The following scene is fictitious. Any resemblance between the characters, or the events they refer to, and real people or real events, is purely coincidental.
A stretch of wasteground, deserted but for two figures approaching each other from opposite sides. No buildings in sight. No road, no passing traffic or pedestrians. Both figures, one elderly female (Hillary), one elderly male (Tom), are muffled up to the ears and have hats with brims pulled down over their faces. Both look nervously about them to make sure they’re not being followed or observed.
When they’re close to each other Tom speaks.
Tom: Hi Hillary. So what is it you need to see me urgently and secretly about?
Hillary: It’s the Benghazi thing. We managed to keep it off the front pages, but you know what happened. I got Susan to stick her neck out trying to spread the video story. Told her I’d definitely tell Barack that she was the one to have my job at State when I retire if she’d do that little thing for me. But then some people may they rot in hell let out part of the truth about what really happened, and we just didn’t manage to make the video story stick, and now the Republicans are trying to make a scandal of it.
Tom: So where do I come in?
Hillary: I told Barack we must set up an official inquiry that can take some weeks so it only comes out when we’re safely over the election, and while its going on we won’t have to answer any questions - we can say we don’t want to anticipate the findings. With luck by the time the inquiry’s finished the whole thing will be forgotten or at least seem very stale news.
Tom: And you want me to head this inquiry – right?
Hillary: It has to be you, Tom. You know the area. You know the people. You know how Barack feels about them. The same way you do.
Tom: But why the secrecy? You’ll be making a public announcement that I’ll be heading it, won’t you?
Hillary: Of course. But we have to talk about what your inquiry will find out.
Tom: I get you. Okay, tell me what you want me to hide.
Hillary: Well, its really, really important to Barack to have everyone believe he’s defeated al-Qaeda. You know?
Tom: Sure, I understand that. Though I personally always thought that bin Laden guy was a fine looking fellow. Good at what he did too. Bit of a shame that he had to go. I understand Valerie nearly got Barack to leave him be, but the navy people just wouldn’t stop pushing once they’d found out where he was and they knew they could do it.
Hillary: Thing is, the vast right wing conspiracy has found out that there may have been some al-Qaeda people among the mob who killed Chris.
Hillary: Stevens. Our ambassador to Libya.
Tom: And you want that kept that out of my findings?
Hillary: Well, it’s out now so you may not be able to. They’ve even picked up leads to our weapons transfers.
Tom: Weapons transfers?
Hillary: Yeah – guns and stuff. Stuff left over from when we supplied the rebels against Gaddafi. Stingers – whatever they are. Chris was organizing their transfer through Turkey to the rebels in Syria.
Tom: Good. I mean – bad if anyone found out about that, eh? By the way, who are these Syrian rebels, d’you know?
Hillary: Well, that could be even more embarrassing. Some of them are also al-Qaeda.
Tom: Okay. Okay. Sure. Fine.
Hillary: We don’t want that to come out in the inquiry. And certain other things that you’ll come across will have to be …. you get me?
Tom: Suppressed. Of course. So let me ask you this. What can come out in my report?
Hillary: You can find that Chris didn’t get enough protection. Everyone knows that much by now. But you mustn’t blame me or Barack. You mustn’t find his policies at fault. And Barack himself mustn’t come into it at all. Or me.
Tom: Okay. I see. Fine.
Hillary: Without actually naming names you can hold some of my underlings responsible for refusing protection. I mean, everyone knows we refused more protection when Chris asked for it so there’s no point in trying to hush that up.
Tom: You want anyone in particular named?
Hillary: No. No names. You can say that nothing anyone did is a firing offense. I mean, I might fire a few people anyway just to make it look as if I’m so angry with them that I’m ready to go beyond your recommendations. Zeal. I’ll show zeal.
Tom: And what about Chris himself? Can we put some of the blame on him?
Tom: He asked for too much?
Hillary: Er – rather he didn’t make his needs clear enough.
Tom: They might call that “blaming the victim”.
Hillary: Well don’t make too much of that. What you can make as much as you like of is the Republicans in the House not voting us enough money for the proper protection of our embassies and diplomats.
Tom: Is it true?
Hillary: True enough. There’s a grain of truth … and it’s something people will believe. Above all, keep me out of the picture. Me and Barack.
Tom: Didn’t you make a public statement that you accepted responsibility?
Hillary: Yep. I thought that was a good move. Made me sound courageous. And honest. Didn’t it?
Tom: Sure it did.
Hillary: I was rather hoping it would be enough and I wouldn’t have to do anything more.
Tom: Doesn’t the House want you to answer some questions?
Hillary: Yep. That’s bad. They’ve got film of me saying it was all because of the video when Barack and I met the coffins coming home. I even told one of the dead guys’ father that we would punish the disgusting little man who made the video. But I think I can get out of having to testify. I have important engagements abroad. A wine-tasting in Australia, as a matter of fact. And after that – well maybe I’ll fall sick or something. Bang my head and lose my memory if the worst comes to the worst. I’ll think of something.
Tom: Is there anything else you should tell me now? I mean, what other cats are already out of the bag?
Hillary: Let me see. They may make a lot of noise about us paying local militias to guard our installations.
Tom: You hired Arabs to guard them? Armed?
Hillary: Of course armed.
Tom: Trained to use arms?
Hllary: They knew how to use them. They were militants. No point in …
Tom: Hold it right there a moment. Let me get this straight. You’re saying that you hired terrorists to guard our people in Libya?
Hillary: Don’t use that word! You know Barack won’t allow it.
Tom: (Whistles) I didn’t realize he’d gone as far as that. Didn’t you tell him it would be dangerous? I mean, I know what he’s aiming at, but I thought he was better at the art of throwing dust in people’s eyes than that. I think we should suppress that.
Hillary: It’s already known.
Tom: Already known? (Whistles again)
Hillary: Stop doing that, Tom. It’s not that bad. I don’t want it to be that bad.
Tom: This ain’t gonna be easy, sister. Anything else that could be an impeachable offense? Better you tell me now …
Hillary: Well, there was a secret CIA operation going on. Taking prisoners. Interrogations.
Tom: (Taking a deep breath) I don’t know if I can do this, Hillary. An illegal operation?
Hillary: I don’t know. Honestly, Tom, I don’t know anything about that. I – I – . It wasn’t my idea. I’ll have to get Petraeus to fill you in about that.
Tom: Speaking of Petraeus – he seems to resent Susan putting the blame on the info his people gave her. He seems to be wanting to tell the truth – I mean the real truth. Out loud. In public.
Hillary: Don’t worry about him. I promise you, we’ve got him where we want him.
Tom: You have? I see. I see. But now tell me. What’s the real story why we didn’t send anyone to help them. Our people in Benghazi. Why didn’t we? Don’t worry, you know what you tell me here will go no further. But to satisfy my own curisity. After all, we could have, couldn’t we? We even got a plane from Italy to within a couple of hours from Benghazi. What happened then?
Hillary: I told them … I mean we told them … I mean, Barack said … At least, Valerie said … Jeez Tom, you expect me to know? You can ask Leon. But whatever he tells you, remember what I’m telling you now. Nothing that would be bad for Barack – or me …
Tom: So let me be clear what you want from me. Bottom line – you’re asking for a whitewash?
Hillary: Well yes, of course. But it mustn’t seem like a whitewash. You know? You must make it seem really, really tough. I want them to use words like “scathing”.
Tom: A scathing report. Yep. Sounds right.
Hillary: And make recommendations for how we should get our act together and improve the way we deal with protecting our people abroad. That sort of thing. A whole lot of recommendations. And make them sound … draconian. Make it sound as though we take the whole thing to be a teaching moment and we really want to learn from it going forward.
Hillary: Yes. But not so draconian that I can’t say I accept them. I need to say I accept them all. It will make me sound …
Tom: You’re setting me quite a challenge here.
Hillary: I know you’re up to it, Tom. Will you do it? For the cause. You know what I mean?
Tom: Okay, Hillary. I’ll do it. I’ll do my best … but you understand it might not work?
Hillary: Just do it. We’ll make it work. Me and Barack. Between the two of us we can’t fail. I’m very experienced, you know, in getting out of tight corners. And Barack is incredibly –
Both together: LUCKY.