President Donald Trump has frequently criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the 2012 ambush in Libya that led to the death of U.S. citizens, and now — following the recent deaths of American soldiers in Niger — politicians and pundits are referring to the event as “Trump’s Benghazi.”
On October 4, during a routine patrol on the Mali-Niger border, four U.S. soldiers, along with 40 military personnel from Niger, were ambushed by an Islamic extremist group. The attack resulted in the deaths of the U.S. soldiers, in a time when many people are questioning the reasons for America’s presence in the North African region.
Unbeknownst to many, the United States currently has about 800 soldiers stationed in Niger, allegedly to construct a strategic drone base near the city of Agadez. The U.S. military is also involved in significant counter-terrorism campaigns in Chad, Cameroon, and Somalia. An American soldier was killed in May during a raid on a compound that was believed to have been an Al-Shabab base.
While the Department of Defense has committed to launching an investigation into the incident in Niger, some politicians, pundits, and celebrities are already comparing the tragedy to the controversial incident that occurred in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 under Hillary Clinton’s watch.
Florida’s Democratic Representative in Congress, Frederica Wilson, was the first to draw the comparison.
“This might wind up to be Mr. Trump’s Benghazi.”
Moreover, Ms. Wilson was in the same car as Myeshia Johnson, the widow of one of the American soldiers who were killed in Niger, when she was privy to a conversation in which President Trump called to express his condolences and allegedly “disrespected” her fallen husband.
According to Ms. Wilson, Trump told the widow that “you know that this could happen when you signed up for it, but it still hurts.” Her husband’s aunt, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, who was also present in the car, corroborated Rep. Wilson’s account.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Congresswoman isn’t the only high-profile figure that has referred to Benghazi when discussing the ambush in Niger.
Neera Tanden, a member of the Center for American Progress, said, “We had about 4000 Benghazi hearings. Why isn’t there a single one on the deaths of soldiers in Niger?”
MSNBC host Joy Reid shared Tanden’s sentiments.
“Where are all the Benghazi obsessives now that we have lost four special forces troops in Niger? Anyone? Hearings? Any interest at all?”
Reporter: Is the Trump administration being up front about what happened in Niger?— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 18, 2017
"No," McCain said, per @KilloughCNN
What were those American soldiers doing in Niger in the first place?? None of us knew about that....#TrumpsBenghazi— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) October 19, 2017
the people who screamed benghazi are deafening in their silence about trump ignoring dead soldiers— Oliver Willis (@owillis) October 16, 2017
If Niger happened under President Hillary Clinton it would be Benghazi.— Marcus H. Johnson (@marcushjohnson) October 18, 2017
Some are saying that the fact that most Americans were unaware of the U.S. presence in Niger resembles the Benghazi situation in that many did not know American soldiers were in Libya at the time, according to a report by Newsweek.
In 2012, four American citizens were killed in Benghazi when they were ambushed by Islamic extremists who attacked the local U.S. embassy. While then-President Barack Obama blamed poor CIA intelligence for the tragedy, Republicans insisted that the Obama administration had been engaged in a cover-up following the incident. Moreover, both Clinton and Obama were accused of not providing adequate military assistance to the embassy in Benghazi.
Despite having been cleared of all charges following multiple inquisitions by Congress, Hillary Clinton could not shake off the negative press she had received, which some believe may have contributed to her failed presidential bid last year.
In Niger, the number of U.S. citizens killed also amounted to four, and their assailants were also reportedly connected to Islamic extremism. The Department of Defense was not immediately forthcoming with information regarding the attack, and to date, there are still many unanswered questions about the quality of intelligence that was used to determine the security risks for U.S. military activities in the region.
At first, Trump was reticent to issue a statement following the news from Niger. In fact, it took the president 12 days to publically acknowledge the tragedy. This is striking, considering Trump’s campaign advertising blitz that accused Hillary Clinton of knowing about Benghazi for a long time before making the news public.
Trump responded to criticisms about his belated acknowledgment of the Niger incident by claiming, falsely, that previous presidents did not call the families of slain soldiers at all.
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls.”
The president later contradicted himself when he told a reporter that he didn’t “know if Obama did. No.” He then added that he “was told that [Obama] didn’t often, and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters. I do a combination of both.”
Not only did Obama frequently call the family members of fallen soldiers, but those whom he did call have expressed sincere gratitude for the way that the former president spoke to them. Moreover, Obama was present when the flag-draped coffins of the Benghazi victims were returned to the United States. Trump, on the other hand, was playing golf with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham when the soldiers’ bodies arrived back from Niger.
[Featured Image by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]