Back to Benghazi – Why Republicans Are Wrong to Call it Watergate

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US-consulate-in-Benghazi-under-attackUnlike old soldiers that fade away in time, conspiracy theories in Washington rarely die. They linger in the shadows, waiting to rear their ugly head on Capitol Hill during slow news days or at opportune moments to further political agendas. In Benghazi’s case, the once dormant story reappeared last week after internal government emails surfaced, which covered accounts of the deadly encounter that took place at the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

As expected, many conservatives have weighed in on the new information. In recent days, we have heard former Vice President Dick Cheney compare Benghazi to 9/11, U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann tell us it is part of God’s wrath and several Republican Congressmen liken it to Watergate.

Leaving God and Cheney out of it for the moment, let’s focus on that third point –Watergate. Watergate is the example of government corruption and paranoia, when the executive branch experienced its darkest hour; it is the catchphrase for governmental deceit wrapped inside a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy. But Benghazi does not even come close to being the next Watergate.

As an event, Watergate was a conscious decision by the Nixon Administration to commit a series of illegal acts.

First, there was an actual act of breaking and entering – in this case into Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex.

Second, there was an attempt to criminally acquire information to use for advantageous purposes in a federal election for the highest office in the land.

Third, there was a determined effort to conceal illicit acts from the public.

Altogether, these were premeditated, deliberate decisions and not a matter of life and death (besides the intended political death of Democratic Presidential nominee George McGovern), but of politics. This was an egregious act of deception and a violation of the people’s trust that Nixon and his cohorts knowingly undertook.

Benghazi was an act of foreign terrorism that resulted in the tragic deaths of four people including U.S. Ambassador J Christopher Stevens. The U.S. government and its leaders did not make the conscious decision to kill anyone in Benghazi. Yes, some of our diplomatic compounds around the world may have fallen below desired security standards, which makes our diplomats more susceptible to danger. But that is just a vulnerability, not a drawn-out plan with a desired result.

What about Watergate the metaphor? Those crying Watergate today want to use the term as a generalization for cover-up, a politically-motivated rallying cry to stir up the masses. Even so, these events share little other than one-word geographic locales. Nixon’s administration tried to cover up its crimes, as if they never happened. Conversely, the Obama Administration, more specifically the State Department, changed the wording of talking points as part of a pissing contest with the CIA to have final say in descriptions of events that occurred within the compound.

In the CIA’s initial draft of events in Libya, the State Department spokeswoman requested changes out of fear of having the information abused by members of Congress, no surprise there, and suspicions that the CIA was trying to absolve itself from guilt. This is more indicative of the internal goings-on in our government, where party politics and departmental rivalries encourage finger pointing and protecting one’s backside. Was Benghazi poorly handled? Yes. Was it a federal crime? No.

So why will we continue to hear Watergate in this debate? Because Watergate led to the resignation of President Nixon in the face of his impending impeachment. Many current Republican lawmakers would love to see the same with President Obama, along with the toppling of Hilary Clinton’s presidential aspirations. So what is the greater tragedy here? Is it the four deaths in Benghazi or the politicization of their deaths that does not mourn their loss as much as use it as a means of attempting to control a political landscape?

About Marc Freeman

For more than twenty years Marc Freeman has made his living working behind things; the camera, his keyboard, his laptop, and taller people. Since graduating from Pomona College, he has travelled between Los Angeles and Seattle as a film and television writer, copywriter, editor, and journalist. His work has included well-known projects such as Terminator 2, Home Alone, The Fugitive, Will and Grace, and Bill Gates Last Day at Microsoft video. In recent years he’s also written jokes for comedic performers such as members of Second City. Marc squeezes time in as a college film professor where he enjoys talking shop but hates grading papers. He has a wife, daughter, and dog who are all much prettier.
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