2. Benghazi’s legacy continues to plague Clinton.
For the former Secretary of State and current Democratic Presidential Candidate, Benghazi and the resulting email scandal has been a constant thorn in the side. It has been, and continues to be, used as ammunition by her political opponents and critics – not least by Donald Trump who has characteristically manipulated data and even called upon Russia to hack her email account to maximal sensationalist effect.
It is not just amongst Republican voters, between Clinton and whom there isn’t any love lost anyway, that her reputation has taken a hit though. A CNN/OCR poll carried out in August 2015 revealed that both independent and democratic voters have lost trust in the Democratic presidential candidate, with 58% of ‘independents’ and 31% of democrats believing her to have made a mistake by using a private email. This is to be seen as a product of Hillary’s own making; credit should to be given where it’s due to Bernie Sanders who, when presented with the issue at a Democratic debate in 2015, refused to take the bait, announcing: ‘The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!’
Nor is it only in relation to the email scandal that Clinton often finds herself in hot water. As recently as September 7th 2016, Clinton made headlines by claiming, at a veteran’s forum hosted by NBC news, that ‘we did not lose a single American’ as a result of the United States’ military intervention in Libya; a claim understandably jumped upon by Trump.
1. And the controversy looks set to continue.
Returning full circle from the probe into Clinton’s private email account to the immediate aftermath of the attack and the explanations being offered by the Obama administration, we see the emergence of a new chapter in this story. On September 9th 2016, the parents of two Benghazi victims, Pat Smith and Charles Woods, filed an affidavit against Clinton after she failed to respond to a lawsuit brought against her in August. Their primary grievance, quite understandably, concerns the wrongful death of their respective sons. They are also, however, litigating against Clinton for ‘defamation and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.’
Smith and Woods allege that Clinton held a private meeting with them in the attack’s aftermath in which she expressly cited the video as being the root cause, saying: “it was the result of [an] anti-Muslim YouTube video that had been posted online and that the creator of the video would be arrested.” Subsequently emerging emails, as we have seen, contradicted the explanation given to Smith and Woods, causing considerable emotional distress. They also allege that Clinton accused them of lying about the meeting’s content on four separate occasions in an attempt to protect her public image, political career and presidential nomination. The claim certainly holds emotional weight, and fits seamlessly into the political narrative that has built itself around Benghazi. Only time will tell whether it holds the legal weight to go with it.
Just over four years after the events, the Benghazi attack has already began to undergo a process of mythologization, if not through the seemingly impenetrably and endless mass of information that has been amassed online over the last four years and hampers any attempt at objective research, then through the publication of Mitchell Zuckoff’s 13 Hours, The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi (2014) and the release of Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016). It will also undoubtedly continue this process, being drawn upon in the future in a range of different ways; from a versatile symbol in relation to US policy in the Muslim world to a citable example of the cost of its failure.
Unless new information continues to surface however – and the most likely source of such information is linked to the account of the current democratic presidential candidate – Benghazi is likely to remain a historical myth in a true sense: as something we can at once profess to understand yet that will forever be shrouded in mystery.